I left off last time at leaving the cold, freezing-my-butt-off mountains of Yunnan. We left there for… wait for it… XiShuangBanNa – A.K.A. the tropical land of China! A little about the area: it borders the country of Laos, it’s a big tourist attraction, and has palm trees and sun year-round. Pretty much the opposite of where we just came from!
We moved into our hotel on the 22nd. We were definitely happy to be there! On the 24th (Christmas Eve and my dad’s birthday), we did whatever my dad decided he wanted to do – which was rent bikes, bike to a hot springs, and eat at his new favorite café, MeiMei Café. The rest of us were happy to oblige, as MeiMei’s suited everyone’s taste. Western food is not hard to find in China these days, but good coffee and Belgian chocolate is, and MeiMei had all of the above. Of course we had to have a birthday celebration, which we kept rather low-key: a candle on the cheesecake he ordered delivered to the tune of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. After we got home, we gave a couple presents. Of course, the presents didn’t end there as tomorrow would be Christmas.
As you can probably guess, Christmas spent abroad in a tropical place is a bit unorthodox, to say the least. (No chance for a white Christmas, for starters!) Don’t worry, the hotel had a massive Christmas tree with a ton of depictions of Santa Claus. To make sure that we had enough Christmas spirit, I brought a couple ‘spirited’ elements: a Santa hat, light-up necklace, and Santa bobble-headband, all from the Dollar Store. We put the presents on the bed, and opened them as we usually do: we go around in a circle, each person choosing then opening one present at a time. It was… different. But still good, because the entire family had been reunited after six months apart. We spent most of Christmas day at a botanical forest, seeing plants that are hard to believe even exist, and then at an highly-sexualized minority group performance that we decided we’d leave. So although location definitely helps with the nostalgia and traditional homey feelings, location doesn’t determine who the family is. You can’t chose your family, but you can chose to love and have fun with them. I’m just glad I have a family that’s easy (most of the time!) to have fun with. 🙂
After XiShuangBanNa, we knew we were headed to my mom’s hometown in the Jiangsu province (she is Chinese and originally from that area), but we didn’t know we were just rolling in without a plan. Definitely an experience and adventure. More to come!
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” -George Bernard Shaw