Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuen Ng Dragon Boat Festival!

Today was a public holiday in Hong Kong, supposedly a day of rest and relaxation, but thousands of keen paddlers got up extra early to row in the annual Dragon Boat competition held in various bays around the city.

I joined the DBMC (Discovery Bay Marina Club) team a couple months back as they were looking for more people to complete their mixed crew. It was my first time ever rowing in a Dragon Boat but I must say it is really exhilerating and quite challenging to get all 20-22 paddlers in synch. Most of the people on my boat live aboard yachts in the Marina. From the stories they tell, it sounds like a fabulous lifestyle with a lot of work. Maybe someday...

Despite practicing only about 10 times, we were all pumped with energy and in top form on race day. With matching uniforms, we geared ourselves up for a terrific first race. We came second in our heat with an incredible time of 2 minutes and 7 seconds. Our second heat we weren't as quick (we blame it on the sausages and buns we had just after heat #1 which must've weighed us down) with a time of 2 minutes and 11 seconds. Still, we were in 10th standing (out of 28) which was pretty darn good, considering we were all beginners.

During our third race we got sandwiched on either side by the other boats and so a re-race was called. One of the boats didn't stay in their lane and the other boat had a steerer who was under some impression that he was also supposed to row for some strange reason, which basically meant their boat ramming into us.

During the re-race there were 4 boats all competing for first place in order to progress to the finals. We pulled out all the stops and put mind, heart, muscle and buckets of sweat into it, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.

I then raced in the ladies race but because i had literally given it my all in the previous 4 races, i barely had enough energy to lift my paddle up from the water. It was also incredible to feel the difference that a few men make in a boat; the finish line felt a lot further away that time.

It was a fantastic experience nonetheless and i hope to do it again next year. It was nice to see practically all of DB out and about despite the rain showers. There were stalls of food and clothes set up in the plaza along with a stage of performers. Everbody and their dog was in a good mood and there was that buzz in the air that i'm told only happens on this special day in Hong Kong. Buzzed out and all, once the races were completed, I went home and collapsed into a vegetative state on the couch.

*pics of our team in action! Note Liz, our drummer, and our mascot (pink dolphin) on top of her hat.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A rainy mucky HK Frisbee Hat Tourney

From 9-6pm we ran, tossed, caught, slid, jumped and fell countless times into the rain-soaked field. There was thunder, lightning, drizzle, downpour and then, just briefly, clear skies.

The following day was met with pain and bruises felt all over our bodies. Poor Matt had it worse though; while jumping for the disc, he fell hard right onto his left ribcage. Now it is painful for him to execute any sudden movements. He had it checked out at the doctors, got some xrays taken but fortunately nothing is noticeably broken.

So in a nutshell, it was a rainy, muddy, stormy, slip 'n slidy day of Ultimate Frisbee. But oh so very fun, and worth every bump and bruise!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The good, the bad, and the terribly exciting

Haven't felt the urge to update lately but it's not to say life is in the least bit boring.

Work continues smoothly. I adore the team that i work with and of course, am in love with the kids. My boss, John, is another fellow Canadian (former international gymnast!) and just a really patient and wonderful teacher. He's especially great for the young ones who often lack a positive male role model at school. I enjoy the small group work that I do, the one on one lessons and the getting-to-know the other staff members bit. I am learning a lot, by observing and doing, but this past week was especially hard, emotionally that is. Having had no training in working with autistic, ADHD, dyslexic kids, I am left with a lot of open ended questions as to how to approach a certain child in order to ensure maximum learning opportunities.

We live in such a literate society that it is really a handicap if you are unable to read and write. But most of us take it for granted that it's just a natural ability, whereas there are many people who struggle with it continuously at no fault of their own. I readily admit how soft-hearted I am, but being in such close contact with children who can truly fill your heart with such joy and desperation at the same time is just undescribable. And so, I must really acknowledge my team here by saying they have really helped me on this steep growth curve.

* I will be attending the International Conference on Special Education next weekend at HK University which I hope will shed some light on the certain conditions that i must deal with at work, and also gain some tips as to how I should approach these children to ensure effective learning.

Good News: After too much humming and hawing (sp?) about applying for school in September, I finally got my act together and sent in the required forms for the PGDE (Post Graduate Diploma in Education) at HK University, went for a group interview to be accepted into one of their slots - and got in! 8 months of full time study, based mainly on small group learning and in-class teaching, my focus will be on Secondary school, Liberal Studies. Extremely excited about going back to academia learning, and the prospect of many more doors opening for me afterwards.

