Lilypie - First Birthday

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

[San Diego] A Love Story, Point Loma

Week 4
Day 23 (Dec 12th, Friday)
Day 1 in San Diego - Harbour Drive & Point Loma

Song of the Day: America's Sweethearts

On our fourth week in the USA, we made a trip to San Diego (圣地牙哥), a lovely historical city located on the California coast. San Diego is a six-hour drive from Chandler. After checking-in at our resort-feel Pacific Shores Inn at Mission Beach, we straightaway drove to Harbor Drive for a late-afternoon stroll and some sightseeing.

Harbor Drive
I think this is a pelican, cos it has a very large beak?

Naval ship. Due to its strategic geographic location, San Diego is an important naval base and is home to one of the largest naval fleets in the world.

Can see the downtown San Diego skyline from here. My impression of the city of San Diego is it's a very refreshing place to live in, with its clean air, cool sea breeze, and lots of interesting jogging routes along the coast.

Antique Ford in my favourite baby blue :-)

Marina area

Most perfectly-formed Bird of Paradise that I've ever seen

Point Loma (La Punta de la Loma de San Diego)

After loitering around on Harbor Drive, we then drove to Point Loma to view the sunset. Perched atop the hill by the bay is the old Point Loma lighthouse, a quaint old tower that no longer serves its original purpose today.

And here, I am going to tell you a love story, of how he popped THE question... (although it happened like ages ago @.@)

"It was our first trip together to the United States. At San Diego, we visited the Point Loma lighthouse, a quaint old tower located on a cliff by the bay. Faster, he urged me, let’s run to the top before the sun goes down. It was winter time and the air was freezing. With the wind tingling in the back of our ears, we raced each other like playful children to the top, the sky awash in the deep, rich, purple colours of sunset. On top of the hill where the lighthouse was, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquilness of the whole place. "What a romantic place! How wonderful it'd be if someone were to propose to me now!" I gushed. At that instant, he got down on one bended knee and surprised me with a diamond ring from his pocket, the most beautiful and exquisite piece of jewellery I had ever seen. “Will you marry me?” he asked, while the seagulls circled and cried their evening song above us. I answered “Yes!” and we burst out in tears of joy, embracing each other in that everlasting moment. "

OK, I actually sent in the above story for a Diamond & Platinum story contest, but yeap, it's essentially a true version of what happened that day. I felt so happy, words alone could never be enough to describe how I felt that day... awash with mixed emotions, happy, blessed, touched, scared, unsure of what would come in the future... and a whole lot of that which lasted for like a full 2 minutes before I said "Yes!"

The day he proposed was 12/12/2008 (Chinese calendar 15th, full moon) and time flies so fast that now it's countdown 10 days before our Registration of Marriage date on 10/10/09! ^__^

Purplish sky... so very romantic!

San Diego skyline at night from Point Loma. Coincidentially it was a full moon due to the 15th day of the Chinese calendar. What a beautiful day to propose! 月圆人团圆!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hymns that touch my heart

Church today was like attending a history of music class. The great reformist Martin Luther preached that "next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."

Guest speaker Pr. Victor Wong gave a lively sermon about five church hymns that touched his heart, including two beautiful songs that we sang last week at my grandma's memorial - "Amazing Grace" and one of my favourite songs, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus".


A simple yet beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace" by LeAnn Rimes.

The composers of these beautiful hymns went through a lot of hardships and grief in their lives before they created these masterpieces that would be sung all over the world. John Newton, composer of "Amazing Grace", grew up in a God-loving family until his mother died when he was 7. Then he became a rebellious and vile sailor who worked on a slave ship until one day his ship got caught in a huge storm and in that moment of danger, he cried out to God to have mercy on him. Then he went on to write the most famous hymn of all time - "Amazing Grace".

Rendition of "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" by Neville Peter

Joseph Scriven, who wrote "What A Friend We Have in Jesus", lost his first fiancee who fell from a horse and drowned in a river on the day before their wedding day, then lost the second woman he loved to pneumonia. However he still did not give up on God and when his mother was going to pass away in Ireland, he was in Canada and had no money to go back to visit her. Therefore he wrote and sent her the poem "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" to comfort her.

The message of the day was: If there is a breakdown in your life, just hang in there a little while longer, for God will surely send a breakthrough.

