Annie Bananie en Europe

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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!

Wedding day

After almost 8 months of planning, the wedding happened on October 4th in magical Bordeaux. Yep, I married Jian, the love of my life, in the city where we met. Well to be exact, it happened in the village of Quinsac, about 15 km from central Bordeaux where a church friend owns a château. Enormous thanks to Lilly for hosting us and providing us with a perfect venue, along with catering and planning assistance. Definitely could not have done it without her!

I was never the girl who dreamt about her wedding day or believed that it would be the most important day of her life. Rather, I enjoyed the entire process of planning the wedding and looked forward to the day for two main reasons: (1) I genuinely LOVED planning and organizing such a large event, especially because it was such a personal one and I got to interact with and work with so many friends (although all at a distance), and (2) I viewed this as a grand reunion of the people whom I love the most, whom I’ve met at various stages of my life. It was a celebration of love but also one of friendship and life!

We had around 65 guests coming from four continents, some flying in from China and as far as Martinique! Jian and I individually invited people who have made personal impact in our lives, so that this would be a cozy wedding with the people whom we cared about and who cared about us. We wanted the wedding to be about the guests as much as it was about us, so we involved them in all parts of the planning process – people helped design our wedding pamphlet, transport accessories from China, set up the audio system, move tables and chairs, emcee, etc. etc. All in all, it was more like a big informal party! Endless gratitude goes out to every person who attended and made it such a meaningful day for both Jian and me ❤

We were grateful to have David Page as the photographer of our day. After having contacted no fewer than ten wedding photographers able to work in the Bordeaux area, we chose to work with David because of his enthusiasm, professionalism, and most importantly style. Also, although we didn't have an exclusive engagement session, we did have an opportunity to get some individual photos taken after the ceremony and before the evening reception, with gorgeous nature as our backdrop! We wandered around the grounds of the château with David, looking for different perspectives and new inspirations. The results were outstanding, as you can see in the gallery of our wedding on his web site (password: wuhan), and David managed to capture some valuable candid moments. Here are just a selected few photos that I really loved and put into mini-collages.

Top left: Dad walking me down the “aisle” and me trying very hard not to trip on my dress while still smiling; Top right: Saying our vows, with Pastor Alan as our officiator; Bottom left: The groom seemed a bit nervous? Bottom right: Exiting at the end of the ceremony, with guests throwing flower petals at us!

Top left: Family photo; Top right: The Glasgow people; Middle left: Bordeaux Chinese Christian Church; Middle right: Bordeaux International Church, English service; Bottom left: Homies from Canada; Bottom right: Friends of Jian, AKA Annie and all the cute guys 😉

Top left: Obligatory pic of the bride and the bridesmaids; Top right: Annie and Amy, designer of the wedding pamphlet; Bottom right: Annie and Peiguang, good friend and English/Chinese translator of the day; Bottom right: Huge hug to Andy, still the same after nine years.

Top left: Château grounds; Top right: Annie, Jian, and nature; Bottom left: Just enjoying a nice walk and a fun chat; Bottom right: Gorgeous living room of the château.

Top left: Guests helping with preparations for the outdoor ceremony; Top right: Guests chilling after the ceremony, with perfect weather – maybe even good enough for a dip in the pool? Bottom left: What’s Bordeaux without WINE?! Bottom right: Dinner preparations…mmmm the food was good, so good…

Top left: Tea ceremony for the parents, not really formal or done in the traditional way and mainly done for fun 😉 ; Top right: Behind the scenes of champagne-opening time (actually just sparkled wine), where I showed my true colors by revealing my 3+ chins, thanks to the sister for noticing -_-; Bottom left: The sparkle in my eyes was filled with warmth and satisfaction, so maybe my new husband said something that impressed me…? Bottom right: As foreshadowed earlier, someone (hint hint: the groom) was going to take a dip in the pool, whether he wanted to or not. Would you believe me if I said that he requested to be thrown in?!!

Top left: Family photo after the morning tea ceremony; Top right: Mommy putting on a necklace for me; Bottom left: Casually chatting with dad after the ceremony; Bottom right: Extremely touching and well-delivered speech by Sherry AKA the sister AKA the blob AKA one of the bridesmaids AKA someone who means the world to me.

Top left: Intimate, quiet moments with Jian away from the guests for a little while; Top right: Receiving blessings from Pastor Alan; Bottom left: Presenting our “first dance” with a Chinese children’s tune, “Two Tigers” (tune of “Frère Jacques”); Bottom right: The guests were treated to another song from Annie and Jian’s private concert 😉

Top left: Wedding pamphlet containing the program, song lyrics, and dining menu; Top right: Behind the gates; Bottom left: Wedding gifts for the guests; Bottom middle: THE ONE RING; Bottom right: Dining table set-up, courtesy to my lovely helpers throughout the day!

