Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Pandemonium (Happy New Years!)

Last night I experienced New Year's Eve- Aizawl style. Firecrackers of all designs have been going off for the last few days- a POP! here or a ZAP! there or a whizzing sound finalized with a SMACK! has become an expected piece of the soundtrack here. Last night was the mother of all firework parties. Everyone was sending rockets, firecrackers, full out fireworks into the sky. Our house was being attacked on all sides. I ran into the house numerous times because I feared a speeding, fiery orange projectile was going to smack me on the side of the head. We were rained down on by a party above us, and soon attacked from below by our neighbours!! As he watched a rocket jet into the sky, he turns to me in this sneering voice and says, "Lovely, very lovely" (with an evil giggle). Meanwhile, his 4 year old is lighting a match and setting off a firecracker. The granny is trying to get her sparkler going...

It was truly a community celebration. You could hear laughter, singing, and at the break of midnight, hearty HA-LE-LU-JAH's!!
Andrew was squealing with delight. If this was not his finest moment, it came a couple hours earlier when we had our own firework show. For 4 CDN bucks, I bought about 45 minutes worth of fun- rockets, spinners and sparklers. What excitement!
When we tried to go to bed at 1AM, they were starting up a program on the loudspeaker just down the hill from us- singing, preaching, on and on and on. Gongshow!
Anyway, it was a memorable New Year's Eve. Enjoy your celebration wherever you are- bring on 2007!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snaps!

I'm not attempting Flickr while using this turtlish internet connection. Here are a few recent pictures for you!


Andrew and our Christmas present from the neighbours! Dad butchered it and Mom and Becky plucked it. A few hours later we enjoyed it for a birthday supper meal! Tasty and fresh.


The Morning Veranda View.


Poinsettias growing just down the road.



Old friends Para and Mawia. They came for Dad's birthday. They are simply wonderful people, and funny!!!


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Live from India

An update from Hong Kong Harm is overdue, now situated in Aizawl, India, Mizoram.
I have been here for four days now. I traveled safely to Kolkata and was hollered at by some foreign guy in the airport. The foreign guy turned out to be my Dad, who successfully surprised me by meeting me in Kolkata. We spent the night in Kolkata and I took in a quick blast of Kolkata craziness (smells, sounds, generally an overload to the senses, however, always intriguing, intense, and in short bouts- enjoyable). All things India were brought from memory to reality again- drooling cows, staring men, garbage galore, rickshaws and Ambassador yellow taxis with all kinds of flashy gods adorning the dash. This is Kolkata!
A one hour flight to Aizawl and a 90 minute taxi ride later, I found myself on Mom and Dad’s doorstep, smack in the middle of the magnificence of Mizoram. Magnificent for one, because it holds the treasure of family, and magnificent for two because of its wonderful scenery. Waking up after the first night reassured me of the wonders of this place. Looking out the window, I gazed upon a stretch of cotton ball clouds sitting in the valley. Mizoram itself is a gift.
Christmas Day was very nice. I am amazed at how my Mom can manage to essentially make everything here that she does at home. A Christmas dinner with all the fixings, including homemade buns and pumpkin pie. Awesome!
Unfortunately I’ve been slowed down by some kind of bug since Christmas night. I’m not sure what it is but I wish that it would tire of me and move along. I am happy to feel hunger at the moment as I haven’t felt that way for a couple days. It’s not a terrible flu or anything, but I know something is not quite as it should be. Anyway, today I did go to town and enjoyed taking in the life of Aizawl. It is fascinating to observe, watching all the busyness and the milling of people around town. Culture is wonderful. I wandered in and out of the many little shops that line the road, ventured down to the market and sat outside a shop to read a book.
Around the house, I’ve spent time with Autumn and her buddies (pics coming soon), as they have been enjoying new skateboards. Andrew is a pyromaniac and spends most of his time blowing things up. Oh, that sounds a bit dramatic. Basically he thoroughly enjoys firecrackers, sparklers and these little spitballs that blast when they touch ground. Nic will enjoy this freedom and share Andrew’s passion for this pastime, I’m sure. I have enjoyed many a hug from both A and A. They are great!
Tonight we are having a birthday supper for Becky (who helps my parents) and my Dad. Tomorrow is his big day! We will have a tea and enjoy the company of many of his friends from around Aizawl. Some of you will smile at the thought of seeing Para and Mawia. I’m excited to see them again tomorrow.
We will go back to Kolkata on Tuesday, stay a night and then fly to Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday. I fly back to HK, via Bangkok for a night, on Saturday. The holidays are flying by!
Anyway, this is a lengthy report and I’ll say goodbye for now. Love from India!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's Go Time!

Well, I've been in China for almost five months now, and I've been teaching for four months in Hong Kong. It's time for a break! Ahhh, it's nice to take a rest from the go-go-go taste of life and trade it in for something fresh, fun, and family- filled! India fits that description, so here I go!
The bags are packed, the house is clean, my head is going to pop due to a bad headcold, and I'm very ready for bed. Tomorrow I fly to Kolkata via a stopover in Bangkok. I will stay the night in Kolkata (always interesting!) and take the one hour flight to beautiful Aizawl on Christmas Eve.
So, the next time I stop by the blog, I'll be in Mom and Dad's house in Aizawl, hanging out in the hills with Autumn and Andrew. How's that for a Christmas gift?!
Til India...

LUCKY WINNER!!!!



Oh yes, today I was the big winner at our staff party!!! Not only that, I looked....well, you can decide on your own what you think about that. People were amazed that what they saw was actually my real hair! For such a stylish display, my disco-grooving friend and I were given a consolation prize of...Dove soap. Maybe that's implying something. Hmmm. And then the most umm, interesting, and practical? gift I think I have ever received. Eight lucky teachers, myself being the last of them, had their names drawn to receive a complete physical examination from the insurance company. How did they know?! I was definitely asking Santa for a physical! Ha! Maybe that's implying something, too. Hmmm.

The Hong Kong Ballers


Here's a pic of my guy's basketball team. They are a great group to coach. We had a pizza party this week to celebrate the prophesy of the end of our losing streak. :) It was fun. Later we played a mini 3 on 3 tournament. Basketball is golden!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Smooth As Ever- Christmas Style

Sarah McLachlan's new festive release is wonderful. Check out Wintersong for a smooth and soothing brand of old and new Christmas favorites. You can listen to samples by following the Amazon link above. Her voice just makes me go "ahhhhhhh".....so good.

Me the Babysitter

Last night, I babysat my little buddy Hunter. Poor kid. You can see it all over his face- you're leaving me with HER?!
Actually, it worked out quite well. He slept for almost two hours, and when he woke up and got over the fact that he was stuck with the freaky babysitter, he was lovely and cheerful. In fact, we went downstairs to the Jingle Jungle playroom, which has a mini-Ruckers that Hunter very much enjoyed. He beat me at the Tennis arcade game. I'll get him next time!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cold Weather Warning

I heard this on the news last night:
"The Hong Kong Observatory has put out its first cold weather warning, as the mercury dropped to 15 degrees for the first time this winter."
Brrrrr! Time to bring out the winter parka!

Monday, December 11, 2006

This makes me smile!


I've been loving this picture ever since Steve posted it on his site, along with other AWESOME pics taken by Bec. I couldn't resist adding a caption! Hope it makes you smile, too! I miss you, Aiden!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"A Speedo and a Moustache- A Great Combination"

These are the kind of ridiculous statements that come from Jeremy Olson. Even more outrageous is the fact that he wholeheartedly believes this statement to be true. And that's a pink speedo we're talking about, folks. Well maybe Jeremy is right, maybe I'm the only one who isn't a fan of the speedo...
"It is true, Harm. Just wait and see. Tomorrow".
They are looking forward to the attention from the European ladies in Macau on Saturday.
However, the other day they bought me a french press coffee maker, and Jonathan is presently baking monster cookies for my class...so I'm keeping them around for awhile yet.
This week has been good. Great, in fact. It will be odd to have an empty flat again in a few days. Lonely odd, I'm sure! They've been exploring Hong Kong on their own during the days and then in the evenings we've enjoyed various cultural cuisines. Monday we went for Thai, Tuesday was Turkish, Wednesday was Egyptian and today was Indian and Mexican. A kaleidoscope of flavors! I must say that Egyptian food is emerging as one of my favorite taste sensations.
In other news, my basketball gang played and did not win the other day. It was frustrating. However, they are a great group of guys and they have some good, but raw, athletic talent. They are a lot of fun and they have a lot of potential. I'm very much enjoying my time with them.
Tomorrow we are having a MONSTER SMARTIE PARTIE in my classroom. That's why Jon is making some high quality cookies. They are going to stop by for a visit. The kids are looking forward to it!
I think tomorrow night will call for good food and a good foot massage- a Friday night tradition.
So long from the 32nd floor!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Good Times.

