My trip to China was split up into three parts:
Beijing and the Great Wall
Xi’an and the Terra-cotta Warriors
Shanghai and…. shopping!
To be honest, whenever I thought of visiting China it was to see the Great Wall. I have dreamed of seeing the Great Wall, taking pictures on the Great Wall, touching the Great Wall, walking on the Great Wall, ever since I can remember. I would have gone to China (and paid the ridiculously expensive VISA price) for the Great Wall alone. After last week though, I am incredibly grateful for my travel partner and friend, Joëlle, who basically planned and organized our whole trip (and by basically I mean did it all). What a great travel buddy. I had to warn her before the trip though, that when I go on vacation I switch modes… it worries some people. I am not going to lie, I cannot be go-go-go, always telling a story, extremely go-lucky and bubbly all the time (okay, maybe I could— besides the point), and when I go on vacation I love to read, and be silent. Haha, it’s totally weird.
We arrived in Beijing for the first leg of our journey and our first impression was, “Wow… it looks an awful lot like Korea.” From visiting the Forbidden City, to the Summer Palace, and hiking up over 2,000 steps to get to the Great Wall we concluded that Beijing was the land of STAIRS. I have never gotten more exercise in my life. It is hard to describe how amazing all of these places were. The Forbidden City, is actually— a CITY. When you go you gotta commit, you walk through a courtyard, and another, and another, and another… holy cow it is big. Really big. I couldn’t get over the enormousity (made that word up) of the place.
Our first priority on our first night in China was to find a private taxi service to take us to the Great Wall on Monday morning. We wanted to go to the Mutianyu section, which was about an hour and a half away. The doors to The Wall opened at 7. We asked to get picked up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning and the lady went, “What?!” We were ready, but didn’t get picked up until 5:45, haha good thing we called to check up on her. Waking up early was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. We had The Wall all to ourselves for almost two hours. Then we started to get annoyed when other people were in our pictures, hahaha. All of the pictures I am including in this blog post are only ones I took on my camera. Joëlle’s camera is full of amazing pictures as well… I will get the majority of pictures up on facebook next week! But for now, here was the first leg of the trip:
The above picture is of a German couple we met, they were on their way back from Australia and had a nine hour layover. Why not see the Great Wall? I almost died when they took their coats off to reveal matching jumpsuits!
Once the Great Wall was out of our system we jumped on a night train and headed towards Xi-An. I have never taken a sleeper train before, and I loved it! Twelve hours to read and then be rocked asleep by the steady motion of a train going over the tracks? Joëlle and I slept so well! And then when we woke up, we were at our next destination.
Did you know that the terra-cotta warriors are considered the eighth wonder of the world? Me either! As I stood their looking at these men carved out of clay I couldn’t begin to imagine the history that I was staring at. To think that farmers were just looking to dig a well when they came across the first relics. It. Was. Cool.
This last picture is after we visited the terra-cotta warriors and took a leisurely stroll on this giant wall that circles (or, er- squares) the city of Xi-An. It was pretty nifty.
After one night in Xi-An we hopped on a plane and flew down to our last stop in China, Shanghai! If you are ever in the area, you must take the almost three hour road trip (when all is said and done!) to China’s no. 1 Water-town, Zhouzhuang. Joëlle and I visited during the day, but oh- how we would have loved to stay at night as well (there are hostels, we ate at one!). It was beautiful, we got in a boat and enjoyed the blooming flowers in the trees throughout the whole town, as we were serenaded by our boat captain. There were many neat shops and obviously the gazillion touristy souvenir places. THEN, there was the random cardboard museum. Everything was made out of cardboard, EVERYTHING. It was even attached to a restaurant that had everything (chairs, tables, lights) made out of cardboard too (no pictures of this anomaly are in this post though, strange).
After we got back from Zhouzhuang, we headed to the Bund in Shanghai. Holy cow. The lights!
The best thing about Shanghai was meeting Joëlle’s friends from back home in Canada, a married couple teaching at an international school that were gracious enough to host us for a few nights. They took us to the best shopping markets, taught us a new card game (I learn the best card games from Canadians— except Euchre which ORIGINATED in Michigan, true story) and fed us yummy western food (what? we eat culturally all the time- we LIVE IN KOREA).
Joëlle with our amazing hosts!
What a week of blessings. Though there were some hard times too (aren’t there always?!). To be honest, I didn’t really like China- the country China… Too much pollution, even more people spit on the street there than in Korea (really, I think so!), and I just didn’t feel comfortable. I almost couldn’t wait to be back in Korea where I at least know a LEETLE bit of the language and have become much more familiar with the customs.
Would I have done it all over again? Absolutely. The sights were phenomenal, AND Chinese people love to dance. We would be in the park and see groups of people practicing dance, performing dances, or just setting up a boombox and letting the music move them. Any country that has that much dancing is A-okay in my book.
I thought long and hard about my outfit for that day, knowing my face would end up on the computer screen of every fan of the newest online publication sensation, re.write magazine. I wanted it (my outfit, that is) to match me, and my story. I chose bright colors, happy colors, and HEARTS. Who doesn’t love hearts?