Monday, September 21, 2009

再见了,外婆

在九月十七日的早上九点半,外婆终于与世长辞了。

外婆与帕金森氏症(Parkingson's Disease)病魔战斗了十多接近二十年。我想在一群与我同辈的表弟表妹之中,我、弟弟和大表弟应该是与外婆最亲的了。其他的表弟表妹们,最大的和我相差整九岁,最小的和我相差二十三岁;他们都没有福气认识患病前那行动自如,和蔼可亲的外婆。 我们三个呢,在外婆还没患上帕金森氏症前有缘与她相识;而我的记忆中要保留的,也是那患病之前的她。

我记忆中的外婆不是我们后期见到的那位只能坐在椅子上任人喂食,或更后期的,只能无力仰卧在病床上的老人家。犹记很小的时候,爸妈会让我和弟弟在外婆家渡过长假,而他们就回怡保去工作,让外婆照顾我们两姐弟。不晓得当时的我们真的是很乖还是什么,外婆都不曾提高过嗓子来责骂我们这两个淘气鬼,最多也只是叫我们不要在沙发上乱跳或是大力关门,以免弄伤了自己。外婆还有一个很green的习惯,那就是每天早上天还未亮之前都一定会到每一个人的房间内把电风扇统统关掉,搞到我早上八点就在被窝里喊热。直到她坐轮椅了,也会指点我去把外厅的风扇和电灯关掉,不要浪费电。有时候晚上我喊热,外婆一定笑说我吃了狗肉,所以才这么臊热。傍晚,我和弟弟在家门前玩耍,外婆把攀在富贵花枝上肥大的虫子摘下然后捏死掉,非常害怕昆虫的我,当时就把大胆的外婆封为偶像。现在外婆不在了,她用心培植的富贵花也跟着凋谢了。

让我最深刻难忘的回忆大概是在我念小学二年级的时候,我的脚底严重脱皮,一层层的白色皮粘附在脚板上,痒痛难耐。外婆替我浸盐水洗脚,过后我就好了。每当回家前,外婆一定将装满硬币的的药罐塞给我和弟弟作零用钱,一番心思都是想为母亲减少一点金钱上的负担。

外婆下厨的手艺是一级棒的,不管是煮什么新春佳节的山珍海味或是简单的菜肴都难不到她。随手拈来的拿手菜有海参猪脚、白斩鸡、白胡椒猪肚汤、娘惹粽、薄饼、福建面、莲藕排骨汤,甚至是加了蔬菜蛋的即食面都让我们没齿难忘,记忆犹新。小的时候,弟弟最爱吃外婆煮的面粉团,常常嚷着妈妈煮得不够外婆煮的好吃。才上个月妈妈尝试煮出外婆在她小时候煮的东炎鱼汤,可惜已经煮不出那种味道了。

日子飞快地过去,工作的忙工作,读书的忙读书,我们不时还是有回外婆家,但就没有像孩童时期一般在外婆家长住。每次离开外婆家前妈妈总是叮嘱我们给外公外婆一个吻,外婆也会风雨不改的到家门前坐着,目送我们的蓝色普腾车离去。不知从什么时候开始,外婆得拿着拐杖到家门前坐着,再然后坐在轮椅上让女佣推出去坐着,到最后只能在病床上颤抖着,眼里充满不舍的看着我们离开。

我想,当一个人死去时,其他人必然会对她的离去有着不同的诠释。对于外婆,身为子孙的对她最大的遗憾应该是无法尽孝吧。外婆一生为家庭劳劳碌碌,煮出香喷喷的菜肴要先给外公孩子们吃,过后才吃剩下的。到孩子长大了,也没有能力买好吃的孝敬她。到有能力了,外婆也生病了,也没有这样的口福享用了。

而我的遗憾是,她已经等不到我结婚的日子了。但是我幸福,她应该是知道的。我很侥幸上个星期还来得及和 Leonard 一同下去莎亚南小叔的家探望她;那时候印尼女佣正用汤匙喂她吃奶,她不要吃,我说不如让我来喂,她就乖乖地将奶吃完。那时候的她,瘦得只剩下她原本体积的一半。我还记得在她刚开始患病的那几年,我帮忙在她睡床上推她翻身。那时候的她还很重,差不多好像我一样重。我还开玩笑叫她别吃这么多,减一点肥,方便我将她翻身。只是没想到当她变得很瘦很瘦连瘦小的阿姨都能够将她一把抱起时,就是她差不多要撒手人寰的时候了。

外婆离世的日子刚巧落在开斋节假期前两天,很多亲戚都拿假赶回仕林河见她最后一面,丧礼场面还算壮观。值得高兴庆幸的是,外婆早已受礼成为基督徒,我们大家也相信她已经是在一个 better place,在主的怀抱中安祥。我们步行着送外婆走最后一程,从她长眠的地方放眼望去,尽是叠叠山峦,还有她生前所爱的家乡。

写完了这一篇,算是对我个人的一个 closure 吧。外婆,请你安息吧。我期待和你日后在天堂相见!I love you and miss you forever。Goodbye。

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

[Arizona] Grand Canyon

I have a friend who might be visiting the Grand Canyon soon. So this post is specially dedicated to her. You know who you are! ;-)

Week 3
Day 17 (Dec 6th, Saturday)

Grand Canyon South Rim

We left Chandler under the cover of dusk, around 2a.m. It would be a four-hour journey on the road, just in time to catch the sunrise at Grand Canyon. Mom had cooked through the day, preparing lots of food for our picnic in the canyon.

