Thursday, May 26, 2011


Stacy (Brad's sister) came and visited us in Hong Kong! It was very fun to have someone from Brad's family see our life and get to experience our new home here in HK. We know that she missed her husband and boys a lot but she had fun having some down time and exploring some new countries.We loved showing her around, but since we had to work some of days she was very adventurous and explored some sights on her own. Stacy even got to go with Brad to the Philippines Week Without Walls trip (which deserves its own post).

Here are some pictures from the week. Some of the highlights included Dim Sum (thankfully we didn't eat any duck bills or chicken fingers), walking around the wet market, Mong Kok (ladies, flower, bird and jade market), Happy Valley Horse Races, museums, gardens and exploring the downtown area.

duck bills or "chicken fingers" anyone?

Emily sized pineapple

The verdict is that next time she comes, she HAS to bring Rob and our cute nephews! Don't you agree?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Character day

The elementary school recently had book character day, inspired by the recent Grade 2 pioneers unit I decided to go with Laura Ingles Wilder. The drama department had the full skirt (which was very twirly) and the bonnet. Other favorites were Fiona from Shrek(how Renee managed all day with that green paint is amazing), banana in pj, Pippy Long-stocking, Paper Bag Princess (who I think should have been the winner of the day, see picture below) and Noah.

To my sadness none of the children that I talked to that day knew who Laura was or had read Little House on the made me feel sad, like part of their childhood is missing. Next year will start off with ALL my ESL kids reading Little House on the Prairie :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cheung Chau

Yesterday we went to Cheung Chau Island with friends from our small group and brought along Rudy. We ate lunch at a great outside restaurant overlooking the ocean (we ate amazing fish and chips). Then everyone went kayaking. Since we had Rudy (and he hates water) we went for a little hike around the village

New Apartment

After weekends of looking we finally made a decision about where we are going to move next year. We are moving to a village called Tai Wo and have a top floor plus a roof top of a village house. The house is brand new and there is still some construction going on (cabinets, sink, stove top all need to go in still).

It has been a productive (and exhausting) two weeks and we have bought most of our furniture and a car from an ICS family who is leaving the end of July (right when we get back from the summer). We are very excited to have a car, which will make our commute to work only 15 minutes! We are also very excited to have Rudy live with us and to buy plants for our HUGE roof top. Our roof has beautiful views of verdant mountains, one of the things we love about Hong Kong. The end of July is going to be crazy, but thankfully we have a few days before our in-service week at school to get set up.

My mom really wants to see pictures so this one is for you mom. The bedrooms are small but we are happy to have a guest room and a master bedroom that does fit a queen sized bed! Crazy to think that our whole village house at 7oo square feet is only slightly larger than most of your garages in the US (at least we have a 700 square foot roof terrace too!)

Outside & car park (we are the top floor on the left)

Living room (ugly metal doors on the right lead to balcony, curtains will cover those doors!)

Kitchen (opens up onto the living room/hallway. There are more counters that are not in the picture which is amazing for Hong Kong kitchens which usually have tiny kitchens with no counter space)

Bathroom (picture is really fuzzy because I'm still getting used to new point and shoot camera/video camera)

Master bedroom

Guest room

Other "bedroom" that is really more the size of a large walk in closet :-)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring Break part V (final post)

I'm writing this post quite a bit later than I'd intended. We got back from our Australian vacation over a month ago, and I'm only just now getting around to writing this last post on our trip (the topics we're writing on this week are actually quite varied and were originally intended to span several posts - sorry about the length).

April was a very busy month for us, with Emily's surgery, apartment-hunting, looking for a car, and planning our June-July Trans-Siberian vacation. Somewhere in all that busyness our blog got de-prioritized. Apologies to our faithful readers.

Whenever we rent a car on our vacations, we tend to drive it a lot. I think it has something to do with my upbringing (my father once put 1,000 miles on a rental car in a week-long DisneyWorld vacation, without ever leaving the state of Florida. I take this as a personal challenge). During our SW Australia vacation, although we drove a lot, I tried to break up the driving as much as possible. Still, Emily got a little bored in the car and wound up taking a few extra photos as a result:

While riding shotgun in our faithful little camper, Emily decided to compose a bit of a photo essay on Australian road signs. We saw loads of quirky signs, but I only slowed down in time for her to capture three:
And my personal favorite, the 1950's era children running to school (complete with 50's male short-shorts). I call these two "Dick and Jane" (Also, you've got to love the bullet holes. Who says Americans are the only ones in love with guns?):
We made several memorable stops as we drove across the southwest. The first was a trip to the "Tree Top Walk" in an area called "Valley of the Giants." The region of Australia we visited is lush with tall Eucalyptus trees. I don't remember all of the different varieties, but I do recall two: "Karri" and "Tingle" trees. Karris are the tallest, with the smooth trunks. Tingles aren't quite as tall, but have wonderfully thick, buttressed trunks. Karri trees are the second tallest in the world (as far as I know), topping out at over 60 meters (200+ feet), which puts them just short of the redwoods in California.