Bad News: We attended a free Drum Jam at the HK alternative theatre called the Fringe Club, and while i did think of taking off my engagement ring before drumming, I didn't and later on that night around 1am I realized that the ring had been completely squashed down and was blocking circulation. I tried to rub every type of cream on my finger: soap, vaseline, windex, dish detergent, even hemmoroids cream! I then tried dunking my finger in ice cold water for ten minutes to reduce the swelling but the only result was acute pain followed by a dull numbing throb.

The next morning I went to the Emergency ward at the Princess Margaret Hospital where a guy with a teeny tiny saw made for stupid people like me sawed the ring off, releasing me from a night's worth of built-up agony. The worst part of it is that the ring is now ruined. I plan to have the shell reset but still, it won't be anything like the original that was so carefully crafted by a Uygher jeweller in a small shop in er dao qiao in Urumqi. Lesson learned. At least the drum jam was really fun, so much so that Matt and I have signed up for a beginner's course starting in a couple of weeks! No rings allowed!

Exciting News 1: I've gone to apply for a HK driving license (easy transfer if you already have a valid one in your own country) and after picking it up on Monday, I'm going to sign up for a motorbike course. Yeah! I think it will provide a different form of transportation that I've never really considered but think it'll be much more exhilerating, being able to feel the wind in my hair, sun on my face, mozzies in my mouth...

Exciting News 2: Ben Harper -Tokyo - June 10th - yessss! Yup, the second i heard he was performing that weekend, i wanted to go. I've been listening to Ben Harper on repeat these past few days, gearing up to what I envision to be an out-of-this-world concert. I've seen him live at Bluesfest a few years back and was completely taken aback at his huge stage presence. Oooh, i cannot wait! It'll be my first time in Japan (if you don't count the airport) and of course, most importantly, it'll be really great to see the lil' sista again and have her show me around for once!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

where does the time go?

All the photos from all three weddings (Toronto, Jersey, Xinjiang) are now printed and placed in albums - hooray! It was just one of those things on the to-do list and it feels bloody good to cross it off. I'm sure we'll appreciate it when years later, we can sit down and browse through the memories.

Astrid, the 2nd mate from the Soren Larsen, the tallship where we spent 10 days on our honeymoon in Vanuatu, came and stayed with us for several days. We took her to frisbee, went round to Stanley Beach, introduced her to Beijing duck and taught her the art of chopstick holding. After a year and a half away from her native Germany, she unfortunately misread her plane ticket and had to stay another night. But it seems the little hiccup was worth it: just shortly after arriving back home, she got offered another job as 2nd mate on another tall ship. Not in the sun and surf of the South Pacific but in the chilly waters of the North Pole!

World Cup fever is under way and Matt and I painted a Costa Rica shirt. Why? While attending workshops in Hamburg, Matt and his colleagues will watch the first match of the World Cup between Germany and Costa Rica. And so it's only fair that someone roots for the other team, right? Go Ticos!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Typhoon Chanchu

Typhoon's a comin', typhoon's a comin! But it looks like it'll just bypass HK, heading more north-east towards Guangzhou in southern China. Still, winds are blowing at a fierce 160 km/hr, humidity stands at 85% and rain is intermittent and unpredictable, one minute it's dry the next it's like God has unleashed an entire dam of tears.

The level 3 typhoon warning has been hoisted as of early this morning. Basically the levels are as follows: 1, 3, 8, 10. I've no idea why they don't go in sequence but what most people care about is if it's a level 8 (schools close and everyone is sent home) or 10 (eye of typhoon is passing directly over HK and you had better stay inside with flashlight in hand). Here is the official HK Observatory website where you can track typhoon Chanchu as it spins its way past HK.

It's just one of those days that makes you want to stay home, curl up on the couch sipping a hot drink and watch a film or read a good book. Sounds like a plan that needs to be implemented immediately.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

work, fitness, seedless grapes

Life putters along here.

Work is good, getting the hang of things, kids are recognizing me and have taken to wrapping their scrawny little arms around my knees in great delight, coworkers are incredibly friendly and i enjoy the chats that are shared amongst us expat women. My claim to fame at Bradbury: after my first day of causing the laminator to be out of commission (i was innocently trying to laminate my name card when all of a sudden columns of smoke billows out of the machine and fills the hallway) which required a technician to be called in from town, i've redeemed myself by bringing in some of my banana bread. So instead of "Loser Laminator" I am now known as "Banana Bread Queen", a big improvement to say the least! Tomorrow i'm bringing in some homemade oatmeal cookies, just to be on the safe side.

