he's sitting on the window sill now, staring out at mom's trees, his little nose zestfully wriggling.
our adventure started on tuesday. i was up at 5am to take christian to the airport at to drop him (and my two packed bags) off at the airport. then i returned to the apt. to clean and get things sorted. around 4pm, i waved goodbye to XISU, hugged chris, john, and andrew, who gathered to walk me to fetch a taxi, and drove down chang'an lu. louie and i had our bus at 5:30. we got checked in at the bus station, no problem, and went out to see if we could board. we found the bus and straight away i had an argument with the driver about whether or not i could have the cat with me. he wanted to put louie in the cargo hold under the bus. "不是!" i yelled, "不是!" (bu shi = not to be/dont want). he relented and told us to come back at 5. so we hung out in the crowded parking lot, crouched in the shade. everyone stared. we climbed aboard a little after 5 and tried to get settled. the "seat" on a sleeper bus is akin to the backseat of a compact car sloped up like a chaise lounge. there is a cubby hole beneath one's head space for shoes (no shoes allowed on board), and a foot hold for personal items and, er, one's feet. it is not a spacious venue. i put my shoes, louie's water dish, and his quasi litter box (a tupperware box with snappable lid) in my cubby, my camera by my feet, and my knitting/cat supplies/food bag squashed next to my legs. louie's carrier was on my lap. and that's how we remained for 16 hours. we got into beijing around 8:20. louie was protesting for the majority of the trip. loudly. it was a hellish experience and i did not get much sleep at all. it was odd on the bus. unlike my yunnan sleeper experience, this time there were two women on the bus who spoke a little english. they were nice but sadly sitting next to me. early in the trip, one of the women said, "you cannot take your pet on the train so you have no choice. you must take the bus," and i agreed and apologized for the kitty. we made a brief pit stop around 8:30pm and the nice lady watched louie while i used the trough (bathroom). louie had been quietly protesting until then. he was clearly upset, but the night was young. on the bus, our entertainment was a horrible variety show followed by some karaoke videos and horrible action movies. i tried to tune them out but found it to be impossible. while i was sitting by the window, and could avoid looking to the center aisle where the screens were mounted, the image reflected perfectly on the glass. even if i tried to look outside, i saw the television. plus it was loud. as the night went on, louie's mrwwws continued, growing louder and angrier. he was even banging his body against the sides of his carrier looking for a weak spot or a way to break out. he stuck his little paws out the cage front and gave some furious tugs as if to break out. and all the while, he was giving me a Death Glare. i tried to reason with him, soothe him, pet him... but he wanted none of that. sometime in the night, a man decided to get out of his bed and sleep on the floor next to me. why? i'm guessing he wanted to be close to his friend. i have no idea. but he blocked my cubby. at one point, louie's howls became high pitched and urgent. i had to wake up the guy to get him to move so i could get into my cubby and get the litter. he wasnt happy about it, and there wasnt much room. but c'mon, fella, you decided to sleep on the floor. i mean... really. i got the tupperware into his box just in time. poor guy really had to go. i snapped back on the lid, which thankfully muffled the smell of cat poo, and put the box back in the cubby. louie calmed down a little, and i think i got some sleep at this point. but not for long. he finally ran out of steam around 7:30am and, while i was delighted to get off the bus, had a difficult time waking up. i had just settled into a beautiful sleep when we arrived at 8:20. i called christian and oliver and let them know we had arrived and hailed a taxi. he wanted to put louie in the trunk of the car. 不是! it was a long taxi ride and we got to oliver's house a little after 9. during our jaunt, the cat continued to announce his displeasure. this annoyed the taxi driver who was so happy to drop me off. we set the cat up in oliver's sun room and gave him wet food AND tuna. after scarfing down his culinary treats, he sulked and reminded me that he was Really Pissed Off. christian looked at me and i burst into tears. i had tried to hold off collapsing but i was a wreck. my body ached from having the carrier on my legs for so long, and i was completely worn out from trying to unsuccessfully assuage the cat. i slept for an hour and then the swede called. his work hours are strange so i had to wake up to visit with him because who knows when i'll have the chance to see him again. we visited him for a while, had lunch, and went back to oliver's place. another friend of oliver's was staying at the apt. as well so it kind of strange. the guy was not...really friendly. i tried to repack my bags. one of the bags was deemed overweight at the xi'an airport, so i crammed some heavier items into my backpack. i was hoping to avoid overweight charges. i hung out with the kitty, who finally decided to take a nap, and told him that i was sorry for the suckage but soon it would all be over. i was not looking forward to the flight. i was thinking if it was anything how the bus ride was, i was going to lose it. christian and i went out for a beer. we didnt necessarily want beer but we wanted to be out of the apt. or at least have some space. we sat outside and people watched until oliver joined us for dinner. the friend also joined us. i had tried to suggest to oliver to take him out to a nice dinner, since it was my last night in china (for now), but he was stressed about work and the message didnt get through. i guess he thought i was staying another night. i didnt have the energy to counter when he suggested we just stay at the street food place. some street food is the Best Ever. but my noodles were rather unsatisfying. and the conversation equally so. oliver has been having a rough go since he and lin broke up. and his apt. is falling to pieces too. no light in the bathroom, hot water is broken... there was no relaxing hot shower for me. and, while i wasnt expecting a parade, i didnt feel as though there was a great deal of warmth extended. i know oliver is stressed with work and such. but....
