Thursday, December 27, 2007

Loving the Elephants!

Yesterday we played with elephants. We waded into the river and scrubbed their backs, tried to avoid the elephant poop floating down the river, fed an old elephant her lunch diet? of watermelon and banana, and even got a big wet slobbery kiss from a baby. It was an awesome day!

We went to The Elephant Nature Park, about an hour and a half outside of Chiang Mai. This place is all about loving elephants! Seriously, though, they are doing a tonne of good, pun intended. We had the chance to meet a small, bright-eyed woman named Lek. Lek is an amazing woman. She is the founder of the park. She rescues abused and neglected elephants from around Thailand and brings them to the sanctuary, as they refer to it, to essentially be loved, healed and brought back to health.

We learned so much about the elephant tourism industry in Thailand. A hundred years ago, 100,000 elephants could be found in the country. Now, only 5000 remain. The stories of each of the elephants in the park were so sad. One had a gnarled leg due to a landmine while logging in Burma. Another was blinded by his mahout (owner). One had his tusk chopped off and nearly died because of the infection. We learned about how the mahouts put the elephants through a brutal training to break the independence of the elephants- an ancient Thai tradition. It was sick.

Most tourists are just not aware of the exploitation of elephants. I didn't know about most of this until yesterday. The Park has a great focus in offering day trips to tourists. Their hope is that it will catch on, and that other elephant owners will see that it's an attractive option to tourists. There were also a number of other long-term volunteers from around the world. It lets people come and have a natural experience, and really it is so much better than watching them paint pictures, spin hula hoops, etc. Getting elephant poop in your shoe while scrubbing its backside and getting a big kiss from the biggest mammal on the planet is way better than the former option!

So yes, now I am all for saving and loving the elephants! What a great experience. I took so many pictures; can't wait to show you!

The Juniper Tree

In my last post, I mentioned that we are staying at The Juniper Tree. This place is really something special. It meets a real need for missionaries living overseas- a place to be refreshed, to be together with family, to be renewed. They take such good care of each visitor.

Christmas Day was made special by meeting so many new people from around the world. A family from South Africa serving as dorm parents in South Korea, a family from Lumsden (yes, Lumsden!) also working as dorm parents, but in Malaysia, an American family going on 7 years in the south of Thailand, a young British family serving in a remote village in the north of Thailand, a Swiss family in Bangladesh doing business and trying to create job opportunities for the many that are jobless, an American family teaching in Cambodia, the list goes on! It is life-giving to be around people devoting themselves whole-heartedly, as a family, to making a difference in Asia. A sweet blessing to have crossed paths in such a beautiful place.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve in Chiang Mai

It's Christmas Eve. I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is marvelous! Our first day and a half in Chiang Mai included:

-Foot massage (if you follow this blog, you likely assumed this would be on the list!)
-Market shopping (MORE to come! Chiang Mai has the best night bazaar!)
-Quadding through the Chiang Mai jungle-like land (so much fun!!!)
-Whitewater rafting (my first time- the only downer was that by the time we got on the water, the sun was tucked behind the mountains, so it was rather chilly...but still a great ride!!)
-Seeing plenty of elephants (though we will spend Wednesday at the Elephant Nature Park- giving the elephants a bath, feeding them, spreading a little TLC to the big guys)
-Eating delicious curries, pad thai noodles (my favorite), accidently and painfully downing a disastrous chili (ohhhh the suffering!), mango salad, and fresh fruit shakes
-Offroading in the back of trucks as the general mode of transportation

Another highlight has been our home here in Chiang Mai- "The Juniper Tree". It is a wonderfully cozy retreat center- a getaway spot for missionaries in SE Asia. We're staying in a lofty little cabin-like house. There are likely 50 others staying here as well. Tomorrow we will enjoy a Christmas dinner together. What a blessing this place is! Quiet, secluded, clean, quaint.

That's all for tonight. Warm wishes for a cozy Christmas from Thailand...

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Ponytail Present

I have a special friend in Hong Kong who is fighting cancer. She just took her second round of chemo, and the last time I visited her, she knew her hair would be gone by Christmas.

