Lens- Artists Photo Challenge: Second Time Around

I did not participate in the LAPC Challenge for months because of my very busy schedule, but today I am able to squeeze in some time to write a post and John’s chosen theme is something that most of us, I’m sure, can easily find photos for as there are many places we would like to revisit or imagine revisiting at this time when we cannot travel to any place outside our home cities.

The first place I would really go to again as soon as travel bans are lifted is Jimei, where my husband has been living all alone for three months now after my son and I left. Jimei has been my second home for over 17 years, and this is the longest I’ve been away.

Jimei, Xiamen

Last year, I was so lucky I got to see the U.S. of A. for the first time, and before the virus broke out. I got to see New York and Boston and enjoyed every minute of it. I was looking forward to seeing Washington, DC and Maryland in June this year, but I guess it’s not meant to be.

Oculus, NYC
Boston

The one other place I would really love to visit again is South Korea, not just for the place but to see my best friend again.

I hope we all get to travel again soon, and have the chance to revisit places we love and create new memories.

Have a lovely week!

T.

LENS Artists Photo Challenge: Second time around

Beautiful November Morning

I went out for a walk this morning and couldn’t help taking photos as I thought the weather was perfect at 70F and it was breezy with blue sky above and quiet except for the rustling of the leaves and chirping of the birds.

Life is beautiful.

I hope you have a beautiful morning (or evening) too! 💕

T.

LAPC: Monochrome

Huawen Xue Yuan, Jimei, Xiamen

This week Patti chose “Monochrome” for LAPC’s theme.

She said, “Monochrome can also add drama, mystery, and emotion to a shot…” and I agree!

These are some photos I took yesterday when my husband and I went out for a walk.

Long Zhou Hu (Dragon Boat Lake), Jimei, Xiamen

Happy Sunday!

T. 💕

Lens Artists Photo Challenge:Monochrome

In search of Gong Bao Ji Ding

In my first few years in China, I often ordered Gong Bao Ji Ding (宫保鸡丁 or Kung Pao Chicken) and Mapo Doufu (麻婆豆腐)whenever we went out to eat simply because the Chinese restaurants my friends and I often went to were Sichuan restaurants.
But as years passed and my friends left in China, my husband and I seldom go out to eat, and when we do we don’t usually eat Sichuan food. So I had not eaten Gong Bao Ji Ding in at least 4 years even though I live in China! Until today.

We purposely went out to find a restaurant that serves Gong Bao Ji Ding because the restaurant we used to go to no longer serves my favorite dish! We walked about 3 km until we found one that serves it. Though I was a little disappointed it didn’t taste the same as I remembered it, I was still glad I finally got to eat it again!
Another dish I recalled liking then and ordered today was Gan Bian Si Ji Dou (干煸四季豆).

This one tasted the same though.
All in all we had a beautiful morning walk that culminated in a good lunch that brought back memories of good food and fun company.

Have a wonderful weekend! 💕

T.

LAPC: Candid

Gentle and glowing,

She dazzles every creature

With her candid pose.

—–

I know Ann-Christine suggested candid photographs of people and animals, but I don’t have lots of those that I think I can share publicly. Then I saw the moon tonight and thought, “What a beauty!” And I attempted a haiku praising the moon, and thought of the word “candid.” So there. 😉

Have a lovely week!

T.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge: Candid

Trees and Roots

(I do not know what this tree is called, so if you do I’d be very grateful if you could drop me a line in the comments section. Thanks! 🙏🏽)

Jimei, Xiamen, China

I’ve taken photos of these trees’ roots before for the Weekly Photo Challenge. The roots then were not as big as they are now.

Have a lovely Monday! 💕

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

Buffet at North Bay in Jimei

If you ever find yourself hungry in Jimei, try the buffet at Cafe Realm at North Bay Hotel. (No, this is not a paid ad. I wish it were. Maybe I should ask? Lol.)

This weekend I was fortunate to have had Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner at North Bay. It made me smile when the guy who prepares the sashimi recognized me, said “Hello!” and spoke to me in English. He knows I love salmon!

The buffet includes a soup selection, and seafoods, barbecue/steak, rice and pasta, fruits, Chinese, Japanese and western dishes, ice cream (local and Haagen Dazs) and what I love best — the pastry selection! All you can eat cheesecake and many other sinfully delicious cakes!

