Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Catching Up

One country 
Four cities
Five People
Seven Trains
Numerous Buses
Daily Gelato from Miss K
2,138 photos to sort through and share

I will be sorting through the photos and sharing about our trip. 

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What we have been doing.

Walking, touring, and eating. Here are just a few photos. I have many more to share. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Learning to eat out

We are learning so learning some terms. Osteria basically means fresh pasta as well as a few other things. We ate at one last night and enjoyed delicious pasta. 

Today for lunch we went to a pizzeria. 

There are also ristorante and gelateria. Miss k has been looking forward to ice cream and she was excited to get after right, mint today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Asia Journey - Part 2

I know I began the story of the journey over a year ago and wrote Part 1. I was recently reminded that I didn't finish writing those memories so I will write part 2.

My blue and white fruit bowl from Thailand
For some reason this part of the journey has been the hardest to write. It could be that this was a difficult assignment. It might be that this is one of those times in life that I wonder, "what would have happened if. . ." I do want to write this just to have it as part of the story.

So after 10 months in Taiwan I was back in the US and working there. I was living with my parents as that was an easy place to go. I was making plans to move into an apartment. Then in May or June I was  asked if I would go to Thailand. There was a factory there that the company I worked for was helping to manage. It was an interesting arrangement -- American management, Chinese ownership, and Thai labor. That should give some clue to the challenges that were faced. I was asked to go and help with production management -- get the product produced and shipped.

In early July I flew to Thailand. Back in those days I mainly flew Northwest and their Asia hub was Narita. It was late afternoon when I landed there and then it was still a 5-6 hour flight to Bangkok. The flight landed there close to midnight. I remember walking outside and realizing it was hot, very hot there. I read that Thailand has two seasons hot and very hot. The food is also hot or very hot.

My job was scheduling production so that orders were shipped on time. It was a much different work experience for me. Three languages were used in the office -- Thai, Chinese, and English. You might have to look for a different translator depending who you wanted to talk to. Our offices were at the factory which was in a special area that was manufacturing to export. We had various checkpoints along the way.

I lived in a hotel now before you thing that was a glamorous life I should explain some things, the hotel was brand new which makes it sound wonderful but hot water didn't really exist and there was one restaurant and not much in the area. I really didn't spend much time there.

Our morning began with a planning meeting at 7:30. So in order to be there on time we had to leave at 6:30. There were two others working there and living in the hotel so we met for breakfast at 6:00. Don't bother ordering pancakes, they were always "out" of them. A driver would take us to the office. I would grab the fax that came from the US office (we didn't use email back in those days) and any others papers and head to the meeting. After the meeting, someone would take my lunch order -- fried rice either chicken or shrimp. Then it was a day of work--answering questions from the U.S., working to make sure we had raw materials, checking to make sure production didn't change what was scheduled, and numerous others things until we were all ready to leave around 6:00. Then the next question was where to eat dinner. We normally did that on the way home. There wasn't much time in the evening after dinner because I knew the alarm would be going off early on the morning.

Everyday was pretty much the same as the previous day except the rugs on the lift changed to tell us the day of the week. Saturdays were the same except we came home early around 4:00. Every other week we had Saturday off. I don't remember much of what we did. I remember one week we went and did all kinds of tourist things in Bangkok.

On Sundays we went downtown to an English speaking church. We rode with whoever had the van that week. We would often eat lunch and maybe do some shopping. We didn't go downtown during the week. That was back in the days when traffic was horrible. One night we had a dinner meeting at Neil's Steak House which was some of the best steak I have ever had. It took us four hours to get from the office to the restaurant and 20 minutes to get home.

Sometimes on our Saturday's off we would go to the weekend market. It was fun to wander and look at the blue and white dishes, the silver jewellery, and the fruit.

I celebrated a birthday while I was there and we went to Charley Brown's which is Mexican (interestedly I just googled and it is still there). Another favourite when we have lot of people was to go to the Seafood Market. I don't think I have ever experienced anything like it. First you go in and pick your seafood, veggies and fruit. You pay for that and then you go to a table and tell them how you want your food cooked. The garlic bread had about a quarter of an inch of garlic on it. It was yummy. There were other places that we ate at like Hard Rock, and some Italian places.

There were a number of other Americans there. There were three families and then three or four other individuals. I am thankful that there were others there and I keep in touch with a number of them (mainly because I lived in Taiwan with some of them).

For me the challenge was my life was like a long business trip. It seemed to be all work which is fine for a week or two but after months it is difficult. My parents knew it was challenging. They were supportive and praying and I think they let a friend of theirs know that it was tough for me. After almost six months, I quit. That is where some of the "what if's" come in. What if I hadn't quit? What if I had stayed?

