Thursday, December 28, 2006

goodbye, again

The last couple of days, we met up with my Uni friends: Hoinoi and her friend, Ali, Wendy and her Chris. After weeks of planning and discussing on where to meet, it turns out our chosen places were closed but we ended up at a place with good hot food and a quiet ambience to catch up.

On our final full day, we went curling with cousins Jenny, Henry, Amy and Winnie. Great fun and i never knew how much precision and skill the sport requires. Poor Matt injured himself while sweeping the ice, fell over and banged his knee, hand and jaw. It is very slippery and there was even a stretcher at the end of the room, which i'm sure is not for decor purposes.

Afterwards we went over to cousin Kitty and Ermo's gorgeous penthouse condo for a Mexican dinner. Here's a great pic of the 3 (of 4) brave men who have married (or are currently engaged) to one of us in the Ma family: Henry, Ermo, Mattie.

After returning home from another late night, we took a look at our flight tickets and realized that we had gotten the times wrong and were due to fly out in 3 hours! So I quickly called up Dad to pick us up at 4am to drive us to the airport, followed by a speedy packing session. And with that, we were off again!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry merry green Christmas!

We started Xmas day by decorating our Xmas tree pancakes with fruit, followed by a Big Mac lunch (free vouchers given from the Sens game). Matt liked them so much, he had all of them! We then paid a visit to Grandma Ma at the hospital. See pic of me and my two Grandmas. Due to infection, we had to wear a gown and gloves; we managed to convince Granmda Wong that the Santa hat was part of the get-up, haha!

That evening we gathered with my dad’s side of the family at Uncle Kee’s in Pickering. There, we feasted on turkey and other assortments of meat, spinach rolls, won ton noodles, cakes, cookies, and of course rice. The one thing that was missing, as Matt pointed out later on, was the vegetable food group. Ooops, minor detail. At least the kids didn’t have a chance to complain. We then trouped upstairs en masse to open our presents. There, Matt and I handed out lucky money to my younger cousins (tradition dictates that once married, you must give the red envelopes stuffed with cash to the wee ones. Lucky for us, Grandma Wong still considers us ‘children’ and so this trip, we’ve pretty much broken even.)

Here’s a pic of cutie cousins Nicole and Sabrina, such big girls now, and so photogenic! Grandma Wong flanked with all her grandkids (minus Jenna and Zeena, who are in HK): Anice, Kara, Me, Mattie, Nicole, Sabrina, Calvin and Rhema. It's unbelievable how much they have grown (God, i feel old for saying that), and matured - where was i? And one with her six children: Ning, Chung, Sau (Dad), Kee, Hong and Bing.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Genki Cornwall folk and no-go dogsled

We briefly met up with my old colleague/boss, Kristy, at the new Katimavik office. She was genki (Japanese for happy/energetic/bursting with joy) as ever and seemed to be enjoying life.

I wanted to show Matt my birthtown of Cornwall, so off we went for a quickie visit, picking up Rena en route. There really isn't much to see, but i was surprised at how much i remembered each building and street, even after many years of moving away.

We drove Rena to her parents first and caught up with her parents. Here's me with Peta and Rena, with her trademark half-opened eyes smile. Peta managed to rummage up some old photos of us camping, at birthday parties, choir competitions, school fairs, etc. Lucky we grew out of our awkward nerdy stage, mouth full of metal braces, haha.

We stopped by at Bill and Myrtle Ainslie's home, old neighbours of ours. They watched Anice and I grow up, always at the window waving as we walked to school, always the first to buy a cup of 5 cent KoolAid at our summer drink kiosk at the end of our drive, always sending letters and cards to wherever we may be. They are so ultra sweet and full of life - infact, GENKI is the perfect description - and such good cooks: they stuffed us with grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade apple pie for lunch, shoving a bag of about 3 dozen oatmeal cookies to take with us "in case we got hungry."

We booted it to Mount Tremblant, just north of Montreal, where we booked into one of the last hotel rooms in the Tremblant Village, had a gorgeous crepe dinner and bought me some bum protection pants for snowboarding. We had reserved spots on the dogsledding trip for the next morning, but unfortunately we woke up to freezing rain and news that all the trails had been washed away. Here's a pic of Matt and the dogsled (minus the dogs) in front of the activity centre. Oh well, we'll just have to do it somewhere else sometime, like in Iqaluit or Sweden.