Things are looking different in my flat these days. At present there are two young lads lazing around in my flat. It is wonderfully surreal to have Jeremy and Jonathan here in Hong Kong.
The last two days have been great. We've had amazing weather- blue skies and twenty degree weather. We've taken good advantage of it, as yesterday we went to The Peak (likely my favorite place in HK). We timed it well and saw both the day and night view of the city, and enjoyed supper in a restaurant at the top. Today we went on a day trip to a fishing village. It was a bit of an unknown venture, but it turned out to be a sweet day. We went on a short hike, swam in a beautiful cove-like space of the ocean, found a neat spot to jump off cliffs (okay, they jumped, I was a chicken), and then had a scrumptious meal of very fresh seafood in the fishing village. To top it all off, we went to a dessert shop for mouthwatering mango delights. Soo good.
Tomorrow will be church, more eating, and I think we'll head to Stanley Market- a famous shopping hotspot on the southern part of the Island. Oh, right, and then I'll take the Roger freaks to the tennis courts to wrap up the evening. These guys are PASSIONATE about Roger. Wow.
It really is a joy-giving thing to have such good friends here. I am a happy camper, that's for certain. We'll post some pics one of these days. Good night from HK!

Friday, November 24, 2006

To Do Lists

I like them. I like feeling like I've got things organized and under control. I leave a little box to allow myself the pleasure of an oh-so satisfying checkmark. Beautiful!
Tonight I was feeling the need for a high quality to-do list. Let's ease the stress by staying organized. Keep those checks coming.

Things to do this weekend:
Mop the floor.
Make banana bread.
Plan for the presentation.

Mark the math tests.
Go to the gym.

Dust. (What? Dust? I must be getting old)
Plan for the next two weeks.
Read.

Make a practice plan.
Call Grandma.
Go grocery shopping.
Write on the blog...

After musing on my classic list, I decided to back up and start again. All of these will get done at some point (okay, maybe not the dusting), but sometimes my little mundane checklists swallow up the best stuff. So let's try again.

Things to do this weekend:
Find ways to love practically.
Take time to care for people.

Be passionate about what you're doing.

Stay in touch.

Jesus loves me deeply, know this deeply today.

Pray.

Be reminded of grace...live humbly.

Smile freely.

Pay extra attention to the old and the young.
Sing!

See beauty and truth around you.
Listen.
And call your Grandma.


Chances are, I won't end up with a bunch of oh-so satisfying checkmarks on the revised list. I don't need them. But I do need the constant reminder to live intentionally, with passion, and with a heart for the Kingdom.

What's on your to-do list this weekend?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Tuesday Times

Sigh. Where did the first three weeks of November go?! The days have felt very much "on the go". Here are a few pieces of the life and times of Hong Kong Harm this week...
-I can't get enough of Simon Webbe (thanks, Steve!).
-Tonight I tried to disprove my feeling about Cantonese food, and failed again. I went to a shop down the road, hopeful that maybe I could find a great dish, maybe something that resembled the AMAZING food I found in Hubei (mainland China). The first thing on the menu was "Imitated Dog Meat". That should have been my first clue. After trying to order "mixed vegetables" and having two different dishes that looked too close to the aforementioned meat, I walked home and ate a bagel with cheese....
-Despite my displeasure with the Chinese food, my neighbourhood has awesome Thai and Vietnamese food. SO GOOD.
-One of my favorite fellows in Hong Kong is named Tom. He is one of the security guards in my building. His English is "in progress" and he's about 50 years old. The other day when I walked in, he gave me a great big smile and said, "OH!!! I haven't seen you in AGES!!!" It was pretty cute.
-I splurged and bought a $125 IKEA sofa bed this past weekend. Now I have more space to host my visitors (that could be you!!!)....
-Speaking of visitors, it's only 9 days until the Canadian fellows arrive in Hong Kong!!! I can't wait. It's quite surreal and I'm sure it will feel that way when I pick them up at the airport. Good times ahead- you know the first place we'll eat? Definitely the Imitated Dog Meat Shop. :)
-Last week I spent three days at Gr. 5/6 camp. It was a beautiful spot. Bamboo groves, banana trees and geckos!! Slightly different than good ol' Kenosee (Kenosee's got it beat by far). The meals were as gross as I have ever experienced. Let's just say Ellen and Laura were not in the kitchen. Other than not eating, it was a fun time. My first time counseling 20 Gr. 5 girls. :) I was acting out of my dimension by being the rescuer from all the unwelcomed creepy crawlies...as well as a plugged shower drain that flooded half the cabin. Good times....
-We have parent-teacher interviews on Thursday and Friday. I know it will be good, but I'm a bit anxious.
-Tonight in the gym I met a Hong Kong-born man who went to school at Campbell Collegiate in Regina. Weird.
-Hoofta. I'm tired. I'll sign off here. So long from Hong Kong....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Happy One Hour?!

Following a very satisfying Indian buffet meal last night, a friend and I did what all logically thinking people should do- go for a foot massage. There are little upstairs shops calling your name everywhere here. Literally- Harrrrmoooony!!! Come on up for a piece of heaven! How could I refuse?
This time a little lady gave us a "Happy One Hour" ad and coerced us upstairs. I did have a happy one hour practicing Mandarin and laughing a lot with my massage lady, but the massage was evil! I was writhing in pain most of the time. And the funny (?) part was that she was getting a great kick out of it. As she dug into my feet and I squealed, she looked at me with a big smile and said, "NO PAIN, NO GAIN!" I couldn't help but laugh and say, ooooookay then! No pain, no gain!!! They are all about the reflexology here, so apparently as she was digging a hole in the bottom of my foot she was fixing something in my liver. I don't really get it but hey, my liver appreciates it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SO Good.

The boys in the tight pants, hippy shirts and funky/greasy? hair do's were in town tonight! I joined the masses in packing out an auditorium for a United Live show. It was awesome. I went on my own, and joined in with the Chinese, who belted out every song with all their might- offkey, broken English, it didn't matter. They were right fired up and I couldn't help but join the madness. The band was great, and it was so refreshing to be a part of such a spirit-filled time of praise. They pumped out the best of the best (but aren't they all the best?! I rarely find a song I don't enjoy). I was especially excited because they brought the lone gal along. I believe her name is Mia Fieldes. She's my favorite. It's too bad she only had one solo (Til I See You)- her voice is so beautiful! Salvation is Here and Take it All were rockin'. I'm glad I went. It was sweet encouragement for the spirit! I hope they make another stop in HK!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A picture of perseverance and community

