Tuesday Trip Back in Time – Jinan, China 2010

Jinan is a Chinese city that  most people will not find reason to visit. It does not have the cachet of the more famous cities of China such as Beijing or Shanghai – in fact, Jinan has the dubious honor of being known as one of the most polluted cities in China! However, my husband was born in and raised in Jinan until he was 15, and his maternal family still lives there. Therefore, we made plans to visit Jinan and some other cities for three weeks – March 2-23, 2010.

This was pretty significant in our relationship because at that point we had been dating for about a year and a half and I was going to meet half of his family. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. Compounding my anxiety was the fact that I don’t speak Mandarin well at all! Or understand much either. My parents are from Hong Kong and Guangzhou, areas where they mainly speak Cantonese – therefore, it would be difficult to communicate well with his family. I was also a little anxious because in China, the one-child policy has caused parents to be extremely protective of their single child – even more so for a son due to social and cultural ideas. I was well-aware that I could be found wanting by his relatives – a non-Mandarin speaking and short Chinese girl. Apparently their family is proud of their height (my husband is 6’1″, in contrast I am 5’….). Already a few strikes against me!

the symbol of Jinan in Quancheng Square

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Hmm… what’s foreign to me?

When I was younger, I traveled a lot with my family during Christmas breaks and sometimes during the short Thanksgiving breaks as well. These holidays are traditionally “get-together-with-extended-family” times, but although I have a huge extended family (7 uncles on my dad’s side, and tons of cousins) we don’t really get together during those holidays. We usually gather for more Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, family birthdays, etc etc. Therefore, those traditional American/Western holiday breaks are great times for my family to travel – at least when we were younger and in school. I think I took it for granted that every year we would go somewhere cool… Looking back on it, I was really lucky that we had the means to travel to so many places! Even though most of the time there were through Chinese group tours.

Maybe because of traveling at at a young age, most places don’t feel very foreign to me, however – even in countries that speak a different language, at least the alphabet is familiar to me (if it’s the Western alphabet). Similarly, in China I felt semi-comfortable because I knew the language somewhat, and the same in Japan and Korea. However, the one place that I did feel completely out of place was Greece! It really felt like another world to me because the language and alphabet was so different.

it’s literally greek to me.

Tuesday Trip Back in Time – Phoenix and Sedona, AZ

Once in a while I like to revisit my past trips and relive the experiences that I had on those trips. There’s the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly – but it always brings back fond memories and hindsight even the bad or annoying things get a nice sheen of nostalgia too!

a dramatic sky over the desert landscape in Arizona

The first trip I’ll be revisiting is the trip that my husband and I took to Phoenix and Sedona in Arizona, from 11/27-12/1 2011. Honestly, I had never really thought about visiting Arizona again (I had briefly gone to the Grand Canyon with my family as a child). It was actually a Groupon gone wrong that led me on this trip! Originally my friend and I had each bought a Groupon for a three day-stay at a ranch in Tucson, AZ that included meals, horseback riding, and a tour for only $64! It sounded like a great deal, and we decided we would both bring our significant others. Everything seemed fine – I called them to book a stay in late November after Thanksgiving and they had us down in a nice bungalow. I booked my airline tickets back in February (I like to book my tickets early… my downfall in this case!) and everything seemed pretty set!

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Travel Theme: Couples

Another Friday, another great travel theme by Where’s my backpack! This week focuses on pairs – people, food, shoes, animals… what have you. Of course I had to throw in a wedding photo in there, but I tried to keep it a little different. Here we go!

a pair of very frisky felines!

meerkats letting it all hang out

while in nyc captured this sweet proposal! this guy was waiting in a heart of sunflowers while his gf was blindfolded and led to him!

the tears come out when the blindfold comes offf

i’m pretty sure she said yes!

a pair of sexy shoes – my wedding shoes!

a couple of fortune cookies having a conversation

two blueberries with a ladybug hitchhiker

our wedding shot ~!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

This week’s photo challenge over at The Daily Post is silhouette – and immediately the perfect photo popped into my mind!

jumping into the sunset

This is a picture from 2008 of me and my friends jumping (we were really into jumping shots back then) at the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. It’s not really a true silhouette shot because you can see that our shadows aren’t totally black… but I think it counts right? This picture really brings back a lot of great memories about our trip to San Diego. We stayed in a hostel and cooked pancakes every day for breakfast in funky shapes. We were there for a conference but we made sure we had plenty of time to have fun… ahh to be a young carefree student again!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

Ah, photo challenges and weekly themes. I’m obsessed! It’s fun to look at the challenge and really think back through your previous trips and see what matches up with the theme. This week’s photo challenge at The Daily Post is BIG. This was a little tricky because by nature I am small and I love to take pictures of small things, mini things, macro etc. So I really had to dig through my photos to find something.

huge wooden spider at the Desert Botanical Garden

A freaky sight for arachnophobes! This was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. They were having displays of huge wooden insects all throughout the garden, with grasshoppers, dragonflies etc. It was a toss up between this spider and the spider statue Maman in Ottawa that stands outside the National Gallery of Canada. Somehow people do like huge statues of spiders….

Travel Theme: On Display

Hmm when I saw this week’s travel theme on Where’s my backpack? my mind went haywire thinking about all the different things I’ve seen in shops. Actually, what really came to mind was food because I find myself drawn to farmer’s markets and I love photographing gorgeous produce. Is that weird? In any case, I went through my sorta more exotic trips to find some more typical store items… it was nice, remembering past trips. Also, I like taking pictures of items because I feel like I have it, even though I didn’t buy it! Which I think is sometimes why storeowners discourage photography.

I know there’s still a lot of pictures, but I actually cut it down a lot…. Without further ado!

idol fans in Japan. that’s right, they print out boy band member’s faces on fans… to cool them off cuz the guys get them so hot. I recognize two guys from Arashi, do you see them?!


adorable mini erasers in Japan that look good enough to eat!


for however much yen, you can bling your phone to look like this! you can tell it’s a older photo cuz it’s a flip phone haha.

beautifully displayed and carefully ribboned melons. if you see the price ranges they can go up to 8k yen, which is about 100 bucks. 100 bucks for a melon! damn.

in a Chinese supermarket, selling rosebuds to make tea. Currency exchange rate is about 6 RMB to a dollar.

an elaborate ruby necklace in a Shanghai storefront


traditional Chinese paper cutting! Very elaborate and impressive.

lucha libre masks in Mexico. I still regret not buying one!


cool ceramic skulls in Mexico. I bought a bunch of these as souvenirs… and ended up putting them all around the apt instead!


pocketwatches from a street festival in NYC this weekend


a Michelle Obama shopping bag in NYC. She is, after all, the First Lady of Fabulous!