There was no point in even trying snowboarding as the hills were icy and quickly turning to slush with above-zero temperatures. We made the slow drive back in the rain to Montreal, where we met up with Matt's cousin, Simon, and his two friends for lunch. He had just bought his first condo and proudly showed us his newly-sanded parquet floor. Before we had a chance to get invited to help paint the walls, we headed back to Ottawa for a relaxing evening.

Mom made us each a Xmas stocking when we were very little and so this year she made Matt one too, with his English and Chinese name embroidered on either side. Here's us proudly displaying our stocking, coincidentally enough the length of our stocking is proportional to our actual height.

After our traditional get-together at the Grimsey's for a yummy brunch, we all drove back out to Toronto for the Xmas festivities.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Oh, Ottawa

In Ottawa, we had a gorgeous Christmas lunch at the revolving restaurant on top of the Hilton, giving us a panoramic view of Ottawa and Hull. We celebrated Mom and Dad's 30th wedding anniversary, where he surprised Mom with a diamond ring - big shock to everyone!

Afterwards, Dad proudly took us to see his school where he’s currently immersed in the world of accounting, exchange rates, business lingo and Excel. Although there are obvious challenges to returning to school after 30 odd years, he enjoys meeting the diverse people and expanding his knowledge. I have to say, though, since he started being a bit more IT savvy, he has developed an intense love affair with the “FORWARD” button of his email; distant friends of ours have confessed to receiving personal emails from him which he has taken the liberty to forward!

We met up with my dear high school friends for dinner and a Kris Kringle gift exchange, which included some items that showed our diverse sense of humour. Here are some pics from that night: Colin and Ritu-Pitu all smiles, Andy-Pandy inhaling his Japanese grapefruit-flavoured oxygen, Anice (too) happily displaying her boob pasta and cocksicle - eventually taken because she found the other gifts absolutely useless (ie. used but useable suitcase, racing car pencil case, etc). On a side note, we also celebrated the engagement of Mikey-poo and Kat: congratulations to you two lovey-doveys!

Allison, ecstatic at having just finished her last set of exams in law school for the term, took us out to see a Senators hockey game. I had forgotten how much of these games focused on the entertainment value; every possible spare moment there was some sort of game or activity to please the crowd (the Human Puck Ball, the Kiss-Cam, the hotdog ejecting machine, the random dancing and singing to win prizes). Although the Sens lost 4-2 to Tampa Bay, it was good fun and we got to fill our tummy with greasy poutine! Can you spot the Xinjiang Sens fan?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In the land of no snow

After 3 flights, plenty of lay-over time in Tokyo and Detroit, and a two hour drive, we were greeted by Mom, Anice, cousin Jenny and Henry at Horseshoe Ski Lodge. We were told that that day my (maternal) grandma was admitted to hospital for kidney failure, requiring emergency dialysis, but at that time was stable. However, that evening she lapsed into a coma and we all rushed down to the hospital in Toronto, joining the rest of the extended family. The next 2 days were a blur of hospital noises, smells, bad cafeteria food, waiting lounges, anxiety, tests, frustration at "the cold doctors and incompetent nurses", sleeplessness, unspoken questions and worries. Grandma stayed in the hospital for the entire duration of our Canada trip. She is now at home resting, under a strict diet (due to her diabetes) and 24/7 care. It has brought up many issues amongst my family members, young and old, about how to deal with the sudden changes that will require long-term care. I felt both a mixture of helplessness (so many questions and so little concrete answers) and thankfulness that at least we were there when it happened and could be emotionally available. I boarded the plane 12 days later with great apprehension, but i suppose we must continue on with as much normalcy as possible.

For the rest of our visit, we did manage to squeeze in a day of snowboarding on man-made snow. Although global warming has come full force this year and record high temperatures have been set, we were lucky to have the lifts and trails pretty much to ourselves. Oh, there was a short interval of real falling flakes in the early afternoon – very very nice!

