Preparations Part I: The Nitty Gritty of Getting There

For my first two posts, I have decided to break down my preparations into two parts: The Logistical and the Emotional. This post is about the steps I have taken to prepare logistically for a four-month stay in China.

Wenjiang is 20 miles from Chengdu. Chengdu is approximately 7417 miles from Chicago, where I currently reside. Chicago is about 180 miles from Indianapolis, my departure city.

The physical preparations for my moving to China are all complete. If I’ve forgotten anything then it can’t be that critical. I like to think that as long as I have my passport, a plane ticket, and some spare undergarments I can do pretty well for myself till I figure out where to get everything else. Still, I worry, and have written the same checklist in multiple mediums – notes on my phone, notebooks in my purse, notecards by my bed, notecards in my car, etc..  Dad suggested writing down all the things I have done, so that my mind will rest easier. To that end, my completed tasks and descriptives:


Plane Ticket  – True to form, I have given myself exactly no time between wrapping up my current project (show in Chicago) and starting a new one (international travel). Show wraps Friday night. I leave for Indy Saturday.  I leave at 8am from Indy on Sunday and arrive at 8pm in Chengdu the next day.  I get to cross the International Date Line, which is nifty.  I plan to utilize the date line as a means of not suffering jet lag.


Visa – got my visa from the Chinese consulate.  Interesting things to note about the Chinese Consulate in Chicago:

                        1. They close at 2  (first visit)

                        2. The website links to the incorrect form (second visit) 

                        2a. You have to pay for parking – street parking, but still (all visits)

                        3. They’re efficient when paperwork is in order (third visit)

                        4. They don’t, in fact, take American Express. (fourth visit – contradictory to third visit assurances they would)

Done and done – I wonder why they didn’t put my photo on my visa. I bet my face is now in a “System” somewhere.  Also I am staying for 120 days and my visa says 90 – that’ll be a bridge to cross later.

Health and Wellness – As close as can be. I went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned and my retainer re-cemented to my teeth. Basic check-up at family physician to check on health and get travel prescriptions. I had to go to an allergist, which was needed but not wanted, and learned I have no allergies. This is good and bad – hooray I have no allergies! Boo no one knows what caused my Emergency Room allergic event!  The best the doctor came up with is that I had some sort of rare exercise induced anaphylactic episode, maybe because I ate something too soon before running? So no more celery and/or shrimp sponsored jogs for me.  No time to see dermatologist and find out why my face is acting up – I’m gonna self-diagnose and say it’s stress related.

Immunizations – Unpleasant, but finished. I spoke to my doctor a month before my departure. He in turn was unable to get the shots in time, and so I had to go to the travel clinic in Lafayette.

 Ultimately I decided to get three – Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and a Tetanus booster. Luckily for me I got my Hep B vaccine when we lived in Greece. We decided I did not to get Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, or Yellow Fever – mostly because I was going to be teaching in a school, and not working in a farm or nature preserve. If I go to a malaria risk area of China, then I have some low-grade antibiotics and a regimen for taking them. For a full list of terrifying things you can catch in China, check out the CDC website.

The unpleasant bit came at the beginning and end. The Affordable Care Act, which I use and for which I am grateful, has politicized medicine.  My physician takes it without batting an eye. The travel clinic would not even run my BCBS card because it was purchased by me in the Marketplace. They said I had to pay full price, up front.  Using my fabulous negotiating skills and some crazy eyes, I wound up paying full price after I got the shots. 

(The bill is going to go to my new employer.)

Credit Card – I signed up and got approved for a credit card! Good for use in China, as well as surprises – like immunizations!

Bank Account – set up separate bank account, because my regional Indiana bank has no idea how to work in China. Wells Fargo, on the other hand, does.

Phone – Activated! My phone will work in China, though I will not be using any cellular plan. The rates are astronomical. Luckily James, the nice man from Verizon, advised me that my phone will still connect to wi-fi, and that using wi-fi would be my best bet for phone usage.

Converters – I have one converter, a handful of adapters, and a mini transformer.  

Playstation 3 – Yes, I am taking one large, frivolous, and completely unnecessary item with me across the Pacific Ocean. But I like my games, I will have down time, and it’s not like the Great Wall is going to be right outside my door.  The Internet has been less than helpful on what I need to do, if anything, to keep my PS3 from exploding. There is a circular debate about whether the PS3 is actually dual voltage, about the need for converters/transformers vs. adapters only.  There will be an entire post dedicated to me plugging in my gaming system and seeing what happens. My hope is that it doesn’t explode.

These strike me as the big things. In addition to these large items, I have procured the following small, China specific items:

 – A mask in case of questionable air quality

– Water purification tablets

– A Go Girl (photo to follow) to use in rural bathrooms when I travel

– Two journals – one to practice writing Chinese words, one for classroom use. I am debating taking one of my sketchbooks and maybe a fourth journal for stories.  As if writing for the Internet wasn’t enough.



Pack clothes – research suggests a forty degree temperature hike at least during my stay. From 40F to around 80F – so versatility will be key

Get addresses into address book for postcards and letters

Put together first care package and mail it out

Get contact info to family, including print out in Chinese characters

Scan and laminate copies of Passport and Visa, for unofficial inspections

Ask Chinese contact if I can just scan copies of my MA and CELTA, since I’d rather not bring them with me – DONE. BOOM.


And so, with only those few things left (and clothes should be easy) I think I am physically ready for this grand adventure to China.  I wrote my care package shopping list, agreed to pay rent on my Chicago room while I am away, joined a forum for Chengdu living, and requested a letter of reference from the college I am representing while abroad.


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