Monday, August 16, 2010

End of the Summer.. And Back to School!

The view from our home in Hong Kong (lining up not exact but close)

We had momentus last few weeks in Hong Kong after our Australian vacation and before school started: We continued our exploration of Hong Kong with daily outings. We visited many things; bicycling in the New Territories along Tai Po Waterfront, walking along The Peak, visiting the Jade, Fish, Bird and Flower markets, going ice skating at Dragon Center, going to Ocean Park (similar to Sea World), visiting the zoo and botanical gardens as well as Macau, Sai Kung
Town and Hap Mum Bay Beach, we went paddle boating at the TaiTam Reservoir and visited the Space, Maritime and Science Museums.

Also before school started, we took a cruise to go see the endangered Pink Dolphins, and visited a few more museums such as the History, Heritage and Coastal Defense Museums, The Mai Po Wetlands and Inspiration Lake Park. More exploring of Causeway Bay, and finally finding the bus back to Repulse Bay (!): we can now come and go taxi-free. Pretty busy schedule!

Our visit to the bird market was fascinating: thousands of birds in all colors and sizes, parrots speaking every language. Birds are the most popular pet in HK and we decided to join the crowd and got Finch and Sparrow, a couple of Gouldian Finches, also known as Rainbow finches. They are delightful and their song is soft and beautiful. But oops.. a couple of weeks after their arrival to our home, Sparrow was found on the bottom of the cage in eternal sleep.. So no more propagation possibilities. Finch now sings solo.

School finally started September 6th. Grant is happy, making new friends and really enjoying the bus. He got to know several boys in the building who take the bus with him which is great fun.. They are the "cool" older boys who have somehow appropriated the back of the bus. His teacher, Madame Texier, is sweet and efficient. She loves the kids, is very patient and just lots of fun, although Grant says she is now starting to get much stricter! Go Maitresse!!

Audrey also is happy at school; likes her classes and teachers. She is really enjoying Secondaire: lots of freedom, flexible schedule, changing classes and teachers and being treated much more independently. She shows great responsibility, gets things done without being reminded. I see independence growing in more ways than one, not all positive but all in all, excellent! She has made a few friends and enormously enjoys our neighbor Colleen, whom she gets along with perfectly. They had a lemonade/brownie stand this weekend at the playground which was a huge success! "Part" of the proceeds are to go to Unicef.. The rest, to the "Bird's Nest" their private/members only hideout in the service elevator bay.

The house is settled, all is in place and we are very comfortable. Our helper, Carning, has been a GREAT addition to our family (no kidding...) My worries were unfounded. The kids love her and the dogs are super spoiled. Steve is getting into potentially unhealthy habits (if he expects the same treatment at our return to the States, then it's potentially lethal!) and I have more free time than I have ever had. So I am back at the gym with a new trainer, a Swedish guy named Nike that looks like a refrigerator, and I have found a new Pilates instructor as well. I am enrolled in Mahjong classes once a week and Mandarin Classes another day. The classes are called "Survival Chinese": you have no idea how accurate that is! I have joined both the French and the American Women's Associations and will go on hikes and Discovery walks around HK. I have also decided to pursue better knowledge and understanding of photography which I really enjoy while getting to know HK better with the Photography group of one of the organizations. Life in Asia is really nice for expats. I am spoiled. No thoughts of work for now... We'll see if I get tired of this life of leisure!

Steve's work was crazy in August, with travel to the US and Mexico for a month to complete a 7 year old case. He came home, unsurprisingly, sick, tired, gaunt and overall in pretty bad shape. It took us a good week to get him back on his feet and to a normal outlook. Things are looking up with no more extensive travels and him being able to concentrate on the task at hand here in HK, where he really likes the energy, enthusiasm, proffessionalism and ambiance of the place. It is not easy starting something from the ground up, but if anyone can do it, Steve is THE man! So, we have full confidence in his success. I am just hoping it doesn't happen to quickly.. We are enjoying living here very much!

The kids are now involved in boating, sailing once a week each on different days, which is possibly the most convenient and easily accessible sport here. We can actually walk to the Sailing Club from home and they sail right in the bay in front of our building. The bay is beautiful, they are so lucky to have this opportunity. They both show promise, apparently - I can't follow them on the water - and were tagged for the racing team if they continue to train and improve. Very exciting.

Other sports are in place: Audrey plays soccer for HKIS and made the "D" grade team which is the select team that plays in local and international tournaments around the area. She is the only non HKIS student on the team which was picked out of all the players of the League, a selection of 16 girls out of 95. We are pretty proud. Practices twice weekly with games/tournaments on WE. Lots of soccer. But she is excited, so that is good. Aren't you proud of me Kim?

Grant is involved with the local Little League which is ran differently than in the US with teams of boys in the minors from 7 to 11 years old and therefore "kid pitch" and full on rules followed. Looks like he is being trained to be both pitcher and catcher - catcher being his favorite position and pitcher because the coach thinks he has a good arm. Practices Saturdays with games on Sundays against the local teams: Japanese little league, Korean little league, etc. Very interesting set-up, nice families, great coaches, lots of fun. He also continues his TaeKwonDo.

Both kids are set with their music teachers: Grant with Lieke who comes home to teach him piano and Audrey with Henry who she sees on Saturdays, and the French International School Orchestra for Wednesday afternoon practices - no school Wednesday afternoons in the French system.

French is improving DRAMATICALLY daily for both kids in total immersion, while Mandarin is coming along: Audrey has 6 hours per week at school while Grant is in the Wednesday afternoon program. So all in all, everyone is healthy, happy and BUSY!!!

Next up, a trip to Singapore next week for a long weekend, then the last week of October in Shanghai where I hope to connect with Valerie and Sarah, and the first week of November in Beijing to visit the Great Wall, celebrate Grant's birthday and the Fall Break!

Please keep in touch, we miss our Atlanta friends. Take care and back to you in October!

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