Go #East, Go #Global

Celebrating Birthdays with Family

Celebrating Birthdays with Family

Following my “Journey to the West” trilogy, which I completed a few years ago, I started a second trilogy. Guess what? There is only one change to the title, the West becomes East, as more and more people are heading the other way.

Tomorrow, I’m also going that way, jetting off from Birmingham, via Amsterdam, and arriving in Chengdu some 15 hours later. Given the 7 hours’ time difference, it will be another day by the time I land.

I have taken this journey a number of times, ever since KLM started scheduled flights to the Southweastern hub of China, home to some 14 million people, including my mum and many relatives and friends.

Here is another thing: I used to regularly travel to Chengdu to see family, for pleasure, but this time, it’s for work, although some pleasure will still feature. For instance, you cannot go to Chengdu and not dive right in the amazing food culture. Here is one reminder of what a fascinating place Chengdu is:

Chengdu: “Country of Heaven” 天府之国成都 – Mini Tours to China (4)

I will also travel further afield, across the borders in Shenzhen to Taiwan and Seoul. A few weeks on the road will be hectic but full of exciting new encounters and renewing contacts with old friends. I am energised by that prospect.

I visited Seoul in 2012 and absolutely loved it!

I visited Seoul in 2012 and absolutely loved it!

Beautiful Taiwan

Beautiful Taiwan

Sunset in Taipei

Sunset in Taipei

Without elaborating on what is to come, I have one mission in mind: I hope that more and more people, old and young, staff and students, will follow my footsteps: Go East and Go Global.

In the event of hoping from one place/country to another, I am taking a break from blogging. However, I plan to be connected with you again on my return in October. Till then, Ciao for now.

Goodbye, Birmingham!

Goodbye, Birmingham!

A long Journey to the East by KLM

A long Journey to the East by KLM

Hello, Chengdu and her fabulous selection of yummy foods :-)

Hello, Chengdu and her fabulous selection of yummy foods 🙂

Posted in China & East Asia, Education, Food & Cuisine, Reading & Writing, Social Media & Photography, Travel Logs, UK, USA & Europe, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Hygge: #Denmark Leads the Happiness League in #Europe (4)

Hygge - happiness beyond words

Hygge – happiness beyond words

A lot of us have heard of the buzz that’s been around for sometime: Denmark is the happiest country on earth, but how many of us know exactly why? Is it because of its great wealth or small size? What is it that makes a nation so happy?

f14_what_is_hygge_is2So here comes a new word, and no doubt that it will appear in the Oxford English dictionary, sooner or later, since there is no single English word which is its equivalent. In other words, Hygge is a way of life, it is how the Danes enjoy life’s simple pleasures with several aspects beginning with F: Friends, Family, Food, Feelings of well-being, contentment, satisfaction and coziness, perhaps a Fabulous candle-lit dinner by a Fireplace, or an open fire in a winter’s day, or night.

How many of us would like to have that warm feeling inside us, a sense of ease with oneself and with others around us? A sense of peace deep within our hearts and souls, something that is a constant state of mind. I would.

Last year at around this time of the year, we visited Denmark. It was my first time and I am sure that it won’t be the last. John wrote a short piece below:

From #Birmingham to #Copenhagen: Route to #Happiness

John shared his views on why cycling on a mass scale contributed to the nations’s happiness. A couple of days ago, he emailed me the following:

No wonder there was fire in that Danish restaurant even in the summer days

No wonder there was fire in that Danish restaurant even in the summer days

Listening to Radio 4 while washing up I heard the word “Hygge” and the interviewer asking a Danish guy to explain the concept for an English audience. The Dane painted a picture of a visit to Sweden. He and his friends had been out walking until sunset and arriving back at the log cabin they lit the wood fire and settled down to relax with a coffee and liquer or two. The feeling that they had between them was described as “Hygge” which isn’t just happiness or contentment or even good company. It is a combination of all of these emotions, and of time and place. Place and proximity to nature seems to be very important and it is interesting to see how much wood the Danes and other Scandinavians still use in their buildings. The episode gave me a small insight into the idea of “hygge” but not being brought up in that tradition it is difficult to fully grasp its meaning. Maybe it also means a lack of moaning and complaining, which we English do a lot – especially about people from “The Continent”. – John Kirk

Following John’s comments above, I went to him and made a pact: Let’s take a lesson from the Danes and complain less from now on!

Generally speaking, I am not an obsessive moaner, but I do complain from time to time, especially when stressed at work. It is not healthy and it makes me unhappy. That may explain, partially, why I enjoy travelling so much and being away from the norm, I feel a sense of adventure and contentment. During the holidays, we get to choose our company, we eat nice food in usually peaceful environment, and often in warm and sunny places, all contributing factors to a happy life and general well-being.

