Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shek-O Beach

This gem of a beach is a short drive from our house. Short. As in, 15 minutes. It's tucked around the bend and behind the hills so it's quiet, not-so-crowded, and beautiful. The water is clear. This day, we had big waves to crash and play in. 

When you arrive, a lady is standing there eagerly shoving a beach umbrella and chairs into your hands to rent. There are stands to get drinks from along the beach. Off to the side are about fifty (or more?) plastic tables ready to feed hungry people from small local dai pai dong stalls. Bear bought herself a kid surf-board for next time. I think she was inspired by all the surfing we saw!

Bear and I watch as lifeguards run into the surf to help someone. Impressive response team.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Made In China

You know how everything (practically) in America is "made in China"? Well - we are now IN China. And (nearly) everything is pretty much at our fingertips and many things truly are cheaper than in the States. However, the quality is... well... different.

Let's take bubbles.
If you have kids, you pretty much have to buy some bubbles at some point. As any pro-active parent would, we bought some bubbles for our girls. Boy what a discovery. These are the strongest, prettiest bubbles! Even our 2 year old can make them! After the kids played with them for a bit, I couldn't resist - I had to try them out myself. As I brought the wand to my lips, I inhaled and WHAM. This stuff smells AWFUL. Curious, I checked the bottle for more information - and low and behold, that little "non toxic" sign was nowhere to be seen. So - here are our toxic??? but fantastic bubbles:


It hasn't rained here in weeks. We did have threatening grey clouds for the past three days - but it's been pretty much idyllic weather around here. So it's good to remember these crazy rain storms we had just last month. Definitely needed to go out and buy boots, umbrellas, and lightweight rain jackets!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ocean Park

A main attraction here in Hong Kong - Ocean Park - is such a draw that mainlanders arrive by the plane-full just to spend a few days.

Lucky us - we LIVE here! And about a month ago, we bought annual passes. :) yipeee! This Park is not only fun for the rides - just look at that VIEW.

The entire thing is built into the edge of a mountain... on several different tiers. You can escalator up and down to the different sections. There are two ways to get to the mountain-top-part..... There's a fast-train. And then there are - the cable cars:

Doesn't that cloud look like a DRAGON!???
 The park is home to one of the most stunning aquariums I've ever been in. I love Baltimore Aquarium in Maryland - and it's difficult to top - but this place was turn after turn amazing.

Diver in the CEILING - we walked under him through a tunnel

After a long hot morning - we needed to cool off. (Note to self - better to wait till October.. September was still wAY too hot for Ocean Park.) We found a restaurant with air-conditioning and decided that a blast of cool air was worth the wait (very long wait!!). I'm SO glad we waited. Inside - well - just look what we found:

Bunny's absolute favorite animal.

.... till next time...
strollers are fine if you don't mind them on the escalators

Pumpkins - sans - Patch

October in Hong Kong does NOT bring crunchy leaves underfoot (they are swept away too quickly) or pumpkin spice lattes (Starbucks here doesn't "do that"). It doesn't bring long pants, sweaters, or soup (it's 70-80 degrees). It does bring big refreshing gusty winds, blue skies, and less humidity. It really is gorgeous - but Autumn is going to take on a whole new sensory understanding for us. At least they import plenty of PUMPKINS!

Bear's school had a Pumpkin Festival last weekend! It was just the thing for expats-missing-fall-weather. There were pumpkins to buy, pumpkins to look at, photo ops, shopping, music, games, and LOTS of candy!

that's cotton candy - yum!

This festival reminded me so much of my childhood school's "Halloween Carnival" - without the costumes. So fun!

pick-the-nose game .... green slime with bugs - a popular one

The grocery stores are all decked out for fall with bins of pumpkins as you walk in the door and spider webs hanging from the ceiling. But the leaves are still green (though some do drop), and we still wear shorts and t-shirts. We just don't sweat so much.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Little Things...

photos from another STANLEY VILLAGE expedition
 Getting used to a new climate, a new landscape, different air, and a new language are big things. Meeting new people and learning new ways of doing things at work are big things. Moving house and having all-new furniture and dishes are also expected to be hard.

But I find the little tiny things to be the things that affect me. It's the little things that you don't really prepare for, don't think about, and yet interact with every day that jolt you out of normalcy. They aren't bad - they just require some noticing, some effort, and sometimes - just some laughter.

So what are they?
Here are a few....

1. light switches.
You know? These are quick to get used to - and are easier on the eyes. Kinda fun to have a button to push - it's really not a "switch" at all, actually.

2. hot water switches  buttons
These little buggers are both fabulous and a royal pain. In order to have access to the hot water in your shower, you have to flip this little red light on first (see in photo above). Every. Single. Time. Why is that FABULOUS? Because no burnt baby fingers, that's why. The water is never hot from the tap in the bathroom until you turn on the water from a very high-up button (which is outside of the bathroom) first. Baby proofing made easy. Why is it a PAIN? A few times of hopping in the shower only to realize that there is NO HOT WATER... and you have to hop back out, freezing and dripping water all over the marble and wood floors to flip that button.... well... you get the picture.

3. outlets
While we didn't ship most of our electronics (mommy did SOME research before moving), we did keep a few. But the voltage isn't the same - so it's not as simple as getting an outlet converter - you also have to get a voltage converter if you don't want to blow up the equipment. (luckily a lesson learned from neighbors) Also - these are GREEN. See that little button above each socket? Yep. That turns the electricity on and off. Just flip the switch - and you save electricity without unplugging each time. Brilliant.

