My cousin Deng Yaxing (Cindy) is a high school student in Beijing. She studies classical voice with my mom. This is her, my dear 16 year-old cousin performing in a bar:
This is Yaxing having some tea and beer with her biggest fans: her parents, my “small uncle” and “small aunt,” and my mom (left to right):
This is a more accurate portrayal of my uncle (Xiao jiujiu):
This is my other cousin, Jing E (“Golden Swan,” but she goes by her real name Yang Yanhao) daughter of my “xiao yi” (another aunt):
She looks different when she lets down her hair:
When Jing E came to visit, we went to an amusement park and the Water Cube at the Olympic Green (Park).
This is a sign I came across when leaving Olympic Green. My Chinese name is jumbled (何茵茵). Also, notice the sentimental translation:
When we’re hungry, we have many options to choose from:
We went with option 3.
I forgot to mention my mother’s birthday was on the 22nd. Like most events, we celebrated by sharing a huge meal with family friends. But a birthday is never complete without a cake, no matter how stuffed to the brim of vomiting you are.
Let me also introduce my dad, who graciously passed down his most vibrant features onto me: the round nose and face. Thanks, dad.
And for my friends, this is what I’ve been up to when I’m not eating, or screaming from a rollercoaster, or traveling to even farther away places:
Finally, I’m also tip-toeing on curbs and burning my retinas in attempt to capture beautiful Beijing moments like these:
Looks like this city isn’t as bad as I remember from childhood…
Where are the yellow and orange leaves that pile up and line the streets? Where is the Autumn breeze that keeps me cool when the sun is overhead? Where is the clear blue sky? Where has my favorite season gone?
I was looking through other blogs when I realized that Autumn is practically non-existent in Beijing. Sure, the weather has cooled since summer but the leaves on the trees are not changing colors and the sky is still hazy. I have learned, however, not to expect much of the Beijing sky above; it’s always gloomy except when the fire-y red sun is setting.
The lack of Fall didn’t phase me until I saw photographs of golden leaves and talk of harvest. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss so I wouldn’t have to long for Fall! In fact, I had already started to prepare myself for the coming winter in November.
This is the first time I will be living without the four seasons; I have lived on the East Coast of America my entire life. Perhaps it is time for a change. Sigh… Farewell for now, Autumn. May we meet again.
I was awoken by thunderous explosions outside my window setting off car alarms and heart attacks. That was 8:30 this morning. It is now 9:45 and they are still intermittently exploding. It wasn’t a terrorist attack, nor was it a revolution unleashing, but rather fireworks (not the pretty kind). Maybe there is a holiday I’m unaware of, like the pre-celebration of Chinese National Day on Oct. 1st? But at 8:30 on a Sunday morning?!?! On the 25th of September? Talk about disrespect… or maybe I’m just a late sleeper. Either way, I’d like to wake up and enjoy my breakfast of freshly wrapped wonton soup in peace, please, if that’s not too much to ask. Jeeeeeez.
I miss the days when I awoke to the yodeling of farmers riding around on their bicycles selling eggs and warm dough (“man tou”). As a child, I used to hate that too, but it definitely beats waking up hovered in my blanket, sweating and thinking for certain I was going to die. It is now 9:56 a.m. and my heart is still pounding, and there are still explosions going off in the distance. Good morning, China!
Longmen (Dragon’s Gate)
Panlong Buddhist Temple
On the road, people and scenery
I always envied those with big families, all those family reunions and holidays spent together. Growing up, my holidays were celebrated with other Chinese families, close family friends, feasting together. As I got older, however, we all grew apart, and with my mom in China and my dad working all the time, my holidays were spent alone with Ailen, my best childhood friend, and her parents. Can’t say it was not enough because I consider them family, but it still was’t the same. The excitement was lost. But for the first time in many, many years, since before I started college, I got to spend a holiday with a whole lot of family, and boy was it glorious!
September 12th, or the 15th of August on the Chinese lunar calendar, was the mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jie) when families gather to celebrate by eating mooncakes. People go crazy over mooncakes, giving and receiving, eating and sharing. It’s mooncake madness!
In America, I never celebrated such a holiday. I had heard of it, and I had eaten mooncakes (never much enjoyed them), but my family did not celebrate it. This year, however, I got to spend that day with my mother’s side of the family in Kunming.
My aunt rose early in the morning to go grocery shopping and brought home various greens, mushrooms that only grow in the Yunnan summertime, a whole chicken for soup , three kinds of noodles, ground meat for dumplings, and an entire bag of wonton wrappers (enough for hundreds, maybe thousands of wontons) which she mistook for her own groceries. My “big aunt” (Da jiuma) arrived early to help my “middle aunt” (xiao yi) prep for lunch. I helped them wrap wontons! When the rest of my uncles, aunts and cousins arrived, we began to eat. We ate noodles and wontons and soup, saving the main dishes of crab, thousand year egg, spicy stewed chicken, stir fried chives and pork, and various vegetables, for dinner. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal, especially when it is stuff I can’t get in America.