In honor of this dear woman, as well as my Aunty Laurie and other women I have known who have bravely fought cancer, and inspired also by one of my beautiful sister-in-laws, I decided to give away my ponytail. I will send it, as Tara did, to the Beautiful Lengths campaign organized by Pantene Pro-V. They will hopefully accept my curly mop of a ponytail and use it, along with other donated ponytails, to make a wig for a woman who has lost her hair due to cancer. If you're interested, have a look at their website. I think it's just one more way to encourage those we love- "we're with you all the way".

So, here's Harmony minus the ponytail...for the first time since 1985?!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Hiroki

I am feeling heavy with the news that one of my students will be leaving our school, as of the new year. This is my first experience in having a student leave in the middle of the year, and I don't like it! This particular student has brought so much joy into our classroom, with an additional measure of ten-year-old boy silliness. He is one of those kids who light up a classroom- so eager to learn, so easily excited. A true joy to teach, even on the days when I had just about had it with his goofy faces or his questions: "Hey, Miss Muckkk-Millan (as he pronounces it), can you do this??"(moving his ears without his hands, actually, quite impressive). Ah, it is hard to let him go. I guess we do our best to make a difference for as long as we have the chance, and then trust that someone else picks up where we left off.

(on the right)

Monday, December 17, 2007

High Tea Blessing

Two friends and colleagues treated me to High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel yesterday afternoon. What a treat! It was my high tea debut. What better way to experience high tea than with a British gal and a fellow Canadian, a beautifully festive stringed quartet playing from above, and most lovely (that sounds British doesn't it?) Christmas decorations dressing up the colonial Peninsula. They claim high tea at the Peninsula is a Hong Kong institution. Oooh. Too bad they didn't offer to drive me home via one of their Rolls-Royce Phantoms...

Live Tennis, Gotta Love It!!

I'm really excited about what came in the mail today: tickets for the JB Group Classic 2008!! I'm going to the "Super Friday" on January 4, which should showcase the best of the bunch in the semi-finals. I'll be rooting for Ivanovic; she's my favorite in the draw. Other top players in the draw include Sharapova, Venus, Hantuchova, Chakvetadze and Dementieva. It's just a warm-up tournament and lacks real intensity (I went to the event in 2005), but it's still so awesome to watch these ladies play.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hong Kong: Built for Speed.

Each time I fly into the HK airport, I'm reminded of the striking efficiency of this city.  I have to yet to find myself in a city that compares.  Even as you travel from the airport to the city, it's easy to see that this is most definitely a place that thrives on convenience and speed.  I'm sure that even as I step off the plane, people are walking faster!

My favorite part of returning to Hong Kong is watching the visitors go through immigration, while I whip out my nifty residence card, note the many empty stalls calling my name, and slip my card into the slot.  I pass through the first gate, it takes my thumbprint, and bam- I'm back in Hong Kong.  The only glitch in the system is that while you pass through at lightning speed, you still end up waiting for your bags on the other side.  This actually makes the baggage folks appear subpar, but the fact is that they can't catch up with the swift immigration process.

The "Airport Express" train takes you from the airport to the city in 20 minutes flat.  You can actually check in your bags at two different stations in the city, which is pretty neat.  After zipping back to town on the train, you are filed into a line and into a taxi immediately.

These are just a couple examples.  Essentially, this city is built to maximize on time and space.  But no matter how efficient Hong Kong is, no matter how quickly you can get from A to B- it's never fast enough it seems.  People are always speeding ahead.  

I must say I love the efficiency and convenience.  Hong Kong is a very cool city to live in.  It makes Canada's set up seem slow-moving. A Hong Konger might even feel quite inconvenienced by much of the comparative waiting.  Compare it to its neighbors in SE Asia, and it is worlds apart.  But while I love how easy it is to live here, it's harder to slow down when the world around you is zooming, never stopping, always going.  I can't forget it because I can hear its chorus 32 floors beneath me!

It may be fast, but I see the effect it has on people's lives and the culture of Hong Kong. Though I now have many awesome friends here, walking through the city it feels like people are disengaged and disconnected from one another.  So, which would you rather?  Are speed, efficiency and convenience worth the sacrifice?

