Taipei, Taiwan: Wait, are we back in China?

As I continue catching up on our trip back in February (yikes!), it’s time to talk about Taiwan.  There’s really no reason this post got so far behind as it was actually the shortest part of our trip – we were only in Taipei for about 36 hours!  We had decided to stop here because to get from Tokyo to Vietnam you could either take an expensive flight with a long layover, or a cheap short flight to Taipei and a second cheap short flight onward to Hanoi.  We decided on the latter and got a tiny taste of Taiwan.

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Seoul, South Korea: History in the Making

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!

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Harbin, China: Ice Ice Baby

“You’re going to Harbin? It’s very, very cold there!!!”  We heard variations of this (and advice on what to wear) over and over again leading up to our trip.  Tommy and I just brushed it off.  “Oh, we’re from Minnesota. It’s very cold there, too.”  Little did we know… Harbin seriously is next level cold.  Our faces constantly hurt.  We layered up like chubby Chinese babies for even the shortest journeys outside.  Our fingers and toes were always a little numb.  And yet, it was completely worth it – because we got to explore the magic that is the world’s largest ice and snow festival!  In addition to this, Harbin has a unique Russian culture due to its proximity to the border which was really interesting to experience.

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Everything is Bigger in Beijing

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!

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Visiting Pandora: Avatar Mountains at Zhangjiajie National Park

Have you seen Avatar?  If you haven’t, add it to your to-watch list and prepare to be inspired.  If you have, get excited… because last week we got to see Pandora IN REAL LIFE.  That’s right, Pandora is based on an actual place in China!  Zhangjiajie National Forest Park inspired James Cameron to create the movie’s amazing world, and last week we had the chance to experience it for ourselves.  This huge park was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever seen.  Keep reading for photo overload and a few details about our trip to this magical place! 👇

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