christian and i left. not too soon after, jason and oliver returned to the apt. as well and stayed up. they were loud. i didnt get much sleep. i was terribly sad. while i am done with china in many ways, at least for now, i still love the place. and i will miss it terribly.
the next morning, oliver asked how i was, and i replied "well, i'm breathing." oh, he replied, how melodramatic of you. i starting assembling my things and he acted surprised. "you leave today?!" yes, oliver, yes. "oh... wow, well i guess last night was not a great night for you... i'm sorry" i said it was fine and continued to get ready. oliver is not a cat fan. but he said that louie was awesome. and even held him in his lap! he left for work and christian and i left for the airport.
things went rather smoothly at the airport at first. i had to buy another carrier for louie, and then had to pay an extra fee to have his old one checked, plus i had to pay overweight charges on both bags (how? i know not. each bag was 2K over. we knew the bag i had rearranged was over in xi'an cuz i had to pay an overweight fee on tuesday morning. but the woman had checked the other one through so i thought it was ok. oliver didnt have a scale but we guesstimated and thought both bags were the same weight. so i can at least say our estimation skills were dead on).
christian and i parted and louie and i took the airport subway to our gate. poor lil guy almost got squashed by the people as they crammed into the car. "cat!" i called out in chinese. i was weighed down by my camera bag, laptop bag, backpack, cat supply bag, and cat carrier. louie and i waited in the immigration queue for ages. we finally got through and approached security. first thing, the security guy tried to put louie through the xray! machine. i screamed out and leapt for the bag. this is my CAT. he does NOT go through there. he is ALIVE. in my broken chinese this came out, "cat dead bad." i shoved louie past the metal detector and xray machine. the guy tried to grab him and i turned and gave him a solid look. he retracted. i got my pat down (in china, they pat down everyone though you dont have to take off your shoes like in the US), repacked my computer, and started to get my things arranged on my body. the guy who tried to put louie through the machine had my cat supply bag open. "what's this?" he asked and poked at the kitty litter. he asked me to eat it. i balked. i said, in chinese, "cat bathroom." he looked confused and asked me to eat it again. i then pantomimed cat bathroom behaviour. "oh," he said, "ok" and let me through. then we got led to the special pet heath inspection place. i got hung up there for quite some time. we were waiting for a guy to arrive and sign some papers. the people there were nice enough. i introduced them to louie and we made small talk. i asked how many cats go through. "well," said the lady, "today there have been 4!" it was then that i noticed what time it was. my flight started to board at 11:15. the flight was scheduled to leave at 12. it was nearing 11:35. i said something to one of the guys there. "um, my flight is leaving soon...?" don't worry, they said. when he gets here, he'll walk you and your cat to the gate. he arrived and signed the papers and told me to follow him. he took off and was way ahead of me. i also noticed he was not walking towards the gate. but, i thought, maybe louie and i have to go through some other thing...? maybe there's more to come...? we circled around and were back at the front of security. i called out to the guy. HEY. he turned and was shocked to see me. he said "i told you to go!" no, i said. you told me to follow you. and my flight is leaving. they made me go through security again. all the while i kept saying, "i already did this! he made me follow him! my flight is leaving! call someone, do something, please!" and then i burst into tears. the pat-down lady tried to calm me down but i was having a meltdown. the guy who told me to follow him grabbed louie and the kitty supply bag and ran to the gate. they let me through. i started down the ramp tube and there was another station set up for security. and they went through my things. again. i finally got on the plane. i was not there long when we started to taxi.
