Illuminations Photography by Amanda Clay

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Alex and Aaron

I got to spend a lovely chilly evening with this warm and welcoming couple. They have been married for 2 years now and both are quite cute and a lot of fun to hang around!

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‘Til They Come Home…

These are a few photos that I just finished working on from a shoot I did with my cousin Stephanie and her boyfriend Josh who is soon to leave for Afghanistan. My heart goes out to the families of troops and the brave hearts that are fighting for our country.



Simply Summer

Spend an afternoon with Katie and you’ll find it incredibly easy to appreciate life’s most simple things. I went to her house last night for some homemade chicken noodle soup and tea. I only spent a little time with Katie but every time I’m around her I notice she helps me to appreciate simple and lovely things of life, like herbs, vintage items, pets, and life itself! She let me pick some of the fresh mint from the small garden she has on the balcony and use it for some organic Jasmine tea with sugar and milk and I just thought the colors looked so natural and lovely so I photographed it… and the chicken noodle soup. Thanks for introducing me to many wonderful things Katie! πŸ™‚



Summer Summer

This week I had the opportunity to go to Heritage Farm Lake in Carthage with a few friends and kids, everyone had a really great time and I enjoyed photographing a precious baby named Isaac. It was his first day at the lake and I think he enjoyed it, he even had enough energy left over when we got back to make some silly faces on the window glass…

and here they come….

Ladies and gentleman… the moment you’ve been waiting for, haha well at least I HOPE you’ve been waiting for! As promised, here are the photos I’ve been talking about for long enough!

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lovin’ languages…

Lately things have been really fun around the category of languages! I have ACTUALLY ENJOYED studying lately. Although on the contrary, just yesterday I felt terrible in the beginning of class because I was asked to write Chinese Characters on the board after my teacher spoke them but I forgot a lot of them 😦 I also noticed during the rest of class I kept getting answers wrong. It all just seemed to be going downhill. During the break of class I literally was on the verge of tears and could barely hold it together. Flavio (my friend from Portugal) talked to me a little bit saying that I had to choose one of two options: either study as hard as I can and press on or just fall back into the next lower class. It was a no brainer, I said it before even thinking about it. I’m gonna study the crap outta these lessons! I really didn’t want to leave the class, just because one day I don’t get it all, I know it’s sometimes overwhelming but I just need to pick myself up, dust off my jeans and get back on the bike… because we can’t give up after one fall right? πŸ˜‰

Speaking of riding bikes…

In my last post I mentioned that a wonderful girl from Portugal gave me her bike just the day before she went back home. So sweet of her and I have been absolutely loving riding around everywhere and any chance I get I’ll take it just to go somewhere on my bike. I have been taking any chance I can to just ride around and explore new places, it’s so easy and completely safe mom ;). I have been using my good sense of direction to guide me and the wonderful google map on my phone is easy to help me if I start to second guess. It’s a great workout too, I make it a goal to ride somewhere at least 15-20 mins away everyday so I can get a nice exercise. The beautiful scenery and interesting Chinese people are just a plus that comes along with the trip.


Lately I have started to miss so many people from back home! Especially when you guys write on my facebook wall! It’s hard sometimes for me to fit in with the foreigners here I think but I just keep telling myself that’s not what I came here for. I have had quite a bit of time to myself lately and so I’ve been alone with my thoughts and study time which is good but after a while it can get a little lonely. I’ve enjoyed it for the most part though, I haven’t ever had this much time alone and it feels good to find out who I am. I really enjoy being alone with my thoughts in my bike rides and parks. I went to Xuan Wu Lake the other day and it’s really beautiful, nice and peaceful too. There’s just something about getting into nature to clear your head and hold on to your emotions. It really helps to find what kind of person you are inside, and in my opinion can really improve on how you treat and act toward people. When you’re around people so much it’s like they can easily rub off on you and if they rub off too much it’s easy to forget who you are.