The entire day consisted of cooking, eating, watching TV, drinking tea and beer (Budweiser!! How American!!), playing Mahjohng (I’m a pro!), eating mooncakes, and just enjoying the company of family.
The night ended with good conversation on our rooftop and with this lovely view:
Apparently, the moon hasn’t shined that bright in 40 years. It was almost blinding!
As children go off to school in far away places, parents travel for work, and grandparents stay at home, families are increasingly getting split apart. Therefore, holidays such as the mid-Autumn Festival which was traditionally celebrated with the entire family is now in recent years just a phone call and a bite of mooncake. This is normally the case with my family as well, but due to unusual and very fortunate circumstances, we got to eat mooncakes together.
Sigh…it’s good to be home. And 20 pounds heavier.
Sorry for the delay folks! I’ve been away for 3 weeks, but I’m finally back in Beijing where I have unlimited internet access and my own computer so I can upload the long awaited photos from the Maldives.
Like I wrote in my last post, the Republic of Maldives is as close to Paradise as I’ll ever get. There are over 1100 islands of which 800 or so are uninhabited. Many of those that are inhabited, though, are owned by resorts like the Hilton on the island of Iru Fushi where I stayed for 4 days. Before this trip I did not even know where the Maldives were. Now, I’d like to make it an annual trip before the ocean rises and the islands disappear… Besides, my mom could use the vacations. She works hard.
On September 1st, my mom and I arrived at Kunming International Airport with one suitcase and one cardboard box full of ramen noodles, pears, canned ham, moon cakes, candy, crackers, nuts, and spicy pickled vegetables. 6.5 hours later we were in Male, the most densely populated city in the Republic of Maldives, where we stayed overnight.
The next morning, it poured. Monsoon season… no wonder the tickets were cheaper. When the rains cleared, we took a rocky boat ride back to the airport and were transported to the other side of the island where we would hop on this amazing little piece of machinery that would take us to Iru Fushi.
The pilot flew barefoot! In Chinese we would say, “Hao shuang, ah!” (“So coooool!”)
What I saw from overhead was absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. Here are a few photos, but let me just warn you, they don’t even come close to capturing the true colors and reality of how gorgeous this country is.
Anyway, that was an unforgettable morning, unlike the next one when I didn’t catch any fish. Taking advantage of another honeymoon couple’s deal, my mom and I went on a complimentary fishing trip. Instead of using fishing rods, we just held onto a reel with fresh tuna as bait for 2 hours, like so:
Unfortunately, fish kept eating my tuna faster than I could pull them up. My mom, however, lucky as she is, caught a white snapper.
The next day, that poor thing turned into this:
There is not much to do on a small island, but there is so much to see. Sunrise and sunset, for instance. I’m not one to sap over beautiful things (my mom is), but I swooned over this view (sunrise):
And this one (sunset)…
As beautiful and relaxing as Iru Fushi was, there was some sadness to it as well. It’s a wonderful place to vacation, but when you are one of 3 Chinese people on a tiny island, it can be very lonesome. Shine, my diving instructor, is 25 years old and has been working in the Maldives for over a year. The employees get a 3 week vacation yearly, but 21 days out of 365 to see family and friends is still little time. Shine speaks English so she can communicate with the tourists and her coworkers, but it’s not her native language, thus she remains homesick. But it’s not the language that’s troubling, it’s the fact that she’s basically stuck on an island that she can never call home. Iru Fushi is gorgeous, but even so, when there is limited space for mobility and escape, one can still feel trapped.
Shine is from a small city in China, but I met Hilton employees from all the world, including Russia, Nepal, India and Germany. The local islander employees, however, are much closer to home. They are also some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Perhaps they are trained to be so, but regardless, they are playful, genuinely interested in learning about your language and country, and are always willing to take photos with you.
I made some good memories on this trip, however short it was. To show off my novice photographic eye and my delectable tan, I’d like to leave you with more photos (some credit goes to my mom). Perhaps one day we can visit Maldives together!
Because I am a princess, I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit Paradise (aka the Maldives islands on the Indian Ocean). It is truly the most beautiful place I have ever been and is the closest to Paradise I will ever be. My mom and I are on this little island of Iru Fushi –staying in the Hilton Resort and Spa (consider me spoiled; I’m an only child!)– bonding. Surprisingly, she hasn’t driven me nuts in these close quarters yet, although the never-ending photoshoots…….well, I’m not a model.
We’ve been here for 3 days (1 more left!) and I’ve already snorkeled, open-water dived, saw dolphins (HUNDREDS!) and ate lots of curry and ramen noodles. I will post photos in my next blog since I didn’t bring my camera cord; I came unprepared for this spontaneously planned trip.
I have to admit I am not missing Brooklyn as much as I thought I would. That’s likely because I’m in Paradise. Silly me!
Anyhow, I just wanted to give a brief update of my latest whereabouts!
Well, the rain passed and the sun is shining! Must return to my water villa for a mid-afternoon nap facing the translucent turquoise ocean…