Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saying goodbye to Koh Tao

Well tonight is my last night here on Turtle island. I have enjoyed most of my time here, and definitely honed my skills as a scuba diver. The weather hasn't been great (monsoon rains today), and the visibility in the water is very low, making the general conditions less diver-friendly than normal for this time of year. Oh well. I met some neat people and enjoyed loads of down-time. I actually spent more time today on the boat than on land, and since the sea was quite rough all day, I am still feeling the swaying effects hours after disembarking. When I am walking I feel steady, but through dinner and even know at this Internet cafe, the world around me is gently rocking like the sea.

Tomorrow I will change islands, catching a 9am ferry to Koh Phangan. There someone from the Yoga Retreat will meet me at the pier and take me to the north (quiet) side of the island. Ko Phangan is very famous for it's half and full moon parties, and for New Year's Eve it is said to be one of the best party spots in South East Asia. Luckily for me the famous beach parties all happen on the south end of the island. The Yoga Retreat is 1 short km from the beach, tucked into a hilly jungle landscape, promising to indulge my senses with relaxation and tranquility. I can walk down to the beach and snorkel or trek a bit in the mountains to a couple waterfalls if I seek activity, but I imagine the 4 hours of Yoga and Pilates every day will be rejuvenating enough. The retreat also offers a vegetarian restaurant and cooking classes as well as a herbal steam room and plunge pool (whatever that is). Check out the website here.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday time, and are looking forward to a great new year ahead.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advanced Open water Diver

In 48 hours on Koh Tao Island I am now and advanced open water diver. My specialties are deep diving, underwater navigation, buoyancy control, night diving and using dive a computer.

Yesterday we set out on the longtail at 7am and were in the water at Chumphon Pinnacle by 8:30. At 26 meters my dive instructor, Emily, and I saw the back end of a Reef shark as she shyly swam away from us. We had only been in the water 5 minutes! We then went to 32 meters and did our nitrogen narcosis tests - I didn't feel any silly side-effects, unfortunately. It just seemed like normal diving to me. The colours were very different and that was neat.

For our second dive I was paired up with a dive master trainee (DMT) and I had to plan every aspect of the dive and then lead her through my plan. I had to decide the maximum depth, maximum dive time and route around the site. This included using maps, a dive computer and an underwater compass. I was so eager and anxious to know where I was, that once we submerged, I took off like a shot. I suspect that the teacher-in-me exploded at this opportunity to 'lead the way'. I was SO excited that we circled the entire dive site within about 15 minutes. Ooppps! So we went back, slowly, and I toured my DMT around, finding all the cool sites and making it back to the buoy line at exactly 45 minutes. She was impressed and I am now and Advanced Open Water Diver. The visibility is not greats right now (~5meters) so this was actually as huge accomplishment. Others in the course had a truly difficult time with the navigation. I relied on my compass and computer a lot , and felt comfortable using them properly.I spent the afternoon checking out Koh Tao on foot and booked a 5-day yoga retreat starting next Monday and ruining until Friday afternoon when I must fly back to Bangkok and catch my flight home to Hong Kong. The yoga retreat is on Koh Phangan Island (the one between here and Koh Samui) and it includes accommodation and breakfast, as well as 4 hours of Yoga per day and a little pilates if I'm interested. It should be amazing.

One week of diving + One week of yoga. Life couldn't be better :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Typical Touristy Tropical Paradise

Even though I have seen my fair share of unique and diverse places on this earth, I truly thought that every typical tourist tropical paradise, was not too much more than simply that - a typical tourist tropical paradise. Seen one, seen them all.

I feel like I can't begin to explain how wrong that sentiment was, although I'll give it a try right now in a few short paragraphs about my first 36 hours here in Thailand.

I flew into Bangkok yesterday morning and between 11am and 5pm I wandered around some neat neighbourhoods. I was trying to eventually get to Koh San Road, but never found my way there. I just enjoyed being lost (completely) and eventually jumped in a tuk-tuk to the train station. Here I booked a bus + ferry boat ticket to get me all the way to my destination, one of the best attractions for scuba divers in south east Asia, Koh Tao Island.

