The closer it gets to July 10th, the date that marks the end of my teaching obligation, the more I am fine-tuning my plans for travel. Should I fly straight out Tian He airport – the airport in Wuhan, or should I take a train ride to one of the port cities like Shanghai or Beijing and then hop on a flight once there? I’m certain that opting for the latter would reduce my airfare cost substantially however, the idea of being in the air for longer than the nineteen hours needed to reach the States sends shivers up my spine. On the other hand, wrangling my luggage through train stations and across a major city to the airport also leaves me cold. Especially seeing as I will be lugging my suitcase and laptop case for the next two months while I travel across America. Which is better (or worse): flying for longer than necessary or pulling suitcases for longer than necessary?
And that is just one aspect of consideration for this long sabbatical from my job. Budgeting, duration of stay in each place, food, accommodations… like a carousel these thoughts prance in my head, but instead of cheerful calliope music these horses with their maniacal grins and flyaway manes go round and round accompanied by a dirge. I don’t have any answers, let alone a plane ticket.
Again the thought crosses my mind that I’m not much of a carefree vagabond. A vagabond who likes things planned out in advance? Really?
As though things were not bad enough with my turgid carousel of thoughts, Sam informed me today that my teaching obligation actually ends on the week of June 18th, as soon as I administer Final Exams to my students and hand in their grade sheets. Why, that’s nearly a month earlier than I had been planning on!
The horses just fell off the merry-go-round and the music screeched to a halt. All I hear is feedback whine, and it is turned up high. Now what do I do?
More time in the States, or kick around China for a while?
People who are looking forward to my arrival in the States might not be able to put me up for longer than a few days and, quite frankly I wouldn’t want to impose. Especially with not having my own transportation, I would become a bigger burden than I want to be. Life is more expensive in America than China, so I might spend more money than I had planned on. On the other hand I would be around English speakers and I probably wouldn’t starve for company. I would be able to navigate America more easily than China. Maybe.
I could borrow my son’s camping gear and head north, up the coast of California and camp out in Redwood National Park, and then go into Oregon, maybe even as far as Washington State. Does Amtrak also head east into Wyoming? With all this extra time, there is no end to what I could do, and if I have a pied-a-terre somewhere, so that I don’t have to lug my suitcases around like a turtle carries its home, the possibilities are endless.
On the other hand, this extra time gives me a chance to go around China for a while and visit cities that I’ve never been to: Shanghai – to see more than the train station I was stranded in when I first came here, or maybe some inner-country cities like Nanjing. I would also like to go to Qingdao, a beautiful sea-side city that I’ve only visited in the movies. I can visit some friends that I haven’t seen in a long time, like Tang Guo Ming, who lives very far north, in Shenyang. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings to go back to Xi’an for a day or two either. And Chongqing, the city with the 140 meter tall Buddha statue is close to Xi’an.
Besides, in Xi’an I know someone who works in the travel industry who can help me arrange my flights to and from America.
After a brief time of confusion and non-plussedness, I decided that this would be a great time to vagabond around China for a few weeks. Why not go to Nanjing, Chongqing and Qingdao? Isn’t that why I decided to become a vagabond anyway? Wouldn’t it be cool to blog about some real vagabonding in this vagabond blog?
So I’m done teaching on the week of June 18th. It is not the end of the world. I’ll just put drop cloths on my furniture, pack my bedding away, clean out my fridge and get Julia and Chris, a husband and wife set of teachers that work on this campus to babysit my plant for the summer. I’ll pack my suitcase with the gifts I have for everyone Stateside and the minimal clothing I’ll need to vagabond around with: two pair of jeans, a couple of capris, two pair of shoes, three shirts and personal hygiene stuff. Should make for a fairly light suitcase.
I’ve decided I will take my faithful laptop with me after all. Remember, in the Culture Shock entry I was debating whether to bring it or not? Well… if I don’t take it with me, how can I write these blog entries and stay in touch with everyone? And, now that I will actually be vagabonding, it would be a good time to blog, wouldn’t it?
I‘m starting to get excited about this…