Travelling on the freeway at such an hour felt surreal, it was so dark and quiet outside the car at high-speed, and it felt like there was nobody out there except us. Everyone except the driver fell asleep, and the next thing I knew, we had pulled up outside a convenience store outside the Grand Canyon National Park and Leo was calling for me to wake up to use the toilet before we entered the park. The time was 5a.m. I can't remember clearly, but I think sunrise was at 7 something. In order to not miss the sunrise, we decided to park at the first stop - Mather Point - to wait for the first rays to hit the canyon.

Daybreak

Late autumn/ early winter in Grand Canyon, no snow yet. It was TREMENDOUSLY cold before the sun came up; the sheer difference between the temperature outside and inside the heated car was enough to make my head burst. We kept on running in-and-out of the car to the viewpoint to see whether the sun was up. It was soooo cold I couldn't think, couldn't focus on the scenery, couldn't even imagine what time the sun was gonna be up. My teeth were chattering so hard I couldn't close my mouth properly and my bones felt like they were gonna break. It was the SINGLE, MOST COLDEST MOMENT of my life that I will remember forever. My three layers of blue Nike tee, brown long-sleeve sweater and Calvin Klein down jacket, one pair of thin jeans and that damn Cathay Pacific blanket were definately not enough to shield me from the cold. I should have invested in thermals!!

The magnificent sunrise is here! And immediately the coldness seemed to fade, chased away by the sun.

Rays of dawn

The Grand Canyon - one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Layers and layers of rock cut and formed by the Colorado River through the ages. And the great river is still cutting through. Plainly speaking, the canyon is young, but the rocks are not. This is the side facing the morning sun, and as the sun climbs higher and higher into the sky, more and more of the canyon is exposed by the light until an astounding view of the entire canyon leaves you in awe.

Finally, the morning sun is up in the sky.

The great scenic views that belong to the great continent that is America never cease to amaze us, again and again. Totally and utterly satisfied, but still grimacing from the chilly dawn air, we made our way to the Canyon Village Deli to hide from the cold and also have our mom-made-sandwiches.

Cozy cozy!! After breakfast, we gathered at the Verkamps lodge for the free nature walk. There was a park ranger to guide us on a short walk along the rim and explain to us about how the Grand Canyon was formed, about the trees and how the natives used them for food and clothing, about the animals and yes, there were people living in the very unhospitable conditions of the canyon a long time ago!

GC Park Ranger explaining about the tree to the cute kids! One very sad moment was when the park ranger led us to a point very very close to the edge of the rim and told us that last year a kid fell to his death at that point because his parents weren't supervising him. And also one of their nature scientists died of catching some weird parasite disease while trekking a mountain lion to insert a tracking device into the lion. :-(

Ok sad stories aside, this is a very nice hotel - El Tova Hotel - inside the Grand Canyon. If not mistaken it's about $300 USD per night.

And of course the quaint Canyon Express. It turns into some sort of a "Polar Express" at Christmas time because it has Santa on it! Perfect for the kids. I think it stops at Williams. And no, we didn't take the train.
At the train depot.

I love the bus name. Cool!

We visited a few more spots and just like in Sedona, the rocks started to take a toll on me and I felt that each of the viewpoints looked the same to me. @_@. Went to the farthest point for picnic lunch. Cold rice!

A greener side of the Grand Canyon. I would love to hike down to the Colorado River, sounds very fun and extreme, but I don't think I would ever be fit enough to do that in my lifetime.

Very scary edge... this was our very last viewpoint. I took some silly videos shouting "It's the End of the World!!"

And on the way back, the San Francisco peaks. ^__^

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

[Arizona] Montezuma Castle

On our way back from Sedona to Chandler, we stopped by Montezuma Castle, a "prehistoric high rise apartment complex" built by the natives, a tribe called the Sinagua people. The name "Montezuma Castle" is misleading, because the building had nothing to do with the Aztec emperor Montezuma, and it was just a dwelling for many families, and was not a castle for some king. It was the first people who discovered it that errorneously gave it that name.

