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My trip to China started out with a great flight fiasco. Upon arrival at the airport, I learned that my original flight was cancelled. Abby, who was on the flight with me, and I had to wait while the woman rearranged our entire travel itinerary to get to China! Fortunately, we were able to make it out that night, but it certainly started the trip with a bang. The rest of the trip was filled with long layovers and flights until Abby and I finally met up with the rest of the ACE group in Hong Kong.

From Hong Kong we flew to Kunming, where we encountered another interesting travel issue. Our flight from Kunming to Diqing boarded, took off, and almost landed smoothly. In fact, we were about three feet from touching down in Diqing when the plane suddenly started to lift up off the ground. I thought it was strange, but couldn’t determine what was going on since all the announcements on the plane were in Chinese. I knew it was not a good sign when after the announcement finished, all the people on the plane groaned. To my surprise, we ended up flying all the way back to Kunming! After some awkward mime exchanges at the ticket counter, the group learned that there had been bad weather in Diqing that kept the pilots from landing the plane, but that they would try to re-board as soon as they could.

Mountainous Overlook in the Napa Wetlands

Surprisingly, getting back on the plane didn’t take very long at all – a little under an hour. At that point, I was pretty tired from all the hours of traveling, so I fell asleep after boarding the plane for the second time. That certainly made the flight short and sweet. The plane landed an hour later and the group of us triumphantly got off and picked up our luggage at baggage claim. We ended up making it to CERS late Saturday night… or should I say early Sunday morning, since it was about 1 am when it was all said and done?

Although the group hadn’t made it to CERS and the trip hadn’t officially “started,” I felt like this experience forced us to stick together. The next day, we were all able to laugh off all the travel struggles and it seemed to work to break the ice.  I mean, if you can laugh with someone you just met a few hours earlier after flying for 18 hours, then the rest should probably feel like a walk in the park.

“Since we’ve gotten here, I have come to realize how truly special this group really is. We can laugh together, talk freely, and express our opinions – all without worry of judgment.”

Since we’ve gotten here, I have come to realize how truly special this group really is. We can laugh together, talk freely, and express our opinions – all without worry of judgment. We have been able to make even the littlest parts of the trip, like the two-hour car ride we took to the nunnery, so fun and exciting! I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store for us as a group.

On a more personal note, I have really enjoyed learning more about the biodiversity of the Yunnan province through not only after-dinner lectures, but also pretty awesome field trips to various sites in the area. I found it fascinating how many species live here that I have never seen or heard of before! In the few short days I’ve been in Shangri-La, I would have to say my favorite part has been the breathtaking views. From the first day I woke up and saw the beautiful valley after stepping outside my room to the walk through the botanical gardens—or even the two hour drive to the nunnery with a constant view of the Yangtze, I have really come to appreciate the natural charm of each place that we’ve visited. As I told Lyneé when we were exploring the Napa Wetlands, Shangri-La is a little slice of heaven. This upcoming week, the group will be starting to run the camp for the kids and I am truly excited to meet and work with the kids!

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