Sunday, July 30, 2006

summer school & the return of the sonnichsens

Here are a couple photos sent to me by my lovely TA and friend, Rany. Thanks!

Here I am singing a song with the green class before they left on our final day (see the big Zs on the board? They went through 20 letters of the alphabet in the 4 weeks of class. Q, X, and Y were among the letters not chosen, but I'm sure they're used to being overlooked by now...).

And with the purple class.Cute little kids -- I'm going to miss them! However, I won't miss waking up at 6:30 to go to school. My summer holiday has officially begun!

In other news, Amy and her clan arrived on Friday, so I'm having fun chillin' with the nieces and nephew. They all have pretty bad jet-lag though, and right now Gabe is the only one still up. So we're presently enjoying some Thomas the Tank Engine video fun. He's really into Thomas stuff, and is pretty much an expert on anything and everything Thomas. Not only does he know all of the characters' names (even the pretty obscure engines like "Murdoch", for example), but he's also been explaining some of the more refined points of locomotion to us, like buffering and what a tender is.
Yesterday, I let Gabe go into my room (which is off limits to the kids without accompaniment and permission), and he asked if he could climb up the ladder to my loft-bed (a favorite past-time for both him and Olivia). On his way up, he started asking me questions. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

Is this your ladder?
Is this your bed?
Is that your pillow?
Is that your blanket?
Is that your light?

The questions continued like this for a little while -- a question about my ownership, followed by an affirmative from me. Funny stuff.

Anyway, I will post some photos of the nieces and nephew soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

japanese influences

I thought that my last post would be it for a while, but then yesterday I came across a couple of things that I determined to be blog-worthy. And both of them are of Japanese origin too, which makes for a nice, neat post.

Kitty Bricks

I woke up earlier than usual yesterday morning, and ended up being ready to leave for the ICS Kindergarten a whole 30 minutes early (which is pretty much unheard of for me)! I decided to use this extra time to get breakfast out. And where, you might ask, did I choose to go? McDonalds, of course! Here's the thing: I love McDonalds breakfasts, especially their egg mcmuffin meals!

So I was sitting there, enjoying my hash brown and fanta (it's larger than the miniscule orange juice, and must contain some vitamin C, right?) when on my table, I noticed this large promotional sticker. It just left me wondering how these little figurines resemble bricks?

And then I noticed a nice little message from Kitty herself on the cup that I was drinking out of.

And in the bottom corner of the large table-sticker, I noticed some promotional material for the "Secret House" thing that Sal mentioned in one of her recent posts. It seems like Secret House stuff is popping up everywhere... on the MTR, McDonalds, huge streetside billboards, etc. Whatever it is, the admission is $60 for adults, which seems ridiculous to me for anything related to Hello Kitty. But then I guess there is a whole theme park in Japan devoted to Kitty and her other Sanrio friends.

Sticky Pictures

Athania and Chris are leaving HK in less than a week, heading to Hawaii, and then LA (you guys will be missed!). And seeing as Athania is the undisputed queen of sticky pictures (and even coined the term herself, I believe), the two of us decided to get some taken yesterday. I've never considered myself a fan of sticky pictures, and hadn't taken any in about 4 years, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Here's a photographic run-down of what happened.

It took us a while to find a sticky-picture booth. And I should mention that the sticky-picture booth is a social creature -- a lone booth is virtually unheard of. They are always found in large herds... or packs (I sense another collective-noun crisis coming on!). We wandered around Mongkok for a while, and then found a little mall of the caliber that are known to have large groups of sticky-picture machines. And fortunately (but not surprisingly), Athania actually knew the Cantonese for "sticky picture," so was able to locate the large area devoted to the things. Here is the sticky picture queen herself at the entrance of the sticky picture village.

It seems that the majority of machines have Japanese instructions only, and since neither Athania nor I can read any Hiragana or Katakana, we were forced to take wild guesses when given options on the booth's computer screen. This resulted in some interesting pictures, as you will see later. Here both of us are considering how best to decorate the photos that we took.

Here's a sample of one of the photo packages you could get at the booth. I like the crowns. I wish we could have figured out how to have crowns...

As I said, our lack of Japanese ability led to some interesting sticky pictures. We took quite a few photos in our first booth, and then somehow got stuck with the really bad, but funny shots (i.e. the one in which I have no head).

After we took these shots and divided them between the two of us, we decided to get more at a new booth! It was so much fun! I definitely sense a new obsession coming on...

