Tag Archives: Daqing

Share What Makes Your Heart Smile

Hello beautiful!

I hope you are having a magical day!

As I write this I can see thousands of young dragonflies zooming around the freshly green leaves of the trees. Birds are singing, grass is growing, and the lakes have melted into beautiful, flowing water again.

This is me, celebrating the return of the flowing water in the lake.


After the longest, coldest winter I have ever experienced, nature is alive again. And after spending five months surrounded by ice and snow, I feel like I am witnessing spring for the first time.

Not too long ago, the ground was frozen, trees were bare, and everything was still, silent.

Now, the earth is alive, trees are flourishing, and everything has been reborn. Buzzing, blooming, shining, spring has sprung and the time for new beginnings is here.

Spending time in nature makes me realise that miracles occur everyday. It’s mesmerizing, isn’t it?

One of my favourite parts about spring here in Daqing, is the amazing flowers that have been popping up everywhere.

Realising that most of the trees I’ve been walking past during the past ten months are actually cherry blossoms has been a magnificent surprise! I had no idea they grew here, but they are absolutely gorgeous!

I can even see some in the garden under neath my window, so I will definitely be having the window open more now that the sweet smell of cherry blossom will be flowing around.

Here are a few photos I took (there are more on the Facebook page):


Cherry blossoms definitely make my heart smile!

Which brings us to today’s Link Love Friday theme! Yep, now that 30 Days Of Beauty has finished, Link Love Friday is back!

This week, head over to the My Smiling Heart Facebook page, and share a photo of something that makes your heart smile. It can be anything! Nature, books, food, people, artwork, – anything that makes your heart smile!

If everyone shares a photo or two, then there will be a super-mega-happy-awesome album on the My Smiling Heart Facebook page made up of everything that makes our hearts smile! What a great resource it will be for those times when we aren’t feeling that great.

I look forward to seeing your photos!

So much LOVE!

Jen ♥

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Peace Wherever You Go ♥

Admiring the Summer Palace, Beijing

It’s amazing how much travelling can put personal growth and self-discovery into warp-speed mode.

Being in a new place, whether it’s around the corner from your home or on the other side of the world, heightens your senses and forces you to live in the moment, taking in everything you possibly can.

I learnt a lot about myself recently when Mike and I spent a week in Beijing. Even though we’ve been living in China for seven months, this was our first real back packing adventure with just the two of us, and something we had wanted to do for years.

Even though I had an amazing time there and will always look back on it as one of my best adventures yet, I wasn’t really looking forward to it beforehand.

We had organised to stay in a hostel, something I’d never done before, and even though we had booked a private room, I was a bit anxious about it. I’m a pretty shy and quiet person, an introvert, so being in a place that constantly has such a huge social atmosphere is a little overwhelming.

The overnight train rides to and from Beijing had also been making me a bit anxious, as it requires being in a cabin with total strangers for twelve hours, spending most of your time trying not to invade each others’ space while you attempt to navigate the bunks or move around the halls.

The fact that I had been worrying about these little things for the days leading up to our Beijing adventure obviously didn’t help anything either, so I eventually found myself losing all excitement for it.

But, as usual, I soon discovered that my worries were complete fiction, a waste of time, complete an utter bull.

I have learnt, during my years overcoming anxiety, the only way to stop being afraid of something, is to just do it.

The anxious mind is a trickster, a heckler, and a brilliant illusionist. And, as with any other form of unnecessary and unconstructive criticism, the best way to handle it is to not let it stop you from living the life you want to live, to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’

And that is just what I did.

The train rides were actually pretty fun, and not at all as bad as my mind had made me believe it would be. The hostel, well, that was just plain AWESOME. The people we so cool and friendly, the room was great, the food was freaking delicious, and we were encouraged to grab some textas and write on the walls. That is every artists’ dream!

The 365 Inn, where we stayed.

The message Mike wrote on wall

It ended up being one of the best weeks of my entire life, full of adventure, risk-taking, meeting new people, seeing amazing places, and coming home with a thousand awesome memories and a new sense of confidence, accomplishment and self-awareness.

In a traditional Chinese dress.

At the Summer Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I know I will never forget occurred on Chinese New Year, Mike and I were standing on the rooftop of the hostel, counting down to midnight, and being completely surrounded by fireworks. Explosions of sound, colour, and cheers erupted again and again for almost an hour as families and friends throughout Beijing celebrated the new year.

