Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

That means - Happy New Year - in Cantonese. Literally translated, it actually means "may prosperity be with you" or "much money for you".

That's Chinese culture, folks - MONEY is KING.

Chinese New Year (shortened as CNY) is celebrated with gusto in Hong Kong! Streets and shops everywhere are donned with decorative red silks, lanterns, flags, and such. Homes and shops post a "good luck" sign in the Chinese character. They tip it upside down in the doorway so that good luck will pour into the home.

Giant Kitty at Times Square demonstrating the proper gesture to accompany your "kung hei fat choy".
CNY lasts for days. DAYS. Kids get a whole week off of school. Lion dances, dragon dances, and performances are everywhere. 

lion dance at our apartment complex

CNY games at our apartments

Me in my new CNY shirt, holding the lion from our kindergarten lion dance parade, with a tambourine tucked under my arm

I learned the "Yange Dance" and performed at the school assembly

The girls wearing their CNY dresses 

Leading up to and through CNY, people give (and are expected to give) red envelopes (called laisee packets) stuffed with money (ideally $20 for good luck, but NEVER any amount with a '4' which is bad luck). We give them to those who work for us (cleaners, helpers, guards) and to children and single friends. These often come in red, but you can also get 'hello kitty' and such. You'd better keep a stash in your bag, just in case!

Chinese families eat special foods (lots of sweets, dumplings, fish which sounds a lot like the word 'abundance' in Chinese language - and my new favorite - turnip cake!). This leaves many parts of Hong Kong quiet and empty (with many shops closed). Then people converge on the city through the weekend. And the FIREWORKS!

This is - no joke - a full 30 minutes and is like the '4th of july grand finale' for 30 minutes straight. They made heart shaped fireworks, and figure 8's (that lucky number), and lots of noise to scare away the bad spirits (and the monster who supposedly comes this time of year).

Pre-fireworks funk:
kids watching cartoons and eating pizza
Fireworks night, ABear scored with her first sleepover - a party of girls at the Hotel overlooking the harbour. Chaperoning proved uber-fun, though with very little sleep.

standard sleepover dance party in pj's
Chinese people are nothing if not superstitious, I'm learning. And Chinese New Year is rich with rituals, traditions, symbols and foods that are steeped in age-old superstition. One of my favorites: The Wishing Tree
tree at Lam Tsuen - 

You write a wish (not for objects, think bigger), tie it to an orange, and toss it up in a tree. If it catches and hangs, your wish will likely come true.
our own kindergarten wishing tree, courtesy of a generous mom

It is so much fun to be here in Hong Kong during this holiday!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cheung Chau Island

Another trip to an outlying island - with our dear friends, Justin & Joelle!

This fishing village-turned-tourist-trap is bigger than we thought it would be! Hoping to see the cave where Pirate Cheung Po Tsai stashed his goods (Did you know that the pirate played by Chow Yun-Fat, in The Pirates of The Caribbean, was based off this guy?) .... We didn't make it there, but we spent the entire day chowing on fresh seafood and wandering the eye-candy streets.

dried sea creatures, girls?

even dried starfish (top left)

We picked one of the seafood restaurants along the main street. The food was SWIMMING until we ordered it. We proceeded to order everything on the menu: Lobster, Crab, Clams, Mussels, Scallops, Dumplings....

Enough food option to satisfy a 6 year old girl. They even walked next door to buy her requested 'milk' which was served in a tea cup. The toddler ate far less, but still was entertained and happy.

After lunch, we rented a bike for ABear. (Oddly, they offered bikes with seats in the back to tote others... but warned us that we'd get ticketed if we pulled our children along in them. So we opted for safety and skipped that. In hindsight, it probably would have been totally fine. We saw MANY people biking their children along in those things.)

lots of seafood to ogle at

choose your own pearl! You get what you get!
playground - the standard set of older Chinese women resting their feet while watching the youth

Time to investigate a Temple....


like a totem pole.... the dragon here has a ball in his mouth that is a separate, moving piece. Dragons usually hold a 'pearl of wisdom' in their mouth, or claws, etc. - it is the source of their power and is linked to either the sun or moon, depending on legend

not a slide

offerings of fruit

incense coils

protecting and guarding the temple

joss sticks

After the temple and exploring -- we were ready for some street food!


POTATO/POTAHTO - We watched as a woman spiral cut it, cored it, skewered it and then deep fried it. We salted then ate this - sooo delicious! Like the best potato chips, ever.


still smiling even without a nap today

street-side-toys... come with a warning "washing your hands after playing" .... hmmmm

 And back home to HK Island on a ferry. 

in the distance - a jetpowered boat that fairly floats above the water

Cheung Chau is GREAT for families and kids. 
We only touched the surface - so much more to go back and see!