This past weekend in Hong Kong, 4000 enduring and determined souls entered The Oxfam Trailwalker. It is an event hosted by Oxfam, a worldwide charitable organization fighting poverty around the globe. The race is held in major cities across the world.
The race is on a 100 km trail that runs through the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. That is something that is pretty great about Hong Kong. Despite the cosmopolitan/concrete glare of the city, only minutes away you can find yourself on a gorgeous hiking trail. 4 people to a team complete the race, and each team has a support team to help them along the way. Each team raises money in support of Oxfam.
One of my friends from school asked me to be a part of his support team for one of the checkpoints. It was a really neat experience. I met a bunch of random people, stuck together for a few hours for the sake of cheering on the team and supplying whatever they needed for their journey! We drove ahead of them and prepared Gatorade, Mountain Dew, bananas, salt tablets, pasta, changes of clothes, vaseline for blisters, etc. They stopped in for about 10 minutes, and off they went. They finished the race in 26 hours, starting at 9am the first morning and crossing the finish line at 11am the next day! Incredible!!! The fastest team in the race finished with a time of 12 hours. They have a support team that actually runs the race alongside of them, and they run almost the entire time. I can't even imagine their level of fitness, and the intensity of their determination! One of the girls I met on the support team finished The Trailwalker last year, and it took them 41 hours. They walked through 2 nights. What an accomplishment!
I am thankful for the refreshed picture of perseverance that Drew and his team gave me this weekend! And, the great image brought to life of togetherness- coming alongside brothers and sisters to cheer them on, give them a boost, a shot of energy and encouragement to just keep on keepin' on.
Some of you are dear members of my support team! I need you. Thanks for lifting me up and pushing me along on the race.
Press on!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Nemesis

The last couple of weeks have been a blur. There are a few reasons for this, but the most significant being report card time. Here are my thoughts in regard to this:
Oh Report Cards
How I despise you so
You are
Annoying
Long
Grouchy
And I don't like you.
I'm glad you are
Gone
Gone
Gone
Ha! My brain is so fizzled that a misfit of words such as that was upchucked. Sorry about that.
Okay, I confess it's really not the fault of Report Cards. If you know me, you know my preference would be to....wait for it....and then wait a little longer...shoot a few hoops...drink some coffee....send an email...eat chocolate..take a nap....you got it- the word is procrastinate. It is my finest art form, really. Truthfully, I didn't procrastinate as much as usual. I'm making progress, as I'm pushed by being responsible for more than just myself. Shooooot!
Anyway, I'm finished, and that feels good. I'm short on sleep and looking forward to regaining clarity in the coming days! The dishes have been washed and laundry is on the go. Things are looking up! A refill of patience and energy will be needed as next week I will take on the role of camp counselor. Three days with 20 Grade 5 girls! Woooo! It's time for Grade 5/6 camp. I think it will be fun, but I know it's going to be tiring, too.
I've had super weekends lately. The last being a two day women's retreat hosted by my church. The speaker was so good. I was refreshed and challenged by her thoughts on the love of Jesus. And wow, was she ever funny. A treat to listen to for a weekend, that's for sure!
The weekend before that I was in Singapore. I have more to say about that, but in short, I laughed A LOT, soaked up time with a treasured friend from home and enjoyed a quick trip to a new place.
Anyway, there you have it. That's the life and times of Hong Kong Harm. I'd love to hear from you; I am missing you. Yes, YOU!
PS: Go Riders.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Incredibles in Grade 5

Forget "body systems". Bring on THE INCREDIBLE HUMAN BODY!!!!
Want to go back to Grade 5? Ohhhh yeah. Goooood times!
"I praise you because I am fearfully and INCREDIBLY made. Your works are wonderful; I know this full well."
-Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bouncing

Oh, I am so excited!!! I can't wait!!! In approximately 25 hours, Singapore with Sher 2006 begins!! Tomorrow after school, I'll head for the airport and catch a 3 hour flight to the isle of Singapore. One of my best buds, the one and only Sherri Kasper of Regina, Saskatchewan, is taking a bus from Kuala Lumpur to meet me in Singapore for a couple days. I arrive on Friday night and fly back to Hong Kong early Monday morning.
I've read a bit about Singapore (and I'll be careful to leave the Hubba Bubba at home) and I'm looking forward to enjoying a new place and a change of scenery for a couple of days, but the location is mostly irrelevant- it's all about the chats with a good friend from home. That cannot be beaten. I can't wait!!!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Praying with 10-year olds

We start everyday at our school with devotionals in each classroom. At the end of the devo, I ask the kids if they have things they would like to pray about, whether it's a thanks or a request, whatever. This little prayer time makes me smile everyday. Somehow 10 year olds make prayer a whole lot more simple, and that's helpful to me.
In Grade 5, we usually pray about birthday parties, our big brother's birthday party, and our second cousin's birthday party too, tiredness, sore knees, wrists and necks, that our cousins would have fun at Disneyland, bothersome mosquito bites, the Gr. 6's upcoming swim meet or practice, that it wouldn't rain, for our parents that are traveling a lot, basketball tryouts and for our band and spelling tests.
Prayer request time usually ends with the same student saying, and let's pray that we have a really good day!
Any birthday parties coming up soon that you would like prayer for?! Let us know!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's Still 27 Degrees

What's your weather like in Canada these days?
It is 10:25PM, and the temperature is 27 degrees. Everyday, the temperature falls between 24-28 degrees, and the humidity hovers around 80-90%. I think that I must have adjusted because it doesn't feel that hot anymore. I am enjoying the fact that I have yet to put on a jacket in this place. Sweet!

Import Playground

Hong Kong plays host to a huge spectrum of people, thus the range of imported goods is quite fantastic. My fridge is having a multicultural party! I have South African juice, cookies from New Zealand, Aussie beef, and good ol' American Kraft Dinner, and my favorite, Corn Bran. Mmmm. Oh, and since I'm talking about foreign food, the other day the Aussie staff member treated me to Vegemite. That was the first and LAST time I will ever, ever eat that incredibly foul yuck. Sick! He thought it was funny; I was ready to hurl. However, I digress. Back to the imported food discussion. Yesterday I had a brilliant moment of national pride as I was strolling through the grocery store. The store has devoted the month of October to a "Canadian Food Festival". Ha. So they are selling those little bears with the honey inside, all kinds of maple products, other random things I've never cared to eat or pay that much for in Canada, and, wait for it...wait....this is the moment of national pride- bottles of Molson Canadian. Ha! I prefer the cute little honey bears. But wow, you can find anything in this place!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pulling together...


I love tug-o-war pictures!
Here are my kids, giving it all they got in a spirited uphill battle against the Grade 6's!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Three Cheers for Banana Bread

Yeah! Banana bread is a bonding thing. I have banana bread to thank for the bond I have now have with my amazing, generally non-English speaking janitors at school. They rock. And they dig banana bread in a serious way. Bonded through banana bread, gotta love it.
And, in a most exciting turn of events, I have banana bread to thank for a second bonding experience! I have now officially, after 2 months of living directly next door, met my neighbours! Yaaah! I'm so excited! Here's what I did. I baked banana bread and then, made a bold, very bold, move. I opened my door, took one step and in a moment of brilliance, I knocked on their door. Then, I handed over the goods. Amazing. It was such a huge moment, no wonder it took me 2 MONTHS to do it! And again, banana bread comes through in the clutch. A family of 3, friendly as can be.
Going bananas in HK.....

Monday, October 16, 2006

There is a Hope So Sure

There is a hope so sure...
There is a life so true, a life of love so pure...
There is a life so strong...

And the life that I now live-

No longer is my own.
Jesus lives in me, the hope of glory!!
And each day I live-
No longer is my own.
Jesus lives in me, the the hope of glory!!

This week I'm finding such freedom in this song by Graham Kendrick. Okay, secretly, I could be found standing on my balcony singing at the top of my lungs via my ipod. I guess it's not a secret anymore!
But honestly, I find such joy, freedom and purpose in handing things over to Jesus. Hand it over and give it up for something so much better.
I'm reminded that it's not about me, and how often I need that reminder.