I felt so blessed to be there to witness it, and I knew in that moment that I had come so, so far… too far to ever go back to the person I used to be. I felt a wave of relief as I realised then that my fears would never get in the way of me living my life ever again.

I was reminded of that rooftop moment just the other night. I was walking through the snow on my way to meet Mike for dinner, when fireworks started exploding right in front of me, continuing the 15 day celebrations for Spring Festival.

Fireworks in Daqing

As I looked up at the amazing colours falling from the sky, and felt the sweet kisses of snowflakes as they touched my skin, I realised I was, in that moment, proving to myself that I can do anything.

You see, a year ago, I was too afraid to open my front door when the doorbell rang. Too anxious to walk down our short driveway just to check the mail. I even avoided going into the backyard alone, in case I was seen by a neighbour and forced into a potentially uncomfortable or awkward conversation.

I would never have admitted it then, in fact I wouldn’t have admitted it even six months ago, but I was so trapped by my own fears that I just avoided them altogether, until I couldn’t leave the house unless I was with someone.

So, imagine my pride when I suddenly realise that I am walking through the streets of a foreign city, in a foreign country, at night, completely alone, and with a freaking huge smile on my face! Thousands of miles away from my comfort zone, and not a single worry or fear on my mind.

That’s what travel can do for you.

Not long after that amazing moment on a rooftop in Beijing, but before that amazing moment in the snow, I was walking through some markets and found a stall that sold rings. I noticed one with four Chinese characters on it, and asked the woman working there what it meant.

“It mean… Peace… When you leave and when come back. Peace wherever you go.”

Peace wherever you go.

I wrote that on the wall of the 365 Inn, so that others can be inspired by it just as I was.

I’m wearing that ring now, as I write this. And I will always wear it, as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve overcome, in order to find my own peace, peace within myself, peace with my fears, and peace within the world.

Take some time now to look back and notice how far you have come, and what you have overcome in the process. Be proud of everything you have achieved, and how much you’ve grown! And be grateful for all the lessons you have learnt in between.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Written on the second floor staircase of the 365 Inn, Beijing.

* Are you on Facebook? So is My Smiling Heart! Come and join us for extra fun and daily doses of awesomeness!

#reverb10 Catch Up!

I’ve finally started to catch up on all the #reverb10 prompts, so I will be posting 6 answers every day for the next four days.

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a few different communities this year, both online & otherwise.

Online, I’ve met some amazing women. Amazing. I’m proud to be a apart of communities started by strong, empowering & inspiring women who I can learn from, communities such as Tiny Buddha, I Want Her Job, The Happiness Project, She’s The First & Starfish One By One. Not to mention all the cool women I follow online, whether it be through blogs, twitter, or even just facebook friends.

Also online, I love my community of readers. All of your comments, tweets & emails make me love writing this blog even more than I did before. You made me realize I can make a difference. Thank you.

Offline, I was introduced to a very different community than what I was used to – the Chinese community. As much of a shock it was when we first arrived, I love it here now. Sure, we get stared at all the time, people spit everywhere & use the sidewalk as a toilet, but it’s all a part of the experience. I’m only here for a year of my life, so I may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Another community I am a part of as a result of being an extreme minority in a foreign land, is the Western community. We estimate that there are only about 50 westerners, in a population of over 2 million, here in Daqing. It’s an awesome little community to be a part of though, all of us from different parts of the world, traveling together & experiencing the highs & lows of living in China.

In 2011, I want to continue to be apart of all of these communities, as well as build on them & create new communities. When I go home to Australia, I will be much more appreciative of the communities I am a part of there, & I won’t be taking anything for granted.

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

My optimism, & the belief that we can do anything we want with our lives, has always been a big part of what makes me different. People have always thrown statements like ‘That’s not realistic’ & ‘Get your head out of the clouds’ at me, but I didn’t listen to them, & I will never listen to them, because the voice that tells me ‘I can’ is louder than any outside voices telling me that I ‘can’t’.

I think that I started being beautifully different in high school, when I realized that it’s my differences that make me who I am, & I started to show them instead of hide them. That’s also when I started to love myself just the way I am, & I made being authentic & honest my one of my highest values.

December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

This year, the Melbourne Mind, Body, Spirit Festival was awesome. I love the people, the events & the different stalls that are always displaying unique & interesting things. The energy there is always so brilliant, & I always feel like I leave with a more open mind than I had when I entered.

