Kaila in Kunming: A Visit to My Orphanage

(Touching the Dragon Gate for Prosperity)

I took a few days off from work and headed back to the province I was born in, Kunming! It was a busy few days where I didn’t get much rest and was busy from sun up to down. I was able to do a lot, met up with some connections and friends and went back to my orphanage. The night before and the whole drive going to my orphanage I was quite nervous which really surprised me.

China is such a diverse and beautiful place and I was excited to go back and explore. Yunnan has stunning nature, views and I already want to go back to spend more time hiking away from the borders of the cities.

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An Adopted Chinese American in Shanghai

You would think and Chinese in China would blend in. Think again! Not everyday, but whenever I meet new people or a stranger strikes up a conversation, it is naturally brought up that I was adopted. Despite my face as they point out, I am American and don’t speak Chinese. I wasn’t an American Born Chinese (ABC) yet I look and am Chinese. Next week I will be heading back to the province, Kunming where I was born to travel and visit my orphanage and wanted to write this post about living in China as an adult adoptee.

Everyone’s reaction has been very positive and it explains why my face is Chinese but the rest of me isn’t quite. From taxi drivers where I have explained it over a translation app, most reactions are understanding or saying something like “very good” and that “I’m lucky.” A new coworker even thought I was joking at first when I said I didn’t speak Chinese and complimented me on my English accent. Shanghai is such a metropolitan city where people from all over China come to work and live.

As the hundreds of thousands of girls adopted from China grow up, I have a feeling that more will want to live in the country they were born in. Shanghai is its own world compared to the rest of China and for me the perfect hub and home base. I will be here at least two more years and there is so much more to discover.

I love China and am looking forward to exploring more of it. It is such a diverse country rich in history and stunning landscapes. I love the contrasts between polite/direct, modern/history, tradition and so on. I am nervous but mostly excited for my trip next week! I haven’t been back since I was 10 and looking forward to it a lot. I have no idea what will happen, how I will feel or what I will learn. It’s going to be an adventure and I look forward to sharing it with you when I’m back πŸ™‚

-Kaila

24 Hours in Beijing and A Book

So I went to Beijing for 24 hours to meet Cass and have some fun before she went back to the States! I miss her already. We had the best time. Between Shanghai and Beijing, she went back to her hometown and had a profound and beautiful experience. It was great to meet her post her trip, talk about it and just have fun running around Beijing. I loved going to the wall with all the verdant and luscious greenery compared to the cold temperatures I experienced in February. Ps. I used “verdant” because it was one of classes vocabulary words. We can all expand our vocabulary!

We got to Beijing around 2, dropped our stuff at our hotel and hiked up to the park. It’s such a nice view up at the park to look down at!

A beautiful way to spend an afternoon in Beijing.

We dropped by Wangfujing Snack Street. Unfortunately half of the vendors were closed because they are doing remodeling.

My favorite snack! Duck pancakes. The street usually is crowded with scorpions, fried bugs and so much more food. Thank goodness the duck wraps weren’t on hold for the remodeling.

After this we went for manicures then attempted to go see the Olympic Birds Nest Stadium lit up at night. However, there was a huge event going on and we couldn’t get in vicinity of the Olympic Park area. Next time!

This is how you do the Great Wall with no one else crowding you. We had our hotel arrange us a driver, got up at 5:30am and drove 1.5 hours to the Mutianyu section for the opening at 7:30. This is the less crowded section and by the time we made it down at 10, there were all ready swarms of groups heading up.

I highly recommend taking the gondola up. That way you can walk downhill (mostly) on the walk to the area where you can either take the chairlift or toboggan down. Obviously I recommend the toboggan because it’s so fun! We headed back to Beijing and went straight to the Forbidden City which was 2 minutes walk away from our hotel!

We both were here together with our families in 2004 and are back together in 2019. Cass said that the two times she has been back to China has been with me! So special.

Last time I was in Beijing I didn’t have tickets to go inside the palace. They limit the daily amount of people to 80,000 and you can buy them in advance online 10 days before. We had tickets for the prior day but didn’t make it in time and fortunately were able to snag some tickets on the spot.

Best 20rmb I’ve spent! I got these two headbands for us and we became quite the attraction.

We also met some Spanish guys, traded hats around and spent the rest of the day exploring the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Beijing before I dashed off to catch my train and head back to Shanghai.

