Just off the coast of Xiamen is Gulangyu, a pedestrian-only island that is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. At only 2 km2 area and home to about 20,000 people, Gulangyu is a major domestic tourist destination and is one of China’s most visited tourist attractions. However, all cars and bicycles are banned on the island, which helps to preserve an air of antiquity and tranquility.Continue reading
She was of short stature and stout, with a head covered with curly white hair, but her presence and disposition were the most intimidating that the three-year-old me had yet met. Now, in the sixty-three years that she’d been alive before I was born, my grandmother had amassed — sometimes for the better, others for the worse — a myriad of exciting experiences and meaningful memories. Naturally, a woman with so much character and personality seemed to, at first, scare the young me. Looking back though, perhaps my grandma was the strongest female figure I had encountered at that point, and remains so, to this day.
Born in 1934, my grandmother grew up during World War II and lived through China’s Cultural Revolution — two of which were possibly some of the most trying times in modern Chinese history. During the war, she lost her grandparents and all of hr family’s possessions. Yet after the war, at the age of eleven, she managed to talk her way into continuing her education at school, even though her family could not afford to pay the fee of two carts of rice. When the government de-privatized all schools, she was able to excel in her education — becoming student body president of her school and a member of the city council student board while breaking gymnastics records in the gym. In every way, she embodied the feminist ideal: strong, proud and loud. One of the earliest lessons she had instilled in me was to use my voice: “You have a mouth, so use it to do what it’s supposed to do: speak.” And speak she did, through spoken and written words, about right and wrong, justice and injustice. She had, and still has, an incredibly clear moral compass — never do anyone wrong, always do what you believe is right, and never fail to lend a helping hand.
After graduating, she became a college professor, teaching the Chinese language. Imagine that — a female college professor in the 50s and 60s when even some US schools didn’t let women attend college. And that speaks volumes about her strength, her preservation and her dedication to what she believed in — herself and her goals. All the while, she was financially supporting her own parents and mother-in-law, along with her three children.
Once she retired, she returned to her first true love — art. She began teaching various art courses at the community center, eventually bringing that to the United States when she began visiting my family on a yearly basis after I was born. She taught four to five classes every weekend at the TAMU Chinese School, and it was through art that I formed my first clear memories of her. Each day, she would never fail to sit next to me as I was hunched over a sheet of paper, attempting to draw something of resemblance to a cat. She watched every stroke with pride, and every once in a while, would help steady my hand. From her, from the countless hours we spent indoors and outdoors drawing anything and everything in sight, I learned to draw fairly well. But it was during those times, where when we sometimes got tired and she would share stories about her life, that I learned what it meant to be a good person, and how to be the best one I could be.
Be proud. Be loud. Be strong. Be someone who, when your time has come, you won’t regret being.
Since I’ve left for college, I’ve started talking to her more and more over the phone. It would sometimes be over trivial things — boys & what happened over the week — or more serious things — schoolwork or my future. Although it’s been more than sixty years since she had walked this path herself, her stories hold immense value that transcends time and space, and her experiences deserve to be heard by all.
[中文版 ｜ Chinese Version］
In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share a little column I wrote about my father a few years ago, before I headed off for college. He’s an incredible guy, and I’m so thankful to have him as my father. On that note, shameless plug: last Friday, he came up to Austin for a live TV interview with CGTN (China Global Television Network), where he talked about China’s air pollution problem. It was his first live TV interview, and he was amazing! (He also spent the rest of the day re-listening to his interview so many times that I now have it memorized too, LMAO — it’s cute.) Anyways, if you’re interested, watch it at the end of this post!!! 🙂
Up next in our Explore Austin series is the Barton Creek Greenbelt, which is located in south-central Austin. The Greenbelt contains 12.68 miles of beautiful, scenic trails for hiking, limestone bluffs for rock climbing & swimming. A creek, aptly named Barton Creek, passes through Barton Creek Greenbelt and some of the more scenic areas in Greater Austin.
This summer, I’m spending my time here in Austin to do some research, but of course, now there’s no longer any school/homework for me to worry about, I can actually go and explore Austin on the weekends! I’ll be starting my new Explore ATX series, which will hopefully highlight some of Austin’s gems that you, if you ever get the chance to come down here to Austin, can maybe check out later yourself! First up, Blue Cat Cafe.
A light pink mouth lifts upwards, a smiling pink mouth that laughs with joy as I try to mimic your motions. Your arms form a warm crib that I crawl into. You laugh again, and I do, too. I don’t know why, but I am happy.
At six, I am still happy. You and I probably look outlandish to visitors—two girls playing with dolls; two girls trying to cook; two girls having way too much fun window-shopping and trying on shirts in a tiny fitting room. But tomorrow morning, you will transform into a lady as you go to work. I think it’s magic. In your outfit, you do look sort of scary; an air of adulthood and authority surrounds you . I don’t worry, though, for tonight you will transform into a young girl, and I know you will play ‘animals’ again.
Now, I am as tall as you, but I would not turn down any opportunity to call you my idol, my ally and my companion. Thanks, Mom, for always loving and supporting this crazy child. And though I may act annoying by running around trying to hug you as you cook to avoid studying for a physics quiz, I am so happy to call you my mom. 🙂
Add a little twist to your bread with this little recipe for Braided Bread. Not only is it super pretty, but you can change the filling to whatever you want, and it’s great to just tear off a piece for a snack.
Lemon bars are my favorite because they’re just the perfect balance of sweet & zesty, and they’re perfect for any occasion. And honestly, they don’t even take that long to make, so if you find yourself with a spare half an hour or something, definitely try these out!
White kidney beans, also known as cannellini beans, can be used to make a very creamy and delicious paste that’s often used in many desserts. Here’s a simple and quick recipe for white kidney bean roll cakes.
Double skin milk is a popular Cantonese dessert made of milk, egg whites, and sugar, and my mom absolutely loves it. It kind of reminds me of panna cotta, because it’s essentially just a velcety smooth milk custard with two skins — the first one forms when the boiled milk is cooled; the second, when the cooked custard is cooled. I’ve also included another recipe for ginger milk pudding, since the two can often be eaten together. Ginger milk pudding is another popular Cantonese dessert made from ginger, milk and sugar.