Photo Essay: Celebrating 15 Years of Marriage

Just last week, my husband Jun and I marked a major milestone in our marriage. Fifteen years ago on July 26, we stood before a government representative in Shanghai, promising to spend the rest of our lives together. It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since that moment, yet I love Jun just as much as the first time I stood before him and said, “Wo yuanyi!” (“I do” in Chinese — and yes, like most of us in China, I did it more than once for reasons explained in this post).

To commemorate those 15 incredible years I’ve enjoyed with the love of my life, a guy who still makes me swoon after all this time together, I’m sharing one of our marriage registration photos from 2004 plus 15 photos of us together (one from each year of our marriage)!

2004

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This photo was taken just moments after we took our vows in a civil ceremony in Shanghai and signed our official little red marriage books. Can’t you just see that newly-registered glow in our faces? (Or maybe it’s the red we both wore that day!) 😉

2005

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As part of our Huangshan Honeymoon in 2005 (which I wrote about in an essay for the new anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit) we visited a couple of traditional Huizhou-style villages in the foothills of Huangshan. Here we pose before a reflecting pool in Hongcun.

2006

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We visited friends in Chicago in February 2006 and ended up strolling beside Lake Michigan, despite the freezing winter temperatures. Who needs to worry about cold weather when you have the love of your life beside you to keep you warm? 😉

2007

Jocelyn and Jun in the park near Fenshui River.

The summer of 2007, we returned to John’s hometown to make our marriage official (in the eyes of his family and friends) with a big Chinese wedding ceremony.

2008

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Late in the summer of 2008, John and I took off for one last camping trip deep in the Rocky Mountains. What views!

2009

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When John and I went to China for the summer of 2009, we indulged in a month-long trip across the country to take in all of the sights we never visited years before — from Xi’an and Chengdu to Changsha and Kaifeng.

2010

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John and I welcomed the year of the tiger in 2010 as the emcees of a Chinese New Year celebration. What a night!

2011

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Here we are in 2011 celebrating John’s birthday over Thai curries. John never used to think much of his birthday until I came along — but if the smile on his face is any measure, he loves the change!

2012

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To commemorate our wedding anniversary in 2012, we enjoyed a relaxing evening of classical music performed by the Cleveland Orchestra. But before heading out, we posed before the flower garden to remember the evening.

2013

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For Chinese New Year in 2013, John and I whipped up a traditional Chinese feast for the family — from roast goose and ribs to ginger-garlic green beans and stir-fried matchstick potatoes. We’re smiling, but there’s exhaustion behind those eyes because we spent the entire morning in the kitchen! Still, it was worth the effort.

2014

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There’s nothing like finally spending Chinese New Year at the family home in China for the first time in years. In 2014, Jun and I reunited with his family and the country we love.

2015

On my birthday in 2015, Jun and I visited the West Lake, snapping this photo by our beloved corner of the lake near Qu Yuan Feng He (曲院风荷).

2016

Jun and I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Washington DC with family in the summer of 2016, where we had the chance to look upon all the iconic landmarks.

2017

Jun and I took this shot just after moving from Hangzhou to Beijing.

2018

As spring arrived in the park near our home in Beijing, Jun and I took the time to take a walk and appreciate the flowers.

2019

Jun and I are taking a stroll through a park in Beijing on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

Here’s hoping for many more incredible years to come together!

Celebrating 10 Years of Blogging With 10 Photos

Ten years of blogging. I can’t believe that, as of this Saturday, I will have been at this for a decade, ever since May 18, 2009.

To mark this special 10-year “blog-iversary” I’m running 10 photos of me and my husband from the past decade, along with a popular post from the end of each of these past 10 years.

Thank you so much to all the readers out there, no matter how long you’ve followed Speaking of China. You’ve continually inspired me and also helped make this a better blog. I’m also deeply grateful to have made so many wonderful friends in the process too. Know that I’m raising my glass to everyone in appreciation!

2009

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When Jun and I went to China for the summer of 2009, we indulged in a month-long trip across the country to take in all of the sights we never visited years before — from Xi’an and Chengdu to Changsha and Kaifeng.

Post: On the Rarity of Foreign Women and Chinese Boyfriends/Chinese Husbands

2010

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Jun and I welcomed the year of the tiger in 2010 as the emcees of a Chinese New Year celebration. What a night!

