Sunday, November 22, 2009

Here we go.

Blogging has fallen off the edge of my to-do list.  I've thought about it and then felt tired- where do I even begin to try to catch up from the past three months?  It seems like it has been a whirlwind of feelings, activities, transitions, and stress.  And the longer I put it off, the more things piled up!  However, I'm not really wanting to give up on I might as well start somewhere...

A list feels more manageable than paragraphs, so here's a two-part list.  I will title it "The Fall of 2009".  Original and fresh, I know.

The Fall of 2009...The Wonderful
-I look out my kitchen window at the sky every morning at 7:45am and take a deep breath...I smile...I sometimes laugh.  Amazing, deep, vibrant blends of colors painted all over the canvas sky...I love Saskatchewan.  I praise God at least twice for this gift everyday, sunrise and sunset.  It blows me away and brings me to worship.
-Oh, the people!  Oh, the family!  Being with so many I love and have missed for the last few years...this is wonderful, indeed.
-New car: the Blue Zoom!
-God's sweet provision- sweet job, sweet house to live in! I really enjoy my school community.  Beautiful, beautiful school, and awesome colleagues.  It is a great place to work.  A talented, warm and fun group of teachers to work alongside.  And my house....ooooh, I love my house, and my roommate!  (Literally) huge blessing (not my roommate, the house!!).  I feel like I'm swimming in space much of the time- it takes a long time to get places!  After living in 600 square 2000? I don't even know how big this place is, but it's pretty awesome.  And Nicole, my roommate- she's like a sister, and a friend I've always thought would be fun to live with.  I'm so grateful for her!
-SPORTS!! I've had such a blast getting connected and reconnected in the sports community here.  I have met some fantastic new friends.  Tennis and football have been the highlight thus far.  I had a lot of fun playing in a tennis tournament in the summer and was able to get to know some of the ladies.  Now we are playing through the winter, too.  Fun!  I have also become slightly obsessed with touch football.  I really enjoyed going to Nationals in Toronto in October...great experience, and again, fun to make new friends.  Lately I have enjoyed trying floor hockey, playing volleyball again, and also rejoining my old university basketball friends in the ladies league here.  Another great addition has been a twice-a-week early morning "boot camp".  Usually early morning and Harmony do not work- but it has been great!  Really good way to start the day, just dreadfully painful waking up to get there!
-Three plane tickets.  The first took me to Toronto.  The second will take me to New York for New Year's with my sister (wooohooo!!).  The third will take me to Hong Kong in February!!! I'm so excited (and glad that I'm still able to travel)!

The Fall of 2009....The Challenging
-Transition- "in general".  Returning to a place that is home...but isn't home at the same time.   A place that is very old to me is actually new again- both a refreshing experience and sometimes a strange one.  Finding my way in a new school community- sometimes it makes me feel sad and I long for the place where I felt known and comfortable.  Settling into my own living space and feeling out the 'rhythm' of life here. 
-Saying goodbye to my Grandpa and walking through the journey of grief with my family...knowing more deeply the hope that is ours, in awe of the gift of his life and his impact on mine, missing him and aching for Grandma.
-Missing my friends and my church family in Hong Kong.  This was expected, but it is still hard.
-The workload and challenges of feeling like a first year teacher again.  Busyness.  New system, new grade, new kids, new community.  Report cards.

Enough for today.  At least the ball is rolling!  Next step might have to be changing my blog title!! Hmmm...a new blogging identity...any suggestions?!

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Last night a couple friends showed me these awesome videos on YouTube!  From time to time I get a good kick out of "The Office"...even though I was in Season 2 in Hong Kong!  Anyway, I love their wedding episode, which features some sweet dance moves up the aisle...moves that were actually inspired by this real wedding!  Love it!! FUN. Here's a link the wedding episode from The Office.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Looking back at the goodbyes...

I swept over a lot of really good times on my blog (guess I was too busy enjoying them, so no apologies there!)- there were some great memories made during my last days in Hong Kong. So before I dive into the routines of life at home on this blog (that needs a new name?!), tonight I feel like looking back on some of my favorite goodbye moments in HK...

