A Fiery Lantern Festival
“You must see the festival, it only happens once a year!” my Lijiang tour leader cajoled. Battling “Mao’s Revenge,” I had missed much of our Leaping Tiger Gorge trek, trading stunning mountain scenery for shadowy guesthouse squats. Belly cramps ricocheting, I embraced culture at the Five Lantern Festival: peaceful river processions of candles and lotus; joyful Chinese dancing in gentle synchronicity; and humid air buffeting delightfully touristy paper lanterns like giant colorful fireflies.
The next evening, in Dali, we experienced another Five Lantern Festival. A 20-foot-long explosive, constructed by nailing bunches of screamers, firecrackers and apples to a paper streamer–trussed log, spawned smaller replicas citywide, and encouraged high expectations.
At dusk our hoteliers commenced their raucous celebrations. Fireworks popped and shrieked, and handfuls of mysterious, acrid powder whooshed into incendiary life. Time to venture out.
Fireballs illuminated our street–cum–medieval war zone. Confused, and unwilling to prioritize good judgment over adventure, we advanced and were instantly surrounded by hooligans. They gleefully threw fistfuls of fire powder on us — and then touched their torches to our clothing! One terrified girl fell to her knees and was crawling, trying to escape, and people kept touching their torch flames to her. Horrified, I watched a threatening hand snake into a pouch, a flaming baton descend …
As centuries of teachers before me in sticky situations, I reacted by slowly and deliberately wagging my pointer finger in his face: “ NO!” The pyromaniac lowered his weapons, grinned sheepishly … and I walked away unscathed, trembling like the wings of a cicada. — Cindy Patten
Remember when you were a little kid waiting to get on a ride? I sure do, especially the time my family went to Disney World. I was only five years old, and really wanted to get on my first roller-coaster ride: Space Mountain.
First of all, the lines at Disney World are not short, and when you are an impatient little kid, you get crabby. Well, I was crabby and nothing was going to stop me from riding on Space Mountain. But there was a small problem: my height. I was too short to get on the ride, because I didn’t clear the children’s height bar.
So my very nice mother spiked my hair and I stood as tall as I could and, surprisingly, the attendant let me go on Space Mountain. Not only was I super happy, but so were all the people in line behind me. They all started to cheer. Let me tell you, the ride was worth it, and if I hadn’t gotten to ride my first roller-coaster, I would have been terribly crabby for the rest of the vacation. — Tyler Ruppert
Vancouver Vacation of a Lifetime
As a 5’8″, 40-year-old woman, my 265-pound body was in horrible shape last year. When my mom gave me a vacation gift of joining her in Vancouver, B.C., I almost said no because I was embarrassed of my size. But I said yes, and it changed my life!
Busy Vancouver is very different from smaller, slower-paced Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where I live. I was surprised to discover that just about everyone in Vancouver was in great shape, old and young alike. Countless people were walking, running, bicycling … and healthy food choices were obvious everywhere.
We naturally adopted the lifestyle surrounding us as we enjoyed the beautiful sights and activities the Vancouver area offers. Every day we logged many hours of walking, and we enjoyed so many exciting new meal ideas.
On my return home, when I stepped on my bathroom scale, I was surprised to find myself 15 pounds lighter. My body didn’t even see it coming. Being healthy is fun and easy? Who knew!
Almost a year later, at a healthy 165 lbs, I have completely changed my lifestyle. A big “thank you” to Vancouver, for demonstrating how easy healthy living is! — Cathy Conrad