Post: China Blogs by Western Women who Love Chinese Men

2011

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Here we are in 2011 celebrating Jun’s birthday over Thai curries.

Post: Dating Advice for Chinese Men from J.T. Tran, the Asian Playboy

2012

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To commemorate our wedding anniversary in 2012, we enjoyed a relaxing evening of classical music performed by the Cleveland Orchestra. But before heading out, we posed before the flower garden to remember the evening.

Post: 2012 Blogs By Western Women Who Love Chinese Men

2013

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For Chinese New Year in 2013, Jun and I whipped up a traditional Chinese feast for the family — from roast goose and ribs to ginger-garlic green beans and stir-fried matchstick potatoes. We’re smiling, but there’s exhaustion behind those eyes because we spent the entire morning in the kitchen! Still, it was worth the effort.

Post: Why Aren’t We Talking More About The Rarity of AMWF?

2014

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There’s nothing like finally spending Chinese New Year at the family home in China for the first time in years. In 2014, Jun and I reunited with his family and the country we love.

Post: 6 Stunning Celebrity Couples of Asian Men & Non-Asian Women

2015

On my birthday in 2015, Jun and I visited the West Lake, snapping this photo by our beloved corner of the lake near Qu Yuan Feng He (曲院风荷).

Post: 4 Habits I’ve Learned from my Chinese Husband

2016

Jun and I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Washington DC with family in the summer of 2016, where we had the chance to look upon all the iconic landmarks.

Post: 5 Unhappy Things I’ve Struggled with as an Expat Married to a Foreigner

2017

Jun and I took this shot just after moving from Hangzhou to Beijing.

Post: 2017 Blogs by Western Women Who Love Chinese Men

2018

As spring arrived in the park near our home in Beijing, Jun and I took the time to take a walk and appreciate the flowers.

Post: Olympic Speedskater Shaolin Sandor Liu Has a Cool China Connection Beyond His Chinese Father

Thank you so much for reading!

Photo Essay: Hangzhou Video Shoot – From West Lake to Wondrous Food

I just returned from my trip to Hangzhou to shoot video footage for China Daily Website as well as the Asian Cuisine Festival set to take place in the city from May 15 to 22. While we followed a very demanding schedule that meant being out of our hotel around 12 hours a day for shoots, the experience was unforgettable and worth the effort.

As I’m still catching up on pretty much everything (please bear with me!), in lieu of a written post I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes shots from the experience, giving you a look at where we went as well as what things looked like before the cameras.

On our first day, we arrived in the afternoon at Hangzhou and the headed to the West Lake, where the production team scoped out the area for shooting.

The following day, we went to Hangzhou’s legendary restaurant Lou Wai Lou on Baidi. Part of the shoot took us to the top floor, where I sat at an al fresco table with views of the West Lake. It probably ranks as the most breathtaking seating I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant — if only I could have enjoyed it with my husband!

And of course, as you can probably tell, most of the dishes aren’t even food that I could eat, as a vegan. We had to get really creative in the shooting process, so it appeared as if I was sampling everything. Am really grateful the production team was so accommodating on this.

But make no mistake, as beautiful as the setting looked, we had work to accomplish. And that kept me quite occupied!

But still had enough time to grab this selfie with one of the team members!

Still, we did manage to enjoy a delightful lunch at Lou Wai Lou — and our director gave the food a hearty thumbs-up.

In the afternoon, we went to Zhiweiguan, another time-honored restaurant in Hangzhou, to do a shoot. It was delightful to meet several of their chefs, including these very talented young women.

Zhiweiguan really impressed me with their snacks and desserts, including the dish at the very bottom of the photo — longjing wencha — where dough is fashioned to look like the leaves of Dragonwell tea, steamed, and then served in a clear broth with shrimp. If you didn’t pay close attention, you might think they were just cups of green tea!

On Thursday, we visited a food street and found ourselves in a restaurant overlooking a stream leading into the Grand Canal, which links Hangzhou and Beijing. It meant more food, and of course more shooting too.

Here’s another angle during a shot in the restaurant.

In the afternoon, we shot scenes by the West Lake in my favorite corner — Qu Yuan Feng He (曲院风荷) — as well as one critical shot on Su Causeway, with a view of Lou Wai Lou on Bai Causeway.

We returned that evening to the food street to revel in the evening atmosphere, perfect for the video, and dined at one of the restaurants on the strip. Yes, even during the meal we were working!

