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.