Ni Hao, Knoxville!

When our family of three — two adults and a dog — arrived in Knoxville TN, we had travelled from 1:30pm Jan 20 China Time to 5:30pm Jan 21 Knoxville Time (about 40 hours). We and seven pieces of luggage transitioned from Dalian, China to Tokyo, Seattle, Austin and Nashville. Although our carrier for the International leg was lenient enough to let us go with slightly overweight suitcases, the American domestic carrier wasn’t. The extra weight charge was nearly the full ticket price. We would perhaps have had to spend more if we had missed our plane in the middle of the journey, but since we wanted no delay, we ponied up.

Once the airports were behind us, we celebrated our small victory of immigrating to the USA, CW’s home country. This trip for me was nothing like my four prior visits to America, for it was new to me almost on every level. Perhaps perspectives from a visitor are just different from those of a resident. Now I thought like a person who would live here for a while. Within ten days upon arrival, a few things that I have learned include:

A. Robert, a silver haired widower living in the neighborhood. Walking his twin dogs Molly and Zoë nearby the Knoxville racket club at the same time when I was walking Heido, Robert was the only person outside my Knoxville family with whom I enjoyed a leisurely conversation. He was in tears talking with me as if he had just met a long lost Chinese relative. “Are you the Chinese lady whose father’s a chef?” He asked in a trembling voice. “No, my father isn’t a chef.” I replied. Robert turned out to be a devotee of Chinese food, who had lost his wife to cancer a few months ago. At the end of our conversation, Robert admitted that he had trouble holding back tears.

B. Four wheeled vehicles, the extended legs of human bodies. Whenever I needed to run errands in China, I walked downstairs to visit banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and the dry cleaners. For outlying locations, buses or taxies were readily available to take me anywhere in town. But living in Knoxville presents a completely different scenario. Besides my twice-a-day walks with Heido, I have ridden in the truck with CW to Kroger, Earth Fare, the Shrimp Dock, Oriental Market, Sitar the Indian Buffet, Asia Kitchen the Chinese restaurant, the Asian Sunrise Supermarket, and the Medical Center (topic for next story). We even drove to the racket club, a mere 5 minute walk from home. Alarms ring in my mind whenever a vehicle dominates my personal transportation — Gotta find space for walking and exercising!

C. Scented dog poo bags in rainbow colors. The bags come in a rainbow of bright colors. I selected all green ocean breeze for Heido that offered 20% extra bags. It’s silly to think of bags as seductive, but I had to remind myself that the bags are for Heido’s poop and do not need to be fancy. Be practical, I admonished myself on the way to check out.

Last, my observation goes to my Knoxville family — I couldn’t have prayed for a better place to immigrate. Diane and Terry are both sweethearts, straight shooters and down-to-the-earth humans. They live with Buster, a nine year old big black Labrador retriever, who easily dwarfs small black Heido and three cats, Sassy, Squeak, and MahLao. The pack not only opened up their home to us, they also maintain a healthy lifestyle by playing tennis 3–4 times a week and eating organic fruits and veggies. Can’t live in the house without a proper pair of tennis shoes, so Diane suggested a pair of Nikes. Later, Terry noticed the stiffness of the Nikes and insisted upon providing me with an upgrade to New Balance. I am now the proud wearer of my first ever pair of new tennis shoes!

Shopping for shoes turned out to be the last activity I remember before waking up in alternating sweats and chills accompanied by an intense pain that radiated throughout much of my body. CW drove me to a Medical clinic. One week after arriving in my new country, I was in urgent need of medical care.

To Be Continued…

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