After a visit to my other grandma's place, where we pursuaded her to try on Matt's huge sheepskin coat (she refused to stand up or wear the furry hat, too bad!), we headed off to Ottawa at 5am, after shopping at a 24 hour grocery store and stopping by Timmy's for breakfast. Jet lag had the better of us and we consistently woke up between 4:30 and 4:40 am for the first week.

Friday, December 15, 2006

with seconds to spare, and not really even, we're off!!!!!
happy holidays to you all! xx

School's out for a month!

We celebrated the end of our 2006 classes with a massive lunch feast and a Kris Kringle gift exchange. Here's a pic of Wanwah opening her present.

My Aunt Teresa, cousins Jenna and Zeena came over to HK from Toronto for Teresa's brother's wedding. We managed to meet up yesterday evening where had had take-out Chinese food for dinner at one of the newly opened restaurants in the Plaza. The girls took an immediate liking to my violin and i showed them how to play the simply "Twinkle Twinkle" melody. See pic of Zeena screeching away, back to the camera.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

rounding up

We just finished our last group presentation of 2006 yesterday and it feels good! Most of these assignments and projects are assigned to us only days before we are expected to produce a superb masterpiece, constructed with lots of thought and analysis, presented with flair and finesse. In a group of 6, it's rare enough that all of us can agree on the central theme, much less the finer details of the project. However, we pulled through (thank goodness for broadband and instant messaging) and managed to produce a somewhat decent presentation. Well done, group!

On Sunday, Anice stopped over for a night on her way back to Canada. After her backpacking travels in SE Asia, she came bearing lots of little gifts; we got a neat little waterbottle pouch, some green curry, lemon grass tea, and some finely rolled local Thai cigars. Thank you!

We went out for dinner that night with our Aunt Jenny, cousin David and grandfather Ma, who has arrived in HK for his half-year stay. After queueing for about 45 minutes (it seems Sundays are the days when everyone takes out their parents for dinner), we had a gorgeous Chinese meal.

Tonight after work, Matt and I got on our baseball mitts and practiced our throwing on the beach, followed by a bit of frisbee practice. We then dined at the newly-opened Irish Pub in the plaza and were treated to some live Irish music; three fellas were sitting a few tables away just playing for the sake of it, it seems. Guitar, banjo, fiddle, pennywhistle, spoons, and some other instruments which i have no idea what they're called. T'was fantastic, there aren't many places in HK where you can work up an appetite on a beach, eat delicious food and be entertained, all within a short walk from home.

Our washing machine is busted and it's been just about a week and a half now, and i must say we're getting pretty good at rationing clothes. We've had people come and take a look at it but it seems it will be too expensive to replace the parts so the landlord has decided to buy a new one, but we have to wait until the specific model comes in. Fingers crossed that we'll have it installed before we leave on Sat. Hmm... not betting any money on it.

But no matter, our thoughts are not even in HK as we are both getting ridiculously giddy about the upcoming few weeks. Looks like there won't be quite enough snow to introduce Matt to snowmobiling though. However, we've got tickets to a Senators game ("curved-stick-puckball" as he calls it) and we're hoping to try our hand at curling!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

the inevitable countdown!

In just 9 days we'll be heading back to the land of poutine, beaver tails, Tim Horton's (YESSS) and anxiously waiting relatives. I'm so excited i can't concentrate on my school work right now. My mind is anywhere but where it should be, but that's ok. With swirling thoughts of everyone we'll see and everything we'll do, crammed in 12 short days, I'm crossing my fingers and toes for lots of snow - blizzards even, especially on Christmas day! Even now, the magic of a white Christmas still holds its charm and allure over me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A calorie-infused sea and land weekend

A busy fun-filled weekend again! On Saturday we went for our second sailing lesson under gorgeous sunny skies and slight winds. Our boat, the Vanguard, is moored at the Hong Kong Royal Yacht Club, and it's really a unique place where dozens of ships of all shapes and sizes are surrounded by tall skyscrapers and busy roads. It seems that the heavy traffic flow just naturally extends out into the harbour, where you literally have to nudge your way to get any water space. Makes for precise sailing.