On Friday, we did shooting at Hangzhou Restaurant, which took us to its sixth floor, where we could dine beside stunning views of the West Lake while shooting video footage. Oh, how I wish I could have been there with my husband too!

On the sixth floor of Hangzhou Restaurant, the windows are like screens — and pulled back they reveal a glorious scene of the West Lake. (Sorry, it was a bit rainy and cloudy, but during clear weather it would certainly look enchanting.)

In the afternoon, we arrived at our last location — Charen Cun, nestled in the most prized tea fields in the city, where Lion’s Peak Dragonwell tea grows. This restaurant had the most dazzling traditional decor, hands down!

Immediately, the restaurant served up a hot cup of fine Dragonwell tea. As this is the one and only tea I drink to start my day, it was a welcome sight on the table.

Upstairs, I changed into my qipao to interview the restaurant owner about Dragonwell tea as well as the story behind his restaurant, Charen Cun. It was my favorite interview of all because of how much I adore Dragonwell tea.

Then the owner took me into the tea fields to show me how to pick Dragonwell tea. What a delight and honor! I wished I could have stayed much longer…too bad the weather turned cold, otherwise I could have kept my qipao on! 😉

That evening, we dined with the owner and it proved the finest meal of our trip, with a delicious sampling of dishes that emphasized freshness and rural, home-style flavor. Some even reminded me of my mother-in-law’s cooking.

Again, how I wish I could have shared this dinner with my husband, who would have really appreciated the food and company. The owner was very warm and hospitable, inviting us all to return again in the future.

But even the finest meals come to an end. I had a plane to catch later that evening, so we all headed home to the hotel, where I packed my things and then got a taxi to the airport.

I smiled upon finding my seat on the plane, knowing I would be reunited soon with my husband, with tales of my fascinating experiences in Hangzhou, the city that first brought us together so many years ago.

Overall, I gained some valuable experience and at the same time discovered another side to Hangzhou and its culinary heritage. I’m looking forward to seeing how the videos turn out — and once they go live, I’ll definitely share them with all of you!

Photo Essay: A Behind-The-Scenes Look Into The Trial

Last week, I provided a brief update on the trial in Yu v Idaho State University and also what’s next (we still have to submit our closing arguments in writing, so a decision from the judge won’t be coming right away).

But a lot went into the trial, from preparing experts to long distance travel across country. To give you a behind-the-scenes look into this unique experience — how many of us can say we’ve seen the inside of a US Federal Courthouse? — I’m sharing some photos from our time during and just after the trial.

(Note: Unfortunately, we have no photos from the courtroom itself, as rules prohibit any photography within that space — sorry!)

I shared this photo in the previous post from last week, but I wanted to run it again because it features the full trial team, plus myself and Jun. Seated at front is our main lawyer Ron Coulter; behind him a white suit is our second chair lawyer Holly Sutherland, and next to her is our paralegal Crystal Anderson.

But we also benefited from the enormous support of our family here in the US.

My Dad drove from Ohio to Idaho to attend the trial, and he took copious, detailed notes during the proceedings that have provided us with a valuable outline of what happened.

My Uncle Robert also drove out with my father to attend the trial, and he was a great support as well to all of us.

We were able to take photos with some of our experts who helped support our case.

One of the experts we were most excited to meet was Dr. Gerald Koocher, our ethics in psychology expert. Dr. Koocher is a past President of the American Psychological Association and author of Ethics in Psychology and the Mental Health Professions, the same textbook ISU used to train Jun in ethics in psychology in 2009 and 2011.

The morning this photo was taken, just before Dr. Koocher left, he asked for our address in the US. Much to our surprise, the following week while staying with my family, a package arrived from Dr. Koocher — with signed copies of his ethics textbook (the latest version)Ethics in Psychology and the Mental Health Professions as well as his book Psychologists’ Desk Reference.

Inside, Dr. Koocher wrote a personal note to Jun in each of the books.

The note in this book reads, “To Jun Yu: I hope this is of help to you as you plan a career of helping others. Gerald Koocher, March 1, 2019.”

We also took a picture with Dr. Nadya Fouad, our rebuttal expert in cultural competency.

Dr. Fouad served in leadership roles for many committees for the American Psychological Association, including as the Co-Chair of the Multicultural Guidelines Writing Team (published in 2003), Chair of the Board of Educational Affairs, Chair of the 2006 Competencies Workgroup, and Chair of the Ethics Committee.

