Writing this post on the airplane from Shanghai to Chicago.  The last two weeks have been more than wonderful.  Spending time with families, reconnecting with high school friends and vacationing with our new friends in Guilin made this trip more special and memorable.  I also talked to a publisher who is interested in my book on happiness.  They want to see the first chapter.  There may also be speaking opportunities on the same topic.

I don’t have a clear idea about how to fit everything into my already very busy life.  I’ll have to take a careful look at every part of my life and decide what to pursue and what to put on hold.  My new job that I am going to start on Monday brings more uncertainties to the mix.  I do plan to read and write a lot on the train and bus.

China continues to fascinate and amaze me.  I haven’t traveled around the country that much since I left Shanghai right after college.  I visited my parents in Yun Nan twice a long time ago and took Jane and Michelle to Beijing ten years ago.  Things have obviously changed a great deal since then.  In Guilin, we drove through many miles of countryside and saw rows and rows  of multi-story houses, many still under construction, We went to the homes of the minority villages and witnessed the improvement of the quality of their lives.  In the past, before the roads were built, it was a huge effort for them to get outside their little world in the mountain.  Now tourism is bringing customers to their doors.  They say life is getting better and easier.

Our friends Guanghui and his wife grew up in a small village in Sichuan.  When they were young, their dream was to live in the big city.  Guanghui shared with us his personal stories of entrepreneurship while we were riding in the mini-van in Guilin.  He tired various ventures including running a coal mine and risking his life on a daily basis before finally made his fortune in the poultry feed business.  What is even more impressive is that he has built a self-motivated team that has allowed him to be away as much as he wants.  A serious environmental problem with Beijing is the air pollution and therefore he and his wife try to spend as little time there as possible.  Guanghui’s brother who joined us the last day of our stay in Guilin is equally if not more successful.  He is in the real estate business and has turned a small investment into a multi-million-dollar (U.S. dollar) enterprise in four years.  Both brothers are optimistic about the future and supportive of the government policies.

When we shared what we saw and the optimistic sentiment with our family members, the reaction was quite different.  Shanghai residents are much more skeptical and negative.  Their biggest issue is the housing price.  For example, my uncle bought his apartment fourteen years ago for 530,000 Yuan.  Now the value of the property is estimated around 3,500,000 Yuan and is still rising. Real estate has made many incredibly rich, but for people like my uncle who hasn’t made millions, it presents a problem.  His over-thirty-year-old son won’t be able to afford a decent place anywhere near Shanghai, which was the reason why his girlfriend left him. Although there are many wealthy people in Shanghai who own multiple properties, average homeowners are only paper rich.

We got home yesterday around dinnertime.  I did the unpacking, got the laundry going and took care an urgent issue.  Jake was yelled at by his dad within an hour after we arrived home.  He had been spoiled by our families in Shanghai.  Joe wanted to reset the boundary.  Jake went to his room crying and came down 15 minutes later being his normal cheerful self again.

Jetlag is the price one has to pay for a fabulous getaway to the other side of the globe.  I got up at 4 am and Jake woke up shortly after.  We did laundry together and now he is in his room reading.   Today I am dying to get back to the gym, one of the things on my long to-do list.

Home sweet home.  I am happy to be back!