Nike's Women's Run was my first marathon race. Though I had practiced running for ten kilometers twice before the run, it felt very different to run in a race. I was kind of skeptical when Irma told me that I would feel the excitement on the spot, but the loud music and hyper coaches really turned me on on the spot. I couldn't wait to begin!
In the beginning I had to worm my way out of the crowds, but little by little, the runners began to thin out into long lines. It was indeed much more fun to run with others than practicing alone on the university campus. Along the way, the staff kept rooting for us, and I had to admit, their words were really uplifting. As I progressed at my speed, I gradually ran past some runners. I didn't feel I was running faster. Instead, I couldn't help wondering if they had slowed down. To me, a marathon race is more about competing with myself than with others.
We ran along Renai Rd. and then went on the Jianguo Expressway. It felt weird, in a good way, to run on the roads normally for cars. I had neither a watch nor a a timer with me, so I couldn't tell how far I had gone. It was not until I saw the sign that indicates the distance we had covered that I got a clue. When I had run for eight kilometers, I felt I was about to hit the wall, but experienced runners know better than stop to walk because then it will be hard to start again. The legs will feel so heavy that it will require more determination than ever to break into a run again. At this moment a runner next to me said, "You are amazing!" I looked at the runners ahead of me, puzzled by her words. I asked her why. She replied, "I've been running behind you." Upon hearing her words, I couldn't help pushing forward as if my legs were equipped with propellers.
In the end I finished the race within 63.5 minutes, ranking 216th out of 6,051 runners. I always thought of myself as a super slow runner, so low that I had no chance to run in a relay race in my life, but I found my talent at the age of 40!
Last year I was inspired by something said by the host of Chai-y's funeral, which prompted me to rewrite my granny's story. Because of the story's narrative, I even invited the sons of my colleague Emily, Liang and Yo, to illustrate the story together with me. I didn't spend much time making the book since it had been a story that I wanted to tell all these years.
This was a very special experience because it was my first time doing collaborative work. In the beginning, I wasn't sure if the plan was feasible. I hesitated at first for I felt a great sense of guilt in not being able to let Liang exert his creativity. However, thanks to Emily's determination and persistence, we gradually found ways to collaborate. In the process, I gained much strength from my partners, and this was what I couldn't imagine when I worked all by myself. For example, we would share what we had done with each other on a regular basis. Our mutual encouragement made me feel that I could go on and finish the project with ease.
Liang and Yo had to redraw the same pictures several times before the final version. My thanks to them are really beyond description. The design and arrangement of the images also surprise readers when they open the book.
Though I wasn't even shortlisted this year in the picture book award of the picture book competition held by Hsin-y Publisher, I bounced back soon after taking my time to get over the frustration. I guess constant failures have turned me into a very powerful person. Fortunately, friends gave me great feedback regarding how to revise the story. The best advice is that I should try to tell the story from a child's perspective and give concrete imagery especially when it comes to a difficult issue like death. Meanwhile, I remind myself that I should write out of joy and constantly consult my young readers.
This week I finally got the printed version of the book, and there are only three copies in the world. I will definitely transform the story into another one when I feel ready. Then, the books I have written along the way will be amazing when they are juxtaposed together!
The pigeons in our neighborhood have discovered that our roof is a perfect habitat, so for the past week, we've been living together. My typical poise vanishes into the air whenever my ears pick up the slightest noise they make. Still, I have to admit that they have the upper hand in this war...
On spring mornings, I will go out of my way just to take a glimpse at the elderly do morning exercise on the square. Their slow yet elegant movement gives me the freedom to imagine that I can slow down for a second. After inhaling the fragrant morning air, I take a big stride forward with confidence.
In moments of confusion, I still see clues that God has left deliberately for me to see.
The seven-year-old Kai now wears braces, and his small face is going to be weighed down with glasses, but sometimes he still blurts out childlike remarks. It's God saying to me, "Hold onto the last traces of childhood!"
I ran into Bai-fang last year when writing postcards at Maharaj Pier in Bangkok. Bai-fang is a super friendly and sincere twentish young girl. I was touched and surprised by what she said to me back then, "I really envy you for being able to travel alone so freely. I also love your drawings. You are my idol!" We thus became Facebook pals though she kind of disappeared halfway through. However, right before my trip to Thailand this past winter, she popped up again. And that's how we came to meet again this time.
Baifang took me to her hometown Nakhon Pathom. I had the pleasure to meet Baifang's whole family, including Nisa, Baifang's mom. We had barely met for five minutes when Nisa offered to drive me to Kachanaburi the following day. I was totally impressed by the hospitable family! At the end of the long drive from Kachanaburi back to Nakhon Pathom, Baifang and her big sis Baifern had prepared hot and yummy dinner for us. This is a very Thai experience for me!
Though the trip seems over, I am in the habit of drawing a picture about my trip in Thailand. This surely keeps my passion for Thailand alive. What's more, as days go by, I am nearer the goal of traveling back to Thailand!
For several days on end during the trip, I received bad news about the opportunities that I wanted very much. It was heartbreaking at the moment, but traveling in a country with Buddha to keep me company, I was soon healed...
I discover on the first day of the trip that most people still dress in black in memory of King Bumibol, and thus my colorful clothes are very "eye-catching," but people would say, "That doesn't matter. You are a tourist." They don't give me judging looks just as they put up with my sloppy Thai. In the end, I find someone so reserved like me can make friends even when walking on the streets. Thailand helps me to see my potential!
Last year at this time I was illustrating a book on Thai culture for my teacher, but unfortunately, the project was canceled halfway. When I look back now, I feel that I can come up with more stylized pictures, which I think indicates my growth.
I am traveling to Bangkok again tomorrow. I am looking forward to sampling food that I have illustrated but haven't tasted yet!
I've always been into fashion illustration though my style is not fashionable at all. It occurred to me that fashion illustration would be a superb starting point when I was about to prepare the illustrations for Jane Austen's Mansfield Park because her ladies feel beautiful and want to be beautiful.
I had much fun drawing the models in the fashion magazine. They not only look beautiful but also make me curious about them. Their eyes tell stories.
I focused particularly on how women read and write. However, these models appear to be very confident of themselves. They are worlds apart from the protagonist Fanny, but it was still nice for me to take a new try.
What is the novel about? Simply put, the good girl Fanny was sent to Mansfield Park to live with her rich aunt and uncle when she was little. She grew up together with her gentle cousin Edmund. With the arrival of the new characters, her life began to change. Edmund fell in love with the beautiful but snobbish girl Mary Crawford while her player brother fell for the charm of innocent Fanny, who had to suffer silently from seeing her beloved Edmund blindfolded by love and make every attempt to resist Henry in the meanwhile. Luckily, her virtue and perseverance finally won Edmund's heart.
Besides the three illustrations for the story, every contestant was required to design the cover as well and meet some specific rules. In fact, I wasn't sure if I could make it, but I didn't feel like giving up either. I was blessed with Alex's help so that I could reach my goal.
Fanny is an introverted and repressed role. She is probably the least confident heroine in Austen's books, but I can relate to her because I see much similarity between her and me.
Instead of placing emphasis on her interaction with the other characters, I prefer to feature her only in my illustrations. Apart from Edmund, she took solace in books, plants, and her personal space, the East room.
As is said in the book, Fanny feels ecstasy in a quiet way.
On the day when I finished the illustrations, I thought of the winter five years ago when I was studying in London. I was eager to borrow others' styles, so my tutor couldn't help asking, "Why didn't you use your own style?" Five years have gone by, and I am proud to be me when drawing. Whatever the outcome is, I am joyful all the same because I achieved what I couldn't in the past.