The Greatest Wall of all

I want to start this post by saying that if you ever have a chance to camp on one of the wonders of the world, do it. It is by far one of the best things Derek and I have ever experienced together. I can’t really put into words how great of an experience we had, so I will just say that The Great Wall lives up to its name and our experience was that, just great.

We had heard that it is possible to camp on The Great Wall before we came to China. We knew we had to do it, so months before, we added it to our China to do list. We had a few expectations, but we did not know how much we would actually enjoy it. A few weeks before our vacation time, we booked with a camp tour that included three meals, backpacks, and camping gear for the night. Arriving at our tour, Derek and I were joined by another couple and their kid who were from Iowa, and our tour guide, Sonia.









(My new friend, Max, wanted to get a picture.)

I didn’t expect the wall to be so steep and the hiking to be so difficult. To be honest I didn’t enjoy that part so much and I had a realization how out of shape I really am. But once we reached our destination, I realized how worth it it was.






We set up camp and met a few other hikers from different parts of the world. We befriended a few girls from Spain and a guy from Ukraine. As we all watched the sun go down, I looked around and thought to myself how surreal this moment of my life is.

I am sitting on The Great Wall in the middle of China, 7,000 miles from home, with the person I love most. We are surrounded by strangers who live in completely different cultures, speak different languages, but are all experiencing this moment at the same time as us.

If I could hold onto certain moments in my life, that would definitely be one of them. But since that is impossible, I will just hold onto all of these photos, and try to remember the feeling I had when they were taken.

We didn’t stay awake much longer than the sun. Once it got dark, it got really cold and none of us were prepared for the temperature drop. We were also all exhausted from hiking all day. As a group, we decided to eat dinner and head to bed. I was thankful to share my tent with Derek who radiated heat all night.

We woke up early to watch the sunrise, and our tour guide mentioned that we were some of the lucky ones who got to witness both a sunset and sunrise. Which doesn’t happen often due to the bad air quality in Beijing. Most campers only witness one, or neither.

Camping on The Great Wall was a small, but much needed break from the busy life we’ve been living in China. It was a good time to stop, relax and reflect on our previous month spent in this beautiful country.

The experience reminded me how many different people are living in this same world, how big and beautiful this world really is, and how great moments are, even the small ones.

Like my girl IndyBlue once said. “It’s peaceful when you let yourself believe that moments don’t end.”

But sadly all moments come to an end, so don’t take them for granted, enjoy them while they last, and hold onto the great ones.

Onto the next adventure, Wren





Weekly update & our first time to Shanghai

We are just about at our halfway mark for our time spent here in China. Time is going by so fast, because we are having so much fun. We get homesick some nights, but we are still very happy to be here! It is bittersweet how fast time is going by. Our wifi has been down all week, so I haven’t been able to update the blog much. We have been so busy the last couple of weeks. We have been traveling all over China, and when we are not traveling, we are planning our next travel plans. In the last couple weeks, we have been to 4 different new cities; Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Leshan. I have about seven blog posts to catch up on so since our wifi is back up, be prepared for an overload.

Our weeks are filled with teaching, lesson planning, planning our travel plans for the next week, and attempting to find wifi for blogging, Netflix, social media etc…If our wifi is down, we read books, go out to the night markets, and spend time with the other volunteers.

Last week, our school had a field trip day. The whole school went to an amusement park called Joyland. We got out of teaching for the day, had the chance to spend all day with the other volunteers, and got to experience a Chinese amusement park. It was pretty similar to the ones in the states, except for the park was also extremely clean, and their rides were way over the top with their architecture and decorations. Also, the water rides get you soaked from head to toe. Most locals wear ponchos on those rides, but we decided to be brave, so by the end of the day, we all looked like we jumped into a swimming pool in our clothes. Last weekend, our volunteer group was heading to Shanghai for church conference. There was about six of us who weren’t going to conference, but decided to tag along to Shanghai. Shanghai is about a hour train ride from our home, and we hadn’t been yet, so we figured since nobody would be at the school all weekend, it was the perfect time to go.On Friday night, we met up with around 10 other volunteers and went to a Mexican restaurant. To say the least, it was the BEST food we’ve all had since we arrived in China. Mexican food is not a thing here. Salsa doesn’t exist. And trying to find cheese is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So to say we were ecstatic and satisfied would be an understatement.
On Saturday, Derek and I and our friend Corbon explored the city while all of the other volunteers attended a church tour. We went to an aquarium, the oriental pearl tower, and ate the best dumplings. Later, we met up with a few other volunteers and went shopping in an underground market. Shanghai is one of the best cities in the world to bargain for cheap stuff. So, in less than three hours and for very cheap, we had all of our Christmas shopping done!

