Life in China

Kunming & Travelling with a Dog in China 

This is an excerpt from an email message I wrote about taking our dog with us to Kunming over the Spring Festival holiday in 2007, including going through airport security with her.

Hello all,

We have returned from our month of holidays in Yunnan province (in the south of China just north of Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam). We spent most of our time in Kunming (the city of eternal spring) taking Chinese lessons. For many of our afternoons it was short-sleeved weather (a nice break from winter -- though we did get snow one day, something that happens only rarely in Kunming).
It was great to be able to focus on learning Chinese for a few weeks. It has helped my spoken Chinese a bit, but where a see the biggest improvement is in my written Chinese, both in ability and interest. I am now interested in working on my writing, and I can now write actual sentences in Chinese. It feels like real communication not just straight memorization. Who'd a thunk it, yours truly writing in Chinese.

We took GouGou with us to Kunming so she had her first airplane experiences. At the airport in Wuxi, on the way there they wanted to put GouGou through the baggage x-ray machine along with her crate, but we wouldn't let them. We had a half hour of the airline people variously trying to convince us that they had to follow the rules and that she was only a dog, mixed with spells of ignoring us, hoping that we would go away. They finally followed our suggestion of getting the metal detecting wand they use with people and running it over our dog while the crate went through the x-ray, and then walking GouGou around the x-ray machine to put her in the crate. She arrived in Kunming on the luggage conveyor belt with no visible signs of trauma, but someone had reversed the door on her crate so the handles faced into the crate. Weird.  

She and we had a fabulous time in Kunming. We had Chinese classes for 4 hours/day, 5 days/week and the school let us bring GouGou to class with us. It was only David and me in the class, so only the teachers had to adjust to a dog in the class, and I think they got a kick out of it. GouGou sure liked racing through the halls during the breaks, or snuffling around the offices seeing what she could find on the floors to chew. 

We got out of Kunming for a couple of days in the last week, going to old Dali (in a beautiful mountain setting. The clear blue skies and mostly clean air were quite refreshing) which is about 4 or 5 hours away. We hired a car to take us and GouGou there, but returned to Kunming on the express bus. GouGou rode on our laps the whole way and had no problems with the five hour ride. She is a great traveling dog.

We had more bureaucratic hassles at the airport coming home. They initially talked about needing a certificate for GouGou from a vet that had to be done three days before flying. They also wanted to put her through the x-ray machine, but eventually the supervisor said that only the crate had to go through. After they ran the crate through the x-ray machine we put GouGou in it and then had to have that plastic strapping put around the crate. They didn't want us to have any food or water in the crate with her. They were afraid that then she would pee or poop on other passenger's luggage (yes, break out of the crate and through the strapping just to soil the virgin clean baggage). David even had to sign a waiver that if she did crap on some one's luggage that we would pay for it. Since the flight was less than 2.5 hours we decided to give in on this point and removed her water dish, giving her a final big drink first. GouGou tends to pull the dish off the crate door herself and spill it so it wasn't a huge change. Once that was all sorted out then it was down the luggage chute for GouGou, at a 45' angle on the conveyor belt.

By the time everything was sorted out with GouGou it was ten minutes to our flight time and we didn't even have our own boarding passes yet. It was then that we were told the flight was delayed for an hour (not because of us... I think). I'm not sure we could have made it through the airport bureaucracy if one of our teachers, Chen Laoshi, hadn't come with us to airport to help us out with just such things. Real above and beyond the call of duty.

Now that we are back in Wuxi we have 5 or 6 days to prepare for the coming teaching term.

Hope this finds you all well.

Love and hugs,


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picture: GouGou sleeping in her crate in Kunming

GouGou sleeping in her crate in a room we rented in an apartment in Kunming, China.