We have seen so much since leaving Shanghai. When we had our fill of large city, we headed out to Moganshan, a small mountain village retreat, originally established as a European hill station. It was quite a journey getting there (as are all travel days in China) but well worth the effort (which included a cab, a train ride, haggling in Chinese for a second cab (Coalter) to take us the rest of the way when no nobody seemed to know where it was, an irate taxi driver who had no idea he had to drive us all the way to the top of the mountain, vomiting child in the back seat). We finally arrived to find the whole village was shut down for the winter. We were almost the only people in the whole town, the only guests in our large hotel. Very eery. While we had peace, solitude, stunning views of mountains and bamboo forests, we had no heat (sleeping in down sleeping bags in the hotel, eating in front of a space heater with long underwear, hats, gloves, down jackets), one dining option, no way to get cash (which was running out and the bank closed for the winter). But we had beautiful hikes through bamboo forests, sunshine and fresh air ( a real commodity in China if you have been reading the news about the pollution – which is staggering). All in all, a funny adventure that we are sure to remember forever.
After sleeping for about 15 hours, we awoke fresh and ventured out to explore Shanghai. I have never been to China so had no expectations. I was not very hopeful after our cab ride in from the airport on about 40 miles of highway elevated over modern, industrial sprawl through thick, white haze. However, I was greatly surprised by how walkable and charming the city is, at least our section in the French Concession. Coalter, who spent a significant amount of time in China 20 years ago, is having a hard time reconciling all the changes and development which have occurred here over this time (I’ll let him expound on this). For example, Starbucks. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that we had our first meal in China at Starbucks. But we were starving and jet lagged and actually were having a hard time finding any other eateries that were open in our posh little area of town. For those of you who know my husband, this was nothing short of a crime (he initially refused 100% so I bought a coffee to walk around with and he kept stealing sips of it, completely conflicted by his high morals and his desperate need for good strong coffee). Sweetie, it’s the new China, just go with it.
The highlights of our urban hike included an outdoor market with lots of very interesting things to eat, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Also fun was watching a courtyard of elementary school children doing their morning exercises, marching in elaborate patterns as you might imagine they did during the days of the Cultural Revolution, only this time it was to Lady Gaga or Brittany Spears or someone like that. Henry was wondering if they knew that one of the lines said, “hell yeah, I’m a mother f…ing princess.” It’s truly a global village. It did give me the idea of incorporating morning calisthenics into our homeschool. Eating lots of greasy food and more sedentary than usual. Something’s gotta give.
Well we are finally here and I am finally writing my very first blog entry! What a process, extricating yourself from your life for a while. We had a hectic week of packing and preparing the house for house/dog sitters, preceded by many months of methodical planning (not to mention years of just talking about a “big trip.”). Predictably, I was awake all night the night before leaving thinking, why am I doing this??? 24/7 family time for five months. No job. No routine. No school or soccer practices. Homeschooling, my God. Also predictably, about half way through the flight, flying somewhere near the Arctic I thought, wow, no school, no routine, 24/7 with my people, I’m flying over the Arctic to China…. how amazing!! For better or for worse, the adventure has begun.
The boys, now ages 12 and 9, are doing great, they are already turning into pretty seasoned little travelers. And what’s not to love? They get unlimited screen time on airplanes in contrast to our pretty strict screen time rules at home. They watched 14 straight hours of movies on the plane ride over, no lie. It was a site to behold. But they are troopers. They take the hassles of travel in stride, they view the world with fresh eyes, they are infinitely open to new experiences, and they are able to see the humor in some of the ridiculous situations one finds themselves in while traveling to new places. For instance, we all had a big laugh on day 1 after making our way one by one to the living room of our Shanghai apartment at midnight, completely awake due to the time change, in our underwear, eating Luna bars thinking “this is weird.”
We’ve made it to Vietnam and out from under the oppressive Chinese internet censorship regime (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China). At first we thought the choice of blog name was the cause of the problem, but apparently the censorship applies to all WordPress blog sites. We will try to fill in the gaps retroactively with some of our impressions of China, and we hope that other governments are either less oppressive or less tech savvy.
As it turns out, we’re not the only family that has decided to check out for a brief international adventure. Check out some of these crews from Top 10 Family Travel Blogs at familyonbikes.org/blog/2011/12/my-top-ten-family-travel-blogs/
Very intimidating stuff!!