The day I met up with Elysabeth for my interview it was unusually warm, and very sunny. An absolutely perfect day for taking fun, bright pictures. So we did just that. Being one who is never without my camera I had to take a few pictures of my own.
After both of us got our much-needed pictures, the actual interview began. A couple of months ago, when I first mentioned the idea of sharing my story with Liz for her magazine, I immediately regretted it. The old lies and doubts of my testimony being nothing special began to plague me and I thought, “Crap, I have nothing to say!” Then I re-traced the steps of my life, and the power of remembering took over. I re-played over and over again in my head what I wanted to share with Liz, and then when it came to the actual interview, the carefully rehearsed beginning I had planned was thrown off when she asked one simple question… so simple, I don’t even remember what it was (something about my salvation). All rehearsed lines went out the window.
Two hours and a thousand bunny trails later, and Liz had my life story. It was such a mumbo jumbo, throw-up of words… I was so excited to share I just tried sharing everything all at the same time. When I was finished I thought, “Oh my word I am the worst life-story teller ever, how is Liz going to decipher and coherently piece together the heart of what I was trying to say?” She asked me how I felt and I smiled and said, “Good!” And that was true, I felt good for me, but sorry for her.
Little did I know, that this amazing, God-fearing woman, has a talent for asking the right questions and listening to the words I said, and the ones I didn’t. From the first paragraph of this article, you read ME. I am so blessed, and proud, and excited to share my testimony of God’s keeping power.
If you haven’t had the chance to read it, click on this picture and you will understand what I am talking about.
“re.write magazine is a bi-monthly online publication dedicated to storytelling. But not your average storytelling. These stories are of ordinary people, whose lives have been transformed by a very extraordinary God. Each story is nonfiction, unembellished, and sometimes, extremely raw.
But here’s the spoiler alert: each story ends with hope.”
This past week I went two full days without my camera. I was facetiming with my dad (who now has an iPHONE! have I mentioned that yet? my whole ENTIRE immediate family— all eleven of us, can now imessage and facetime— pure JOY — I love apple!) when he mentioned hearing about me being without my nikon… “What did you do Melody? Two full days of not being able to catch any memories. You couldn’t take any pictures.” Thanks, Dad. But it was, in fact, a terrible time for me. Okay, okay, my joy does not rest with my camera— I tend to be dramatic.
I got my camera back, and went for a walk. Every time I do, I see something new, really! It’s true. Yes I said true to rhyme with do and new, I am a Kindergarten teacher after all.
I wanted to pick this chair up and bring it home with me. I just love it!
I really don’t like going a whole week without a post. From wordless wednesday to wordless wednesday = NOT COOL.
I was asked to come up with a quote of inspiration for the yearbook this year.
“Most things are better experienced, not googled. Keep learning!”
I thought it was pretty good. It reminded me about how I do Google EVERYTHING though. I mean, I do have to keep them in business since my sis works for that company, but I guess there are some things I just don’t need to look up. Or I could grab a dictionary and thumb through some pages. I need to get off this computer once in a while, haha. And yet here I sit— writing.
I have come to realize more and more how writing is what makes me tick. It is the one hobby I started when I was little (what? writing is a hobby, I wrote outside of assigned writing work in school, so there) and never, ever gave up.
My students and I read a poem last week (author unknown, which makes me sad as I would love to give them credit!). It went like this:
If you ever ever ever ever ever
If you ever ever ever meet a whale
You must never never never never never
You must never never never touch its tail:
For if you ever ever ever ever ever,
If you ever ever ever touch its tail,
You will never never never never never,
You will never never meet another whale.
I just thought this was the cutest thing ever. Writing is AWESOME.
Writing speaks to people.
Don’t you love the title? I thought of it as soon as Tina and I sat down in some wonderfully comfortable arm chairs and waited for our tea and hot chocolate to be made. I just love alliteration. I am also in love with this new coffee shop we found near Sinsa subway station. It is called Amy Choco, and I could NOT STOP taking pictures. I was having so much fun. I didn’t realize there was a movie, 500 Days of Summer, playing above my head- projected on the wall (kudos to Tina for not getting distracted and still having a heart to heart chat with me, if I was sitting in her chair… I don’t know), and so much random stuff… Little Eiffel Tower monument, teddy bear figurines, and fat lit candles on every table. NOT TO MENTION the airplanes above our heads.
Tina was patient with me, as she smelled her chocolate tea… but after five minutes she was like, “Can I drink it yet?” Then I had to get the pouring shots, haha… At one point in the evening she asked me what other profession I would choose (beside the awesome one I already have) and without hesitation, before she even finished the question, I shot back with, “Photographer for National Geographic.” Coffee stops step aside, it’s wild animals I really want to snap a picture of! For now… these will totally do.
Tina got chocolate for her mom, we loved the packaging— and what a good daughter she is! (Mom, if you come to Korea I will totally buy you chocolate!)