On Sunday, we went out for a farewell lunch of traditional Chinese dimsum at the Kowloon Hotel with friends YK and Tomoe, who will be leaving HK in the New Year after 7 years for their native Japan.

Afterwards, we surprised them with a tour of Hong Kong in a helicopter! YK has always wanted to fly one and we thought what better way to send them off with a tour of one of the world's most incredible skyline. As expected, they were totally shocked. We went over Discovery Bay (see pic), looped around the back to the Big Buddha and then headed south towards the other islands and eventually back to the Peninsula Hotel on Kowloon where we began the trip. It was incredible to see the density of the buildings right on the water's edge, against the dramatic backdrop of the hills separating HK and China (see pic).

We then strolled around and saw the visiting Swedish tallship that was moored in HK for a few days (see pic). Big, bold and beautiful, it was unfortunate that you needed to get advance tickets in order to go onboard - it would have been a fantastic view from the t'gallant!

We finished off our day with a Hagen-Dazs ice cream fondue at their place. Incredibly delicious and deliriously rich! We will miss our dear friends, they helped us feel at home when we moved to HK and we hope our paths will cross again soon. Already we have a ski-holiday planned for mid-January in Japan, just days after they'll have moved and days before i begin another gruelling practicum teaching period.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

mahjong and rugby fever

On Sat, my Uni group came over for a work/social bbq, and although it was a bit drizzly out, "Matt the Super Chef" cooked up a storm while we held a group meeting about our experiences at our practicum school. We ended the afternoon with a few hours of mah-jong fun. Although we didn't actually bet real money on it, we are ready to go back to Canada during Xmas and kick-a$@ and win some BIG money!

That night we went to see South Korea get absolutely pumelled by Japan during the last Asia Rugby World Cup game here in HK. It was a fantastic match, the stands were full of enthusiastic fans, the hazy drizzly weather provided perfect rugby weather, and we managed to get ourselves a free beer!

Sunday morning was a lazy one, spent playing around with our new surround sound speakers bought the previous night (the difference in sound is absolutely phenomenal! As Matt puts it "You can hear the fingers actually plucking the strings of the guitar"). By about 4pm we thought a walk to the beach and some disc throwing was in order, so off we went. Turns out every Sunday there's a pick-up (touch) rugby game and we were invited to join in. I've only just gotten into the sport (having seen 3 live matches in 2 weeks) and so it was great fun trying to learn on the fly how to actually throw and catch the ball, nevermind the fact i've never held one before. The guys were kind and helpful and it was a great exhausting (!) run-around. We inherited a second-hand rugby ball from one of them so now i've no excuse not to get better!

Monday, November 20, 2006


After countless hours of rehersal, it all came down to 90 nerve-wracking minutes on stage, under the bright lights at Shatin Town Hall. It had been a while since i've performed live, but that anxious/excited feeling never fails to make its presence.

Sue and Guy had just landed in HK after their long-haul flight from Heathrow but there they were, along with my other beloved supporters (YK, Tomoe, Li and of course, hubby) in the audience. Unfortunately i had to attend our 4 hour afternoon dress rehersal so couldn't pick them up at the airport, but managed to sneak away for 5 minutes before tuning to welcome them.

After the concert, it was picture time and after having ours (the orchestra) taken, HKUPO alumni were invivted onstage for a final photo-op. Matt&co thought it was spouses of orchestra members who were joining on stage, so the next thing i knew, Matt was bolting full steam down the aisle and did this giant leap onstage, dodging players, violins and stands... and almost crashed right into me as he grinned up to the camera. Everyone started hooting and hollering, laughing and pointing, and i told him that it was only meant to be orchestra alumni who were supposed to be up here. Ah, it was so funny and he was completely embarassed but i wouldn't let him go back down, no way! See if you can spot him in the pic.

I finished my 3 week practicum on Friday feeling I had learned more than i ever anticipated and was looking forward to seeing my Uni-mates on Monday to compare experiences.

But first, the weekend. On Saturday, we visited Lamma island and lunched at the superb Bookworm Cafe (organic wholesome food with a great vibe), hiked to the local beach for a refreshing swim and some disc-throwing and saw Japan beat HK 53-3 at the Asian World Cup rugby match at the HK football club (not as bad as the last game of 93-3!)

