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(From "YEAR ONE: Crash Course In Culture Shock")


Dear Journal,

It's been a fun and crazy three days since the last time I wrote. So much has happened I couldn't possibly write it all down, but I'll share the funniest and best parts. Whenever you put thousands of people together inside a giant playground, there are bound to be some unexpected surprises in store. That was what my dad said to my mom right before we entered Disneyland and he was right!

Disneyland in Hong Kong is cool even before you get there because you can ride a train right into the park! In Hong Kong, it's not a subway because it runs above ground. They call it the MTR and it takes you everywhere! We took it from the airport to our first hotel and the next day we took it to Disneyland. Dad surprised our whole family and got us hotel rooms inside Disneyland for two nights so we could play, rest and play some more. Here's a run-down of our two days at Disneyland with Ita and Tata.

Day 1: We did a lot of walking, a lot of snacking and a lot of standing in line. We got to ride on some pretty fun rides like the Buzz Lightyear Astroblaster ride and my favorite of all, The Iron Man Experience. Dad wanted me to go on the Toy Story RC Racer roller-coaster ride, but I took one look at how high that thing went up into the air and was like NO THANK YOU. He rode it by himself and sat at the very back seat. It was so easy to see him with his shiny bald head...I don't think we could ever lose my dad.

I gotta say so far China hasn't been that hard to get used to. I heard LOTS of people in Disneyland speaking English and we had chicken nuggets, pizza and tacos for lunch and dinner. It's like America! I told my dad this and he just kind of smiled. Something told me not to trust that smile. Mom said that Hong Kong is a really international city which means there are people living in Hong Kong who come from different countries all over the world. I definitely saw lots of people in Disneyland who looked different from me. Hair colors and skin colors and different sounding languages. I guess English is a language that people all over the world learn to speak.

As we were walking around the park we kept seeing kids with Star Wars lightsabers and wearing Star Wars costumes. Lucas and I love Star Wars. Lucas loves it even more than me. Sometimes he thinks he's a Wookie! Mom looked at the park map and saw that there was a Star Wars interactive show starting in 30 minutes so we ran over there as fast as we could. I need to clarify that for some reason I'm running with the adults, but Lucas is getting pushed around in his stroller. Nobody thought to bring a stroller for me?! When we got to the Star Wars show, the line was so long that we knew we weren't going to make it and that was the LAST show of the day! We were so bummed out, but we immediately made plans to catch the first show the following day. We checked the schedule and now we knew exactly where to line up. The good thing was that we had all night to practice our lightsaber moves and take Darth Vader down. We made our parents stay and watch the full show even though we weren't in it. Lucas and I were taking notes, studying moves, analyzing strengths, and identifying weaknesses. There were many. Apparently, each kid had to follow the SAME set of moves so no wonder Darth knew how to block and counter-attack. I looked at Lucas and smiled. He smiled back. We were about to bring down the dark side! We made SURE to pick up new lightsabers from the toy shop so we could practice all night.

The next day, first thing in the morning, we headed to the Star Wars battle. The first show was at 10 am and we were the first in line. Mom, dad, Ita and Tata took their seats in the audience and were already busy taking pictures. The line quickly began to grow. By 10 am there were about 50 kids in line behind us, all smiling and waving to their parents. I wondered if any of them were as prepared as we were. I started to get nervous since I was the first in line, but I didn't have much time to worry because suddenly some loud music started playing and all these people dressed in rebel outfits came running out barking orders at us. We were quickly marched past a rack of Jedi robes and told to grab one and put it on and then handed a lightsaber. From this point on it's kind of a blur...we did some really useless training with dodges and blocks and strikes...nothing like Lucas and I had practiced. Then the music got louder and scarier and all this smoke and steam came pouring out of this wall and then Darth Vader himself - he was HUGE - came out laughing. Our rebel leader trainers were shouting and giving orders, but I honestly couldn't understand them with all the music and noise. I looked back at Lucas. His teeth were clenched shut and he had a crazy look in his eyes. Mom and dad gave me a thumbs up. I felt myself being pushed forward from behind towards the giant Darth Vader who could easily annihilate me with one blow. I forgot everything Lucas and I had practiced and everything our trainers had just told us to do. Darth Vader said something to me in his deep, creepy voice and then he started swinging his red lightsaber at me. Thankfully, he did it a little slow and stopped just short of actually hitting me because I miss blocked his every strike and before I knew it, I was being pushed away so the next kid in line could have a little brother. I exited the stage and began running over to my parents just as Darth Vader walked up to Lucas and said "The force is strong in this one, but he's still no match for m....." and before Darth Vader could finish his line Lucas' lightsaber shot up and hit Darth Vader right in his private part...hard. Darth Vader looked like he had a lot of protection on, but apparently there was nothing protecting his private part because as soon as Lucas hit him there, the big bad guy fell onto his knees and made a loud moaning sound. The rebel leader who was standing next to Lucas had to help Darth Vader as he shuffled off of the stage. Lucas looked over at us with a big smile on his face and raised his fists and lightsaber into the air. Many of the people around us were laughing and pointing and a cheer went up from all the kids in line. I had never seen my parents and grandparents trying so hard not to laugh. Finally, another rebel leader came over and escorted Lucas off the stage. Mom and dad stood up and told me to follow them and we all walked over to meet Lucas. People all around us were still laughing and staring at us. Dad picked Lucas up into his arms and said we better be going now! I followed behind them but looked back just in time to see a new Darth Vader walk out onto stage...all 4 or 5 feet of him! Darth Vader had shrunk! All the kids in line and their parents started laughing, me included. I couldn't help it. Darth Vader had instantly changed from frightening to kind of cute! Lucas had done it. With one well-aimed blow, he had taken down the dark side!

