It was not an easy task to convince Hubby that doing a half-day trip to a Buddhist Temple would be an exciting use of our time. He’s normally a great sport about everything—I come up with crazy lists of family adventures I want to try, and he plays along and agrees to fight the congested Beijing traffic and play the navigator as we figure out how to make our way to the different places on my list. Tanzhe Temple was like that. This particular temple, the oldest in Beijing, was on my list because I love spring . . . and all the blossoms . . . especially magnolias. And Tanzhe Temple is a great place to see them.
Hubby, however, isn’t quite as into the blossoms like I am, and we’ve lived in Asia for thirteen years now and, well, we’ve seen a lot of Buddhist temples. The drive to Tanzhe would be about an hour-and-a-half (but unpredictable because of Beijing traffic). In his eyes, it was a long drive for . . . another Buddhist Temple.
So how did I get him excited to go?
During the first week of April, my children were off from school for spring break. I had recently made my Beijing Bucket List for spring and was eager to start checking things off that list, especially because I wanted to see those places while the spring flowers were in bloom.
Beijing air quality has been dramatically improving in the last three years, and this year, the air has been phenomenal . . . that is, it was until spring break rolled around. It was pretty frustrating to have my kids with the week off of school, the temperatures perfect, the flowers in bloom, but have air so bad that I didn’t want to leave the house, let alone take my kids hiking.
As luck would have it, though, the cold air started blowing from the north and cleared out the smog. Yes, it was really cold, but I’d take cold clean air over polluted warm air any day. My family took advantage of the clean air and day off school to go to the Great Wall. Finally. After almost three years of living here and listening to my son ask questions and spout facts about this famous landmark, he finally got to walk on it himself.
Despite the snow and hale this week, spring has definitely sprung here in Beijing. I love Beijing in the springtime. Flowers (magnolias, cherry blossoms, forsythia, and so many more), cleaner air, warmer temperatures . . . there is so much to love about springtime in Beijing.
I’m not a fan of cold weather, so my family usually enjoys indoor activities during the winter, and by the time springtime rolls around, we’re busting to go out and do some hiking or bike riding.
When I read this article from ThatsBeijing which gives suggestions for where to enjoy the spring blossoms, I started making my Beijing Bucket List for spring—things I want to do with my family in the next few months. It’s hard to say how much longer we’ll be privileged enough to live in Beijing, and I want to do better with enjoying the city and all it has to offer while we’re here.
What’s on my bucket list? Here. Take a look . . .
[For runners who are interested in a description of the course, a review of the event organization, or logistics about registering for the marathon, feel free to skip my musings about pre-race jitters and race agony and scroll down to below the slideshow.]
I consider myself a reasonable person. Yes, I have my
prideful whimsical moments when I overestimate my abilities by just a tad, but I think I’m usually I’m a pretty conservative judge at how much I can manage at any given time, and I’m not afraid to say no when I’ve reached my limit.
View of Hong Kong from Ocean Park Tower
Hong Kong is a popular destination among many of my Beijing friends, and for good reason. It’s an inexpensive flight, and once you’re there, it’s an easy city to travel within. The public transportation system is extensive and easy to use. There aren’t any language barriers because so many people speak English. Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It’s clean. And there is a lot to do.
There is so much information out there already about what to do in Hong Kong and how to get around, I feel a bit silly writing about it myself, and yet, we had such a good time visiting during the Chinese New Year holiday, I can’t help but chime in and add my two cents.
When we returned to China in August this year, my family decided to be committed to exploring China rather than remaining in our expat bubble here in Beijing. I really did have good intentions of recording and sharing our adventures, but intentions are one thing . . . and (clearly) our actions might not match them in the long run. But now, here I am, remembering my commitment to record our adventures. The most significant one we took this year I absolutely loved, but it was ages ago, and I have yet to talk about it.
During the China National Holiday in October (yes . . . it’s taken me that long!), my children were released from school for a week and we decided to try something totally new and go on our first road trip in China to the city of Hohhot in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. We really enjoyed our time there. It was nice to see parts of China outside of Beijing where we live, and it was a trip that I would definitely recommend to other expat families here.
In my last post, I said that my husband and I came up with the brilliant idea of foregoing weekend extracurricular activities for the kids so that we could use Saturday as our “Family Adventure Day” and get out of the expat bubble here in Beijing suburbia and explore China.
Our first attempt to actually follow through with our plan led us to the discovery of Taoyuan Valley—an excellent place to hike and get away from the crowds.
Our second Family Adventure Day didn’t go so well.
We’ve been in China now for one year. The ease we had in returning to China after our summer break in the States shows just how much we learned during that first year. The second year in a new country is so much easier than the first.
Though our transition last year went as smoothly and easily as it possibly could have, I look back on my family’s first year in China, and can’t help but notice that we didn’t explore China all that much. For most of the year, we were consumed with finding a house, getting settled, figuring out how to get around, and helping the kids find their groove and thrive in it. For the most part, we worked hard to find our comfort zone and then we decided to stay there.
In my last post I talked about the frustrations of living in China. Simple errands—opening a new bank account, changing phone plans, returning items to the store—become complex projects. Even mundane tasks—buying groceries, driving a car, communicating simple sentences—can become grand accomplishments.
And yet even if I sometimes have bad days and miss home, there are many things I love about being an expat, and I wouldn’t want to give them up by moving back to the States. Here are eight things that I love most about expat life.
When I first arrived, the other expat moms I met here didn’t bother to sugarcoat their experiences in China. “I’m going to be real with you,” they said. “Be prepared to have good days and bad days. When things start to go downhill, take a deep breath and tell yourself, ‘It’s China. That’s just the way things are.’ And then move on.”
I’ve been pretty fortunate since arriving that my good days have far outnumbered the bad, and yet one day last week, I was walking home and the sights and smells and sounds of China—the tuk-tuks driving by, the language I couldn’t understand, the slight smell of smog in the air—left me wishing for home.