Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Spring in Wuhan, China

If you’re not already aware, Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, has been under lockdown since mid-January (along with the entire Hubei province, where Wuhan is situated) in an attempt to contain the coronavirus. What this means is that all points of exit have been blocked (highways, airport, and train stations), and people in the city can’t get out. Technically it is still possible to get in, but it is perhaps the most difficult task on the planet at the moment. For Jian and me, who live and work in Wuhan, this means that after our trip to Japan, we were unable to return home, and we had been staying in the city of Dalian since February. It seems promising that as the coronavirus situation gets better every day in China, Wuhan will be “unlocked” soon (whatever “soon” actually means), but until then, we wait patiently.

Didn’t manage to book a free ticket to Wuhan University’s sakura festival last year, so I went to the one at East Lake. So many colours, but many more people… (not obvious here, but trust me)

Rapeseed flowers covering vast areas by Yujia Lake last March. Not as huge of an attraction as the cherry blossoms so the crowds were not as heavy.

I think back to last March, when spring covered the city of Wuhan in blossoms and fragrance. I always say that I hate the climate of Wuhan – scorching hot summers and damp, cold winters. But spring is the exception and that ray of hope. March is the time when the dampness finally begins to disappear, and we welcome the sunlight with open arms because we know it won’t be long before we wished that the sun would hide itself again. People begin putting away their thick coats, and the East Lake suddenly comes to life with joggers and cyclists who can’t wait to embrace the warmth of nature. Little wild flowers appear out of nowhere and dress the city in a colourful gown, giving off the most subtle but pleasant scent without the need of a single drop of perfume. The hibernating spirit awakes – this is spring.

Countless violet-pink magnolia buds on the east HUST campus, some already in full bloom!

Tulip festival in Jiefang Park, among other locations. Didn’t have to go to Ottawa or Keukenhof to see these beauties!

Except that’s not the case this year. The unexpected COVID-19 outbreak has put Wuhan into a prolonged pause in 2020. The city continues to quarantine itself, and though spring has already arrived, the streets remain empty, the parks remain desolate, and the city remains quietly asleep. I miss the gorgeous cherry blossoms at Wuhan University, the endless sea of rapeseed fields at Yujia Lake, the graceful magnolias that bloom on the biomed campus, the vibrant tulips at Jiefang Park, and the humble yet charming peach blossoms that line my way to work. I regret that I will not be able to enjoy my favourite time of the year in Wuhan, but OK, I ought to be less greedy and give spring a break. For once, the spring air will be clean and without human pollutants, and nature itself will have a chance to breathe and rejuvenate. Isn’t that a lovely consequence of this seemingly unfortunate event?

Pretty little peach blossoms were everywhere I looked en route between my workplace and the bus station. They are my favourite spring flower in Wuhan because they’re so delicate and cute!

Night falls in Wuhan. We are still waiting for the day the city becomes its vibrant self again!

After all, spring will come back again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. For now, Wuhan, rest and heal. You’re almost there!

January 2020

January 2020 has been a dark month for China and the city of Wuhan. Never would I have thought that the place I now call home would be in international spotlight, but overnight, everyone knows Wuhan because of the coronavirus outbreak. Everything was paused in China, and Wuhan was placed in lockdown with no entry or exit allowed. Till now, Wuhan has been on lockdown for almost a month, and the crisis is still ongoing in China, with many people dying and families falling apart. In the midst of darkness and despair, I put together several photos of night for the month of January, all with a single theme – there is darkness, but there will be light.

Night falls in the quiet village of Wanghe, my husband’s hometown. No one ever expected that anything could disturb the peace and serenity felt here.

Deserted street on the HUST campus. Most students have left the campus to go back home for Chinese new year.

Quiet alley in Gora, Hakone, the first stop on our 10-day honeymoon in Japan.

Side street in Ginza area in Tokyo, Japan, late at night. Even in a metropolis as prosperous and flourishing as Tokyo, night instills a sense of tranquil solemnity and protects the city folks in their dreams.

As the plane landed in Hokkaido, the sun left behind a colourful trail in the dusk as if saying, “Sayonara, see you tomorrow, enjoy your evening πŸ˜‰ “

Residential area in Otaru, Hokkaido, where the guesthouse we were staying at was located. The city was covered in snow and it seemed as if everyone has gone into hibernation.

January 2020 was actually an important month for me personally as a lot of events took place. Jian and I held a wedding banquet in his hometown, after which we went on our honeymoon in Japan, after which…we couldn’t get back into Wuhan. As a result of the lockdown, we’ve been staying in the city of Dalian in northeastern China for around 20 days and counting. Trains and flights are still suspended, as is work in most companies, so we’re stuck until the coronavirus situation gets better in Wuhan and Hubei province. Till then, we hold on to the belief that there is darkness, but there will be light.