We spent the rest of the day talking about Lucas' victory and wondering if Darth Vader would be okay. We also watched the video dad had taken over and over and over again. I changed the famous strike into a slow-motion video and that made everyone laugh even more. Later that afternoon, Lucas had another unexpected adventure. After we left The Iron Man Experience ride for maybe the 5th time, Lucas climbed into a stroller that looked like ours but wasn't. Mom started pushing him around. He started munching on some snacks that looked kind of strange hanging from his mouth. He handed one to me and as soon as it touched my hands I chunked it and screamed. It looked like an alien and smelled bad. Mom stopped the stroller and asked me what the problem was. I asked her what kind of snacks she packed for Lucas. Curious, mom peeked under the stroller roof and then froze. She pulled out a bag of alien creatures that apparently people eat called SQUID. Dad came over and took a look. How in the world did Lucas get a bag of dried squid?! That's when mom looked closer at the stroller, checking the storage compartments underneath. There were diapers with Chinese characters on them. We took the wrong stroller! Mom and dad did a quick U-turn and we ran back to the Iron Man exit area. Just as we pulled up, a Chinese family was standing next to our stroller, looking around and scratching their heads.

"Dui Bu Qi" my dad said over and over again which I later learned means "sorry" in Chinese. Mom pulled Lucas out of the seat and handed their stroller to them. Lucas still had a piece of squid hanging out of his mouth. The Chinese family looked a little shocked, but they smiled and said "okay" then dropped their toddler into the seat and took off. I'm pretty sure I heard the kid start screaming within seconds when he realized all his squid snacks were gone.

Some kids will eat anything...I am definitely NOT one of those kids. However, what happened at dinner last night was a revelation even for me. During our second and final night at the Disneyland hotel, we went to a restaurant that had an all-you-can-eat-buffet. I'm a big fan of buffets because I can jump from pizza to tacos to nuggets all in the same meal. Usually with unlimited fountain drinks and best of all, unlimited deserts. The only problem is that I'm not big enough to hold much in the way of food so I have to be really strategic. I pace myself and take only 1-2 bites of eat item I'm craving. So a few bites of pizza and then maybe one chicken nugget, half a taco, 1 pancake, four french fries, 6 chips with salsa, one bite of my steak...this is when my mom raises her voice and sort of talks/yells at me for having 3 plates in front of me covered in pieces of half-eaten food. I'm not sure what the problem is because Lucas is taking care of the problem, grabbing the pieces and making them disappear. Thanks to me, he doesn't have to walk around or wait in line! I go back for more and discover there are no more plates. Uh oh. I haven't even gotten dessert yet! Thankfully, they had big bowls. I created a cake and ice cream with cool whip and marshmallow volcano.

That's when my mom asked if we had seen the chocolate fountain. Chocolate fountain?! So that's what that brown slimy thing is! I had seen it earlier and thought maybe a broken pipe was spilling out mud. Mom explained how you can grab fruit and dip into the chocolate and eat it. The fruit is healthy and the chocolate makes it even more delicious. Now, I need to be clear about something. I'm not much of a vegetable guy and I'm not much of a fruit guy. I'll eat corn and broccoli from Panda Express. The only fruit I'll put in my mouth are apples...GREEN apples. I'm not sure why I'm picky. My parents seem to have a problem with my keeping it so simple.

Okay, mom. I went to the chocolate fountain and started dipping. Chocolate on marshmallows...Yummy. Chocolate tortilla chips? Not bad. I do like meat...I took a piece of steak and dipped it under the cascading chocolate. I lifted it to my mouth and took a bite. It was some of the best meat I've ever tasted. When I got back to the table with a plate of chocolate-covered meat, my family erupted in laughter, but I didn't care.

On our way out of the restaurant, I was holding Lucas' hand when he asked for one more marshmallow. We walked over to the dessert table together and when I reached for the marshmallows he lifted his teddy bear doll and stuck its head into the chocolate fountain. One woman standing nearby gasped and another shrieked! Eyes all over the room were glued on us. I grabbed Lucas' hand and yanked him away from the fountain as his chocolate-covered plush doll left a trail behind us. Our family erupted in laughter again when Lucas and I exited the restaurant and joined them. Dad said to hurry back to the room as he looked over his shoulder. Apparently, the chocolate fountain might have been banned for the rest of the night thanks to Lucas' bear contamination. Lucas wouldn't let anyone wash his bear off and he fell asleep with the bear's ear in his mouth.

Whenever we eat a buffet, my dad always says the same thing: "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" He goes on to explain that God is like a buffet because there are so many wonderful things about God, but you have to taste them or try them. Just like food, you never know how good it is unless you take a bite. Dad says this Bible verse is an invitation to experience God and see for yourself how good He is (I realize my parents also use this verse and speech to try and get me to eat more fruits and vegetables). I get their point, but it still seems strange to "taste" God. I can't imagine God wants Lucas nibbling on His ear!

Dear God, I'm not very courageous when it comes to trying new foods, but I'm sure glad you created pizza, and thankfully it includes almost ALL of the food groups: bread (crust), vegetables (tomato sauce) and meat (pepperonis). I'm willing to eat more pizza to be more healthy! I might not completely understand that it means to "taste" You God, but I do believe You have given me many good things: my family, my friends, a big and beautiful world full of all kinds of cool Disneyland. I guess I do get to experience You through the things You have made all around me. Thank you for the sun and moon, stars and sky, rain and snow, flowers and grass...and most of all, chocolate! Amen.

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