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Hi Everyone! Today I'm going to share some pictures and a bit about my trip to China in December. For those of you that don't know, my daughter Anna Li is adopted from China. I took her on a heritage tour over the Christmas holidays to see where she's from. This was sponsored Chinese Children Adoption Agency, our fantastic adoption agency and by the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption, the Chinese government agency that runs the Chinese adoption program. This Chinese agency really wants the adopted kids to come back and see their country and pay for the kids' part of the trip except for the flight there. So Anna Li was able to go for free.

We made a conscious decision not to go back to Hefei, the city she's from. Her orphanage has moved and she really didn't feel a strong desire to go there. It would have really added to the cost of the trip and I was nervous about going there alone with her, so was glad to skip it.

On our way to China, we had a 8 hour layover in Seattle. This was great because Anna Li has a cousin who's her age and was adopted from China the same year as her who lives in the Seattle area. They haven't seen each other since they were 6 (Anna Li is 15 now) so it was great to get to see her and her mom.

I'm not the greatest photographer and I had to pick pictures without kids/people for privacy concerns. But I hope you enjoy these.

Our first stop was Beijing.We of course saw Tian'an Men Square and the Forbidden City.


To be honest, this was not my favorite part of the trip, though I'm glad I saw this. It was very cold--18 degrees-and we were outside for over two hours. The buildings in the Forbidden City started to look alike. Luckily, there was a bit of wind so we didn't have all the terrible pollution in the news about a week after we got home.


We also took a rickshw ride in the Hutong district of Beijing. This is an older part of the city with small houses with courtyards. Mostly retired people live there and some offer to cook for tours. This was the kitchen area in the house where we went to eat. This was a lot of fun.

Then we went to The Great Wall.

This was amazing. It's hard to believe how it was built without any of the modern technology we rely on. In the summer, you can take a lift to the top, but not in the winter. Like many people, Anna Li and I did not get up too high. Some of the steps were so steep that my knees were up to my chest. We went as far as we could and then visited the tourist shops.

Next we went to Xi'an to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers. Xi'an is the major area for energy production for China and is very polluted. Our guide said that you can never see any stars at night. You can really see it in the picture of me on the Ancient City Wall that rings the city. People ride bikes, walk, and exercise on it.

The Terra Cotta Soldiers was another amazing place. It's mind boggling to think how they created the soldiers with the tools they would have had. And there are many pits still there with soldiers to assemble after 20 years of work on this.

Next we went to Chengdu to visit the Panda Reserve. Sorry that the pictures do not include Anna Li, but she had to wear green plastic when she held the baby panda. I don't think she'd speak to me if I showed you that. But I have some cute pictures.

This was one of the highlights of the trip. Because it was colder out (20s to 30s), the pandas were out and were pretty active. We also went to a beautiful park to see Chinese life. Even though it's cold to us, the Chinese are used to it and were out walking and playing cards and maj jong at the Tea House. I got a neck and back massage for $6.00. It was great!


We also went to an outside market area that sold lots of things for cheap. It was things like that and the park that I actually enjoyed the most.

Then we went to Guilin and left the next morning to take the Li River Cruise to Yangshou. 

This was a gorgeous 4 hour trip. You could stay in the cabin at tables or go on deck. The man in the picture on the top is on a 3 log "boat" and he came over to our window while we were in the cabin and sold us clementines and peanuts.

We took a 3 hour bus ride back to Guilin and stopped for a very fun Chinese cooking class. Here's some pictures.


The last day in Guilin Anna Li and I were alone and we went to an outside shopping mall.

As I said, the Chinese have a different idea of heat. Our hotels were heated, but many of the buildings we were in, including restaurants and a theater, barely had heat. One theater was so cold even with our coats on that as soon as the awesome show was over we ran to the bus to get warm. Most people wear their coats all day, even when they're working. So when we went shopping, we found mostly coats for sale. Seriously, there were racks of them and piles of them on tables. But Anna Li found a shirt and a dress and we had pizza for lunch.

For me, the trip brought back many happy memories of my trip to adopt Anna Li and some sad feelings of thinking of Anna Li's birth mother in China wondering about her and me not being able to tell her that Anna Li is doing great.

I also found that I'm not as adventuresome as I used to be. Some of the challenges, like my cell phone not working in China (this was how I planned to communicate with my husband but ended up using a friend's I-Pad and my phone when we had good Wi-Fi to e-mail him) and figuring out how to get to the international terminal from a small, distant terminal in Beijing airport at 1:30 am on our way home with mostly people who did not speak English were pretty stressful. But I figured them all out. I'm just not so anxious to do it alone again. We were both very ready to get home and when we felt the plane leave Beijing and then land in Detroit, we were very happy.

So I hope you enjoyed hearing about this. What interesting trips have you all taken?

