Happy New Year from the Yue Family!
2013 was a relatively uneventful year for us; the year went along happily. Monica had her ups and downs as a graduate student and started a steady relationship with a local U of Wisconsin alumnus. Stephanie completed her series of 6 graphic novels on Guinea Pig, with the first 5 translated into (Simplified) Chinese without her prior knowledge. Her illustrated mouse chapter book had a "sequel". Drina enjoyed her work at Western Union and seemed to be on the road even more. To's little operation keeps growing rapidly and had to add a part-time help. His tenure volunteering for government committees is winding down to just one.
We had a wonderful long trip in May to Sri Lanka, continuing our private tour outside of China. Drina's Western Union dealer in Sri Lanka, which also has a travel business, makes many stays special – complimentary upgrade to huge room with fantastic view and a nice cruise with live band, to name a few. One room has windows on three sides on a Green hotel sticking out into the lake and is big enough for a party for our entire group of 24. Sri Lanka has a long history. It is pleasantly and unexpectedly clean (unlike its neighbor India) and has a 90+% literacy rate! Stephanie’s excitement came when the driver of a tuk-tuk taxi (converted from a motorcycle) allowed her to drive it a bit. In July, we took the Alaskan cruise with Grandma Yue and most of the Yue extended family joining the usual private tour gang, followed by a subgroup of two-car caravan driving through part of the Canadian Rockies. Cruise was relaxing, with no hotel-moving hassle and good food. Nature provides all the wonders in the Canadian Rockies, including glacier, whale watching (we saw the rare occurrence of bubble group hunting that even got our guide excited), a brown bear eating fruits within 10 m and 2 lovable cubs along the highway. Then, there is the super-delicious Alaskan king crab.
2014 was a big transition year for Drina and Stephanie. Drina officially retired from full time work after 20+ years at the end of March but she stayed on as board members for two companies. She took advantage of her new found time to tour with her sisters, one also retired at the same time. She also helped to revitalize the University of Illinois Alumni Association in Hong Kong and promptly became the president for the next 2 years. Stephanie packed up her 250 cc scooter in May and left Providence, for good. The first part of her journey ends with her in the Bay area in California, after lodging 20,000+ miles that covered 39 states and 3 corners of the mainland US. Follow her travel with her blog (http://250superhero.blogspot.com/). It has a daily drawing! She plans to rest for the winter and then finishes the tour back in the East coast in June-July, 2015. It was good to see Monica back to Hong Kong in October with her boyfriend, after more than 2 years away. The four of us were finally altogether in the Bay area around Christmas for the wedding of Karen (daughter of John and Wai-Ming Leung) and Ian. Thanks to the McCarthy, we got to enjoy the Nutcracker in San Francisco. It was a nice round of reunion of family and friends (including U of Illinois alum and To’s Salesian buddies). We also took advantage of the good shopping in the US, especially at this time of the year. Drina and To ended up with 6 pieces of luggage (large and small) heading back to Hong Kong.
We (a group of 23) had a quick-pace but fun tour of 6 Eastern European countries in May, visiting Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb (including nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park), Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov (wonderful old town), and Prague. Our group leader was exceptionally good and will be our tour leader again in the New Zealand tour in November. Europe has very interesting history and culture, including fantastic beer (we learned that Budweiser is a Czech beer!) and wine (an affordable ice wine that is among the best we ever had). The concert in period dress, completed with wigs, in a small concert hall was an enjoyable experience. The best meal was a German buffet in a Beer Garden recommended by Drina’s Western Union colleague; all the sausages and pork knuckle wonderfully done. In contrast, New Zealand is all about natural beauty. We learned about a different kind of lighting worm (not the usual flying one, but a stationary one with strings of sticky silk to capture bugs attracted by the light). The half-day Lord of the Rings / Hobbit location tour was gratifying and added to the wonder of movie-making – the location selection. The only disappointment was the rained-out star grazing of the southern hemisphere night sky.
To and his Salesian classmates followed up on their successful 40th anniversary reunion of secondary school graduation in November, 2011 by a grand birthday party in 2013 to celebrate most classmates reaching the milestone of 60th years of age. As befit to birthday party, (non-Salesian) relatives (including To’s mom) and friends joined in the fun, with many second generation singing with the live band. Lots of dancing too.
