October 1st marked my 25th birthday. I won't pretend that I didn't have a bit of what I've coined "My Mid-Twenties Crisis", but it was a grand day despite my lack of enthusiasm for being a year older and spending the majority of my "shengri" on a hard seat, in a packed, smelly train "dao" Guilin; My friend Kara flew from the States to accompany me on my travels, and I had a week of vacation and adventure to look forward to. On a grander scale, October 1st marked the PROC's 61st Anniversary. Besides the suffocating crowds in every public arena and the patriotic music they played a few times on the train, I can't say I witnessed much of the celebration this year, but happy 61st, nonetheless, Communist China.
Despite the expected difficulties (not "specifically expected difficulties", more like "difficulties in general" kind of difficulties) I had an extremely pleasant week and have the pictures to prove it. We rode on bamboo boats on the beautiful Li River, biked 6 hours in the mountainous countryside, satisfied my Western food cravings (well, some of them), bargained and shopped until our bags could hold no more, and chatted with complimentary locals until I was almost fooled into thinking I'd become fluent in Chinese overnight: The trip was a success. All things included, though, I'd have to say the most invigorating part of my trip was the companionship granted that I miss most when I am in this Asian land. Kara, besides being a treasured friend from college, is a Christian, an American, a girl, and unmarried-- all coming together to form the sort of rare and invaluable sort of companion that I could not have appreciated more at this time. I am blessed.