With only two weeks left in the school year, it seems like so many activities are trying to cram inside so little time. End of year parties, goodbyes, birthday parties, final evaluations; you name it, it’s happening. Throw in there my own Dad’s birthday, his 76th, as he celebrates it with my Mom all the way in Arizona. Dad is six months into his recovery from total knee replacement surgery, and is still experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort. His mobility is minimal, and his spirits are low. I can hear it in his voice every time I talk with him, even though I am 411 miles away. Besides the surgery, he is also lamenting the fact that he has never met our third son Dustin, who is now 6 ½ months old with two bottom teeth and what seems like 411 very long eyelashes.
I felt really bad for my Dad, and the boys missed Grandma and Grandpa a lot, so despite my misgivings about missing kindergarten and preschool (although much less misgivings about preschool), I made plans for a surprise road trip to their house, arriving the evening of my Dad’s birthday. I booked a two-night stay at a hotel near them (they have plenty of room but three little ones showing up unannounced doesn’t seem like the surprise I was shooting for), alerted the boys’ teachers, and gassed up the minivan. Packing for 72 hours is fairly painless, but I did end up forgetting a razor (which the hotel had) and some paperwork that I wanted to work on (which I wouldn’t have had time to do anyway). When you have three boys with you, it’s pretty much all about them. No workouts in the snazzy fitness room, no TV (for fear of waking them up), and no sleeping in.
We left the beach by 8:30am with plans to arrive at their house prior to dinner preparations so that we could hopefully be a part of dinner. Eastbound traffic was sluggish until we escaped the confines of Los Angeles, at which point I kept the pedal to the metal the rest of the way. A stop for a pancake breakfast a few hours later, and then a stop for lunch a few hours after that. Sprinkle in a smattering of small potty breaks and “go run around” stops, and we arrived at the hotel. Coincidentally, Papa was leaving our house for an east coast business trip (Miami) at around that very same time, although the boys got confused and kept asking when Papa was going to arrive at our hotel.
We settled in briefly and then hit the road again for the 6-mile drive to my parents. We stopped in a store close to them and grabbed some ice cream cake with “Happy Birthday Grandpa” written on it (I had them add the Grandpa part), some candles, and a lighter. Our plan was to drive up to their neighbor’s house and park, walk quietly to their house, and call them on the phone from right outside their front door. We’d have a friendly chat, and then tell them to hang on a second because someone is knocking on our door, and then at the same time we’d actually knock on their door. We’d wait until they opened their door before yelling “Surprise!!!” I was proud of the fact that the boys came up with that plan.
In reality however, my phone battery died just before we got to their house. There was no room to park in front of their neighbors, and the ice cream birthday cake was melting rapidly due to the 106 degrees of stifling air. Instead we quietly parked, tiptoed up to their front door, and knocked. Their dog Lady greeted us first with a very loud yapping bark, which sent two boys scurrying around the corner. The remaining boy, dressed as cute as a button complete with an “I Love Grandpa” bib, began to wail at the top of his lungs from the commotion, at which point my parents open the front door and stare in disbelief. I think they wondered why only the baby and I were making a surprise visit. Pretty soon the infant caught his breath and the boys built up some courage to come near the dog and my parents.
The boys were in the pool in no time at all, where they stayed for several hours while I visited with my family and showed off Dustin. Thanks to the power of heat exhaustion, everyone slept well that night in the hotel (the boys in the king size bed, Dustin in a hotel-provided pack and play, and me on the lumpy sofa bed), and woke up refreshed for another day of visiting and swimming. Now here I am writing in my lumpy bed while my angels sleep soundly, ready to tackle the leisurely drive back tomorrow.
Checking some notes I jotted down during this journey, I learned a few things:
1) Never have a set time that you need to arrive at your destination when you’re driving with three little boys. The stress is so much reduced when you couldn’t care less how many times you have to stop for potty breaks and water and food and another potty break, and they want just 5 more minutes Daddy please running around the grassy area of the rest stop.