This year though, I had an amazing experience at the MBS Festival, one which really changed my life & the lives of the people I’m closest to. I won’t go into too much detail here, because it’s very personal & I’m not sure I want to make it public it yet, but even if I do decide to write about it, it deserves an entire post dedicated to it.

December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

My decision to view my experiences as gifts instead of curses, & to make the best out of what I was given, will always be one of the wisest decisions I have ever made.

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

As you know, I prefer to focus on the positive, so instead of listing 11 things I don’t want in my life, I’ve decided to write about 11 things that I do want in 2011.

I’m still pointing out what I don’t need, for example; number 1 says I want to have a vegan diet, meaning I want to eliminate dairy (I have already eliminated meat), but I’m doing it in a more pro-active way.

1. A vegan diet. This will have to wait until we are back in Australia, but it’s something I really want to do.

2. Free my mind more in regards to creativity, imagination & taking action.

3. Take more action in my life

4. Trust myself & my instincts more

5. Focus even more on the positives

6. Pay more attention to family, friends & myself & less attention on media & useless noise

7. Remember that most things aren’t personal

8. To be even more authentic & really express myself more

9. Speak my mind more

10. Count my blessings more

11. Enjoy the present moment more

By achieving these things my life will be more aligned with my true self & I will feel more of a sense of purpose, not to mention I will be even healthier & happier than I am now.

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

After being so sick a few months ago, staying healthy has become so important to me. The moment I started to feel completely healed in all aspects of my life & I started to follow my heart; everything else fell into place for me; mind, body & soul.

I’ll throw in prompt #13 too, just because it’s so short:

December 13 – Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

At the moment the ideas I’m working on require a lot of brainstorming, research, & organizing & planning with the people who I want to be involved. Still early stages, but I know 2011 has a lot of awesomeness in store for us 🙂

See you tomorrow for more reverbs!

Keep Smiling 🙂

Jen ♥

Moments, Wonder & Letting Go.

Before I continue with the #reverb10 prompts, I just want to point out the little snowflakes you’re seeing floating down the screen – aren’t they awesome?!

It’s been snowing here in Daqing – something I had never experienced before coming here – & I’m in love with it. It’s so peaceful & playful, not to mention gorgeous! So I thought I would share it with all of you, especially those people reading this back home in Australia, enjoying the summer 🙂

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

Two moments come to mind immediately.

#1: The night that Mike proposed to me.

It was on our four year anniversary, we spent the weekend in a beautiful cabin in Ocean Grove, a beachside town we love so much. We had dinner at a really cool Mexican restaurant. After dinner, we went to the beach. We sat on the sand for a while, looking out at the ocean & up at the cloudy night sky.

As we sat, Mike started this long speech about us, & how much he loves me. His words started to become a bit incoherent, like he wasn’t even concentrating on what he was saying, & I realized he was trying to distract me from the fact that he was fumbling around for something in his pocket. Next thing I knew, he was on one knee, holding open the engagement ring box & proposing.

I could hardly see the ring because it was so dark but I didn’t care, the love of my life & my best friend in the whole world was asking me to spend the rest of my life with him! It was awesome. I said yes (of course!) &, after Mike did a few victory laps along the beach, we spent some more time looking at the ocean & the stars, which had come out from behind the clouds to celebrate with us.

#2: Our first day in China.

This was both incredibly liberating & intensely terrifying.

The first thing I noticed was how hot it was, a surprising but nice change to the freezing Melbourne weather I was experiencing just the day before.

During the drive from the airport into Daqing, I remember thinking how beautiful it was; the sun was bright & the sky was a clear blue, & for most of the ride we only saw paddocks & lots of green empty land. But the closer we got to the city, the more daunting it all became.

I started to notice the hundreds of huge oilrigs all over the place, as well brick huts – falling apart but clearly still lived in – then they were replaced with huge buildings that looked completely abandoned. Out the window I saw a new Honda on one side of our van & a donkey pulling a cart on the other.

Then all of a sudden we were right in the middle of everything: surrounded by so many cars going in every direction; groups of men sitting shirtless on street corners; more donkey carts selling fruit; run-down shops & apartment buildings; & there were people everywhere! As the van pulled into a car park, I was praying that that wasn’t the neighbourhood we were going to be living in. (It was – & I grew to love it!)

