Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Beautiful things: Gates and doors

There are many things I like to take photos of: clouds, reflections, and cityscapes at night, to name a few. Gates and doors are not the most popular or common subjects to photograph, but while sifting through the photos I’ve taken over the years, I realized that I’ve encountered a number of them that impressed me or are simply beautiful. I’ve gathered a small collection of these gates and doors here for your enjoyment.

Perhaps my favourite of them all are these aged but colourful gates all aligned outside the imperial palace in Hue, Vietnam. This is certainly not what most people went to the palace to see but it somehow caught my attention. There were at least five arched doorways (maybe not even gates or doors themselves?) that were lined up in a row in such a way that it was very pleasing to the sight. Almost symmetrical, but not quite perfectly, which is where its beauty lies.

The second one is this gate somewhere in Basel, the first city that I visited in Switzerland. You can only see the outline of the gate itself but two things appealed to me: the elegant details of the curves on the gate and the vivid colours on the other side. The contrast between the dark silhouette and the bright exterior further accentuated the features of the gate, making it one of the most unique ones I’ve seen.

Onto one that took on a rather different style – a door covered with graffiti in Prague. The sprayed writings on the door made it look quite messy, and in fact the door couldn’t be any more ordinary. Ironically, that’s what made it special to me because it shows that the ordinary exists, even in a popular and acclaimed tourist destination like Prague.

Let’s stay in Prague for a bit and go to the Prague Castle, where two weapon-wielding giants guard one of its gates. The one on the left chose a bat as his weapon of choice while the one on the right had a sharp object, presumably a knife of some sort. Each giant was in action, arresting what seemed like tresspassers trying to bypass castle security. Don’t mess with the giants or you might end up under their feet like that…

This door-and-window combination, photographed in Saint-Émilion, couldn’t be simpler, but its exquisiteness lies in the details. The three pots of flower, the octagonal hole in which one of them was placed, the aged walls, the intricate but delicate patterns on the curtains inside, the cobblestone street…a perfectly serene picture.

And finally…here’s a creepy gate that leads to a cemetery, I presume. I had actually completely forgotten where I took this photo and had to dig through my harddrive to find out that it was in…Edinburgh! Looking through photos of this particular trip, I believe this was taken at the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Indeed Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in Europe and I visited it plenty of times when I was living in Glasgow. In addition to the many spectacular spots that most tourists would visit, Edinburgh certainly hides some secrets very well, like this one… 😉

What beautiful thing should I blog about next? Shadows? Clouds? Reflections? Hmm…

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In and out of my comfort zone

While looking through the MiMe (now part of CeMi) members on the web site today I realized that a lot of my former colleagues stayed in the lab after they finished their PhD. This made me think of two things. First of all, would I have been able to stay if I wanted to? I guess that is based on the premise that there was a project I could have applied to and that they would want me to continue working there. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to stay in MiMe or Glasgow – in fact, I had gotten so used to that life that it was perhaps easier to stay if I had the choice. This leads to my second point – stepping out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t thought of this in-depth but I ask myself now: was coming to China stepping OUT OF or INTO my own comfort zone?

There was a transitional phase between my departure from Glasgow and arrival in China, and obviously the deciding factor was J (my fiancé), but China was constantly hovering at the back of my mind as I was struggling to make a decision, even before I met J. Thinking back, I owe myself a round of applause for not looking back on this important decision (though I often complain about the downsides of China), being assertive, and MAKING IT HAPPEN.

It is often tempting to stay in the comfort zone rather than venture into the unknown. The path may be foggy, and it will be difficult to see the way. It takes some courage to accept change. The fog won’t fade away, but you will learn to see with new eyes.

For a long time, I’ve had this confusing identity crisis where I feel like a mixed product between western (Canadian) and oriental (Chinese) culture. Still, I always felt like I could and would identify myself as Chinese, no matter where I am. In that sense, by coming to China, I was actually stepping INTO a zone of comfort – familiar language, good food, and physically looking like everyone else around me. At the same time, China has perhaps been much more of an anti-comfort zone for me, especially in terms of expectations, cultural norms and phenomena, work habits, weather, etc. I had expected the challenges and knew that it would not be easy living here, but I was less ready than I thought I was. It’s not about being capable or incapable of adapting to the new environment and lifestyle, but the struggle to resist assimilation into a person whom even I would despise, because of the influence of my environment – that is ultimately what I fear and want to avoid.

Several points emerge from this. The fact that I say this means that there are people around me whom I despise (perhaps unjustifiably), and I attribute this to the way they are due to cultural norms. I also place the majority of the blame on environmental and cultural influence, and even though it can be resisted, it takes the patience, stamina, and wisdom of a saint, which I do not have. I acknowledge completely that this is a hypocritical statement but my opinion remains. This also brings to light my inherent arrogance and lack of empathy, which are areas that I have to work on.