Reading “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

I finished “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera on the bus this morning (could have finished it last night if I realized that the last 25 pages were an incomprehensible epilogue). Yeah, I skipped the epilogue after about two pages because it made no sense to me (it consisted of a lot of references to other works that I haven’t read). But about the book itself, I probably only understood 30% of it. And what I did understand, I understood it superficially. The book had a lot to do with philosophy, religion, and mostly politics of Eastern Europe in the last century. Not having any prior knowledge of events such as the Prague Spring severely hindered my full appreciation of the book, but I finished it anyway as I couldn’t bear leaving it half (un)read. I think another reason that this book was difficult for me to read was that I read it in Chinese. Frankly, it was one of those books that caught my attention at the book store and I bought it without having done any research on its cultural background or author or even considered whether I would have liked to read it. But yes, reading it in Chinese was a little awkward, mainly because a lot of the translated expressions were awkward themselves. The essence of the original text must have been lost in translation, even more so in Chinese. There was one part that I read over and over again and still could not understand, so I found an English translation online and, immediately after reading it, understood what it was all about. This made me realize several things: (1) I need to read more literary works in Chinese because there is a lot of room for improvement; (2) English works need to be read in the original version (except for maybe CS Lewis’ “The Four Loves” – his writing style was so profound that I gave up 1/3 of the way in and in this case, it may be better to try the Chinese version); and (3) thank goodness I was not arrogant/stupid enough to try to French version of Kundera’s work, as I would not have gotten past the second page. I should probably re-read the book in English, but not before I finally tackle “The Great Gatsby” and let Kundera sink into the back of my mind for a bit. The “read more” resolution for 2020 (and for many years prior to this…) is off to a good start – let’s continue to rediscover the joy of reading!

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by French-Czech writer Milan Kundera, Chinese translation.

October 2019

The October 2019 post almost wasn’t going to exist. You see, I started this monthly summary thing last October (August and September both only had 6 photos and don’t count here), so September 2019 marked one whole year of doing it. I was going to stop at one year and perhaps continue onto something else, but I changed my mind. I realized that in the midst of a fast-paced lifestyle where one is so easily agitated, it is necessary to constantly remind myself to see, discover, and record those beautiful things in life – nature, people, events, etc. In doing so, I will then not forget to always express gratitude. So then, let the monthly summaries continue πŸ˜€

Tranquil afternoon in the Luoyan Scenic Area of East Lake, the last chance for me to see the rose garden before the winter set in. The rose garden (not real roses) wasn’t all that impressive (and that’s being euphemistic) but the Luoyan area was filled with some nice surprises…

…such as this boardwalk in a wooded area. The air was quiet, particularly because it was raining slightly that day and there weren’t that many visitors, which made it more enjoyable for me.

Sunset view from the balcony outside our office. My office faces the west so in the afternoon, we are often able to catch a perfect view of the sunset right as we get off work. This one in particular wasn’t all that spectacular compared to some of the other ones I’ve seen, but it gives an aura of tranquility and peace – and time to go home πŸ˜›

An assortment of flowers around the neighbourhood in October. The weather had been unusually warm this year up till mid-November, remaining at 20 degrees Celsius (or above) whereas last year, the temperature already dropped drastically by early November. I guess as a result of this, the flowers thought that spring came again…?!! According to some sources, the cherry blossoms at Wuhan University blossomed a bit in October…WHAT!! Foolish flowers being tricked by the weather – but hey I liked that I was able to enjoy their beauties again ^_^ Special attention goes to the sweet osmanthus (top right), whose fragance ubiquitously fills the atmosphere for about three weeks each autumn in Wuhan and has become one of my favourite things in this city!

This photo takes us back to France – the day after the wedding. As I mentioned in the previous post, our wedding venue had a fantastic pool that no one ventured to use as it was too cold – well, except for my brave newly wed husband. He had been going on and on about diving in for a swim and I even found swim trunks for him in Bordeaux for this sole purpose. I guess it wasn’t enough that he was thrown into the pool the previous night while he was in his suit, so he went for a proper swim early in the morning – even though he actually doesn’t know how to swim properly -_- That obviously didn’t stop him!

This was the goodbye photo at the Bordeaux train station. We didn’t want too many people to come and send us off, but three friends (one left early) did insist coming to bid us farewell. Please disregard the awkward and stretched shape of my face as I was the one taking the selfie and the angle was NOT advantageous for me. Otherwise I love this photo because everyone else looks so joyful and cute!