Bad Air/Teacher Talk

Howdy from Hong Kong. Though my days at school are generally cheery, the pollution in this place is downright depressing! It's a bad sign when you wake up in the morning, look out the window and hope your heart out that you're looking at stormclouds. Alas, it's just a thick, dark smog. I read that the air pollution index in Mong Kok (a ten minute bus ride away) was 80 yesterday. That sounds bad, doesn't it?! Again, take an extra deep breath of Canadian air for me, okay?!
This week a director from Sask. Ed. is here to inspect, or basically just check on us here in Hong Kong. Being a new teacher, I am on the list to be inspected! I haven't been observed in the classroom for awhile- not since the days of my internship. As hard as I try to relax completely and just be myself, there is something a bit unnerving about being watched while you teach. Maybe once I'm a teaching vet, it won't phase me at all.
It always proves to be a valuable experience, though. Though it brings some anxiety, it reminds me of some good things. For one, it calls my teaching to greater integrity. If I teach differently when I'm being watched, something is likely off. It also reminds me again of how tempting it is to let someone else's approval become an idol. I wish it weren't so easy to give into allowing another human being to give me their stamp of approval so that I feel validated, or to give a boost to the ego. It's a good gut check to strive for a genuine and humble spirit, one that cares more about the kids I'm teaching than what someone else thinks of my teaching.
Anyway, I did have my observation today, and it was fine. Not out of this world, but it was okay. Next time I'll do something with a little more action. The dialogue that followed was helpful and constructive. So despite the touch of anxiety, I will book in a couple more observations with my administration. It's a great way to get better- and I want that!
Did I mention I'm coaching the Sr. Boy's Basketball team again this year? I'm coaching with another gal, Jill. We actually played against each other when I was at the U of R and she was at the U of S. Okay, so I watched her play against my team, but still....:) Ha ha. I think we'll have a lot of fun. That starts up this week so things will get a bit more busy.
And on a final sidenote, have I confessed my love for squash?! Not the vegetable. I can't imagine the fun in chasing a little ball around a court. Wow. It's tremendous! I had an exhilirating game this afternoon!

Friday, October 13, 2006

From The Corner of Pak Tai Street and Sung Wong Toi Road

The other night I was working out in the gym and I started to take in the view. The gym is on the second floor and it is open to the street corner, with big tall windows.

From the corner of Pak Tai Street and Sung Wong Toi Road, I can see an old man in his pj's and slippers. He's standing under the Dance Academy sign and swinging his arms back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. He is smoking a pipe and likes to stretch on the fire hydrant. He seems happy.
From the corner, I can see little Cantonese children in their school uniforms. They are clutching the hand of their domestic helper, usually a Phillipino woman. I wonder how long the parents work and I wonder about the Phillipino woman's family at home.
From the corner, I can see sleek looking professionals in suit jackets and shiny shoes, coming home late at night. It's too late for supper. They seem weary.
From the corner, I can see a weathered woman pushing a big cart with chestnuts in a wok, and sweet potatoes in a coal bin. She's trying to make it across the street. She's just trying to make it by.
From the corner, I can see mountains as a backdrop to the drama of the city. They must find this city an interesting storyline.
From the corner, I can see the hotel on the corner with the wanna-be Western restaurant, where many sightseers from the mainland come to stay. It has tacky plastic red roses on the tables. They bug me everytime I walk by.
From the corner, I can see red and green topped mini-buses, swerving ambitiously along the road, sprinting to keep up with the pace of the city. The cutely British looking red taxis tag along, too.
From the corner, I can see technicolor lights flashing and dancing against skinny highrises. The lights of the city never die.
From the corner, I can see the lasting flavors of a British colony- traffic skating on the left and English labels conveniently alongside the Chinese.
From the corner, I can see my little piece of Hong Kong.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Five Stars



Two new favorites. Highly recommended!
Most played songs so far-
From Tomlin's, How Can I Keep From Singing, Everlasting God, and Let Mercy Rain.
From Mayer's, The Heart of Life and Vultures.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Christmas Here, New Year's There

Christmas Here:


New Year's There:



My flights were confirmed today! Yippee! I am scheduled to arrive in Aizawl on Christmas Eve, and then Mom, Dad, Autumn and Andrew and I will spend a few days in Kathmandu, Nepal around New Year's. Exciting!!! I don't imagine we will make it up to the top of ol' Everest :), but we hope we might just catch a glimpse of the wonder!

I've got to include Lonely Planet's dreamy introduction to the country:

Draped along the spine of the Himalaya, Nepal is a land of sublime scenery, time-worn temples, and some of the best hiking trails on earth. It's a poor country, but it is rich in scenic splendour and cultural treasures. The kingdom has long exerted a pull on the Western imagination.
It's the kind of country that lingers in your dreams long after you leave it. This is why so many travellers are drawn back to Nepal, armed the second time round with a greater appreciation of its natural and cultural complexity, a stout pair of walking boots and a desire for sculpted calf muscles.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thanks

There are no signs of Thanksgiving in my part of the world. Some blogs have commented on the fresh, crisp air, the color changing leaves and the turkey on the way. From my window, I anticipate the continued hot, sticky air, and I see green, leafy, full trees. Turkey? Probably not. Dim Sum? Of course! There are no signs of fall to be seen in Hong Kong. Maybe that's why I forgot that Canadian Thanksgiving was this weekend.
Regardless, earlier this week I was bombarded by a random flood of thankfulness, so I'm glad to share in the gridblog.
I was thinking about my siblings a lot this week. I love each one of you very much. I am so glad to be a part of my family, to be called a "sister". It is so great to have 3 big brothers, and a big sister that is like a best friend. What a sweet thing.
My heart aches for my nieces and nephews these days. I am so thankful for each one of them. Have you seen them?! They are one of the very, very best parts of my life. I regret, so much, that I am missing out on another 2 years of their little lives, but I'm so proud to be their Aunty, even if I'm really far away. (Tear, tear, tear) I love being an Aunty.
I'm thankful, too, for Mom and Dad and my Grandparents.
Why am I crying through my blog on thankfulness?! Gosh! Funny what happens when your heart starts settling in on your blessings. Mom, Dad- you are at the top of the list. You have been so good to me.
I am thankful to have a handful of friends that could be called family. Lifers!
I am thankful for the amazing women that have blessed my life many times over, like Barb and Laura.
I am thankful for great memories.
I am so thankful that I have a knee that works right, for the most part. It hasn't always been this way, and I rejoice in the fact that I can gleefully chase birdies and squash balls and tennis balls, play softball and football and basketball...
And oh, that brings me to sports. I am so thankful for sports. I love sports, I love softball, I love football, I love tennis. Soooo good.
I am really thankful to be a teacher. I am thankful to spend my days doing something that I enjoy and feel passionate about. I am thankful that I am surrounded by such a great community here at CAIS, and that I have many people to learn from and grow with here.
I am thankful to be called a child of God.
I am thankful to have the chance to live overseas and enjoy so much of the world.
I am thankful for the Word- it breathes life into me and gives me hope and direction.
I am thankful for music, in all its forms (minus Beijing Opera). It blesses me daily.
I think I will rest here, and try to rest in thankfulness this weekend. (I'm thankful for the weekend, too!)

The Sickest Cupcakes Ever

The sickest cupcakes ever are mooncakes. Don't eat them- the bean filled, or egg yoke filled, or yuck filled little muffins aren't worth the cultural experience. Resist!
Yesterday was the Midautumn Festival. The Festival is all about the moon. They say the moon is as close as its been in 9 years, and so we're excited about that. From what I understand, and I'm thinking something must have been lost in the tranlation, but the Midautumn Festival started because a very long time ago, an Emperor's wife overdosed on opium and flew to the moon. Or something like that. Something about the moon and a special drug.
Anyway, a couple friends and I decided to embrace both the tradition of the Festival, and the body-to-body crowds. The ultimate Hong Kong tradition- crowds! I honestly think there could have been over a million people in the area we were walking around. Ha! I'm working on a little movie depicting this blessed experience. I'll let you know about the release date on that one.
So, we joined the masses and watched the fire dragon dance. Actually, we enjoyed the head of the person in front of us more than the dragon, because that's all we could see. Until we were given a live video feed via the digital camera. We finally got a glimpse of the dragon and let out a hearty "waaaaa" in traditional Chinese fashion. The dragon was a really, really long skinny sort of snake looking thing made of twigs, and then it had thousands of incense sticks lit up all over its body, and especially its head and tail. It danced. It was quite the thing.
It made me laugh when I heard the sound of bagpipes coming from the parade. Haaaa!!! Seriously, full blown out bagpipes at the Chinese Dragon celebration. I didn't know Chinese people were into bagpipes- but then again, who ISN'T into bagpipes?! Funny, funny. So as a prelude to the fire dragon, our ears were graced by Amazing Grace.
Then we journeyed through the Carnival area, where our ears were beat on by Beijing Opera. It's not my favorite kind of music. There were lots of neat lanterns, and again, a lot of people.
There you have it, the best Midautumn Festival ever, and of course it was capped off by the Friday night tradition- foot massage. B-e-a-uuuuutiful!!!!!