I returned to the States thinking that I would never be back in Asia and began a new job, scheduling for a consulting company. It sounds like a great job but honestly all I remember is copying lots of procedure manuals and checking time sheets. It was based on a contract which was supposed to be in place for five years but 10 months after I began work the contract was terminated. That is not good for your job. I was looking for a new job.

While it was a difficult experience there was good that came from it. I had a feel for Thailand and would later travel there regularly. I had some great co-workers and keep in touch with many of them today. I am thankful for that time in my life.

I wish I had more photos to share but the ones I have are in storage and that was back in the pre-digital days.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Week in Review 12 June 2015

We still have a few more weeks of school. Part of that is we are following the local schedule and part of that is we took almost the whole month of October off because of traveling. It is nice to have flexibility in home school.

We are spending some time studying the History of Rome. This week was Roman Engineering. We talked about the Roman arch and the kids drew some pictures of the Roman arch. Then we tried to make an aqueduct. We didn't have blocks with arches. I found it interesting to learn how slight the slope was.

We made Roman Road. I used the instructions here as my inspiration. I had to substitute and experiment a bit.

We used Digestives in place of graham crackers. Then made Angel Delight and added some chocolate chips. We tried to put cream cheese on top but it just didn't spread. We couldn't find the frozen whipped topping so I used spray topping and that just isn't the same. We used tea fingers for the top. We talked about the different layers and had a fun snack when we were finished.

Miss K is waiting to try the road.

I thought math with Miss K was going better and then I asked her what 2 + 5 = and her answer was Brazil. I guess we need to keep working on math facts.

This is just a bit from our week.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

May in Review

I know it is June 9. I am blaming the delay in posting May in Review on jet lag. They say that you get 1 day for every time zone. That means today is the last day of jet lag. So what did I do in May? How did I do at working toward my goals?

Our outing in May was Hong Kong. The kids and I spent the morning at the museums. I do have a list of places here in England that I would like to visit so we will just need to start planning and go.

I didn't start and new projects so my unfinished project list is still at 9 unfinished projects. I need to get my sewing machine out and work on these projects. At least I have had self-control and have not begun any new projects.

Blogging in May hit a slump. I am not sure what caused that but it was probably my lowest month in a long time. Hopefully June will be better.

I am continuing to work on reducing the things in our house. I have found that my attitude and thinking is changing. I am learning to be content with what I have. I will write more about that. I didn't buy much in Hong Kong -- four pens, two sponges, and two post cards.

I have not knitted in a long time.

I have been working to finish not it will never be finished so maybe I should use the word catch-up on my scrapbooking. I just have to finish Switzerland and then it is time to order more photos.

I have a number of other little projects that need to be done -- end of the year school reports, cleaning, and other things. I need to be diligent and intentional to get those things done.

I think I will go begin my June in Review now so I will be ahead and hopefully not be too late.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Week in Review 5 June - Jet lag, finishing the year

This was a week of travel and as a result jet lag. I don't think jet lag was as bad as it could have been. The long night flight was not a full plane and the flight attendants did a great job of moving people around so people had room to stretch out and try to sleep. I did get some sleep on that flight.

Once we got home the kids were looking on the map tracing our flights. The kids added two new layover countries on this trip. We have a list of countries visited and countries with a layover. Miss K has been to 11 countries and J to 10. They have the same number of transit countries 7.

I have posted photos and bits about our Hong Kong trip.

Wednesday morning we were up early and back to school. Up early because we were still a bit jet lagged and also the sun comes up early at this time of year, 4:40am and sets at 9:30pm. We are enjoying our long days and remembering that when you have long days in the summer you also have short days in the winter.

Our morning line-up of hot drinks to help us through the morning -- coffee, tea with milk, and hot chocolate. We all have mugs that we love and use.

We are finishing up some of our books. We have just a few more lessons of history. We have been reading Famous Men of Rome some of the days and learning bits about ancient Rome.

We finished geography and so we will take a break until we begin our new year which might be August.

We also have a few subjects that we will be doing all summer and even then I am not sure we will finish before the new school year. It is a balancing act on my part to push and not to push but allow them to work at their own pace.

I need to work on the year end review. I have been keeping my records but I just need to pull things together for that review.

That about wraps up our week.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hong Kong Food

One of the fun things about traveling is eating and enjoying the local food. We had a long list of restaurants and foods that we wanted to eat while we were here.

There is a saying about Cantonese food - "Cantonese will eat anything in the sky but airplanes, anything in the sea but submarines and anything with four legs but the table." I will say that Cantonese cooking is a unique style of Chinese food.