-A group of awesome friends from school (maybe 20 or so) pulled an awesome surprise on the three SK girls leaving town. It was a blast...they blindfolded us, put lovely signs asking for goodbye hugs and escorted us around the city, even traveled across the harbor on the bus to a mystery dinner location. It was so much fun, and we definitely didn't see it coming!!
-On three different occasions I celebrated? leaving with my tennis friends! Such good memories- the first was a trip out for HOTPOT + watching Wimbledon, another was THAI + dessert buffet at my place, and the last was a huge SHANGHAINESE feast + tennis!! Food is a key element, you see! I will miss these special people- not just because they know all the best places to eat and always order seven hundred dishes, or because they are die-hard tennis fans- but mostly because they were so much fun, and I sensed such a genuine friendship with them.

-Even though our school year ended unexpectedly (and sadly), I loved the chances I had to visit some of my students and their families in their homes! What a treat! I had such a great class this year- we became quite close. I have a feeling I will miss them this year! Each visit was unique and fun. One friend/parent treated the three SK girls to dinner at the "revolving restaurant", which none of us had been to! She really went out of her way to be a blessing and encouragement to us as we left- and we'll all remember her kindness, I'm sure.

-I received an amazing gift from friends- one that surprised me and blessed my socks off!! Two of my best buds, Alison and Liz, worked their creative brilliance in creating a movie for me- SUCH a great keepsake of my years in HK. It's called "Hong Kong Will Miss You, Harmony"! It made me laugh a lot and cry a lot! I love it and I will treasure it for a long time.-On our last work day, we had our annual year-end farewell event. My dear friend and colleague, Marg, blessed with such kind and encouraging words (and prayers!). She is one in a million, this one! I miss you (and why didn't we get a picture on that last day?!)!

-On my last night in HK, I spent time with some of my good friends from Solomon's Porch (my home church). I'm already missing SP so much! I loved my community at SP, and it was neat to spend my last evening with that crew.

It seems...not recap the last month in this way. It was a sad time- but such a wonderful time because it was a constant, FUN celebration of friendships, really. Sometimes I felt (and still feel) like crying about the friends I've said goodbye to (for now). But more often, it's the joy-inspired kind of cry- because it's been so good, and I've been so blessed! I miss you, my friends- thinking of you tonight.

Here are a couple other pics from the last weeks- one of my lovely friend Mary, and one of my bball guys, Kenneth...and the other is our SP house church- "K-House!" I spent the year with this small group. As you can see in the picture, they knew me well by the end of our time...ha ha! The next one is my friend Jacqualine, and the last is my Sunday School class from SP!

Well, that gives some voice into the month of June, but I still haven't managed to write about Shyam and Joshua's time in Hong Kong, time in the Mae La refugee camp...or my great family reunion on the ranch...or my job news, which is developing! It might happen yet!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kids at the border...

Interesting story about desperate kids looking for refuge in Canada here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gooood adventure!

Still writing from Luang Prabang- sweating buckets in an internet cafe.

The last two days were something else! What a great adventure we had on our trek to the village. Both Ashley and I started out feeling much less than 100%, and wondered if we should be going ahead with the weekend plan...6 hours trekking, 2 hours kayaking, 40 kilometers of biking. And a whole lot of Laos sunshine/sizzling heat! The tour group, Green Adventure Laos, suggested we shorten our trek to 3 hours so we decided to give it a go. We were joined by another Canadian teacher and our excellent guide, Sittha.

The trek up the mountain was awesome, but very very tiring by the time we were on the steep climb up, right under the sun. We waded through streams up to our knees, and the most memorable part was spending time with the farmers in the rice paddies. We waded in and helped out with a few bushels. It was one of the many moments I've had on this trip where a reality hit home...the life of a farmer in Asia. My feet slithered into the hot, hot muddy water and it felt unimaginable that this was their everyday life. Makes a very comfortable Canadian wonder (there would be more wondering on this day). On the way up, we also saw a young dad, mom and baby feasting? on rat. They love to eat rat in the village...sorry, I didn't have the chance. :)

After tackling the mountain (this felt like no small feat!) we were very pleased to arrive in our village. I had suspicions that it would be some fake village set up for tourists. Ha! This was definitely the real deal. It was such an interesting spot to hang out in for the day. The village was bustling with tons of kids, which made it an instant hit in my books...especially for taking pictures! Most of the little kids didn't wear clothes, and neither did the Grandmas. I had a National Geographic/am I dreaming? moment when a shirtless and saggy-boobed elderly woman came up to me and grabbed the flubber on my arms...measuring it like she had one of those fancy fat calipers. She laughed and laughed. She had those long ears because of her drooping, heavy earrings. Where the heck am I?! There was no electricity in the village. Most of the men cared for the children, strapped to their backs. The entire village was also an animal farm, and I had almost written an entire script for the next Disney movie- that was fun.

