Flat Stanley-if you aren’t familiar with this two-dimensional world traveler, grab your car keys and head straight for the nearest bookstore! He may be paper thin, but he’s been all over the globe and back, teaching kids about geography and culture and hopefully inspiring the next generation of backpackers, Peace Corps Volunteers and Foreign Service Officers.
When I was last home in Idaho, a friend gave me her daughter Hailey’s version of Flat Stanley- Flat Hailey. Flat Hailey is a world traveler in her own right and needed to add a few more country stamps to her passport. So, with that in mind, I slipped Flat Hailey into my carry-on luggage and brought her to China for a few months of adventure. Flat Hailey has now been slipped back into an envelope and is headed back to Idaho this week, but below is the letter she wrote to Real Hailey about her adventures, along with some pictures of her journey.
Thank you for sending me to Asia this winter. It gets very cold in Idaho and I was happy to go somewhere a little warmer for a few months. As much as I like the snow, you have had much too cold of a winter for me. After all, I am only wearing a dress- not exactly a good outfit choice for winter in Idaho. As you know, I love to travel and see new things and in the last few months, I have done a lot of that! Thanks for sending me on a new adventure.
When I left you in late January, I stowed away in Michelle’s carry-on baggage. I have to say, the ride to China was a long one, but luckily, she had lots of fruit snacks and granola bars stashed in her bag, so at least I didn’t get hungry. (I wonder if she noticed all the extra empty wrappers when she cleaned out her bag.)
Upon touching down in China, I was surprised by how many people there are in Chengdu. This place is packed! The city has more than seven million residents, who all seem to be going somewhere all of the time. When I was out exploring, I almost got ran over by a scooter once or twice. Luckily, I quickly learned to look both ways and then both ways again before crossing any street- even at the crosswalk.
For a few days, I went to work at the US Consulate. Sorry there are no pictures of that! I had to lock up my camera each time I visited. But, it was fun to see all of the Chinese people who were hoping to come to America and have their own adventures. I wonder if any of them have “flat” friends.
The number one thing on my list of places to visit in Chengdu was the pandas, and boy did I get to go see them. It was awesome! I went with my new friend Kaiya. Kaiya’s mom and dad work at the US Consulate in Chengdu and she goes to school here. She is four years old and pretty shy, but we had a really good day hanging out together. The little pandas are cute and cuddly, rolling all over and playing, just like kids and puppies do. I really wanted to run up and hug one of them. Maybe next time… The older pandas are pretty lazy. They did not do much while I was visiting. I think most of their days are spent lazing around, eating bamboo and taking naps. Hmmm, now that I think about it, those pandas have a pretty good life! (Although, rather than bamboo, maybe I’d want to eat cupcakes all day.)
In China, I also went to a history museum. At the museum, I learned a lot about how Chinese women used to have their feet wrapped up very tightly to make them tiny. This was called “foot binding.” The many different shoes were very small, but the sewing on them was beautiful. There was a purple pair that I especially liked. I also learned more about the earthquake that happened in China in 2008. I got to meet a pig who survived being buried under rubble for six weeks. Because he didn’t have food to eat when he was trapped, he ate coal. I think that would be a terrible dinner! Again, cupcakes would be much tastier! Now he lives at the museum and is very fat. The museum must feed him anything he wants because he is gigantic.
Chinese New Year also happened while I was visiting Sichuan. Instead of celebrating the arrival of the New Year on January 1st like we do in the United States, the Chinese celebrated it in February. This year is the year of the snake! To ring in the New Year, the whole city lit up with fireworks. I have never seen anything like it, not even on the 4th of July in America!
I didn’t spend my whole three months of traveling just in China though. During the Chinese New Year holiday (they take a week off of work), I flew to the Maldives, which is a country made up of tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. It was beautiful! You know how much I like sunshine and this was the perfect vacation from my Chinese travels. I got to stay in a hut over the water where I could watch fish all day long! I spent some of my time snorkeling, seeing puffer fish, rainbow fish, trumpet fish, starfish, sharks and so many more things I can’t list them all. Each day when I got back from swimming, I hung on the clothes line with the bathing suits so I could dry out before dinner. I also spent time relaxing in the sun, getting a bit of a tan (and maybe a little sunburn too) as I sprawled out on a chair and read lots of books. I’m particularly partial to the Flat Stanley series. I think we have a lot in common.
It has been a very good few months of traveling, but now I am super excited to be home and share all of my photographs with you, Hailey. Thank you for letting me go on such a great adventure. I can’t wait to find out where you will take me next! I am emailing you this letter now, as I am going to hop into an envelope and start my journey home tomorrow. It will probably take me two or three weeks to make it back to your house, but I can’t wait to see you again. Look for me in your mailbox!