Kelly & Said's wedding~ Sonoma

A sweet homestyle wedding at a private home in Sonoma.... everyone, including Kelly & Said, couldn't have been more relaxed. There was no timeline, no formal wedding routines.... The best moments of their lives were being created, they without having a schedule to follow.

their customized wine....

festive shoes of Said & his buddies...

Lots of chilling...

and blessings...

one of my favorite shots of the two... with my classic final touch :-)


Some kiddos in a small village

Thanks to Retha & Cindy, I was honored to be able to visit a Tibetan family in Tonran, a small town outside Xining over a rainy weekend.

Tibetan is an utterly different language from Chinese, from grammar to sentence structure. As I was sitting at the courtyard of this home, I couldn't stop being amazed by Retha's fluent conversation with the family. A South African spending years of effort learning the language and now being able to blend in with the locals... whereas as a Chinese American, my deceiving look only made them wonder why on earth I chose to live in America. They truly think all Americans are white and all Chinese live in China...

Here are some cute shots of their kids.

And many more just hanging out on the streets....


A serendipity moment

Every day, for three weeks, Jing watched me walk by.
Being one of the front desk staff at the youth hostel in Xining, Jing was responsible and always got an answer to my question. We never chatted beyond topics outside my needs as a guest, till one evening,... I had a strong need to consult a local for some serious Mandarin tutorial. I asked her.
We spent over an hour reading through pages of words that were clueless to me.
We then spent another two hours chatting about everything other than things I needed to know.
And we so enjoyed each others' company,sharing great stories we encountered; the passion we both carried towards life and serving the unfortunate, somehow binded us together.
Doesn't this often happen, that when we're looking for something, we find something else on our way?

Jing & I hanging out at the bar of the hostel, where I enjoyed a cup of freshly brewed Tibetan coffee every morning.
(yes... this place is unbelievably cozy & affordable)


Faces of Muslims

Another unique touch of Xining...
(shot with my compact camera.... shhhhh....)


There? Not there?

I was in Xian when the torch relay for the Olympics hit the city. You've probably seen the relay going on in harmony on TV, with street people lining up waving their flags and calling out in joy. Yes those moments were created with much coordination work done behind the scene. Little did I know that I could never get in as an ordinary street person despite my attempt to arrive at the site hours early planning to get to the front row. No kidding... basically all the streets around the site were being blocked off as far as few miles down.

So there I was stuck with many other ordinary street people having the same naive thought in mind, pondering how on earth would we be missing the entire event when we were actually... there?

On a brighter note, I ended up documenting the event in a far more interesting way. Seeing people in full spirit, then getting frustrated, confronting/ignoring the police force, climbing up walls and eventually, tearing down walls.

P.S. These pictures were shot from my very reliable compact camera :) It'd have been the END of my SLR had I ever showed it off...

Summer in China: Xining, Qinghai Province

Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, is one of the poorest provincial capitals in China. Qinghai is located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau with an average altitude of over 7,000 feet above sea level. I was excited about visiting this city not known for tourism but its natural beauty, its richness in history and culture.

One fine day I made a trip to visit a "national" park 2 hrs away from the city. I wasn't able to find any written info about this park; it's quite a hidden gem that was just being developed and looked nothing like an established scenic spot. It was a delightful ride when we found ourselves constantly surrounded by vast green fields and yellow rapeseed flowers spreading all across range of mountains. Utterly breathtaking.

Instead of focusing on the natural landscape and digging out scenic spots, I decided to just stroll around the park and do some people watching. The reality was that there wasn't much happening in this remote park, let alone trying to find hints of human existence. I ended up grabbing every moment to capture every single creature I could possibly find.
First there was this cute little boy. I literally chased after him for half a mile to get this shot.

We couldn't communicate with each other, and whatever I tried to do and say, he just gave me a pretty blank look, oh, with a pretty bad runny rose.

Next, I found some locals gather up on the other end.. there they were sitting around a little stand that sold... yogurt! Yogurt that's served in a rice bowl, was super sour and was made out of yak's milk. Believe me or not, I did end up liking it...

Oh another boy playing with rocks by the lake. Next to him was probably his sister, or another neighbor kid...

The highlight of this trip was about an unplanned encounter with a local lady at her home. Walking up to the hilltop, we leisurely strolled along an unpaved path which led us to some isolated rustic farmhouses built by locals. In front of us, we found fire being set out which we took as a sign of vitality.

There, an old lady was piling up bunches of dried plants and laying them all out by her front window.


With much kindness, she invited us in and as I watched her knitting dough making bread, I couldn't stop looking around, being amazed by all signs of simplicity under the wooden roof top. A small radio for entertainment, a small candle jar for light, and lots of newspapers for wallpaper. Simple, lovely.

Thank you.


Summer in China: Xian, Shaanxi Province

I decided one thing I absolutely wanted to do during my stay in Xian was to bike on the city wall-- the most complete city wall that has survived in China. While every tourist focuses on visiting the warriors, I choose to let myself be captured by the immensity of this historical relic which dates all the way back to the 1st century Tang Dynasty. Standing 40 feet tall, the wall covers 8.5 miles in length with a deep moat surrounding it.

Unlike the Great Wall which sits on a mountain range, Xian's city wall offers an utterly different view. New development etched the landscape with tall high-rise apartments, local and overseas co-op companies and malls. And if you lean against the wall and look down, you'll find local folks playing Chinese chess, doing their exercises, biking or practicing an instrument. It's a pleasant calm that is enhanced by the backdrop of the grand wall it borders.

Just being 40 feet up higher than the rest of the city gave me the tranquility I needed for this vacation. I was delighted to discover the peace I wanted and being able to taste a bit of fresh air of this ancient city. While I was utterly absorbed into this journey, I found myself not alone... a man was walking straight towards me, holding two gigantic flags that presented China and the Olympics. In split second, we passed by each other and as I turned around, I saw beyond what I anticipated. Inside the man was the living soul who believed in what he was doing, with strength, courage, glory and perseverance. His spirit was probably dancing in the air speaking for itself.
I decided to simply follow him and took the courage to ask him what this was all about. Within one exchange of conversation he asked if I'd like to experience what he created. Delighted with excitement, I held onto the two flags, instantly felt the electric transformation into a little girl... carrying something a little too much to handle, yet so elated by the experience... of being trusted and recognized.