#Anniversaries and #Gifts

The happiest day in our lives

The happiest day in our lives

What do you buy for a man who has everything?

It’s July and another anniversary is here. Every year I have some trouble deciding what to buy for the man I married some years ago. Normally buying gifts is never an issue for me – I love spending money on my loved ones and friends, and I am constantly on the look out for possible gifts whenever I go shopping, which is, on a weekly basis.

Shopaholic, Moi?

But buying gifts for John is hard. I’ve written about it before and here I repeat: this man has some rare qualities, one of which is that he does not care for material gains, especially gifts. If he likes something, he buys it himself. If he does not like something, even if it costs a fortune, he will either refuse taking it or giving it to someone who happens to be standing by. Many of his colleagues have witnessed this, and no exception for me. So What shall I give him to mark this special occasion?

So I looked up on-line and see what the experts suggest.IMG_5452 IMG_5451

Apparently according to tradition, each year you can get your partner different things on the anniversary. This year, depending on whether I am traditional or modern, it’s crystal or watches. There you go, you now know exactly how many years I have married this man.

No watches, John made it clear. Crystals? Possibly.

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Failing that, we can always go out for a nice Italian meal, or Chinese :-).

Then in three months time, it will be his birthday. Again, what do you buy for a man who thinks he has everything and expects nothing from his wife? Perhaps smiles that I am always prepared to give :-).

Are you ever in a dilemma as to what gifts to buy for someone special? Any suggestions?

Fountains of Love

Fountains of Love

Sheffield Registry Office looked like a wedding cake, but it is no longer there. Fortunately the marriage is still intact :-)

Sheffield Registry Office looked like a wedding cake, but it’s no longer there. Fortunately the marriage is still intact :-)

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Contemplating the Meaning of Life

Life is a miracle, so live it well!

Life is a miracle, so live it well!

Have you ever thought of the meaning of your life?

I have, quite often actually. Maybe I have come to the age when each day moves faster towards that destination, therefore time has become even more precious as each moment passes, never to return.

Maybe I am just more reflective than some of my peers. Even when I was much younger, I contemplated my life: would it be something I would be proud of? Would I make my parents proud of me? Would I be able to make a contribution to Society? Would anyone miss me when I am gone?

Many people probably never think about their life and how the way they live may have an impact on others. Not me. I may not have lived a perfect life so far and far from it, yet I often try to see myself from another’s point of view, examining my actions and what kind of image I present to the people around me.

The truth is is: I like what I see, especially what I have become at this stage in my life. Honestly I do not mind being a friend to myself.

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I was a shy child and I was never talkative, finding it easy to be absorbed in another world than that of my own. There was a lot of chaos and instability in my childhood years but the hobby of reading kept me sane and gave me hope. There was life beyond the every day strife and struggle.photo-2

I read somewhere that people born in the Spring are usually optimistic and positive-minded, because after they were born, the days get longer and warmer and summer was just around the corner. I am an April baby and that may have explained my personality – see below one of my many test results from the social media which says how wonderful I am :-).

That's me alright :-)

That’s me alright :-)

Last Friday, I received an unexpected request from a postgraduate student from University of Warwick who asked if she could interview me for her dissertation. She wanted to speak with Chinese expats in the UK. I agreed and the next thing I knew, she was coming to see me in the very afternoon, with a classmate of hers.

During the weekend, she sent me an email thanking me: “It’s really admiring for us to hear you talking about your stories, and you may not have noticed that that confidence in you makes you shine.”

I am pleased that I am able to contribute to her studies, even in a tiny way.

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I grew up worshipping heroes, those who gave their lives for others, those who made huge sacrifices to achieve the greater good. I believed in them. I’ve learnt that there is something bigger and grander than ourselves from an early age. Although I have had my disappointments over the years, my faith in heroes and goodness in people never diminished – there is shift, no doubt, from admiring grand, sometimes unattainable greatness to more down-to-earth, simple yet charitable actions that I can see and feel.

Personally I’ve come a long way, from a malnourished baby who nearly died at birth, to a mature woman I am today, travelling thousands of miles from a place many people have never heard of in Southwestern China to the second largest city in the UK.

