After our short, activity-packed trips to Xi’an, Harbin, and Seoul, we were ready to slow things down a little. Luckily, we had 5 days to explore Tokyo! During our week in Japan, we were again amazed by how different the culture was from China despite their relative proximity. Almost everything about their lifestyle seemed the opposite of China’s. The streets and buildings were immaculately clean, and the people were always polite and orderly. No one was spitting on the street or trying to jostle their way into an already-full subway car. Instead of throwing their litter on the streets, the Japanese carefully tuck them into their purses or briefcases to be disposed of at home. And the toilets!!! No more filthy squat toilets for us! Instead, Japanese toilets gentle ambient noise when you sit down and are equipped with adjustable bidets and dryers. Such luxury. The only downside to Japanese culture was that we constantly felt like we were committing some unknown faux-paus, but who cares when everything is so clean! We took on Tokyo at a little slower pace than the rest of our trip, but still got to see a lot of this insane metropolis. Keep scrolling to hear about our highlights!
After Xi’an and Harbin, it was finally time for us to leave China! After spending the past 5 months in the same country, we’d forgotten how disorienting it is to deal with new language, currency, and cultural norms. We were a little embarrassed to not even be able to say “hello,” “sorry,” or “thank you.” Still, we were excited to dig into the new culture and explore as much as we could in our limited time. While the city of Seoul was amazing, the highlight for us was definitely our day trip to the Joint Security Area (JSA). This is part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea. We learned so much about the politics between North and South, and came away feeling like we had just visited a part of current history – who knows how long the JSA and DMZ will be present, and what the future holds for the formerly unified country? Keep reading to hear more about this eye-opening experience, and to find out what else we did in Seoul!
Xi’an is an ancient city in central China famous for its terra cotta warriors, Muslim Quarter, and historic wall that still surrounds the original citadel. We saw all this and more (read here), but what really stands out in my memory from this part of our trip occurred not in Xi’an itself but in a small town a short train ride away. There we completed “the world’s most dangerous hike” (a dubious, but catchy title) at Huashan (Mount Hua) and found ourselves stranded on top of the mountain with a night train to catch!
As many of you know, Tommy and I had a month-long holiday for the Chinese New Year. Actually, I had a two-month holiday because my school is like, super hardcore about prepping students for exams – woohoo! Anyways, we spent our time off travelling through East and Southeast Asia, trying to see as many highlights of this amazing continent as we could before returning for the second semester. In four weeks, we visited 10 cities in 6 different countries! We feel so blessed to have had such an incredible trip. Now that we’re back in Sinan, I’ll be working on posts for each of the cities and hopefully sharing at least one per week. In the meantime, here is a quick run-down of our trip highlights!
Tomorrow is (American) Thanksgiving, and as I prepped roast chicken and green bean casserole for a feast we’ll be sharing with the other foreign teachers I reflected on our many blessings. Tommy and I are so grateful for this chance to explore the world a little bit more, and for all of our friends and family who have showed us continual love and support even while we’re halfway across the globe. We’re thankful for the new friends we have met here, and for the new opportunities waiting for us after China (even though we don’t know what they are yet!). And we’re so happy that we’re growing in grace and experiencing all of these things together. So in the spirit of the holiday, here is one little piece of the year that we are thankful for, our trip to the big and beautiful Beijing!