Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lantau Get-Away

Jen here. Welcome to Cheung Sha Beach, Lantau Island. It is located southwest of Pui O and South of Tung Chung. I think. :)

Roy and I spent a few days here for a wonderful holiday just after Easter. There were few people, practically no cars, few buses and NO skyscrapers to be seen. Praise our Creator! What a blessing it was to exit HK Island and chill on a little-name beach for two days. Ah...

We stayed at a place called Palm Beach, where the employees were very friendly and the neighbor kids came down to play everyday after school like they were family. Our night-time accommodation was a tipi--we had the larger one. Another couple had already reserved the 12 foot tipi, so we reserved the 16 foot tipi. We wanted an adventure and we got a small one. :)

On the first day we ate dinner at a African/Mediterranean Restaurant just down the beach. Roy had rainbow trout (which we had never eaten before) and I got fish and chips. He received the trout whole on his plate and got to eat the meat off the bones. Glad I didn't order it! :) My fish and chips were delicious. As we ate we marveled at how different Lantau Island is from Hong Kong Island. We only traveled 2 hours from home and there's already a different feel!

That night, the two guard dogs kept waking us up by their barking at rabbits, birds and the random water buffalo walking down the beach. (Yes, water buffalo) Roy knew they were barking at nothing, but my imagination had the dogs barking at packs of wolves or burglars or something. Oh fears. Go away.

The next day we decided to rent kayaks and go out on the water. There was virtually no wind, so the water was calm. We paddled out to a small island about 30 minutes away and looked for a way to pull in, but there were rocks around the whole island so we just chilled in the water and ate a snack. It was fun to kayak once again. The last time we kayaked was in Seattle at Lake Washington just before we moved to HK. Familiarity.

We spent much time chilling on lawn chairs and just enjoying the quiet. It was a really nice rest. We read, played Scrabble and talked with the employees a little. In talking with the other couple that stayed there, we found out they also lived in Kennedy Town on HK Island! How funny. :) They were in their 20s (I think) and from the UK, but were recently from Australia. It was fun chatting with them.

As our last adventure before heading back to HK Island, we decided to hike to the top of Lantau Peak. Being short on time, we took a bus to the pass and hiked to the top from there. Our one-way hiking distance was about 2.5 km and at least 2 km of that was steps. Lots of steps. I absolutely loved the hike. It was exhausting but exhilarating. We were so high up (compared to being at sea level) and the air was cool. It was foggy, cloudy, breezy and misty, which gave our trek an epic feel. At every turn or ridge I would pause and take a huge breath with my eyes closed, just trying to soak up the beauty of it all. Oh how amazing it was. How amazing our Gd is. Mm..

We made it to the top, took a few pictures (before the battery died) and headed back down. We had little time! Oh what a marvelous hike. I can't wait to hike again!

More later...

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Process of Getting Away

Jen here. Our getaways this year have been limited (though we don't have a long history...only married 2.5 years). With Roy's work, we are busy during the school week and when students have holidays we are even busier with all-day camps. We don't get out of HK much (and we so need that!).

Like I said in our last post, we had 4 red days for easter (Sat-Tues). We pondered going to China, but we waited too long to get our visa. Hence, we had to remain in HK. Alas! What shall we do? So Roy proposed that we go on a little trip, even just overnight somewhere off Hong Kong Island. I have a long list of approved hotels and guesthouses, so I began calling to find out their rates. What an adventure. So many of the people spoke little english, so I had to pull out my Cantonese dictionary to find how to say guestroom. I called and called and called. It was difficult for me--I hate awkward situations!! Here's how a typical phone convo went:

Receiver: Wai (Chinese way to say hello on the phone)
Me: Hello
Me: Hi. Um... I am calling to find out if you have any rooms available
R: Mei? (What?)
Me: Um... I...
Me: Hello?

I literally called at least 50 numbers. I mean, if most of the convos are 15 seconds long, you can get a lot of calling done, right?

Once I broke out my Cantonese, the convos went like this:
Me: Yau mo ban gun a? (Do you have a guesthouse?)
R:Mei? (What?)
Me: Yau mo ban gun a?


Me: Yau mo ban gun a?
R: Yau (Have)
Me: Gay dor chin a? (How much is it?)
R: saam baat ng sap mon ($350)
Me: saam...baat...ng...sap... mon... (trying to comprehend the numbers)
R: three hundred fifty dollars
Me: Oh ok, thanks *laughs* Is the room available tonight?
R: Gum maan a? (tonight?)
Me: Hai a (yes)

Believe it or not, there was one convo where we communicated decently in Cantonese (with a little English thrown in)...and a few others where the people spoke great english.