They also offer a variety of fruit drinks, coffee, milk, soda, Budweiser. In the evening they serve wine as well.

North Bay Hotel, Jimei, Xiamen

Lunch: 11:30 – 2:00 P.M.

Dinner: 5:30 – 9:00 P.M.

Price: 26-28 USD

Now, I hope North Bay sees this and rewards me! 😉

Have a lovely week! 💕

T.

Something to warm the heart on a cold, rainy day

It’s a cold and rainy day, and my apartment has become too quiet for me, so I decided to bring my work to the McDonald’s in the mall across the street from our university.

A few minutes after I sat down, a young woman with a baby sat a few tables across from mine. She was having a difficult time watching the baby, making sure he won’t fall down from the chair as she tried to get something from the baby bag. Another young woman at the next table looked like she wanted to help, but as most Chinese do, she probably did not want to seem like intruding.

When their food came, the young mother (she has to be the mother) became busy with arranging the food on the tray and just for a few seconds perhaps, forgot what the baby was up to. And it turned out the baby had reached for the cup of milk tea and spilled the whole thing. The young mother panicked a little as she called for the crew. Two McD staff calmly came over and even smiled at the mother, cleaned the mess, and one of them later brought her another cup of milk tea.

Before they left, the young mother apologized to the staff and the same man who had helped her earlier just smiled (I couldn’t hear what he said) and also said something to the baby.

Why am I writing about this? Obviously because this is something I don’t often see, especially here in Jimei where workers often look so unhappy and unhelpful.

So, I am grateful to the staff of McDonald’s in Jimei Wanda for making this cold and rainy Jimei day feel warm.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!💕

T.

A Quiet Walk on Lantern Festival

After 6 busy weeks in the Philippines, I am back in very quiet Jimei. Blissfully quiet for now, except for the occasional firecrackers in the distance, as the students are not back from their holiday yet.

Though I miss my son already, I am thankful for the quiet walk I had this afternoon, something that I did not have a chance to do back home.

Every now and then I need to be alone with my thoughts, and today I got the chance.

Here’s what the campus looks like for now.

No basketball games

The cafeteria is closed

Happy Lantern Festival!🎉🏮

T.

Change, Challenges, Moving On

Jimei sky on a winter noon

Introverted, routine-oriented people like me get disoriented when something not part of the routine takes place. The occasional lunch with co-workers is always a task, even though they are nice people, simply because it’s not part of my daily routine, and I always make an effort to be an interesting or even just a lively person (I personally find it rude when a person joins you for a meal and looks miserable. I’d rather that person refuse to join me for a meal than be with me looking unhappy. Hence, my effort at being an interesting/lively rather than boring companion.)

This disorientation is magnified when bigger events occur in my life, like when some 16 years ago, my then-boyfriend left the country (and me!) and all of a sudden, I was left to make plans for the day for only myself. “What will I do with this much time all to myself?” I went to work moving about like a zombie for months!

When my mother died, I felt so vulnerable whenever I remembered (actually, I still do) that I no longer have a “prayer warrior.” In the past whenever I had a problem, I would just pick up the phone and call my mother long-distance and ask her to pray for me. I know it sounds so immature for a grown woman to be depending on her mother so much, but that was all I depended on my mother for. I never asked her for anything else after graduating from university. Just prayers. Still, when she died, I was at a loss not having anyone to call to ask for prayers. I mean I could have called my sisters or some of my friends, but with my mother I was assured that her prayers were most fervent because she was praying for her youngest daughter, the only one to leave her side to work in another country.

When introverted, routine-oriented people like me are put in a new situation, we tend to have an extremely difficult time adapting to change. We may seem to look like we are coping well with the change, but deep inside, the challenge is overwhelming. Yet, we survive and I think our introversion has much to do with it. As introverts, we rely on very few people, but more important and this is most helpful, we rely on ourselves the most. Slowly we learn to start a new routine, and we recover in due time.

And we move on. In due time.

May you find the courage to adapt to change, face challenges and move on.

Happy New Year! Happy New Life!💕🎉

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unlikely

My husband and I were walking from the restaurant to the post office when he spotted this caterpillar. I wouldn’t have seen it because it was high up on a vine on a fence, and I’m short. Luckily phone cameras have a zoom function.