Friday, September 29, 2006

The BIG NEWS you have been waiting for!

Yippppeeeee!!! It's finally official! The BIG NEWS has entered blogdom- and you can read it HERE.
To put it simply,
I AM PUMPED.
Wooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
Sorry if you thought the big news from home was something about marriage or babies! Ha ha!

Gridblog Friday: The Forgiveness Jazz

Today seemed fit for a baby gridblog on forgiveness, so I'm joining the gridbloggers (go to Wyatt's site for more info)...
The power of forgiveness was alive in our community today. It was real, it was honest, and it was moving. You don't experience this flavor of community in most staff rooms, that is for certain. There is not really a need to describe the situation, simply that forgiveness was sought, and it was granted. Love won, and a community was strengthened.
There is something so raw and human that is revealed when forgiveness is sought. It's a brokenness that doesn't seem to come around too often, but there is something so, so spirit-filled about our brokenness and vulnerability. Today I was reminded of the peace, the acceptance, and the love that comes when we are forgiven.
Our community is knotted more tightly because of grace today. I am thankful, and I am called back to my need for grace, and God's love-driven response. What a life, what a gift.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Saweeet!

Fun news of the day- other than the long weekend- is that on my next long weekend at the end of October, I'm going to Singapore to meet my most wonderful friend, Sherri!!!! I got a sweet deal on a flight- roundtrip was $200 including tax! It will be fun to relax in Singapore for a couple days, but I don't care nearly as much about the location as I do the quality chats to come with Sher! I can't wait.

Lovely Long Weekend




It's a good feeling to have a long weekend coming your way! Tomorrow we have a PD day, and Monday is a holiday. Awesome!!! Tonight the management of our school treated us to a night at the Hong Kong Golf Club. Fancy! It was poolside and they served an amazing buffet. Wow!
The highlight of the night for me was meeting the families of the teachers and staff at the school. There are a number of new babies and little cutie petuties in the bunch, and I soaked up having such cute kids in my company for even a short while. I hope I can get to know a few of them. So, here is a tribute to the CAIS buddies!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My Dreamy Day...

Today a childhood dream came true! I am finally complete. I went to Disneyland! What a happy place to wander around for a day! It's a strange thought, actually. Millions of people walk through Disney's gates every year, for an ultra dose of magical happiness. I must say, I had a blast. It's a small park compared to the big daddies in the US, but it didn't matter to me!
I was transported to Grade 3 in seconds. It was dreamy! Zipideedooda, zipididee! Goofy, Donald Duck, The Little Mermaid, and my personal favorite, Woody and Buzz Lightyear! The green plastic soldiers from Toy Story were awesome, too. I dragged my counterparts to the Princess Carousel (Merry Go Round) because it was seriously a highlight ride from Buffalo Days when I was just a young gal. They were skeptical to start, but by the time we hit the front of the line, it was a sprint to the most beautiful horses. Oh, we were pumped princesses! I did it in honor of Laurel and Karlie, actually. Frolicking merrily along on the carousel, I emerged from my dreamlike state to see my friend Lynn casually standing up on her horse!!! Ha!! And I quote, "It just seemed like a good thing to do at the time". HAAA!!! The lovely carousel ride came to a halt and over the loudspeaker we heard, "The ride has come to an unexpected stop. Please remain seated at all times". Ahhh, so funny!!! What a daring Princess!
Space Mountain was thrilling. I'm not a very brave rollercoaster rider. I couldn't help but scream my way through space- this special wheezing, hyperventilating, I want my Mom kind of scream. Phew. And as freaked out as I was, it was really quite fun!
The Lion King show was awesome, too. It was an abridged version of the Broadway show, I think. The music in the Lion King is such a treat to hear live and in color. Oh, can you feel the love tonight?!
The only disappointment was that it closed at 8pm, so I didn't get to go on the Buzz Lightyear Ride. Oh, what a pity. I also missed out on my chance at a picture with one of the Disney legends.
What a magical day.
Yesterday night was lovely too (the weekends have proven to be great in HK). Mary (another teacher friend) and I went over the Island and enjoyed a delightful Indian meal. Oh, Tandoori Chicken- you bring such delight to our tastebuds! After that we picked up some liquid heaven (frappucinos of course) and wandered into a foot massage place. Funny how you end up wandering into places like that. Oh, it was very good. I'll be back for sure. One of the neat parts was that the ladies spoke Mandarin, which I very rarely hear here. I realized how much I miss that dimension of the China experience! It was so fun to listen and attempt at interaction again. I am planning to pick up just a bit of Cantonese and continue on with the Mandarin. I'm looking forward to enrolling in a weekly class soon.
I close with a visual of our Dreamy Day at Disneyland...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Media

Reading:
Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography by Katherine Spink

Re-reading:
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

Instant Gratification Courtesy of Itunes:
Soul Tsunami by Leonard Sweet
O by Damien Rice
Flaming Red by Patty Griffin

Friday, September 15, 2006

Book orders, bad internet service and a great weekend on the way

Just a friendly random title for you, to be matched by a friendly random blog entry! It has been a pretty good week here in Hong Kong. There is this very engaging story regarding my internet installation experience, but I'm going to skip that because it's wearisome and there are more fun things to talk about. For example, this week I got a baby oven, a microwave, and even a beautiful pan for banana bread! Now how FUN is that?! So I baked cookies and, of course, in honor of Miss Banana Bread herself (Shannon B.), a fruity fun loaf of banana bread. Also in the fun department, my Grandma called me on my cel phone on Sunday morning. It sounded crystal clear and it was so good to hear her voice again.
Apparently we had an earthquake yesterday. People say it shook buildings. It was only 3.5- and I never felt a thing, but it was good to be on the first floor during that time rather than the 32nd. It is raining a lot here, actually we had a "T1 warning" (typhoon warning) on Wednesday. I was soaked when I arrived at school, and I realized an umbrella is not useful during this kind of weather. Things blow sideways. It is also very polluted right now, which I don't enjoy very much. Take in a big breath of fresh air for me, put it in a bag and send it to me okay?! I could use some fresh air!
In the not so clever part of the blog, we move on to my very poor morning habits. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. Yesterday I had an unfortunate classic moment- you know, one of those, "ooops, I meant to hit the snooze button but I hit the off button". Emphasize the OOPS. I woke up at 7:35am and staff devotions begin at 7:45. I don't remember those ten precious minutes. Everything happened at 16x the normal speed of morning routine. It was actually extremely impressive. Yes, I made it. What an adventure, what a rush (not highly recommended)!
On the teaching side of things, we are settling in to a routine in the classroom. Do you remember Scholastic book orders? I used to LOVE book orders when I was in school. The usual choice was an epic Berenstain Bears book. I love the Berenstain Bears. They taught me all about junk food, messy rooms, baseball, and even being spoiled! Yes, siblings, you have Mama and Papa Bear to thank for my very good behavior. :)
Anyway, it felt special to be the teacher doing the ordering. I'm a teacher! :) I'm pretty pumped about this (the teaching part mostly, though Scholastic is cool too). I'm really excited about learning and becoming a better teacher. There are SO MANY things to get better at! But the possibilities are exciting, and I am enjoying the process of setting out some goals for myself. My favorite part of the week was starting up my writing program. I love teaching writing, though I think it is quite challenging.
Anyway, I have one student who will always be the one to say (after sitting there for a few minutes), "Miss McMillan (in his lispy voice), I don't know what to write. I have no ideas". Hmmmm. So then we will have a brainstorming conversation and maybe we will get somewhere, or maybe not. This happens frequently...."I have nothing to write". This week they were writing "personal memoirs" (half of them wrote about trips to Disneyland). My buddy went from having "nothing to write", to the next day, bringing back four pages of writing, and he just couldn't stop talking about every little part of his trip to Disneyland....like he'd come up to my desk and tell me ALL about it. :) It was sweet though. I dig those moments as a teacher....the "LOOK! You did it! You're totally capable!" moments.
The parents of my students have been so good. This week I had three notes of encouragement- "We are praying for you". That's a pretty neat thing.
This weekend has the potential for fun. Two birthday dinners and one beach party. Sounds good, hey?
Oh, and the other fun thing this week was some exciting news from home....fun, fun, fun!!! But I'll let that person go ahead and blog it!!!
Have a good weekend, Canada!!!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Inspiration Day