Our first meal was in a dumpling restaurant, where I felt even more overwhelmed. Even more people, so much noise, people yelling over each other in a language I didn’t understand, the heat, men sitting at dinner tables with their shirts pulled half way up their chest to reveal their huge stomachs… And every single one of those people was staring at us. I remember sitting at our table, drinking the hugest bottle of beer I have ever seen, & being completely terrified. That night, I remember lying in bed, feeling exhausted, & wondering what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.

Of course, even though that was all just culture shock, most of you know that things didn’t really get better until they got much, much worse. But China isn’t scary to me anymore, you get used to all the differences & things that seem weird, gross, or scary, become quite normal. I love it here now!

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

This one is easy! Travel! Seeing places you’ve never seen (or even heard of!) before is an awesome way to bring a sense of wonder into our lives. Even if it’s just traveling to the other side of town for a day, or doing something you’ve never done before 🙂

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I’ve let go of a lot of fears this year. Particularly fear of failure.

The day that I was fired, all I could think about was what others would think of me. I thought about my family being disappointed, my friends feeling sorry for me, & those few people from my past who would take pleasure from my failings & use it to boost their own egos.

I was humiliated, & didn’t want anyone to know what had happened, how I had failed so massively.

But now, literally thousands of people from all over the world know my story, you all know about my ‘crushed dream’. Everyone in my family knows, my friends know, & if things like facebook & twitter haven’t informed those people, who I let go of years ago, of my imperfections, then gossip sure has.

And I couldn’t be more comfortable with that.

Yes, my family knows everything; & they have never been more proud of me. My friends know everything; & they have never been more supportive. And to anyone who takes pride in counting my flaws; go ahead! First to 100 wins a lollipop 🙂

Not only has sharing my story with the world helped others; it’s helped me. I’ve let go of caring about what others think of me. I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes; it’s a part of being human. And I’m over all the phoniness & the quest for perfection. It’s getting old fast.

I’m here to be real. Now.

I’ve seen people trip over their own feet, fall flat on their face & get up quickly, denying their faults & blaming someone else for tripping them up.

This year, I’ve learnt not to care about who sees me fall.

If I fall, I know I’m falling for a reason. I’ll stay down for a little while, feel the pain, learn what I need to, then get back up & start again. Maybe even have a chuckle at myself for losing my balance like that.

So, this year I have let go of my fear of failure. After all, as the Simpson’s character Lenny says:

“Eh, everyone makes mistakes. That’s why they put erasers on pencils.”

Jen ♥

Wow… !

Photo & text by Jen Saunders

Let me tell you about my day today.

I woke up early, turned on my laptop & made myself some breakfast.

As I sat down to my computer, I was surprised to see that I had over 100 new emails, & I don’t know how unusual that is for some people, but for me it’s way out of the ordinary!

Most of them were telling me about new subscribers to this blog, so a big ‘Hello!’ to all my new readers 🙂 You rock! The other emails were informing me of new twitter & tumblr followers, as well as facebook messages & friend requests.

It took me a second to figure out why I was so popular all of a sudden, then I remembered that my Tiny Buddha post was published today. Needless to say, I did my *happy dance* while eating my peanut butter on toast this morning!

I must say I definitely was not expecting so many people to read my post, not to mention all the re-blogs, tweets, likes, & follows! Not to mention over 1,000 blog views! Awesomeness! 😀

The best surprises of today, however, are all the super encouraging, supportive & kind comments from my readers. So many people can relate to my story, to being lost, & to feeling like a failure. And even more people can relate to finding themselves, their true path, & turning failure into success.

So, to all the people who took the time to read my post & to those who left me such amazing comments: thank you.

Thank you so much.

A lot of your words really inspired me today, & you have all made everything that has happened here in China just that much more worth it.

My passion for writing, creating & sharing my positive vibes with others has grown so much because of all your support, & I intend to make the most of it.

My whole day today has been a complete whirlwind of AWESOMENESS! It has taught me that I really can inspire & help others, that people like my writing, & that what I have to say is worth sharing with the world.

New opportunities have revealed themselves to me as a result of my Tiny Buddha post, & I can’t wait to see what amazing things are heading my way!

But for now, all this excitement has exhausted me. So Mike & I are going to order pizza & watch ‘Home Alone’ to bring in the holiday season, awesome-style 🙂

Thanks again, & Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen ♥

Day 24: Quotes, Self-Portraits & A Wolf

Today is Day 24 of Art Every Day Month, so I thought I’d should finally upload some of the creations I’ve made over the past couple of weeks.

