Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More Ms of HK

After writing my first "M" post, I asked Roy for "m" words and he listed off at least 50! I missed so many words, I should be ashamed. :) Here are some more:

TR- the underground train (aka: subway or metro for US people); So easy to get almost everywhere, except where we live. :) We can take the MTR most of the way and then catch a multitude of buses the last leg home.

Mong Kok- MTR stop where one of Roy's Chess classes is located. It is also home to the "Ladies Market", an outdoor market where you can buy anything from racing jackets and sunglasses to jade buddhas and Chinese wall hangings. Purchases thus far: backpack, wall hangings, jade dragon, and wall hangings.

M47- one of the many buses we can catch to Central, the location of IFC Mall (so western) and Exchange Square (bus depot)

Money-HK money is so colorful. See the photo: The $100 is red, many of the $20s are blue, some are green, $50s are green, $10s are purple and pink, $500s are brown and $1000 are gold-brown. Conversion rate: $1US=$7.8HK

Malaysia- I have met multiple people who are from Malaysia. And apparently just about everyone in Malaysia speaks English, and Malay. Cool.

Wet Market-An outdoor market where you can buy fresh fruits, veggies, raw meet and even cooked foods. They are everywhere! It seems each district has it's own. The first time I went to one to buy stuff, I dropped my wallet and left without knowing it!! Oh no! I was in the Park N'Shop getting ready to buy a few things wallet! I rushed back, scanning the ground and as I went. As soon as I walked onto the floor that had fruits and veggies one of the men flagged me down and told me he turned my wallet into the office. He showed me to the office where I had an interesting time communicating with the officer. He had my HK ID card out, could clearly see my photo and I still had to identify somehow that it was mine. many other blondie girls with brown eyebrows has he seen in Kennedy Town? No, I was actually praising Gd that I received my wallet back! Just a few days prior I memorized my HKID number...and had just learned how to say my numbers in cantonese. So I started out "chat baat....etc etc...luk" hooray! It was my ID after all! Everything was still in my wallet--money, ID card, octopus card (which has money on it useful on public transportation, at 7-Eleven, McD's, Park N'Shop and various other places), etc. Yay!

Motion-sickness-Roy gets this while he's on the double-decker bus heading up to his classes on the Peak. No fun. :)

ovies- We've seen two Asian-made movies in theater and both were not the greatest. One was just really sad (Hyundae--a mega-tsunami hits South Korea) and the other was just...ugh (Warrior and the Wolf). The Warrior and the Wolf just left us thinking, what happened? What's going on? Huh? I'm confused... Must be a lot of cultural stuff we don't know. :)

Miss- family, friends, washington's beautiful mountains, the Puget Sound, cool clean air, the sunset on the corn fields in Circleville, riding my bike, driving a car (but not getting it fixed), Laurelville apple cider, Mom's chocolate chip cookies, and my dear sister Katie. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cantonese Class

Jen here. I've mentioned my Cantonese class in passing, so today I will tell you all about it! I don't know why, but I desire to learn languages. I haven't become fluent in any language (except english), but I have taken classes in Spanish, French, Italian, Sign Language and now Cantonese (I also had a friend teaching me some Mandarin while I was at OU...).

Upon moving to HK, there was no question that I wanted to learn "Chinese", but should I learn Cantonese or Mandarin? Everyone had their opinions. Some said, "Learn Mandarin, because more people in the world speak Mandarin. It's more useful and it's easier than Cantonese. Hardly anyone speaks Cantonese outside of HK and southern China." Others said, "Learn Cantonese; it's the local language." A few said, "You don't need to learn either. You can get around just fine with English." And my friend from China (who taught me some Mandarin) said, "Learn Cantonese, because I don't know it!"

Between this dilemma and trying to find a class to fit my desires(language and $), I put off taking a class until January. In January while searching online I discovered a class that started two days later. I called, signed up and started then!

The class is subsidized by the government and is for minorities. Some of the worksheets we get in class say "Migrant Workers Class". Funny, I didn't know I was a migrant worker. :) It is solely conversation; we aren't learning how to read or write Chinese. The goal is to learn spoken Cantonese useful in daily life. My fellow students are from India, Nepal, Mongolia, Japan, the UK and the Philippines. The ages range from 18 to 50s or 60s. I'd say the median age is 40. Some of the students have lived in HK for 15-20 years and are just now deciding to learn Cantonese (of course they picked a little up along the way). The best part of the deal is the price: $100HK for 50 hours. $100HK is about $14US. I get 50 hours of class for 14 bucks?? Craziness. Here's our class picture:

Our teacher, William, is very patient, fun and enjoys teaching. He answers any questions we have (such as, how do you say "close the door slowly" or "speak quietly" or "duck" or "apple" or "please stop" when you're riding the green minibus--my question) and thoughtfully tells us about HK culture and some Chinese culture. I've learned a lot about China's history through this class!