Weekly Photo Challenge:
Unlikely

Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

I’ve been living in Jimei for over a decade, and this place is just a 10-minute walk from my old apartment, but I’ve only been to this place twice. It’s not my in my usual route when I go walking. Yesterday though I decided to show my friend this place, and we loved it. It was 17 degrees C, cloudy and breezy.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

Daily Prompt: Elastic 

To be elastic is to be flexible, tolerant, resilient, to easily recover from depression or exhaustion.   

To be elastic should be everyone’s goal. 

I easily get angry, but I also easily get over the anger which sometimes annoys me because I think people shouldn’t just be allowed to readily forget the hurt they caused you. But that’s me. 

I also get depressed so easily, but let me walk around a quiet park and give me solitude and let me have a good cry, then I’ll be fine. 

Fuzhou Normal University

Jimei University

I like to think I’m “elastic,” but my husband doesn’t think so. He always tells me I’m stubborn, and maybe he’s right. But there’s one thing I’m 100% certain of — that both us have some “elasticity” within us or we wouldn’t still be happily married after 11 years! 

Have a lovely weekend! 💕
T. 

Daily Prompt: Elastic 

Images of a Jimei Evening

This year Xiamen hosts the 9th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit from September 3 to 5. The city has been preparing for the summit for some time, and this is the reason the whole city, not only Xiamen island, but its district on the mainland as well, has seen so many changes — all to make Xiamen more attractive. 

Right after super typhoon Meranti struck Xiamen last year, Jimei looked so dark at night viewed from the plane. It was such a sad sight 

But these days, Jimei is all lit up, and I enjoy walking around the campus in the early evening when the lights are on. 


Have a lovely weekend!💕
T. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridge 


This new bridge  over Yinjiang Road is an overpass for pedestrians. It’s not as yet operational as the workers have not finished painting. It’s just one of the many things to see in China. Here, there’s construction going on everywhere you go. 


Jimei Bridge, completed in  2008, has a total length of 10 km. It connects Xiamen Island to the mainland at Jimei District. 

This is one of my favorite photos and also the one that received the most likes in this blog so far. I took this photo as the plane from the Philippines was about to land. I left home to come to my second home. And this bridge will get me there. 
T. 💕
Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridge

Changes, Transitions and the Passing of Time

JMU at 6A.M.

Yesterday I went out for a walk at about 5:15 in the morning. These days sunrise is usually around 5:30. As most of the students have already left for the summer, the campus was blissfully quiet when I walked around.

Jimei at 6:30 P.M.

In the evening, I went out again after spending the whole day working on the computer. This time I went out of the campus. I took a picture of this new bridge that will replace the rickety temporary one that they put up after closing the old underpass, which I kind of miss because of the memory I have of the people who were always there during my first year here: the friendly fruit lady, and the old man who played the erhu, the melody of which echoed around the walls of the underpass and even above ground.

Jimei at 7:15 P.M.

Getting back to the campus, I walked towards the west side. I  took a photo of these new apartment buildings situated in what I used to think was a swamp. A taxi driver whom I’ve known for as long as I’ve been here once told us that they used to take a boat from their home on the southern part of the district to this place where these buildings are now.

For me, Jimei  has changed so much in just over a decade. For the quinquagenarians and older, even more so.

Everything changes. Everyone changes. 

All one can do is move on.

Have a lovely weekend!💕
T.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient 

Jimei Bridge, Xiamen


This photo was taken last month as our plane was landing at Gaoqi Airport, Xiamen. 

For the  last two years, I’ve been flying home every month, which means at least four flights a month. So I feel something like a transient in the two cities I call home. They are both home, yet when I am in either place, it seems I’m only there as a guest. 

I am hopeful that this year, I will cease feeling like a transient and have more stability in my life. I hope my whole family can be together in one safe place. 🙏🏻
T. 💕

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient 

New Year’s Resolutions (Or, how to keep my sanity in 2015!)

From elementary school through high school, we were always made to write a composition called “My New Year’s Resolution” before Christmas break. That was always the last formal theme writing topic.

Believe it or not, every year I still write down my resolutions on my journal. Reading my journals from previous years, I find I managed to keep some for a year or longer; but mostly I failed.

For 2015 and the coming years, I resolve to be kind not only to others, but to myself most of all. I am too old to be making the same mistakes and hurting myself the same way I did when I was 20!

