In order to feel slightly less guilty for proclaiming my job's awesomeness to the world, let me interject here and say that at least half of my job involves more spreadsheets than I ever thought possible and the use of Microsoft Word in ways I still struggle to understand, and that a year ago I was sharing a seventh-floor walk-up with a family of really enormous spiders. So I'm allowed to have a really cool job now . . . I paid my dues, right?
I just returned from one such product investigation, which took me from Beijing to Xi'an, Chengdu, Dali, and Shanghai. It was a lot of work, to be sure, and very eye-opening to go from the one who is on the tour to the one who sees what happens behind the scenes. (If you've ever been on a high-end tour, you can imagine what I'm talking about. When you put your bags outside your door at midnight, they don't magically appear in your new hotel room hundreds of miles away the next day without complicated things happening backstage.) Even though it was exhausting at times--somebody has to be cheerful when the guests come down for their 5 am transfer to the next airport, and here's a clue: it's not the guests--I loved every minute of it.
Below, my journey in pictures. I'm not including any with guests to protect their privacy, though I wish I could share some of their smiling faces with you! The families we traveled with were lovely, and it was hard to see them go on the last day.
The first stop was Beijing. Good thing I'm already here, because I had less than 48 hours' notice that I'd be going on this adventure. I spent the weekend before the trip frantically trying to decide what constituted an appropriately professional-yet-outdoorsy wardrobe for the trip. It was Guizhou all over again.
The Forbidden City:
The farmer-artist himself painted an entire watercolor for us from scratch while he told us about his life experiences. It is clear from his humble story that beauty and art can rise up out of hardship, loss and pain.
I won't go into how utterly gorgeous, tranquil, and perfect in every way our hotel was. You can check it out yourself at The Linden Centre's website.
Spectacular views in Yunnan:
One of the most amazing things we saw on this part of the trip was the cormorant fishing on Erhai Lake. We were rowed out onto the lake by a 61 year-old woman (who could easily have passed for 80) to watch the demonstration. The fishermen would untie the birds and shoo them out into the water, where they would dive down and come up with a fish nearly half the size of their own body. They'd fly out of the water and perch onto the fisherman's net, depositing the fish neatly inside, before receiving a treat (more fish) from the fisherman for a job well done.
(I did not test that theory. China is China, no matter how organic the tea is.)