Special thanks to the following people: Jian for unconditional love and support, resulting in an unforgettable day; mom and dad for granting me the freedom to pursue my dreams; my sister Sherry and my friend Mini for an amazing hair and make-up job and for taking care of me so well as my bridesmaids; Florence for the emotional and spiritual support; Alan for officiating the wedding and Pat for the beautiful bouquet; Andy for traveling all the way from Martinique and offering love that never seems to have a limit; brothers and sisters from the Bordeaux Chinese Church for helping out with planning and coordination, especially Jade Blanche the emcee, James and Luming the groomsmen, and the members of the choir; Kathryn for her gentleness and continuous prayers; Regine for marriage counselling; LS for translating; Mario for transporting guests back and forth between Bordeaux and the venue; the Glasgow crew, especially Amy for designing the wedding pamphlets, CQ+LY+XQ for transporting materials, YBB and WB for operating the sound system, Joy for assisting with small things throughout the day, and Pastor Pan and Anita for the encouragement; the Canadian homies for traveling all the way (one flying in from Singapore) and maintaining our friendship for 10+ years; and everyone else for participating in setting up, celebrating, and having fun. Yup I basically thanked everyone, this felt like a prolonged Oscar speech, thank you very much. (This was why I enjoyed writing the “Acknowledgements” section of my PhD thesis so much.)

In the end, the day had to come to an end, but love and friendship continue to thrive and remain to connect us with each other. Let this be a memory and a seal of all that is joyful, peaceful, and hopeful. Cheers!

July 2019

Of course summer came. Did I really think that I could avoid summer in Wuhan, one of the four ovens of China? Nope, not a chance. Amidst working during a busy season and planning our wedding in October (not sure if I’ve mentioned this before), July has been rather hectic, but that doesn’t stop us from taking some time to observe the beautiful things in life that keep us sane 😉

These flowers look like roses but they’re not the typical ones that you get for your loved one on Valentine’s Day. These ones were growing just outside my office building in mid-July, looking elegant and sassy!

Lotus is definitely the summer flower of Wuhan and there is no shortage of lotus ponds in the city, especially in university campuses. Here’s the one close to the south gate of HUST, though J joked that it was so hot that day that the lotus pads were drying – and it was true!

The people of Wuhan do love their lotus…to eat, that is. You’ve got your good ol’ lotus root but there are parts of the lotus that I didn’t even know existed before coming to Wuhan. Lotus pods and baby lotus stems, for example, are delicacies here that I can’t get enough of 😛

I travel west when I head home from work and so I often catch some nice sunset skies as I hop off the bus. It’s good to see God’s beautiful work of art at the end of a long, exhausting day.

This was a sight to behold. J and I were on a walk around Yujia Lake one evening and it began raining – with lightning and thunder! I am usually terrified of lightning but it was too good of an opportunity to capture some photos of lightining…or at least try. I kept pressing the button of my phone’s camera really quickly, hoping that one of the 2387942 photos that I took would turn out well – and I guess it sort of worked?!! This was the best one that I managed to get – not of a lightning streak but of light emerging from dark clouds looming over the book shop in the distance. Spectacular!

This cat did not seem to mind the outdoor heat and was ready for a long, lazy day ahead. It was only morning though, and I was pretty sure it went hiding somewhere else as soon as the heat of noon hit…

A random gathering with work colleagues from my department, at a very large round table that turns by itself! Convenient, as we didn’t have to turn it ourselves to get food, but you also had to be quick to get the food that you wanted or else you won’t get an other chance till it comes around the next time…if there’s any left 😛

My dear LS dropped by Wuhan as a short stopover and we only had a couple of hours to chat over some drinks. Very rushed, but it’s always fun and jokes when this lady is around. See you soon in October 😉

New glasses, yeah? It’s about time – I think I haven’t gotten new glasses for seven years! These took a bit of time to get used to but I like the thick black frames. And I complimented J by saying that he looks handsome in this photo and he blushed like a little kid, hehe ^_^

Another two weeks to go till September and then it’ll be one month before our wedding…stress and anticipation!! So much work, so much planning, so much to look forward to!

