Ken, Ellen and Bei in China

Ken, Ellen and Bei spent a year in Lijiang, Yunnan teaching English. This is a place where we kept in touch with everyone while we were away. If you'd like to comment we'd love to hear from you on e-mail. Send to You can view more photos on Flickr at

Location: Laramie, Wyoming, United States

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Lijiang

25 December 2005

Merry Christmas!

It’s hard for us to believe that we’ve been here for 5 months and that Christmas has arrived. It does so in China a half day earlier than it comes to the U.S., which is handy for Santa who needs a head start on China’s considerable population of visitees. You’ll be relieved to know that the Big Man did arrive, enjoyed the cookies left by Bei, and headed on his way, motoring west pulled by reindeer sustained with locally grown carrots, also left by our very excited daughter just before she went to bed.

With our semester coming to an end, 300 students to evaluate, and a 7-week vacation starting in a week, it’s been tough to keep up with blogging and even local travel. So I’m sorry not to have anything more interesting to post than a few photos of Christmas around Lijiang and our apartment. We’ll soon be on the road again to take a breather from English teaching and collect fresh material before the Spring semester begins.

Christmas in China is refreshingly low key compared to the advertising hype we’re used to in the States and we’ve enjoyed the difference. A month from now all of China celebrates Spring Festival, the Chinese equivalent of our Holidays, but for now a few decorated windows and some strange manikins dressed like Santa are the primary reminders of the season.

Last night we enjoyed a meal in Old Town and witnessed some quirky hints that it was indeed Christmas Eve. Highlights included: 1) a small and lonely group of Chinese Christians, dressed in robes, lit by candles and singing Christmas carols in Chinese while occasionally darting out of the group to proselytize to disinterested Chinese tourists, 2) a moderately drunk and disarmingly happy man wearing a Santa hat, smoking a cigarette and shouting the season’s greetings at passersby and 3) an enthusiastic group of Kentucky Fried Chicken employees dressed in Santa suits leading children in a lively dance in front of the chicken outlet to the delight of onlookers. All of this in a 10 minute stroll from cafe to taxi. It was the perfect evening.

So...we’re soon off and postings may be few and far between until mid-February, when we return from our vacation. Ellen flies to the U.S. for a week starting next Thursday. Bei and I jet to Bangkok next weekend and then head for Chang Mai where we hope to ride elephants and trek in the jungle before meeting a jet-lagged Ellen back in Bangkok on the 8th. After that we all hop down to Railay Beach in southern Thailand for a couple of weeks of rock climbing, swimming and relaxing before heading back to China to explore in the Guilin area, southern Yunnan and finally the mountains near Lugu Hu on the Sichuan border where we hope to do a 5-day trek.

We’re told that school will begin again here on February 13, but we don’t believe it for a minute and have contingency plans in place for an additional week or so of traveling beyond that. As I’ve said in the past, scheduling is not part of the national character here. In any case, I’ll post when I can from the road and stay in touch with some of you by e-mail as we wander around Asia.

We miss all of our friends and family and hope you are enjoying yourselves over these holidays. It's also been great hearing from some of you that we've met only through this blog. Take care of yourselves and enjoy the New Year.

The Sakura Cafe in Old Town, my source for better than average ground coffee and an occasional western-ish meal, took a nod at the season with these decorations.

Ok., what is it with manikins here? Does this display outside a grocery in Lijiang evoke Christmas for you or the vague dread of an arthouse film shrouded in cigarette smoke and punctuated by hysterical nervous breakdowns? Yep, me too.

Christmas colors in Old Town.

Two pharmacy workers in Old Town Lijiang on a December day taking a break from crafting herbal potions.

Pumpkins are still in season here and we've been enjoying delicious pumpkin soup thanks to Ellen's skillful ways.

Bei and I took a break from Christmas shopping to rest beside two older Naxi women shooting the breeze with each other and ignoring the tourists. One of the women rested her capable hand on a fire hydrant as she chatted with her friend.

And finally--a few shots of our Christmas, celebrated happily in our campus apartment around this small plastic tree. The tree was obtained from the local office supply and carried home like everything else we buy--on the crowded number 11 bus.

Bei posing with our tree, decorated using all local materials. That's a good thing.

Bei on Christmas morning with her new earmuffs.

And in her princess dress (thanks Auntie Em and Uncle Joe) and high heeled shoes (thanks Santa Claus).

Happy holidays!


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