I killed a 1.5 hours wait in the train station by treating myself to a 75 minute Thai foot massage for ~$10 CAD. The bus journey started out exciting as a bunch of traveller's from all parts of the world and speaking at least 4 different languages all settled into seats around me. I had fun meeting everyone, but we were quickly lulled to sleep by Transformers (the movie) being played a maximum volume. Nice. About 8 of us were dumped by the side of the road, cold and sleepy at 3:20am in a place called Chumphon. At 4am a jeep took us to the pier, about 40 minutes away where we sat anxiously reading all the available travel brochures describing the set of 3 islands that comprise one of Thailand's hugest tourist areas (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui). At 6am about 60 more sleepy, rugged, and smelly backpackers joined our little group. The boat left at 7am. The view was nothing too exciting, out a thick and dirty window, so I slept for almost the entire 2.5 hour journey to the island.

A jeep picked me up at the pier in Koh Tao and took me to the dive resort. I arrived at 9:55 and as I was being checked in by one of the divemasters, she told me that and Advanced Open Water course was beginning at 10am. There were 3 students already participating, and there may not be enough students to start another class for a couple days. In about 30 seconds I went from thinking that it was crazy to begin right away, to thinking "why not?" I dumped my stuff in a very humble first floor cement room with a double bed and private bath (I can't complain as I am paying the equivalent of $8 CAD per night) and joined the class.

Our first dive was a specialty buoyancy training, basically 45 minutes underwater playing games, swimming through hoops and other obstacles, hovering upside down, and playing charades underwater - super fun! Then it was on to our navigational dive where we had to find certain landmarks underwater and use a maps and an underwater compass! I rocked at this dive and learned SO much. We are also learning how to use dive computers on all our dives - super cool! We came back onto land for a quick 1 hour break at sunset and then went out again at 7pm for a night dive, which was totally amazing. What an incredible first day.

After a shower and change into clean, dry clothes I headed to the beach for a bite to eat. I sat front and center for a specular fire dancing show and ate the best chicken green curry I have ever tasted. Honestly, one of the best meals of my life. And I am thinking, holy crap - this place is a paradise like nothing I have ever imagined. The people, the food, the environment - both above and below the water - it is all fascinating. And all I keep thinking is, "One day down, thirteen more to go." I am the luckiest person in the world!


- North End of Koh Tao Island -
(this was our second dive site today :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thai Christmas

I am off to Thailand in 4.5 days!! I can hardly contain my excitement. I wake up each morning smiling at the realization that I am one day closer to being there. I just booked in with a dive school called Big Blue. Check out their website here. They promise to have me swimming with sharks on the 2nd day - a dream come true. It's totally safe and I'll be with professionals Nana, don't worry.
Thanks to a lovely Christmas present from Dad, I went out shopping on Sunday to a Pro Dive Shop that was advertising a holiday sale. And what a sale it was, almost everything was half price. I walked out with a full piece, all black wet suit, as well as a high quality black mask and snorkel. I never dreamed I'd own an underwater bond-girl outfit! Look out Thailand :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Laundry Service

So here in HK I don't have a washing machine. I drop off all my dirty clothes at a laundry place (one of many in my neighbourhood) where they weigh it, charge me by the pound, and fold it neatly into these huge plastic bags for me to pick up a few hours later. If I drop it off in the morning, I can always pick it up around 6pm. But if I don't make it there until the afternoon, they usually tell me to pick it up the next day. So yesterday I drop off my laundry and she says come back tomorrow. No problem. This morning I pick it up but don't even unpack it because I have plans to meet John, go shopping for a cheap cell phone to use when my visitors come in January, some dive gear (yipppeeee) and maybe a Thailand travel guide. We ended up having dinner and seeing a movie in Times Square, so I got home around 10pm. I unpacked my laundry to find that my sheets (brand new, never used) are not in there! I am furious. I can't seem to think rationally. I am so angry. Not only were they really nice, lime-green NEW sheets (with robots, chemical formulas and computer code all over them), but I had never even slept on them! And now, all I can think is that they ended up in someone else's laundry bag, gone forever and someone else is nesting into them right now. How could this happen?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Big Sister!

