Jul 9, 2019

We made it...23 days in China, three cities, three kids, three very different living situations.  The kids held their own, rolled with the punches, and filled their adventure journals with as many new foods as new experiences.

Yet, anything Chris and I had worries about has been dwarfed by the the one worry we didn't have, jet lag after arriving home.  This past week has been a huge shock to the system.  I got a cold the moment I set foot on American soil, the boys have been waking up at 2 am almost every morning wide awake and demanding a back rub, and Chris can barely keep his eyes open past 7 o'clock.  Regardless, Chris and I are already talking about doing it again.  There was so much to explore in China and as I watch our contacts continuously post pictures of their further explorations without us, one side of my brain is very jealous and the other is adding a check mark to that box on the list of things to see next time.

But this time...here is what we saw, did, accomplished, ate, explored, went back for more of, and shook our heads an emphatic "no" at...

Scarlett in LAX at 9pm waiting to get on the plane to China -
Scarlett - "Mom, I feel uncomfortable that we are the only Americans"
Mom - "Scarlett, we haven't even left America"

Smoothies - Lets just start here...because we had SO MANY smoothies.  It was a little piece of home that felt accessible, recognizable, and wasn't McDonalds.

Dragon boat festival - we got to watch locals create rice dumplings called Zongzi. Just moments before these pictures a man and woman on the other end of the market got into an rice throwing fight beginning with what I could only imagine was an argument about who had access to the best bamboo leaves.

Scarlett earned some serious Chinese yuan by buying our fruit for the day with very minimal Mandarin. To say I was proud of how these kids embraced the culture is a huge understatement. Especially since it took me another 8 days to even attempt any sort of Mandarin, and that experience was both humiliating and humbling as the cashier and I could not see eye to eye on how to count to 32.

The Stone Forest was truly something special, and easily one of the most magnificent things I have seen. What started out as a long drive, tired kids, "can we please stop" type of day, turned into the perfect exploration of natural mazes and "whats around this corner?" curiosity. 

Pictures could never do this quaint Yi village restaurant justice.  Driving through empty streets and pulling up to a small entrance in what looked like someones home, turning the corner and seeing a romantic, backyard setting with low tables and lush green branches creating canopies for shade left my mouth open and my mind quickly assessing how long it would take me to turn my backyard into anything half as whimsical.

The menu was presented as grocery store. Pick from the fresh vegetables and meat, the dried beef on the wall or the freshly plucked chicken from the man just outside the kitchen.

Green lake - This was a much needed day off from exploration.  We threw the kids in some hamster balls, bought some tourist trap knickknacks, watched the NaiNai's corporate dance routines, ate hamburgers for dinner, and called it a success.

Green Dragon Valley - This park was fun regardless of the fact that it was a pure tourist trap.  We had to pay to get in, pay to skip climbing 5,000 steps, pay to cross the glass bridge to the exit, and pay to take a slide to the bottom of the mountain back to our car.  But there was no denying it was in a beautiful valley and there was no shortage of things to keep the kids entertained.

Yunnan Ethnic Village - Epcot for China's minority groups.  Yunnan is the province with the largest number of minorities and this "theme park" strives to capture them in little glimpses.  With traditional music, dance, food, dress, housing, crafts and games, this park definitely kept the kids entertained.  It was such a fun way to learn about different minorities in the Yunnan province and get to share in the passion my brother in law has for the traditions of these ethnic groups.  

Max turned 4 and we celebrated at the mall - smoothies, 5 hours at an amazing play place, and ice cream.  Perfect day.  

I think what was so magical about this part of the trip was the ability create days of exploration and days of relaxation and never feel like we were missing out on something bigger and better.  Even the days of relaxation felt indulgent and left us feeling energized rather than irritable and unsatisfied with lack of activity. 

And now on to Xi'an...