This week I'm jumping on the "gridblog" bandwagon (two days late). Sir John begged the question, "What inspires you?" I feel obliged to answer such a question given it's reflective nature. Anyone who claims to be a past or present Education student should be at complete ease in the "reflective" zone. Four years of reflecting, reflecting on our reflections and then reflecting on the process and significance of reflecting. So Leah, Tara, Dad? Let's get those reflective juices flowing!
Yesterday morning I had it all planned out and I was going to tell you that music is the inspiration of my days. Last night changed the plan, and now I'm two days late for the gridblog, but I feel more inspired than I've felt in a long time.
It's kind of weird how my ordinary evening unfolded last night. I can't even really explain it now, but by the time I went to bed, I was fired up. Kind of like a sum total of feelings and thoughts exploding like excited fireworks.
Things have been go-go-go since arriving in Hong Kong, and I was enjoying some time to just sit and think without any agenda. I started reading the autobiography of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa inspires me, completely. I've only read the preface and the first chapter, but wow- talk about a woman on a mission of love. Such drive, such passion, such compassion. One of the things that struck me was that she was so much about action. I sure like to talk. This woman brought real love to action; she lived with such purpose.
I have become content asking questions, wondering, tossing things around, but not really getting to the action part. I often say it's freeing to ask questions, but in a way it feels a bit comfy and safe because I'm still pondering. Pursuing greater understanding of God and the world he made, and mistaking that for actually serving Him and loving Him. Where's the heart change? I don't want to miss out on the point of life, and full and new life because I was consumed by everything I couldn't figure out. Mother Teresa's life was so driven for the cause of God- to giving all of herself to the Lord, to every person that she met. Even a piece of the devotion she had would transform my heart. Today the preacher spoke of the invitation to character transformation that Peter writes of (Jay, you'd like this guy!). It excites me when I start to think about the possibilities of who you and I can become. The spiritual journey is one of hope.
The first chapter in the autobiography ends by explaining the day that Mother Teresa decided to leave the convents she was teaching at in Kolkata, and go to live among the poor. Every year, dating back to 1946, the Missionaries of Charity (her organization) celebrate September 10 as "Inspiration Day". I had to smile as I looked at my watch, striking 12AM on September 10, 2006, 60 years later. I wondered if someone was nudging me towards action.
Inspiration Day- pass it on.

I write this to you whose experience with God is as life-changing as ours, all due to our God's straight dealing and the intervention of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master.

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you?your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

So, friends, confirm God's invitation to you, his choice of you. Don't put it off; do it now. Do this, and you'll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.


2 Peter 1:1-11

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We learn to believe by believing.
We learn to love by loving.
The practice of acting on a certain thing, even (or especially) when feeling is absent, embodies the entire "how" of growth.
-Eugenia Price

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fast weekend

I can't believe it's Sunday night already!!! Yikes! The weekend ran away on me. That's not very nice! Though it was a fast one, it was pretty fun.
On Friday night, my friend Mary and I went to a pool party at the Yacht Club, sponsored by the church I have been attending to. The best part was the view surrounding the pool- so as you were swimming, everywhere you looked you saw neon lights and skyscrapers...it was kind of like the pool was dropped in the middle of it all.
Yesterday I cleaned up my house and spent the last half of the day devoted to exploring an area called "Tsim Sha Tsui". Yeah, try and pronounce that one! Among the interesting places in this area, I was happy to find a great outlet store, a new monster Adidas store (new tennis shoes, Heather!) and a big music store. Oh, and an amazing dessert shop that has this incredible dessert called "mango sago". Anything with mango = tastebud heaven, but this stuff is just glorious. Mmmm, mango sago.
Today after church I went to the "visitors lunch". It was a good chance to meet some of the staff of the church and feel more connected. It's a much bigger group- about 1200- a much larger family than I'm used to! It's called Evangelical Community Church.
I put up just a few pics of my house and my classroom, so you can see them on my flickr page if you're interested.
Well, Sunday night is the prime time for planning, so I'd better turn my attention that direction. I hope your weekend was great! Have a really good week, friends!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I am still living!

Hey blog friends. Ah, I do say with sadness that I have left you hanging for some time now. Yes, my life is just so exciting that it's like a cliffhanger- what's going to happen next? Oooooh.
You see, I've submerged into a sea of planning (yes I said it aloud), cutting, pasting, laminating, stapling, repeat process- again, and again, and again! I have never worked at such an intense and continuous pace. Seriously. Okay, maybe that's not hard to believe seeing I've only been "working" for two years (does China count?!). The week prior was spent organizing my new home in Hong Kong. There has been so much to do! But since the whole moving in deal, I haven't been home too often!
I am SO GLAD that I decided to live close to the school. It's a 5 minute walk to get home at night and it's especially wonderful for a morning lover like myself...get up and go! I will post pictures of my apartment and my building soon. I have a pretty neat view when I come home at night. Sparkling white and yellow city lights.
I am also now a computer owner for the first time. I went fruity and picked a Macbook. I haven't used it a ton yet because it takes a couple weeks to get internet installed at home, but so far it seems good. I saved quite a bit because I didn't have to pay tax and also got a teacher discount. It will be so good to be connected at home- can't wait. I feel like I haven't keep in touch well over the couple of weeks and that has left me feeling a bit disconnected from many of you. Send me an email if you get the chance?
I must tell you that the school I am teaching at is amazing. I honestly feel so blessed to be a teacher here. They treat us so well and the staff has been so warm and helpful. The adminstrative staff is fantastic and I know I will learn a lot from many people here. The staff is a mix of international flavors, ages, and backgrounds. I am impressed, and very appreciative, of the efficiency and overall focus of the school. We have tons of resources and lots of support. I have two preps everyday, and twice a week I get an extra as well. It's great to be a part of so far!
Today was our first teaching day. I have 23 students in my Grade 5 class. I have Chinese, British, Canadian and Spanish students in my class. They are a sweet group of kids (aren't they always on the first day?!). The favorite part of the day for me was when I did a little activity focusing on the uniqueness of the students. I brought one of my suitcases and put a mirror inside. Then I went on and on about how very, very amazing and special and valuable this suitcase was. It's worth millions, there's not another in the whole entire world, etc. Then I asked them if they wanted to come take a look. They were so cute! Man. So one by one they came up- very carefully as to not disturb the precious treasure. Maybe you guessed what was inside?
A mirror. Awwww. Get it? You're special too! :) I'm so cheesy.
Anyway, that was pretty fun. I am having a very good time here in Hong Kong. The city is incredible, really. In the same fashion as the school, Hong Kong amazes me with its efficiency. For one example- they have something called an Octopus card here. You put money on the card and then you can use it on the subway, bus, at 7-11, at parkades, parking meters, etc. It eliminates the need for change. The organization of the city is pretty neat- so many escalators, underground walkways, moving sidewalks, etc. It's amazing what can be done to make the best use of a small space. Come and see for yourself!
Okay, so I AM having a great time- it's all good...but I am very, very tired. The last 5 days have been goofy. I have definitely not been eating well, and it wasn't for the dear kindergarten teacher bringing me extra lunch, I'd really be in trouble. Ha! I have this thing inside of me that can't just let something go and be less than what I want or know it can be. Sometimes people who have "this thing" are called perfectionists. It's like an addiction, I think, and it comes out when you're a teacher because you could probably work at it forever and ever and ever. It's hard for me to just let things be less than what I want! Ai ya.
Well, speaking of that P word- I do need to do some planning for tomorrow. It's nice that the weekend is just around the corner. On Friday night I am going with one of the other new teachers, Mary, to the Yacht Club for a pool party put on by the church I've been attending. It should be a good way to kick back after a long week or so.
Anyway, sorry for the delay in updates- they should be more consistent now that both my classroom and my home are relatively set up. Let me know how you are doing, okay?!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Living on the 32nd Floor

