We’re back from our second R&R — rested and relaxed and so ready to be going home for real, but alas only half-way done. *sigh* The feeling is something akin to the day after Christmas as a child…you still like looking at all of the toys you got the day before, but it’s a bit depressing to realize that you’re as far away from next Christmas as you’ll ever be. To compensate, we’re already starting to plan our next R&R, which will happen some time in the beginning of January.

For anyone who I forgot to tell before we left, we went to China — Beijing, a hiking weekend outside Beijing along the Great Wall in a province who’s name I can’t remember to save my life, Hong Kong (somewhat impromptu, but more on that later), and Xi’an. We have tons of pictures, which I have yet to sort through but will hopefully get a chance to send out in the next week or so. I, like the fool that I have sometimes been accused of being, scheduled a work-related trip the first weekend back here, so that has thrown a bit of a wrench in the works. Catching up on three weeks of missed stuff at work is one thing, and preparing for a trip is another, but combine the two and hopefully you’ll all understand why this is the first time I’ve been able to sit down and write a short entry since we got back on Thursday.

I’ll work on getting a fuller read-out of our trip posted soon, but suffice it to say that it was wonderful. Beijing was very interesting — just as polluted and conformist as I’d been told to expect, but since most of what we wanted to do was see a couple of things, walk around, eat in good restaurants and relax in a nice hotel, it was just fine. I did have to run out and buy a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 as soon as we got to Hong Kong because of how eerily Beijing reminded me of it. I told Danny my great plan for our Beijing pictures is to use one of those three-photo frames to put up pictures of the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, and Mao’s tomb, and underneath them put the three party slogans from 1984: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength.” I think he’s hoping I was kidding on that one. We’ll just see about that.

The hiking weekend was very very cool…I would recommend it for anyone who’s going to China and has a couple of extra days to play with. There were a total of four hikes over the course of the weekend (okay, so I only did three of them…but Danny did all four), all along different sections of the wall that were unrestored and really beautiful. No one else was out there other than the six or eight people in our group, so we avoided the whole tourist goat rope that I’ve heard characterizes the experience of the wall in Beijing.

Hong Kong was AMAZING. As anyone who knew me during my James Clavell obsession could have predicted, I was already positively pre-disposed toward it, but even keeping that in mind it was a definitely highlight of our trip. The whole time we were there we kept commenting on how cool it was, and we’ve already started scheming to try to get an assignment there at some point. I don’t know how realistic that is, but still, you get the point. It was freakin’ awesome. (And, as a side note, Danny managed to score me a copy of Tai-Pan shortly before we headed for Hong Kong, which won him major brownie points…yes, my life does revolve around books. Is there a problem with that?)

After Hong Kong, Xian was an odd little detour. Maybe the tone was set by out slightly terrifying ride from the airport with a cab driver that we weren’t totally convinced wasn’t going to dump us on some dark road somewhere in Xangxi province and leave us to fend for ourselves, or maybe it would have been a better fit after Beijing but before Hong Kong. At any rate, the terra cotta warriors were really cool and we took lots of pictures of them for Danny’s mom and for my sister, who said that she regretted never having gotten to see them when she was in China.

There will be more to follow, including some snapshots, but right now I have to get to bed. Hopefully this time my internet connection won’t die again just as I try to post this (this is the third iteration of this post, as I’ve lost and had to recreate it twice already…).