Buying 'happy fruit' bananas in Copenhagen made me happy!

Buying ‘happy fruit’ bananas in Copenhagen made me happy!

John enjoying a warm coffee at Copenhagen Botanic Gardens - simple happiness

John enjoying a warm coffee at Copenhagen Botanic Gardens – simple happiness

A yummy fish soup warmed my heart in Denmark

A yummy fish soup warmed my heart in Denmark

How is happiness of a nation measured, one might wonder? Apparently, according to the World Happiness Report, six key factors were identified in the evaluation process: three from the governmental point of view and the rest on a human-scale. Namely, relative wealth (large GDP capita), healthy life expectancy and lack of corruption in leadership. In terms of individuals, it covers control over the following: a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity. Denmark, has one of the best support systems for parents and for one another in a community.screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-10-01-12

Spotted this on a wall in Copenhagen

Spotted this on a wall in Copenhagen

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-10-48-52

Danes share a real sense of collective responsibility and in their 2011 election, nearly 90% people voted. In the UK, in contrast, even during the most significant vote to Remain and Leave the EU in June 2016, only around 72% people bothered to vote, let alone those stupid and uninformed Brexiteers who chose to vote as a protest and then regretted when they realised the unexpected and seriously damaging consequences caused by their idiotic actions. Let us not even mention those countries where people have no votes, or votes in name only.

Finally, let me ask you: what makes you happy? Will you embrace the Danish Hygge if you can?640-6 marcusaurelius386395 img_3431

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#Weekend Delight: #Canal Walks Between #Birmingham and #Lichfield

One with Nature: walking and posing by the canal.

One with Nature: walking and posing by the canal.

“What shall we do this weekend?” I asked.

“We’ll have a walk along the canal,” John replied.

“Again?” I did not sound too surprised but asked any way.

“Yes, again,” he said, adding: “from a different starting point.”

So in the last few weekends this summer, including the Bank Holiday weekend, we did a variations of the same walk along the canal, a short drive away from where we on the edge of Birmingham to a location further up, North of Lichfield.

Many people don’t know this, but Birmingham has more canals than Venice, even though not as famous nor as picturesque. However, many of you do know that John and I enjoy walking, and in the past decade or so, we have enjoyed countless walks in Sutton Park, and here is a little reminder of that favourite walking location of our’s.

One of Our Favourite #Pastimes: Walking in Sutton Park

Last Sunday as we sauntered along the canal near Fradley Junction, where the Birmingham Coventry canal meets the one between Nottingham and Liverpool, I began to wonder: “It’s really cool, but why have we not been walking along the canal until very recently?”

John had an answer for everything including this one: “It was because you started asking for things to do at the weekend and and you wanted variety.”

Beautiful day for a walk on the wide side

Beautiful day for a walk on the wide side

The Summer colours are vibrant

The Summer colours are vibrant

That’s right, even if just taking a different route gives me a motivation to carry on walking, and of course, taking photos too.

Our extended walk a week ago took us to the same junction where had walked before and enjoyed a leisurely lunch on a previous occasion, but we did stop at a different cafe, and then were directed to a lake nearby which we had not been to before. Apparently once upon a time, the rival water companies tried to divert the water to keep it from one another.

A few things families can do, such as walking, bird watching and enjoying a bite to eat.

A few things families can do, such as walking, bird watching and enjoying a bite to eat.

The little lake tucked away from the canal

The little lake tucked away from the canal

Along the canal, the many golden fields had just been harvested, and endless blackberries were tempting me to stop and taste them. So I did, as you can see from my pictures below. They are wildly tasty!

Blackberries are riping up under the August sunshine

Blackberries are ripe under the sunshine

Which ones to pick?

Which ones to pick?

Ha, they are sweet!

Ha, they are sweet!

I am sure that we will continue our regular weekend walks in Sutton Park, but as an alternative, canal walks will be vying for our attention as a very strong rival. I do like that fact that we see people on narrow boats slowly going by, which English people have been doing for 200 hundred years – in the 18th century, the canals were the main channels of heavy transport, and lately a more relaxed and leisurely pursuit for couples and families to spend their time, passing through locks and villages, and getting glimpses of people’s back gardens.

A happy couple had their names on the boat as well as 'Mate for Life' swans as a symbol of their love.

A happy couple had their names on the boat as well as ‘Mate for Life’ swans as a symbol of their love.

A young couple reading and relaxing on the roof of their boat

A young couple reading and relaxing on the roof of their boat

Will we ever hire a narrow boat for a little cruise along the canal?

Only time will tell.

Dogs are having fun too!

Dogs are having fun too!

