Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge: Day 2

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The rules for the challenge are the following:

“Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day”.

Today, I challenge The Book-Loving Pharmacist!

(Of course you are not obligated to do this challenge! And on the other hand, if you haven’t been directly challenged but want to give this a try, absolutely go for it!)

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Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge: Day 1

Hello everyone!

Darren @ The Artsy Plantsman participated in the Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge a while back. It looked like a lot of fun so I thought I’d give it a try!

Basic rules are the following:

“Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day”.

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I am already finding it very hard to not explain the photos I post. However, hopefully by looking at these pictures, you will get a sense of my everyday life and the city that I life in. As they say, pictures speak a thousand words, right?

Today, I challenge When I Reach You!

(Of course you are not obligated to do this challenge! And on the other hand, if you haven’t been directly challenged but want to give this a try, absolutely go for it!)

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What is a fun blog challenge that you participated in? Do you like taking photos? What do you use to take photos? (A camera, or a phone?)

Come See China with Me! (Part 2)

Come See China with Me!

Hello everyone!

Wish me luck- I have a driving test this Wednesday to get my full license! (I have been driving for two years now with a learner’s license, so this test shouldn’t be a problem. The hard part is to remember to stop for 3 seconds at each stop sign, and to not drive above the speed limit.)

Today, I want to tell you guys about the second week of my China trip, which I spent in Shijiazhuang. Just a reminder about where this city is in China:

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If you guys want to read about Weihai, China (a beautiful coastal city), check out my previous blog post here. Shijiazhuang is very different (be prepared).

Disclaimer: This won’t be your typical travel post! Since I was born in China and have lots of family there, you won’t see much touristy stuff here. However, you will likely get a sense of what it is like to live as a Chinese person.

Shijiazhuang, China

We flew from Weihai to Beijing, then travelled to Shijiazhuang by bullet train, which can drive up to 300km per hour! This is one of the technological innovations that the Chinese are very, very proud of.

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Another recent innovation? Bike sharing! This is super popular in the big cities in China these days. The yellow/orange bikes (see above) are located all over the city, and are available for rent using a mobile app! One of the neat things is that there are no standardized pick-up or drop-up locations: you can pick any random bike on the street, ride it where you need to go, and leave it wherever you want.

Also, in malls, supermarkets, restaurants, and event farmer’s markets, people pay using their cellphones, which are connected to their bank accounts. Cash is used infrequently, and people don’t swipe or tap credit cards.

On the flip side, unfortunately China has a smog problem. In fact, Shijiazhuang is THE smoggiest city in ALL of China, and China is one of the smoggiest cities in the world :’) If you ever visit a major city in China, you may see people wearing face masks.

On this note, a funny story told by a family friend living in China: When he visited Canada, he began to have breathing problems. “Why do you have breathing problems?” “Too… much… oxygen…” Lol :’)

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We ate a lot of good food in Shijiazhuang. One interesting thing I tried was donkey meat. Apparently donkey can be cooked in many ways – steamed donkey, stir-fried donkey, donkey wrap, donkey stew… It tastes kind of like beef, but less stringy. What is the weirdest food that you’ve tried?

In case you are curious about the people in my picture, from left to right: Uncle, aunt, cousin, grandma, grandpa, mom, me, dad 🙂

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I spent some mornings visiting my grandma in the hospital (she has atrial fibrillation). No worries, she is doing well now 🙂

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We did do one touristy thing in Shijiazhuang, which was to visit the Zhao Zhou Bridge. Built in the early 600s, this is the oldest bridge in China, and the oldest bridge of its type in the world.

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Do you have your driver’s license already? What is some of the cool technology in your country? What is the weirdest food that you’ve tried? Any culinary specialties that you love in your culture? Any burning questions about China?!

 

Come See China with Me! (Part 1)

Hello everyone! I’m back!!

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Some of you may remember me from 2 weeks ago! Yes, I went to visit China, where I was born and raised (can you tell? :P) Now I am excited to share my adventures with you guys.