The entire experience so far has been a tug-of-war between me, myself, and I. Society, culture, and the world are not obliged to change for any one person, so I will have to continue adapting to, accommodating to, and accepting – with principle – even the things I cannot seem to comprehend. The conclusion? There is no real comfort or discomfort – the process of bettering oneself will always be filled with pain and tears, but it is also during those moments that I realize how lucky I am compared to most people, who may not even know the meaning of “comfort”. It is indeed as much a lesson of gratitude and satisfaction as it is of self-discipline and self-development.

May 2019

Here goes May, the month where Wuhan tried to initiate summer but sort of failed, thankfully. (I feel like I can’t start a Wuhan-related post nowadays without talking about the weather – go figure.) The temperature hovered between 25 to 28 degrees Celsius during the final week of May, which was PERFECT, and as much I know it’s wishful thinking, I seriously hoped that it’d be like this all summer. Mid-May also marked the one-year anniversary of my official arrival in Wuhan so at least I could say that I reached a milestone. Good to be still hanging in there 😉

One of the things I do to keep myself sane on a daily basis is to take photos of beautiful things that I see, one of which is cloud patterns. I often see the stunning artworks of God in the form of clouds and they are enough to make my day. This photo was taken at the Guanggu 7th Road subway station in the late afternoon, and it almost seemed as if the smoke was emerging from the sky lit by the setting sun.

Another photo near Guanggu 7th Road station, this time taking in the early morning, from the other direction.

Third and final photo of beautiful clouds in this mini-collection, taken near dusk in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. J and I attended my cousin’s wedding in Yancheng and was heading to Nanjing for the evening, and saw this while waiting for the train. The sun and clouds fascinatingly accentuated the silhouette of the city, sending us a perfect goodbye gift.

A change of scenery here – a view of “Fairy Island Lake” from the highest point of the scenic area. This was taken during a company spring outing and though I honestly did not enjoy 90% of the trip, I give credit to the 2.5 hours of free time that we had in the end. It was raining pretty horrendously when this photo was taken (rain only during the free time, great) but I somewhat managed to capture the surroundings successfully. Perhaps the rain made it more…”fairy-like”??

Not going in chronological order, this is the Pagoda/Temple of Gratitude in Nanjing during the evening. It is named so because it was commissioned to be built by a king in the Ming dynasty as an expression of gratitute to his mother. I think the original has been destroyed and this is a replica, but it looked magnificent at night. The pavilion is lit up in alternating colours but there is a 20-second window every 5 minutes where it is lit up in multi-colours. Very beautiful!

Still in Nanjing, this is a serendipitous photo of a little girl staning in front of the lyrics of the Chinese national anthem carved into a wall, with the score. I was wondering why there was no English version, but I think the four languages at the bottom might all be ones spoken by minority ethnic groups in China. I’m going to venture a guess from left to right…Mongol, Sanskrit, Arabic, and transliteration of Korean. Can someone confirm??

Probably the most random photo of this post is of this small cocktail that J ordered as part of a meal deal. The deal doesn’t exist anymore so unfortunately I can’t find its name, but it certainly was an aesthetically pleasing little addition to an otherwise great (and very large-portioned) meal ^_^

This set of pig figurines (and the large piggy bank) that was displayed at the front desk of the Nanjing public library made my day and I wish I could have gotten the entire set! So adorable!!! The last one on the right must be doing some sort of yoga post, heh, I love it ❤

Obligatory (almost) monthly photo of me and J, taken in Yancheng. J looks so sleepy and clueless in this photo but actually it was just him being his usual dorky self 😛

Overall May 2019 has been a pleasant month, and I think I’m finally realizing this: I can constantly complain about various aspects of Wuhan, but at the end of the day, I have to accept the fact that I’m living here and learn to embrace its imperfections. I will probably still complain just as a way to vent (and it is necessary), but again, keeping a record of beautiful encounters will be my way of maintaining sanity and reminding myself of the good things in life. Yes, even in Wuhan.

April 2019

It’s almost the end of May and I am only getting to the April 2019 post…very late, I know. During the past weeks I’ve been contemplating ending the blog for a variety of reasons, but perhaps not just yet. I might write a post about it – I say that about a lot of topics and never got to them, which is one of the reasons why I want to stop blogging altogether – but before that, let’s recap the month of April, the final reasonably comfortable month in Wuhan in terms of weather…

During the Qingming holiday (early April), J and I went back to his hometown in the countryside and enjoyed breathing fresh air away from the big city. We encountered a cat who seemed to be contemplating its own existence and pondering the meaning of life at a neighbour’s house…or maybe it was just in a daze and waiting for food.

One of the items on my bucket list was to fly a kite and it was achieved during this trip! Well, I’ve flown a kite before this, but not successfully. I was really young and only remember that the kite somehow didn’t work properly – in hindsight we probably just didn’t know how to handle it. This time, I was super ready! J and I reached an open area and the early April weather was just perfect, breezy but not cold! See that kite fly! Higher up, up, and up!

It’s nice to get away from the city once in a while, especially one with so much distraction like Wuhan. Going back to the countryside allowed us to spend some peaceful time where the only thing we heard was the wind in the air and carefree birds chirping.

