My flight to Seattle is scheduled to leave in 7 hours and 15 minutes. My uncle is supposed to arrive to take me to the airport in 5 hours and now 14 minutes. My alarm will ring in 4 hours and 44 minutes. I think it is safe to say that my time remaining is growing very short.
I think I have everything finished and ready to go (well except my backpack isn't packed). As is typical, things haven't gone quite as planned. I have a tendency to put off packing. One time when I was living in Kobuk I didn't start packing until the plane was on the ground (I did have everything already laid out, but nothing was in my bag. The plane was on the ground before I got home and I had two students and a coworker waiting to help me get to the airport. The four of us all smashed my things into the bag as quick as possible and then I jumped on the four wheeler and the students drove me to the airport - which was really just a gravel runway about 100 yards away). This time, I was determined to be more on top of things. I even started packing on Saturday. Packing on a Saturday for a Monday flight is definitely preparing in advance. However, I didn't finish, but I wasn't worried I had all day Sunday with only two things planned: church in the morning and a family dinner at 6 pm. I figured I would have plenty of time. However, as seems to be the norm for me there was a surprise in store for me. This morning while I was at church I caught sight of a woman out of the corner of my eye. It was a good friend of mine from Kobuk (and the rest of her family)! I hadn't seen them in several years. It was so great to see them, but I spent five hours with them after church. By the time I left it was time to go home and pick grandma up for the family dinner. So much for packing.
After dinner, I resumed my packing. I had decided that I was going to check three suitcases instead of my allowed two because it is both cheaper and quicker than shipping a box and I want to take more with me than I can fit into two suitcases. In Bush Alaska, people do not use suitcases much of the time. Oftentimes boxes and plastic totes are used instead. I decided a long time ago that I was going to travel to China with two suitcases (I bought a new one on Saturday) and a tote. However, I got cold feet this evening. I had already packed everything into a 24 gallon Rubbermaid roughneck tote. When I lived in the Bush, I typically used 18 gallon totes, but I had moved to California checking a 24 gallon tote on the plane and then I checked one when I returned here, but I believe it is actually just a little bit larger than allowed total size. Thus, I began to worry that they wouldn't accept it. I decided instead to pack on old suitcase (I've only flown with it twice - the airline messed it up pulling the foot most of the way off of it the first time I flew with it). This, of course, meant I had to rearrange. Then, I couldn't quite get everything into my carry-on suitcase so I rearranged again. This time, I moved some heavier, but smaller items into the carry-on and moved the bulkier items into the bigger suitcase. Voila, I was done. Or was I? I then remembered I hadn't packed a couple of my swim items. I got them squeezed into my carry-on suitcase. Then I was finished, right? Oh no, I found a couple of clothing items I forgot (luckily they are pretty small); I will have to fit them in my backpack.
Then I took a shower. My hair dryer is packed, but I have a hair straightener that isn't going with me because it only works on 110V. Therefore, I decided that I would shower tonight let my hair dry overnight and use the hair straightener to fix the damage in the morning.
Unfortunately, I still wasn't done. I had a bill I needed to pay (online) before I leave the country and forget about it and I needed to install my VPN on my computer (I bought a yearlong subscription a couple of days ago). Now my more techie friends and my friends with experience in China know what I'm talking about, but some of my other readers may not. China has a "project" officially known as the Golden Shield Project. Most people refer to it as the Great Firewall of China. This firewall blocks Facebook, Twitter (I don't use it), all Google products (including of course this blog), all oter major western blog sites, most major western news media and anything else that they deem harmful to China. The Chinese government also will temporary block things when there are topics trending that are negative about China. One way to get around this is to use a VPN (virtual Private Network). A VPN obscured your location. You pick a server (for example in the US) and log into that server and it gives you an IP address in wherever that server is located. As a result, I will be able to use this to get around the Great Firewall. Now, hopefully it will work. China is always working to block these VPNs and there is never a guarantee that even if it works one day that it will work the next. Also, a VPN slows down your connection and from what I understand can be a pain (the last time I was in China these things were not blocked so I am not experienced at using a VPN in China). Therefore, I would recommend that if you enjoy reading my blogs you sign up on the follow me via email button. That way, if I have trouble getting to Facebook to post the link you can still get the update (remember though Blogger is also blocked so if my VPN isn't working, I won't be able to post at all).
I'm excited and nervous. The adventures are about to start (again? Continue? I actually seem to be having quite a few adventures lately) and I will try to do my best to update my blog with them. I have a post started about Croatia so at some point I will at least get that finished and up.
Goodbye for now. Next time I post, I will be on the other side of the world!