Today the grade 5s put on their annual Trash 2 Fashion show. It is part of our unit of inquiry about waste management, and the kids absolutely love the experience. To be honest, I was not that into it from the start, but as the preparations went on I became a bit more excited, mostly because I can see it as a better alternative to many other garbage-creating ways of decorating and celebrating this time of year. We had taken lots of photographs of the students in all 5 classes getting ready over the last 3 weeks and now with the video footage I shot of the actual show yesterday, I will be spending my weekend making a movie. This production will be shown to the parents at our Winter Concert this Wednesday evening, so there is a little pressure for it to be better than good.

So while everyone I know rushes around tomorrow night to multiple Christmas parties, eating and drinking way too much, and feeling gross in the morning, I will be contently and comfortably at home, creating art with my computer. Ahhhhh, lucky me :) I will get out and about a bit too though, as I do have a couple social commitments on my agenda than I am really looking forward to. Tonight I enjoyed dinner a cool little sushi restaurant in SoHo with John. A place we had both never been to. Then followed with mulled wine and cake at the Peak Cafe, where we ran into Cindy, Ross and Bruce, other teachers from school.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December in Hong Kong

Well the weather is getting cooler. It drops down to 11 or 12 degrees at night, and that can feel pretty cold in an apartment with no heater or insulation of any kind. It is a nice change though. I wear socks around the flat and drink tea more often and crank up the heat int he shower. The humidity has also changed drastically. I don't think it has rained more than one sprinkle since October! It feels like fall in Canada, and I can't help but feel inspired to prepare for an approaching winter season. It gets dark much earlier now adding to the effect, which I can't say I like too much, although the bus ride home at 5:30 has been a consistent showcase of stunning sunsets. But colder temperatures aren't approaching, and I am told that the cold won't progress much further. Before I know it it will be warming up and feeling like the tropics again.

Things are winding up at school, and I am looking forward to Thailand more and more each day. Thanks to my dad, I will also being sure to enjoy at least a couple days of scuba diving. I've been dreaming of diving in Southeast Asia for more than 5 years now. I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Explorers Class Photos

I had one of those I-love-my-class days. Today was a happy-fun teacher day for me. Good thing too, because last Friday was an extreme poopy-pants teacher day and yesterday was a meanie-why-isn't-your-work-done-yet? teacher day. Here is my class is all their glory on photo day. After the serious photo for the yearbook, I asked the photographer to take an Explorer shot. They're adorable people. I love them so much.

Just a hint: You can click on the photos in this blog to see them full-size.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Motorcycle weekend

I had a great weekend touring around Hong Kong on the motorcycle with John. On Saturday we went to the temple of 10,000 Buddhas in Sha Tin. We had fun poking around - found a bee farm that sold honey and saw some cool Buddha statues in mid-construction.

Then we went to see a Taiwanese film at the mega mall in Kowloon called MEGA BOX. Crazy! There is an indoor ice rink in there with floor to (extremely high) ceiling windows, which look out over Victoria Harbour to the sprawling Hong Kong Island skyline. We finished the day off with an amazing organic dinner at Life, next door to my flat. Good day.

On Sunday we joined Rob and Barb for a ride out to Sai Kung, the large National Park in the New Territories, about 1 hour outside of Hong Kong. We had a nice late lunch and hiked along the coastline. It has gotten cold here, about 15 degrees feels normal now. On the bike it was even cooler, so I have been wrapped up in scarves and pulled out my heavy coat.

