Monday, March 30, 2009

food, facebook, freedom, fasting. (28/31)

In January, I joined my church in a 21-day fast. I decided to try a "Daniel Fast"- eating only fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It was both a valuable and difficult experience for me (seems that often valuable and difficult like to stick together in life's lessons). Cutting out sugar was the most challenging aspect. I always need that sweet finish to every meal. It was good for me to go cold turkey on the sweet stuff. I realized that I didn't actually have to HAVE it- that chocolate ice-cream, that chocolate cake, that chocolate anything. :) I guess in that realization, I also learned that I had been a slave to those sugar fixes! Another thing that struck me during the fast was the amount of sugar and preservatives in so many things that we eat. I learned to read labels carefully, and felt so good eating real food all the time.

At that time, I also felt like I was wasting great amounts of time on facebook. Did I really want to look back on '09 and calculate that I spent more time reading people's updates than I did actually spending time with people...or playing my guitar...or working out...etc.? Letting go of facebook for a month was much easier than changing my eating habits. I didn't think about it too much, and that surprised me. But I did need to realize that I didn't HAVE to check facebook a number of times a day. Seems silly to say, but when you become enslaved to something, it feels like you do.

Though I did learn valuable lessons simply from the act of fasting, that wasn't the point. The point was to deepen my relationship with God and increase my dependency on Him. I often found myself so frustrated because I felt "stuck" on the surface level of the experience. I was fasting to spend more time with God, but I would still find numerous other things to do. I also found it so easy to get caught up in legalism over what I could and couldn't eat. A good friend pointed out to me, "Holiness isn't found in ritual". It's so true. Fasting alone doesn't guarantee intimacy in your relationship with God. Our pastor often reminded us, "Fasting without prayer = a diet". This is also true. The thing that I loved was sharing the experience with my church family. There such a deep spiritual desire clearly alive in the services. It was such an encouragement to know that everyone was in it together- a great way to experience the community of the church.

So I'm a work in progress. I'm grateful for what I learned, and I will try it again sometime. I know that I can experience so much more in fasting...but it needs to be combined with a much greater effort devoted to prayer.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A great day. (27/31)

I've had an excellent Saturday. It started with a morning at home, watching a great game between Kansas and Michigan St. online, and then working with IMovie '09 for awhile. Then I left for the Rugby Sevens, over on the island. It took me a lot longer to walk there after my bus ride than I had anticipated, but it was turned out well because I met a lovely British couple, Sarah and Grant. We chatted all the way up the hill to Hong Kong Stadium.

I really enjoyed the Sevens! It's an awesome sporting event! Crazy, crazy fans, and a great tournament structure. Continuous games all day long at 20 minute intervals. I watched about 15 different teams play during the afternoon, I think. Some of them were huge blowouts. The powerhouse teams like England and New Zealand were so good. It's a fast game and fun to watch. Rugby players make football players (as well as most other athletes!) look like pansies. Especially in the Sevens game, they have such an impressive combination of power and speed. I was surprised and impressed with the sportsmanship evident in the game. I didn't see the after the whistle clashes you see in football, nor the dives you see in soccer. I liked that. It was fun to watch them break out for long runs. I watched Canada beat Chinese Taipei, and after that Hong Kong pulled out a big win against Tonga. That was a great match.

The fans in the infamous "South Stand" were nuts. I overheard one person trying to find a friend on the phone..."So, you're next to the Incredible Hulks and the bumblebees? Are the men in the orange tights closeby?!" Some of my favorite get-ups: the Smurfs, the Teletubbies, the Roman soldiers, the bananas and the Dan Marinos. I wished that I would have taken my Nikon with me; there were plenty of fun photo opportunities. I think the fans in the South Stand alone were likely responsible for drinking enough to fill the Hong Kong harbour with you can imagine the environment on that side of the stadium!

After the Sevens, I met up with new friends at an Indian/Nepalese restaurant. I had a great time getting to know Medha and Kala. Dad has become friends with Medha's family in Guwahati, so he connected Medha and I. And the food was so, so good!