June 2019

We’re gonna start our monthly summary post with a brief but obligatory weather update: IT’S NOT SUPER HOT IN WUHAN THIS SUMMER. Last year it was 35+ every day by the end of June, and now it’s almost mid-July and the highest temperature we’ve seen was around 33. Perhaps my prayers of a bearable summer have been heard!!??? And 33 is still hot, especially when it’s humid and sticky and yucky, but it’s so far been so much better than what we had to deal with at this time last year. I do have a feeling, though, that the worst is yet to come, or the entire summer is being shifted back so it’ll still be ridiculously hot in October.

As a result of the not-so-horrendous weather, I went out more than anticipated in June. One Thursday, the Internet was down at our company, so we had a spontaneous day off (which was made up on the Saturday that week because there is NEVER a free day off in China). Anyway, on this unexpected day off, my colleague and I made a short trip to East Lake – I do that often enough already – and wandered around the Moshan scenic area. We stumbled upon a place where we could climb up to get a panoramic view of East Lake – and THIS! In the far distance is the skyline of the commercial district of Wuhan, and closer to us, at the center of the lake is an elevated greenway that traverses the lake from north to south. On a nice day, a lot of people like to take walks or cycle through the greenway and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but don’t underestimate the distance! This is definitely the highlight of East Lake and what makes it well known as one of the best places to relax, for both locals and tourists.

This photo was taken as the high-speed train I was on was pulling into Wuhan Railway Station, and the name of the station here is in mirror image. I’ve been to Wuhan Railway Station many times but have never taken a photos from this angle…or any angle, in fact.

A lot of young people nowadays like places that are quaint and artistic. There are often at least one of two of these streets or areas in a big city, lined with small shops selling hand-made art, trinkets, and random accessories. I used to like them too but they’ve become all the same and too commercialized, like anything in China that gains popularity. I’ve read about “Da Li Cun” (“Big Lee Village”), which was apparently not so far from my place, so one spontaneous day I went to look for it. There are supposed to be these cozy hostels and unique art shops and cafes but…the surrounding area was being dug up and reconstructed! I felt like I actually stepped into a worn down village and not an artistic world as advertised (though I knew better now than to trust embellished advertisements). The hostels and art shops were there, alright, but how should I put this…there was an indescribably eerie feeling in the air. Definitely not a place I recommend going to…at least not before the constructions are complete.

I think these are characters from Kung Fu Panda…well I only watched Kung Fu Panda 2 many years ago and remember the panda itself, so I don’t know who the other guys are.

For my wedding in October, I am giving out custom postcards as favours. They are all of photos that I personally took of Bordeaux, Wuhan, Canada, or other places to which I’ve travelled with the specific recipient. The company that I found that prints postcards does it quite well, and I’m satisfied with the quality, given the price. Here is a sneak peak of the ones that I got as samples to test the quality – not revealing the ones I’m actually giving out!

There is a place at the Optics Valley commercial area called “Fountain Square”, but I didn’t think there was a REAL fountain there. One night after dining with J, we were walking around and stumbled upon a musical fountain show at the Fountain Square! Pretty cool, especially because it wasn’t planned at all.

We saw a large “I ❤ HUST” sign at the grand entrance of HUST one day and I insisted taking a photo of J with it – because I know and he knows that he loves his university. In the background is a statue of Chairman Mao, which is the landmark of HUST. I would say I love HUST too, but I have to add…HUST’s food! I don’t work there so I don’t spend >50% of my life there, but I do eat at the canteens there at least four times a week so I’d day…yes to HUST food!

We found out later that the “I ❤ HUST" sign was only there temporarily for the graduation season so that people could take photos with it. At another building, there was a sign that says "Graduation time!" with a large banner in the back that says "Degree conferral ceremony of the graduating class of 2019 at the HUST". I of course was neither a student at the HUST nor was I graduating (my last graduation was more than five years ago…ha!) but I liked to pretend that I was still a youthful student with hopes and dreams. Just look at that big smile with aspirations for a bright future!

We end with the only group photos of this post, which is a family photo taken at the famous Yellow Crane Tower. A lot of people thought that the lady behind me is my mom, but it’s actually my aunt. She and my dad visited Wuhan at the beginning of the month and of course we had to take them to some tourist attractions, Yellow Crane Tower being one of them. My dad still has that typical “what, a photo is being taken now?” look on his face which I find funny and adorable at the same time 😛

As opposed to most previous posts where I complain about life in Wuhan, I will actually say that life has been rather fine lately mostly because of the delayed onset of bad summer heat. I will take a cool rainy day over a 33+ degree day any time, thank you very much, though I KNOW that the heat is still yet to come. Wedding planning is also stressful, especially because everything is done over long distance, but it is more enjoyable than stressful. Less than three months to go…

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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