China. fall 2015.

God is full of surprises and good things. Last fall one of my (unspoken) prayers was so spontaneously answered – we, after three years of quietly hoping, had the opportunity to visit our friends in China; first in Hong Kong for just two all too short days and then north to Wuhan for the remainder of the week. So prepare yourself for an incredibly full post!

I can explain how the trip came about another time – for now know that it was incredibly timely and simultaneously, well, spontaneous! (Something to do with cheap plane tickets and an opportunity to scope out potential business opportunities, namely coffee roasting.) 

Even though our time in Hong Kong was short, our primary purpose was to spend quality time with some friends and as a bonus we were able to see a teensy weensy itty bitty portion of the massive Asian melting pot. It was an incredible way to start our whirl wind journey.

Hong Kong was amazing – full of life and energy, but in experiencing mainland china (even for a short few days) we were taken to a new world; even more unfamiliar and intriguing.

Of course we began by heading to a super market, which conveniently enough happened to be directly below our friend’s apartment building. How else to better see what day-to-day life would be like. Girl’s gotta eat!

(If you look closely in the bottom righthand image, you can see how Tad and our friend Clint were twinning unplanned upon our arrival. Studs.)

We set out one evening to check out a coffee shop/english corner, Mr. Mai’s, where we later returned to have a sit down conversation with the owner (more on that to come in a later post).

One area of the city we went off to the next day offered an incredible variety of alleys, shops, vendors, and coffee houses to explore. We (I) could have stayed on the one street exploring the entire week without falling into boredom!

As you’ll come to observe, Clint and Miranda were good sports and humored me to be my primary models as I photographed them in nearly every location we visited. Good job y’all.

…except for this couple. I figured since people were (timidly) walking up and asking to be photographed WITH us or to take pictures of us multiple times a day (true story) I could have the freedom to be bold and ask this super cute couple if they would pose for me as well. Worth it. They didn’t seem to mind. At least for a few shots.

Among the dozens to choose from, we finally settled on one little coffee nook to check out (isn’t it a sweet spot?).

And true to the photo trend, a young man approached us and asked to photograph me while sitting here by the window. He even subtly posed me and told me where to look (but by pointing because… Chinese).

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I just had to ask one more group of girls for their portrait – they were more anxious, but still willing (win). ps. notice the sprout hair clip? These things were EVERYwhere, being sold for super cheap. We totally purchased some (they’re now all broken).

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Speaking of photography – if we ever should move our lives to mainland China, I would very much feel the need to also move my business there in some capacity or another so as you can imagine, when we came across the below scene, I was ecstatic. Wedding photography in China (based on what we have seen and heard from both Americans and Chinese friends alike) is slightly different than what we are familiar with state side. Unconventional? Think Glamour Shots but on multiple shots of espresso. I so wanted to go ask questions, get into what was going on there, find out what sort of thing the individuals were in to, but again…Chinese, I mean, Mandarin.

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Oh the smells and tastes and sounds and visual stimulation! So much was available to be taken in. Motor bikes, elderly woman gathering together, babies!, street food, tiny shops. So much.

I suppose I had one more (willing?) individual I photographed whenever I could. He is my every #mcm.

Clint and Miranda traded places with us every once in awhile – I’m thankful.

I’m also thankful that our trip dates coincided with the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival. We gathered together with a few friends at East Lake – the largest urban lake in China – at sunset to enjoy the full moon.

Before leaving the park, we caught a ride to the other side of the lake in order to head to dinner. The city at night, especially from a lake center view, was incredibly peaceful.

Just as incredible was a little something called Hot Pot. I don’t think we had a single food item that wasn’t delicious. I had some concerns regarding how my digestive system would fair considering an auto-immune disease I battle with daily, but everything remained at least steady enough to manage (minus a few detox symptoms upon returning home – TMI?)

Tad and I had a blast exploring and daily were given more and more peace about being there in the city, should one day we decide to pack up and go on a little adventure. Even at night walking around we felt safe. That was likely helped with the reality of being in a city of 11 million people and never being alone.

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Two of our best times were spent with Miranda in her element and Clint on the Wuhan University Campus. Miranda is a high school teacher at one of the schools in Wuhan and we had the pleasure of watching her do her thing as well as sharing a bit about life in America to the students via a projector and some images we put together. It was a sweet day. She is such an awesome teacher!

Seeing the Wuhan University campus was amazing as well! The campus Tad and I attended, Iowa State University, is voted one of the most beautiful, but between the blossoms (not in bloom while we were there) and historical Chinese architecture, I may have to vote it out – though the images below don’t quite do it justice. Before we walked on campus we had some time to check out the river boats.

Everywhere we went there was something new to see and experience. Men playing games in the middle of the side walk with everyone hovering around, sunbrellas in perfect use, cart transportation, more food. I sound like I’ve never left my back yard (not true), but I couldn’t get enough!

And then we saw it. The cafe racer. This is a new post entirely, but if you know of Tad’s love for this sort of bike and the rarity of seeing one in the city, you’d understand.

Later on we had another opportunity to visit a coffee roaster in the area. He runs his own roasting company and distributes to different coffee businesses around the city so we were interested in his set-up. It was good to see two different businesses and business models. Namely that both were steadily run by americans in a foreign country.

The following day was especially fun for Tad and me as we were on our own to explore for the day! It started out fairly well with walking down to order some breakfast. It was successful in that we purchased and received food. Maybe not so successful in that while we thought we were asking for two rolls we in reality were asking for seven. More to go around?

While we walked up the street to check out the nearest shopping area, we came across these lovely ladies practicing with music and dance. They were excited to perform for us and we were thankful to be able to watch!

It really just wouldn’t have been right to not stop and grab a coffee so we dropped in to a nearby place outside of the mall we were about to enter. While the coffee wasn’t much to speak of at this particular location, the atmosphere of most of the coffee houses we visited was in my best words: super fly. Each one was completely unique with character and fun design elements it would be difficult to choose a favorite.

As much as we enjoyed checking things out on our own, our sweetest times were spent sitting across gazing at the image you see below. Music, friends, expressing gratitude and making requests together. Not to mention the view from their apartment and Wuhan’s famous breakfast: hot dry noodles. I even had a tiny bite just to try. But truly – there is little to nothing sweeter than fellowship with brothers and sisters!

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Are you tired yet? I’m getting tired re-living our packed week! We’re almost finished.

Before we headed for a nice drink and a calm evening walk, we were taken through probably the most insanely crowded and stimulating streets I have ever been on. I’ll just call it the street food hood.

And it wouldn’t be a trip to Wuhan without a ferry ride across the Yangtze River. Plus check out this kid!

Before we headed out to our last coffee house, we made it a priority to stop off in this back alley to grab a few portraits because, well, you can see why.

We spied this building on our walk and it caught my eye. It’s difficult to make out the date on the top of the building but it was built in 1910 just one year prior to the year the home we now live in was built. Fun find.
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At our final coffee stop I decided it was high time I grab a mocha! A special treat indeed. I’m sure you’ll spy it in the cluster of images below.

We ended our final evening with a walk along the river at sunset complete with many people enjoying lanterns for the mid-autumn festival.

Aaand our walk was followed by yet another stop for coffee before retiring for the night (notice a trend here?).

And when we thought we were calling it a night, that nothing was left to be seen, just outside the little coffee shop gathered a little evening women’s dance exercise group.

Oh China. And we were only there for one week. Bed time!