Holiday Playlist

A Christmas to Remember- Kenny and Dolly (YES!)
Christmas Without You- Kenny and Dolly
Wintersong- Sarah McLachlan
River- Sarah McLachlan
Song for a Winter's Night- Sarah McLachlan
Do You Hear What I Hear- Out of Eden
The Christmas Shoes- Newsong
Welcome to Our World- Michael W. Smith
Let It Snow- Michael Buble
Babe in the Straw- Caedmon's Call
Bethlehem Town- Jars of Clay
Love Came Down at Christmas- Jars of Clay
Manger Throne- Mac Powell

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Days in the Philippines

I had an awesome weekend! On Friday at 6pm, I flew to Manila, arrived at the airport and anxiously sorted through a sea of faces, trying to find Jane, the "girl in the red shirt". I finally found her, not long after I had started imagining how I might spend a weekend in Manila on my own. We were joined up by the rest of our group: three South Africans, one Hong Konger, two American Hong Kongers, Jane, and myself.

We stayed the night in Manila. Though I was only there for a very short time, Manila didn't give off a good vibe. I heard quite a few sirens through the night. We were greeted by a guard dog and a security check at the hotel entrance. I wasn't sad to leave early the next morning for our destination- Bohol.

We arrived in Bohol, a tropical, coconut-tree spotted island just south of Cebu, which you may be familiar with. Bohol is known for its chocolate hills, the smallest primates on earth (tarsiers), white sand beaches and the fattest python in captivity. We actually saw all but the first during our day there.

At the airport we were picked up by the Filipino workers for ICM (International Care Ministries). They were a major highlight for me. Such giving, hardworking and joyful people. Filipino people in general are such fun, easygoing, quick to smile kind of people. I have much to learn from their joy-full way of life, evidently not stemming from their circumstances. The ICM gang showed us some highlights of their work there. We stopped by a slum, where we watched the feeding program at work. About 40 ladies waited there to receive their weekly supply of rice, given by the pastor responsible for distribution in their community. The pastor serves as the touchpoint for ICM, feeling out the needs of the people in his area and then addressing them using the ICM resources and workers. We spent time treating the kids to candy.

They also took us to visit two "special patient" cases. The first was a sweet one year old boy, suffering from severe eye problems. ICM takes the special cases and gives them what they need to pay for surgery. We also visited a twelve year old boy in desperate need of three major bowel surgeries. Both were extremely touching to visit, and realize what a difference had been made in their life because of God's provision extended through ICM. I held that baby boy tight, and we prayed for his vision, his life and his family.

In the afternoon, we saw a couple of sights and stopped by the ICM's crusade, "Celebrate Jesus". There were about 2000 people there.

We enjoyed supper with the entire ICM crew. There are about 100 ICM workers, all local Filipinos. They are working in 3 different places in the Visayas area in the Philippines.

The next morning we joined them for church. The preacher was a blazing fireball! He prayed for English before he started....and he had way more than that. He spoke of the futility of our efforts without the Spirit of God. It was a powerful morning- later he prayed for the two fourteen year olds that were on our team. Very special.

We had to leave shortly after that. It was an extremely fast weekend, but so worth it! I was moved by the hearts of the people there, and very excited about the work being done there. It seems the needs are endless, and many times the main response is feeling overwhelmed. But ICM has managed to create a ministry that is touching so many lives, meeting so many different needs. It is primarily supported by Hong Kongers, and within the Philippines it is generally carried out completely by local people. It's exciting stuff! This coming year, they are planning to relocate an entire slum- between 10,000 and 15,000 people!!

The group I traveled with really made for a great weekend, too. They were a lot of fun!! I learned a lot about the Philippines AND South Africa, too! The mother and daughter combo were always laughing...which made them quite a joy to be around. They infected kids with joy by blowing up countless balloons and shaping them into swords and dogs. The street kids loved them.

Oh, there are more stories and more reflections- but this is already very long, and I'm ready for bed! Hope you enjoy the pictures up on Flickr. They always tell the tale best.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

One Long Skate

There is an ache in me that never leaves when I'm away from home, but there are times when it feels more acute. The last couple days have felt that way. It likely has much to do with the arrival of the Christmas season. Though I'm very excited about the adventures Thailand has in store and I will enjoy soaking up the sun and feeding elephants and eating colorful curries, it's not home. I miss my family. I miss, in advance, the family dance nights (yes, we McMillans dance up a storm), Mom's Christmas dinner, Mom's Christmas brunch, holding a new baby nephew, watching the kids I love open their presents, playing guitar with brothers, having great chats with my sisters, going to the McMillan New Year's party, and so on.