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I have learnt many valuable lessons in my life that I tried to share them. Due to my love for writing and stories, a simple hobby of diary writing grew to a more sustaining efforts of noting down what has happened in my journey through life, a journey that took me from the East to the West, a journey that saw me growing up under The Same Moon, going through Trials of Life and finally finding my feet firmly on the Land of Hope.

Trilogy Cover

Has my life been dramatic and exciting? Has it been worthwhile? Have I been through ups and downs yet coming out the other side smiling?

Be Good & Do Good!

Be Good & Do Good!

Yes, yes and yes! Have I got any regrets? No.

How many of us can say that when they are lying on their deathbed, reflecting on their life? In my lifetime, I’ve encountered hundreds of thousands of people; I’ve interacted with thousands of people and I’ve had close contact with hundreds.

I have met very important people, professional and successful people; I have met many more ordinary folks, losers and even criminals, people from almost all walks of life. I’ve witnessed a wide range of human spectrum, from the great, the good, the beautiful, to the other extreme to evil, the suffering and ugliness. I see people lust after power, money and greed, losing their dignity and humanity along the way.

Where does it all end? Death and taxes, two sure things in life; and all creatures, big or small, all end up in one and only way.

The question, for me, has always been: to be or not to be!

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Joyful July: Hot #Summer #BBQ and #BCU #Fiesta

Cupcakes, anyone?

Cupcakes, anyone?

Only a week into the month, we already have had the hottest days on record on the very first day of July, climbing up to 36 degrees, unfamiliar to many Brits but we embraced it.

Quite by coincidence, Birmingham City University had its annual Summer Fiesta on the hottest day. The heat was raised a few degrees by a cauldron of fiery Mexican flavour: Burritos, Paellas,  fruit from tropical “trees” dipped in a massive hot chocolate fountain.

To burn off these extra calories, a live Salsa band was playing while a number of staff members shook their bodies on the dance floor. Naturally I was drawn into the energetic rhythm and beat – how could anyone help but move their body and shake their booty?

Chocolate fountain & Fruit Tree

Chocolate fountain & Fruit Tree

Mexican drinks and treats

Mexican drinks and treats

the Party was on!

the Party was on!

International Office Staff having fun

International Office Staff having fun

What a fabulous start of a hot summer month!

The fun did not end there, of course. On Saturday, the 4th of July, we hosted a BBQ at our suburban home. We had over 20 guests, from age 5 to age 85.

Summer BBQ 2015

Summer BBQ 2015

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This year we had a few old friends like Friederike and Colin Rice, as well as many new friends I only met this year. I was really glad that quite a few of BCU’s visiting academics were able to join us, despite cancellations of the train. It was great that they arrived early to help out, and of course, having Tao at home was handy too. He made his signature roast duck, chicken wings and spare ribs.

Freiderike, James, Jackie, Geoff and Colin

Freiderike, James, Jackie, Geoff and Colin

Tao watching the girls: Yan, Jie, Yuan and Qian

Tao watching the girls: Yan, Jie, Yuan and Qian

We had so much fun and these pictures speak for themselves, thanks to everyone who made this day really special.

BBQ chef John with Gabriel and Gisele, from Mexico

BBQ chef John with Gabriel and Gisele, from Mexico

Playing cards on our front yard

Playing cards on our front yard

Party Chef Lele and Helpers Peipei, Yuan and Yang

Party Chef Lele and Helpers Peipei, Yuan and Yang

Playing generous hostess has long been one of my favourite pastimes.

It may have been in my genes but it really took off after I arrived in the UK. Maybe because I was living on my own and craved for fun and company, maybe because I enjoy cooking and entertaining, I often invited people over no matter how cramped my accommodation had been, from student halls of Warwick, Glasgow and Leeds.

Once I had around 50 people, filled all the rooms and garden. I spent a day shopping and another day cooking. I cooked  so much food that I had leftovers for days afterwards.

Over the years, I’ve lost count how many friends, acquaintances and strangers I have fed, many of whom have long since disappeared from my life. Some of them, I hope, would remember that they had once been entertained by a Chinese girl/woman. In return, I have no doubt that my cooking skills have improved along the way.

