Grace Tu

Grace Tu

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Dear Baby, Happy Birthday

My Dear Baby,

The other day I was at a mall.

I was walking really fast, but then I stopped.

I stopped because I saw a little kid with her little arms tightly around a woman’s neck, and her little head and the woman’s head touched

I stopped because I realized, even though I did not know that woman, I felt like I knew her and knew how she must had felt at that moment. I stood there and felt your arms around me like that, and I felt your hands softly played with my hairs.

The feeling of having that gentle weight around the neck. The feeling of being completely trusted. The feeling of being completely needed. I now understand.

And I was overwhelmed by this discovery. I must have seen the same scene thousands of times before that day but I never paid attention. I never paid attention because before that day, I could never relate to them.

Before you, some parts of my heart were never activated because before you, nothing had triggered them to be activated.

These are feelings that I could not have understood before I became your mom. Just like a person cannot truly understand what a heartbreak is until that person has gone through one. Just like a person cannot truly understand how it feels to listen to a church bell rings and watch hundreds of birds flying over at the same time until that person has experienced it.  Just like a person cannot understand how it truly feels to be standing on the top of the highest mountain until that person has physically been there, taking in all in, and let that experience influence his or her soul and modify it completely.  

And all these experiences, and all the little new things that we experience every single day, increase the capacity of our emotions and make us whole, more and more.

So, my dear baby, thank you for being here. Thank you for giving me new experience every single day. Thank you for activating so many part of my heart that I did not even know exist and for giving me greater capacity for emotions. Thank you for making my heart and soul whole, more and more.

I love you with all that I have. Happy birthday.
Your mama

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Scotland Day 2 - Oban and Isle of Kerrera

The next morning we spent a little time in George Square watching people getting to work, and then boarded the early train for Oban, where we would be based for two days.

Morning walk at George Squre

Anya finally fell asleep so I could enjoy the scenery a little 

Oban is a little but beautiful Victorian seaside town (An t-Òban in Scottish Gaelic meaning The Little Bay) within the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland. It is the main gateway to many of the Hebridean islands, and it is famous for the fresh seafood and for the more than 200 years old Oban distillery, which produces Oban 14 Year Old Whiskey.


Like I said before, husband and I always love a good picnic, so once we saw that the sky is clear, we went directly to Oban Seafood Hut at the ferry dock to pick up their famous seafood platter and then found us a nice spot overlooking the bay to enjoy our luxurious lunch. Since Alan is the real seafood lover in the house, I very quickly let him took over most of the eating and started following Anya around to say "hello" to all the seagulls. Now, here is something Anya does know: ever since I watched "Finding Nemo" I have grown an unreasonable fear for seagulls (remember how they kept saying "mine mine mine" in the movie? That terrified me.) However, since Alan and I had a deal to not pass on our unreasonable fears to Anya, I put away all my dislike for these birds and tried to admire them with my baby girl. Seriously, all the things we do for our children, even the silly ones, right?

We stayed at the Royal Hotel, which is close to the train station and the ferry. We were given a great big room with a nice view.

It's about a half hour hike to the unfinished "colosseum", the McCaig's Tower, from where we had a nice view of Oban
Our plan for the afternoon was to take the Oban Distillery Tours, but we soon found out that because the tour consisted of visiting the actual distillery process from beginning to end, for safety reasons, children less than 8 years old are not allowed. Just when I was about to give up on the tour, Alan, who probably felt a little guilty from finishing most of the seafood at lunch, offered to take care of Anya so I could do the tour. It was a wonderful gesture and as it turned out truly the right thing to do, because, of all the wine tours and other similar types of tours that I took over the past few years, this was the tour from which I learned the most. I was also lucky to be in the same tour with two people who really knew their whisky, and every time they asked questions I stood by their sides like a good student and listened to the guide provide very detailed answers. At the end of the tour we were given two samples to taste: the first was a sample of Oban malt direct from the cask (undiluted, 60+%), and the second was the diluted and bottled Oban malt. According to the guide some people just love the undiluted, "cask strength" edition naturally, and other people just could not stand it. Personally I preferred the cask strength Oban a lot more, which was why following the first tasting, the second tasting was not as exciting for me.

Photos are not allowed during the tour, so we took a picture outside
While I was learning all about whiskey , Alan and Anya took the boat to Isle of Kerrera first, so immediately after my tour I looked for the next boat to take me to the Isle and reunite with them. At this time I was terribly jet-lagged (unlike Alan and Anya, who slept through the night and got to hap on the train), and I also just tasted some really strong whiskey. As a result, I was tired, and extremely emotional for some reason. I sat at the front of the boat and kept looking at the Isle ahead for husband and Anya, and when I finally saw them, I waved so big and with so much happiness, especially when I saw Anya waved back. People on the boat who saw this very kindly share my joy and gave me encouraging smiles - it's all very much like a movie where people reunited with their loved ones after years apart, but in my case, it was two hours.
When my foot touched the Isle of Kerrera it was already getting late, but Alan still wanted to take me to the top of the Island to enjoy the breathtaking view. The weather was perfect until we reached the top, and it started to rain, and the strong wind tried very hard to knock us down. We started rushing down the hills and, holding Anya tightly, I kept whispering to her how sorry I was to put her in such situation and how I was there to protect her. Alan thought I was being ridiculous, but all I wanted to do then really was to tell her those.

