Schooled: My Pet - Daystar students write about animal friends, both real and imagined

“Mom, can we get a pet?” This is a question most parents have probably heard at least once. Many agree that having a pet during childhood is a special experience; animals both big and small offer a unique kind of companionship to kids. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, keeping pets can aid a child’s development as they learn invaluable life skills such as patience, responsibility, and empathy. For our animal-themed issue, we asked Grade 3 students at Daystar Academy to write about their family pets. Students without pets were also able to get in on the fun by imagining stories about fictitious pets of their own.

Family Travels: An Aus-some Trip - The Borghetti-Acciarini family goes to a land down under

Travelers: Massimo Acciarini, his wife Laura Borghetti, and their daughter Matilde (age 5), who attends Yew Chung International School of Beijing.
Destination: Australia
Travel dates: December 2014-January 2015
Travel plans: The Borghetti-Acciarini family flew from Beijing to Australia through Hong Kong with Cathay, flying into Melbourne and returning from Sydney. They flew from Melbourne to Hamilton Island and from Hamilton Island to Cairns with Virgin Australia, and from Cairns to Sydney with Jetstar.
Cost: The trip cost approximately RMB 80,000 in total. Roundtrip airfare from Beijing came to approximately RMB 8,500 per adult and RMB 6,500 per child ticket, including taxes. Flights within Australia came to around RMB 13,000 for the whole family. Car rental came to around RMB 3,500. Hotel accommodations were approximately RMB 18,000. Day trips in the Whitsundays, Daintree Forest, and the Great Barrier Reef totaled around RMB 7,000. Food costs added up to around RMB 14,000.

Playing Outside: A Hop, Skip, and Jump Away - Daytrips near Beijing for every age, taste, and budget

Huanghuacheng 黄花城
If your idea of relaxation is losing yourself in the mountains, far away from the madding crowd on a crumbling rampart covered with flowers in bloom, then Huanghuacheng is for you. Huanghuacheng literally means “yellow flower city” after the swath of yellow flowers that blankets the site in summer. The hike starts at Jintang Lake and the crescent-shaped Huanghuacheng Reservoir, which breaks the Great Wall into three sections. The hiking trail is accessible from a raised walkway, but keep an eye out for the giant carp flopping around near the sides. Huanghuacheng is also known as Shuichangcheng (“Water Great Wall”) because part of the wall is underwater. After paying the RMB 3 “entry fee” levied by farmers, walk up the trail until you get to a ladder; climb up to start your exploration of the Great Wall. Proceed with caution; some sections require negotiating nearly 45° inclines, loose bricks, and plunging descents. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with soaring views, shadows playing over the mountains, and invigorating winds. Huanghuacheng is about 11km in total; at the eighth guard tower or so, there’s a little path that leads to the base of the mountain. Walk 1km along the side of the road until you get to a village; you can catch a bus back to Huairou Bus Station. Leave by 3.30pm to avoid missing the last bus.

What's Fun In: Wild at heart - On safari at Beijing Wildlife Park

Beijing Wildlife Park in Daxing District is a large ecological park that specializes in animal protection, wildlife training, and reproduction. The park covers an area of 3,600 acres and has 10,000 rare wild animals, including golden monkeys, brown-tailed monals, and bustards. Many of the birds on display are facing extinction. Driving there takes just over one hour from the center of Beijing, and first impressions are of how vast the park is. There are so many areas to the park and so many animals to see; you could easily spend an entire day here.

Features: Born to Be Wild - The value of bonding with nature and animals from an early age

Parents, especially in the age of tablets and smartphones, are anxious for their children to “go outside and play.” But beyond its many physical and social benefits, play also provides a means through which kids can establish meaningful relationships with the world around them.

According to the book Young Children and Nature: Outdoor Play and Development, Experiences Fostering Environmental Consciousness, and the Implications on Playground Design (2011) by Ashley Parsons, a child’s environmental identity is largely shaped during the “developmental window of opportunity” between the ages of 3 and 12. The book, which is based on the author’s thesis paper in landscape architecture for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, posits that meaningful contact with natural (as opposed to constructed) “playscapes” can inform a child’s morals and values, and influence their environmental actions later in life.

Feature: Dog’s Best Friend - Xiangping Xu’s dogged tale of animal activism

Though Xiangping Xu works for an investment group by day, animals are his true passion. “I grew up with cats and dogs. When I see poor, helpless creatures on the street, I just want to help,” says the 32-year-old Beijing native. Xu volunteered for seven years at dog shelters around the city before opening two centers of his own in Shunyi less than a year ago. When we meet Xu at one of them – the Loyal Dog Adoption Center – for the interview, we’re greeted by scores of happy, wagging pups. Xu shares the story of his involvement in Beijing’s fledgling animal activism scene as well as his hopes for the future of animal rights in China.

Feature: Pet Hero - Chris Barden is a man on a mission

Christopher Barden is the founder and owner of Little Adoption Shop in Shunyi. Hailing from sunny California, he has lived in Beijing for almost 20 years. He first came here as a writer, working for Beijing Scene, one of the city’s original expat magazines. In 2000, Barden found himself picking up a few stray cats and dogs; with no real plans for what to do with them, he felt the need to help them in some way. His experiences fueled an interest in animal rights,  and in 2006 Barden became involved with Chinese animal protection groups. Over time, he has earned a reputation as “the foreigner who saves strays.”

Features: Like one of the family - Factors to consider before getting a pet

A pet is for life, so it’s important to take time before making a decision to get one. A dog or cat can have a lifespan of more than 12 years, and they will become an integral part of your family. Pets require work and commitment; they are living creatures that need love, food, training, and more.

It’s easy to find any kind of pet you want in Beijing. Warm- or cold-blooded, common or exotic, there’s a pet market or shop that will sell you whatever you desire, no questions asked. Because of this, pet owners are often ill-equipped to handle the latest addition to their family. Mary Peng, co-founder and CEO of the International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS), says this need not be the case.

Indulge: The Reitz Stuff - Kevin and Jordan Reitz smarten up for Father’s Day

For Father’s Day, we wanted to give one of Beijing’s dads a new look, and Kevin Reitz, marketing director for Great Leap Brewing Company, was happy to accept the challenge. Reitz, who has been in China since 2008, met his wife Esther Wang-Reitz through their shared love of Ultimate Frisbee, a sport he has been playing for almost two decades. They met at a tournament in Shanghai, married in 2012, and now have two kids: Jordan (age 2) and Kaila (10 months).

HRG 2015: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye! - Easing the transition to a new country for your family

Whether it’s the first or third time you’ve moved on as an expat family, saying goodbye is still a challenge. It’s hard enough for adults to say goodbye, but watching a child go through the process – no matter how well they handle it – can be incredibly hard.

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