This photo is from our "yum cha" outing. Yum cha literally means drink tea, but if you say, "Let's go to yum cha", what it really means is "Let's go to a Chinese restaurant and eat dim sum!" We went as a class (not everyone made it) but it was fun. We had so many questions, "How do you say shrimp dumpling? How do you say we need more chopsticks? How do you say red bean soup?" was delicious, filling and only cost us $50HK each (~$8 US)...funny, the cost of yum cha was half of what we paid for the class...

I try to use my Cantonese daily, but I am nervous to! What if they don't understand what I say? What if they do, and I don't understand what they say? :) One of my small group girls is teaching me to say important things, such as "I want one double cheeseburger please" and "Green tea bubble tea, very sweet please". I haven't tried the cheeseburger one, but the next time I go to McD's I will. :)

All in all, I am so thankful to be taking this class and living in another culture with a different language. It's fun and I hope to grow better at speaking Cantonese!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Inter-School Tournament

Jen here. Roy approached the principal and parents of our ISF Academy chess students with the idea of forming a team of students and Roy coaching them as they compete as a school team in local Chess tournaments. All parties being on board, a team was organized and a special team class began in mid-January. Their first team competition? The HK Inter-School Tournament, hosted by HKCF, held Sunday, February 28th (why all day on Sunday? The world may never know...).

I went with Roy to help in any way and to support him--and because I just love to be with him! I know many of the students on the team and am an assistant coach to many of them.

We taxied to the school and arrived at about 8:15am. The tournament room was a large auditorium/gym, and upon inquiring, we discovered they had no rooms available for skittles (aka: a place for students to go when they finish their game, hang out, go over their games, etc). We scouted the open-air hallways for a spot to set up a home base (Thanks to Mike Skidmore for setting such an example for Roy in coaching!) and found one on the floor above the tournament room--4 picnic tables close to the door to the balcony overlooking the gym. As students arrived Roy organized his 12 ISF kids and the rounds began. I've never attended such a tournament; in this one, four kids make up a team and you play a team, sitting shoulder to shoulder with your fellow teammates. Having brought 12 kids, we had three teams.

Between rounds the students reported back to our home base to go over their games, eat a snack and chill. After a while, the parents began hanging out and chatting at our home base (HKCF provided seats to sit inside the tournament hall, so some of our parents were in there for the first few rounds) and I got to meet many of them. They were so excited their children were competing in Chess and growing as a team. Throughout the day they expressed how united the team was and really appreciated Roy's role as coach to the students. :)

The day was long, as the tournament was delayed, finishing an hour or more behind schedule(primary school award ceremony finished at 7:30, secondary had to wait longer). But the kids had a fun time, won many games and grew as a team. The end placing: Our A team earned Second Place, and two students earned trophies for placing in their respective boards. Way to go, ISF Academy!

Nowadays the team is preparing for the first large tournament put on by Chess4Life: The ISF Academy 2010 Chess Open, which will be held March 27th, hosted by the ISF Academy. What an event it will be...please pray for Roy as he is the main TD and organizer of this event--he has many people to organize. Thanks!

Cheung Chau Get-Away!

Jen here. On Chinese New Year's eve, Roy and I packed our stuff and left HK Island for our first get-away since arriving last August. It was much-needed and we praised God for it!

Cheung Chau--one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong--is an old fishing island. I read somewhere that it is the most densely populated outer island. Shaped like a dog bone (see map), most people live in the central part, while the end regions are perfect for hikes. No cars on the island, except for mini emergency vehicles, so all the roads are narrow and there are bikes everywhere.

We stayed in a B & B (more like a hotel than a US B&B) and had a great time. The weather was cold and rainy all 4 of our days there. :( Fortunately we brought coats and umbrellas, and easily face the weather each day. The staff at the B&B always had hot water on hand, so we drank many servings of hot chocolate and tea (which we bought at a Park N Shop on the Island). For breakfast in the morning, we had three choices: soup, eggs (with meat and fruit), and an omelet (with mushrooms and tomatoes, no cheese). Oh, and btw, the "fruit" is a slice of cucumber and a slice of tomato. :) Interesting...

We spent many hours walking along the beach picking up sea glass. Roy loves to do this and this beach was a jackpot for such a thing. There was almost more sea glass than sand (not really)...after seeing it all (and some rubbish with it) we were glad it was too cold to swim.