With the help from the capital of the small boat we took, we got back to Oban early. The captain made a small exception for us, so we did not have to wait for another hour in the Isle in the rain. We were grateful for his kindness, and made sure he knew that before we parted with the boat.

The weather was great on our way up

The strong wind made Anya close her eyes

I tried to walk fast so we could catch the early boat back

Of course, like a typical Scottish weather, by the time we arrived Oban the sky was clear again. But we were very ready to be back in our hotel to get a good sleep because the exciting trip to the Isle of Staffa was waiting for us the next day.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Scotland Day 1 - Glasgow and Edinburgh

After an eight hour flight we landed in Glasgow. At our ages, all Alan and I really wanted to do was to sleep on the plane and since it would be 9:00 in the morning when we landed, a good rest on the plane would have helped our jet-lag lots and made sure we were mentally and physically in good shape for our first day in Scotland. Of course, Anya had other plans, so all we did during the flight was to entertain her and to walk her here and there on the plane so she would not disturb other passengers.
Although our train to Oban was leaving early the next day, instead of staying in Glasgow, we decided to check out the International Festival in Edinburgh instead. I did however have something that I just needed to buy before we did anything else - the bug repellent for the midge. It might sound a little crazy, but after reading 5 books about travelling in Scotland Highlands & Islands, it was almost impossible for me to not get worried about being attacked by the bugs (note: Alan, who by the way read none of the books, did not believe me and kept saying I was ridiculous, but as I will describe in the later posts, he was indeed attacked by these merciless creatures and I got to say "I told you so".) So, before we catched the train to Edinburgh, we visited Glasgow's famous shopping street - Buchanan street, and got the "smidge", the most promising midge repellent in Scotland.
After a short break in our hotel, we took a short walk to Buchanan St. and we walked by George Square.
There were lots of signs for "People Make Glasgow" close to George square. We later found out they were for attracting investments in Glasgow.
Buchanan St. - By this time Anya was extremely tired from the jet-lag, but she was still smiling. I was so proud of my baby.
We then took what would be the first of our many train rides in Scotland. Anya had always have a thing for trains (which little girl hadn't...?), and this was the first time that she could recognize that she's on the actual train, so it was very exciting for her.
After arriving at the Waverley Station in Edinburgh, we immediately looked for the Royal Mile and walked towards the Edinburgh Castle. I mentioned previously that there was the International Festival in Edinburgh, so the Royal Mile was crowded with lots of interesting performances going on. 

Of all the performances, this was our favorite. This person is so talented and we were lucky to be in the front row for this.

Thousands of flyers for the shows and performances
According to my very nicely done itinerary, we were supposed to enjoy a cup of coffee at the Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. But the line up was so long and we did not want Anya to wait in the pouring rain with us, so we took a picture and looked for some place else where we could just let Anya take a break from the rain.
We ended up in the café of the Central Library of Edinburgh. It was not at all what I planned. In fact, as I would later discovered, because we were so busy with Anya, we did not really have any proper meal aside from the breakfast in our hotels or B&Bs everyday. However, just like any other time when I travelled with Alan, all those memories picnicking outside or having small snacks in the hotels, on the train, or in some random places became wonderful memories. When we were taking a break from the rain in this library café, we were so happy because Anya was so happy. She got out of her fancy raincoat and truly enjoyed the food there.
After our little snack break, the rain was gone, and we were back on the now much more deserted street. With our clothes dry and our tummy full of food, we walked away from the Castle and was ready to catch the train back to Glasgow.

While it was a lot of traveling both on the plane and on the train that day, we did not regret going to Edinburgh. It is a beautiful city and we would not have wanted to miss it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy 14th Anniversary

A while ago Alan told me he wanted our next car to be a Sprinter, which, according to him, is every man’s dream car.

I have absurdly limited knowledge when it comes to cars, so I looked online, and could not understand why a car with such a monstrous look could get such a title.  Also agreed with me were some of my male co-workers, who decidedly denied the Sprinter being their dream car, and doubted that Alan would find many people who share his view.

Since then, “The Sprinter” has become something that I often teased Alan about, until one day, as I saw him walking towards our lobby, carrying in his hands a plastic bag filled with all the vegetables that he grew and that he so eagerly wanted to share with my friends at work, and all the sudden I understood.

This is why to Alan, the Sprinter is everyman’s dream car. It’s the kind of man he is. He is the kind of man who wants to be in the garden in the burning heat under the scorching July sun so his wife and his daughter can eat the vegetables he grows.  He is the kind of man who wants to take his family with him wherever he goes, and not just me and Anya, but his family, and my family as well. He dreams of buying what I consider a monstrous looking car so everyone can sit at the back and have a great time while he drives across Canada. He is this kind of man, and I love him so much for it.

So, happy 14th Anniversary, Alan. Thank you for asking me out 14 years ago (even though you insisted I was the one who asked you out). Thank you for sharing with me all your wisdom, love, kindness, and even your fear. Thank you for letting me know when I am in the wrong but at the same time letting me know you still love me despite all my flaws. Thank you for being a wonderful father to our little girl. Thank you for sharing the same dream with me because to me, having a husband who shares the same dream and having a husband who would work with me through each step to achieve that dream, is the very best thing in the world.

p.s. I still do not approve of the Sprinter.

Photo: honeymoon in 2012