Strobe Lights & Speakers–Ain’t Love Grand?

As I mentioned in my post on romance in fiction, I’ve been on a bit of a love kick lately. So it seems appropriate that the stars would align to allow me to attend a wedding this weekend.

As you may guess, I didn’t spontaneously make the 13-hour-by-plane commute back to the States to attend nuptials. (Though I would happily kiss the feet of anyone who invented a working Harry-Potter-esque Portkey, thus preventing us from ever missing another wedding, graduation, etc., due to long distance.) Instead, this was the wedding (hūn lǐ) of one of my Chinese co-workers. His is actually the second Chinese wedding I’ve attended in our 1.5 years of living in China. In both cases, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to attend. It’s poignant thing, witnessing that  incredible moment in someone’s life. And a Chinese wedding provides the added allure of a glimpse inside the culture.

Here are a few Chinese wedding survival tips Continue reading “Strobe Lights & Speakers–Ain’t Love Grand?”

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Russians, Ice Festivals & Tigers–Oh My! (Part 1)

In addition to introducing the upcoming year, Chinese New Year also marks the official start of spring according to China’s lunar calendar.

This year, I owe the lunar calendar a big commendation, as it pegged spring’s arrival perfectly. Just two weeks ago, temperatures here were in the 40s and 50s. Following on the heels of February 8th’s New Year celebration, the cherry blossoms are blooming and I’m shedding my jacket, happily welcoming 75°F days.

But the sunny days have made me nostalgic, bringing to a close our last winter to be spent in China. With the days counting down to the end of our assignment, I’m fondly remembering adventures we’ve taken, even as I wonder how well we’ve availed ourselves of our time here.

Of our many exotic escapades, perhaps the one that stands out most crisply is our trip to Harbin. China is a diverse country, with many an unexpected influence. But Harbin is a particularly unique gem. Continue reading “Russians, Ice Festivals & Tigers–Oh My! (Part 1)”

The Little Mermaid & Literary Diversity

Over the long, luxurious holiday that was Chinese New Year (Happy Year of the Monkey, y’all!), my husband and I had a few visitors: Tien, a Foreign Service Officer from another post, and her one year old daughter, Violet.

I’m still on the fence about whether I should be proud or embarrassed that I had a DVD of Disney’s The Little Mermaid on hand for Violet’s entertainment (I have no little kids of my own on whom to blame this). Regardless, the film quickly lulled her off to dreamland, leaving her mommy and I to chat about childhood memories of our favorite red-headed mermaid.

I still adore Disney‘s fun-and-song-filled take on the story. But adulthood made me curious about Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale. Reading it left me jaw-dropped… and kind of grateful that Disney pulled the wool over my three-year-old eyes, safeguarding my innocence. Continue reading “The Little Mermaid & Literary Diversity”

Terra Cotta Men & Mercury Poisoning

Having lived in China for over a year now, I’ve nabbed a few opportunities to venture out exploring from my home base of Chengdu. I have under my belt multiple visits to the glittering capital of Beijing; I’ve stopped in Guangzhou, an important southern port city. My husband and I visited Jiuzhaiguo and its breathtaking nature park; we made our way up to Harbin, a Chinese city located near the Russian and North Korean borders (a phenomenal trip that included visiting the world’s largest ice festival, as well as snow fox and baby tiger-snuggling moments).

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See?! Baby tiger!

But of all the Chinese spots I’ve been blessed to see, perhaps the most pleasantly surprising was Xi’an. Continue reading “Terra Cotta Men & Mercury Poisoning”

Great Wall, Great Experience

According to China’s late Chairman Mao, “Bù dào cháng chéng fēi hǎo hàn.”

Or, in our own tongue:

“He who has not been to the Great Wall is not a true man.”

This sentiment is one of a few about which Mr. Mao and I disagree. But I will give the man this: The Great Wall (aka: cháng chéng) truly is one of China’s must-see sites.

Believe it or not, this was actually a point of debate a few months back. As I worked with my parents to plan their 10-day trip to visit my husband and me in China, it became quickly apparent that we wouldn’t be able to pay homage to all China’s premier tourist locales. Since both my dad and I are surfers, we seriously considered jettisoning Beijing in favor of Hainan Island, the Hawaii of China:
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Tempting, right?

But in the end, we went the traditional China route. And I’m so glad we did. Continue reading “Great Wall, Great Experience”

Livin’ in Pearl-adise

An Advisory: To my male readers, I hereby issue fair warning: the following is an unequivocally girly blog post. Read at your own risk.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the important stuff: pearls.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to take a short business trip to Beijing. (I know; boo hoo for me, right?) It really was a work trip, so I didn’t have much time to explore Beijing’s touristy side. But there was one spot I knew I had to make it to, even if it meant facing off with Beijing’s infamous rush hour traffic to get there: Hongqiao Market (a.k.a: the Pearl Market).

As a pearl enthusiast, I’ve been hankering to pay Hongqiao a visit since my move to China. Having now made the trip, I can officially endorse it; if you share my fashion icons–women like Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, and the incomparable Audrey Hepburn–you’ll want to make a stop there, too. Continue reading “Livin’ in Pearl-adise”

Ritual & Rice

While my best friend Amber was visiting me in China, we took a gamble.

Qingcheng Shān (Qingcheng Mountain) is a well-known tourist destination in these parts. A quick consultation with Dr. Google will provide a bevy of beautiful photographs. But when I called to set up a trip with Mr. Lee, a local English-speaking tour guide, he warned us of the crowded commercialism that would be Qingcheng Shān on a Sunday. He encouraged us to try a different mountain instead.

He painted a pretty picture of Wáng Shān (King Mountain)–bamboo forest at the top, authentic, un-commercialized villages on the descent–so we said yes to the mystery tour. But as soon as I hopped off the phone, doubt swept in. What had we just signed up for? Continue reading “Ritual & Rice”