On Sunday we went for a hiking expedition on South-West Lantau island to seek out the perfect spot for our New Year's Eve campsite. As usual, we were rushing about and running for our bus and only until we reached the deserted trail that would not take us through any villages or towns, did we realize we totally forgot to pack a lunch.. oops! Besides the mints Sue had and a couple of bottles of water between us, i've learned I should follow my Girl Guide motto a bit closer to "Always Be Prepared!" Still, we carried on, walking past the Lantau prison (with tennis and basketball courts!), spotting lots of colourful butterflies, and basically working up a huge appetite for our lun-dinner afterwards. But we did accomplish our task of finding a secluded beach, which faces the South China Sea and besides the odd campers and discrete fishermen, it was just us on the fine-sand beach. It is the perfect venue for welcoming 2007, swimming, frisbee throwing, and bonfire building!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


It's a wet day and all i want to do is sleep. My mistake was drinking strong coffee yesterday evening, and it just sent my system entirely out of whack. I'm paying for it now. Only managed about 3 hours of sleep. I actually don't consume that much java anymore, not like i used to. In fact i only do it if we have guests staying over. It's a good thing, i think, until i have some at the wrong time of the day.

Anice and Laura just finished the last episode of the first season of LOST before rushing off to catch the airport bus. Here's a pic of them and the cheesecake they gave us on the last night. It was nice to have them over, liven up the house a bit and listen to them talk about their adventures in HK after another day out.

My 3rd week of practicum teaching at King's College is coming to an end, and i've learned an awful lot and seen how a typical government school in HK is (mis)managed. Although i've only just caught a glimpse of the system and how things work (or don't), I'm shocked by how much cultural difference there is from what i'm used to. Teachers are used as pawns here it seems, dispatched to whatever school the EMB (Education Manpower Bureau) sees fit, given a schedule and told to stick to it or else, and the worse part: never acknowledged or appreciated for their efforts and time. Yes, the stereotype is true: Hong Kong teachers are worked to the bone. But it is the paperwork and bureaucratic bullcrap that bogs them down, not the actual teaching itself.

After getting to know my mentor, May (see pic of her at her desk), better, it seems she's in a depressing state of mind, where all she's trying to do is keep up with the mountain of papers on her desk (literally!) It seems that teachers who've been in the profession too long and see more negatives than positives begin to turn on the students themselves, which is horrible and counterproductive, as if they were an afterthought in the education world.

Having said that, boys will be boys and i have no qualms about using my LOUD voice when necessary, but see less and less reason to do so nowadays; classroom management should not be about who can yell the loudest but who can yell longest - just kidding. I pull the familiar tactics out: moving the chatty kid up to the front beside me, threatening to send him outside if he misbehaves again... but alas, it seems boys are born with unlimited energy (someone should invent a way to harness all that excess energy and the world's energy crisis would be solved!) and i've just got to divert this energy into productive channels instead. I've come to accept the fact that a constructive and healthy class doesn't mean dead silence and everyone paying attention; infact, discussion, talking, debating and excitable chatter can be just as productive and positive.

Matt and I have signed up for a sailing course and we had our first lesson (out of five) on Saturday. It was a hot and pretty breezy day aboard "Fuzzy Duck" as we sailed out to the very east of Hong Kong, practiced how to tack and gybe, feasted on a gorgeous curry lunch, and glided in back to harbour as the sun was setting over the skyline. It was just nice to be out on the water again and pretty soon we'll be Ms. Competent Crew Member and Mr. Day Skipper!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Last Supper

It's Anice and Laura's last day in the streets and alleyways of Hong Kong. UP the Victoria Peak they went today. Check out: for what they've been up to these few weeks... besides watching LOST and eating the foods they dearly missed for the past year (ie. chips, popcorn, ready-made pizza, cereal, cheese).
We found another cockroach under the sofa last night. Unable to kill such a defenceless creature (i cannot deal with the crunch sound), i caught him in a plastic container and through him off the balcony. Dunno what's better: murder or inflicted-suicide. And i still can't comprehend how these things manage to get up to the 26th floor of our building!
I'm super duper tired today. It's draining not doing anything. Am leaving to go grocery shopping and cook them a last supper. Pumpkin pie is on the menu.. yummy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday stroll

