I have had the chance to visit several countries in my lifetime–Japan, China, Ireland, and Switzerland, to name a few.  Probably my most adventurous vacation was my trip to China.

When I was in grad school, a good friend of mine, Kim, planned to go to China over Christmas break to finish her thesis work.  She had taught in China for two years, and now she was focusing her thesis on the speech patterns of the Chinese.  She asked me to go, and while I was curious and excited, I was also nervous.  In the end, my cousin, Elizabeth, ended up coming, too.

This was a huge blessing because Kim was so busy with her work that we hardly saw her.

We arrived in China and were promptly driven to the dorms at the university in Beijing where Kim was doing her research.  Elizabeth and I shared a small dorm room whose only light was one single, dim bulb hung from the middle of the room.

The next day, we were on our own, trying to navigate the street signs, none of which were in English, to buy tickets to go see the Great Wall of China.  We went to the Great Wall, and we were shocked and amazed at how steep the Wall was.  In some places we slipped and lost our footing.

We also traveled with Kim and her friend, Yu Wen, to his hometown near Harbin, China.  It was so cold, that when Elizabeth took off her hat and held it in her teeth while she readjusted her gloves, her teethmarks were frozen into the hat.  In China, most of the men spit (and spit frequently!).  It was so cold, their spit froze when it hit the ground.  I kid you not.

However, because it was so cold, we could watch the beautiful Harbin ice sculpture exhibit. (Click here to see some amazing pictures of the ice festival. I traveled there 13 years ago, well before I had a good camera to share my own pictures.)  This is held every year, and the ice sculptures are so big, you can walk through them.  Some are even two stories tall!  They freeze lights in the ice blocks, so each sculpture glows in the night.  They are really quite beautiful.

We saw China that winter from a native Chinese perspective.  I’d like to go again sometime and see it from a Westerner’s perspective, with maybe a few more creature comforts and a few more tourist attractions.

What’s the most exciting vacation you have ever taken?

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