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I'm interviewing debut author Elsie Chapman about her dystopian novel, DUALED and giving away an ARC of her book. It's about a world where everyone has a genetic alternate that you must battle at some point in your teenage years to the death. It is a fascinating concept.

Next Wednesday I have a fascinating interview with Chuck Sambuchino of Guide to Literary Agents about his new book, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM: THE KEYS TO BUILDING AN AUDIENCE, SELLING MORE BOOKS, AND FINDING SUCCESS AS AN AUTHOR, with a giveaway of his book. His book really got me thinking about how I can improve my platform and social networking. I'm really excited to share Chuck's advice and his book with you. Chuck's interview is filled with awesome advice whether you're an author or book review blogger. I can't encourage you enough to read his interview.

The following Monday, I have an interview with a high school teen for my ASK THE EXPERT series and will be sharing and giving away THE CADET OF TILDOR, a fantastic debut fantasy, and OBSIDIAN MIRROR, another fantastic fantasy by Catherine Fisher, one of my favorite authors. Even if you're not a fantasy lover, I think you'd enjoy both of these books..

Tuesday that week, Ari Magnusson is going to share an awesome tip and give away a copy of BITOPIA, a fantasy that also deals with bullying issues.

And Wednesday that week, Casey and I have a super awesome 3000 follower mega giveaway. You won't want to miss it. 

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Weaver said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. My oldest son and his family live in Guangzhou, and he agrees about the heat. While his area is quite hot and humid much of the year, when it gets down to 50 and there's no heat, brrrr.

Laura Pauling said...

Wow! Sounds and looks like you had a great time!!! Amazing scenery. Thanks for sharing.

Creepy Query Girl said...

awesome pics! Thanks so much for sharing- it sounds like such a great time!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Awesome, Natalie!! I tweeted this for you. (Is that what you meant by your message on my blog?)

Eli Yanti said...

great trip :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh man - so jealous! What an amazing trip! I would love to go to China, especially to see Wudang Mountain and the Potala in Lhasa.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Thanks for sharing your pictures and memories of your trip. What an opportunity!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Looks like you had a super trip Natalie. Thanks for sharing the amazing pictures.

Martina Boone said...

Looks like an amazing trip! I love the pandas and the terra cotta warriors! Thanks so much for,sharing them with us!

Andrea Mack said...

Lovely pictures, Natalie! I'm glad you and your daughter had the opportunity to have such a meaningful experience!

Lori M. Lee said...

Wow, what an awesome trip :) Sounds like the cold might have put a damper on things at times, but still looks amazing. And those pandas!!! SO CUUUTE. Have you taken what you've learned in that cooking class to the kitchen? :D

mshatch said...

This was great and interesting! I especially enjoyed the part about how the Chinese don't heat their public buildings and people work in their coats! I'll bet their energy consumption is a fraction of ours in the US. What a bunch of spoiled babies we are!

And I can't wait to see Obsidian Mirror; I love Catherine Fisher :)

Kristin Lenz said...

What a special trip for you and Anna-Li. I can relate - I love traveling to learn about other cultures, but I'm not as adventurous as I used to be. It's always stressful navigating unfamiliar places, but security risks especially weigh on me now. But that's what helps us grow too - so glad you took a risk and went out of your comfort zone - and that you were able to share the experience with Anna-Li.

Christina Lee said...

WOWEE-- I din't know any of this about your life, N--so thanks for sharing! The Terra Cotta soldiers really caught my eye!

Barbara Watson said...

What a wonderful memory you now share with Anna Li. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us.

Robyn Campbell said...

Oh this was great, Natalie! Those soldiers are awesome. And the Chinese must be TOUGH! I couldn't stand theaters like that. WOWZA! I am thrilled you got to go. This was an amazing opportunity for both of you. The Great Wall is something I've always wanted to see. Thanks for the pics. They're lovely. (((hugs)))

Kessie said...

What an interesting trip! I wouldn't have the nerve to travel a foreign country without my hubby. The only Chinese I know is "Ni hao". :-p

Jessie Humphries said...

Great pictures. Great stories. Especially your story with your adopted daughter. I am so happy to learn more about you Natalie. You are so dang cool! I would LOVE to go to China one day.

Beth said...

Thank you so much for this post. It brings back memories of our trip to China in 2008. You're right - sometimes it's hard work travelling! But hopefully the wonderful experiences you had will outweigh it all.

Jessica Salyer said...

Wow, it looks like you had an amazing trip. Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.

~Sia McKye~ said...

You're still an adventurer, Natalie. You went to China, a place both beautiful and so very different than home and your normal comfort zone. You took your daughter there to see the land of her birth. Share a never to be forgotten journey.You laughed and enjoyed.

I enjoyed reading about it and the pics.


middle grade ninja said...

I'm so jealous of you. That trip looks amazing and I enjoyed learning more about you and your daughter.

MeganC said...

