Saturday, December 11, 2010

So, come on and take a free ride! (Mid-November post)

The guys and I hit the roads again and decided to experience a little bit of Hong Kong Football Association action against Paraguay. Due to the fact that I am an American and football (soccer) is not in leagues or easily accessible to see in the states they thought I should go to at least one live game. The excitement and anticipation was great as we took our taxi across town and the rush of needing to get there on time. Well incase you are unaware... Hong Kong's team is not that great and evidently the people of Hong Kong think the same! We made it to the arena right on time and expected when we climbed the steps to look down into the stadium that it would be full, okay at least half-full. To our surprise there was maybe a hundred people in the stands, note that the arena holds several THOUSAND! We sat in our student section seats and got ready for the match. We thought that just maybe people would be showing up later due to the traffic, yeah right. This was the attendance all game!

We were able to watch Santa Cruz from Paraguay play though and see the many goals that he assisted and/or made. Benne, Damien, and I all thought we would at least buy a team jersey so we went looking. The price for one was the same price of an official team jersey of a national team not a league team. So we passed up that idea very quickly. Overall, the experience was great and the game had some exciting parts. Is it a bad thing that we cheered and yelled for Paraguay when we live in Hong Kong? Guess what... the final score was 0-7, PARAGUAY!!!

I had a nice little adventure of taking a "free ride" during my experience here in Hong Kong. I will not disclose names or ownership of the car involved, but I may have found a pair of keys to a Mercedes and took it on a test drive to the Peak... I mean the keys were basically saying "take me, drive the car." I have to obey when a pair of keys start talking right!?! So I got in the car and adjusted everything for me, but something was not right... oh yeah I was in the driver's seat which is on the RIGHT SIDE OF THE CAR!!! I took a deep breath and put the car in reverse and then in drive. I was on my way up the Peak. I had forgotten that police patrol that area pretty well at night and I was quickly reminded when I say a car following me and on passing me. I took a deep breath again and just kept driving up the spirally mountain. I made it to the top and I have to say I drive pretty well on that side of the car and road. One more thing that can be checked off on the "things to do in life list."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Joana, ( du geile Sau )

So an American (me), Englishman (Damien), and two Germans (Beni and Johannes) walk into Oktoberfest in Hong Kong... did I mention it was also Halloween night? The guys and I headed out to this celebration of traditional German food and music. The band, Die Notenhobler, played some great instrumental German songs while we enjoyed the "bretzel" and German sausages with sweet mustard and sauerkraut. The atmosphere was amazing with the Hong Kong skyline behind us. We decided to buy some animal masks for the occasion since it was Halloween after all and stopped by 7/11 for our Snickers since we could not go trick-or-treating.

The food was absolutely delightful and it was a great atmosphere to get away from the busyness of Hong Kong. The event was five and a half hours of food, beverages, and great music! Beni and I got to know some of the band members do to them being from the same area as him. They played a wide range of music from traditional German songs to western songs such as "Sweet Caroline," "Country Road," and "Amarillo." Our all time favorite song of the night was a German song called "Joana." It is a great way to continue the spirit of the party that is for sure! Our great new friend Uve and Alexandra allowed us backstage for a bit and exchanged numbers for us to come back a second time for FREE! Of course we took the offer and enjoyed it just as much the second time.

I am still helping with the youth group at KIBC and love every Sunday when I see their smiling faces. It is really an inspiration to see that age group starting to absolutely LOVE God and what He has for their lives. My friend Sam and I went over to share a little American football with the kiddos one Saturday after watching a movie in Brit and El's private cinema. The kid's wanted to play tackle so bad but we just couldn't allow that since it was co-ed. It was funny to attempt to explain the rules and then watch them change them mid-play of the game. We played in a doggie park that is in the middle of the horse reacing track. It was great to get away and finally sit on a grassy area!
A favorite place of mine and the other Americans is a place called Soho. It is a great place that offers many great restaurants from all different walks of life. Well there is this fabulous frozen yogurt place there that reminds me of the youtube video "Boys will be girls." They talk about the "pink berry" and while I was in there the guy behind the counter is actually from Cali and he asked if my friend had ever tried the pink berry. He replied and said he had no idea what it was... well if you have seen this video you would get the humor of my comment to both of them, "it's totes the best hun-cal." This place also had swings hanging from  the ceiling to sit on and enjoy your fro-yo!