One of the greatest blessings is friends who support you when you need them most — such as my friend Judy Brutz, who lives in Pocatello, Idaho, and attended every day of the entire trial. This photo was taken in the US Federal Courthouse. Judy, can’t thank you enough for being there for us.

After the trial, my father, Uncle Robert, myself and Jun all traveled back to Ohio across country in my father’s van. It took us three days to make the journey.

During the trip, we encountered heavy snow while driving on Interstate 80 through Wyoming — but fortunately, the weather did not delay our return to Ohio.

It was a smooth and safe journey for us, overall.

We will continue to fight and believe justice will prevail.

Photo Essay: Speaking of Reform at Beijing Bookworm Event for China Daily

This past Wednesday, China Daily featured me as a speaker at a meetup event for foreign professionals timed to China’s 40th anniversary of their reform and opening-up. I shared my personal experience with reform as it relates to the country’s marriage law. In lieu of a post, I’m sharing a few photos from that event.

Wonderful also to see many of my fellow colleagues at China Daily as well as other friends, including Jessica Luo of China Radio International, who stood up and shared some of her experiences with reform and opening-up.

Photo Essay: I Made News + Other Xi’an Trip Highlights

A few weeks ago, I made a business trip to Xi’an to participate in a conference discussing the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative, with a special focus on the China-Europe freight trains that have helped power some of the newest projects on this revival of the ancient Silk Road routes. I ended up making news twice during the journey, and forged connections with leading academics and people in the media. Here’s a photo essay detailing everything from what we did and saw to even some of what we ate.

We first arrived at the Xinzhu station in Xi’an, a major inland port for China-Europe trains, and gathered for an opening ceremony, which took place right beside one of the trains set to travel to Hamburg, Germany. I’m standing in the front row before the stage, wearing a powder blue down jacket.

Then, after hearing a few other leaders speak, it was my turn to take the stage and deliver a speech in Mandarin Chinese for the opening ceremony.

This marked my first time to ever give a public speech in Mandarin Chinese!

Afterwards, we took a group photo. I stood in the front row, next to the former ambassador to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine, and a professor at one of China’s top universities.

We then had the opportunity to tour the expansive grounds at the China-Europe train station.

Next door, a “shopping festival” featured a number of goods shipped on the China-Europe trains, including this flour made from wheat grown in Kazakhstan.

That picture later made front-page news for a paper in Xi’an.

The following day, we visited Fucha town, which has developed an entire industry founded on a variety of locally produced brick tea, which is also shipped on the China-Europe freight trains.

We learned more about the local tea and tea culture at the museum.

That afternoon, we gathered for a conference to share ideas and perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative over five years, and I was one of the featured speakers, sharing stories from China Daily reporting.

My speech that afternoon turned into a news story.

Now we the trip focused on business, it wasn’t without its small pleasures, such as the dining opportunities we had in Xi’an, renowned as a distinctive culinary crossroads.

This flatbread with a vegetarian filling reminded me of an inside-out pizza.

And this deep-fried bread, the namesake of one of the restaurants we dined at (老磨油饼), had a delightfully light, fluffy texture and was irresistible with salted peppers and green onion.

The Xi’an trip will forever shine as one of my highlights of 2018. So grateful I had the opportunity to visit this brilliant area of China for work.

Photo Essay: Enjoying Fall Foliage at Beijing’s Fragrant Hills

Beijing’s Fragrant Hills burst forth in brilliant reds, yellows and oranges with the coming of autumn, and visiting still remains one of those must-do experiences if you come to the city in October. Jun and I decided to go hiking there, timing our visit to catch the fall foliage at its peak.

First off, it’s an easy trip from Beijing, thanks to the newly opened Xijiao Line on the subway, and you can even buy your tickets to the park online ahead of time (which is recommended if you visit during weekends or holidays, when it can get rather crowded).

Second, while Fragrant Hills do draw a lot of visitors, it’s quite easy to escape the crowds if you hike a longer or less-traveled route.

While I’m still on break and catching up on things, I thought I would share some photos from our visit. We followed the “red leaf trail” in the park, which offers plenty of opportunities to view the best fall foliage at Fragrant Hills.

 

Wherever you are, here’s wishing you a fabulous (and colorful) fall!