There were two memorable trips for To in 2014. The first is during his annual trip to the US for the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) conference. He managed to visit all three (undergraduate) college roommates after not seeing them for decades (2 since graduation in 1976) and recently re-connected / revitalized. Steve number 1 is a physics professor at Naval Academy in the Washington DC area. Steve number 2 is a chair of the math department at Notre Dame. Jeff is a happily retired McDonnell Douglas engineer who is married to Jane, another Eastern Illinois alum and they are the proud grandparents of 6 grandkids! No bad for a tiny apartment in a small college town. To can recognize all at the first sight, especially the voices. Time at Eastern Illinois is among the happiest and there are many, many fond memories to share together. More reunion is planned.
The second is a trip with Drina to Qinghai in September to visit the work of Christian Action. It was their second trip but the first after actively involved with the Education Grant program for upper secondary and college students. The grant has been supporting needy students for 5+ years and bears the name of "Dr. Yue and friends" for convenience (link here). The visit coincided with the first batch of college grant graduates. Many of To’s and Drina’s siblings and many friends have donated to this Grant. The visit was just in time to hand out the cash for this academic year (most do not have bank account). Many parents, in addition to students, were at the brief ceremony. Even though many parents cannot communicate with us (they do not speak mandarin), their eyes and expression spoke loudly. It was all very touching and they were happy to see budding youngsters getting their chances for a better education and hopefully a better life for them and their families.
To's work at Vernier Asia Limited remains enjoyable through the increasingly busy rapid growth in the last three years. The combination of useful product, superb colleagues, and flexibility means no foreseeable retirement for To even though many of his close friends in Hong Kong had joined the rank of the retired. He managed to squeeze in pleasure travel more since Drina's full-time-work retirement. To has slowed down a bit on "Eight Moves" but keeps up his daily pushup and weekly exercise of badminton and hike. His involvement with government advisory committees will wind down in the beginning of 2015 and has passed on the baton of organizing private tours to the retirees. (We now have plans for 2 long tours and several short ones per year. Come and join us. The next is to Germany and Switzerland in late May, 2015 and Spain / Portugal in October / November.)
Drina surprised all — she is retiring at the end of 1Q2014! After 34 years of working full time, she decided to enjoy life, slow down and smell the roses. Other than the 2 Boards she is in, she plans to “hieeeee” around, eat, exercise, bother friends & family, and relax. She will practice her famous saying, "eat steak when you have teeth"!
2014 was a "different life" year for Drina. Since her retirement, she got to enjoy life that she did not have the time and heart to for the past 35 years. She got to sleep more (no more late conference calls), exercise more, read more, and travel less – however, she still travel quite a bit for fun, with friends and family. Took a few trips to Europe, US, and around Asia. She continued to serve on Boards, active as the President of U of Illinois Alumni Association Hong Kong Chapter. She concluded – life is very good after retirement.
Steph rang in 2013 in Hong Kong, wintering with family and Muay Thai family, and a bonus visit from Tim. The year was dedicated to travel, whether it was scooter or car trips, or tagging along on family trips to Sri Lanka and Alaska. In between flights and scooter rallies, she finished the final book in the six book series for Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye, Going, Going, Dragon! (for more books in the series, check out Steph's books on Amazon). This year saw the start of her first illustrated picture book with Scholastic, Such a Little Mouse, available in March 2015. She also completed illustrations for the second book in the Mousenet series, Mousemobile, and continues to work on the third book in the trilogy, Mousemission, into 2015. It will be available some time in 2016 (at this rate).
Most exciting though, was the launch of Steph's multi-month, cross-country solo scooter trip in May of 2014. After a good 7 year run in Providence, RI, Steph said goodbye to Little Rhody. She reduced her posessions, packed the remainder into a storage unit, and set off to see the US of A (and a bit of Canada and Mexico). It's been a life-changing trip. You can follow her on her blog, 250 Superhero, where she posts daily drawings about her experiences. She's still on the road now, if you want to say hi!