Huncker Down! (blog post for mid-October)

Over the past twenty-one years of living on the great Gulf Coast of Mexico I have seen my share of tropical storms and hurricanes. The memories of windows rattling and the sounds of winds screaming by while trees are being ever so slightly tossed from their roots and plunged through you personal property. Generally 48 hours before a level three or higher you are issued a mandatory evacuation and have to pack up and leave. Well here in Hong Kong things a little but different... We have had several Typhoon 1 and 3 signals hoisted which is equivalent to a tropical storm but close to the end of October Typhoon Megi screamed through the Philippines causing damage and was headed straight for Hong Kong. This storm was categorized as a super typhoon with winds making it a category 4 hurricane.

Here in Hong Kong you have no where to evacuate to and you do not do the usual boarding up of your home. You simply move up it the water rises and stay away from the windows. I asked my hall tutor what to do if it hits us directly. His was response was calm and simple, "Well if the windows shatter in one room you just move to the next." That was so comforting to hear... NOT! Thank goodness the power lines are under ground so the chances of us losing power is not very high. Fortunately, at the last second Megi turned before she had time to plow through Hong Kong as the largest typhoon in over the past ten years. We did experience the casual tropical storm weather as the winds picked up, making it a perfect day to go running.

Classes are beginning to pick up with presentations and such. I have this one professor who has his doctorate but seems very timid in the classroom. He usually begins and ends every sentence with "okay..." The lecture stills here in Hong Kong are very different from those back home. The professors here really like to "spoon feed" the students with exactly what they want on exams and papers. Don't get me wrong, this is nice but aren't we in college? Also, it is very common for students not to worry about printing out powerpoint slides or notes because every teacher provides them for you. I am still trying to get used to the whole mid-term and final exam idea ONLY. However, I can't wait to get back to those amazing nursing exams (coughing with sarcasm.)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Run Forrest... RUUUNNNNN

It seems like in life we are always running here to there, never having enough time at each place. I have officially been in Hong Kong now for two whole months and the time has flown by and it seems like the time just dissipates. It is amazing to me that we have all these plans and they are well organized, well it seems that way at the time anyways, and they are never done the way we wanted them to. However, we enjoy the end result and at times we realize that "oh, that was just luck" but most importantly we finally realize "oh, thank you God for making that happen according to YOUR plan." At the end of the day our plans vanish anyways and the day would have gone by so much better if it was according to His plan. I have learned day-by-day here that God's grace is always enough, above anything else. I have noticed that I have changed little by little as the weeks go by. I feel that I am more understanding to other peoples thoughts and God's presence around me. I have excelled greatly, in my eyes, in physical activity and forming a healthier lifestyle. It is amazing what a new heart beat after almost 15 years of being diagnosed with a heart disease and a heart set on fire for God will do for you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I have joined the Judo club on campus and go every Tuesday and Thursday. We have learned the techniques of falling in different positions to protect our head and body cavity. The bruises are a sign of not weakness but that I am doing it right! The soreness is a great pain and knowing that I am learning how to defend myself and others in a "peaceful" manner makes it all worth it. When I showed up for the first class a month ago, the instructor, Abby, was sizing me for my uniform. My body structure is wider and I am a little bit more round than all the other students. She told me that I was not large, I was very strong! I had to laugh at that comment! Master I, our head instructor, encourages me every class to continue to come back due to my progress. The instructors speak English very well so it is easy to communicate what I am feeling and the questions I have can be answered so that I can understand them. The classes are instructed in Cantonese but Abby is allowed to sit next to me and tell me in English. My friend JoAnna has joined the class with me and so we are able to work around the same pace. Our instructors want us to have a belt test before we leave for the semester, but we shall see how that works out. This past week we began to learn the basic throws. There are pictures and videos of this that Abby took but we will get them at the end of the semester. I felt sorry for the guy I was partnered up with because it was not a great day to begin with and I was chosen to throw him first. I did not do it with much force but it took me and him by surprise that is for sure! Abby gasped when he hit the mat and I freaked out a little due to me never really hitting someone or throwing them. I apologized, naturally, and Abby told me not to apologize because I did it perfectly! Of course the next couple of times was not perfect, but I am getting the concept down.