November has been a real pleasure in Hong Kong this year. After record temperatures in October, yesterday was a glorious day with blue skies and a slight breeze in the air. A perfect day to go hiking, and hiking we did! What most people don't know is that beyond the concrete jungle of the city, there are green forests and hills that twist and turn through streams, waterfalls, and reservoirs. We went with friends YK and Tomoe and did Stage 5 of the Hong Kong Trail, a difficult 'experienced hiker trail' followed by 'easy rambling' on Stage 6.

The 3 hour walk took us past Jardine's Lookout (impressive view of the city below), Mount Butler (an exhausting vertical hike up to the peak but well worth it for the 360 panoramic view) and around the Tai Tak reservoir (gorgeous acqua marine colour with little fish, big GOLD fish and even a turtle!) We came upon a secret little natural rock pool that was fed by a gushing waterfall. You literally didn't feel like you were on Hong Kong Island, it was just stunning. I quickly decided i wanted to get in - how often does a chance like this come up? After such a hot and strenuous hike, we deserved to cool off too.

We ended our perfect day with a delicious meal at Stanley Beach. The boys had their "Huge Beers" to wash everything down, see pic, and after a quickee stop at Hagan-Das to replenish our lost calories from the day, we headed back home to carve our pumpkin. Matt's idea was to do a Canada flag and it turned out very well indeed!

Friday, November 03, 2006

welcome laura!

Laura, one of Anice's friend from back home in Ottawa, is here now! We all went to highschool together but i haven't seen her in ages. She too was teaching in Japan for the past year and it's been quite hilarious seeing her take in all the delightful sights and smells of Hong Kong!

Last night we dined in the Night Market in Kowloon before rushing off to see a benefit concert by the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. They played all the classics: Swan Lake, Don Giovanni, Pavane, Carmen - all beautifully performed.

It's been fun having live-in guests again. I've got the two of them hooked on LOST - haha! They are downstairs watching episode 8 as i type. After a year of no English tv/movies, they are soaking it all up and are glued in front of the screen, apart from the odd venture out to Tai O, Big Buddha and the Markets. I don't mind one bit, they are much-welcomed squatters: I come home, dinner's made, house is vacuumed, recycling/garbage is taken out, clothes are washed, and dishes are done.

A hectic week with little sleep, I'm thankful it's the weekend. Our HKU Orchestra is gearing up for the yearly concert which will be held in a couple of weeks. Two practices weekly, 3 hours each, it's gearing up to be an intense show.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

HOTdog, it's an indian summer

i'm sitting here, online, reading the news, reading blogs, basically wasting time at Pacific Coffee, waiting for orchestra rehearsal to begin. it's times like these that i realize i'm still impatient when it comes to waiting for time to pass.
i observed a Form 1 class today, a group of 36 rowdy boys. i officially start teaching tomorrow. can't wait. have been feeling that my hands are a bit tied at school, not expected to do a whole lot (although they consider it a substantial bit already), am hoping the pace will pick up when i am actually teaching. the hardest bit is perhaps coming in halfway through their semester and not knowing their names. i remember those painful first few weeks in Zhuozhou where i struggled to commit to memory the names of my students. chinese names are something of a nuisance to pronounce, especially if you don't know how to read the characters or aren't sure of the tones.
still don't like wearing these 'smart-casual' clothes that i merely think are costumes. yea it makes me look more professional and probably commands more respect from hormonal 13 year olds, but i feel constricted and unable to move freely. will change into more comfortable shirt before rehearsal.
my lil' sister has arrived; we picked her up on motorbike, surprise surprise! visited some relatives on saturday and went to Hong Kong's wetland park yesterday, a public holiday. a huge disappointment though, as it was like visiting a dimsum restaurant set amongst the marshes. the incessant chatter and disregard for wildlife (there were signs posted that read: "Birds have ears too. Please be quiet") was almost too much to bear. when we stepped out of the wetland park and walked back towards the light-rail station, that beautiful thing called SILENCE blasted in our face.
happy halloween to y'all. boo.