So I want to thank everyone back home and here in Nanjing that has helped me in ANY way and encouraged me to do my best. You have no idea how weak I would be without you. I miss you all back home very much and I hope you know that SURELY I have appreciate my relationship/friendship with you MUCH MORE. I know this post is short and that I really really need to post some photos and I will very soon, I promise, I’ve just been really really busy.



from my heart, in the heart of Nanjing…

Amanda Clay


So, I haven’t wrote much in a while because things have been getting CRAZY πŸ˜›

In school:


We’ve been going through the lessons SO FAST! We just finished the last chapter of our book today and start on the new one tomorrow! Ahh! Guess what our new book DOESN’T HAVE…. PINYIN… :O AHHHHH! (Pinyin is the “english” like spelling or pronunciation of the chinese word.) Unless I get studying EVEN HARDER on my characters I won’t be able to read the new book passages too well 😦 don’t worry I’m going to the library most nights to study with my Chinese friend Lynn who has been SO helpful in many ways! I love her.


I’ve started the classes where we hardly use pinyin at all now. Sometimes I still have to write it underneath the character to really understand and remember what it is. We’ve gone through the lessons so fast that it’s hard for me to remember how I got here this fast! I slowly began to realize my fast and intense progress in this language. The other night I had dinner with a friend of mine who is also a Chinese teacher, we spoke in Chinese to eachother for at least 45minutes! She’s a listening and speaking teacher so she really helps me with my pronounciation. I just couldn’t believe how much I’d progressed until after that conversation, it’s sometimes like a switch, when you get in the moment of even your thoughts coming to you in Chinese, the flow is much faster and better. I still don’t like that my sentances were as choppy as I hear myself but I know that’s just because it’s the begining and it will get easier. Later that night I was talking to a classmate of mine and I told him, wow… I just can’t believe how fast my progress has been here! Before I came here I barely could carry on a conversation and now I can have an entire dinner with a Chinese and only speak english for the words I don’t know. Also I could barely read characters before I came and struggled very much to even TRY to write them but now I’m reading and writing sentances! Also the other day my dad called me on skype while I was in my room and then I heard a knock at my door, it was a fuwuyuan (hotel worker) asking me about the electricity and water bill. My dad listened to me tell her in Chinese that I didn’t have the paper and my roommate was taking care of it but she wasn’t here at the time so when she comes back I’ll come down with her to take care of it. She left and when I closed my door I heard my dad say that he was impressed with how I could speak Chinese in a conversation. I was happy to make him proud.

Sometimes I think my progress is getting better and faster and it’s really crazy how much I’m learning but when I think about the europeans that I’ve associated with here, most of them can already speak SEVERAL languages. I am struggling with one language and they have already learned a few because they were required to in school. It makes me feel exactly the same way as my instructor John, that Americans are so lazy with languages, we aren’t even required to be fluent in the language of the country that’s right next to us… this is complete opposite of Europe. However, it’s not so bad that we haven’t learned several languages because English is becoming more and more universal as time goes on. There are so many countries that use english as a back up communication if they can’t understand each other, and sometimes that feels good to know that my mother language is universal.

My health…

Well I hate to say it but my health hasn’t been too good lately… I’ve been stressing over some little things that had been building and I let it all get to me, so therefore, I’ve gone through some stomach pains and aches and now I have a little of what seems like allergies. I’ve been taking the right medication and drinking LOTS of water since there is so much free boiled water all over campus. Drinking that really does make me feel much healthier and I have much more energy on the days I don’t even feel so well. I can see myself using the free boiled water VERY MUCH for the cold winter days!


Recently I went to Shanghai for a few days to see the expo for one day and stay with my wonderful Chinese sister Sherill. I love her dearly like a sister and I hope that I can show the same gratitude that she has shown me someday when she comes to America. When she does I hope you get to meet her! She’s so wonderful! The day I went to the expo was actually perfect! It was a beautiful not too cold and not too hot day! There were quite many people but I was glad I wasn’t there the next day… a friend told me the record was broken 1 MILLION people were there the next day! :O WOAH! I got LOTS of cool pictures of the pavilions and some cool videos of performances and such! I really had a great day at the expo and I got to see quite much in one day… 12 PAVILIONS! (including: Vietnam, N. Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Philippines, Portugal, Norway, Mexico, Ireland, America… of course and The Caribbean)

I’ll do a separate blog of the photos from the expo soon, There are too many and I must choose the best ones πŸ™‚