As mentioned in the previous post, Southeast Asia loves to describe things and places as "same, same...but different". While gawking at the different-ness of this village, I also smiled many times over at the same-ness of this village and life as I know it. Some examples? Little boys making farting noises with their arms stuck in their armpits. Kids using the international decision-making strategy: rock, paper, scissors. Crying babies up late into the night. Kids creating forts. Men making opium and smoking it and then offering it to the tourists...oh wait, maybe not so same-same!!!! (And NO, we didn't say yes to that offer, though apparently many other backpackers are eager to try it out)

We slept in something like a storage space you might see on a farm. It was fine, though we didn't sleep all that well (our place at the refugee camp was actually more comfortable). Between the crying baby next door, the roosters, and a heavy storm, it didn't make for a great night. Anyway, we woke up, ate some breakfast and started our day. Trekking down the mountain first- took about an hour and a half. I forgot to mention how BEAUTIFUL this place was! Green mountains spotted with trees, rice paddies, all resting in the clouds. We trekked down and then kayaked along the chocolatey river for another hour and a half. We ate some lunch, and then finished our adventure with a 40 kilometer bike ride back to town. HOOFTA! This was a great experience for me- I have never biked that far before, especially not in the plus 35 degree temperatures. It was a really good challenge and I will definitely sleep well tonight!!!

So, that was our adventure! It's time for bed, and then tomorrow is a traveling day- saying goodbye to Laos and hello to Cambodia!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Live from Laos...

Hello friends. It's been awhile since I've posted on my blog. The last six weeks has been a blur. June was a month of goodbyes- lots of fun memories with plenty of laughs, and then a definite share of sad, teary farewells. However- no time to catch up on June now! July is here and with it, a load of experiences to blog about...but no time (or motivation??) to write! I'd better get started...
I'm in Luang Prabang, Laos. I am on a two-week adventure with my friend Ashley. This is the second chapter of our trip- the first could take awhile to tell you about because we saw, heard, experienced and learned a lot. We spent four days experiencing life in the Mae La refugee camp, located near the border of Thai and Burma. It was fun, overwhelming, filled with opportunity and memory-filled, hands-on, courage-giving and like nothing I've experienced before. We made good friends and listened to many stories- many of which I hope to tell in one way or another. I took a lot of video while I was there, so at some point a video will be compiled and shared...with hopes of communicating the stories, struggles, and strength of our Burmese friends. That's all on Mae La for now...more to come (I'm in the midst of catching up on my journaling- to give you an idea- I'm on page 9 and I haven't even arrived at camp yet :).
Back to Laos!! I love it!! Here are some reasons why...
-It's soooo laidback. I think of Hong Kong and other cities I've traveled- Hanoi, Bangkok, Kolkata...and I laugh. As soon as we drove into the city, I felt someone turn down the volume of life. And that is a good thing!! If people are stressed in Laos, they sure hide it well..
-It's soooo cheap!!! Daily (or maybe twice daily) banana-pineapple shakes? 1 dollar. Fresh baguette sandwiches off the street? 1 dollar. Our quiet, clean and well-cared for guesthouse? 3 dollars each/night. Our two-way one-hour ride to the waterfall today? 3 dollars. Hour-long foot massage? 4 dollars. YES!
-It's beautiful! As they say in this part of the world, "same-same but different" from its neighbors. Gorgeous blue skies, plenty of palm trees, waterfalls, and green green green. Luang Prabang is spotted with temples and orange and yellow clad monks wandering the streets.
-It has very impressive initiatives towards sustainable tourism, better than any place I've seen yet. One particular group, sponsored by World Bank, has outlined and published many, many ways that tourists can be responsible as they enjoy the country. You can check it out here- it's called Stay Another Day...very well done!!
I guess that's enough for today! We are off to do a bit of shopping in the market and then it will be a time for a foot-massage (essential, right?!). Tomorrow we are going on a two-day trip which involves trekking, kayaking, biking and staying with a Laos homestay family. On Monday, I will fly to Cambodia for a final three days before heading back to HK for a last weekend before my one-way ticket to...CANADA!