My great friends (Sam, Liam, and Sarah) have kept encouraging me to go to the gym every other day and sometimes everyday to workout. I can not express how much better I feel in general after I exercise. It is like a new rush of energy that I have never had before! When I left home I weighed about 210 lbs and I am currently at 195 lbs. Partially it is due to the lack of butter, fats, and FRIED food in my diet but for the most part it is the running three miles every time I go to the gym. It is super crazy to me to think that I had heart surgery one year and five months ago. Ironically I marked the occasion by signing up for a 10K "fun run." Now when I was signing up for this and talking to Liam and Sarah, I was thinking... what in the world is FUN about running 6.2 miles? I went ahead and signed up for it and let em tell you... it was one of the most rewarding things in my life to turn that form in and know that I was even going to attempt this run with great friends and God at my side. This past Friday was the race. Since October is breast cancer awareness month and I am a firm believer in supporting this cause I decided to run in honor of the ones that I have lost and those that have survived. I partially did it as well for my heart and those that suffer and have suffered from heart complications. As I was gearing up for the run I figured out my comfortable pace and organized a playlist with songs that had a similar rhythm. The Monday before I went to the track to see how long it would take to do 16 laps. Let's just say that it was not an enjoyable run and I felt really nervous for Friday. I finished the laps in 55 minutes. The race was 25 laps... I did a mini run on Tuesday and rested for Wednesday and Thursday. The meals here really lack a reasonable amount of meat and vegetables. I have been feeling a little weak due to this so Sarah and I decided to venture out Wednesday night and found the Outback Steakhouse on the harbor. FYI, I absolutely LOVE the bread and butter there so I usually eat two loafs by myself! We definitely ate way too much but it was well worth it. We had an Awesome Blossom, bread and butter, two sides, a salad, and a steak. At that moment in time I thought that I had found Heaven! All day Thursday I stretched and drank lots and lots of water with fruits and raw veggies. Friday I was nervous and continued to walk around to get my mind off of things. It reminded me of when I was in high school and I was about to go on the stage for One Act Play and perform my heart out. Six o'clock arrived very quickly as we met at the track. There was between 60 and 70 runners. A larger portion was on the school's track team so we all knew that we would easily be lapped. We had an awesome support team that showed up with banners, water, signs, juice, and cold, wet rags. I loved that the Americans were the only ones that had people there to cheer them on and help when the times got tough. They took over a table that was on the side and placed it next to the track and set up camp. The amazing support group was made up of Cassy, Turner, Erika, Stephanie, and Meghan. All of the officials for the race wanted a group picture with our little "team" and was very excited about international students participating. The past couple of days were hot and very humid. We were afraid that it would be the same for the race but fortunately God had other plans and it was cool and breezy right before the race started. I was VERY thankful for that. When the gun went off I reminded myself to begin slow and pace myself. I stayed focused and listened to my jams and sometimes I danced as I was running, that's just who I am! I had a timer that was assigned to my awesome number 17. Every time I would pass he would give me the thumbs-up and say, "you are doing good #17 only __ laps to go!" The laps went by quickly, surprisingly, and I did not have any trouble breathing or pains. Liam finished before all of us and he generously waited until I met up with him and he began to run with me to talk and encourage. I had six more laps to go and he was going to stay with me for four of them. As we ran we said Bible verses back and forth that sought for endurance and strength. Those four laps went by very fast and my ankles began to ache. I told Liam that I wanted to just walk the last couple because I had time... of course the powerhouse that he is discouraged that and told me I HAD to run until the very end. Then it was just me and the last two laps to go... I wanted to give and just walk so bad but of course the song that would play on my iPod at that time was Dare You To Move by Switchfoot. I picked up the pace and pushed and pushed and pushed my legs farther and farther. On last lap to go and I just gave it everything that I had. I felt like I was was going super fast but I am sure if you were watching from the sidelines I was barely moving! All the time keepers and my friends were screaming and cheering as I approached that finish line and when I crossed it there was no better feeling. I could not believe that after only running for a little over a month in my life I had just completed a 10K in one hour and four minutes! One of the BEST feelings EVER!!!