Anyway, it was an amazing feat for the prehistoric people of those days to construct the building. The walls of the cliff were very steep, almost vertical drop to the ground, and to get up there they had to let down ladders halfway down for the people on the ground. So I can't even imagine how could the builders have the patience and energy to scale up there and carve the building out of the limestone cliff. The only reason I can think of is protection, either from wild animals or from their enemies which would find it hard to attack vertically.

Just to give you a feeling of how big and high up the Montezuma Castle is. Mom went in deep through the bushes, I was scared there were rattlesnakes nearby. I would have loved to visit, but the castle complex itself is closed since 1950.

Explanation on the architecture of the castle complex.

The friendly ranger who had been to Kuala Lumpur!

I think this is one of the best pictures taken of my brother and I together. :-)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

[Sedona] Red Rock Country

Week 3
Day 15 (Dec 4th, Thursday)
Day trip to Sedona

Due to Thanksgiving weekend, we hadn't done any travelling but instead stayed put in Chandler for the holiday sales. Dad was bored with all that shopping and wanted to get out of the house, so we made a day trip to Sedona, a two-hour drive from Chandler, for some sightseeing and picnicking.

Most of the time, the highway scenery in the US is pretty boring especially in the southwest, with the stark, dreary landscape composed mainly of stony hills and stunted vegetation. This drive was no different, except in Arizona we got to see miles and miles of huge, tall cactus, also known as saguaro. And occasionally some very odd highway signs would catch my eye, names of places like Dead Horse Ranch and Bloody Basin Road. So morbid. =_='''

We were amazed when our GPS led us into a turn into Sedona, and all of a sudden we saw these gigantic beautiful red rock mountains just before our eyes.

Red rock country - stunning ruby red array of sandstone formations lined with age

Sedona is off the usual tour map so if you take the usual West Coast tour they don't bring you here. The most famous person in Sedona is Senator John McCain who stays here. He was the Republican candidate vs. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential elections. Sedona is most famous for its natural beauty - the Red Rocks - which come in many forms, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Coffee Pot, Grand Piano, Devil's Kitchen and also one which looks like Snoopy lying on top of his doghouse. It is also a popular spot for New Age believers to meditate because it is one of the five 'energy vortexes' of the world. Totally no idea what that is though.

Our first stop was to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a very special church built into the rock itself.

Interior of the church. We spent some time here in this beautiful and peaceful sanctuary, and just let the overwhelming calmness sweep over me as I sat in the church pews. The church is built on top of an energy vortex, would that explain the extraordinary calmness I felt? We also went down some steps to the basement of the church where there was a little souvenir shop. I didn't buy anything there, everything was so expensive. The cheapest cross I could find was made out of withered saguaro... very unique.

It was indeed a sacred place. Just right outside the church we saw this scenery of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms (middle short) and I didn't realise this until much later... but Leo's mom said that the right two looks like the Chinese Gods of Longevity! (福禄寿) Unbelievable!

After that our stomachs were growling so we headed off to Oak Creek for a picnic, as suggested by Leo. He didn't follow this time cos he had to work. He was such a darling to key in all the maps into the GPS. However I couldn't really find the creek that he mentioned so we stopped for directions at Orchard Inn Sedona, and the receptionist was so kind to lead us down to the hotel's creek area and told us we could go there for our picnic!

When we reached the picnic spot, my heart almost skipped a beat. It was like a scene out of a painting!

By the creek. It was autumn and the trees had just changed color to yellow, brown and a darker shade of red. The beautiful blue sky, falling autumn leaves and sparkling creek... it was the most picture perfect moment. So Autumn in my Heart.

One of the hotel chalet buildings

And the creek's waters were sparkling, glistening in the glowing midday sun. It was exactly how I pictured those creeks which I read from storybooks. It didn't disappoint.

So many Mandarin ducks swimming in pairs... *lovey-dovey*... I find the drakes especially smart with the dark green color and white band around their collar.

Mom cooked fried rice... we hadn't had a picnic like this since we grew up...

Hotel chalets... complete with blocks of firewood.

Sea of autumn colors

Went back up to the hotel lobby. There was a plot of grass here where we lay and took photos with the amazing backdrop. And the red rock behind me seriously looks like a protuding dick... hahah.

Afterwards we continued our journey to Airport Road where we had a more elevated view of the whole area. The elevation of Sedona itself is 4500 miles above sea level.

Mom and I with a blue berry bush behind us.

View from Airport Road.

The heat and dryness of US desert weather made it almost impossible for us to continue any longer. After a while our excitement wore off and we decided that the red rocks all looked the same to us. :-P Passing this last mesa (flat top mountain) as we drove back, my brother and mom were too tired and bored to even get out of the car so just my dad and I got down and took pictures of each other... haha.

On to Montezuma Castle, next.