Mini team-building event with the company colleagues in my sub-department in Wuhan, at a popular bookstore called “Define Deer at Discovery” (don’t ask me about the translation…it makes no sense). The main destination was actually the sunflower field right outside the bookstore…

…tada! This was the day before the team-building event, where I brought my visiting friend Jade Blanche (emcee at the wedding). I thought that they weren’t planting the sunflowers this year because last year, they were in full bloom by the end of July, and the field was still empty in September this year. But then when Jian told me that the sunflowers were planted again, only later this year, I was beyond excited! Such lovely flowers full of energy and radiance!

Final photo obviously had to go to one of Jian and me in front of the sunflower fields, under the perfect lighting in perfect weather. The sunflowers have wilted by now so I guess I will see you again next year.

So as I mentioned at the beginning, the monthly posts will continue (if not, the blog will probably die because these are almost the only things I post nowadays). I am trying to regain some more time to blog but while it has been difficult, I will not let the blog die! We suddenly welcome winter this week as the temperature dropped sharply from the 20s to below 10 in a span of one day…my hands are freezing as I type this. Also big things are currently happening in life – no I am not pregnant (yet) – so stay tuned for updates in the next couple of months πŸ˜‰

September 2019

So what happened recently? Well first off I got married to the love of my life in Bordeaux on October 4 – yes, photos will follow in the next post. We got to Bordeaux at the end of September and spent 12 hectic but fulfilling days there and that’s why most of the September photos were actually taken in/around Bordeaux. Let’s neglect the fact that it’s the end of OCTOBER already…my excuse this time is that I’ve taken quite a bit of time to re-adjust to the Chinese working schedule and pace. And still I feel like I’m in permanent jetlag, i.e. tired all the time. Ah well, let the post go on!

The mid-autumn festival occurred on September 13 this year (August 15 in the lunar calendar) and while I didn’t go moon-watching on that day, the then-still-fiancΓ© and I went for a walk two days later, and the moon was still as bright and round as ever.

Another photo of light, this time, sunlight. Or well, the sun was about to set as I took this photo from the new physics building at HUST, where ZJ’s office is now located. Because it is new, everything is clean and shiny and the environment is perfect for work. No wonder I have been a regular weekend visitor for the past month…

Hmmm, wine bottles? This must mean Bordeaux! This photo was taken at the chateau where my wedding took place, in Quinsac (20 minutes away from central Bordeaux by car). I never became the wine connoisseur that I aspired to be but hey, having a wedding at a chateau was not a bad idea, as you will see in the upcoming post πŸ˜‰

What else do you get in France other than wine, you ask? Why, croissants and coffee, of course! Pastry in France in general is divine, and the croissants, warm and crispy and flaky, are unparalleled anywhere in the world. Though, Bordeaux is more known for the pain au chocolat (or chocolatine as they call it locally, not pictured here), which is similar to a croissant but in a rectangular shape and with chocolate chunks embedded inside. I would have to say that my preference is chocolatine – oh such wonders!

Now onto some lovely people. First up, an old friend (literally…) from Glasgow, David, visited me in Wuhan, so naturally ZJ and I had to take him around a bit. Seemed like he wasn’t used to the heat…nor was I, as it was 34 degrees Celsius on the day he visited!

And next we hop over to Bordeaux, where I reunited with the family before my wedding!! My dad and sister have visited Bordeaux during my Ph.D. studies but it was my mom’s first time there. Clearly my sister was a little over-excited but that was probably because we were on our way to a seafood buffet…who WOULDN’T be excited?!?!

Well, not before I got a photo with the blob aka the sister. She would also be one of my bridesmaids and I love her to bits and pieces and even more.

Finally, the long-awaited SEAFOOD BUFFET! I’ve been to Merci (name of the restaurant) a couple of times when I was in Bordeaux and brought my dad there when he visited. I hadn’t actually intended to bring my family there this time (because it was quite far from central Bordeaux) but my dad specifically said that we had to go. Wow, didn’t know he loved it that much, huh. The price is currently 37 Euros per person, and you get 6 oysters, an unlimited buffet of chilled seafood, one hot dish, and one dessert per person in a fancy atmosphere with great service. Quite a deal, actually, as the seafood was fresh and amazingly delicious. We really should have filled the table with food before we took this photo…blah, an oversight as we were all too eager for the group photo. In addition to the immediate family, we also welcomed blob’s boyfriend Marcus, whom we consider as half-family already πŸ˜› Ho, boy, was I full by the end of the evening!!

Finally, a group photo of friends at a home-cooked meal chez Kathryn in Bordeaux. Some were old friends and others were new acquaintances but we shared a joyful time just the same. What’s interesting was that this house was where I met my then-still-fiancΓ© ZJ two years ago, where he was helping Kathryn with painting the walls and renovation. Now, the house is well renovated and ZJ and I are happily married πŸ˜‰

I shall definitely post some wedding photos within the next two weeks – stay tuned!!

%d bloggers like this: