2003.12.01 Seattle, USA

Post and Leavenworth

I've returned to Seattle. Managed to get a flight from Beijing to San Francisco on the 26th, the day before Thanksgiving. I couldn't find a cheap ticket all the way here, but it worked out fairly well anyway. I found a separate one-way flight from Oakland for a reasonable price later the same day. Staggering my return also allowed me to visit the Chinese consulate to get another visa for my return, which isn't possible by mail anymore.

I spent the rest of my time in San Francisco visiting Zach, an old friend from high school. He lives just off the Tenderloin; we took breakfast at a diner around the block from his apartment. I was bubbly and excited: it was the first American food I'd eaten in over two months. Every meal in China has been delicious, but it's hard to top corned-beef hash and eggs over-easy on a sunny morning.

My family knew that I was planning to straighten out my affairs over December, but I didn't mention to anybody that I'd be making it in time for Thanksgiving. I myself hadn't figured it would be possible, as I didn't buy the tickets until last Monday. Once I had them though, I decided it would be more fun to just show up and surprise everybody. I walked in unannounced right as the turkey was being put away.

It seems so strange being back here. I was only gone for a couple months, but the experiences were so intense it felt much longer. I unconsciously expected things to be different here, but it of course hasn't been long enough for real change to have occurred. The city looks the same. My family members are all doing about what they were when I left. It's been nice to catch up, but I'm itching to head back to Kashgar.

Sunday Market, Kashgar
I think being on the road makes a person more attuned to the details of their setting. I now notice things that are unremarkable everywhere across America. One of the biggest things is--and China too is developing in the same direction--absolutely everything here seems to revolve around commerce. All the news on the radio is about how far the Dow rose, the latest economic indicators, or merchants hoping for heavy consumer spending this holiday season. Advertisements are everywhere. The ones that irk me the most are the cliched double-entendres: The Best Head in Seattle or Size Matters have been used to sell beer in Seattle's Stranger newspaper as long as I can remember. Just walking through the supermarket a cheerful voice informs me that "You deserve the best: Safeway Select!" If somebody were to tell me that advertising is as equally pervasive and annoying today in China, I'd believe them. But I didn't get the impression they've yet sunk to our depths. Perhaps that's just my lack of comprehension, the one benefit of limited language ability.

So I'm now sifting through my possessions and figuring what to do. My most important concern is my cat, Mango--I think I have a good lead on a home for him. I'm moving all of my things out of my apartment, which is a shame. It was a nice place, and I'd hoped that by sub-letting I'd have the option of holding onto it after returning from Kashgar.

My return ticket isn't until January 8, which sounds like forever. I'm considering visiting relatives in the Chicago area over Christmas, as I'm essentially "in the neighborhood". If I can alter the dates I'll leave earlier and spend a couple days in Tokyo on the way back. Probably the cheapo fare I picked up isn't too flexible, so I may have to be here into January.