Overall, a great day!

I didn't know how to get to the Stadium, so I assumed this guy was headed in the right direction...

Hong Kong Stadium

The "South Stand"

These people were pretty excited to have their picture taken.
They're only one hour away!

Delicious meal with new friends, Kala and Medha

Friday, March 27, 2009

She's back!!! (26/31)

Some great news today from the tennis world! Kim Clijsters is making a comeback! This is good for women's tennis, which has taken a hit in the past couple years, losing players like Henin, Clijsters and Davenport. Clijsters, a former #1, is a fun player to watch, and so well-liked on the tour. She's only 25, so if she can manage to stay healthy, she could do well for a few years yet. Now if Justine Henin would get back into the game...

I had to laugh this morning when friend sent me a text message: "Hey, I see you on the news!" My Chinese friends here like to call me "Kim" because they think I resemble her! Hey, if my backhand even came close to resembling Kim's, I'd be thrilled!!! :) I'll keep dreaming..

Good times (25/31)

Tonight we had our basketball wind-up party. One of the guys on the team has a great place for a party. His parents make movies. You can imagine that his house (it actually is a house) is slightly more spacious than my 630 foot flat.

Things got interesting when one guy locked out two of the others, while letting the guard dog loose in the yard. We laughed pretty hard as they tried to escape by running around the pool...and eventually jumped in. I wish I would have caught it on video. The dog was far more playful than dangerous; but I would have been freaked out if I was the one locked out of the house! Anyway, a few of us were left inside, enjoying the entertainment. With sixteen year old guys, you can guess it wasn't long until everyone was thrown into the included (twice)!! Ah, good memories. I'm going to miss these guys, that's for sure.

A cake I made for the party.

The party site!

Toss #1

Toss #2 (they launched me backwards a second after this picture)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hong Kong Sevens (24/31)

Today I picked up a free ticket to the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens! I am excited. I'm not really a rugby fan and I know little about the sport, but the Sevens are the talk of town in HK at this time of the year. It will be good to add to the HK experience resume. Plus, I'm always up for learning about a new sport. From what I hear, the fans take on Riderville-like qualities, so that should keep things interesting.

I'm doing a little research before I go. Here's what I know so far:
-Hong Kong is supposed to be the biggest stop on the Sevens Cup circuit.
-They've been hosting the Sevens in HK since 1976. Tradition.
-Rugby is normally played with 15, but for Sevens...they play with 7. Good one. Same size field, so the game depends more on speed.
-Games only last 15 minutes (two 7-minute halves, with a 1-minute half time). So on Saturday, games start every 22 minutes...from 10:30am to 7:15pm.
-New Zealand comes in as the defending champions. Samoa won the year before.

The rest I'll learn on the fly! Should be fun!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Too Good!!! (23/31)

Yeah. They were just too good! The show was phenomenal. I was amazed at their talent and versatility as a band. Each guy switched up instruments with ease. The drummer did a solo on the acoustic (sweet voice, too), and Chris Martin whipped out the harmonica. He is an incredible musician, that guy. What a voice. The best part was the energy level. They were giving 110% on every song.

It's hard to choose favorites...but I'd have to go with Fix You. The crowd was all over it (Alicia, I tried to call you in the middle of it and Barb picked up!! I don't think she knew it was Chris Martin calling!!). I loved Clocks, Lovers in Japan, Viva la Vida (so fun) and one of the encores- an old one and such a great song- The Scientist. He also did a piano solo on The Hardest Part- impressive. And In My Place..that was so good, too...and Yellow...(I think you get the picture here!!). They played almost all of the songs from Viva La Vida. One I wish they would have played but didn't was Swallowed in the Sea.

Our seats were okay; they were about halfway back. About midway through the show, they ran to the back of the arena and stood on a platform in the middle of the crowd for an acoustic set. It was awesome! All kinds of special effects and video effects to add to it all. Yeah- it was a great night. I'd go see them again tonight if I could!

