The Year of the Tiger

There are always magical moments in my stays while living abroad. While living in Sweden, it was when I was able to confidently say my lines and sing in Swedish in our high school musical. In Senegal, I will always remember dancing in front of 500 people at our village sabar and then being nicknamed “The Dancer” for the rest of my stay. My “magical moment” while living in China was when my parents and my aunt came to visit in March. I was able to show them all of my experiences in the last six months and go on new adventures with them, including visiting the Summer Palace, shopping at the Pearl Market in Beijing, enjoying pork dumplings and Dali beer, and climbing the Great Wall.

All of the huffing, puffing, panting, and sweating was definitely worth it once we made it to the top of the Great Wall! When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we could start to see the outline of the Great Wall in the distance as it twisted and turned like a snake along the mountain pass. I was like a kid in a candy store as I skipped along the path to the chairlift. I wasn’t able to wipe the beaming smile off my face the entire time, even when we would peek down at the dangerous descent while riding in the chairlift. Even though our ride brought us up quite a distance, the towering height was still ahead of us. My parents and I braved the steep switchbacks of the Simatai entrance on this blustery March day. Along the way up to Watchtower #5, we were greeted by people wanting us to buy t-shirts, books, and postcards of the Great Wall. My dad just whispered, “Martha, just speak Swedish to them,” so out spilled the sing-song language and a look of confusion washed over their faces. Needless to say, we didn’t have to buy any of their merchandise. The rocky path up to the actual wall was just the beginning of our Great Wall adventure.

Once we reached the top, we made plans to either go to the right and climb a death-defying incline of stairs or go to the left and walk down to the rest of the towers. Going down is always easier than going up, right? One would think so, but once we were making our first decline down a steel ladder, feeling the brisk March wind sway us back and forth, we knew we were in for an adventure that we would be telling for a lifetime. I was the first to climb down the stairs and brave the wicked air that was blowing across the wall. The incline was so steep that I had to watch where I placed each foot and had to remind myself that there was no need to rush while climbing the wall. Once my feet started to skid beneath me due to the loose gravel and deteriorating wall, I decided the best way to climb the Great Wall was to scoot on my butt. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I scooted, not climbed, down the down the Great Wall and I am proud to say that bits of the Great Wall are probably embedded in my jeans!

Touring around Beijing was just half of my trip with my family. After experiencing the bright lights of “the big city,” it was time for us to travel back to Xizhou. My family’s days were filled with relaxing mornings and trips to the market square while I taught the daily lessons to Bryce and Shane. Our afternoons were dedicated to village adventures and side trips to Dali. Cormorant fishing, bike rides, and visiting temples were also on list of things to see and do. We were a little sad that my sister couldn’t join us in the fun, so we decided to make a “Flat Lauren,” which was inspired by the book Flat Stanley. We took her to about every place we went; she sipped Dali beers with us, she bartered prices with the locals in the market square, and she relaxed on the rooftop terrace at the Linden Centre after a long day of activities!

Not only did I have those “magical moments” while my family was visiting, but as I look back on my stay in China, I recall many highlights and adventures that I will always remember. It is amazing to me that my seven-month stay in what I like to call a fusion of Neverland and the Middle Kingdom is coming to a close. My journal is busting at the seams with many more untold adventures, sketches, and things that I have collected over the past year. Thanks to all of you for reading The Year of the Tiger throughout the year and joining me on my adventures around Asia!

Xie xie! 謝謝