After the "fun run" I had to hurry back to my room and change for the Zhou Hall High Table Dinner. This formal dinner was for my residence hall and the guest speaker was from the Hong Kong legislature. The week prior to the event I went out with my Hall Tutor, Elliot, for a new suit. He brought me to this place where they will tailor one for you and it only cost me $50 USD! I was in shock that it was so cheap and such great quality. The older, Chinese man was very nice and just smiled the entire time he was measuring me. Anyways, so I had to hurry and take a shower and change... if you are from southeast Texas you can relate with me for a second. It is not that easy to be in a hurry and change into a suit, shoes, and tie with a high humidity factor. I was already an hour and a half late but they insisted that I still come. I made it and the four course meal was all laid out at my seat, cold of course. It was so good though after a long run! I had the lobster and shrimp bisque, smoked salmon salad, salmon with cream sauce and mixed veggies, and New York style cheesecake (well their idea of NY cheesecake...) I had a personal interpreter for the meal and she was very patient and very well spoken. Our guest speaker spoke of how she went through the steps to gain her degree, become a lawyer, progress in politics, being appointed to the HK legislature, and now serve as the leader of the Civic party. She encouraged our generation to strive for our dreams and when the possible seems impossible, YOU are the best one to motivate YOURSELF! Now of course I was one of three non-local students int he entire room. They had a question and answer section and after the first student asked a question and the guest answered, the MC (what I thought) asked if anyone else would like to ask a question. I immediately shot up my hand and people began to clap and photographers were snapping photos as the microphone was passed to me. I was confused as to why all this excitement but I quickly learned that the MC had not asked for another student to ask a question but for someone to answer the guest speaker's question for an autographed copy of her book. I turned a bright shade of red and slowly sank into my seat. The guest speaker rose and told me that it was okay to have misunderstood and that I would surely be the next one to ask her a question... So it came time for the Westerner to ask his question, "Do you feel that your motivation from yourself was fed by others support?" She answered my question in English and began to tell her support first from God and how her CATHOLIC faith has helped her be the person she is today. Okay, this shocked me sooo much! There are not many local or Mainland people that are Catholic that I have found. Then she went on about her beliefs and her family support. After the guest left we took many pictures with friends from our hall and then returned to our floors and ordered McDonalds FOR DELIVERY!!! Great night with  local friends for sure!

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Unfortunately, here in Hong Kong there are not many holidays celebrated during this semester to have classes off. My luck, the two holidays that are celebrated are on a Thursday and then the next week on a Friday. The bummer part is I do not have classes on Thursdays or Fridays! However, since I do have Thursdays off that means I will be making some dishes for Thanksgiving and wont have to skip class. Everything is going great over here and the weather is getting cooler and cooler. I was hoping for a typhoon to hit but they kept going around us. The closest we got was a T-3 signal and it was just winds and rain. Hong Kong still holding true to the climate and weather of southeast Texas with warm temperatures and high humidity. Later in the month it is supposed to feel much better in the lower 70's. Classes are going great; I just finished with mid-terms, the only tests so far. I am learning more and more how to speak conversational Cantonese but it is difficult for me due to the much easier structure to the sentences. I still want to put correct grammar and sentence structure and the professor keeps telling me "no, don't worry." I am still excising every other day with my American friends, Liam, Sam, and Sarah. They have been great supporters and showing me how to work-out and huge encouragements every time we go to the gym. It is great to have a support system! Since September 1st I have been working out and have lost around 15 pounds. I have also joined a Judo class that meets twice a week, and let me tell you that my sides hurt! I was able to talk my friend Johanna to join me; she is from Texas as well. I still cannot believe that I am able to do all of this for not being able to for so long. God is amazing and heals with time and this is living proof of His mercy and love! I am also helping out with the youth group for KIBC with Ellison. The kids are fantastic and it is great to watch them grow in their spiritual journey. I had mom send me some silly bands since it seems to only really be in the States although they are made in China... but then again what isn't. I had a great time with some other Americans in the search for MEXICAN food! We found a place here called Soho that reminds me of New Orleans or Austin that has multiple restaurants that offer a wide variety of foods. To get to Soho you must take the world's longest escalator. It is pretty neat to take but after all it's just moving stairs... The Mexican food was from a place called Tequila's; with a name like that it had to be good! Malcolm, Johanna, and I had a blast but were a bit disappointed that the chips and salsa was not free refills.  