My favorite Christmas album, Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan, has been on nonstop for the past week. One of the best songs, River, makes me ache for a good ol' skate. I wonder how long it might take me to skate across the Pacific....

Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
Teach my feet to fly high
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

I miss Canada. I miss you!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Becoming a Pansy

I think that's me. We've got highs of 23 during the day and lows of 16, and I'm feeling chilled. What the heck?! What's happening to me? Who am I becoming?!
The other day the temperature was about 19 degrees, and my kids were equipped with scarves and layers of long sleeves. Quote: "It feels like the North Pole!!!"
Ridiculous but true, weather can become very relative...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Be Like Pete. For Tennis Fans.

After watching Sampras scorch Federer with 14 aces in two sets, I have been dreaming of the Sampras serve (and the Federer forehand/backhand/everything) all week. So, for tennis fans, here's how you can serve like Pete. I wish...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rookie Camp Director

Last week I tried my hand at the role of "camp director". I had it easy because another teacher had already planned out the three days, essentially down to the minute (plus we had a great staff team!). It was a great experience for me. It kind of freaked me out, officially being responsible for 80 kids. Aside from some scratched up knees and an aching stomach here and there, we managed to get all the kids back to school safely. Relief!

The kids looooove going to camp. It is a rare chance for them to escape the concrete world we live in here. The camp is in a beautiful spot in a "country park". There are banana trees and pineapple trees. Lush green covered hills and small mountains, and quiet waters. The best part is the silence of the place. It was refreshing to leave behind the crashing of the city for a couple days.

However, it was also an exhausting three days. I had a cabin of 18 girls. They are most concerned about passing notes, playing Truth or Dare, giggling, and playing flashlight tag. I love the chance that being camp counselor gives to breathe love and affirmation into these sweet (and silly) girls. I remember how well my Clearview counselors did that for me many years ago.

I think my two favorite moments were the campfire, and the last chapel we had together with the kids. It was great fun to rock out to the Pigolo, the Chicky Chicky ( China has the Chicky Chicky, I feel confident that I have now left a legacy), and the Funky Chicken. Seriously, some of my most enthralling moments in life have come during a crazy hyper screaming of the Chicky Chicky (I cite India 2001 as one example). While the campfire was high octane fun, the last worship time with the kids was very special. Spirit-filled. It was sweet to feel God's presence. Experiencing that with the kids you teach/have taught is awesome.

So I survived, maybe even more than that.

The theme of my days in the past month is to "give myself away". This stems from one of my favorite Robbie Seay songs- "Rise".
"To hear the call is to give your love give your life away
Rise, rise...people of love, rise. Give yourself away."
It has really called me to offer everything I can to whomever I am with, wherever I am. I fail, that's for certain. I'm lazy, that's often true. But this thought is really pushing me, and inspiring to extend myself. In the weary moments of camp, I felt that nudge to give whatever I could. If you are in need of similar encouragement, try downloading the song from itunes, and then while you are at it, download my big brother's "My Dash" podcast series. His sermon entitled "Whatever is Not Given is Lost" is excellent and seemed to be the perfect match for thoughts on "giving yourself away".

Sorry for the length...I haven't even recapped my weekend with ROGER AND PETE! Maybe tomorrow. Pics are up on the flickr site!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, "I used everything you gave me." ~Erma Bombeck

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pete and Roger

It's time! Sampras-Federer. Roger won the first two matches, though Pete took him to two tie break sets in Malaysia. Impressive!! I've been looking forward to this for a long time, so I'm thrilled that tomorrow is finally November 24. I'll take pics for you, Jer! The new Venetian hotel in Macau is hosting the event, and we're staying there tomorrow night. I think it's going to be awesome- take a peek! Here's a promo video from the event...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Turkeys Don't Move, Silly!