Disclaimer: Because I am kind of a Chinese person (I say “kind of”, because although I look and speak Chinese, I have a Canadian passport), and I am mostly visiting family in China, you won’t see much touristy stuff here! Instead, you might get a taste of what it is like to live in China as a Chinese person. And you might get to know a bit more about me 😉

Over the past 2 weeks, I visited two cities in China:

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Shijiazhuang is my hometown. It is also the smoggiest city in China. (Shijiazhuang’er’s are almost proud of that. Almost :’) )

Weihai is where my grandparents (from my Mom’s side) live. It is also deemed the city that is most suitable for living in China.

Two very different cities, as you can tell. Today I will show you guys photos from Weihai, because it is the city that I travelled to in the first week of my vacation.

Weihai, China

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Weihai is known for its beaches, blue skies, clean air, and seafood. It is a popular place for people from other parts of China to visit. People often dream of retiring in Weihai (for a good reason!) More photos of the shoreline later!

Two of the middle photos feature one of the many roadside food vendors. In the late mornings and early evenings, you may also spot groups of people crowded around a table on the sidewalk, playing Chinese chess.

I also want to introduce you guys to my co-travellers (aka. my family!) From the left to the right: Mom, Dad, and me. (I know, we all look the same age :P)

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Did I mention that the seafood is amazing in Weihai?! This is one of my favourite photos. (Hint hint: Can you spot the baby crab inside the clam?!)

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We also got to enjoy some amazing home-cooking (courtesy of my oh-so-amazing grandma <3). The dish featured here is called Zha Jiang Mian, which is a noodle dish topped with meat (usually pork) in a soybean paste, and some fresh vegetables (like cucumbers). Did I mention that my grandma makes all her noodles by hand?! This is one of my favourite Chinese dishes of all time.

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One of my favourite activities was to visit the local farmer’s market, where vegetables, herbs, nuts, spices, etc, are sold fresh and at very reasonable prices. You guys get to see my grandma doing some epic bargaining in the photos above.

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Okay, all right, we got to do one touristy thing in Weihai, and that is visiting the Ting Yuen exhibit. (Can you spot me in the line of soldiers?!) Ting Yuen was a battleship that was designed and built in the 1880s, with expertise from shipbuilders in the Great Britain and Germany. The ship participated in the Sino-Japanese war in 1894. (The above picture features a replica of the ship, as the actual Ting Yuen unfortunately did not survive the war.)

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And as promised, one last photo of the beautiful shoreline. Oh! I also get to show you guys one of my favourite fall outfits! As you can see, I am a fan of red and navy blue. That handbag was purchased from a department store in Weihai when I visited 2 years ago (unfortunately the store doesn’t exist anymore!)

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Where have you travelled to recently? Any future travel plans? Do you like home-cooking? What is a favourite dish from your own culture? What is your go-to fall outfit?

Real Talk: The Upside of Being Alone

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Hello everyone,

Today I want to talk about something different – something that is deeply personal to me. Maybe it relates to you as well.

I used to hate being alone. I used to spread my introverted self thin, and fill my evenings and weekends with activities, because I thought I needed to be with people. It seriously drained me.

Now, my fiancé is on the other side of the country (and when we are talking about Canada, this is a long distance.) And I am living in a smaller city away from my family and 71.4% of my closest friends. Being an introvert, who is now happy about being an introvert, I spend a lot of time alone.

There is a stigma to being alone. On social media, we see pictures of people having fun with friends, and we feel that there is something wrong with being alone, that it’s not fun, that you can’t possibly be happy. When we see a group of people chatting and laughing on the street, we assume that they are having fun and that they are happy. When we see someone eating alone at a restaurant, we wonder if they are bored or lonely.

I want to challenge that. I want to challenge the idea that being with people makes us happy, and that being alone is lonely. I want to sell you the idea that being alone is absolutely fine.

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Better alone than with bad company. You know those friends who you love to bits and pieces, who make you laugh and inspire you, who leave you feeling happy and fulfilled? These are the people who are worth our time. And then you know those other people, maybe even people we call “friends”, who we don’t connect with or relate to, who leave us feeling drained, who, even worse, hurts us? These people we are better without.

Coming out of college and moving to London to start a new job, I feared living on my own. At the same time, I didn’t have any close friends in London. So, I moved in with a girl who I thought was my “friend”, who I knew from the outset that we had little in common with. We did not get along, our personalities clashed, and, needless to say, the year was disastrous.