On our third day there, Roy rented two bikes for us and we zipped around the island, taking in so much more than we saw the two days prior. It was so fun! We biked along the shoreline, past all the little street vendors, past all the tourist shops, past all the locals eating meals and hanging out. We buzzed up the hill (all paths were paved) to a hiking path, where we locked up our bikes and hiked to the "Pirate's Cave", where supposedly an old pirate stored his booty. It was less like a cave and more like a small hole in a rock, but hey, we saw it. The shoreline of the island was full of large tan rocks which the path led us over. At one point the wind caught Roy's hat and rolled it down some of the rocks. After some thinking and investigating, Roy retrieved it and we returned to our bikes and continued on. Up until this day, I thought the island was cool, but a little run down. I mean, if you live in a flat in an apartment complex, who cares how the outside looks? But on our biking expedition, I saw a different side of the island. A side that was quaint and tended to. Neat and painted apartment buildings, brick sidewalks, decorative fences and grass (what's that??). At one point I looked to Roy and said, "This place is kind of cute."

Here are a few more photos of our adventure.
Photo 1: Roy. On our hiking adventure, under a pagoda. Sweet.
Photo 2: Jen on the shoreline. Check out all those boats out there!
Photo 3:The sign in the top left of the photo is to a Christian cementary. I'll translate. No praying to the dead or swinging around those joss sticks. No burning incense. No food offerings (no poultry or veggies, or pigs or fruit--gotta be specific). No fires. Interesting.
Photo 4: One of the many street vendors who cooked food for you on the spot. We ate many a meat on a stick and bubble waffles. Mmm...sounds good right now. The street vendors made for a happening night life. You could eat dinner at a restaurant, or just mosey from street vendor to street vendor. Ciao!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beginners' Tournament

Jen here. What a weekend. Last Saturday Chess4Life put on a Beginners Tournament. The goal of it: to prepare students for tournaments, teaching them the basics. We had 45 students sign up: 14 kids ages 4-6, 22 kids ages 7-8 and 9 students ages 9-12.

Coach Roy, as I call him due to assisting him with Chess classes, was the TD of the tournament, as well as running the group of 7-8 year olds. I got the pleasure of working with the 4-6 year olds, and a new coach, Philip had the 9-12 year olds.

Every student played 4 games, which each lasted less than 30 minutes(some poor dears lost in but a few minutes...). And in between rounds we taught the students something new about tournament play: reading the pairing chart, recording your result, what to do if you have problems or questions, notating your game, good sportsmanship, etc. The students had new information to apply in each round.

Just before the tournament I taught a small Chess class (two kids) and then taxied with them to the tournament. These kids are adorable. They were so pumped for the tournament! Mom said they talked about it all week and looked forward to it so much. I tried to encourage them on the way to the tournament; they're young and new to chess. Some of the other kids have been taking classes from us since September and have learned quite a bit. These kids started a month or two ago.

Upon arriving to the tournament, I remembered one reason why we wanted to put a cap on the number of students allowed to register: the tournament venue was one primary school classroom, not exactly designed for 45 kids to play chess in, you know? We ended up using two classrooms and the small art room/lab connecting the two rooms. Guess where the little 4-6 year olds with Miss Jenny (or Coach Jenny) ended up? In the art lab. It wasn't a big was better to have the young kids in a contained area, and it felt cozy.

Short interruption here. Back in university, in my education classes, we talked a lot about flexibility. Teachers must be flexible. Well, being in HK with a husband teaching Chess, I've had many opportunities to be flexible and to grow. This being one.

The students were quite excited and wound up. Upon receiving the 1st round pairings, I started our first teaching lesson, and then began the round. Chess tournaments are supposed to be quiet, right? Yes. Lesson #1. But so many 4-6 year olds don't realize that their talking makes noise. I'm not sure they grasp whispering yet. My TDing in this room consisted of a lot of "shhh..Please stop humming. Remember, Chess tournaments are quiet places. When you check your opponent, you don't have to yell 'check' you can just whisper it. Billy, don't help David with his game, you can lose your game for helping another player. Oh, parents aren't allowed to talk with their kids while they are playing..." You get the idea. Many of the kids' parents were standing at the end of our room watching, which was tough, but good. They were all delighted to see their kids learning Chess.

Some of the kids are so young or have such a short attention span, I was worried they would never complete their games! It was humorous watching some of them play one another. One little 4-year old kept losing focus, or playing with the pieces like they were GI-Joes or something. Other students were able to checkmate their opponents or at least capture all of their opponents pieces--even the king! FYI, you're not allowed to capture the king in Chess. There was many a time when I had to ask a student, "Are we allowed to capture the king in Chess? No...that means your opponent played an illegal move. Let's go back and see what happened." Nevertheless, all of the kids are learning and growing in this area and it's exciting to see their progress.

All in all, the tournament went well. The kids were happy; they all received a trophy. And we finished on schedule. Praise God! :)