So here are my new year’s resolutions. What’s yours?

1. Don’t be too proud, be humble.

2. Don’t be vindictive, be forgiving.

3. Don’t expect too much from people you care about, be patient with them.

4. Don’t care too much about the lives of the people you care about, live your own life.

5. Don’t forget you’ve made these resolutions before, be mindful of them.

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A beautiful day in Jimei

The Egret on Campus

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Egret on holiday

Our campus has a sanctuary for egrets. In the summer, one can see the beautiful white egrets perched on the trees by the lake –beautifully white on a green background.

The campus has provided the egrets with a safe haven where they can freely get food and not fear being hunted. True, a lot of of people — students and tourists alike — take pictures of them, but there is no threat.

As winter is approaching, most egrets migrate to the south where it is warmer, like my country.

Walking to work the other day, I saw this lone egret on the wooden bridge. I looked around for other egrets, and there were none. I strained my ear for the kraaa-aaa sound, but there was none.

I’m always guilty of overthinking things and over-empathizing. I imagined what it is like for the egret if it has really been left behind by the other egrets.

Let’s call the egret Trista. Is Trista happy that she can have all the food she wants as she has the lake all to her self, after all it really is not winter yet? If she has parents and siblings, is she happy that she can finally do what she wants to do without them watching every move she makes and criticizing her for not doing things well?

Did she choose to stay, or had she no choice but to stay?

Perhaps when evening comes and it is time to sleep, Trista will begin to feel the pang of loneliness. As it gets darker and she sails through the sky alone, and she looks down and sees human families relaxing at the well-lit park and lovers sitting close to each other on the wooden bridge on the lake, maybe she will feel so alone. And lonely.

When she goes back to her home where her mother’s constant nagging used to annoy her, and her siblings never-ending chatter used to drive her crazy, does she wish they had not left, or that she had left with them?

I watched its movements and thought it was really enjoying its time. Or maybe it's just my imagination.

I watched its movements and thought it was really enjoying its time. Or maybe it’s just my imagination.

Serenity in Solitude

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The other day I read about a father who sang a song and played the guitar for his dying baby.

I couldn’t stop crying, and just wanted to hold my sleeping Eli as tightly as I could.

There is so much pain and suffering in this world, but since I was 19, I have always believed and seen pain and suffering coming to an end, joy taking their place, and making people stronger, until the next round of pain and suffering comes.

A friend once called me masochistic because I said I liked feeling sad and experiencing pain because the experience made me think and introspect, thereby making me know myself better. And thinking and introspecting always give me peace and the energy to go on living in such an absurd world.

When I am down or just want to vanish from this world, I am blessed enough to remember the only time I had a one-week retreat in a Carmelite Monastery by the sea. It was so long ago, almost twenty years ago when I was at the height of searching for answers to questions that my mother worried were driving me crazy. (She always complained that it took me forever to finish doing the dishes because I was always lost in thought!)

For one week I was mostly alone in a 4-story building that was the retreat house. My retreat guide came to visit me twice and did not stay longer than two hours each time. I had a room on the top floor which was close to the big balcony that faced the sea, where every half an hour, a ferry from the west port would cross to the south port. I stayed out in the balcony in late afternoons and waited for the sky to turn from orange to gray and then black; and then the lights from the ports came on, and I could see the lights from the ferry moving in the darkness. In the morning I went to a wooden gazebo on stilts right in the water connected to the retreat house by footbridge made of bamboo. I would listen to the sound of the small waves as they hit the bamboo stilts underneath, smell the briny scent of seawater, and hear the occasional squawk of a bird overhead. These images, sensations come back to me as clearly as the time I was there.

My theosophist friend with whom I used to spend a lot of time talking TO (she just listened most of the time, bless her) once told me that one reason we miss somebody or something too much when they/its gone, is that when they were there, we did not give our whole self to them. Our mind perhaps wandered to somewhere else, and so our experience of them was incomplete. So that time when I was on a retreat, I made sure I was completely there. I watched,listened and felt my surroundings. I will say I miss being there, but I can also “go back” to that place whenever I need to. I can have a few minutes of peace and serenity just by remembering my time in that retreat house.