This morning I was teaching the 5 and 6 year olds class at church. They were supposed to be drawing a turkey, but most of them had never seen a turkey before, so this was challenging. I told one of the little boys about the time the wild turkeys on the farm chased me (there must have been at least 500 turkeys in my memory), and out came Grandma McMillan with a broom to save the day. He just looked at me with a smirk on his face, and a bit of a giggle. He's five. "That's just a story! Turkeys can't move!!! They're just food!" I attempted to explain.....but it was no use, he just gave me this ridiculous look and went back to drawing his turkey. Oh, kids are funny.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Afternoon

I love the weekends! Wow! I have had an excellent weekend so far...I can't say it's over yet, though as I plan and mark it gets closer to feeling that way! On Friday night I went to Amazing Grace with a friend. What a story. Incredible commitment and perseverance. The one phrase that really stuck with me this weekend was "the weight of hope". It was clearly portrayed in the movie. The last scene in the House- wow- that one had me sobbing! I thought John Newton's character was played especially well. It was also a great history lesson.

Yesterday I spent a portion of the day planning for my Christmas holidays. Destination: Thailand! I am very excited about the trip. I am traveling with 3 other good friends from school. We are planning to go to Chiang Mai (in the north of Thailand), Bangkok (only for a day or so), and then to an island named Koh Chang (in the south).

I've spent a lot of time on the courtyard of late. Basketball is underway, but on Friday we wrapped up the volleyball season with a staff/student friendly. Though not overly aggressive or competitively-spirited, they are a lovely group of girls, and it has been fun getting to know them. Here's a picture!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Princess for a Day

Today was "Book Day" at our school. Though I really wanted to be Willy Wonka, instead I teamed up with another teacher (Ashley) to play as the paper bag princess. Those of you with children have likely read one of the Munsch favorites, the Paper Bag Princess. Dirty, smoldering, smelly and adorned in a paper bag.

Anyway, I was humored by the fact that it took dressing up in a paper bag to lighten me up this week. I've knowingly been consumed in the "busy" mode. I didn't want to feel busy, burdened, but couldn't seem to help it. Of course, agitation follows soon after busy mode takes over. Kids seem more annoying than lovable, and as a friend related- you don't even feel like being around yourself, let alone offer yourself to others. It's hard to take yourself too seriously when you're dressed as a dirty, charred princess in a paper bag.

Highlight of the week so far, minus the paper bag act, has been the start of basketball season. I've been reminded of how much I looooove basketball, and coaching the guys! I think we've got some good potential, so that excites me.

Time for bed...signing off from the land of dragons, princes and princesses....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Classroom Reno

Tagged by the kids as "Our Reading Paradise". :)

For the next two weeks, our school is holding its annual "Read-a-thon". Last year we built a school in Cambodia and this year we're raising money to build them a library. We took some pictures in honor of the special event...

Oh, the joy to be found in a good book!

Hairspray and David Gray were awesome until...

I listened to the Robbie Seay Band. I'm loving the latest album, Give Yourself Away. Very, very good.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Musical Mood

Alright, two brands of music are getting a ton of play time in this gal's ears lately.

I'm still not sick of the Hairspray Soundtrack. This is the ultimate FUN music. I bounce my way to tennis listening to "You Can't Stop the Beat". I recall being laughed at my basketball team for getting pumped up before a game by listening to John Denver...but in the way of pump up music, John's got nothing against the Hairspray gang. This morning I was feeling a tad shaky about a monologue at church....solution? Calm worship music for a Sunday morning ride to church? Not today- I'm dancing to Nikki Blonsky's "Good Morning Baltimore", thank you very much! Highly recommended. Guaranteed to make you smile, and maybe even get those weary feet moving...

On the mellow side, David Gray always seems to be the choice these days. I started listening to his music in university, but rarely on a consistent basis. Whether it's at the end of a long day, over supper or a stroll around town, his smooth blends hit the spot. Some of my favorite songs are "Say Hello Wave Goodbye", "Babylon", "This Year's Love" and "White Ladder".

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Last weekend...

Last weekend I traveled with 10 high school students and three co-teachers to a city named Kaiping in the southern province of Guangdong. We traveled only 3 hours by bus to get there. I enjoyed the bus ride, looking out onto water-filled rice paddies and row after row of banana plants. Guangdong has many, many coal factories, and it is a wonder that growth of that kind is still possible.