Monday, July 24, 2006

fun in shenzhen, ode to sal and kai, and small portions

Sal and I have made a couple trips up to Shenzhen in the past 2 weeks, mainly for the purpose of getting clothes made. Here are some shots from our wanderings:

This is a sign for the Shenzhen metro. I'm surprised that the MTR hasn't sued them for blatantly copying their logo.

Here's a discovery Sal made while we were in the fabric market. Look! It's everybody's favorite Olympic mascots -- Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini -- immortalized in silk! I think I need to dedicate an entire blog to them, or at least a whole post, because I seem to run into those little guys everywhere!

And here's Salome being measured for her dress. The main reason we went to Shenzhen was to get the bridesmaids' dresses for her wedding made, and though it's obvious that she can't be a bridesmaid in her own wedding, she's getting one of her bridesmaid dresses made for herself to be worn at another wedding. Did I get that right, Sal? :) Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), I forgot to get any photos of us at our first fitting. The word that comes to mind in reference to how we looked in the dresses is something Sal herself aptly coined... "mushrooms," wasn't it? I'll just say that there was a lot of poofing going on, especially in areas that we didn't want poofed. Thankfully there's plenty of time for the dresses to be perfected before the big day in December.

And speaking of their upcoming wedding, here's a photo of the lovely couple at church in matching pink. And they claim that this wasn't planned?! Anyway, just wanted to do a little shout-out to two of my most faithful readers. You guys are cool. Thanks for never making me feel like a third-wheel even when I am one. :)

On a completely different note, here's a photo from today that I just had to post. Salome, Jo and I had lunch together in Shatin at a restaurant that will remain nameless. We all got set lunches that were surprisingly inexpensive, considering that in addition to a main course, they came with an appetizer (lettuce with mayonaise-covered penne -- yumm!!), soup, coffee/tea, and dessert. But check out the size of the desserts they brought us!

OK, seeing as this is my second post today, I think I'm all posted out for a while...


Here is some student-related stuff I've been wanting to post for a while.

On the 14th I went to my school's "Thanksgiving Ceremony," an end-of-the-school-year event that included speeches, student performances, presentations of awards, and some really long speeches. And about 98% of the 3-hour ceremony was in Cantonese, so I had to amuse myself by imagining what was being said. Well, I guess I didn't have to imagine everything that was said, since I like to flatter myself that I know some Cantonese. A translation track of everything I heard was running in my head during the ceremony, with me filling in the blanks. It sounded something like this: "Thankyou_____. _______ students ________ good ______ school _______ ________ ________ _______ ________."

One of the highlights of the evening, for me at least, was seeing and hearing our school's marching band. Yes, we have a marching band. And they have the coolest uniforms! Check out those feathers!

They marched into the hall followed by the ceremony VIPs, and then stood around the perimeter playing The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

When they had finished performing, I went outside to try and get some more shots of them in their uniforms. However, I found that most of them did not want to be photographed in marching band attire. Thankfully my faithful student Jessica was more than willing to strike a pose with her clarinet.And here's Dennis, who I taught this year. It might be difficult to understand why, but I refered to him as Dennis the Menace on more than one occasion (affectionately, of course). On an interesting note, he is one of two Dennis Ngs at the school. Part way through the year I noticed the two of them walking around together sometimes during lunch and recess. I guess they met because of their identical names, but ended up becoming good friends.

And now I come to a younger student. Last week I started teaching the language class at the ICS kindergarten summer school. "Language" is a pretty serious name for what I do with the kids, which is basically reading stories, singing songs, etc. Every day the kindergarten has a letter theme, and last Monday was "K," so I had to find a story about something starting with "K". Well, I looked hard for a book about koalas or kites, but in the end the only appropriate book that I could find was called Kitten's First Full Moon, which incidentally is a very cute book with beautiful illustrations (actually won the Caldecott (sp?) award, the yearly award for best-illustrated children's book). Anyway, after we read the story, I had the children color a picture from the book. I thought Jasper (see his name in the corner?) did an especially good job, so found a round-about way of getting his picture. Love his color choice and technique. And in case you're wondering, the reason the kitten is half red is that some of the kids decided he needed a blanket... he is sleeping afterall. Besides appreciating the kitten coloring-job, I love this photo! I think I like the way the picture is covering half of his face, and that his eyes look so serious.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

spectacular saikung & fun at felix

Happy 30th post to me! I for one am amazed at my blogging diligence! Well, as you can tell from the title, this post is supposed to be about something other than patting myself on the back. So let me begin with what I actually wanted to say:

We've been having really clear weather this past week in HK, and practically all week while I was at work at the ICS kindergarten summer school (more on this in a later post), I kept thinking how nice it would be to get out and go to the beach. Well that very opportunity presented itself when I heard that a group that I go hiking with regularly would be going out to Saikung for a 17 km hike that would pass by one of HK's most beautiful beaches, Tailong ("big wave") beach. I decided to go with them, but planned to part ways at the beach, and get some beach time in while they continued the hike. Going on the hike involved leaving the house at about 6:40 (not normally my cup of tea, but I did it!) and meeting the group out at Saikung. We hiked around part of the High Island Reservoir and then met up with the MacLehose trail. It was a good hike, but difficult because of the extreme heat. Here are some photos.