I do not mean to offend people who suffer because I, too, have suffered, but I find beauty in suffering and pain. I get energy from knowing that this suffering would come to an end, and when it does, I will experience joy, and it will be very sweet just as sweet food tastes even sweeter after eating bitter food.

But to find beauty in suffering, one needs to get away from everything. One needs to be quiet and look within to be able see better what is outside. This is nothing new, and I’m not trying to sound like an expert on this subject, but I speak (write) from experience.

These days it is extremely difficult to have some real quiet. People cannot get away from their cellphones. For everything that happens in their life, no matter how trivial, they feel somebody else has to know. Or they feel they have to know what other people are up to. People are so concerned with what they look like on the outside that they have forgotten to look within and know themselves, who they really are and of what they are capable. There is more self-absorption than self-awareness    , and it does not help anyone.

I hope we can all find time, especially when we are down, to get away from it all and go to a place –physical and/or spiritual — where we can recharge and be better equipped to face life’s absurdities.

Have a pleasant week!

Musing on mornings

Jimei has a beautiful campus. I walk to work around 7 in the morning four times a week, and each time, I walk slowly so I can enjoy the scenery.

I am a morning person. I get up at 4:30 in the morning most days and do my ritual of making coffee, reading the news, mopping the floor, doing a 20-minute workout, grabbing a bite, then taking a shower. If I miss one of those in the list, I get a little disoriented.

These days the morning air is so cool that when I open the kitchen window and hear the rustling of the leaves and the merry chirping of the birds, and feel the cool touch of the breeze on my face, I am reminded of two poems: one by Wordsworth and the other by Hopkins. (I’m serious. If you have ever been taught Poetry by a professor as poetic and romantic as Dr. Anthony L. Tan, and lived in a convent — trying to become a nun– for a few months, then you’ll understand my way of thinking.)

 

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Composed Upon Westminster Bridge 

By William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

 

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God’s Grandeur
Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Even though I am no longer so certain about the existence of God, the beauty of the morning somehow brings back my sense of gratitude to the creator of such beauty, and since in my simple brain, there are no other candidates for that position, then let it be God for now.

Early morning, I find, is much more beautiful than night time. (Or is it just that I am getting old and can no longer appreciate the beauty of darkness where sweet words are whispered and gentle touches are felt?)

When I take an early morning walk, and see the dew on the leaves and feel the damp earth, and hear the birds sing, and smell the grass, I am always filled with that kind of bliss that makes one want to love the world and to desire to be a better person deserving of such wonder. For someone who has been waiting for death since she was 20, this is one of the very rare moments when I am actually happy about life, one of my Sisyphus-reaching-the-top-of-the-hill moments.

The awareness of the ephemerality of these moments is probably what makes people, like me,  appreciate them more.

Like everything else in this world, they come to an end, sometimes too soon, when I start hearing the honking of vehicles and seeing people push and shove each other to get on the bus to get to work.

But this is life. I am just grateful to know that there is time, when I need it, for nature to refresh me and make me ponder on how good it is to be alive.
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Home Away from Home

I left Iligan eleven years ago, and have been living in a district called Jimei in Xiamen, China. Although I still love the place where I was born and grew up in, I have also learned to love Jimei where I have spent almost one-third of my life.

In eleven years I have seen Jimei grow from being a quiet university town –with no department stores, no cinemas, no MacDonald’s or KFC, and that became like a ghost town during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) —  into a bustling district that has a huge mall with a Starbucks, Haagen Dazs, and IMAX theaters in it, more MacDonald’s and KFC’s than one would like to see, more cars that make traffic so awful even during Spring Festival. These days there is hardly a quiet day in Jimei.

But still there is something to love about this place, or I would not even call it my home away from home – my second home.

Whenever I go out for a walk, I always think about what I would like to write about this place, so today I am starting. I will try to introduce Jimei as I see it, and I hope my readers will see its beauty and its charm.

Jimei U Art Center hosts exhibits of works by local and international artists

Jimei U Art Center hosts exhibits of works by local and international artists

 

Longing

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Jimei sky

Longing

My mind is blank.
No verses are formed.
No words…
The muse has left me
And in its stead
Just chemicals
Concocting a different brew
To make me feel
This deep and endless longing
That seethes in the abyss
Of my being
And creeps out
From my  eyes
And my arms
As they reach out
For something…or someone
That’s not there.