These days my energy reserve is no longer the same as when I was younger and fitter. Hence I don’t do it as often nor as big a scale. Still, when I do, I enjoy it massively.

If we were in America, we would be drinking and celebrating the Independence Day, no doubt. Since we are in the UK, the former colonists who were kicked out, I’ll raise my glass for more simple reason:

May you all have a glorious summer and enjoy your life no matter what!

Playing frisbee to encourage better appetite :)

Playing frisbee to encourage better appetite :)

So did walking along the swan lake

So did walking along the swan lake

Tao playing guitar to entertain

Tao playing guitar to entertain

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Discovering #Birmingham: Travelling Back In Time via Tolkien Trail

Outside Sarehole Mill

Outside Sarehole Mill

“It’s a beautiful day outside. Let’s go somewhere,” I said to my better half. “Is there anywhere in Birmingham we have not been yet?”

“Of course, there is,” John replied, “south of Birmingham.”

Of course. We live in the north of Birmingham, and after a dozen years as residents, it seemed that we had been everywhere.

Not exactly.

So with John’s pick, we headed south to the other side of the city. Nearly an hour later, we arrived at Sarehole Mill and parked our car. Apparently, J.R.R.Tolkien’s family moved into a hamlet just across the road from the Mill and used to spend hours exploring the grounds and being chased away by the miller’s son, whom was nicknamed the “White Ogre” – does that sound familiar to any of Lord of the Ring fans?

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During his formative years, Tolkien lived in nine houses in the south of Birmingham. Sarehole is said to have been the model for ‘The Shire’, although more fans of Lord of the Rings have paid homage to the location of the films in New Zealand. At Sarehole when we visited, there was hardly anyone in sight. Now about 100 years after Tolkien’s happy childhood, the Mill is part of Birmingham Museums Trust as well as a working mill, showing the Signposts to Middle Earth exhibition and linking to famous author to the landscape of Birmingham.

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Other landmarks that connect Tolkien to Birmingham are the two towers, one is the Perrott’s Folly, the crenelated gothic towel build in 1758, originally part of a hunting lodge and then a weather recording station. Another is a Victorian chimney tower which stands tall at Edgebaston Waterworks. Readers of Lord of the Rings can probably guess that these two towers inspired “Minas Morgul” and “Minas Tirith”, the “Two towers of Gondor”.

Walking towards Mosley Bog

Walking towards Mosley Bog

Sarehole Mill today

Sarehole Mill today

Following our visit to the Mill, we picked up a little guide “Birmingham Tolkien Trial” and walked to another location nearby: Mosley Bog, where Tolkien used to hang out with his brother and went on their mini adventures. According to Tolkien, it was the ‘Old Forest” where Tom Bombadil lived. It was known to be the model for “The Marshes of the Dead”. Today, it remains pretty wild, although little pathways with deckings have been built to allow those dog walkers and modern-day explorers like us to keep our feet dry.

Did this tree inspire the creation of Ents?

Did this tree inspire the creation of Ents?

The sun rays were pouring through the many trees, reflecting the blue sky in those remaining boggy areas and muddy ponds. It was easy to imagine that once upon a time, it could have been dangerous, one easy slip leading to being sucked down by the swamp. Although we did not see any orcs, we did spot a couple of old trees that looked vaguely like the Ents in the Lord of the Rings films. I wouldn’t have minded a lift from these trees as my legs began to tire.

I have never read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, although I did read The Hobbit. I am not a fan of fantasy stories, but I absolutely adored the films. Who could have watched the Hollywood blockbuster without feeling attracted to the Ring and faithfully following Frodo all the way to Mordor? Who could forget Golum, the elves and Gandalf?

Inside the tea room at the Mill

Inside the tea room at the Mill

One of Tolkien's homes

One of Tolkien’s homes

I am so glad that I live in a city that inspired such great writing and incredible imagination of human minds. Birmingham, as many of us know, is the home of the Industrial Revolution too, and in fact, it transformed from a village to what it is today, the second largest city in the UK.

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One of the towers now at University of Birmingham

One of the towers now at University of Birmingham

Birmingham today - the library where Tolkien's books are collected

Birmingham today – the library where Tolkien’s books are collected


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