Take away is popular. It is an easy lunch or dinner. Two of the days we were there my husband was in meetings. The kids and I were on our own for those days. I saw a  place near the hotel that had take away so I thought I would try it. The sign for take away was in English so I knew what they had. This was next to a restaurant so you can sit down or have take away.

I ordered a duck, pork, and chicken. It was white rice, meat, and green vegetable. My duck did not taste like duck but it was delicious. Dinner for the three of us for HKD69 or under $9 or £6 - That is a cheap dinner.

The next day we went swimming in the pool and decided to get take away again. We ordered the same thing pork, duck, and chicken. This time we got pork, duck, and chicken so what we had gotten the night before was not pro, duck, and chicken.

On Friday we decided to go there again for lunch -- there weren't many options near the hotel. I really wanted what I had the first time. Since I had taken a photo of my meal. I took my camera and asked them what that meat was and told them that was what I wanted. Yes, it can be good to take photos of your food. It had a Chinese name and was a type of pork.

Adventures in take away. Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you get something better than what you wanted. Sometimes you have no clue what you got.

One of the places on our list was Crystal Jade which is traditional Cantonese cooking. J had wonderful memories of eating the wonton soup and so that was on his list of things to get. I think he ate the whole bowl. He loves Chinese noodles -- breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Once you place your order, they put a list on your table and as they bring the dish, it is crossed off the list. This is typical for most Cantonese restaurants.

Fried bread threads - it really does have bread threads inside. This was not something that we had in Taiwan but I remember eating it China and it is often on my list of things to eat. You do eat it with chopsticks and if you want you can dip it in condensed milk.

Dumplings - I love dumplings. I used to get a box of 10 dumplings for $1 and call it lunch. These dumplings are delicious.

Sweet and sour chicken is one of J's favourites. I think he has eaten that all through our trips to China.   I have to say that it was good here with lots of fresh peppers and pineapple.

Xiao Long Bao or as we refer to them in English, Soup Dumplings. They are called that because there is a bit broth  in the dumplings so you need to be careful when you bite it.

That was our dinner at Crystal Jade with a few other things. The dumplings are some of the best that we have found in Hong Kong. I will say that we went at the same time as everyone else and so we did have to wait but the wait was worth it.

Dim Sum is traditional Cantonese cooking. I think the traditional restaurants are large rooms full of people sitting at round tables and ladies walking through with the dim sum on the cart. You just order and get it from the cart. The room is nosy with the sound of chopsticks clicking and tea cups rattling. Eating dim sum in Hong Kong is part of the culture and experience.

We had dim sum three times while we were there and each time we had some of the same dishes and some different dishes.

Char Siew Bao or Pork Barbecue Buns - the meat has a barbecue sauce on it and the dumpling is not thin but light and fluffy. We had some at Crystal Jade and when we had dim sum. I think J ate about three of them which isn't that many but when you consider you get a steamer of three that is eating all of them.

Har Gow or shrimp dumplings were in this steamer. Shrimp wrapped with a thin wrapper that is a bit sticky and chewy. Miss K says, "shrimp, my favourite." She would eat a whole steamer of these but we do ask her to share except for J who does not like shrimp.

Turnip cake - this is made with daikon which is a radish but looks like a big white carrot so sometimes this is called carrot cake. The daikon is mixed with dried shrimp and pork sausage steamed and then pan fried. It does fall apart a bit so it requires some chopstick skills. This is one of my favourites.

These were the barbecue pork inside a bun. The filling is the same as char siew bao. They are good but I prefer the steamed ones.

Some spring rolls - there can be various fillings. There were three on the plate but someone couldn't wait and had one.

Sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf - This reminds me a bit of the sticky rice from Dragon Boat Festival.

It can have mushrooms or chicken in side.

During this trip we like I mentioned we had dim sum three different times and this is just s sample of what we ate. Some of the other things we had were custard buns which are sweet, chicken feet which J ate, and meatballs. We really enjoyed all the Chinese food we ate during our trip. Most of these are things that I don't make at home though I do make pork dumplings.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Museum Morning in Hong Kong

Most museums in Hong Kong are free on Wednesdays. That means you save the admission but you might have to deal with a few more people there. There were more museums than we had time for on Wednesday.

Knowing that I planned our museum visits for Wednesday. The plan was to meet some friends at the Science Museum. The museums tend to open around 10:00. We had planned to meet at 11:00 we arrived early and had about an hour before meeting our friends. Since the Museum of History is next to the Science Museum we went there.

It was Wednesday and so it was a bit crowded mainly with a school group that was arriving at 10:00. As the school groups were starting at the beginning, we skipped all that (it is just natural environment and pre-history). We have been here before so I knew that the parts we really like are further through the museum. We like the Folk Culture and the British History sections so we skipped to those areas.