Now, I am living on my own for the first time, and I love every, single, minute of it.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We can be alone and happy. We can be surrounded by people while feeling desperately alone.

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Being alone inspires creativity. Are you a creative person? Creativity doesn’t have to relate to art. Maybe you like writing, or dance, or music, or drama. Maybe you like to brainstorm solutions for real-world problems. Maybe you just like to imagine how the world can be a better place.

I think that being alone gives us the headspace to think of new ideas, without the influence of other people and the outside world. As a blogger and writer, I find that my best ideas pop out when I’m least expecting it, usually when I am walking, or driving, or just on the verge of sleep.

Or maybe you are different from me. Do your best ideas come when you are alone? Or when you are with people?

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Being alone gives you the freedom to try something new. One thing I’ve learned in my twenty-six years of living is that we don’t have to ask permission. Sure, there are consequences to our actions. If we break a law, likely we will end up behind bars. If we jump from a cliff without a harness, likely we will end up on the operating table. And we will likely hear from our friends and families about it. But, my point is, if it is safe and legal and something that we are interested in, why not? We don’t need permission from anybody.

I had a lot of fun spending time with my friends. At the same time, I missed opportunities to do things I wanted to do, because I always ended up doing what my friends wanted to do. Now, I still ask my friends to join me in my adventures, because it’s nice to have company. But whether or not people come with me, I am going to do it anyway.

And the cool thing is: We meet a lot of cool people along the way. There is something about being alone which opens us up to meeting new people. Maybe, when we are outside of our social bubble, we are more willing to start a conversation with a stranger. Or strangers are more willing to start a conversation with someone who is not already preoccupied.

I went to my pole dancing class terribly shy and nervous, and now I met a bunch of cool gals who inspire me to try my best everyday. I also started blogging with one sad follower (myself), and now I have lots more (you guys are truly amazing).

If I had spent all that time with friends, maybe it would be fun. But would I have learned to pole dance, met awesome blogging pals, read books that speak to my heart, traveled around the world, and have so many interesting stories to tell? I don’t think so.

How do you feel about being alone? Have you tried something new on your own? Have you traveled alone? Do you have favourite “alone” activities?

100 Followers and The Versatile Blogger Award!

Happy Friday!

Do I REALLY have 100 followers? Like, really? (rubs eyes and refreshes page again, because part of me still thinks that I dreamed it all)

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I am honestly SO happy and SO grateful to all of you who read my posts! I remember when I first started this blog with one sad, lonely follower (myself). And in the beginning, I honestly couldn’t believe that anyone would want to read what I have to write. I was ecstatic when I got my first like and my first comment and my first handful of followers.

And you know what? My heart still leaps when I get a new WP notification. I love each and every comment I get from you guys! And each new follower makes me smile! Really! From the bottom of my heart!

I am so grateful for all you wonderful peeps and fellow bloggers. It’s amazing to talk to people from all over the world who like the same stuff as I do. And I love discovering new books and new ideas through you guys. I find myself learning new things and pushing the boundaries of my imagination every day.

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I also want to announce that I was nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award! Big thanks to cseveneaj (@Pen and Paper) and Rejoice A (@The Southern Girl) for nominating me 🙂 Please check out their blogs! Cseveneaj writes lovely poetry, and Rejoice A’s posts will make you smile.

Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
  3. Nominate 10 other bloggers of your choice.
  4. Link your nominees and let them know of you nomination.

Seven facts about me:

I have a greyhound (the dog, not the bus company) named Charles, like the Prince.

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I am one of those people who have to check the stove and my alarm a gazillion times before I go to bed, because I am terrified that my apartment will burn down overnight and I won’t wake up in the morning.

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I work with children who have cancer. Chemo and radiation are tough. But kids are so strong and resilient and brave, because they roll along with whatever life throws at them. They are amazing little humans.

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My fiancé finished medical school this year and is starting his residency in pathology. It’s perfect for him, because he doesn’t like talking to people. He’d rather do autopsies.

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My pole dancing friends call me fearless, because they see me trying things that could get myself seriously hurt. The truth is that I’m terrified each time, but I don’t let it stop me :’)

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I secretly love spending time alone.

