Well, I got it done! I sent off my album design for print this morning and I am so excited to get the album!!! I thought, in the meantime, I'd share a little about our trip.
In 2004, Josh returned from deployment in Iraq and once again we were both students at Luther, essentially senior year for us both as he missed a full year while on deployment. We decided we should look into study abroad. Ultimately, we chose a business class that would take us to Hong Kong, Perth, and Shanghai. It was definitely about the destinations rather than the class, sorry Professor! It was a J-term class, so more of a fun thing anyway. Our first stop was Hong Kong. The first day, we headed to Victoria's Peak, which is a popular spot that overlooks the city. Look at us! We were babies!! Married a year and a half at this time, me just 21 and Josh about to turn 23. It was my first big international travel. I had been to Canada before when my family lived in northern Minnesota for a few years as a child, but that didn't quite hold the excitement this trip did for me. Josh had been to Mexico in high school, otherwise he'd been to Kuwait and Irag if you count that as international travel, not quite the same thing though. We were both excited for our adventure in China and Australia! We spent as much time as we could exploring. The nice thing for us, knowing very little Cantonese or Mandarin, is that Hong Kong is pretty accessible for English speakers, as it was under British control for years. When we weren't going to a class meeting or event, which were not highly time-demanding, we were out exploring. We went to the Aviary, explored the markets and temples, and enjoyed wandering Kowloon (on the mainland where we stayed, we took a ferry into Hong Kong each morning) to watch the nightly light show in Hong Kong. One morning, as part of class, we met with a business acquaintance of our professor (it was a business class afterall) for a traditional dim sum breakfast and it was amazing! We had steamed pork buns, bamboo cakes, and a multitude of other delicious bites. The jasmine tea was also fantastic. Seriously, a highlight of our time there! On one of our last days in Hong Kong, we took a boat to Lantau Island to see the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha. It was such an amazing experience exploring the area! The artist in me loved the architecture, the art, the colors, everything!! It was beautiful!! We also headed to Aberdeen and went on a boat ride. I should probably remember more about the boats and the history there, but I was super smitten with Lucy the pug (not pictured) who was owned by the lady who gave us the boat ride. Lucy was so cute! Yep, 15 years later and that fuzzy little puppy I spent 20 minutes with is still a fun memory. Next stop, Perth!! We were so excited for warm weather and sunshine. I definitely forgot to specify, in case you didn't already know, J-term is in January. Hong Kong was far enough south to not have been extremely cold, but it was chilly, thus the jackets. But January in Australia is summer and it was a lovely change of pace. Though, I do have to say packing for this trip was a challenge since we needed summer and winter clothing. Our first day, we headed to an animal park near where we were staying. The black swan is the symbol of the city of Perth, so it was fun to see them up close. We also got to walk through an enclosure with kangaroos and wallabies, which was a lot of fun. They were not caged or fenced off, just roaming throughout the enclosure. We also visited another animal park while we were in Perth. There we got to hold "Bob the Wombat," who was this very chunky and chill wombat the park allowed visitors to hold. I think some of my favorite times were along the beach though. We weren't far away and would walk there in our free time. Unfortunately, there were bush fires at the time we were there. Scary, scary things bush fires. We listened to many heartbreaking news stories while we were there.
One evening, the smoke rolled in at sunset and the sunset was amazing. Love the sunset pictures of us from our time in Australia! On one of our last days there, we headed from Perth out to Rottnest Island, just off the coast for some snorkeling and to see quakkas. The water was SO COLD!!! I couldn't do it. I have Reynauds, and I lost circulation in the fingers on my right hand due to the chilly water, so I decided to enjoy some time wandering the beaches while Josh snorkeled. I loved seeing the pictures he took with a disposable underwater camera once we got them developed though! I really, really, really wanted to take this adorable little ball of fluff home with me! Quakkas are so cute!!! Even cuter? There's a joey in her pouch! Look at it's little head popping out! I loved our time in Perth. It was so laid back and relaxed. "No worries" was a phase we heard multiple times a day while we were there. It was such a different pace from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. Our last stop was Shanghai. It was rather gloomy January weather the whole time we were there unfortunately. Quite a bit of rain too. But we made the most of the time we had and loved exploring there as well! Our profession had given us all cards that had English-Mandarin translations on them to help us get around since taxis were needed more here. They worked well, though riding in the taxis was an experience. They went fast even in crowds and traffic. We got into a car accident on our way to the airport on the way back home. Nothing serious, but it was such a drastic change from the "no worries" laid-back feeling of Perth. As it was rainy, we decided to explore the Shanghai Museum. It did not disappoint! So much beautiful artwork spanning centuries and lots of history and culture. We spent hours there and probably could have spent longer taking everything in. We walked along the Bund, a famous stretch along the water in Shanghai. Many of the famous buildings were obscured because of the fog and rain, but we still enjoyed our time exploring there. We wandered the Yu Gardens and markets. I think the markets were one of the most fun parts. Vendors were set up in flea market style, each a little "booth" filled with their goods. They had calculators on which we were enter numbers back and forth haggling over prices. I'm so glad Josh was there though, I'm not great a haggling. Plus having the interested + uninterested contrast between the two of us helped in haggling I think. Josh was always more "meh" and I was excited over pretty much everything. I have a horrible poker face, lol!! I love this wall in the Yu Gardens, the dragon stretched on around the outer wall. So beautiful!! Also, at each corner of the roof, there were scenes with small warrior statues. They were beautifully intricate! On our last day in Shanghai, our professor arranged tickets for us all to go see the Shanghai Acrobats. What a mind-blowing show!!! It wasn't filled with special effects or anything crazy or over the top like that. It was full of incredibly talented performers who did amazing feats. We were enthralled! I hope you enjoyed the very brief story of our trip! I would love to go back some day and explore more of both China and Australia! It was such an amazing experience and a perfect final class for me, as I graduated in January of 2005 from Luther. What a way to end my college career!!