Here's the hiking party, sans Michelle. An interesting note: I'm the only one in the group under 50.

A view of the High Island reservior. What a beautiful day!

This is Saiwan beach, the first beach we came to.

A view of Hamtin beach (and Tailong beach in the distance).

At Hamtin I split from my hiking friends. I think that Hamtin translates into "salty field." But from the incomprehensibly large number of cow pies I saw on the beach, I think it deserves to be renamed. How do you say "giant bovine litterbox" in Cantonese?

Here's one of many very large spiders that I came across while making me way on a small path between Hamtin beach and Tailong beach. After taking this picture, I tried to get another shot from a different angle and must have actually touched the web, because the hand-sized spider started running down the web towards me. For someone who claims not to be afraid of spiders, I was pretty freaked out.

My perfect day on the beach begins. No, this is not Thailand or Hawaii -- it's Hong Kong!!

When I arrived at about 10:30, there were all of 3 people on the beach!

This picture is for you, Sal (and you too, CR!). Yes, it's the infamous rock where I nearly got us killed 2 years ago. For others that might be reading this, let me explain. This little hill separates Hamtin and Tailong beach. Two years ago Salome, Cristy Rose and I hung out at Hamtin for a while, and then wanted to make our way over to Tailong. The rocks on the Hamtin side were pretty easy to climb on, so I suggested just climbing around the hill to the other side. Well, what this picture may or may not illustrate well is that the rocks become a bit more treacherous on the Tailong side. I definitely remember doing some full-on rock-climbing, not to mention jumping over chasms, all the while being splashed with salt water. And if I remember correctly, we did all of this in flip flops. Seeing this rock made me thankful all over again that all three of us are still alive.

A view of Tailong beach (left; Hamtin is on the right) from the top of the hill that I grudgingly hiked over. I left the beach at about noon, and hadn't really considered how hot the rest of the hike would be. I had plenty of water and Pocari, but still had a few moments when I was sure I would die on the trail... or at least go into heat-induced convulsions. I was comforted by the fact that there were many other beach-goers on the trail, so if something did happen to me, I would most probably be found, and my remains returned to my family.

I saw these interesting flowers/fruit (?) that reminded me of a story I read to my classes last week -- The Grouchy Ladybug.

This was the last beach I came to on the hike back. I think it's called Chek Keng, or something like that.

One of my favorite things to do while hiking in this part of Saikung is to explore all the old villages along the way, and since I was hiking alone, I was able to stop as much as I wanted. Here's some kind of old threshing machine inside one of the abandoned village houses.

Ugghh... I found out that the Civil Engineering Development Department are tearing down some of the interesting uninhabited houses.
This village is only accessible by boat and hiking trail, so I guess they had to bring all the equipment in by boat.

All the demolition that was going on prompted me to document the existience of the village houses that were still standing.

So that was my trip to Saikung. Other than sunburnt shins (I didn't think to put sunscreen there), I made it back safe and sound.

Then later that day...

Yesterday was Athania's birthday (Happy 28th Athania!), so a few of us went to Felix for drinks to celebrate. I'd always been curious about what Felix would be like. It's on the top floor of the Peninsula Hotel, so I guess I was expecting a pretty exclusive club. It turned out to have a very welcoming atmosphere, and was much brighter than I thought it would be. Here's Athania and Chris posing with my lovely green drink, "Jade". Yay for Athania's favorite color!

And here's Chris, in the spirit of "The Dude", with a white russian.

Athania posing with another green drink; this time it's Kaiser's funky heinekin (sp?) bottle.

Felix has a great view, but we never figured out what the blinds were about...

Sal and Kai in front of the harbor-scape. You can sort of make out the top of IFC2 (AKA the giant nose-clipper building) in the background.

More posing in front of the blinds... I mean, the harbor.

Athania and I did the girly thing and made a trip to the bathroom together. What a view. Actually, I think I heard about Felix's bathrooms before I heard of Felix itself.