Ashley and Wenny!

Ahhhh...Chris Martin. :)

Yellow! (You can see how far back we were, and that's about halfway to the back of the arena! Not a great venue.)

On his way to the back...

Acoustic set.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

tuesday - hyphenated (22/31)

coffee - dark skies - rain - sticky and warm - chapel - sing - smile - throw off that which easily entangles - grapes - photocopying - newspaper - buzzing feet - sigh - the mystery of fractions - homemade pizza - staff room chatter - good friends - grade five love poems - amused teacher - feudalism - tidy classroom - facebook - oops forgot about that meeting - meeting - decisions - responsibilities - salmon supper at home - company - chocolate cake ice cream - calorie burning - stretching - bike riding - revived - laundry - dishes - muffin baking - oovoo - who did make the fishes swim - family - anticipation - guitar - blog - pray - sleep.

wednesday - hyphenated:
work - COLDPLAY!!!! :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Great Mathematical Conversation (21/31)

Once a month we have a PD session after school. We were supposed to be brainstorming in small groups about two teaching strategies, but somewhere in there I whipped out the monster of all mathematical inquiries: "What does it really mean to multiply a fraction, anyway?!" Oooh. Thus, the great mathematical conversastion began.

I should know, right? After drawing numerous pictures and talking about a million ways to chop up pies and apples, we did manage to make a little ground...but really, multiplying and dividing fractions doesn't make all that much sense. Or does it? Our conversation would go around in circles, until someone would finally concede..."whatever, just teach them the rule!"

I was the kind of kid more than happy to take the rule and apply it, no questions asked. But not every kid is satisfied with that (which is a good thing!), so as a teacher I'm on a mission to get behind this mathematical...quandary. The best I've got so far is using an overlapping grid that shows area to multiply one fraction by another. That makes sense to me. And chopping up an apple bit by bit seems to work in my brain. Wilf Olson! Speak out your wisdom! Anyone else? I'll give...a high anyone who can think of a great way to teach the science of multiplying fractions! (Bonus high five for enlightening us on division!)

Back to apple chopping...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Boogers and big butts?! (20/31)

Here's a pic of Boomer, Wilby and Irwin. We did two skits a day for the three-day VBS. We had a lot of fun, though I'm glad to let go of all the lines that were stuffed inside my brain all week. The kids were pretty attached to the characters; chances are good that I will forever be known as "Boomer" to all the little ones in the school. As long as they don't slip up and instead call me "Booger" as one little girl did! She had no clue- that was the best part.

Today I had a pretty good laugh at Sunday School. We were walking to our classroom, and one of the six year olds in my class piped up earnestly, "Why do all teachers have such big butts?!!" Haaaaaa. (I decided against informing her that she'd have one of her own someday, and just enjoyed the moment!!) You gotta love kids!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Adventures with Steve and John..(19/31)

It's been a fun, full, fantastic week! Last night we went on a little adventure through three distinct areas of Hong Kong. It was John's only chance to see as much of the city as possible, so we did the best we could with the time we had and the remaining energy from a busy week!

The adventure started with supper at one my favorite Thai restaurants in an area known for its great Thai cuisine. My good friends Tammy and Maureen joined us. The guys enjoyed the dishes, though they were a little thrown off by the traditional Tom Yum Thai soup. Some people love the stuff, but either way Tom Yum is a taste like no other, really. Thai food is the best!

After we polished off the likes of the pad thai, red curry, papaya salad and satay, it was time for a walk to...Starbucks. Ha! Starbucks is so...cultural?! But necessary for two guys fighting jet lag and needing to a see a big city in one night. Next stop was The Peak, one of my favorite destinations. We were caught in a bit of a cloud at the top, but it cleared up a bit and we were able to catch a decent view.

