We’re back, plus the great Christmas pox of ’09

On Sunday Imagethief arrived in Beijing from two well-earned holiday weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area. Flying with Zachary), now 22 months, is always an adventure. He’s a well traveled kid, but a well-traveled two year old is like a well-traveled troglodyte. Even at their best, social habits are wanting. I’m not especially superstitious, but I knew we were headed for trouble on the return flight when, at about the International Date Line, the woman seated across the aisle from me said, “He seems very well behaved.” Thus jinxed, the last three hours consisted of full-on, bawling meltdown as we became one of those families that other people on airplanes dream of pushing out an open door 35,000 feet above the trackless, ice-clad wastes of Siberia. During one particularly tantrumy spell I even dreamed of pushing myself out.

The definition of “hell on earth” is touching down in Beijing during the blizzard of the century after a twelve-hour flight in steerage with a sleepless toddler who is entering the hallucinatory/psychotic stage of fatigue. Beijing’s taxi drivers had collectively decided to wait the whole deep-freeze out, so the taxi queues looked like round-the-block Depression-era breadlines with luggage carts. This is when something unprecedented happened: We were invited to the front of a queue by Chinese people. Say what you will about Beijing, but it’s a great town to have a kid in, even if that kid is in twelve-gauge, double-barrel meltdown.

The drive home took another hour as we slo-mo fishtailed our way along the No. 2 airport express way, which resembled a snowed-in version of Iraq’s famous “highway of death” from the first Gulf War. Nevertheless, we made it home just as the last of the twilight slid away. Three boiled dumplings later, the kid went to bed. As I lowered him into his crib, he flashed me a huge and utterly sincere grin (as opposed to his normal, cheesy and exaggerated one), as if to say, “Father, from the bottom of my heart bless you for putting my tired ass to bed.” The last time I was that happy to go to bed myself I had just watched the sun rise after a poor-man’s bender of Red Horse ’40s and Taco Bell while still in college. This I do not recommend for anyone over the age of 22.

I’d been counting down to this Christmas holiday since roughly August, when I went on blog hiatus and commenced five months of particularly grueling work. In my head, I constructed all these fantasies of two weeks of complete indolence and gluttony. These plans were duly torpedoed by my son, who had diarrhea on the plane. This turned out to be caused by a stomach flu that infected me, both my parents and my sister-in-law. After spending our third day in Palo Alto sponging up toddler-vomit (from the rug, the hallway, the dog) and with me paralyzed with fever on the couch, we took Patient Zero (formerly Zachary) to a local clinic in Palo Alto. There the doctor said there was nothing much to do but wait it out, and asked us if we’d had direct contact with his vomit or feces. I had a flashback to changing runny, poop-sodden diapers in the matchbox-bathroom of United steerage three days before. In such a confined space perhaps Iron Man or a trained doctor in one of those plague movie bunny suits could have avoided direct contact with fecal matter. I, however, could not. (Also, thanks to the American health system, I still have no idea how much I’m being charged for this consult.)

The upshot was that I spent the whole first week of the holiday with no appetite whatsoever, which means I probably gained a little less holiday weight than usual. But I also had to apologize to everyone else who was laid up, including my mother, who spent an un-festive Christmas day in bed with a fever (on top of wrestling with an automotive soap opera too complicated and depressing to recount here). My sister-in-law paid us back, however, as she and my brother traded their infant daughter’s cold for our stomach flu. Zachary had the pleasure of being sick in both directions, but with completely different secretions. You gotta love parenthood.

Nevertheless, Imagethief made the best of his vacation under the circumstances. With an heroic effort in week two, I’m pretty sure that I compensated for most of the first week’s caloric deficit. You can accomplish splendid things with egg nog if you put your mind to it. Plus, Elliott Ng of CNReviews, whom I also saw recently in Beijing, was kind enough to treat me to a burrito the size of a Pres-To-Log over an extensive conversation about China blogging. That alone probably put a pound back on.

This brings me to two announcements. First: The great Imagethief blog hiatus is officially over. I’m not sure what kind of pace I’ll maintain, but I intend to get back to regular blogging and it won’t be hard to top the average of two posts a month since last August. Thanks to any remaining readers who have stuck around for five months of relative inactivity. Your Imagethief decoder rings are in the mail.

Second: One reason why I have the time to blog again is that I have started a six-month sabbatical from work in order to return to my languishing Chinese studies. In fact, it’s only a partial sabbatical as I will still be working a couple of days a week so I don’t have to dip into my savings and can keep my family’s visas and health insurance in good order (the insurance thing is looking pretty key after Christmas). But three days a week will be spent with my tutor and my nose in the textbooks and Chinese newspapers. A hat tip to my employers, who have been spectacularly cooperative about the whole thing. This is pretty experimental, and we’ll see how it all goes, but I’m excited.

Finally, I’d like to wish all readers a belated by sincere happy new year. Here’s hoping 2010 is better than 2009, and that the teens are an improvement on the naughties.

