It is official. I even have a plane ticket and visa. A house/dog/cat/3-plants sitter has arrived fortuitously and I am clearing space in my creative (tottery piles), project filled (clutter in progress), apartment to make room for our pet caring guest.
Every night I do some Rosetta Stone for Mandarin and this reassures me that I can say "hello man" or "hello girl child" as well as the useful "yellow car" and "black cat" I am sure with this amount of language I can meet impresarios and very important persons connected with Jim's musical writing career and make my silence golden. Chances are, many of the people I meet will have at least 100 useful phrases in English and I am ashamed to say I have, as yet, none to offer back in Mandarin. But I am working on "where is the bathroom?" and "I write and draw" so they know I'm not just Jim's middle-aged arm candy on this trip.
Some friends sent me dire warnings about:
1. air pollution
Hey, I survived Los Angeles in the 60s in a neighborhood that was perfumed by a plastic doll factory. The fact that I came out of the miasma of smog without asthma proves I can survive Beijing.
2. the great firewall of China
I lived decades without Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. A month without, think of it as an analogue artistic retreat. I will draw on...paper. I will write with a...fountain pen.
3. squishing in subways
Really? And the NYC rush hour is so roomy, so spacious, I have never had body parts pressed into my flesh in anonymous sweaty cleaving. Hint, I won't take trains during rush hour.
4. cultural gaffs
You bet, I will record my every shameful mistake for humor future forward.
5. cultural recoil
I am sure the differences in how people do things will occasionally make me uncomfortable. Like spitting. Like taking cell phone calls no matter where or what you are doing. The trick is to stop thinking like an American and realize they have their own house rules. Takes practice, I'm sure. Note to self, do not pat children on their heads...