The last stop was Mongkok. Drop-off point? The same sick and smelly corner I walked Steve blindly into a couple days before- stinky tofu corner. Love it. John didn't exactly love it, but again, it's all about the experience. We navigated through the crowds and did some late night shopping in the market. John was overjoyed when he found a shop specializing in Chinglish magnets. I'm pretty sure most of the market heard him laughing. What a character.

We finished things off with one of my favorite drinks- a mango coconut sago drink. I got a funny look from Steve when he discovered the little sago-tapioca like balls in the drink. "What is that?! Fish eyeballs?!" Stretching the ol' horizons, we are...ha ha! They were both ready to escape the crowds and "go somewhere without people" by the time we were finished in the market! Most Canadians would be; it's a chaotic place to spend a couple hours!

It has been awesome having them here. It's always wonderful to share this place with people you love! I know they were both a real blessing to our secondary students at the camp, and certainly a blessing to me! Great memories made.

My friends, the taxi drivers (18/31)

Tonight I had a highly amusing taxi ride home. I wasn't entirely in the mood; feeling a little tired and too lazy to stretch my limited language skills across the 15 minute ride to my place. Too bad; Wing Leung the taxi driver had big dreams for these 15 minutes. Here are some of the words Wing Leung spoke often on our ride: "You! Me! Make friends-ee!! (as he pretends to drink) You teach English-ee to me! You English teacher! Call me!" Repeat. Repeat. So we worked the language a bit- new words in caps- "This is a TRAFFIC JAM. Many CARS!!! I am TIRED! I am hungry (he got that one!). LET'S GO!!"
It was quite the conversation. Maybe I'll call him up for a ride when Steve comes back on his way through and introduce him to Wing Leung.

This happens from time to time with taxi drivers here. Last week a friend and I met taxi driver 007. Yeah, I named him Bond. He loved that, a little too much...and the same ride that I took today with Wing Leung (the one that took 15 minutes), turned into an 8 minute ride with Bond. Plus he sang karaoke. Loudly. "And I....eeeeee...I...will always love yoooooooou". Yes- Whitney Houston by my Cantonese taxi driver who thinks he is now James Bond. What a great ride home.

Driving a car in Canada might seem a little dry after cruising the streets of HK with guys like Wing Leung and Bond at the wheel.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taking a time-out...

This doesn't count as one of my daily's just letting you know that I'm on a time-out for two days because the days have been tooooo full. By the time I arrive at my computer, my brain just says no...
So- I'll be back soon, just need to finish our Vacation Bible School and also make the most of my two remaining days with Steve and John..

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tonight's arrival...(17/31)

John is in the house! Tomorrow morning, the two of them will head off to camp to speak to the secondary kids at my school. Our VBS for the elementary kids starts tomorrow, also. It's a busy week. I'm planning to travel out to the camp for the evening sessions.
Steve made good headway on exploring Kowloon side today, and managed to help me break and then fix my toilet! Jetlag hit at about 4pm, but we pressed on through the market, past the smelly tofu place (an important stop), at Starbucks for an espresso to help with the jetlag symptoms...and then over to the Island for supper at my favorite spot- Habibi, an Egyptian restaurant. After picking up John at the airport, we're back and all ready for bed!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday (15/31)

I spend most of my Sunday at church. I teach the 5 and 6 year old class in the morning, eat lunch with friends, and then go the afternoon service. Our church is on the Island, in an area called Sheung Wan. I like walking through this district. It has an old, traditional Chinese feeling to it. The theme of the streets around our church is dried goods. Dried everything. I really have no idea what many of the items are. Some of them look like well, dried poo. Lots of the stuff is dried fish. And all of it is good for your health, of course! The streets have a distinct aroma, as you can imagine. Thankfully, there are a couple of delightful bakeries that give some reprieve to the fishy odor. Anyway, I took a couple pictures at lunch today, as I wandered the streets for awhile. (Bonus pic: my Sunday School students showing off their Queen Esther crowns!)