I have stuck all these around our apartment, so that I can always see the bright, happy colours & read the quotes whenever I like. I even updated my Vision Wall.

Yesterday we went to the museum of natural history in our city of Daqing, I took a lot of photos! My favourite is of a wolf, the photograph actually looks more like a painting, thanks to the painted backdrop. I added some text & viola! My creation for the day was done 🙂

I have also been playing around with my camera & setting self-portraits. I will always look upon this time in China as an awesome adventure, a time of great learning & growth, & a year that changed my life for the better…

I wanted to capture who I am now, in these moments, so that I will always have these photos as a reminder of how amazing life is 🙂 I included some of my favourite things in the photos, my favourite scarf, books, crystals, candles, incense, jewellery, fairy cards & tarot cards.

In my last post, I wrote about Tumblr. I am so in love with it! So many photos, quotes, awesome people… it’s overflowing with inspiring things to share, I’ve even started adding my own creations to the mix 🙂

Check out my Tumblr page here!

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen xo

Day 11: More Photos Of China :)

Hi!

Today marks one year until my love, Mike, & I say ‘I Do’ ♥ So we spent the day just relaxing, walking around our neighborhood – in the literally freezing -7 temperatures. It was a great day 🙂 We did some shopping, then went to the park & played on the swings, followed by sitting on a park bench & marvelling at the beauty of the lake freezing over. Coming from Melbourne, where it very rarely reaches 0 degrees, & never snows, all this is very exciting for us – it’s supposed to start snowing tomorrow! 😀

Here are the photos, & my creative task for today – Day 11 of Art Every Day Month. (I also still need to upload photos of all the other things I’ve created over the past few days so stay tuned!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen xo

Day 4: Photography!

Welcome to Day 4 of Art Every Day Month! I decided to go for a walk around my neighbourhood here in Daqing & take some photos as my creative task for the day.

Leeks hanging outside our building.

The street outside our gated complex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live in Heilongjiang province, which is the northern most province of China – in between Russia & North Korea. It’s funny to think that I’m living in the oil capital of China, a big city with a population of over 2 million people, when only a few months ago I was in Melbourne & had never even heard of Daqing. But now here I am, experiencing an amazingly different world than the one I grew up in.

Cropped photo of the entrance to one of the many apartment buildings.

Our graffiti covered front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the biggest differences we are experiencing at the moment is the weather. Back home the southern hemisphere, we would usually be getting ready for summer right about now, but instead we are wearing huge winter jackets & even buying balaclavas for when winter really hits over the next couple of weeks. The temperature in winter often reaches -30°C, something I have certainly never experienced before! It has already snowed once & the rivers are starting to freeze…

The small river near our building, starting to freeze.

 

 

 

So, that’s my art for today! And now you also know a little bit more about me & my life 🙂

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen xo

An Introduction…

In this, my very first post on this blog, I am going to attempt to tell you who I am & what I’m doing here… Even though I don’t even know the answers to those questions myself just yet 🙂

So, I will be very brief. This is me in point form:

  • My name is Jen 🙂
  • I’m 23.
  • Originally from Melbourne, Australia but currently living in Daqing, Northern China for a year.
  • I’m an artist – I paint, draw, photograph, photoshop, print, write… I’m also a qualified Makeup Artist.
  • I’m engaged to an awesome, afro-haired, incurable optimist named Mike.

In this blog I will be writing about whatever I’m interested in at any one time, as well as things/people/places that inspire me, lessons I’ve learned, experiences I’ve had… as it says in the ‘About Me’ section; I’m addicted to learning new things & am constantly finding new thought-provoking quotes, books, websites, people, stories, places etc that inspire me & I wanted a place to put all these things together, as well as include my own experiences, thoughts & creations that may be able to inspire others.

Some topics I intend to cover include; art; philosophy; spirituality; health; music; books; tv/film; self-discovery; relationships; travel; career… & I’m sure many other subjects will pop up too. If people read my posts & find inspiration from them, then that’s awesome, if not that’s fine too 🙂

I’m on a quest to find more meaning & truth in my life & the world & I hope to use this blog as a way to document my findings.

I’ll leave it at that for now, it’s a very brief introduction I know, but seeing as this blog will be written by me & about me, there’s no doubt that much more will be revealed with every post.

Until then, Peace 🙂

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