We spent our time connecting with students at the local schools, as well as leading two youth worship services at the government church in Kaiping. It was very interesting to learn about the Three Self Church. I enjoyed a nice visit with a young pastor at a church in a small village outside of Kaiping. We had the chance to go to his village to enjoy meeting some of the Christians in their homes. Very neat, and despite the language barrier for some of us, I think we were able to be an encouragement to these families. I loved walking through the streets, taking pictures of the European flavored architecture amidst the very traditional Chinese environment. I peeked into open doors and saw groups of old Chinese women playing mah jeong and snapped handfuls of pictures of the sweet kids playing in the streets.

The team of students was exceptional. As the collector of the passports, I was amazed at the diversity in our group- I counted 7 different countries represented out of the 10 I collected. I was impressed with their flexibility and willingness (more so passion) to connect with those we came in contact with. The team debrief sessions at the end of the day were definite highlights. They are a moldable group of students- eager to be changed, and led by God. I was encouraged.

Here a few pictures. You can see more on my flickr site.

Peter is in the purple- he is the pastor of the village church.

Oh, the sweetness of Chinese babies.

Peter's church.

I thought this was interesting.

Some of the students in a sister's home. This is Rainbow and two of her children.

In the village.

Leading worship at the youth service.

The team!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Staff Party 2007

Tonight our staff was kindly treated to an evening at the Hong Kong Golf Club. Ohhhh. It's one of those places you know you don't quite fit, where you can't wear flip flops or t-shirts or jeans and you have to wear a blouse. It was very nice. Poolside buffet meal, and a session on the driving ranges with lessons from the golf pro (this again affirmed I am hopeless at golf). Just as I reported last year, the best part was seeing the families of the all the staff members...particularly the kids!

Tomorrow I'm going to mainland China for the weekend with a group of high school students from our school. It will be a very full, tiring weekend, but I'm sure it will be worth it. I'll let you know more about it when I get back!


The lucky guy in the middle is a colleague named King. I'm going to China with him tomorrow. The gal in the middle is Cindy. She is King's fiancee. The lovely lady on the right is my teaching partner, Marg. She is wonderful.

Oh I love those eyes. Meet Olivia.

And Olivia's big brother, Royce.




Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Small Talk: The Weather

This week there is a noted difference in the feel of the air here. It's moving. It was wonderful to walk home from school on Monday and feel almost cold. Almost. A welcome breeze, and at last some relief from the heat and humidity. And I know, you're thinking- "at last some relief?!!" The temperature now sits between 23-28 degrees- perfect, hey?! The humidity has dropped to between 60-70% (a month ago it was always upwards of 85). Late October and November are great for weather conditions here. The best part of living in a subtropical spot is that I can play tennis year round. :) It's awesome to forget about the existence of sweaters and long pants until mid December....

However, when I look out my window I see mostly shades of gray! A rather dismal landscape, I must say. If I were in Canada, I might see a sweet face like this loving the changing of the seasons. Plus, you just ate turkey and dressing (ohhhh, dressing), and I was at home eating a veggie pizza. So hey- I may have 27 degrees in mid October, but there's nothing like fall in Canada!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday's Attitude Check

Sometimes kids can catch you off guard. Sometimes they do it in funny ways, like saying ridiculous or random things. This week I laughed for a long time when one of my kids was trying with all his might to lick his elbow. I found this very very funny. Of course I've been trying to do it all week too. Can you lick your elbow?

The same kid touched my heart the next day. It was Friday morning, and I wasn't feeling exactly pumped to start the day off. Not for any particular reason other than I wanted Friday at 4pm much more than Friday at 8:30am. After the kids were settled into an assignment, he came up to my desk and looked at me with his warm brown eyes and said, "Are you okay?" Oh. His sweet, gentle spirit disarmed me. "Why do you ask that?", I replied. "Well, you seem kind of sad."

I thought about this all day. Though it's my job to care for the kids, he was caring for me. I guess there isn't really anything like feeling you are cared for and loved. And it's especially neat when it comes from one of your students. His simple but sincere question changed my day.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reasons to be thankful today...

Here is a good start, but there are many more! Happy Thanksgiving! Maybe next year I'll have turkey???

Congrats to Jeff and Daina!!!

One of my best friends' weddings was this weekend! Daina and I have been friends since the first days of Fighting Saints Softball (grade 7?), when her wicked throwing arm caught my eye at tryouts....persuading me of the fact that girls really could throw. I've been lucky to be on her side of the field, or court...I've never had to face her as an opponent! Actually, from high school through university, I spent more time with her than anyone else! We graduated from both high school and university together. I hope we can teach together one day, too.

