Photo Essay: You’re My Inspiration During The Hard Times

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It’s hard to believe our trip to the US is about to come to a close! We’re hopping a plane back to China this coming Monday, September 19.

As many of you know, we came here because of my husband’s lawsuit (you can learn more about that here). The lawsuit still continues. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard.

It IS hard.

And when you’re facing hardship, as we are, sometimes you’re running low on inspiration. Sometimes you need to find ways to recharge and reconnect with everything that’s good and right and beautiful in this world.

That’s why I’m so grateful to you. It’s people like you that have inspired me and motivated me in the hard times.

This photo essay is dedicated to all of the people — even those not present in the photos I’ve shared below — who have stood by us with support, encouragement and warm smiles.

Thank you for being there for us.

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Hugs from my friend Judy in Idaho.

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Hanging out with my fabulous sister Sue and my niece.

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Meeting up with my husband’s dear colleague Susanne.

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At home with my loving stepmom and dad, who have been among our greatest supporters.

 

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Dinner with Cheryl and Donna, two of our amazing supporters in Idaho.

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Out and about with my Uncle Roy (yes, Uncle Roy, the chi is balanced and life is good).

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Meeting with Susan Blumberg-Kason and her kids in Chicago’s Chinatown.

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My dear Uncle Robert and Aunt Dolly, who graciously invited us out to Tommy’s, a vegetarian restaurant in Cleveland that I’ve missed for years.

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Stopping at the Root Cafe in Lakewood, Ohio with Jillian, who really cheered me up over a tasty lemon almond vegan muffin.

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My friend Kathryn, who is a librarian extraordinaire in Idaho and one of the few people I’ve met who has dared to learn Chinese.

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An unexpected birthday party in Idaho with my friends Judy, Donna and Janice (with a birthday balloon)! They even remembered my favorite tea is mint.

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Scott and Jan, who charmed us with their smiles and laughter over a generous lunch that was their treat (thank you for that).

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An unforgettable evening filled with good conversation, lots of empathy and great Asian food with Gail, a longtime friend of the family.

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Meeting with my dear friend and writing/business mentor Bill Doll, who has been an incredible supporter.

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Enjoying the goldenrod at its peak with the one guy who inspires me everyday — thank you, Jun Yu.

I’ll be taking a break from blogging next week. Wishing you all a happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Photo Essay: More Scenes from Our Epic USA Road Trip

Have we really been on the road for over two weeks?

I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the calendar and realized how much time had flown since we landed in the US on July 20. And to think we’ve spent most of it behind the wheel in the USA!

Of course, again, that’s meant I’ve had to take a break from blogging. (Thank you to all of you for your patience and understanding!)

I’m now firmly on solid ground back at my family home in the Cleveland, Ohio area — with no plans to travel in the next couple of weeks. So expect me to be back this Friday with a fresh post for you all.

In the meantime, enjoy this dispatch of more scenes from our epic USA road trip!

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Breakfast while camping on a tiny, forested island in Minnesota.

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An unexpected birthday surprise with friends in Idaho.

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Visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

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One of Jun’s favorite camping dinners — kimchi instant noodles and kipper snacks.

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Our best camping experience happened right here in Wisconsin at this quintessential Northern American campground. So peaceful, secluded and spacious!

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Jun in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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Visiting with Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife, in Chicago’s Chinatown.

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As always, remembering that the couple that road trips together for justice stays together. (You can learn more about the case that prompted our journey to the US and the road trip at Generosity.)

Photo Essay: Scenes from Our Epic USA Road Trip

Wondering where I’ve been? It’s tough to keep up with blogging when you’ve traveled halfway around the world, followed by an epic road trip across America.

After arriving in Cleveland, Ohio last week (my humble hometown), we got behind the wheel and drove our way out to Boise, Idaho for some business related to my husband’s ongoing lawsuit. (To learn more about Jun’s case and how you can help support him, visit our page at Generosity.com.)

A road trip across the country — especially when it’s your first vacation in almost three years — is totally epic and exciting!

But it also doesn’t leave much time or space for blogging, as you can imagine. I’ve pulled into campsites or fallen into beds most evenings feeling completely drained.

I’ll be on the road until about August 7 — so until then, expect only sporadic blogging. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these scenes from our epic USA road trip!