In between calls, I did some searching online for places to kayak. Roy and I have been kayaking a few times in the states and we enjoy it! On that rabbit trail of kayaking I heard of a place called Palm Beach. Palm Beach is a water sports company on Lantau Island (the larger but less populated of HK Islands). Aside from the water sports equipment, one thing makes them unique. They have tipis (teepee). You can have a get together with friends/family for the evening or even stay in one overnight. How cool!

I tossed the idea to Roy and he said, "Let's do it. It'll be an adventure!" I called, booked a tipi (that's how they spelled it...) and we packed and headed to the ferry. I was so excited!!!

(On our way there, we passed cows grazing along the road...the road where huge busses zoomed by! The cows didn't even flinch when the bus passed. What? Strange...)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Jen here. Our Easter in HK was different, yet familiar in a strange kind of way. Last year we visited HK during Easter--it was our visit to see what HK was all about and to see whether we would be interested in living there for the next year. As you know, we decided to go for it and move to HK.

Here we are in Hong Kong in Easter. Everything's different now. Last year we found a small evangelical church to attend and got to hear the Cantonese sermon translated into English via headphones. This year we attend a large english-speaking church, with pastors from Texas. :) Last year we were living out of our suitcases, this year we have a whole apartment to ourselves. Last year we taxied, walked or were escorted by private car everywhere we went (Camilla and I chose to walk a lot!); this year we have octopus cards and use all forms of transportation, including those funny-looking mini buses (my favorite).

We rejoice in hearing of baptisms at MHC in Seattle--and so wish we were there! We missed the baptisms last year too! Island ECC (our ch in HK) held baptisms as well, and it was a time of rejoicing. My side of the family traveled to visit my sister and fam in Virginia...oh how we wish we were there as well!

With Roy working here, we are aware of the "red days", which are days of public holiday. Most people get the red days off. We love red days. :) Easter last year brought a week off of teaching for me while we were in Hong Kong. For Roy it was a mix of work (camps) and tourism. Easter this year brings camps, tournaments...and a few red days. This year we got 4 red days (for Easter and a Chinese holiday, the Ching Ming Festival, I believe). We got to have a short adventure for two of those four days...more to come later :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The ISF Academy 2010 Chess Open

Jen here. March 27th was a big day for Chess4Life | Hong Kong. We held our first large tournament, partnering with one of our schools, The ISF Academy. We watched the sign-up numbers grow and knew this would be big, especially for Roy, head honcho of all things Chess in ActiveKids.

114 kids signed up and we had three sections: Secondary (~12-18), Primary (~7-11) and 6 and under (4-6). I don't remember the final number of schools that turned up, but I believe it was in the teens or twenties.

The day began early, with Roy and me arriving at the school by 7:15am. Check-in would start at 9:30am, and the first round at 10am. Logistically, our goal was to keep things moving--on-time or ahead of time. Tournaments that run behind are difficult for staff, students and parents. No one wants that!

The week prior, Roy trained me and three other staff to be floor tournament directors (I got to watch over the 4-6 year olds!) and The ISF Academy provided multiple parent volunteers that were so helpful in everything from helping students to read pairings, record results, pass out meal vouchers and round up students for the next round. The ISF Academy principal was a vital part of the success of the day as well. Praise God for providing all this help!

And now for my little tidbits of the day. Chess tournament halls are supposed to be quiet, right? Roy did a great job setting the tone for the day (fun, and quiet) and the students (especially my little ones) were very quiet. Sure, there was the occasional student yelling, "Check!" or "Illegal move, take it back!" but all in all, they did well.

When students completed their games, they were instructed to quietly walk with their opponent to the results table to record their result. This table was about 30 feet away from where the 4-6 year olds played their games. Almost every pair of kids would say, "okay" and then run to the results table(feet pounding the gym floor)! A few times, one student's opponent would head toward the results table first, and every time she would yell, "Hey, wait for me!" and run to catch up with her opponent. Oh kids. They made me smile multiple times and laugh out loud at other times.

Between rounds the students could hang out in the Skittles room (Cafeteria) or play outside. Once the students heard the next round was beginning, there was a stampede to the tournament hall. :) Many of my 4-6 year olds would come in fresh from the soccer court, sweating and out of breath.

The kids did an excellent job. My little ones ended up playing 7 rounds of Chess in one day, as did the primary kids. The secondary only played 5 rounds (they had longer rounds). We handed out many trophies and saw many students excel.

After the tournament, we were exhausted (all staff included). Once we packed everything up, a few of us decided to get dinner before heading home. I felt a camaraderie among our staff as we spent all day working and then had time to chat and get to know one another more at dinner. It was a fun day! Roy and I got home around 8pm and went straight to bed! What a day!