The D-Train, as I affectionately refer to her as, is determined, talented, fun, and a great friend. Ah yes, she's a special gal- and it was very hard to miss this day....sending a little video along for the reception wasn't much, but here it is. You'll notice a very similar format to the one I made for Matt and Tamara! For three reasons- 1) nobody who was at their wedding was at Jeff and Daina's, and 2) people seemed to enjoy it, and 3) I couldn't think of a better idea! So, here it is- with a new cast of Hong Kong stars!!!

Congrats to Jeff and Daina, once again!!!! Can't wait to see you China??!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My New Desktop Image

The joy of new life. The joy of a new nephew! Welcome to the family, little Jesse!!!
I am so excited to meet you.
More pictures of Jesse at his Daddy's blog.

The Shanghai Adventure

I'm back from a lovely loooong weekend in Shanghai! I will upload pictures to Flickr as soon as I get the chance- they tell the story best. Until then, the lowdown word-style, with a few pics now and again.

The highlight that stands out most was the reason we went- the Women's World Cup. Let me go off on that experience for a bit...bear with me, non-football fans...

The best part was simply soaking up the incredible performances of female athletes....playing for it all. They were just so, so good. Marta and Cristiane, from Brazil, were plain silly- their speed and ball-handling skills were ridiculous. I loved watching Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly in the 3rd place game- they are fantastic footballers. The final (German won 2-0 over Brazil) was a really great game- intense from the start. There was a noted difference (as one would anticipate) from the 3rd place game, where the US walked all over Norway. I still cheered for Norway, as it was a lot more fun to cheer against the Americans I found myself sandwiched inbetween! Ha ha! I started out cheering for Brazil in the final, as I felt no strong pull towards either team and the Chinese were definitely on the South American side....but within the first couple minutes, I knew I had painted my face the wrong colors- I loved watching the German team play. Tough, smart, an all around great team. There's a reason they were the defending champs. Plus, the Brazilians, though passionate and flashy, were a bit whiny. And the defense of the Germans was something to behold! Brazil dominated possession, but the Germans had a solid stronghold in the backfield- and their goalie saved the day, stopping Marta from connecting on a free kick. The (small) stadium was at capacity for the final, with 35,000 in attendance. Overall, it was an awesome experience. The only thing that would have been better would have been Canada or China playing. My, that would have been something.

Okay, there was much more than the soccer, though. Here are a few other highlights:

-Mary (my traveling partner, and a fine one at that...a day later we were joined by another great gal, Maria) and I met three random, hilarious, friendly, warm Chinese people on the street...we ended up going with them to a "rare Chinese tea ceremony" for a couple of hours on the first day. We laughed a lot, and learned about how to drink tea the Chinese way, and how I missed my chance at marriage because I didn't wear red underwear last year during the year of the dog. But I didn't know! Ha ha. Anyway, that was quite the experience...oh the brief and unexpected encounters we have along the way- this is what makes traveling all the more grand.

-We went to a Chinese Acrobatics show. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I don't understand how they do what they they they they spin...I just don't get it. But is it ever fun to watch!

-Xiao Long Bao Zi. In English: "Little Dragon Buns". Shanghai is famous for these soup dumplings, and FOR GOOD REASON. We enjoyed a couple solid helpings!

-Foot Massage x 2. Need I say more?

-I spent Saturday with one of my best friends from the Shiyan days- Black. It was very special- though too short. We chatted as we wandered around Shanghai, and we also met up with another friend, Laura, whom I worked with in China. We went to the Jinmao Tower, which is fourth tallest in the world and gives a great view of the sprawling metropolis. It was awesome to reconnect.

-We ventured back to the airport on the "Meglev Train". It took 8 minutes to travel 30 km/hr. That works out to 430 km/hr. Freaky. It kind of fit in with the overall feeling I had of Shanghai- like you are part of the Jetsons or something. Some of the buildings have really neat European architecture, and then they toss in a bunch of Batman/Jetson like buildings with a futuristic feel. Interesting.

-Speaking Mandarin again. So much fun!!!

Well, I guess that's plenty for now. I'll get those pics up in the next couple of days. It was a great trip- definitely a fine way to spend a long weekend.