4. walking
left side, left side, left side, left side.... Wonder if I'll ever get used to that?

5. water
Ok. So this is something that's a bit of a mystery. Is the tap water ok to drink in Hong Kong? Many articles we found (ahem - via google) state that the HK water quality is perfectly fine to drink. However, pipes etc. can sometimes not be so great. BUT. Everyone here (EVERYONE) boils water before they drink it. Seriously inconvenient! (Once in a restaurant, the waitress insisted on giving us boiling hot water for "the baby" because it was healthier. Never mind burning her tongue.) So - what do we do? We got our water tested, of course. Yes, I did. And it turned up a bunch of metals - so what did we do then? Aya. I suppose we could do further research and find the right filter - but by that point, I was kinda done with worrying about water so we just pay for those big bottles and refill them each week. But now we aren't getting the fluoride and natural minerals that are in regular water - so I don't really know. Still a mystery.

6. music
I have had to learn itunes. And make many mistakes. And re-learn itunes. And learn how to sync it to my speaker-system in my classroom (ack!) in order to play music. At home? I just let Jasper be in charge.

7. coffee
No. Half-n-half. Anywhere. 'nough said.

8. toilets
I have used dozens of toilets by this point, and not one of them is porcelain. Not one. I wonder if Hong Kongers have a different saying than the "porcelain God"?  I wonder if it's because there are SO many people here in China that having porcelain toilets piling up at the dump would be just way too much - or maybe it's that we all live in high rises? I don't know. At first - I really felt like I was in a portable or trailer or a campsite.... but I'm getting used to it. I like that it's lower to the ground and isn't so prominent in the bathroom space.

9. tipping
Well, I'm learning that sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't. It seems that the 10% service charge included in (all) restaurant bills does not go to the wait-staff but rather to the establishment itself. It's just a thing. And all restaurants do it. I've learned that indeed you are expected to tip (no set amount like in America) at nicer restaurants - but not at dai pai dongs or small local places.

10. cooking
Yeah, I still have NO idea what these symbols mean on my oven - and have to look up the conversion from F to C each time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The 3 Month Daybook

It's hard to believe we've now been living here for three whole months. That's a quarter of a year, my friends! And we're through that first bump of adjustment (whew!). To celebrate that, I'm posting a 'daybook' -

Outside My Window
The weather is changing and it's - GLORIOUS. A perfect 71-83 degrees and big blustery winds every single morning.

In My Belly
One of the most delicious meals I've ever had in my life! Went out last night with the other kindergarten teachers to crash the downtown restaurant where my colleague's husband is a chef. Such a treat! Kiwi and Lychee cocktails... Hearts of Palm imported from Hawaii... Figs... Beef Tartar (yes, I tried it).... chili sprinkled edamame.... black ink udon noodles.... a perfect scallop... the biggest prawn I've ever seen in my life!

I'm Thinking About
Stress - how to manage it better.

I Don't Want To Forget
The way BunnyCakes toddles around with her belly jutting out and a bottle of milk in her hand.
Holding Bear's hand as we walk to school in the mornings.
What it feels like to be NEW somewhere.

I'm Learning
Cantonese. Yup - dug out those CDs and started back at square one (I had forgotten so MUCH!) It turns out the taxi drivers are pretty able language teachers too!
one big cricket

I'm Hearing
She shriek of the hawks that glide over our apartments and school campus. The crickets (which are really big - like everything else here!). A bit less whitenoise as the weather change allows us to turn off the A/C once in awhile.

someone around here turned TWO

I'm Reading
Unbroken - by Laura Hillenbrand. It's intense. And difficult. And mind blowing. It's World War II - unlike any WWII story I've ever read or heard. It's real. It makes me think of my grandpa. And it's for a bookclub. Did I tell you? I've joined my first ever bookclub. Well - a girl has to make new girlfriends, doesn't she?

strawberry kabobs - on a pocky stick! - yum
Bunny sandwiched by her Chinese and French neighborhood buddies

not gonna share 'Baby Stella' - still the favorite dolly in the house.

Around The House
It's beginning to feel more like home. Each time I walk into the space, the repetition of that moment, makes it more home-like. It's the place I come to at the end of the day. It's the place where my family is. We have a few things up on the wall. We have toys spilled about. We have drawers filling with receipts, half-finished-to-do-lists, and the normal 'junk' that makes a home lived in. It's good. And that view.

At Work
I'm feeling more like me. And very, very busy!

One Of My Favorite Things
The way taxi doors here automatically open for you as you reach out for the handle. It's MAGIC. And when your arms are full of groceries, you don't have to bump the door with your hip - the driver closes it with a magic button. Brilliant. Seriously. All taxis should have these!

A Less Than Favorite Thing
C'mon people, clean up after your dogs! I feel like I'm in a video game, dodging these piles!
new baby doll! - Thank you Nana!

I'm Thankful
That I was hired. That my daughter can go to such an incredible school. For our helper. That dreams do come true after all. (still pinching myself and nervous that it's not real)

I'm Planning
-to go to my modern dance class in Kowloon-Side more often (even though it's taught in Cantonese and even though I'm still the only white-girl).
-to go on a JUNK! (that's a special Hong Kong boat) - this Friday Night with colleagues and husband... and then again in a few weeks with a big group of new family friends