Also in traveling it’s had to stay pretty cheap lately so both trains to and from Shanghai cost around 52.00kuai (about 7.80 US dollars) not bad for 3-4 hour train travel! The only not-so-fun part was the train ride back, there were many trains coming back to Nanjing so I had to get the best I could with the lowest price, so I had to buy a “standing ticket” Usually if the train is very fill then they will just sell standing tickets so you can still ride the train but you must stand. Luckily I had my small suitcase that sometimes I could sit on and after a few stops I managed to find a clear spot on the carpet to sit. Four hours is a little long from Shanghai to Nanjing but it was all in good favor because I made another Chinese friend who lives in a nearby city that said she’d like to show me around and stuff πŸ™‚

The silver lining…

The weather in Nanjing has been very nice recently, not very cold and not very hot, sometimes the smog is annoying and you don’t get to see the sun so much but apart from that it’s actually quite nice. The nights are good also, it’s somewhat relaxing to be able to just walk around campus or stroll down the street a little with some friends. Walking and listening to music seems to be quite a popular thing to do on campus and I’ve found it really fun and energizing.

The other day… Halloween actually, I had a crazy gloomy day. I was just not feeling the Chinese thing, I didn’t even really want to study or listen to Chinese, much less speak it. I pressed on and got some studying done. Later that day I went with my Portuguese friend Flavio to meet some of his friends. I met this cool girl that was one of his friends and she was just working in Nanjing for a few months. We struck up a cool friendship fast! She also enjoys photography and we had fun talking about anything and everything. I hated that she was leaving the next day to go back to Portugal because she was cool and I think it would have been fun to hang out with her and go take photos with her. Just before she left she said this to me: “I want to give you my bike” I think I did a double take… I said: “δ»€δΉˆ?!”Β  “Shenme?!” haha in Chinese means “what?!”Β  She really wanted to get rid of her bike because she no longer had a use for it, and our friend Flavio already had one so she didn’t know who else to give it to. SO SHE GAVE IT TO ME!!! HAHA YAY!! I wanted to buy one but didn’t know if I’d use it all the time, turns out I DO! I LOVE RIDING AROUND! Any excuse I get I’ll do it! TRY ME!

Gettin’ the show on the road…

Lately I’ve been contacting some models and make up artists in hopes to get my photography ball rolling. Many people have told me to go to Suzhou (a neighboring city to Nanjing) because they say it’s really beautiful and great for shooting. I also would like to visit some other places that are relatively near to do some shoots. I really wanted to shoot in Shanghai but I was just so busy and visiting with my friend before she left to France to three years so that didn’t work out too well. 😦 I’m picking myself back up though, I’m really excited about the people and beautiful places I have here to work with!

I’ve also been wanting to photograph some local art like Chinese painting and “Shu fa” which is Chinese calligraphy. There is actually a class that is on Monday afternoons that I can take for free to learn some Chinese calligraphy, I really think it’s beautiful and started learning a little bit of it before I left USA. I also found a studio where Chinese students study “Shu Fa” and I really want to go back there and photograph them working on their calligraphy. I think that and chinese paintings are some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen.

The adventures to come:

I’m really excited about the big adventure to come, where it all started for me. The upcoming trip with my instructor John Rash. We had so much fun and learned so much last year.. it was the trip we took last year that encouraged me to come here and learn Chinese. We’re going to be in Guilin first, and from what I’ve seen and heard it’s one of the most beautiful cities in all of China. I’m so excited because some good friends and my mom is coming and I can’t wait to share all of the fun of Nanjing when they stop by my town. πŸ™‚

Even though it’s the first time I’ve traveled alone and it’s the longest time I’ve traveled at all, I really like it. I don’t know how I’d feel about living here forever but I certainly want to travel more and to different places. I like the diverse cultural atmosphere Nanjing has and I love the traditional influence China has on it’s former capitol. I really love it here and hope that more interesting moments come soon so I can share some wonderful things with you as I experience the differences and similarities across the world.

η”Ÿζ΄»ζ›΄δΈ°ε―Œ (sheng huo geng feng fu) β€œLife more abundant”

with love from China,