Greetings! It is a smoggy morning here in Hong Kong. Sometimes it clears up quite nicely and we've got blue skies, while other times you wish hopefully that you are looking at a storm cloud. The pollution crisis is real in a tangible way here in HK.
I found a place to hang my hat! After some pondering, I have decided on a place that is just down the block from my school- less than a 3 minute walk. It seems there is not a perfect solution to finding housing here. Something has to give- you either live farther away and spend more time on getting places, or you live close and pay a bit extra for the convenience. The place I'm in is very nice and I'm sure I'll never live in such a place in Canada. It is a complex with 7 towers- each with 60 floors I think. As is the case in many apartment complexes here, it is outfitted with many amenities- my favorites include a huge swimming pool, indoor squash court and badminton/basketball court, and work out area. There a lot of teachers around this area too, so I'm glad for that as well.
I ended up finding the apartment through a pink-shirted real estate agent named Sam. Sam is on the strange side, but he's a great bargainer that guy. He negotiated the price down an extra $150 CDN per month, so I'm thankful for Sam! The flat I'm living in is nearly fully furnished, so that is a huge plus. I get the keys for the place tonight, so I'll spend the weekend trying to get things set up. I'm excited, and thankful.
Some of you will know the names "Andy" and "King". They are students from Western that I coached and taught last year. I went out for supper with Andy and his mom this week. It was so fun to meet her. She's so cute!!! Yesterday Andy and I spent most of the day hanging out and later joined King to play some Hong Kong street ball. King informed me of a few things beforehand- 1) they may take off their shirts and they'll be very slippery, 2) they may smoke inbetween games, 3) don't argue if they call a foul, that's just the way it is, and 4) no teamwork is to be expected, so be selfish because that's just the way it is. Sounds like the way we played in China- so the transition was not too difficult. I like being back in the land where I'm almost average height. It's great! The funniest part of the night happened as we were walking along the street. We turned a corner and this old, skinny man jumped in front of me and said in a huge loud voice with a huge smile, "NI HAO, HELLO!!!!!!" And then he grabbed my hands and started dancing on the sidewalk with me. I tried to dance along, but I was slightly taken aback by his enthusiasm! Funny old man!
Anyway, I'd best get moving (get it?!). Next stop, the 32nd Floor!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Harm is officially IN Hong Kong!

Hello all. Sorry for the delay in updates, but the computer here seems to have disagreements with blogger.
I have arrived! I have been in Hong Kong for almost 4 days now. I'm staying at an older couple's home that have gone back to Canada for the summer. My apartment is on the 48th floor and has a brilliant view of Hong Kong in all of its lit up glory.
It seems there a million things to write but where to start- hmmm. The first day or so was a bit slow and stomach issues are keeping me somewhat at bay, but the last couple days have been pretty fun. I'm trying to figure out how this city works, surely not without making a lot of wrong turns. It seems easy to get mixed up, although the transit system is slick, slick, slick. Yesterday I nearly got squished between the subway doors- yes indeed, there ARE 6400 people per square kilometer. I am not far from what holds the title as the most dense place on the planet. Apparently within the square kilometer belonging to "Mong Kok", there are 160,000 human beings. Thus, we live in apartment buildings that commonly have 50 floors!
Cantonese sounds absolutely goofy. It's a pity that it doesn't share many similarities with Mandarin, although more and more Mandarin is seeping into Hong Kong.
On Saturday I went to "The Peak". As the name suggests, the best view of the city is from the Peak. It's awesome- probably my favorite part of the city. I love being on the Island.
I have spent some time getting to know two of the other new teachers at my school. One is married with a tiny baby and they are from Saskatoon, and the other is a single gal my age from Michigan. They are great!
I have seen my classroom and I'm excited to get started with the planning and such, but before that I need to find somewhere to live permanently. I don't know where that will be just yet- I guess I'm going to look at a few more places on Wednesday. It's a bit of a challenge to find something within the housing allowance close to the school, so I'm going to take a look at some other places a bit farther away. It will be good to settle in, but I still have quite a bit of time so there is no need to rush.
Well, this concludes the end of the first official post of Hong Kong Harm! Time for some dim sum!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Context

For a bit more info on the A and A situation, you can head over to my sister Heather's blog.

Pondering.

One of the books I started reading this week is "The Jesus Creed" by Scot McKnight. I've only read the first couple chapters, but one of the things the book encourages is to allow the Lord's Prayer to become the framework for our conversations with God. So today I tried it. Everything was sailing smoothly until I arrived at "Forgive us of our sins just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us". I felt like I had been clotheslined. I didn't realize the jungle of unforgiveness I had been stumbling through. Forgiveness, in light of the darkness of real pain and heartache, floods me with questions. Here's a piece of my meandering mind this afternoon- maybe you've traveled this way before:

You mean forgive even if they don't think they need forgiveness? Even if they won't change because I forgave them? Even if they are the meanest, nastiest person I know? Do you KNOW who I'm talking about, Father?! Even though they're hurting the people I love the most? Even if they'll never know how much pain they've caused, how many tears have been shed because of them? Even if I'm in China, a million miles away and I won't see them again for a long time? Does it matter? I can't do anything from here anyway. You know what's going on here, God! When you said be kind, be forgiving of others- you actually meant this situation too? You couldn't have? Even in the midst of the mess they're making??? Doesn't forgiveness come at the end not inbetween?? You mean today? Is it okay if I have to do it all over again everyday until it's full in my heart? I don't know if what I can offer today will be enough. I'll probably have to come back again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day, and the next...is that alright, or does that mean its less genuine? I wonder what healing looks like on the other side of it all?
I am not there yet. But I'm feeling this tug that it's where I should be aiming to be. So help me Father- help me have your heart of grace. Do you have these questions when you're thinking about us? How about me? Thank you for being love in all its completeness- and help me to get there and give up the negotiating when it comes to grace. You've never negotiated anything with me.

I liked something I read in Anne Lamott's "Plan B" today. She writes well of the journey of forgiveness:
"Any willingness to let go inevitably comes from pain; and the desire to change changes you, and jiggles the spirit, gets to it somehow, to the deepest, hardest, most ruined parts. And then Spirit expands, because that is its nature, and it drags along the body, and finally, the mind."

And on a sidenote, if you're reading this and know the story of A & A, please pray for them today. If you need/want more details, send me an email.

That concludes today's pondering- a slightly altered tone in comparison to recent posts. But I didn't really think about the solidified pig's blood served for lunch (I draw the line at blood) or the psycho driving in this country today, I thought about forgiveness.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Qingdao Adventure

Recently:
  • Today we had a stellar lunch- Korean barbecue. Mmmm. And I ate the tongue of a cow. It was chewy, which makes sense (yours would be too), and it doesn't taste like much of anything. Oh, and the other night Rachel almost conned me into eating the leg of a starfish- and it wasn't a cute starfish tentacle either. She innocently told me it was "sea cucumber". I didn't fall for her trickery!
  • We went to the beach today. The ocean is amazing, and I think waves are fantastically fun. I felt like I was 7 years old prancing around in the water and jumping over waves with all of China watching me, in their tight spandexy swimming gear. And no, Jeremy, just because Chinese people wear them doesn't mean you should!
  • I'm enjoying time that I haven't found for a long while- time to read. And it is good.
  • Rachel and I find many reasons to laugh in a day. She's a funny girl!
  • Yesterday we saw all sorts of sea creatures at a park. Walruses are funny looking and fat, seals are instrumentally very capable (they played in a band), and beluga whales are plain lovable! Plus, I found Dori,Nemo, and Bruce the Shark too! Scary! That could have been the highlight right there!
  • I am feeling a bit more adjusted to life back in Asia now. The first few days felt on the rough side. I am missing my family a lot. The focus is one day at a time- that's all it ever needs to be.
  • It's easier to let pictures do the talking. Here's a photographical summary of the last five days in Qingdao:

All of my pictures have been updated on my Flickr site, which you can link to by clicking on the fun image on the sidebar (including pictures from my last week with the kids in Calgary). I will leave Qingdao on Thursday and arrive in Hong Kong, where I will move through the "settling in" process.