Emily on the tree top walk (it's a metal walkway suspended about 120 feet above the forest floor, surrounded mostly by Tingle trees).
I'm a bit scared of heights, so the see-through floor of the walkway was a bit nerve-wracking for me.

The 2 pictures below are Karri trees (note the smooth bark and massive height):
Here's a big Tingle tree (note the thick trunk):
We camped for a night in "Shannon National Park," which actually reminded us of Central Oregon. There were loads of non-native trees (including Ponderosa pines) that had been planted over 100 years ago when the area was a logging camp:
It was the only campground all week that allowed us to have a fire. Perhaps that's why this is the place where we met the most people (after all, where better to meet fellow campers than around a campfire?). We spent a couple of hours that night chatting with a retired couple from Adelaide (Merv and Yvonne) who had driven all the way across the country to see the forests of SW Australia. Being a hospitable Australian couple, they offered us homemade scones ("baked" over their campfire) and a nice "cuppa" (that's tea to our non-Aussie friends).

We continued to drive north from there, through the Margaret River wine-making region, where we visited cheese and chocolate factories, and wandered through vineyards:
And on to the coast where we spent 2 of the best nights of the trip. When camping in Shannon, we had been told that there was a beautiful, quiet campground in a place called "Hamelin Bay," on the coast near Augusta (the South-Westernmost point in all of Australia). We hadn't planned on visiting that area, but on the advice of fellow campers, we decided to give it a try. It was breathtakingly beautiful. We especially enjoyed the prime location of our campsite (yep, that's the ocean in the background):
We were less than 100 yards from the Indian Ocean. We spent lots of time walking on the beach, reading books, and generally just relaxing. I (Brad) even took a couple of mid-afternoon naps in our super-comfy campervan.
Sunset over the Indian Ocean:
Australians have fun names for both places and things. Not only do they abbreviate nearly everything ("cozzie" instead of "bathing costume," "sunnies" instead of sunglasses, "Boardies" instead of board-shorts - you get the idea), but they also have loads of wonderful Aboriginal words. One of my favorites was the local surf break we visited. It's called "Yallingup," and was just a short drive from our campsite:
I felt quite pleased with myself when I captured the worst moment of this guy's day:
We drove down to the town of Augusta one day to see the lighthouse (which marks the Southwestern-most point in Australia). We were disappointed to discover that admission wasn't free, so we took a quick picture.
Then, we went into town and found a wonderful fishermen's market, where we picked up a few ingredients for that evening's meal: fish tacos.

Overall when people ask us about our impressions of Australia, we mostly find ourselves talking about nature. This seems reasonable, as we spent most of our time away from urban centers. Still, we both agreed that this was one of the most naturally-spectacular vacations we've ever taken (Banff in Alberta is also near the top of our list). The landscape was certainly breathtaking (although I don't feel that I've adequately captured that beauty in my photos), but what we really talk about is the animals. The kangaroos were just as bizarre and exciting we'd expected them to be (we actually got to feed one!)...

...the snakes and spiders just as creepy (this guy was in the water bucket next to our camper one morning)...
...and the birds surprisingly friendly. We stopped for lunch one day near the town of Pemberton, and were mobbed by these wild parrots. Emily was immediately freaked out and left the table (she hates birds under the tamest of circumstances). I (Brad) was initially excited to feed them by hand but lost my nerve when they started landing on me:
I think this photo pretty accurately captures my comfort level as the birds got closer:
We saw this sign after our bird encounter:
Australia was an odd experience for us: simultaneously exotic and familiar. On the one hand, everyone spoke English (and with charming accents), supermarkets were quite similar to the US or Canada, and cities and towns all had that anglicized look to them (think: Canada with better weather). On the other hand, the parrots in the trees above our campsite were a new experience to us. The kangaroos nibbling on grass at our first campground were thrillingly novel. And, the constellations of the southern hemisphere were completely foreign to both Emily and me (Yes, we did spend several evenings star-gazing with a star chart that Brad brought along. Yes, we know how nerdy this makes us).

Apologies for the length of this post. It's definitely the longest we've ever written. We thought that this week we'd leave the comments a bit more open-ended. Any of you ever been to Australia? If so, what part of the experience was most remarkable to you? If you haven't been to Australia, we have a different question: Has our Spring Break series of posts confirmed your preconceptions about the continent, or have our photos and comments in some way changed how you imagine it? We'd love to hear from you!

(Alternative assignment for our friends who are actually from Australia: feel free to post some more of your charming colloquialisms in the comment section. I know that I've only scratched the surface with the examples given above. Also, give a definition.)