But of course we had to come back to the city. April was getting warm but not so hot that it was unbearable to go for a walk outside after lunch. The area around my workplace offered some beautiful nature, though the types of flowers weren’t as diverse as those that I saw in March.

Oh hey, almost didn’t see you there, little thing.

This was taken near the station where I usually take the subway to go home after work, capturing the final moments of daylight emitting from the golden globe.

During a random walk on the HUST campus, J and I encountered an event held by a department celebrating their 20th (I think) year of establishment. Naval engineering, I think? There were performances and a small party in the pavilion in the middle of the small lake. I remember very clearly that I got angry at J that evening, though I can’t for the life of me remember why O_O

On the last day of April, I arrived in Nanjing before the entire nation went traveling for the Labour Day mini-holiday. It was definitely a good call because most people didn’t begin their travels until May 1, and so the crowds in the tourist areas of Nanjing were quite bearable. I especially enjoyed hanging around the Qinhuai River, which has quite a lovely atmosphere when it wasn’t smothered by people!

And in Nanjing, of course I didn’t hesitate going to the Fuzi Temple tourist area for the famous street food! Wow there were so many goodies that I couldn’t resist even though I was suffering from a bad cold. I realize that a lot of these typically tourist areas were remodeled to resemble an old town and are heavily commercialized, but even knowing that, I rather enjoyed Nanjing. Then again, that might be because I would rather be anywhere else than Wuhan…

It seems like I can’t write a post without dissing Wuhan or expressing my strong dislike for it, and I don’t think my feelings toward this city will change any time soon. May is also the month that marks the one-year anniversary of my arrival in Wuhan so hey, at least it hasn’t defeated me yet – or has it already defeated me by changing me into someone that even I dislike?

March 2019

Spring is here! I’m hoping it stays awhile before the impending doom of Wuhan’s summer arrives and sucks the life and sweat out of me. March has been a month of generally good weather that made it comfortable for going out, especially to view the various types of blooming flowers, including tulips and cherry blossoms. But I’ll write an individual post about the seasons of Wuhan in the future. For now, let’s talk about spring and March 2019!

This month was all about nature and one of my favourite phenomena to observe is dramatic cloud formations. Like THIS. Let’s ignore the fact that Luoyo Road was madly congested in the opposite direction and enjoy the smooth ride on our electric scooter (operated by J, with me as a passenger), against this fabulous sunset hour!

Dramatic cloud formations #2 – at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology campus. Again I was on the scooter and I told J, “STOP! I need to take a photo of this!”

Dramatic cloud formations #3 – enjoying another sunset, before the sun turns into a monster in the summer. The road was rather crowded with people when I was taking this photo, but I was sufficiently distracted by the unexpectedly lovely scenery and wasn’t as annoyed as I usually would have been.

Onto the flowers – first up, white magnolias in the technology park where my company was based. Well, I think they’re called magnolia, as that was what a colleague told me. One day they just appeared out of nowhere and sprouted and bloomed around the park. It instantly lit up my lunchtime stroll and I couldn’t stop myself from taking way too many photos of these beauties ❤

And here’s a collection of the many types of flowers that I noticed during my walks around the park. I can’t name them all or…any of them, to be honest. I’m going to guess the bright red ones at the top right are late-blooming plum blossoms (peak bloom happened about three weeks ago) and the others are various types of peach blossoms. Someone please tell me what they really are??

As I mentioned previously, peak plum blossom season was approximately three weeks ago (early to mid-March). On a gorgeous Sunday, I went to the plum blossom garden at East Lake and it seemed like every resident of Wuhan was also there – it was so crowded! Can’t blame them though, the weather had been so horrendous for weeks prior to that, so even the slightest sliver of sunlight was able to attract anyone to spend the day outdoor. Though crowded, the garden was beautiful and the plum blossoms were magnificent! I might even have to say that they are my favourite March flowers, compared to tulips, magnolias, and yes…even cherry blossoms!

This shy feline friend of mine appeared around my neighbourhood one day and kept trying to run away from me, but stopped to stare every few seconds. It reminded me of the fox who asked the Little Prince to tame him before they could become friends, and if I could have, I would have brought home this little fella with me. I wonder if it’s still lurking around somewhere nearby…

Almost-obligatory-monthly-photo of me and J, this time in a Ferris wheel (which you probably can’t tell). I was smiling but that was to hide the fact that I was hella scared. And J tried to make me look down at the highest point of the ride… not cool at all.

This height-free photo was certainly a lot more pleasant, phew. Apparently in addition to white magnolias, there were also red/rose/violet magnolias blooming in an area around where I live. Here’s a rare capture of a candid (or intentional?!) goofy moment. It seems like my fiancé isn’t all about all that serious research and teaching stuff, after all!

I still don’t like Wuhan but admittedly the city has been made a lot more bearable with nature’s beautiful exhibitions in March. I can’t emphasize enough that I’m NOT looking forward to the arrival of summer, which is inevitable and the single most detestable thing about Wuhan. Summer, please skip us this year??

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