This time of the year is always tough to be away from family and home. However, spending the holiday season in China has given us a lifetime of memories. It seems just like yesterday we were wondering what it would be like to live in China…and now we have been living here for a full year. I guess what they say is true, time flies when you are having fun. Or maybe it’s our busy teaching schedules? Maybe it’s the fact that every day is a different experience. Just going to the local market here in China is an experience!
The holiday season here in China has been an unusual and unique experience. Although China… is China, people in-the-know still want to partake in western holidays and celebrations. Being that we are teaching English in China, our language schools really want to get in on the celebration. So we to get to celebrate the holiday season, but with a Chinese twist.
Halloween in China
Halloween was a fun time at my school. We got to have a Halloween party, and all of the little kids got to dress up. I did a little bit of dressing up, but I went a little on the scary side and, unfortunately, I was a little a too scary for some of the kids (some have not stopped crying since). I blame my other teachers, who wanted to unleash their scary creativity on me with the face paint.
Our Halloween party at the school had all the same festivities that we have in the states. We got to play all kinds of games, we even set up a couple of the local shops with Halloween candy and took the kids door to door trick or treating. They all had a blast.
Roller Coasters in China
As you might know, Liz and I have, what some might consider, an “obsession” with roller coasters and theme parks. We love them. And we finally got to experience a Chinese theme park.
Chimelong Paradise is a well known and established theme park brand in China, and especially the Guangdong region. On a day when we were riding the bus across town to do some Thanksgiving shopping, we thought that it was too nice of a day to pass up a roller coaster.
We literally drove past the park and looked at each other and said “Roller Coasters?!? Let’s do it!” We immediately got off the bus and spent our day riding roller coasters at Chimelong Paradise instead of doing our Thanksgiving dinner shopping. It felt like we were skipping work to go ride roller coasters…just like we used to do at home.
Surprisingly, we weren’t the only westerners hanging around Chimelong Paradise. They actually had many shows that featured foreigners. They had an action show similar to one you would see at Universal Studios, and they also had a North American Lumberjack Show. Well we could not miss that.
The lumberjack show had some great lumberjack competitions, and some fun line dancing to the likes of Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. While it was full of laughable stereotypes and characters, it was entertaining to say the least. It was interesting to get an outsider’s perspective of how other people think a lumberjack should be.
Thanksgiving in China
One of Liz and my favorite holidays would have to be Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving we were in Chiang Mai, Thailand and cooking a little Thanksgiving meal for ourselves. We will never forget that experience because we had a ton of fun driving our motorbike around shopping at the local markets to make a (somewhat) American Thanksgiving dinner.
This year we did the same, only we invited over several of our Chinese friends to partake in our Thanksgiving Day traditions.
On the morning of Thanksgiving I went to the local market, only this time it was a little different than the previous year in Thailand. Rather than Turkey (because those are an expensive import item) I wanted to cook a whole chicken for everyone…but the local supermarkets don’t sell whole chickens.
The only place to find a whole chicken is at the local meat market. My friend CJ met me down at the street market early in the morning to translate and help me “pick out” a chicken. Yeah, well we picked out a couple of chickens and had to have them “cleaned” for us westerners. They thought it was a little strange that we didn’t want to clean it ourselves.
It was an interesting experience.
We invited some friends from Liz’s school and mine to enjoy a western Thanksgiving dinner. They were so excited to partake in the festivities and to taste the food. Liz did another great job cooking for everyone…our friends loved it. It is just funny for us to think of macaroni and cheese as being a “crazy dish”, but to see how our friends look it (and take photos). It’s like when I look at pig brains in a hot pot (oh yeah, that happened too).
Everyone loved it and we loved hosting it.
Disneyland Hong Kong
As some of you may know, Disney is super special for Liz and I. It was our first trip together as a couple and it was the place where we got engaged. We love Disney and everything it means.
Living in Guangzhou, China we are spoiled to have Disneyland Hong Kong so close to us. So we decided to become members with season passes to Disney. It was actually good deal considering how much we will go compared to the price of entry. Plus it’s Disney and we love it.
So far during this holiday season, we have gone to Disneyland a couple times. We went right around Thanksgiving and came back a few weeks later to see the Christmas decorations. There is just something special for us to see those mouse ears with Christmas decorations around it. And the beautiful lights and costumes made us feel at home.
As if it wasn’t exciting enough to be at Disney during Christmas, we were surprised to be able to find several geocaches hidden around Disney…and even got an FTF (First to Find)! Not only is an FTF so cool for us geocachers, but it was a Disney FTF, which made it even cooler for us!
One of our favorite finds so far this trip.
Dressing as Santa in China
For the rest of my life, every year around Christmas I will think about (and talk about) dressing up as Santa in China. I dressed up last year and drove around delivering presents to my students at their apartments. This year I stayed at the school and dressed up as Santa for our Christmas parties.
We also dressed up the kids as Santa this year, and had them experience what it feels like to be the big guy.
Christmas Lights in Macau
Not only is our home in Guangzhou so close to Hong Kong, but Macau is even closer. Macau is known for its Portuguese history and beautiful ancient churches. With this heritage in mind, we thought it would be cool to see some Christmas lights in Macau. Sure enough, upon arrival at our hotel we learned that they were actually having a whole light festival! Of course they were, their tourism board is awesome!
The Portuguese Walking Trail was lit up with many light displays, and they even had a 3D light show on many of the most historical monuments. The light shows were amazing and nothing like we have seen before. They also had some interactive games that you could play, like the “find the naughty reindeer” game that was projected up onto an old building. They also had an “elf hunt” — where you used your smartphone to scan codes at certain locations. If you collected 5 elves, then you got a prize. Really cool.
We also lucked out by stumbling across a free concert with the Macau Youth Symphony, and a special celebrity guest, in one of the most historic churches in Macau. It really made it feel like the Holiday Season was in full swing. Love Macau!!!
Christmas Party with our Friends
Being away from family is tough during the holidays. And we wanted to make sure our friends here in Guangzhou had a little something to open this year for Christmas. So we hosted a little Christmas party for our foreign teacher friends at our apartment.
We made some good old southern BBQ, and played a little bad Santa gift exchange game. It was a blast enjoying the food and festivities with our friends from all over the globe, including the UK, South Africa…and even another teacher who lived just down the road from our old house in Atlanta!
Yep, the meaning of “it’s a small world” truly applies when you can meet someone clear on the other side of the world who lived less than 5 minutes from you! Our friend Quincy is from ATL and Walt is from all over the south (and even spent some time in Idaho). Raquel is from South Africa and Melissa is from the UK. Its a nice little family of friends we have here and nice that we share a little holiday cheers with each other.
What to Expect for 2016
I also think that time if flying by so fast because of all the great memories we are having. Now that we have been here in China for full year, we are considering the next step of our journey. We know that we want to spend some time traveling all around China. The cities are great and all, but the countryside is what we long for.
So after a good 2 months of traveling ALL OVER China, we don’t know. Possibly India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia??? We shall see where the wind blows us.
Now as I write this, it is nearly Christmas and then before long the new year will be here. Wow, 2016! We have had such a blast in 2015 that 2016 is being welcomed with open arms. We have big hopes for the new year. Many more countries and experiences to be had.