AND I also finally read the book “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See and loved it. I couldn’t put it down and finished it on the train. SO GOOD. It gave me such perspective on Shanghai and it is a beautiful story of family, love, tragedy and immigration. Mostly it is a story about people and trying to do what’s right in the moment.

I’ve started another one of her books, “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.”

Showing Off Shanghai

The Olson twins have taken Shanghai these last few days! Okay so we aren’t actually twins, but I just had my friend from the states come visit and was determined to show her Shanghai’s best. We have known each other since we were wee little things, grew up in the same neighborhood in Denver and went back to China with our families in 2004! It was so much fun to have her in town and she is off for the next few days traveling before we meet in Beijing next week for more Olson twin fun. The best part about having visitors is that you get to see where you live through fresh eyes. There is no rest for the wicked and everyday she pretty much fell asleep within minutes of the head hitting the pillow. I like to keep my friends busy and on the go go go!

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Shanghai Life Lately

I love a “life lately” post as it allows me to reflect on the latest and greatest and share with all of you! It is the most perfect weather in Shanghai right now, with sunny days that have a light breeze and aren’t too hot…yet. Summer is coming and it is going to be a struggle surviving the heat and humidity. Lately I’ve been ordering a lot of food and not cooking. I know people don’t believe me, but ordering and having food delivered is often cheaper than cooking. Welcome to shanghai and high consumerism! I love my delivery via moped. Lately I’ve also been thinking a lot. What’s new. I’ve been planning future trips, scolding naughty kids, singing Queen songs with my precocious students and wondering what’s the next step! So here’s a little glimpse into what I have been up to….

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I’m Learning Chinese and Other Tidbits From Shanghai

(Very cool art exhibit from Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama)

The day has finally come! I have a mandarin tutor and am studying the language. Some may ask why it took the long; I’ve been living in Shanghai for 7 months. It is easy to get by in Shanghai with little knowledge of the language given the international and global culture of the city. HOWEVER, I did not want to be one of those foreigners who moved here and never took the time to learn the language beyond little phrases. There are plenty of those types of expats.

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Shanghai Life Lately!

Well folks, life is back to my normal non-tour guide self. I would say it’s less busy…but it’s not, it’s just more routine than bopping around Shanghai. The next day after I sent my mom back home, my friend Josie from Germany stopped by on a layover to Australia! I showed her a quick glimpse of Shanghai and we sat around the Starbucks reserve reminiscing about our days in Malaysia. Can’t believe it’s been six years since we lived there!

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End of Semester and Welcoming Chinese New Year!

(Gave all my students red packets full of chocolate)

The semester is drawing to an end before we welcome and the whole country goes on holiday for Chinese New Year. There is something so special about β€œfirsts” and my first semester of teaching in China is something I foresee as always being incredibly meaningful in my life. My students, ages 4-11, have put in so much hard work this semester between the rolling of the eyes and β€œteacher no homework” complaints. My littles have learned to write the alphabet, blend sounds and read while my older students have learned to crank out five page essays like it’s nothing. I have been told dolphins look like me, pictures have been drawn of me dying by shark attack or explosion and I have gotten all the little squishy hugs. I have learned the art of bribing by stickers, taught them various high-five games to keep them focused and can shut their β€œbad behavior” with my famous glare. I have assured all the parents that their kids are wonderful and making progress (except that one kid who never does his homework….just kidding. He’s a doll). And most of all I have absolutely LOVED this first semester. I decided to write reflect and write a note to all my students.

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First Few Days of 2019: Shanghai Edition

Ni Hao 2019! 2019 is here and the holidays have had me in a state of sentimental reflection thinking about the past year and immensely looking forward to this one! There are so many moments in life, and even more now, that I pause and think “is this real life.” So many funny moments that are absurd, magical, wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking. I spent New Years Eve with my favorite British gals, Stacey and Fran eating delicious food, watching Taylor Swift on Netflix and popping some Proseco to ring in 2019. I was also introduced to the show the Inbetweeners, had a proper cup of British tea and danced around in a circle singing some old English song.

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I’ve Got (Holiday) Spirit, How About You?

Happy Holidays! Did Thanksgiving even happen? The Christmas spirit is here and thriving in Shanghai through excessively decorated malls, bright lights and consumerism. The holidays can often be a tough time for everyone no matter who they are or where they are in the world. Ive been doing lots of fun things to celebrate including going to a German Christmas market with the girls, decorating gingerbread houses with coworkers at my apartment and happily accepting the chocolate presents my students are giving me. Shanghai is very festive this time of the year and I am loving it!

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