Chinese BBQ (14/31)

Yesterday I had a great time with my Chinese friends. I joined them for a Hong Kong style bbq (it's not a barbecue, that sounds so dry... it's a "bbq!"). And these people do some serious, serious bbq-ing. We're not talking about roasting a couple hot dogs or hamburgers with a little white Wonder bread. This is a bbq feast. They bbq everything! Everything on a stick: fishballs, meatballs, hot dogs, mini-sausages, corn, potatoes, mushrooms (long stringy ones from Japan), beef steaks, barbecued pork, cuttlefish, lamb chops, kidneys from some animal, and even squid. Oh, and marshmallows, just for me! When I explained our Canadian barbecues, one of my friends shrugge her shoulders and said, "Oh! That's so boring!!" They also love to glaze honey over everything, which I'm actually quite a fan of now. I might bring that one back to Canada with me! I infused a little North American culture by bringing Rice Krispies and teaching them the way of the s'more. They loved both!

It was a lot of fun. I usually don't understand all that much of the conversation when I hang out with them, but I get to practice my Cantonese listening skills, and genuinely enjoy their company. They are just great people- kind-hearted, generous and fun-loving. Plus, they throw a mean bbq and they're crazy about tennis...good friends to have! Here are a few pictures (I forgot to mention our beautiful spot in Sai Kung, one of my very favorite parts of HK):

Friday, March 13, 2009

Are you kidding me?!

I'm telling ya, it's great to be a sports fan in March!! Did you see the 6-OT Big East game between Syracuse and UConn?!! That's no typo...6 overtimes! Crazy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

most played songs of far! (12/31)

In no particular order, an eclectic collection of favorites from this year...

1) I Have Found- Kim Walker
2) How He Loves- Kim Walker
3) Human- The Killers
4) The Girl- City and Colour
5) Give Me Your Eyes- Brandon Heath
6) Fearless- Taylor Swift
7) White Horse- Taylor Swift
8) Live Now- Paul Brandt
9) Please Read the Letter- Alison Krauss and Robert Plant
10) When Your Mind's Made Up- Glen Hansard (from the Once soundtrack)
11) Falling Slowly- Glen Hansard (from the Once soundtrack)
12) Disturbia- Rihanna
13) Our Last Summer- Colin Firth (from the Mamma Mia soundtrack)
14) Mamma Mia- Meryle Streep (from the Mamma Mia soundtrack)
15) Jesus Messiah- Chris Tomlin
16) I Will Rise- Chris Tomlin
17) For Who You Are- Hillsong
18) The Good Confession (I Believe)- Andrew Peterson
19) A New Hallelujah- Michael W. Smith with the African Children's Choir
20) Lose My Soul- Toby Mac

Here's a taste of Kim Walker..

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Video Blog (11/31)

Something different tonight...

Getting warmed up for the madness!!

This is a sweet upset in the World Baseball Classic...the mighty Dominican, with 23 MLB players, falls to the Netherlands (they have 2). See? March is the month for upsets! Love it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My big shot...(10/31)

Okay, more booming than big. I'm playing a kid named "Boomer" for our three-day VBS at school next week. "Boomer is a fighter pilot wannabe who recklessly runs around with a model jet fighter plane and plays out imaginary fighter jet sorties in his mind". I feel like I've had a couple Red Bull energy drinks when we rehearse! Only a small part of me worries that I've been typecasted, as it's really just too much fun crashing around a stage. Plus, another friend is playing the ultimate geek with a perpetual snotty sneeze (and he plays it so well!). Ha ha!

One of my co-workers is an all-star graphic artist, and he put together our 'promo' coloring sheets. Haa! Introducing Boomer...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bringing Cougs pride to HK...(9/31)

This morning I got to watch the second half of the National Championship, hosted at the U of R. The hometown Cougs (ranked #2) were up against Simon Fraser (#1). It was fun seeing the U of R pack the place, as usual. There are few universities in Canada that get the crazy crowd support that Regina does, and you can imagine the home team advantage the Cougs had going into the National Final. Unfortunately they came up short against what looked like a tough SFU team. They came up with some big shots and Regina didn't shoot very well. A hard one to lose on the home court, especially with six 5th year players in their final games.