Sai Kung Park

Friday, December 5, 2008

Back From Camp

I had a fabulous time camping with the grade 5s. We had adventures including swimming in the ocean and rock climbing up to swim in waterfalls, learning about wild water buffalo, planting trees on deforested mountainsides, organic farming and composting, as well as native tree identification and cooking with locally harvested foods. It was spectacular. For the most part, these kids are (were) the opposite of outdoorsy or adventurous. Camp definitely made an impact, and for a few it was a intense experience. I dealt directly with diarrhea, cuts and scrapes, vomit, homesickness, excessive rambunctiousness, arguments, giggles and belly laughs, fears and some of the best learning imaginable. It was a huge success. Now I am back home to enjoy another weekend with not too much going on.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking my students outside

Hip hip harooney duney. Finally! I am taking my students on an outdoor adventure. Three days at an ecologically sustainable organic farm on an outlying island about 20 minutes by ferry from Hong Kong Island (who knew?). Grade 5s = 126, teachers = 12, activity organizers on site = 20 or so. Activities include waterfall hikes, tree planting, local flora lessons, beach cleanups, farming labour, walking with water buffalo, and sleeping in cabins.

Hurray for outdoor and experiential education. I am so excited. The site we are going to is called Ark Eden. For more details check it out here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hot Sushi

On Friday night as I returned home from my sightseeing adventures I stopped at City Super and picked up some sushi as they were closing. They put their big assortment platters on sale at the end of the night and I couldn't resist buying this huge spread of nigiri and maki for $60 HKD ($10 CAD). When I got home I savoured the rolls with rich chinese soya sauce and fresh, chunky wasabi, but I could even finish half of the feast I had brought home. So the leftovers went into my fridge. It wasn't until dinner time the next day that I remembered it and a quick smell told me I couldn't stomach the salmon and tuna raw, so I decided to flash fry all the fish, eel and squid (toppings form the sashimi) and microwave the rice balls after soaking them in more soya sauce. I put it all together with some more fresh wasabi and pickled ginger and, I have to say, it was one of the best meals I have cooked for myself recently! Whoda thunkit? And although I am sure most chefs would cringe at the mere thought of it, I think cooked sushi is awesome. As explained in Sushi Etiquette, in Chinese, sushi consists of two characters: Fish on the left and Delicious on the right.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tourist for a day

Yesterday was one of the clearest, and coldest, days I have experienced in Hong Kong. After my busy day at school I rushed home, grabbed my camera and took off for the Peak. I decided to take the Peak Tram, a tourist attraction, that goes straight up the hill from Central to the Peak. I arrived up there at dusk and watched the sunset turn the sky orange and yellow over Lamma Island, and the HK skyline come to twinkly life below me. It was very cold, so once I had taken about 100 photos, I took the Tram back down to Cental.Then I took the MTR over to the Kowloon side to watch the Symphony of Lights. I grabbed a chai latte to warm up and found a perfect perch along the Avenue of Stars. The light show starts at 8pm and is even more elaborate now that the Christmas season is upon us. I took around 100 more photos, from that side, of the Hong Kong Island skyline and the Peak rising up behind it. I didn't talk to anyone, I just enjoyed being out in the few places I know of in Hong Kong where the view extends, unobstructed, for as far as you can see. I find that I need that sometimes. It is nice to feel the wide open sky all around you, even if it's night time.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Carried away

I got a little busy for a few days (well let's say busier then my normal busy). I had a formal teaching evaluation on Thursday, and then a full day of Parent-Teacher conferences today with an after school follow-up to my evaluation afterwards. Everything included excellent learning and loads of new insights which is always good. Now I have an empty weekend ahead of me to digest and contemplate it all. I am looking forward to the reflection time. I'm going to explore a bit, take some photos, watch episodes of Weeds in bed, and clean my apartment. I'll be daydreaming about how to improve my instructional strategies, how to assess more for learning, how to strengthen my leadership skills and school contributions, and about what it would be like to teach a high school film course.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We are sinking!

So in my classroom we have a system where I say "Land A'hoy!" and raise my hand to my forehead in search of the horizon and all my students stop, look, and listen with their hands also raised to shade the imaginary sun from their view of an imaginary horizon in the distance. It is cute, it works well, and it reinforces our Explorer spirit.