louie was amazing on the flight. he mrrowwed a little, but not much at all. the screaming baby was much louder. he slept most of the way. i like the zipper on his new carrier because it made it easier to scritch his head. it was also easier to give him water. the flight attendant gave me two cups of water--one for me and one for him. i wouldnt say louie was happy, but he was, thankfully, calm. i think he was too exhausted to protest. but still, i didnt really sleep on the flight. the lady next to me was nice. she had lived in china for a year and so we swapped some stories. she was an older woman, about 70. she thought louie was just beautiful. i kept talking with him and petting him. i was pleased with how he was and unpleased with how the morning went. and i was nervous about how things were going to go in san francisco. we landed, i got all my bags plus his old carrier (which someone had labeled NO CAT), and we headed towards customs. louie was wide awake at this point. the whole time we were waiting for my bags to appear, he was full of conversation. he's quite a chatty guy. i kept calling him my little immigrant. we got to the customs area and i had his papers ready. three big men approached and turned into squishy greeters as they bent down to louie and said "oh kittyKITTYkitty! oh!" and made funny squashy noises at him. it was hilarious. they let us through....
and i sighed a huge sigh and just started to laugh. i continued to talk with louie as we walked down the corridor. "my little immigrant! you've got a kitty green card!" i told him about the short car ride and that everything would be alright soon and that he was so good and we were almost there.
i was expecting my mom to fetch me and was shocked, SHOCKED! when the doors opened and instead of my mom was another face i knew very well. LAURA! she picked me up and swung me around and i just laughed and called her an asshole. she and my mom had been planning this for weeks. it was a delightful surprise. he was a good boy in laura's truck. i know she was so excited to see him as well. we got home and mom gave him some wet food and water and a shiny new cat box. PLUS a new scratcher toy. he is a happy guy.
and now things are great.
and holy wow. im in the US of A.
with a CAT.
The story of the film so far...
he's sitting on the window sill now, staring out at mom's trees, his little nose zestfully wriggling.
we're here and safe and full of stories.
it's amzing how painfully long a simple 16 hour trip can be. but louie and i have succesfully arrived in beijing. so tired, we are. so tired. i had a long day before i even climbed on board the bus.
im taking a moment with a cup of coffee and some swiss chocolate before i become a whirlwind and spin for the next few days. i was supposed to leave yesterday. didnt happen--louie's paperwork wasnt processed like it should have been. in theory, i should have had it over a week ago. but i didnt. and due to cultural nuances. for example, kat, the woman who was helping me with the cat was supposed to pick up the papers for me when the gov't people called. they didnt call. and she didnt try and contact them. i called her when we got back from shanghai and asked if the papers had come in. no, she replied. well, i said, what did they say when you called? oh, i didnt call them. err... i mean, ususally when one is expecting an important phone call and said party doesnt call, shouldnt one call them? she said, i will call them first thing on monday. i knew right then i would be postponed. and i was trying to think of solutions of what to do with louie just in case. i said to her, i am going to beijing on monday. she said "and when are you coming back from beijing? uuuh... im leaving the country on thursday? the whole reason why im having to do all this cat business? *forehead smack*
we're back from shanghai! and we almost got to see the eclipse too as our flight was delayed for 5 hours. hahaha... we got home at 4:30am. were supposed to be home by 11.
a few nights after the riots, i went to my favourite xinjiang restaurant.
i havent been to the muslim quarter in a while... but it's one of my favourite places in the city. i took christian there today only to discover that... it wasn't there. i mean, it's THERE, but it wasn't there. why? construction. we arrived and went to turn down the usual ally way leading into the shops and met a funny sign instead:
it was wonderful to see my old friends, chris and john! chris and john, expats from australia and the US respectively, had returned to australia last winter (er, summer as it were, since they were down under) but struggled to find work what with the economy being what it is and all. so, they decided to return to china, but not xi'an--wild and crazy kids!--because they wanted to try something different. john first came to china 15 years ago, and chris is no stranger to the middle country either, so it seemed a logical choice to return to their other home (australia and the US not withstanding), and to a new city just to be adventurous. they've been in changsha for about a month, so the city is still quite fresh to them. this being the case, divi, christian, and i got to help them explore their new turf. and thus we had a whirlwind of a weekend.
when you last met your hero, school had started. and laura was here with me.