Cheers from Qingdao!

A Chinese Wedding Story

On Sunday I had the privilege of getting the upclose and personal version of a traditional Chinese wedding. The groom was Rachel's cousin. It was a very memorable experience. Hopefully the images below give you a simplified overview of the wedding tradition here in China. There was also a reception, but I didn't take any pictures. It was loud, they played the Star Wars theme music when the bride and groom walked in (and it wasn't a joke), and the bride changed outfits three times during the afternoon. And there was a lot of wine flowing. I preferred the more traditionally flavoured rituals in the morning. The dragons were my favorite part! Enjoy! (Click on the image to enlarge)



Sunday, August 06, 2006

An Eye A Day Keeps the Doctor Away..

The eyeball-eating progression, for your enjoyment:





Mmmm. A seaside delicacy.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The City by the Sea

Day 2 in the City by the Sea is winding down with a flavorful peach and lukewarm ice tea. I am in Qingdao (pronounced "ching-doww"), a city of 8.5 million people on the coast of Shandong. Shandong is a province to the southeast of Beijing. It is known primarily for its beer. Seriously- these people are pumped about their beer. It's one of the only English words Rachel's parents have spoken to me thus far, thus suggesting its significance.
However, I would say the best part of Qingdao is its beautiful coastline and backdrop mountain range. Gorgeous! Yesterday Rachel and I walked along the coast, west to east across the city. Qingdao is green, clean and fairly affluent in comparison to the other parts of China I have experienced. I have seen a handful of foreigners and it seems they stare less here, which is a nice plus. Because of its seaside geography, Qingdao's menu is high on the fishy flavours. Mmmm. I am admittedly fearful of most of these creatures. It has been an adventure in fine fishy cuisine thus far, and no doubt it will continue. I refused the long shelled water worms that poke their head in and out (SICK- why would you want to EAT that?), but I did test out the waters in the ones that are covered in shells of all sizes and shapes. So far I am still alive and I don't look like a mermaid, so I'll keep trying to be brave, and try not to disappoint the locals too much. I do enjoy (and I'm not just faking it) the more regular flat looking, shell-less fishies. Tasty.
Today we climbed a mountain with Rachel's dad. Her parents are a lot of fun, despite the significant language barrier. They are kind, generous and quick to laugh.
This evening Rachel and I were spoiled at the Beauty Salon. Ahhhh. Foot massage. Back massage. Hand massage. Head massage. Facial. You get the picture!!!! And now you understand why I'm back in China, right?!! Ha, ha. Come for a visit and I'll share the experience with you!
Tomorrow I'm joining in the wedding celebration for Rachel's cousin. It will be a neat experience. Rachel and I are singing a song- the beloved Chinese pop hit that translates "I Love You Like the Mouse Loves the Rice". :) I'll let you know when our first CD hits the shelves...BAH!
Well, it seems that I hit a bit of a wall come 6pm- though tonight I was able to work hard and make it through the whole beauty salon bit. Anyway, it's now 10pm and I'm ready for bed. I'm not yet feeling "just right" just yet, but I'll get there. More to come on another night.
Good night from the City by the Sea!

Talent Sharers

This is a shout out to my talented friend Cody Peterson, whom is credited with the new look to Hong Kong Harm. It's fun!!! Thanks for sharing your creative ways, Cody! And thanks to Paul Taylor, who is my HTML go-to guy. Thanks, guys!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Amazing Chinese Race?

Hoofta- say that aloud with great emphasis okay?! I made it. It was a long trip. I've been up for about 26 hours now, so I'm not feeling so well. Very weary and the stomach is flip flopping and spinning around like those tea cups at Buffalo Days.
I made it to Beijing- though I didn't realize I was signing up for the Amazing Race when I decided to join the ratrace in that human swamp of an airport. I laughed when I later realized I was actually wearing the Amazing Race VBS t-shirt!!! It was meant to be. The three weighty suitcases were not helpful in manouevering through the gridlock. It ended up being me dashing like Don Narcisse down the concourse to Gate 31. But, I made it- and I was greeted in Qingdao by beautiful roses and more importantly, Rachel Hao and parents. It was really good to see her familiar face.
So, I'm here....and feeling overwhelmed with tiredness, and stickiness. I'm drenched. Literally soaked. Welcome to the new life of constant humidity!!! It was weird, and overwhelming too, in the plane surrounded by Chinese zipping around me and men and their newspapers and cel phones everywhere. I'm back!
Well, I must go to sleep- it's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Farewell Canada

Pre-boarding for Beijing has now begun. Here we go- things have turned slightly Asian just passing through one passageway of the airport. I've joined the masses; I'm officially in the minority.
Thanks for being patient with me through the goodbyes- it was genuinely difficult, but I haven't taken a big deep breath for awhile, and I'm looking ahead to Rachel Hao and the Qingdao adventure. I love you guys so much- friends all over and oh, family- you are just so special. I'll talk to you on the other side of the sea. And Heather, please don't worry. I am not alone. :)
Gotta go!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Farewell Regina..in Random Style

Deep sigh.
Tired.
Relieved?
Packing is finished.
I forgot something for sure.
3 suitcases is 1 too many.
It's Hong Kong. They have everything in the world in Hong Kong.
Is it really July 28?
I love my friends.
Have you tried the new Caramilk McFlurry?
What did I forget?
I'll miss the sky.
I'll miss skim milk from Canadian cows. Oh, how I love skim milk.
Hong Kong seems far.
2 years will go fast...right?
I feel a lot of things all at once. All swirled into one tired feeling.
I forgot to say goodbye to Wilf. Goodbye Wilf. I'll miss your tennis expertise.
I can't remember what else I forgot.
My grandparents make me smile.
Tomorrow I get to squish Mareesa. She's so awesome.
Good thing I had help with the packing. Thanks Deb, thanks Sdawg!
I'm sorry that I didn't weed the garden, Mom.
I wonder what my classroom will be like.
I wonder who my students are.
I wonder if it will be harder to listen in Hong Kong. It seems loud and busy.
I mean really listen- to the spirit inside of me, to the people around me.
Goodbye Tim Horton's. I will miss you, Oh Blueberry Bran Muffin.
Goodbye wretched gas stations and wicked gas prices. I'll take the subway, thanks.
I wish girls played football in Hong Kong.
It's easy to worry.
I am excited.
But more tired than excited.
As good things are behind me, good things are ahead of me. So are good people.
I'll be back in Regina someday. This place is home.
Farewell.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Victory!

It was a fun weeekend- softball provincials in good ol' Moose Jaw. The heat was ferocious and I'm ready for a good night's rest after six games over the weekend. The ball was decent- though not quite like it has been in past years, it was still so great to be out there at the twobag. I love softball in a very serious way. It's all the heat and rain and dirt and yelling and chatter and sliding and cheers and rituals and pick off plays and double plays and squeeze plays and diving catches and oh, it's just all SO GOOD. It's clearly so much better than soccer. :)
The downers were that I pulled my quad so I didn't bat for the first two days, and nobody felt like hitting to second base this weekend, so I felt a shade unloved. A pity to get only two grounders in six games. Sheesh, what a rip-off!
It has been an unexpected gift to play ball this year, and a treat to meet and make new friends.
I have four days left in Regina. F-o-u-r. Four. Zoinks! Last football game tomorrow, last softball game on Tuesday, trip to Grandma's on Wednesday, farewells to friends, and goodbye to the Queen City on Thursday or Friday.
A few pics...

Provincial Champs!


Daina, Mandy, Me
The Original Three. We've been playing together since oh, 1995 or something. Lifers!