The first holiday that I experienced was the Mid-Autumn Festival. This holiday is widely celebrated with paper lanterns and moon cakes.The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos under the moon together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as: carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns. The night before the holiday, my floor mates and the girls from the seventh floor joined and made moon cakes similar to the snowey moon cakes. The traditional moon cakes taste chalky to me and just are not appetizing. That seems to be the overall verdict among many of my local friends and they prefer the snowey ones as well. The snowey moon cakes are frozen and are made differently. They remind me more of ice cream sandwiches. My friend, Protein, was nice enough to buy some snowey moon cakes for me after our art class; the snowey brand is more expensive than the traditional. The Tsang family invited me over for the family dinner that is held for the holiday. We ate many traditional dishes and had a great time laughing and having fellowship. When I arrived back to campus later that night my floor tutor and a few of my local friends invited me out for some traditional Mid-autumn festivities. We walked to the local super market and purchased some juice and more snowey moon cakes. We meet up with some of the girls that we made moon cakes the night before out at the public park to burn the lanterns and play some local card games. As we set outside, several of the flying lanterns went over us.

The next week we celebrated National Day for mainland China. The Peoples Republic of China flags are seen flown all over the place and there is a celebration of fireworks at the harbor. I was invited by my German friends to go to the harbor to watch the show that night. I tried to explain that it was going to be very packed since I had experienced New Year's Eve the previous year. However, they insisted that we try to get seats at the harbor. We ventured out there and there were so many mainlanders there. We decided to grab dinner there at the McDonalds by the ferry. I have never in my entire life thought that you would have to have crowd control for a Mickey-Ds! Well my friends, we waited about fifteen minutes outside before we were let inside. Once inside, I could not believe the lines of people! We spent about forty-five minutes to get a dang double cheeseburger meal!!! We then left and walked across the street to fight the crowd to find a good spot to sit. Of course there was no such spot so we settled for an area that we could partially see the view and sit in an area that no one would fall or trample us. We waited for about an hour and a half there until the show began. Overall, the fireworks were great and well organized. I personally think that the New Year's Eve performance was much better.

I am still walking my friend's dogs from time to time and love being able to play with them! He had a business trip to Mainland and I was able to house sit again. When you have a kitchen that is available to you all you want to do is cook those delicious meals form back home! The only problem is that it can get expensive buying all the ingredients. I chose to cook our family's recipe for chicken and dumplings. Of course I made the dumplings from scratch! I also had to use our family's two favorite ingredients... butter and creme! I had several of my French friends over as well as Cassy and Turner. After three bowls, I had to push the pot away from myself. There is nothing compared to home cooking that is for sure! I am a little saddened that I will not be home to cook with Aunt Mackie and Candi as usual but that means I will just have to make some of those dishes over here.

I went with the university group, at the church I help with the youth group, on a boat trip to an island. I wished that I had my fishing pole with me! The beaches here are guarded by shark nets to reduce the shark attacks. Yes, there have been several shark attacks in the past couple of years! I was a "life saver," as they called it, for the group. The water was so salty but the temperature was AMAZING! It felt so nice to jump off of a boat and swim to shore. We had a great lunch that was catered on the boat; there was chicken and REAL salad. I missed the green leafy vegetables so much. The chocolate cake was really good as well... I had to have several pieces. The views of the water and islands were very pretty and the sunset was amazing as usual. I still cannot believe that I am on the other side of the world!