I think that I would go to China just to pet those pandas!! They were so cute! What an amazing trip! I lived in Ecuador for 16 months and it was life-changing. I wish I could travel more. It's so awesome to see the world.

CG @ Paper Fury said...

Wow! I LOVED the photos. My family and I went to China last year and I'm sitting here thinking, Ooo, I remember that! And, Yes! That was so fun! :D Unfortunately we didn't get to hold a panda, but the Wall was awesome and Guilin wasn't too bad. We spent most of our time in Naning. It was extremely hot when we went, though. Very cool place, China is.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I've heard it's very hot in the summer. And I'm guessing there's little air conditioning if there's no heat. So awesome you went there too, Cait.

Stina said...

Awwwww. Those pandas are adorable. I'm jealous you guys got to cuddle with them.

It sounds like a great trip, and it's wonderful that Anna Li got to see first hand her heritage. Even with the cool weather, it's worth it.

Melodie said...

Loved thoso photos - thanks for sharing!
What an amazing experience. So glad you two got to share it.

Charlotte said...

Wow, that sounds like an amazing trip. So glad you were able to go together!

Khanada said...

Thanks so much for your post, Natalie. So glad you could make that special trip with your daughter! I think I may have chickened out myself if I were the only adult, so I think you are VERY adventurous!! ;-)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us. The pictures were wonderful...I would love to see the Great Wall.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie,

This looks like a trip you will NEVER forget. Such cool pics. The wall, The SOLDIERS WOW! And of course, those playful pandas.

SO happy you have so may wonderful pics and memories.

David P. King said...


What an awesome trip! I seriously need to get out of the US for a while. My perspective jar needs a refill. :)

Angela Brown said...

Great pictures, Natalie. You captured quite a bit. Not just tourist spots (LURVED the panda pics!!!) but also just everyday life. That was very awesome.

Glad you and Anna Li enjoyed the trip and hope that should you take another trip, it can be a joyful one.

Not a big traveler myself, though traveling is something I've fantasized about.

Unknown said...

Fantastic pictures. This looks like an awesome trip and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Casey McCormick said...

What an amazing trip you and Anna Li had, Natalie! I'm glad it went well and you guys didn't get lost trying to find that airport! You were so brave to go it alone. I love all the pictures, especially seeing YOU as well as those sweet baby pandas.

Jemi Fraser said...

What an amazing experience for you and Anna Li. She's at a great age to enjoy and remember her experiences there! Thanks for the pictures - they're awesome. So many gorgeous sites and the pandas are great!

Carina Olsen said...

Ah! Looks like you both had an amazing time :D China seems like a great place to visit. *Jealous* Love all the pictures :) Thank you so much for sharing sweetie. <3 Ohhh. Pandas! They are just gorgeous :) And ah! The Great Wall! Jealous :)
Love, Carina @ Carina's Books

Candace said...

Thanks for sharing your trip with us! My aunt use to live in China and a friend recently lived in Guilin actually. Its so gorgeous there! I hadn't thought about it being so cold. I would rather go in the summer. Or Spring might be best. Have you read North of Beautiful? Every time I see pics of China I think of that gorgeous book.
Hopefully one day I can make a trip there!

Old Kitty said...

Pizza in China! I love it!! And the Pandas!! I mean the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City are just super awesome but all are eclipsed by the PANDAS!! Pandas totally ROCK!! Yay for pandas!


Thank you for sharing you and your daughter's awesomely amazing trip to China!! China continues to be such an enigma! I think it's cos it's HUGE!!!!! And all the news stories coming out of this country - from the sublime (PANDAS!!!!) to the deadly serious (pollution! prostests!) etc!

Take care

Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and pictures. Elaina and I read through your post together and we both really enjoyed it. What a wonderful experience for you and Anna Li to share.

Steve MC said...

Thanks for sharing your trip, and your candid views on it all! I had no idea the steps of the Wall were that steep, or that it was cold everywhere.

And she got to hold a BABY PANDA? Oh my Chinese god. What a thrill.

Happy New Year!

LTM said...

Oh, thanks for sharing this, Natalie! I've been wondering how your trip to China went! It looks like it was a fascinating adventure! I can't imagine not having heat. I. would've. DIED--LOLOL!!! But that neck massage--yay! And pandas? whee! And the cooking class--Fun! It's funny, but looking at these reminds me of being in Chinatown in San Francisco. I guess that's why it's called that!

Sounds like you guys had an unforgettable experience! And I love Anna Li's name. :o) <3

TerryLynnJohnson said...

sounds like a fantastic trip! what a special thing to do with your daughter. Of course, I love the pandas! Thanks for sharing

Unknown said...

Seeing this post just makes me want to go to China even more than I did before! My father went to China for business twice now and while he was showing me some pictures that they don't do the country justice for just how nice it is. That is why this summer, a friend and I will be going to learn Shaolin Kung Fu in China since it is something that we have always been interested in but now we finally want to learn more about it.