40 before 40: Sunflowers in Tuscany

Monday, 27 July 2015

I have always loved sunflowers. My mother used to grow them in our front yard when I was young. I used to stare at them everyday. That big face with a smile always made me happy. So I grew up dreaming of having my own sunflower field one day. My father owns a decent size land  where we can potentially grow sunflowers, but I don't think I have told anyone in my family about this dream yet. And since my family has better priorities at the moment, I don't think my sunflower field dream will happen in the foreseeable future. This is the reason why I decided to go to Tuscany instead, to experience how it's like to be amidst sunflower fields. 

After my Venice trip in 2013, I want to go on a solitary trip at least once a year. This year, I wanted to stay at a convent in Tuscany  to reflect on life.  However, my adopted family in Bristol was also planning a trip to Rome so I decided to go with them instead. At the same time I was determined to see the sunflower fields in Tuscany so I planned my own trip for this. It was not easy to find sunflower tours on its own. Most of them included wine tours and sightseeings so they were not appropriate for me. I only wanted to see the sunflowers.   I was getting desperate to the point that I was willing to cycle from Siena to the sunflower fields, which I was told was quite dangerous if you are not an experienced cyclist. Luckily, a week before my flight a lady called Paola got back to me. 

Unfortunately, Paola couldn't make it that day because she was due to have an operation so instead, she sent her friend Fabrizio (a taxi driver) to take me to the sunflower fields. Fabrizio met me at the train station in Siena. He spoke reasonable English. I must say, I speak Italian but just enough to get by. But I was so proud of myself during the trip because I could at least make small conversations with Fabrizio in Italian. He actually told me that my Italian is good. Of course he was just being nice.

I had no idea where Fabrizio was going to take me. I read from a blog that the route to  San Giovanni D' Asso from Siena had plenty of sunflower fields. But the trusting person that I am, I left my journey and well, my safety in Fabrizio's hands. 

It only took us 20 minutes to see the first set of sunflower fields.  I couldn't contain my excitement when I saw the sunflowers, fields after fields. And the good thing was, we had the scenery all to ourselves (no tourists).  So there I was, like a little girl who saw the happiest place on earth for the first time.

The town was called Lucignano D' Arbia. Although there were plenty of sunflower fields as we entered the town, they were not the ones I was looking for. But Fabrizio reassured me that that wasn't it. That we would go farther to see more fields. But first, I had to take photos of the beautiful sunflowers.

Fabrizio drove another 10 minutes before I  finally saw the sunflower fields in my dream. I knew from the moment I saw those smiling sunflowers that another dream has come true. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

While most girls prefer roses or tulips, I will choose sunflowers anytime. If I were to get married again, I would like sunflowers to be the main flowers at my wedding, including my bouquet. I'm not sure how comfortable it would be for a bouquet but I will find a way. Also, when I die (God forbid) I want my coffin to be surrounded by sunflowers. I love them that much.

A bonus on my trip was the beautiful Tuscan country side. I'm not sure if it was a part of the tour, but Fabrizio was kind enough to take me around the countyside. I learned from him that this part of Tuscany only grow sunflowers and corns.

The tour was for two hours and cost me £80. I was also lucky that I went in July because it is apparently the peak season for sunflowers. I booked my trip via "Take me out in Tuscany". Paola is very nice and she provided me with a trusted driver. 

I have traveled quite a lot in the past and have seen many beautiful places, but this experience was different. Perhaps because this is my childhood dream and it finally came true. In addition, my companion was the best as he patiently took photos of me over and over again and waited in the heat of the raging sun for me to finish playing like a child in the middle of the sunflower fields. 

Although the things that I want to do in my life are very ambitious, I always believe that dreams do come true. And even if they don't, at least I know that I had a dream. 

tintin x

40 before 40: The Championships Wimbledon

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Since coming to England in 2001, I have dreamed of watching The Championships one day. However, people told me that it's difficult to get tickets. They said that it's either I pay a ridiculous amount of money or queue up really early in the morning. I left it at that as I was not willing to do either at that time. But then last year I realised that I am almost 40 and have been in England for almost 15 years, so I might as well do something about going to Wimbledon. I told myself that this is going to be just a one off experience so whatever amount of money and queueing  would absolutely be worth it. So I was prepared to queue this year, but then I must have done something right because heaven sent someone to make my dream come true.

You have no idea how happy I was when J asked me if I wanted to go to Wimbledon.  All of a sudden, it became unreal. I couldn't believe that I was finally going to watch tennis- live! Not that I know much about tennis. I understand the rules and that (in fact, I also play a bit of tennis), but I don't think I know the sport well enough to be able to give an analysis. So sorry to disappoint you, but what you will read here is all about my experience at The Championships.

