New York to Beijing – A Year Living in China – Journal Entry #2


New Paltz

Journal Entry #2

August 21 (this blog will be a few days/weeks in delay due to what you will read later in the blog entries)


I was curious how much luggage to take. Exactly what do you pack for a year abroad with your two children. My first thought is that my 9- and 10- year-old will outgrow everything by the time we return and any clothes for winter should be bought in China since I won’t know what size they will be by that point. Also, the school they will be attending in China has a uniform. I have yet to figure that out since we were so last minute with our tickets and visas. School particulars, including uniform purchases, took a backseat to our actual travel.

For example, today, the day before we plan to travel to China, we still do not have our visas or plane tickets and we are planning on flying out tomorrow. I have left all this stress to Soren to figure out. His job has been helping us arrange our documents and we hired a private company to process our visas since we are running so late in getting to his job there. He will be teaching at a school. Their school term started last week and he had to miss the first week of instruction. They hired a substitute. They want him there, and we want to be there. He took the job back in June, but here we are, still processing the paperwork.

Let me list the complications:

  1. All of us needed to get physicals. Soren and I needed chest x-rays, STD blood work, echocardiograms, and a series of other test results. Because we were leaving our old jobs, my insurance ran out June 30. Insurance for his new job that covered our family started August 1. We tried to get all our appointments finished before July 1, but the paperwork follow-up took a few weeks.
  2. Soren needed to get a teaching certification from a State in the US – any State would do. Because he has been a private school teacher all these years, he did not have one. He needed to research the closest, fastest, easiest State in which to take his exams and process a certification. New York was out. Both he and I have done the provisional work on the certification process in NY and the steps they require would be impossible to finish in the timeframe we were working under. He finally settled on two States. He took several exams and filled out tons of paperwork in both Connecticut and New Jersey. He is now certified in both of those States. That took most of July.
  3. His job was to start August 1. Professional development for a week, then students were to return for classes in China the second week of August. We had not finished all our paperwork from the doctor or his certification until the last week of July. The school processed all the paperwork on the Chinese end and we were then ready to start figuring out our visas by August 4th.
  4. During the first week of August, we found out that we needed to get our marriage license and my former divorce paperwork sent somewhere. Soren really knows all these details. I stayed out of it. As I mentioned, I am sure I am leaving out several other crazy requirements. I remember some such random request that my EKG results, while normal, needed to include the actual EKG readout, not just the results from the Dr. We had to go back to the clinic to get a hard copy of the exam and figure out a way to fax it off. Also, for some reason, our son Lars’s official birth certificate was considered “too old.” He is only 10 for goodness sakes. How old is old? It seemed that China was sending the same immigrant requirements to us as we do to Chinese immigrants here.  Just make it difficult all around.
  5. We had to enroll our children in a school in Beijing. We picked a British School. (More on why later.) The paperwork just got processed a few days ago. They will start school the day after we arrive in Beijing.
  6. Soren’s back went out earlier in the week. My back has gone out before, so I understood exactly what was happening to him. He wondered why it was so bad since he did not injure himself or lift anything. “Dude,” I said, “You are stressed. You are late for starting a job in a new country and as of today, the day before we hope to fly out, we still do not have our plane tickets or visas.”
  7. Our visas were being processed by a wonderful company in NYC. Soren drove all our paperwork to them on Tuesday, earlier in the week, and they were sending us the completed visas by Friday. We paid extra for this of course.

So, on this Friday, before we are to leave for China, Mel and I drive Soren to the 24-hour clinic near New Paltz to get muscle relaxers and pain medication. There was no way he would make it on a plane for 15 hours the way he was feeling. Then, thankfully, Mel stuck around and helped me make sure all our bags were packed meticulously and that we had at least the basics for arrival.

The visas arrived by UPS late in the day. Soren ordered our plane tickets as soon as he had them. I think we had tickets by 9pm. We will be flying out around 4:30pm on Saturday.

The bags are packed. The house pretty clean. Mel is a backup contact for Michael. Michael is here to housesit. We really are going to China.

My oldest daughter, Taelor, and her boyfriend, Taylor (I know), were able to come down from Chicago for the week and help us get the house in order and spend time with Lars and our youngest, Winona, before we left. Tae just graduated from University of Vermont and the “Taelors” are looking for work in the Chicago area. Things are getting real. I will leave two older daughters behind, my house that I love, all my very good friends and family, and take only eight suitcases. Granted those suitcases were fully stocked! (I even packed peanut butter.)

Tomorrow we fly.


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