They other day Explorer 11 suggested that we change the call to "Mayday, Mayday!" and the students all put their hands on their heads above a shocked and horrified open mouthed silent scream. For a few days this worked brilliantly and we were all happy with the new attention call. Until last Friday when Explorer 7 decided to tell a funny joke during our class community circle. It was a joke he had seen on YouTube and it made the entire class cry in laughter. This kid is a pretty fantastic joke teller. We were already sitting on the floor, but had we been standing up I am sure some of us would have fallen to our knees with uncontrollable exuberance.

Here's the joke,

So now when I say "Mayday! Mayday!" the class bursts into fits of laughter and a few of them yell, "We are sinking, we are sinking!"

I think we'll go back to "Land A'Hoy"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Do you hear what I hear?

They started playing Christmas carols today in the IFC mall.

I need to find an alternative route home.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

ZAiA

John and I went to Macau today. It takes one hour from Hong Kong on a high speed ferry. It is the gambling mecca of Asia, and very interesting place. We didn't have too much time for the regular touristy sights, but we managed to walk around and see a bit. At 4pm we went to see Cirque du Soleil's permanent show, Zaia, at the Venetian. Check out the show's website for more details.This was my first live Cirque performance, and even though people give this show mixed reviews and the theater was half empty, I thought it was spectacular. The Venetian is quite a spectacle itself. We strolled along the Grand Canal while people were being serenaded by gondoliers, we watched and played a little bit in the Casino, and we enjoyed a pint of Guinness, jumbo wings and some fuss ball.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Emergency First Responder

Today I became a certified Emergency First Responder, which is a certification course designed by PADI. It was a full day session, full of acting and scenario games. I did some marking in the afternoon and then met up with s couple friends for a birthday dinner celebration at a fancy little Italian place near my house. It was nice. Then I came home and planned a BIG surprise for tomorrow. You'll have to check back to find out what it is...

Friday, November 21, 2008

FLASH

Today was a busy Friday. Our class enjoyed a 1-hour presentation by author and screenwriter, Morris Gleitzman, who writes great books for young readers. I sent home my first term report cards at the end of the day and actually made one student cry and scream, with joy, at the best report card she has even gotten. That was nice. After school I attended an introductory session about working with and making Adobe Flash animations. It was interesting and fun. This is the very first thing I made. (You're allowed to laugh.)

video

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A foot traffic lesson

The streets and walkways of Hong Kong can be crazy. As you have seen in some of my pictures, and as you can imagine from other images of the city, there are a lot of people walking around at any given moment of the day. I get off the school bus every evening at the Ferry Terminals and I have a 20 minute trek home, through the International Finance Center, across a few foot bridges and building connectors, and then up the Mid-levels Escalator through the rush hour foot of Central Hong Kong. My feet don't touch a sidewalk and I don't cross a single street in that entire journey because I am one level above the streets the whole time. I am nicely removed from the vehicle traffic and yet, sometimes, it feels like I am a vehicle. I have learned the skill of crowd walking, and believe me, I didn't know how to do this very well when I first arrived. Now I maneuver through the crowd, keeping a safe pace, trying to stay on the correct side (which is hard here because people drive on the left, but have no definite walking side), aware of every little thing around me. Like the oblivious tourists taking pictures (stumbling straight across the steady flow with little awareness of how this all works, much like me when I first arrived), the arrogant head-down texters on their mobile devices with a 2 meter buffer of empty space around them as people carefully divert their paths, the iPod rhythm walkers, the slow old men, the uber-rushed business suits and the swarms of students in uniform who walk in tight groups of 10 or more. I noticed tonight as I walked home that I did a quick blind-spot check over my left shoulder as I made my way across and down the stairs at IFC. I had my iPod on (I am a rhythm walker) and it was so subtle, so natural, and yet so traffic-like.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning and Teaching Technologies at my School

Today I had a professional development day at my school. I was given the option of signing up for one of many technology sessions; I could choose from workshops on how to design and publish websites, skills for working with iMovie and iPhoto, making presentations with Keynote, making Enhanced Podcasts, etc. The list goes on and on. I chose Enhanced Podcasting.