 

Photo Essay: A Great Wall of Autumn Colors – Visiting Badaling National Forest Park

There’s nothing like hiking through mountains when autumn shows its brilliant colors — especially when you can hike beside and enjoy views of the Great Wall. That’s what Jun and I did this past week in a visit to Badaling National Forest Park.

It’s an easy journey from Beijing (just take bus 877 from the Deshengmen area, near the Jishuitan subway stop on Line 2). And once you’re up the mountain, a loop trail rewards you with incredible views of the serpentine Badaling Great Wall straddling the mountain ridges dotted with red and yellow leaves.

While I’m taking a break this week, I thought I’d share a sampling of photos from our hike.

Wherever you are, here’s hoping you’re enjoying the beauty of autumn!

Photo Essay: Taking Time to Smell The Roses – Our Beijing Summer

It’s hard to believe summer will officially end later this week! Despite the scorching temperatures we saw here in Beijing (like much of the world), Jun and I still enjoyed our share of light moments (including, yes, taking the time to smell the roses). While I’m catching up on some work, I’m bringing you a few of my favorite summer images from here in Beijing.

Wherever you are, here’s wishing you had a sensational summer!

We took this photo in the rose garden at China Daily, where we also took a moment to take in the roses’ fragrance as well. Ah!

Jun and I visited Yuanming Yuan (the Old Summer Palace), which reminded us of our old stomping grounds in Hangzhou.

Here’s a picture we took of Qianmen, the gate just south of Tian’anmen Square.

Also near the Qianmen neighborhood, but looking in the opposite direction down the old streets.

Jun and I stroll through through a park filled with beautiful willow trees beside a canal in the Ditan Park area.

Photo Essay: 8 Favorite Pics of My Chinese Mother-in-Law, Showing Her Love

Recently, fellow blogger Marissa at Squirrels of a Feather did a post titled 10 Reasons Chinese Mother-in-Laws Rock. When I read her post, I was reminded of the many ways my Chinese mother-in-law is also amazing.

I’m not able to spend this mother’s day with any of the moms in my life (including my extraordinary stepmom back in America, who is as much of a mom to me as my own mother was). But I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of my favorite photos capturing some of the love my Chinese mother-in-law has shown me over the years. And here in China, where families rarely say “I love you,” it’s the actions that truly matter.

Wishing all of you a happy Mother’s Day!

Recently I wrote a column for China Daily titled Connecting Nature, Food, Life in Mountains, and it was inspired by the time my Chinese mother-in-law invited me to come up the mountain with her to gather wild edible plants. Here’s a photo from that day, with my mother-in-law holding a handful of wild bamboo shoots. It was so lovely of her to share this experience with me.

When I was staying with my husband’s family one summer, I complimented my mother-in-law on her mouthwatering pickled radish and asked about the recipe. So one afternoon, she actually taught me how to make it — and yes, it was as hands on as it gets!

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Every spring for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival (also known as the Qingming Festival), my mother-in-law prepares Qingming snacks from scratch. The green color of the snacks comes from the aromatic mugwort, which grows wild all over the village and the mountains. Here she’s preparing the dough, which will eventually be shaped into sweet rounds and savory turnovers.

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A number of holidays during the year, including Chinese New Year, call for savory turnovers known as migu and my mother-in-law always spends time making huge batches for us and relatives who visit. Here she’s laying out the finished turnovers, which will later be steamed or fried and then served up.

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I’ve often praised my mother-in-law’s homemade tofu (including in a China Daily column I wrote up for Chinese New Year this year) and it’s extraordinary to witness her in the kitchen, going through the process of crafting this essential Chinese food. She always makes extra for me, the vegan, and sends me home with more than any person could humanly consume.

People close to me know that vegan Chinese shaobing, or stuffed flatbread, is one of my favorite treats, and that includes my mother-in-law. For a time, whenever I stayed with her I would soon catch her in the kitchen cooking up another batch of what I think of as “Chinese pizza,” and always send me home with a huge stack of them for quick meals. Yum!

During the winter solstice, my mother-in-law showed me how to make sesame balls or maqiu, a traditional holiday treat. It was fun learning the process as well as helping to keep the fire-powered wok supplied with wood!

My mother-in-law and I stand before the family home during a Chinese New year.

Wherever you are in the world, here’s hoping you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!