We arrived in SW19 just after 11am. The match didn't start until 1pm. We were quite early so we had time to go around, to have a quick lunch and of course to take a mandatory Centre Court photo. 

I got more than what I was hoping for and I have Mr and Mrs P to thank for it. 

Mrs P told me that eating strawberries at The Championships is a tradition. As much as I wanted to follow the tradition, a bowl of 10 strawberries cost £2.50.

We were lucky to be seated 7 rows from the ground. Apart from the lady with quite a big white hat in front of me, the view from my seat was good.

Have I told you that Maria Sharapova is my girl crush? To see her play tennis in person is really a dream come true.

I have not really been following tennis religiously in the last couple of years so I am not quite familiar with a lot of the players anymore including  Coco Vandeweghe. I am glad that she was playing against Maria that day though because she played really well. She is good. 

Of course, it ain't Wimbledon without the rain. Just as the players were warming up, it poured. Not for long though. They were back after 10 minutes or so.

It was fascinating to finally hear Maria's grunts in person. She is quite loud. She also has some sort of mannerism when she is waiting for the ball to be served by her opponent. She makes a fist with her left hand and then she swings it twice, afterwards she gently flicks her thumb and then taps her thigh twice. I may not have described it properly because I may have used the wrong words, but  it was very interesting to watch. 
Sharapova won: 6-3, 6-7, 6-2

The second match was between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. I wasn't sure about how Serena played. On the first set, she looked like she was not into the game. She was slow and didn't look comfortable. But as I said, I have not watched much tennis recently so I am probably talking rubbish.

Anyway, she bounced back on the second set and she played better since.
Williams won: 3-6,6-2, 6-3

I absolutely enjoyed my first Wimbledon experience. I called it the Grunting Games as there were loads of grunting in both matches. Maria did all the grunting on the first match. On the second match, Victoria started grunting with a goat-like sound. At one point she sounded like she was having an orgasm. Then Serena returned the grunting. So really, when Victoria made a "wa-ah" sound. Serena would be like "wah-ah-uh". People burst into laughter. But seriously, it was funny.

We left SW19 at almost 7pm. It felt like a long day, but well worth it. 

Ah, I am so grateful that I was able to watch two very good tennis matches. I will forever be thankful to Mr and Mrs P and of course to J for the opportunity. And I am glad that this happened now because I know that I was with the right person that day.

tintin x

An Epiphany

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The truth is, I am a drama queen. I contemplate on life quite a lot and when I do, I come up with  emotional thoughts.  If you are a friend on facebook, you probably have read my endless epiphanies. A lot of people have commented and sent me messages telling me that they can relate to my feelings and that they are inspired by what I write. A lot of them have thanked me for being brave enough to say  what they have been wanting to say but don't have the courage to. They appreciate the fact that someone can speak up for them, unconsciously. However,  a few others have been aggrieved by my honesty and took my insights the wrong way.  I have caused some trouble a few times for speaking my mind, but this will not stop me from expressing myself. There are more people out there who appreciate my feelings than those who do not. The most important thing for me is that most people find my reflections helpful as they give them encouragement and hope. The private messages I have received from people thanking me because my posts made them feel better make me want to go back to school and take up writing courses so I can write better . I always feel like I have found my purpose in life whenever someone tells me, "those are the words I needed to hear". So, why should I stop being a drama queen? 

And because it is my birthday month, I am extra emotional. So yesterday on my way home, I had yet another epiphany (if I can call it that):

After a while somehow you become the people you are with, so choose them carefully.  Surround yourself with people who will be there when they say they will, in any circumstances. Those people who say they love you and prove it beyond words. Choose those people who share the same dream as you, or encourage you if they don't. Those who know the importance of honesty, loyalty and faithfulness, for you know that they will stay with you. The people who have known suffering so they can join you in your journey. Those who do not hesitate to give because they know how it's like not to have. Those who will spend time with you because you are important to them and not because it is convenient for them. The people who will never remind you of what they have done for you or given you, because they know that when you help you should help with all your heart without expecting anything in return. Those people are selfless. Choose the people who keep their feet on the ground, for they will remind you of who you are. The people who believe that happiness is free, because then it will be easy to be happy. Those who are kind not only to those they care about, but most importantly to those whom they don't know. The people who can let you be yourself without judgement, for that's what life is all about- being yourself so others can be themselves too. Ultimately, you need those people who can help you find the better version of  YOU.

I am no Dalai Lama. God, I don't even write that well. But the fact that I am somehow helping other people is enough reason for me to continue sharing my thoughts.

tintin x

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