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Jun’s first bagel in almost three years.

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Behind the wheel, driving through Nebraska.

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A gas station in Iowa with a name that had us both LOL!

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That night in Illinois when a downpour forced us to sleep in the car, instead of putting up our tent.

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Reaching the highest summit on Interstate 80 in Wyoming.

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Camping in Southern Wyoming — that night we gazed upon the Milky Way.

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Lunch at a rest stop on Interstate 80.

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Realizing that the couple that road trips together for a good cause stays together. 😉

Wishing you a wonderful summer, wherever you are. And know that I’ll be back after August 7 with more on the blog!

Photo Essay: OMG, They’ve Torn Down Our Family Home in China!

Okay, so the headline is a little exaggerated…but it’s true. Our family home in the countryside has been torn down.

Still, it’s for a positive reason — the family wants to rebuild the home. Fair enough.

I never expected to have such an up close and personal experience with home renovations — to actually witness the destruction of a house while I was walking out the door. (Yes, true story — I had to dodge old wooden planks raining down from the roof the very morning they began tearing down the house.)

So here’s a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to tear down a countryside home in China. Or at least, in the China I know:

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The morning when it all began, bright and early.

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OMG, the roof is almost gone!

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Once they razed the home to the ground, all that remained was this motley assortment of rocks. Whoa.

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And this is all that’s left of the home I once knew.

Good thing we spend most of our time in Hangzhou, because the renovations will get messy and noisy in the next few weeks.

I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Photo Essay: Making Treats for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming Jie)

This weekend it’s a holiday in China — The Tomb-Sweeping Festival (or Qingming Jie). And since I’ve caught the flu, I could use a short holiday from writing! So I’m sharing with you some photos from the holiday — specifically, some pictures of the process of making treats for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival. It’s a tradition here with my family in China. (Note – these pics are from 2014, when I actually helped the family make these turnovers.)

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Those are qingming turnovers, which my Chinese mother-in-law makes every year for the holiday. They come in two colors — white and green.

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What gives the green ones their color? This common plant, called mugwort:

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She boils and pulverizes it, and then mixes the plant together with glutinous rice flour:

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It’s amazing how a humble little plant can be transformed into the delicious beginnings of a turnover!

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Then we roll them out into dough and start the filling process!

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Some of them get filled with black bean paste, and are shaped using this lovely mold:

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Some get filled with a savory mix of tofu, bamboo and pickled greens:

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Either way, they make for a delicious holiday.

Wishing you all a happy Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming Jie)!

Photo Essay: Enjoying the Golden Spring in Rural Hangzhou, China

While I’m still on break this week, I thought I’d share some recent photos from the gorgeous “golden” spring blooming all around us here in the Hangzhou countryside.

IMG_20160315_150541 I call it “golden” because of the golden yellow rapeseed flowers that dominate the fields at this time of year. There’s nothing quite like standing among these fields of gold in the sunshine…

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Even when it’s overcast, the fields shine with the golden radiance of these flowers.

IMG_20160228_172219It’s even better when you can enjoy them with your best friend (and husband). Thanks John. 🙂

See you all next week!

 

Photo Essay: I Survived! Making it Through Chinese New Year 2016 with the Family

Every year, I swear this Chinese New Year is not going to kick my butt. And somehow, every year, I’m totally wrong on this.

Yes, Chinese New Year 2016 — welcoming the year of the monkey — has been an exhausting parade of lunches, dinners, toasts, and meetings.

By the last day I had rings under my eyes (the “panda” look that my husband kids me about) and a desperation about me that said, “Please, Chinese New Year, let me have a little peace and quiet.”

And so it came. Finally! I survived!

While I’m recovering from all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I thought I’d share some of the pics from Chinese New Year 2016.

IMG_20160208_160634_BURST3New year, new picture of John and me in front of the family house. We may be smiling, but we’re beat. With all the fireworks set off all night, I got maybe four or five hours of decent sleep.

IMG_20160208_164147This is our first dinner of the new year at an uncle’s house. There’s lots of toasting, and lots of fantastic food. My husband’s aunt is an extraordinary cook and she happened to dish up a serving of Chinese-style kimchi more delicious than anything I’ve ever had (Must corner her and get the recipe!)

