Christmas dinner
It's been a good year.

An unexpectedly disorganized yet somehow over-organized fun and crazy, hard-traveling, emotional, financially risky, life-changing year.

As Dan remarked recently, we have “the curse of living in interesting times.”

While our memories of this year will probably be dominated by The Big Trip—our workless, fun-filled, money-spending travelathon—we've done a lot of other things this year.

In January I was promoted to director of the Foreign Department at our school in Zunyi. The pay rise allowed me to get corrective laser surgery on my eyes—life changingly fantastic and fantastically life-changing.

We did a two week-traipse through the minority villages of Guizhou—seeing a part of China that even our most well-traveled China-hand friends hadn't managed to see. There we saw people who still wear minority dress daily, took part in a name-giving ceremony to a village child (this involved drinking beer out of bowls to quench the fire from eating large slabs of local salt-and chili-cured pork), and stumbled upon the most amazing New Year's procession we had ever seen.

A few months later and we were on our way to Kashgar and Urumqi in far-flung Xinjiang province—the dusty, high-elevation corner of China that really puts the rest of that giant country in perspective. We were there just weeks before the rioting that broke out and effectively cloistered the whole province from Western view for the remainder of the year.

And last summer we packed up, sold or threw away everything in our little one-bedroom school-supplied home—all the books and clothes and doodads and things that seem so important and yet, we discovered, just weren't--and, overladen but shiningly excited departed Zunyi to take a final look at China. We traveled for four weeks, first with my parents and Dan's mother and stepfather down the Yangtze, and then on with my mom and dad up to Inner Mongolia and down back to one of the most beautiful spots in China--Yangshuo. On September 13 we finally left China on our voyage of discovery through Southeast Asia.

Interesting times are not always happy ones though. Sadly, Dan's father passed away in September, as we were getting ready to fly to Bali before Dan's brother's wedding. He was missed at the wedding, and, just last week, at the brothers' Christmas celebrations.

Between the funeral and Christmas, Dan and I kept the Big Trip going—a five-week jaunt to Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia rounding out our SE Asia experiences.

And now, the new year is here. In January we go back to Malaysia and then to India. Where in India and for how long we have not yet decided. 2010 is completely unplanned. Beautifully, excitingly unplanned.

Any suggestions?

Happy New Year from Dan and Beth.

* * *

May your train transfers be speedy, your flights on time and the hostel not have bedbugs.

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