On Sunday Imagethief arrived in Beijing from two well-earned holiday weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area. Flying with Zachary), now 22 months, is always an adventure. He’s a well traveled kid, but a well-traveled two year old is like a well-traveled troglodyte. Even at their best, social habits are wanting. I’m not especially superstitious, but I knew we were headed for trouble on the return flight when, at about the International Date Line, the woman seated across the aisle from me said, “He seems very well behaved.” Thus jinxed, the last three hours consisted of full-on, bawling meltdown as we became one of those families that other people on airplanes dream of pushing out an open door 35,000 feet above the trackless, ice-clad wastes of Siberia. During one particularly tantrumy spell I even dreamed of pushing myself out.

The definition of “hell on earth” is touching down in Beijing during the blizzard of the century after a twelve-hour flight in steerage with a sleepless toddler who is entering the hallucinatory/psychotic stage of fatigue. Beijing’s taxi drivers had collectively decided to wait the whole deep-freeze out, so the taxi queues looked like round-the-block Depression-era breadlines with luggage carts. This is when something unprecedented happened: We were invited to the front of a queue by Chinese people. Say what you will about Beijing, but it’s a great town to have a kid in, even if that kid is in twelve-gauge, double-barrel meltdown.

The drive home took another hour as we slo-mo fishtailed our way along the No. 2 airport express way, which resembled a snowed-in version of Iraq’s famous “highway of death” from the first Gulf War. Nevertheless, we made it home just as the last of the twilight slid away. Three boiled dumplings later, the kid went to bed. As I lowered him into his crib, he flashed me a huge and utterly sincere grin (as opposed to his normal, cheesy and exaggerated one), as if to say, “Father, from the bottom of my heart bless you for putting my tired ass to bed.” The last time I was that happy to go to bed myself I had just watched the sun rise after a poor-man’s bender of Red Horse ’40s and Taco Bell while still in college. This I do not recommend for anyone over the age of 22.

I’d been counting down to this Christmas holiday since roughly August, when I went on blog hiatus and commenced five months of particularly grueling work. In my head, I constructed all these fantasies of two weeks of complete indolence and gluttony. These plans were duly torpedoed by my son, who had diarrhea on the plane. This turned out to be caused by a stomach flu that infected me, both my parents and my sister-in-law. After spending our third day in Palo Alto sponging up toddler-vomit (from the rug, the hallway, the dog) and with me paralyzed with fever on the couch, we took Patient Zero (formerly Zachary) to a local clinic in Palo Alto. There the doctor said there was nothing much to do but wait it out, and asked us if we’d had direct contact with his vomit or feces. I had a flashback to changing runny, poop-sodden diapers in the matchbox-bathroom of United steerage three days before. In such a confined space perhaps Iron Man or a trained doctor in one of those plague movie bunny suits could have avoided direct contact with fecal matter. I, however, could not. (Also, thanks to the American health system, I still have no idea how much I’m being charged for this consult.)

The upshot was that I spent the whole first week of the holiday with no appetite whatsoever, which means I probably gained a little less holiday weight than usual. But I also had to apologize to everyone else who was laid up, including my mother, who spent an un-festive Christmas day in bed with a fever (on top of wrestling with an automotive soap opera too complicated and depressing to recount here). My sister-in-law paid us back, however, as she and my brother traded their infant daughter’s cold for our stomach flu. Zachary had the pleasure of being sick in both directions, but with completely different secretions. You gotta love parenthood.

Nevertheless, Imagethief made the best of his vacation under the circumstances. With an heroic effort in week two, I’m pretty sure that I compensated for most of the first week’s caloric deficit. You can accomplish splendid things with egg nog if you put your mind to it. Plus, Elliott Ng of CNReviews, whom I also saw recently in Beijing, was kind enough to treat me to a burrito the size of a Pres-To-Log over an extensive conversation about China blogging. That alone probably put a pound back on.

This brings me to two announcements. First: The great Imagethief blog hiatus is officially over. I’m not sure what kind of pace I’ll maintain, but I intend to get back to regular blogging and it won’t be hard to top the average of two posts a month since last August. Thanks to any remaining readers who have stuck around for five months of relative inactivity. Your Imagethief decoder rings are in the mail.

Second: One reason why I have the time to blog again is that I have started a six-month sabbatical from work in order to return to my languishing Chinese studies. In fact, it’s only a partial sabbatical as I will still be working a couple of days a week so I don’t have to dip into my savings and can keep my family’s visas and health insurance in good order (the insurance thing is looking pretty key after Christmas). But three days a week will be spent with my tutor and my nose in the textbooks and Chinese newspapers. A hat tip to my employers, who have been spectacularly cooperative about the whole thing. This is pretty experimental, and we’ll see how it all goes, but I’m excited.

Finally, I’d like to wish all readers a belated by sincere happy new year. Here’s hoping 2010 is better than 2009, and that the teens are an improvement on the naughties.

Mophead

Happy new year from patient zero!

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