So I spent the entire day totally engrossed in learning new skills and programs that I can use for lesson plans in my classroom, and even things to teach to my kids how to do themselves. Soooo fantastic! Best of all, I didn't have to go across the city or even to another country for this workshop - it was right here in my own school provided by the experts of the L.T.T. (learning and teaching technology) team.

So I made my very first Podcast! It's a public service announcement example to show my kids as we begin our new unit of inquiry - Waste Management. My students will use this example, along with my instruction (and fresh expertise) to create their own public service announcements.

SO MUCH FUN!

Monday, November 17, 2008

My new place

On Sunday, I made 9 trips in and out of my flat. First I took my laundry to the laundry place, which is about 6 blocks from my flat. You simply drop it off and pick it up in about 6 hours, or the next day. Then I went home and cleaned house for a few hours. Next I decided to go out and walk around the wet markets to take pictures and just explore. I bought some fruit and went home and had a fruit salad. A little while later I was bored again, and to avoid sitting down to edit my repost cards, I went out again. This time I found a plant vendor at the market and bargained for 3 medium sized, gorgeous house plants. Home again. Then right back out to find a place to buy potting soil and some ceramic pots. Home again with 4 lime green pots and 2 bags of soil. When I was potting the plants and deciding where they should live, I decided it was time to arrange my flat differently. Since the day I moved in, the furniture has been the way it was when the last tenant lived there. It is 500 small square feet, so there aren't exactly endless ways to rearrange the place. I only moved a few things, but it changed everything. All of a sudden it felt like my own space, a layout that I designed, and I love it. The plants are such a huge improvement to the space as well. Satisfied temporarily, I sat down to edit my reports. Next, I went out to get a few things a the grocery store. Home again. Bored, avoiding the stack of marking on the desk (which is now situated in the wonderful sunlit corner of 2 windows). Out again. I found another gorgeous lime green antique Chinese plant pot and bought it for $40 HKD ($6.50 CAD). Home again. Oopps, I forgot to get soy milk. Out to the grocery store again. Back home with 10 other items I didn't really need from the grocery store. Home for a bit, and then I remembered my laundry. Out again to pick it up and then home again to make dinner (thai red rice and veggies) and get that marking done. After my marking I went out for one last treat, my favorite, the frozen yogurt place 3 blocks away that serves tangy-sour frozen yogurt with your choice of toppings. I usually get walnuts and mocchi. Yum.

Ahhh, I sure am glad I chose to live in Central!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Saturday Hike with the Royal Geographical Society

Today I went on a prearranged hike with the RGS of HK to Tung Peng Chau Island, just kilometers from the coast of China. A teacher from school invited me because her husband was leading the excursion, and she thought I may enjoy the trip.


The day included 3+ hours on a ferry boat with spectacular views, a hike around the circumference of a beautiful, and historically significant, semi-deserted island, and an interesting lunch prepared by local villagers. We didn't get a chance to swim, although it would have been a perfect oasis for a quick dip.

You can find the RGS write-up here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Giant Small Child Eater

I have a very funny student who likes to stay after school with his best friend and sometimes one other friend. Together they make quite a comedy team. I teach them silly games, I let they draw on the white board, we play wicker ball challenge and dynamite balloon, or they make up wildly random games like marker-bat baseball.

Yesterday my class comedian tells me that he had a dream the night before that I was a giant cartoon who locked the three of them (who are all in my class) in the Simpson's garage. I told they had ten days to find a way out and then they had to make it to the airport to obtain freedom, otherwise I would eat them! On the ninth day one of then busted a hole in the garage wall with a giant hammer and they all began running towards the airport. I guess they only made it about half way before a giant me came crashing after them, snatched them up and ATE THEM! We all laughed a lot during his narrative recount of his dream, and now we make silly jokes about "Ms. Cahusac, the giant small child eater".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Views


Here is a shot of what I see every morning as I wait for the school bus to pick me up around 7am. This is a 10 minute walk from my flat.