That night we went out with a few other volunteers. We ate dinner at a mom & pop noodle shop and went to see the city lights at the Bund. It was cold, but it was so beautiful. Even though I remember taking them, and know that these pictures are real, they still look like a fake green screen to me.China is filled with unreal beauty, and everywhere we go, I am just amazed. Also, Shanghai was just as clean as Beijing for those of you who read my last post and are wondering. This weekend, we are heading back to Shanghai to go to Disneyland and a wild animal park. We just decided to do this on Monday and I am so excited! Our experience in China has taught me a lot of things, but being spontaneous and going with the flow is the main lesson I have learned. I hope our wifi works well for a while and that I am able to update more blog posts, but until then…

Onto the next adventure, Wren

The Beautiful Beijing

Whenever I thought of Beijing, I thought of two things. Bad air quality, and the Great Wall of China. As we researched, we learned that Beijing is on the list of the 10 largest cities in the world, and that the history of Beijing dates back to over 3,000 years ago.
We left on a train to Beijing on Saturday, and we were there until Wednesday. We camped on the great wall the last night we were there. (That experience will be in a later post.)

Since we only had a couple days in Beijing, we decided to do the main tourist sites including The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, Wangfujing Night Market Street, and shopping at The Pearl Market.

One of our favorite parts of our vacation, and China in general, is the attention we get when we go out. On our vacation alone, we got asked to take pictures with 53 different people and about 40 of those were in Beijing. (It was fun to count.)

We also got many stares, smiles, and compliments. We heard “beautiful Americans, you’re very handsome, very great, thank you thank you thank you” etc. We are getting really used to this celebrity lifestyle, and it is helping our self confidence 😉 Here is a photo of a beautiful building, but this sweet Chinese woman thought my hair was more beautiful.We didn’t realize it was China’s National Holiday all week until after we planned our vacation, so everywhere we went was jam packed with people. I am sure Beijing is always that way, but the holiday made it worse since many locals that live in China were also touring Beijing. I imagine our experience would be like going to Times Square on New Years Eve. I have practiced quite a bit these last few weeks, and have got pretty professional at taking pictures that aren’t filled with people. (Thanks china!)

Besides constantly making our way through thousands of people, we enjoyed our time in this beautiful city. Derek and I were amazed by the ancient architecture that fills the city and the delicious food that we indulged in (besides the scorpions and silk worms that we were not brave enough to try.)

We were lucky enough to only experience the bad air quality for one of the days, the other three days had blue skies and clear air. We were  also surprised to realize that Beijing is the cleanest cities that we’ve ever been in. It’s one of the most populated cities in the world, but the streets and subways are spotless. We were so surprised! China is apparently doing a lot right when it comes to organization and cleanliness in their big cities. I think San Francisco, New York, and Vegas should take some advice. 😉

I am so thankful for our experiences in China so far. Being able to constantly check things off my bucket list with the person I love has always been my dream, and everyday I have to pinch myself that I am actually living in it.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

First month in China

It’s been just over a month since we’ve lived in china, and I am in awe every single day. By this culture, by the people, by the views, by the fact that I’ve gained a sense of comfort in this place so different from home. I am amazed at the person I’ve grown into in just one month, the person Derek has grown into, and how much we have have grown together. And I am astonished that we still have another three months here.

I don’t have many words to describe the happiness I currently feel, all I know is that if I could give anyone advice at the moment it would be…  Buy that plane ticket, throw yourself into uncomfortable situations, immerse yourself in a new culture, befriend strangers, see the world. And most of all follow your dreams. Do it with someone you love, or don’t. Be happy with your decisions, regardless of other people’s opinions. Forget the rest.

We love you China, happy one month!