Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shanghai Resolution

The week has, in usual fashion, flown by. In a little over four days- Phil and I will be boarding a plane and going back to the States for a visit. There has been much to do in preparation, and the list has barely shortened. So before we board our plane on Tuesday, I have a lot more to accomplish.

As I wait for my morning coffee to clear my brain and get me moving, I thought I would take a few of these early morning moments to spend some time writing.

Phil and I have entered a New Year in Shanghai. We’ve celebrated the traditional Western calendar New Year and China is gearing up to celebrate the traditional Lunar calendar New Year next week. As we symbolically welcome in the new; we are also marking the beginning of the final contract year here in Shanghai. If all goes as written in the contract, our assignment in Shanghai will be over in January of 2010. The possibility remains that his contract could be extended, but wisdom and previous experience compels us to approach the year as our final one.

It really is strange to think that we have entered our third year and could be leaving in one year’s time. But as we usher in this New Year, I am compelled more than ever to live Shanghai to the fullest. I don't do New Years resolutions, but I will do a Shanghai-to-do-resolution.

Here are some of our Shanghai To Do's:
-Focus on Mandarin studies (learn at least 300 characters and be conversational within 3 months)
-Focus on Baobei foundation and work to find critically ill orphans surgery and healing homes to recover in.
-Continue to build on friendships with people here in Shanghai.
-Spend time walking the disappearing old neighborhoods before they are gone forever.
-Take more photos.
-Get to Sichuan as a volunteer.
-Travel Asia a ton! (Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Xi'an, Guilin,Huangshan, etc)
-Learn to cook some serious Chinese food.
-Eat at a new restaurant every month.

More to come…

Friday, January 2, 2009

Taking It All In

It seems like most of my posts begin with "we're back from___". I think this trend might paint a boring consistency over our less than boring adventures. But it's true; we are back from our latest adventure in Tibet. We descended from the "rooftop of the world" (approximately 4500 meters above sea level) on New Year's Eve- and haven't really left the comfort of our home or pajama's since.

Our trip to this far corner of the world has proven to be one of my favorite adventures yet. I will admit that the idea of going to a place 4500 meters above sea level in the middle of winter did not really appeal to me at first. In fact, it didn't really appeal to me until our plane landed in Lhasa. As we touched down, I thought to myself "this is a really amazing and rare opportunity- and probably not a trip many foreigners have taken".

As soon as the plane landed, I could feel the heavy pressure of high altitude on my body. I wondered to myself if I was imagining these sensations; but the short and slow walk into the airport left me breathless, and I knew then it was not in my mind alone.

After gathering our luggage we were met by our local tour guide Thun Drup and our driver Pu Pu. As is custom in Tibetan culture- guests are greeted by receiving a white scarf, which is loosely placed around the neck. After this warm welcome; we were escorted to our bus, offered some tea and fruit, then taken to the hotel for a rest and opportunity to acclimatize.

The following 4 days consisted of a trip to Potala Palace; a drive to Kampala high pass at 4750 meters; a tour of Jokhang monastery; a trip to and trek around Ganden monastery at 4500 meters; a tour of a local family home, and general wandering about Lhasa.

While it is difficult to sum up this trip in a few short words, I haven't really begun to process through all that we were privileged to see. So it seems that a few short words are all that I have for now.

In the meantime- enjoy the photos from our recent adventure!

-Phil and Jen