After the Felix festivities came to an end, some of us headed over to Aqua Spirit, another restaurant/club with a spectacular view. It's at the top of 1 Peking Rd, and get this, doesn't have blinds on the windows! They had these cool blue lights in the tables that I thought looked pretty, well, cool. Here's Kaiser trying to look candid, though he knows I'm taking his picture.

So that was my day. I have some more things to post, but they will have to wait until later.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

syphilis and other surprises

Wow -- I just finished watching the first season of Grey's Anatomy (thanks for the loan, Sal!). I think I had seen 4 or 5 out of the 9 episodes when it was on TV last year, but I missed some pretty pivotal ones like the season finale (and what a finale it was!). Besides filling in missing plot holes, it was really nice to get to see the whole season unfold in a period of two days, as opposed to 9 weeks. The show definitely has some great writers behind it. The characters are well developed, there's plenty of witty banter, and I like the way each episode has a theme that sort of unifies what all the characters are going through, yet somehow avoids being cookie-cutter-ish. Not sure if all that makes sense. I also really like a lot of the music on the show, and just found out that by turning on the DVD sub-titles during a song sequence, I can find out the artist and name of the song. Cool stuff. Guess that means that I'll have to watch the whole season again.

In case anyone is still puzzling over the title of this post, it's in reference to episode 9, which I just finished watching. So no, I don't have syphilis... but if I did, I now know from the show that it can be cured with a simple shot of penicillin.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

manic macau monday

Susie and I did end up making it to Macau yesterday and had a great time! And contrary to my prediction, we even had wonderful weather! Here is a photographic account of our trip to Macau. (Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of our first hydrofoil voyage, mainly because, due to choppy seas, a number of passengers (including yours-truly) experienced motion-sickness.)

I felt much better after putting my feet on solid ground, and was even able to completely gorge myself at Fernando's for lunch. Here we are with some salad, 1/4 chicken, and the ever-delectable garlic prawns.

After lunch we made our way to Senada Square, which is the start of a nice cobblestone pedestrian street that leads to Macau's most famous landmark, the ruins of Sao Paulo (that's "Saint Paul" for those who aren't fluent in Portuguese). I think they need to do a better job marking the path to the ruins though, because I consistently get lost on side streets every time I try to go up there. And obviously, that's no fault of mine... Thankfully, Susie, like myself, was happy to wander the streets of Macau in search of interesting architectural finds. Here are some buildings we found on our way (or out of our way) to the ruins.

Our wanderings did finally lead us up to the hill where the ruins and Monte Fort stand. Here's the view from the fort.

Me with one of the fort's old cannons. Yes, I felt like a huge tourist while taking this picture...

The fort also had some beautiful lotus flowers which reminded me of Sal.

I found this shop sign amusing.

Just down from the ruins I noticed this lovely statue of a girl with her dog, a statue that I don't remember ever seeing before, though I'm sure it's been there a while. How could I have missed such a work of art? Just in case you're questioning the statue's decency, I should tell you that after some close scrutiny, Susie and I came to the conclusion that the statue is in fact fully-clothed... Anyway, I couldn't resist striking a pose with my new friend and her little canine. And what a natural pose it is...

More wandering, more street scenes.

I thought this was an interesting view of the facade of Sao Paulo. And actually, this is the only photo I took of the ruins on this trip, because I knew I already had a lot of photos from previous visits. It was a challenge not to retake the exact same shots.

Some beautiful old buildings near by.

This is a cross outside of one of the churches that we visited, Santo Antonio. Guess it's been there since 1638. Wow, Macau has quite a history.

This was one of the largest banyan trees I've ever seen. It's growing on a wall outside of the Military Club, one of the last places our wanderings took us.

Maybe we're just immature, but Susie and I found this sign quite funny. I guess I've just never seen a sign for a doctor specializing in sexual health.

I was pleased to find that my good friends from Beijing, Bei Bei, Jing Jing, Huan Huan, Ying Ying and Ni Ni, have made it to Macau!

Here's one of the more popular snacks/souvenirs sold in Macau -- jerky! I thought that some of the drawings and English labels were interesting. "Wild Pork" and then of course, "King of Pork," which apparently has reached "lucky special" status.

I tried out my camera's night settings while waiting for the bus that would take us back to the ferry.

And here's a shot from the hydrofoil ride back to HK. I'm not sure how clearly it will turn out, or how appropriate it was for me to take this picture in the first place, but I'll just say that I think this must be one of the worst jobs imagineable -- cleaning up other peoples' vomit on a ferry. Luckily I was not counted among the motion-sick on our way back.