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I was born in China and moved to Canada when I was 8 years old. On my passport, I am Canadian. But I am fiercely proud of being both. I love the stereotype that Canadians are nice, because it is so true. And did you know that the Chinese invented paper and printing? And gunpowder? Without China, we might not have books (or gun violence, for that matter.)

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I nominate the following peeps:

(Please check these blogs out, because they are so much more awesome than mine!)

Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate

Breezy @ Breeny’s Books

Annie Earnshaw @ Annie Likes Words

Stella @ Stella’s Journey

Melanie @ MN Bernard Books

Inge @ The Belgian Reviewer

Jeanne G’Fellers

Rachel @ Rachel Also Writes

I totally wouldn’t be surprised if you are on this list and you have already been nominated for this award before 🙂

Do any of you share the same quirks as I do? What are some interesting facts about yourself?

 

Beautiful People: Author Writing Process

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Hello everyone!

For those who don’t know, Beautiful People is a character interview meme hosted by Sky @ Further Up and Further In and Cait from @ Paper Fury, which begins on the 5th of every month. Each month, a list of questions is posted for the characters in your story to answer. Feel free to check this out and join in on the fun! Don’t worry about being late to the game – you can join in at any time during the month!

This month is an author interview! Author, as in, me. (Gulp.) For those who don’t know me well, I don’t like writing too much about myself. I would rather hide in a bush until it is all over. But I will give this a try 🙂

How do you decide which project to work on?

Whatever my mind is preoccupied with at the moment!

These days, I’ve been revising an old project, Together We Will Live Forever (tentative title), written during Nanowrimo 2016. Currently on draft 4 (which is hopefully going to be THE draft.)

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

Usually 3-4 weeks per novella-length draft. I’m a big fan of “write now, edit later”, and I live by the Nanowrimo philosophy even much, much beyond the first draft.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

  1. Get EVERYTHING done beforehand, like chores, dog walking, paying bills, etc. I need to have NOTHING on my mind, except my story.
  2. Put on some soft piano music. I have a Spotify playlist that I ONLY play while I write the story. The rationale is that I will create a psychological association between the music and my story, and that when my brain hears the music, it knows that it’s time to kick into writing gear! (I am still a science nerd from the bottom of my heart 🙂 )
  3. Get comfortable and write. This means lying back on the couch with my laptop on my lap. I’m not sure if I can write sitting up…

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What time of day do you write best?

Because I write best after finishing everything else in my day, it just so happens that I do a lot of writing right before bedtime. The science nerd in me wants to say that there is research showing that creative juices flow best early in the morning and at bedtime anyway 🙂

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

I… can’t really tell. Though as I write, I often hear these words from Stephen King in my head:

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Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I’ve always loved stories. My earliest memory of hearing a story is when my grandpa would read me stories that he wrote. When I discovered that I could create my own stories in grade 3 ESL class, I was beside myself!

I keep writing because there are so many stories inside my head. If I don’t write, where will they all go?

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

For me, writing quirky, humorous and awkward scenes is second-nature. It may be because I am quirky and awkward and (I’d like to think) humorous. Serious scenes are hard for me to write, and I always feel like I am dragging my feet through them.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but don’t feel ready to yet?

I’ve always wanted to write about characters who have HIV. This is because there is a lot of stigma surrounding these people, and that I feel that books can inspire understanding and dispel judgment, and that if everyone were more understanding in the world, it will be a better world. This was initially a theme in my first real novel (TWWLF), but I removed the subplot and shelved it, thinking that it deserves a book of its own, and that any less would not do it any justice. Now I am intimidated by the topic, because it is not anything I have personal experience with, and that I don’t want to get it all wrong and to do any disservice to the people out there who do have HIV.

Have you ever written or wanted to write about a topic that you haven’t personally experienced? And if so, do you feel as intimidated as I do?

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I want to finish the fourth draft of TWWLF and send it out to beta-readers.

I also want to do Nanowrimo again this year with a new novel idea. I am thinking about writing a fantasy/romance with a character who is transgendered. However, I am as intimidated about this as I am about HIV (see above), so I am not sure if this will happen.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif.

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What are some of your writing habits? What are your writing goals for 2017? Do you feel as intimidated as I do about writing something that you haven’t personally experienced?

Let me know if you are doing Beautiful People this month! I would love to read your post as well 🙂