Takes me back to the good ol' days, when I proudly warmed the pine for one great season. I think of that year (and a half actually, until I blew out my knee) often and miss the intensity of it all. It was one of the best experiences I've had in my life. It makes me feel very old to look at the roster and see that most of the girls were just going into high school when I was playing on the team! Yikes!! Anyway, I had to pass on a little Cougs pride to the kids in Grade 5 today, so we watched the last few minutes of the game in class. I'm sure some of them would fit in well with the crowd in Regina...

China Reunion Tour (8/31)

It's all on schedule! The China Reunion Tour is set for spring break. Jason, Shannon and Emmanuelle are making the long journey from Regina and we'll meet in Beijing. Then it's back on the ol' China railway for a ride to small town Shandong, where we are going to a wedding of some very good friends from the Shiyan days. After that we'll head for mighty Wuhan, a big city close to our former home in Hubei. It will be great to spend a couple days here, purely to reconnect with some really special friends (people don't go to Wuhan to see the sights!).

Of course, what I'm most excited about is seeing the people, but I'm also looking forward to being back in the real China again- with all of its stares, surprises, laughable signage, cute squishable little faces, funny and friendly men waving "hullo!!" and tasty, tasty dishes. It will be fun to whip out what's left of the old Mandarin, too. (Now I find myself swapping my Mandarin for Cantonese, or a combination of what I understand from the two). And, to share another China adventure with J and S will be a ton of fun. Throw the ultimately squishy Elle into the mix, and we should have ourselves a pretty great trip!!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

That blessed time for teachers... (7/31)

Yeah, report card time. That means I'm spending a lot of quality time at school this weekend. Today was a surprisingly productive day (seeing it's only Saturday and report cards aren't due until Monday) and I've got most of the work finished. I celebrated by hopping a taxi to Subway, followed by a scoop of Belgian Chocolate Haagan-Daz (I had a coupon). I stopped at HMV and picked up the movie, Once. I'm watching it as the background soundtrack to adding comments to report cards. The movie is a little slow, yet enjoyable...and the music is even better, just right for a bit of multi-tasking. Sorry- report cards are taking priority over meaningful blogging tonight. Tomorrow night I'll be free!

Friday, March 06, 2009

To know Him is to trust Him. (6/31)

To know Him is to trust Him. Faith flows from the right picture of who God is.

These thoughts have been sitting with me for the past couple weeks as our pastor has been preaching on the topic of "Knowing God". I often wrestle with feeling that can somehow "will" myself to have more faith. My thinking is being challenged in some great ways as I am reminded that as I get closer to Jesus and know Him more, my faith grows. It's so easy for me to put what I am capable of doing and believing in the same box as what God can do and who He is. That's a bad mix-up and one that is hugely limiting to faith.

A couple questions I'm asking myself this week:

"How much of my faith is about me and what I can do?"
And related to that- a question I've had on my wall for the past couple of years, "Harmony, do you believe that I can bless you more than you can bless yourself?" (God).

More thoughts on this to come...maybe tomorrow!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Excitement! (5/31)

Excitement was the theme of the day. We had our first "Monster Smartie Party" in class. This is the ultimate prize in our classroom. This crew puts some serious energy into a party! I write this as I recall being attacked by hyper boys with pillows (that belong in the quiet reading corner). It's all about the memories. :)
Our Monster Smartie Party gave way to the school pep rally. The major highlight of the pep rally was the Dunk Competition. A couple guys from my team had some sick, sick dunks! We lowered the nets, but still- their athleticism is plain ridiculous. It was a blast to watch them wow the crowd! Fun stuff. I'm pretty pumped about a couple of the pics below!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Love (4/31)

Kids come up with the best artwork. This one is on my wall at home. It was made by a grade one Sunday School student. It's a response to the story of the Good Samaritan. I love it.