Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

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November 2019

Eleven more days till we enter decade #3 of the 21st century – or enter the final year of decade #2? Not sure how you count anymore…but wow. Life continues to be hectic but as always there is beauty to be found and enjoyed everywhere. Let’s dive into November 2019.

A variety of plants on a shelf by the entrance of my office. The small lemon plant on the far right belongs to me. It was a company birthday gift that I never brought home because it would only die without sunlight in my small studio…so I left it in the office. We have a small balcony where I bring it out to breath occasionally so maybe…it would have a chance to survive.

There was a free open day at the Wuhan Botanic Gardens for a science festival, and I secured two tickets and went with Jian. It was a rare day of relaxed roaming in a natural setting – though with a lot of other people! November wasn’t a great time for plant-viewing, but there were some beautiful water lilies in a pond that caught my attention. These were small and delicate, different than the large ones that bloom during the summer. In Chinese they’re called “sleeping lily”, almost like sleeping beauty!

Some final rays of sunlight before winter finally set in. November was unusually warm this year, with temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius even during the last week of November and first week of December. Sunshine was so abundant that I took the opportunity to go out for lunchtime walks around my workplace. Ah, warmth, do I miss you now!

An area around my workplace that looked like an undisturbed oasis in the midst of a concrete jungle. Not a bad place to take a slow stroll before a busy afternoon…

Dramatic cloud formations like these tend to make my day, especially when I see them early in the morning on the way to work. They remind me of the greatness of God and his creations and make me calm just to think that nothing is ever so big that we have to worry and fear. On with the day!

More clouds encountered during the final cycling trip of the year. Jian was out of town that weekend and I suspected that it would be the final weekend with weather suitable for going out, so I went on a solo cycling trip around the East Lake area. Peaceful and serene, so rare in a big city like Wuhan but thanks to the East Lake it’s not that hard to escape from the urban chaos into a piece of heaven 😉

For Thanksgiving, Jian and I attended a dinner gathering of our church small group. As it was a weeknight, only approximately half of the group members were able to attend, but it was a cozy night with lots of laughter and fun conversations. Oh, great home-made food, of course! In a more or less secular society, it really is necessary to bond with people of the same faith, even though we may only have limited time and energy. Christmas dinner soon (tomorrow, in fact!)

Subway selfie! My colleague remarks that I am always right in front of the camera in selfie shots but hey, it only makes sense because I’m the one taking the photo 😛 A lot of Chinese ladies don’t like being in the front as apparently it makes their face appear round and bloated. Meh, I don’t care, I think it’s cute, don’t you? Someone’s gotta take the selfie, after all 😛

Of course we were taking the subway to Hubei Theatre, where we saw the Mandarin theatrical play for “Tuesdays With Morrie” by Mitch Albom. TWM was the first book that I read by Mitch, who ended up becoming my favourite author. I had already seen the Cantonese version of the play years ago in Toronto, and with the Mandarin version coming to Wuhan, there was no reason to miss it. Morrie was played by a famous actor in Taiwan and Mitch was played by a Taiwanese comedian/singer whom I watched on TV when I was a child. The long-awaited play certainly did not disappoint – well, at least it didn’t disappoint me. Somehow TWM always manages to make me teary-eyed, maybe because it was a true story and the characters are REAL. Don’t know what Jian thought as he hadn’t read the book. He said he liked it though he did fall asleep in the middle for 10 minutes so…

The past week has had its ups and downs but I’m still keeping my cool and optimism. Early mornings and crowded buses may still be my least favourite things but there I continue to find things that light me up with hope and joy. See you soon, 2020!

August 2019

In August I got married!! Well, legally married. In China, the process of getting legally married is usually separate from the wedding. We call it “getting the certificate” and it was a half-hour process of registration, after which you are officially husband and wife. The wedding often takes place after the legalities are taken care of, which is the case for us. We are still planning the wedding, which will take place in BORDEAUX in October, and while everything seems ready, at the same time nothing feels ready. It’s difficult to do everything remotely and distance definitely adds to the stress. A lot of uncertainty, but an equal amount of anticipation…

Right after J and I got officially married, we went on a mini long weekend honeymoon to Lushan (Lu Mountain) in Jiangxi province, which was right next to Hubei. We based ourselfs in Jiujiang, which is where most Lushan tourists stay. At the highly recommended Floral Hotel where we stayed for two nights, there was a small tea corner in our room, which was what attracted me to book here in the first place. Though the hotel was right by the main road, the closed windows served as an excellent sound insulation, and the room was peaceful and quiet, perfect for some relaxation time. Of course, J and I actually went out to buy tea just so that we could properly make use of this intricate little corner…or pretend to, at least. Fancy and classy…we tried!