2) Always pack extra clothing (mainly shorts and underwear), and keep some handy in your front seat in case of accidents or spills. Having to worry about wetness here or a stain there is stressful for everyone. More stress equals more meltdowns. Less stress equals more love.
3) Bring electronic games, and happily give up your iPhone and iPad.
4) Make the ‘½ tank’ of gas mark your new ‘empty’ mark. There’s nothing worse than having to drive around with kids on an empty tank (and stomach), while your mind already visualizes running out of gas on the most deserted road of your trip, and then what do you do?
5) Bring their pillows from home on the trip. They’ll sleep better.
6) Never ever buy ice cream cake in Arizona.
By Brandy Black
It’s that time of year, when the sun pops out from behind the clouds and we all begin to think about traveling with our families over summer vacation. I found that planning a trip to Hawaii is daunting. I scoured through websites looking for the perfect house to rent and either ran into red X’s on the preferred dates of travel or simply couldn’t find anything in our budget. After much angst we settled on Hilton Waikloa Village in Kona on The Big Island. We stayed in a two bedroom suite with a balcony overlooking the ocean in one direction and an open lawn with a hammock in the other.
Although this resort is huge, so spread out that you can take a tram or a boat to get to dinner, it was a blast for the children.
At night we played freeze tag with the kids on the grassy grounds. Once tucked in and with the babysitter we had picnics by the water.
There were several restaurants to choose from including Chinese, Italian, Mexican and the children’s favorite, the morning buffet!
It was a great place to stay with kids and although we struggled traveling with three little ones. The resort did not disappoint. If you are off to Kona with kids you must check this place out!
By Trey Darnell
Air travel is stressful, emotional, and exhausting -and that’s just when traveling alone. Add a child, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, and blanky and you begin to question humanity, Dora the Explorer, and why you ever left the house. We are on our journey to grow our family through adoption, so the answer is no, I do not have real parental experience with what I am about to write, but I have seen it countless times as a commercial airline pilot. Like George Washington, I will not tell a lie. I giggle, laugh, and sometimes shake my head in disbelief watching the massive amount of child-related stuff moving down an airplane aisle and through the airport.
Traveling through many airports during a week, I think I have seen it all and very little of it makes sense. Airports are no longer the enjoyable environments of the 1970s and 1980s. They now resemble overcrowded ant colonies. Don’t forget that obnoxiously loud siren on the oversized golf carts and people movers. Stressed, tired, and uncomfortable describes most passengers. Frankly, there are too many people and not enough space in the airport itself, let alone on an airplane. Add a couple Finding Nemo roller bags being tugged upside down and you have hassle for the parents rather than short-lived enjoyment for the children. Most of the time you see the parent carrying the child and the Nemo roller bag while trying to pull their own carry-on bag and attempt this fast-walk-occasional-jog to make their connection. Exhausting!
Stress brought on by traveling with children is manageable…with planning and preparation. Customers will often know the departure date, location, as well as destination and length of stay before shopping for airfare. Most Americans are looking to book the cheapest flight possible. From my experience, this is not the greatest way to book air travel, especially when traveling with a child. Cheaper fares usually have less desirable options like longer ground time, smaller planes, and multiple connections.
Airlines will create a flight schedule to allow customers the least amount of connections with the shortest amount of ground time. Customers searching for travel reservations can look at the total time spent from the departure point until arriving at the destination. This includes time spent waiting for a connection. This flight might only be a couple of dollars more than that extremely low airfare that has two connections with a 3-hour layover in each city. When traveling with children, you should always choose the shortest amount of time from departure to destination. This is worth $10-$25 more per ticket. Most of the time it is only a few dollars.
Example – This is a search for one-way air travel on Delta Airlines for June 1, 2013 from New York City to Dallas-Fort Worth. Less than two months until departure isn’t the ideal time for price shopping.
The first flight option departs New York’s LaGuardia at 8:10am and arrives at 11:15am in Dallas. Total travel time is four hours and five minutes. This would be the ideal flight choice for traveling with a child. The second option departs New York’s La Guardia at 7:59am and arrives in Dallas at 12:39pm. This flight segment makes a stop in ATL and the total travel time is one hour and 35 minutes longer than the first choice. The connection, additional time, and stress only saved $16.10. Sounds like a no-brainer.
Most major airlines consider a car seat and stroller as not part of the standard baggage allowance. This means you can check the stroller or car seat to your destination via curbside check-in or at a ticket counter for no additional fee. If you are travelling with less than two children and have short connection times, checking the stroller to your destination is a good idea. There is an additional option to gate check the stroller at no extra charge. This allows access of the stroller until you board the airplane. The downside to this option: you wait for the stroller after completion of the flight. This can take an additional 10-15 minutes after getting off the airplane. Waiting for the stroller is not ideal when your connection flight has started boarding in a different terminal.
Parents often like to bring a child’s car seat to use on-board the aircraft. The car seat needs to have FAA approval and a FAA placard on the car seat for use.
FAA APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 14 CFR 21.805 (d) APPROVED FOR AIRCRAFT USE ONLY
The FAA does not approve most of the car seats that parents try using on-board the plane and you can click the above placard to see if your car seat is approved. In the case that your car seat is not FAA approved, it will be gate checked. This usually results in a very upset parent. Once you deplane, you would be required to wait for the car seat. If it isn’t FAA approved, check it to your destination at no additional charge via the ticket counter or curbside check-in.
I think I could go on for days about tips for the beginner and frequent traveler on how to make their travel experience easier. If you have any questions, please share in the comments section below. My experience includes traveling alone as a child to being a pilot for a commercial airline. I have seen just about everything that happens during the emotional day(s) in the airports. If your children would like to stop by and see the cockpit just ask the Flight Attendant and they will let them poke their heads in and take a look around. Dads, you don’t necessarily need to have a child to get a peek inside the flight deck; just ask.
I encourage every parent to visit babiestravellite.com.
You can also visit our adoption page at mattandtreyadopt.com
By Brandy Black
It’s a family tradition to see snow around the holidays. Typically we’ll drive somewhere for the day but this year we decided to get a cabin in Big Bear, CA at Christmas. This turned out to be a great destination for our family because it’s only 2 hours away from Los Angeles, which is perfect if you are traveling with little ones. We have three kids! I will warn you that chains are a requirement to have with you over the winter season (this I did not know) and those switchbacks can be a bit dizzying, but once we got to our quaint town and adorable cottage in the snow, we were thrilled. Chalet Devora was a prime location for skiers, just a quick 10-minute walk to the slopes. We were set up on a hill, which was a little intimidating to drive on ice, but worth it for the sledding around the back. Fully equipped with Christmas trees (yep there were 2) and festive holiday décor, the place was lovely. It even had a hot tub! Although when we all got in one snowy night it was about as hot as a lukewarm bath so you might want to warn them to crank up that heat!
What to do with kids in Big Bear
There is a great little ski camp at the slopes that we enrolled our daughter in for 2 hours. It was her first time skiing and she came out with a good snow plow and the desire to ski down her first bunny hill. I couldn’t believe I was more terrified than she when we all went up on her very first chairlift.
There are a couple nice inner-tubing places that are great fun for kids. We spent the afternoon making snow angels, having snowball fights, and sliding down the hill.
I wasn’t sure if there would be much to do with the babies (they are one). People thought we were crazy motivating with twin babies, but they had a blast. We took them to Big Bear Village and bought a sled and pulled them around in the snow. We happened upon a tiny hill that every toddler in town has spotted and had great fun listening to them giggle as they traversed through the snow.
What to Eat
If you are a foodie, you might not be terribly impressed with the restaurants, but I thought it was just what you’d expect from a lovely little village town. I couldn’t get a good sidecar to save my life but I enjoyed my meal and fireside table at Captain’s Anchorage. They even had the 80’s salad bar.