Last Thursday, I accompanied the Year 6's on a field trip to Treasure Island, a picturesque bay on Lantau Island, two bays down from where we are in Discovery Bay. Founded by a Canadian Vancouverite lady 10 years ago, Treasure Island's mandate is to offer specialized outdoor education to children, youth and adults of HK to develop their social skills and to introduce them to the wonderful world of outdoor adventure (camping, water sports, orienteering, high ropes, rock climbing).

Many HK children have never been exposed to the 'natural elements' which surrounds them in HK. There are fairly regular reports of hikers who are ill-prepared for what they thought would be a leisurely walk in the park. Basic things like not bringing enough water, not protecting themselves from the sun, not wearing proper footwear, all this amounts to a search and rescue mission with helicoptors, no joke. As for HK campers, they are known for bringing all sorts of meats, fishes, sauces, breads, and anything else that is messy and edible, all in plastic containers and plastic bags. After feasting, many of them lack the obvious courtesy of cleaning up after themselves, thus leaving a trail of plastic rubbish and bits of leftover food. I don't need to go on for you to guess what my view on this is.

Back to Treasure Island. So the kids were taught how to build a "King's Chair" out of bamboo and rope. It was an activity that tested their teamwork, leadership and listening skills. After completion, they all raced each other on the beach. We then did a bit of orienteering and compass-reading. After lunch, it was off to the high-ropes, jungle frame, climbing ladder and the kids' favourite: swinging from atop a platform between two trees like Tarzan. So many of them who started off by adamently saying they would never climb a wobbly rope ladder ended up, with a bit of encouragement from the group looking on, at the top in no time with a massive grin plastered on their face, pride mixed with disbelief. What a joy to see!

Still going strong with the dragon boating. Two weeks until the big race and my back and shoulder muscles are a bit more forgiving when i punish them every Sunday morning during practice. Yoga is going swell and Zenny, my instructor, seems to think that pushing me to my extreme pain threshold is fun, and in a way, she's right. Ultimate frisbee is still a weekly regiment and this past Saturday we went out with some of the other players for a farewell party for one of the girls who was leaving to go back to Canada. We sat through 2 hours of an all-you-can-eat buffet at this Brazilian joint in Tsim Sha Tsui, and for a litle more $, you can have all-you-can-drink beer/wine. There was so much meat and alcohol, but no matter, we went dancing afterwards and burned it all off. It had been a while since i've been dancing, t'was a good time.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful day of badminton with friends YK and Tomoe, followed by takoyaki- making at their flat. Takoyaki are these little battered balls stuffed with octopus, ginger and onions. They are dipped in special sauce and mayo, sprinkled with dried seaweed and fish flakes, and are very oishi (delicious).

All in all, I'm still finding my feet here in Hong Kong, going on 7 months, and I've always said it's only a stepping stone to somewhere else. But it's fair to say that HK as been kind to me thus far. It offers everything one could want in an international metropolis, and probably more. You just gotta dig a little deeper. In the meantime, I've taken on a new addiction: seedless red grapes. It's keeping me regular and sane.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

quarter-life queries

Life is not always peaches and roses and i don't pretend it is. But having read a friend's blog recently about how she too only tends to recount the positive and exciting ongoings in her life, I feel obliged at this time to do the same. She says she often misses a lot. And by miss i mean, missing friends, missing certain cafes and restaurants, missing the familiarity of a city and its ways, and basically missing a long-ago lifestyle. Now i know i wouldn't want to go back to my previous lifestyle perse, however i sometimes lose focus on what is to come and what there is that i'm really looking forward to. Am i here or there, where am i headed anyways, and is it really where i want to be/go?

For me, i guess, i want to let those friends whom i don't keep in touch with regularly (a natural condition of the human species, but nevertheless unforgiveable), know that i do think of you and continue to wish you well.

* Dad, thanks for the talk tonight. It's helped me get things into perspective again and to realize that nothing important in life is given, but earned.

Monday, May 01, 2006

vroom vroom

We've been having lots of fun on our new toy! Here's a shot of me practicing how to ride without stalling on a narrow road by the water. It may look like i'm going quite fast but do not be deceived, i've barely just got my feet off the ground.