It’s been a mad scramble over the past few days to get prepared for the next three months in the Middle Kingdom. Trips to REI, Nordstrom Rack, Walgreens. Two days of laundry and shrunken T-shirts. Frustrating phone calls with Sprint to turn off my phone. A maddening Fourth of July when I discovered I was shipped the wrong traveling backpack. A sweet save by when they had the bag I was looking for and had a retail store in SLC and were open over the weekend.

I won’t even mention the copious amount of copy I’ve read on China in the past six months– it was one Long March for my fragile, little mind. 

And now I’m 12 hours away from boarding a flight to Hong Kong, where I’ll begin my journey through China. I’ve planned as much as I could (six months of free time to plan should be enough, right?) yet I have no idea what to expect. The last time I was in Hong Kong was in 1992, when I was 12. Hong Kong was still under British control.

From all the advice I’ve gotten from friends and family, it’s as if I’m taking a journey into heart of darkness, a netherworld of criminals, gangs, swindlers, prostitutes, conniving migrants, rude urbanites — basically the worst scum of the earth. I should also look forward to days of debilitating diarrhea, painful stomach cramps, unforgiving vomiting and total loss of body control. So if you see me in China, I’ll be one of the living undead, suffering from diarrhea and cramps, dry vomit on my shirt, while every Chinese I pass will take advantage of me. Good times.

If my dear and lovely mom had her way, I wouldn’t even be going. Or she’d be traveling with me, using her broomstick to beat away all the con men and loose “pretty women” who are so eager to prey on me, the paragon of innocence and virtue.

I find it all amusing, if not exhausting. Interestingly, the view I’ve gotten about China has been mostly negative. Not just from the recent media reports about Tibet and human rights, but from people close to me. People who were born and had lived in China. Many of their concerns aren’t about China’s record on human rights or its treatment of Tibetans. They’re about the regular Chinese people: how uncouth, how uncultured, how nefarious they all are.

(One aside which deserves its own post some time: It’s interesting how people of the same ethnicities create conflicts and bias against each other. How paler Asians are more desired than darker ones. How urbanites look down on and denigrate farmers and peasants. This isn’t just exclusive to Chinese people. Look at Indian people and their caste system. Or the rest of the U.S. vs. West Virginia.)

Well, as gullible and trusting as I am, I’m still going. I’m going with an open mind and open heart, ready to experience a trip of a lifetime. I hope China’s emergence on the world stage this summer is genuine, that its people will finally shed its inferiority complex and that every Chinese person — those in China and in the States — can be proud of the Olympics.

Sure, I’m being idealistic. I’m not so naive to believe that the Olympics will go off without a hitch, without some protest breaking through the security blanket, without some athlete making a political statement, without some controversy that will be part of the legacy of the XXIX Olympiad. But I’m giving it a chance and trying to be as objective as possible.

I’ll be trying to update regularly and posting images on my Flickr feed. I’ll also try to make a video or two (I promise it’ll be better than the “highlight” mix I produced). So hopefully — if you haven’t already been bored by my long-winded and self-indulgent posts — you’ll have a reason to stop by often.

Just pray I don’t get abducted by a gaggle of miscreants and streetwalkers and put under for some diabolical Chinese government experiment.

See y’all in Hong Kong.