We had a great trip and will surely do it again, although my next ski destination is Mammoth. Any recommendations before we go?
By: Brandy Black
I am a long-time fan of the Huntington Dog Beach. We have taken our wheaten terrier there since he was a tiny pup but now that we have kids it’s hard to motivate for the hour-plus trip to the dog beach with everyone in the car, only to turn around and come home later that afternoon. But it seems unfair for our dog; I mean how will we celebrate his birthdays? Yep it’s true, we took him to the dog beach every birthday; we even once threw a party for him there, presents and all.
I’ve since discovered two fabulous family hotels that accept dogs and sit directly across from the dog beach with stunning views of the Pacific. This beautiful 42 miles of coastline is a great destination for a luxury family vacation. Aside from riding bikes and playing in the sand there are quite a few things to do in the area. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and the pier -we even went for a family gondola ride at sunset. But we are simple, playing in the sun all day is how we like to roll.
Our first night was spent at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach. When I think Hyatt, I typically think “corporate” -reserved for trips with computers and conference calls and without children -but not this Hyatt. There is a mix of all crowds, the Slyders water playground and Lagoon style pool makes this hotel a great getaway for the whole family. Our daughter couldn’t decide between the beach or the pool and lucky for our dog we got to do both. This property even has a Camp Hyatt for the kids so we checked in to the spa. I mean seriously, we all know how “vacations” with children can be, typically I either need a strong martini or a soothing massage or both to get me through. The accommodations were nice and the views picturesque but most importantly at the end of a long sun-kissed day the children slept soundly and so did the parents.
Day Two was spent at the Waterfront Beach Hilton Hotel and was just as lovely. I thought this property was a little more plush and fabulous than the first and maybe better suited for couples and their dogs rather than the whole family but we were certainly happy and well accommodated . Dinner might have been a little long for our four-year-old after a day of sand castles and shriveled fingers but she hung in there because the hotel-planned s’mores fire-pit was waiting for us at sunset. Bundled in blankets and singing campfire songs we were thrilled to end our evening with sticky fingers and a resounding “this was the best night ever” from our daughter.
I love to get away, and even better with the whole family (pets included), but I don’t like to go far with three children, two of them under one year old. This beach vacation is just my style: short, sweet, gorgeous, and only a short car ride away.
If you travel like I do, you might want to check out this site for more info on fun beach vacations.
By: Shannon Ralph
World Travel Holdings (WTH) recently announced the debut of a new website offering a fresh take on planning the perfect vacation. VillaRental.com provides a new and novel way for the traveler to search for and create a customized trip based on their travel style and their specific reasons for traveling.
Unlike other sites, VillaRental.com allows travelers to plan their vacation based on personal interest or “Vacation Themes” rather than solely destination. On the new site, villas are categorized by vacation types. A traveler who knows what they would like to do on vacation, but may not necessarily know where they’d like to go, can search with ease.
Among the “Themed Vacation” options on VillaRental.com are:
Golf or Tennis Hotspots.
“Villa vacations are rising in popularity not only because they offer affordable luxury, but also because it’s the ideal vacation for anyone seeking a truly customizable, private vacation with more amenities and space than at a hotel or resort,” said Steve Lassman, Vice President and General Manager of VillaRental.com.
For more information or to sign up for the new company’s e-newsletter—including villa rental tips, deals, news and more—visit www.VillaRental.com.
By: Brandy Black
Park Hyatt Aviara, located in Carlsbad, CA just minutes from Legoland is a parents’ oasis. Formerly a Four Seasons property, I assure you it hasn’t lost its quality of service or attention to detail. Upon check-in a red wagon full of kiddie toys was presented to our daughter by one of the friendly front desk staff members.