The Lion Dance is at traditional Chinese New Year. When we lived in Hong Kong there was a place near our house where they did the dance.

This is from the section of the cession of Hong Kong.

I thought it was interesting to see the red post box in a museum. We see these all the time on the streets here. In Hong Kong now the post boxes are green and purple.

There was a whole area of the museum that was like an old street with shops -- tailor, bank, tea shop, grocery, pawn shop. I like all the tea lined up ready for customers.

There is a bit on the Japanese occupation. J watched a short film on that. This is from after the war and shows a flat. It was smaller than our living room. I will say that the flats are a bit bigger than that now but not that large.

Here is a sweet shop. I love the sweets in the jars. I remember growing up there was a general store nearby and they sold candy from jars.

We spent an hour in the History museum which is not much time at all. There is so much there you could spend a few hours there but since our plan was to go to the Science Museum we headed over there.

It was free. The first floor was a bit crowded but we just went up a few floors and enjoyed having our own place to explore. The bubbles was a fun area.

Miss K worked to make some big bubbles.

She did it.

I think this was her favourite thing up there. She kept playing with it and the lady watching the area would come over and help her.

The Science Museum has four floors and a wide variety of activities. We laughed through the hall of mirrors, reviewed some of the body science we have studied, learned how some food is made including soy sauce (that was a short movie).

We spent about two hours there again hitting our favourites. I think we were getting hungry and that was one of the reasons we left.

One difference I have found between the museums in Hong Kong and a number of the museums in England is that in England there is a place to eat a packed lunch. I guess in Hong Kong they assume you will just go out to eat and that is what we did. We went out for dim sum. Kylie ate about 9 shrimp cheong fen and J was brave and tried chicken's feet.

The museums are a fun way to spend a morning. There are a number of museums in Hong Kong.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hong Kong

My first visit to Hong Kong was in 1991. It was a trip to get my visa renewed. I don't remember a lot of what I did but I remember wandering Ocean Terminal and going to Toys R Us, walking around the Star Ferry. I learned that trip that the hotel rooms in Hong Kong are small. I remember my room being very small.

I think McDonald's has been at this location since that first time I visited. A number of other shops along the way have changed but as best as I remember McDonald's has been there. It is down in the basement though now they have a small kiosk selling ice cream and drinks.

The Star Ferry has been crossing Victoria Harbour since the late 1800's. It is one of the cheapest ways to get across.

This is looking from Hong Kong Island towards Kowloon. You can see the clock tower which is where the train station was on the Kowloon-Caton Railway (KCR). It used to be that all the tall buildings were on Hong Kong Island and that was because the airport was in Kowloon.

Flying into the old airport was an experience. It was ranked one of the 6th most dangerous airports in the world. The pilot was flying between the tall buildings on Hong Kong Island and the mountains and the only runway jutted out in the Victoria Harbour. You were flying close to the buildings, looking in and .  The old airport was crowded but it was in the city. I flew in and out of that airport the last week that it was open. In 1998 they opened the new airport on Chep Lap Kok. I arrived the night that it opened and they had not gotten all the systems worked out so it took about 2 days to get my luggage.

Hong Kong is filled with high-rise buildings either the office buildings for flats. We lived in village housing and the 1st floor which is the 2nd floor. I do not like heights and I don't think we could have lived in a high-rise.

After that first visit in 1992, I was back in the 1995 as manufacturing had begun to switch to southern China and we used Hong Kong as our entry. Most of those trips I stayed in Kowloon as it was easy to get on the KCR and go to the border. I remember one of those trips we had to cancel our trip to China because a #10 Typhoon had come through and the rail was not running. That was the only time I have seen Nathan Road quiet. I don't think I ever thought I would life there but that is what we did for 2.5 years.

Hong Kong is full of small shops. One of my favourite shops is the stationary shops. They sell all kinds of pens, paper, and various office supplies as well as a few toys and other things. you really don't know what you can find there.

In addition to all the little shops found around the city there are shopping malls selling fashion, make-up, and various expensive things.

It has been almost 18 years since the hand-over. Hong Kong has been a mix of British and Chinese but I think the British influence is slowly fading. This bridge just has a Chinese look to it.

It is common to hang your laundry out the window on a pole. Very few people has an electric dryer.

As I was walking around, I saw these clothing just hanging on the rails at the sidewalk. Someone just hung there clothing out to dry or maybe to air out.

Hong Kong is full of memories for me -- shopping at Stanley, visiting Starbucks when there were just five there, friends that I have met there or visited the city with. I am thankful that the kids and I were able to tag along for one last trip.

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