Speaking of fancy, we had a candle-lit dinner…not buy choice! When visiting our favourite Cantonese restaurant in Wuhan, there was a short power outage, and we were without light (and air-conditioning!) for about 20 minutes. While we waited, the servers lit a candle at our table so that we could enjoy some unintended “romantic” time, though I’d rather have a fan because it was 35+ degrees outside!

August was scorching hot but that didn’t stop J and I from exploring the East Lake on bike…always after 4:30pm when the temperature declined a bit. I didn’t realize this before but the East Lake was HUGE! We went cycling three times for approximately two hours per session, and I think we only covered about half of the East Lake Greenway. One segment had a long mural of random art, and this particular one of Lapras and Charizard caught my attention – and I think that’s a Krabby next to Lapras? There are surprises everywhere along East Lake. There shall be a post on the East Lake to come!

Next up, some photos of beautiful sky. I head west when I take the bus home after work, and when I reach the subway station, it’s usually just when the sun begins to set. As a result, I often see colourful patterns in the sky right in front of me when I hop off the bus, and some are quite impressive! Here a cloud was blocking the sun with its arm extended…or maybe the sun was wearing the clouds as a cloak and this was its idea of *smack my face*, ha!

Another view of the sky as I was walking to the subway station – how gorgeous are those clouds! Now that the sun is setting earlier and earlier, it will be harder to take photos like this because by the time I get to the subway station, the sun has usually set. Optimal time frame for photos at this spot: mid- to late August. Noted for next year…if I’m still working at the same company 😛

I love taking the train in China because you’re almost certainly going to pass by some amazing scenery en route. Sometimes you might also catch an almost-sunset, if you’re on the correct side of the train 😛

At Lushan, while everyone was busy taking photos of mountains and peaks (it wasn’t a very clear day so the photos didn’t turn out great for me), I saw this little guy chilling by a rock. I leaned in closer for a photo…or two, or three, or too many. Luckily it cooperated long enough for me to take a clear enough photo – and how pretty it was!

To prove that we went to Lushan and conquered the Five Old Men’s Peaks we took this photo. I think this was either at the second or third peak and my expression said it all: “It’s hella hot and I can’t feel my legs. Can we go home???” J’s expression was more like “I actually don’t want to take this photo, but we’re here anyway so we must take a selfie of celebration.” Let me just say that it was a VERY long day that consisted of probably 6 hours, 28 km, and 40000 steps of walking…all either uphill or downhill. At the end of the day my legs were shaking like mad and I literally had to lean onto J in order to walk properly. And my legs hurt and didn’t recover for an entire week afterward. Ugh. Never thought I’d fear walking DOWNHILL. An experience to be cherished, but maybe I’ll just stick to gentle hills in Scotland, thank you very much!!

We end with a group photo taken with DM (far left), a friend who visited us in Wuhan, and his friend XQ. We don’t get visitors often so it’s always pleasant to meet and chat when someone does come by. I think J was especially happy because he finally has someone to whom he could tell his secret guy stuff, ha!

As I write this we are counting down 27 days to the wedding…27 days!!! When the next monthly summary is posted I will have already arrived in Bordeaux…just the thought of it fills me with excitement!!!

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.

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??

Something I don’t want to forget

In the blink of an eye, St. Andrews was 6 months ago. I’ve begun and stopped writing this post many times and always hesitated finishing it because I always feel very emotional when I remember that trip. The photos remind me of that weekend, such a short one but one that made me nothing more than content because of my companion. And perhaps I’ll leave it at that.

The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral left behind signs of age and a glorious past. This would be the “touristy” part of St. Andrews, but it was a calm and quiet November morning. I felt like we could have been all alone in the world.

We took a short walk by the pier with the bluest sky, the bluest water, and a very blue me. The cathedral can be seen in the background.

St. Andrews is known as the birthplace of golf. We didn’t get to play, but at least we saw some people (who seemed to know what they were doing) take a few swings. I was just there to enjoy the nice weather, really.

The East Sands of St. Andrews (or was it the West Sands?) hid a wonderful surprise at sunset. It must have been raining the night before, and the sand at the beach formed an amazing ripple pattern, a scene made perfect by the fading light of dusk. I could have stayed in that moment forever.

Then red clouds covered the sky as if devouring it, and I could still remember how it felt, when my heart might have skipped a beat then and there, though it was not for the clouds.

Walking around the University of St. Andrews we passed by a grand courtyard, and wondering about the surrounding buildings, we asked the students what they were, to which they replied that they were residences for undergrads. We marveled at the luxury and wondered how much it would cost to live there.

The trip ended with a walk through the Lade Braes, a trail through the outskirts of St. Andrews. I didn’t hesitate to add a photo to my “Food and the Hills” series, although this was by no means a hill. Who would have known that such a serene place could be found here?

Then I had to leave. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to leave. And say goodbye. The air, the sand, the sunset, the company – thanks for everything.

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