Our room overlooked the Batiquitos Lagoon and offered a stunning panoramic view. But most important to these two busy parents was the fast and furious service that never left us wanting. In the time it took to walk from the lobby to the room the cleaning service had already made the couch into our daughter’s bed for the evening and the luggage was delivered promptly. This allowed us to get on with our vacation without hesitation or a more likely 3-year-old meltdown. We zipped down for a dip in the 83-degree water adorned with noodles for the kids. Our daughter was most pleased with the one-foot wading pool as it allowed her to securely attempt to swim. For the first time ever since starting a family we were able to kick back on the lounge chairs without worry as she splashed in delight.
The property offers amenities for children that make a parent grateful that someone understands the importance of a child’s happiness on vacation. Kid happy = parent happier. The goodie bag of treats delivered to the room, the complimentary sorbet guava smoothies passed around poolside, crayons at dinner with coloring books, a kid-sized buffet, a playroom of games (although I must admit there were more adults playing pool, air hockey, and shuffleboard than there were kids), Camp Hyatt and playground were all key ingredients to a happy family vacation. Beware –Camp Hyatt is only open during the day so the romantic dinner I fantasized about became a kid-friendly affair. For this reason, we only checked out the California Bistro restaurant but the food superseded the expectations of standard hotel fare.
There are plenty of activities for the whole family, with tennis courts, Arnold Palmer Golf Course, Beach Butler to escort you with chairs and umbrellas to the sandy beach, and the spa.
Overall it was a lovely stay, a beautiful property, and it certainly left us rejuvenated. I will note one more observation, given that this review is for a modern parent site: the resort was filled with a vast amount of diverse guests. There were mixed race couples, gay parents, straight parents, people of all colors and quite a few couples without children. I have stayed in other resorts in Carlsbad and San Diego and was delighted to find that this was the most diverse that I have seen yet.
Rack rate: $395 a night
Special event at Park Hyatt Aviara coming in September:
Saluting the ingredients, flavors, culture and talents of Southern California and its chefs, this special gastronomic Park Hyatt Masters event will feature a tour of a local Aquafarm – complete with an oyster and Sauvignon Blanc tasting and a eclade-style mussels lunch. After an afternoon of relaxation on the grounds of the hotel, a “Cal-Ital” winemaker dinner concludes the evening at the resort’s signature Italian restaurant, Vivace.
By: Shannon Ralph
Nevada Tourism Commission has launched a new website catering to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender traveler. The site, gay.travelnevada.com, lists gay-friendly hotels and events of interest to the LGBT community. Several Las Vegas resorts are listed as gay friendly. Among the Las Vegas events listed on the website are Gay Nights Las Vegas Aug. 4-7, Las Vegas Pride Sept. 16-17, the EnGAYgement Wedding and Commitment Ceremony Event Oct. 9th, Coronation Weekend Dec. 1-4 and GayDayS Las Vegas Sept. 4-10, 2012.
“The Nevada Commission on Tourism recognizes the importance of this vast market to Nevada’s tourism industry,” said commission interim director Larry Friedman. “We continually expand and improve our efforts to reach potential visitors and that is why we developed this new website that offers need-to-know information for the LGBT community.”
So, who wants to go to Vegas? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?
By: Heather Somaini
I’m about to go on a rant. Traveling with babies, toddlers, and kids is amazing and wonderful and super terrible all at the same time. We’ve had some very fun trips completely ruined by flight attendants and other passengers. Come to think of it actually – it’s always been flight attendants. Other passengers generally try to ignore you. Unless of course, they love kids, which is much more common than I realized. People love babies. They really love twin babies. And most of the time they’re confused by our family structure so they have questions. But generally people are pretty decent about kids. I mean, don’t get me wrong – strangers will kill themselves to help a pregnant woman but completely ignore a mom with three kids and a stroller that won’t fold up, but in general they’re at least not too terrible.
Flight attendants, on the other hand, are at either end of the spectrum – they either love or hate you. We’ve had flight attendants spend almost an entire flight with us wanting to hold the babies and chat endlessly. And then we’ve had the other kind…the ones that take one look at you coming on the plane and turn into Medusa.
We took our first flight with the babies when they were about two months old on a Southwest flight to Nashville, TN. Since Southwest doesn’t provide assigned seats, we rushed on to the plane with the babies in carriers attached to us and grabbed a window and an aisle seat with an empty one in between us. As the plane began to fill and they told us repeatedly that it was going to be a full flight, we eyed a handsome businessman and offered him the aisle seat. He quickly took it and Tere moved into the middle. All was well until about an hour before the plane landed when a flight attendant demanded to know if we had been sitting in those seats the entire flight and then yelled at us that we couldn’t do that! We sat there confused while she angrily explained that there is only one extra oxygen mask per set of seats so we couldn’t have more than one lap baby per row. How were we supposed to know that?!?! Somehow on our return flight, we snagged the only empty seat on the plane to be between us. But other than those two flights, we haven’t flown together since. Usually we sit a row in front of the other so we can pass baby necessities back and forth.
Another favorite complaint of flight attendants is portable DVD players. The same could be said for iPads, iPods, tablets, laptops…but basically, they are a godsend. They’re amazing and keep little kids occupied for tons of time especially when we ask them to sit still on a plane when they want to explore this new wonder. My problem is that I didn’t want to put headphones on the babies, it just seems wrong, and we have twins so they BOTH want to watch the same thing. I always figure that planes are loud anyway and if a fellow passenger could, in fact, actually hear something coming from our iPad that was better than a screaming child kicking at their seat. But funny enough, flight attendants are sticklers for rules. I’ve sat reading a magazine next to one of our playing machines that I can barely hear and they’ll still tell me to turn it down. I’ve asked all the passengers around us if it’s ok, and the flight attendant STILL wants us to turn the sound down, turn it off altogether, or use headphones. I once pointed out that putting headphones on a 2-year-old didn’t seem like a good idea. I was told people do it all the time. I’m guessing by now, you can imagine what my response was…it didn’t go over well.
Security – another pet peeve of mine. Those TSA folks couldn’t care less that your wife is standing in her stockinged feet holding two babies on the other side of a metal detector while your bags, shoes, and stroller are piling up a the end of the conveyor belt as they hold you captive because the underwire in your bra set the metal detector off. Nope. You’re going to get a pat down and by the way, we have to call over to another terminal to find a female agent. Oy!
At the end of the day, it’s just about getting from Point A to Point B and then enjoying the time you have when you get there but I have decided that bringing lots of food, toys, games, movies on your iPad, DVDs, Baby Tylenol, and a pleasant disposition is really the only way to go.
What’s your most outrageous travel story?
I just returned from China on a 33-person tour with a high-end company, and I have some advice for travelers looking to visit the country. First, you must decide whether you want to travel with a group (small or large), or individually (with maybe just one partner). Secondly, you must pay close attention to the hotel star rating!! In China, one star off can mean the difference between not having a toilet in your room, no elevator in the hotel (in China, a building with nine stories or fewer doesn’t warrant an elevator), being too far off the beaten path, sleeping in filthy conditions, or having no air conditioner.
I am older and travel by myself (unless I can get a friend to join me), so I try to travel first class. I like comfort in third-world countries. I want to be on a walking street and near major subway or train lines for my days away from the tour. And since you can’t control the random people joining your tour, you can only hope someone shares your love of food or adventure so that you don’t end up being alone when the group has free time. I do well with going places by myself but I like to go to dinner with others. I like to talk about what I have seen during the day and share ideas and life stories.
Before my trips I tend to avoid researching my destination too much, as I want to learn along the way, and arrive with no preconceived notions. A high-end tour company usually provides so much information that one doesn’t need to study beforehand. It might, however, be beneficial to know some of the restaurants ahead of time, especially if you are a real foodie –but know that the concierge at the better hotels will have lists upon lists of places to dine for all different prices and all different foods.
Once you check in to your hotel in China, discover the hotel’s amenities. Many have free gym facilities, a sauna or spa, or even indoor pools. I found the gyms to be lovely and in top shape. As one who is spending her kids’ inheritance, I tend to leave it to the tour company to make all the arrangements. I just buy my airplane tickets through a travel agent and depend on them to get me the best deal with miles, points, upgrades, and anything else I can use to get into business class. When I was younger I traveled more standard fare, but now I want supreme services, a wonderful bed, and luxurious surroundings.
China has much to offer in the way of sights, so plan your trip to include those you want to see the most. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Terra Cotta Warriors are the main attractions in China. Each one deserves a day –at least –for exploration. Any good tour will include these sights. Then the extras…like good shopping, if that is your thing, and of course, food. My “thing” is to mix with the locals, where they shop, where they eat, where they play (parks, etc.). I like tours that take you to local farmers’ markets, to schools to see how the kids learn, and on walks around older sections of the city. If you have a religious bent you might ask the tour company to get a group together to take you to the area where your religion is followed or was allowed at one time. In Shanghai a group of us went to where the Jewish refugees were allowed to live during WWII. Shanghai was the only place that allowed Jews to emigrate freely. It is always worth checking into temples and monuments that suit your interests.
Unfortunately, my trip to China was not as rewarding as were my trips to Japan, India, Eastern Europe, South America, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. China is being so overbuilt right now. It is like any major city, destroying its history to make way for progress and rapid growth. Even with the one child rule, the country holds 1.3 billion people. (Geographically, it is a little smaller than the US, which only has 250 million.) Chinese farmers have had to move to the city where they have no jobs (job waiting) and where they are not used to living in high-rise buildings with more Western-style amenities. They are missing their connections to the earth and are not faring well in the city. Also, the older sections of the cities that hold the riches in their history are being destroyed.
For me, the country lacked spirit and soul and reminded me everyday that it is communist. Capitalism and graft are alive and well in China. The government owns all the land (even the Starbucks, Dairy Queen and McDonalds share 49% to 51% – Chinese Government owned). I always find that third-world countries love our fast food establishments, which I can’t understand. The people seemed to me spiritless, just going through the motions. The men appeared much more aggressive than the women (like pushing and shoving to get ahead of the women in lines). In airplanes, men and women start moving towards the front, seatbelts unbuckling, clicking everywhere –before the plane has landed. No one waits in a line in the bathroom either but rather in front of a stall. I had to physically move a woman out of my way as she tried to beat me to the squat toilet (which I must admit is not something to rush for).
Gay rights are acknowledged in that they did away, just four years ago, with the declaration that homosexuality was a medical/psychiatric issue. Since so many women hold hands in China, it’s not easy to determine who is gay. But according to our guide there is a gay section in each major city with bars and clubs, but I didn’t have time to check them out.
If I were to compare China to India, I would say that India wins, hands down, as a place to visit. It is colorful, filled with sights and sounds and joyful people. Although the poverty is more prevalent in India, the people are much more spirited. I would recommend India for first-time exposure into a third-world culture. All in all however, because China and its growth will impact our planet in so many ways, visiting it should still be on everyone’s bucket list. Articles in Time and Newsweek state that in a few decades (or in 50 to 100 years), every family will have some type of Chinese facial feature in their families as they start to travel and move around the world. Better start learning Chinese, which has 50,000 characters for words! (You can get by on 3,500 but 10,000 will make you a Chinese scholar.) I feel that with all its rapid growth (building dams and re-routing water has allowed them to make their cities bigger and bigger), China will soon hit a recession like we are feeling. China already doesn’t produce enough food to feed its people and imports almost all of its food, which I find amazing.
China is growing by leaps and bounds and I am lucky enough to have gone, but visiting has caused me to realize even more how great the US is, with not only our many conveniences, but also our ability to prosper, dream, and achieve our goals. Such promise is offered to everyone in the US (albeit for some it is much more difficult), whereas in China only the top government officials and the real estate developers are thriving. Opportunities in China are not endless like they are in the US.
I always love to travel, as exploration is in my soul, but I love to come home. (And I also REALLY missed social networking, which is totally banned in China!)