And this is what I see every afternoon as I leave school to catch the 5:20 bus after a my workout in the school gym. This is a 20 second walk from my classroom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tram View

The looming deadline of first term report cards, and the entire high school staff gone off on exciting Experience Week trips, meant that last weekend was the first weekend since I moved to Hong Kong where I made no plans. I had no obligations, no invitations, no engagements. I was socially commitment free and I spent the entire weekend with myself. It was wonderful.

Having a few errands to run on both Saturday and Sunday, I opted to take the tram instead of the crowded and speedy MTR (mass transit railway). I love the tram. If you get a seat up top, the view is fabulous. Fabulous for taking pictures. You can look up and around and down and see things happening all around you. Hong Kong Tramways was founded in 1904. It is the world's largest fleet of double-decker tramcars (2 antique wood) still in operation, carrying an average of 240,000 passengers every day! The fare is 2 Hong Kong dollars (roughly $0.25 CAD), and the route follows the north shore of Hong Kong Island, East to West.

Here are a couple photographs I took from the tram.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mmmm Mochi

This past summer, I fell in love with Korean food, especially tteok, a glorious glutinous rice ball sometimes filled with sweet bean paste, or rolled in sesame, or studded with walnuts. I am pretty sure I have been searching for tteok my whole life, binging on refined sugar gummie bears in University, super-sweet morasitas in Colombia, and not to mention spurts of licorce addiction, sour keys, sour kids, real fruit gummies, goodies and the occasional dino-sours. I LOVE chewy sweets! And tteok is not only healthier, with a lot less sugar and even better chewiness, it is the best form of chewy I have ever tasted.

When I arrived in Hong Kong, I looked for tteok treats everywhere I went, and sadly couldn't find any. Packaging here can be indecipherable, pictures don't tend to sell me, and local bakeries had nothing resembling Korean tteok. But I was relentless. One day in a wet market I found a package of 4 softly-white glutinous balls, with a circumference comparable to a tennis ball, squished into a saran wrapped package. It was lightly dusted with powder on the outside (a good sign) and when I bit into it I was joyously surprised to find a sticky sesame and shredded coconut filling surrounded by familiar chewy tteok. This was amazing! But aside from that wonderful day in the market, I have not been able to track down a consistent supplier of tteok. How could this be? Hong Kong is the center of the Asian Universe, there had to be tteok somewhere.

And then about a 2 weeks ago I learned something that changed my Hong Kong life. Mochi. Yes, there is tteok here (of course), and it is everywhere, it is called Mochi. Now that I know what I am looking for, I find everywhere I go. In my cupboard, at the moment, you can find Japanese-style green tea mochi, black sesame mochi, red bean mochi and even peanut mochi.

Mmmmmmmmm mochi

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Building Materials

Hong Kong has surprised and intrigued me with its diversity of buildings. Last summer, as a prepared myself for a life here, looking at Google images of the skyline, and watching YouTube videos of the symphony of lights, I assumed that the city was made up, homogeneously, of shiny glass, skyscraper silver and twinkly lights. And while those elements exist, in abundance, so do grungy old apartment complexes, grandly deteriorating office buildings, dingy alleyways and endless amounts of bamboo scaffolding and green mesh. But the most amusing of all, for me, are the reflective surfaces that exist everywhere. At every height, of every colour, in every neighbourhood, and around every corner. In a city so dank with pollution, it seems fairy-tale-like at times, there are collages of squeaky clean mirrored surfaces all around me, bouncing images off one another, magnifying an illusion of depth and open space, and grabbing my attention out of my peripheral vision. I am captivated by them, and the art they compose, which changes each time I move the position of my own feet.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New city, new job, new blog, new style.

I must apologize for taking such a long hiatus from blogging. You'd be surprised to learn just how much I missed this form of expression in my life. The truth is, I just haven't been able to make time for it. Until now.

I have decided (since everything is so new in my life) to try a new blogging style. I am putting the long, well-thought-out, weekly or bi-weekly story telling on hold. And replacing it with short, in-the-moment, painfully accurate daily entires about my minute-to-minute life here.

As I am tempted to write more, it conflicts with my desire to keep these new blog posts succinct. So you (and I) will just have to wait until tomorrow. How's that for a hook :)