Posing for more pictures during one weekend walk

Posing for more pictures during one weekend walk

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A Little History of #Norway (2): #Bergen and the #Fjords Beyond

Stavkirke, originally built in 1150, relocated in 1883, burnt down and then reconstructed

Stavkirke, originally built in 1150, relocated to its current location in 1883, burnt down and then reconstructed

If you are not from Norway or have never visited, what do you know about this country?

Before we visited Norway for the first time, I confess that I did not know a great deal, except perhaps that it was very expensive with a very high quality of living. I also knew that it was a peace loving country and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded there every year.

Then we paid a short visit to Oslo in July 2009 for a very special occasion, I learnt a bit more about this Northern European country.

It is still the most expensive country we have ever been to but there is a good reason behind this. Although the early settlers in Norway dated back over 10,000 years, it was largely a land for hunting, fishing followed by farming. In the Bronze Age, weapons, jewellery and tools were made hence trading started to grow, especially during the time of the Viking expansion. As we know, fast ships were built to allow the Vikings to set sails and raid other nations.

Over the years throughout its history, Norway had unions with the more powerful Denmark (1380-1814) and then Sweden which lasted until early 20th century (1905). So compared to may European nations, Norway as an independent nation is still quite ‘young’.

Fast forward to the 1960s when massive reserves of oil and gas were discovered in the North Sea, especially off the Norwegian coast. The rest, as we see, is history. Norway’s economy had a gigantic boost, and for the last decade or so, Norway has been consistently voted the top country to live in.

John at Oslo Harbour

John at Oslo Harbour

Nobel Peace Centre is Situated in Oslo

Nobel Peace Centre is Situated in Oslo

Oslo, a First-Class Metropolis or the World’s Most Expensive City?

Following Oslo (see above link), Bergen became a natural pick for our second visit to this vast country, not so big in terms of population, only over five million habitants, similar size to that of Scotland, but huge in comparison with our northernly neighbour in terms of land mass, especially the coastline, stretching endlessly North to some 22,000 kilometres, all the way from the sea border of Denmark to the northern tip of Finland up in the Arctic Circle.

On approaching our landing at Bergen, the lovely Norwegian girl next to me said that we were really lucky in visiting that particular week, as Bergen had been suffering from non-stop rain for weeks and months.

Lucky indeed! Of the six days we spent either in Bergen and beyond, we had the bluest skies, sometimes with white clouds, sometimes without, as can be seen from the pictures we took, with iPhones, iPads, cameras. Between John and I, we had six different photographic tools which we made very good use of. Like last week’s post, I am sharing a very small section of our massive collection (nearly 2000 photos we took between us) here with you.

iPad came handy when taking pictures

iPad came handy when taking pictures

Bergen centre is buzzing with tourists and locals alike

Bergen centre is buzzing with tourists and locals alike

The views from above are breathtaking, especially on a bright day

The views from above are breathtaking, especially on a bright day

In Bergen, we visited a number of Art Galleries during the one day when the clouds were low and visibility wasn’t great. On the day before we set exploring further in our hired car, the sun was shining beautifully and we headed towards one of the seven mountains around Bergen. The views were truly stunning and words were not sufficient to do justice, nor cameras, but you get the picture.

In last week’s blog, I shared with you what we did when we visited Ulvik, where we spent time kayaking in fjords and hiking into the mountains in Hardanger, and lovely people we met especially Remco and Hana. This week, I will conclude my Norwegian travel log with a fabulous fjord cruise we experienced on the day before we left Bergen.

Another picture with Remo and Hana, our lovely guides

Another picture with Remo and Hana, our lovely guides

One of many picture breaks we took on our road trip

One of many picture breaks we took on our road trip

The only souvenir I bought from Norway was a cap from the centre of Bergen, near the famed Brygen and Fish Market at the harbour, before we set off on the fjord excursion beneath a hot sun beating relentlessly down. A dash of red against the blue sky and fjords, and green mountains and grass, was a perfect choice, don’t you think?

My Norwegian cap matches the Norwegian glad perfectly

My Norwegian cap matches the Norwegian flag perfectly

More pictures of our fjord cruise on a fine day!

More pictures of our fjord cruise on a fine day!

Thanks to John and his fine photographic skills, and mine of course, our fantastic expedition is forever recorded in the countless images we caught on camera, and in our hearts.

I left a little piece of my loving heart in that awesome land and its waters blessed by Mother Nature!

Bryggen UNESCO World Cultural Heritage

Bryggen UNESCO World Cultural Heritage

Sailing away from Bryggen

Sailing away from Bryggen

One fjord after another, the natural beauty never ends

One fjord after another, the natural beauty stretches endlessly!

Goodbye Norway! We will be back!

Goodbye Norway! We will be back!

 

Finally a short video I made for our previous Oslo trip with fabulous music from Norway’s proud son Edvard Grieg. Enjoy!

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