IMG_20160210_112440_BURST1Yeah, I know, eating again. Seriously, that’s the heart of this holiday. Lots and lots of lunches and dinners. As always, we ate…

IMG_20160210_165223…and ate…

IMG_20160213_113430…and ate!

IMG_20160213_112247Even when you’re not having lunch or dinner, people usually offer you lots of food to snack on. Notice the trays of assorted nuts, fruit and candies arranged on the tables before us.

IMG_20160213_142542Here I am at an aunt and uncle’s home, attempting (unsuccessfully) to snack on raw sugar cane. Sweet, but a little too pulpy for my taste. This was day 6. Do you see the fatigue on my face yet?

IMG_20160213_170645This is John and me at the end of the holiday. I’m looking haggard (see the “panda” eyes?) — and longing for a little peace. Fortunately, when we returned from this walk, the village was quiet. Finally, I could rest.

Wishing everyone a wonderful year of the monkey (with hopefully more sleep than I got during the first days of the new year)! 😉

Photo Essay: 2016 Chinese New Year’s Eve at the Family Home

We’re busy celebrating Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday of the year here in China, at John’s family home in rural Hangzhou. I thought I’d share a few photos from Chinese New Year’s Eve.

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It was a lovely day to celebrate Chinese New Year’s Eve, with some of the most gorgeous blue skies of the winter.

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My brother-in-law took his daughter to pay her respects to the spirits in an old camphor tree beside the river, as he does every year on this day.

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On Chinese New Year’s Eve, ancestors come first. Here we pay our respects to the ancestors at their table, filled with dishes fresh from my mother-in-law’s kitchen.

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Let’s eat! It’s the most wonderful dinner of all the year, the table loaded with delicious dishes made by my amazing mother-in-law. (I consider her kitchen one of my favorite “restaurants” in China… 😉 )

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As usual, John is one of the last to leave the table — he loves to eat, and takes his time. Here he’s enjoying some free-range chicken raised by my mother-in-law (his favorite dish of the evening).

Wishing you all a very auspicious and prosperous year of the monkey! Happy Chinese New Year!

Photo Essay: Walking in a (China) Winter Wonderland

Okay, don’t hate me for saying this, but…here in China, I actually look forward to the winter.

I know, I know. This is winter after all. The coldest season of the year!

But here in the Hangzhou region, winter happens to be one of the best seasons for hiking. And ever since we’ve discovered a beautiful little hideaway in the mountains, it’s become our own private “winter wonderland” for evening walks.

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When John and I happen to stay at his family home in rural Hangzhou, the best part of our afternoon comes when we pull on our fleece (or nowadays, down) jackets and head for the hills.

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The first time we discovered this corner of the mountains, I think my heart stopped. I couldn’t believe how utterly beautiful the scenery was. Or how it was literally just a short drive from his parents’ home in the countryside.

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It always feels like these hills are filled with treasures, even in the winter. Just look at the Persimmon trees just behind me. They may have lost their leaves long ago, but those ruby-red persimmons still cling to the branches, just daring you to pick them.

1444284656697Mountain springs flow down the hillside, creating lovely little waterfalls like this one.

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There’s even quite the waterfall running straight through this gorge — and it’s best viewed in the wintertime.

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Sometimes the clouds even put on a show for us.

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Wishing you a a very happy holiday season! And may you too find your own private winter wonderland, wherever you are in the world!

 

Photo Essay: Celebrating My Birthday Beside Hangzhou’s West Lake

Last Monday, I wrote about how wedding anniversaries aren’t a big deal to my Chinese husband. But not birthdays — especially my birthday. We just celebrated and, once again, he approached as if it were a national holiday.

John still loves coming up with what he calls “birthday programs” for my special day and this year was no exception. First, he declared the day a vacation day for us — no work under any circumstances! — and shelved my laptop away. But with the oppressive sunshine burning up the city streets, it was also no time to be outdoors; instead we decided to watch movies on demand at home. We just pulled the curtains, cuddled up in bed, and pretended we were at the movie theater. Simple but fun!

Come evening, however, John and I dressed up to step out into town — or rather, step out beside the West Lake to marvel in the lotus leaves dappling the lake’s surface as well as the dazzling show of lights from the city.

Here are my favorite photos from the evening:

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Wishing you all a happy August!