Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday meal and movie night

As Craig chose to work from home today, Natalie and I did the school pick-up this afternoon then escaped to the shops leaving all three children with my competent husband. We had a fantastic time wandering around the gigantic shopping centre before we decided to make the most of our free time and go to the movies. As Natalie has been reading the bestselling book "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger, we decided to watch this together. It has an improbable plot about a man with a rare genetic disorder that sends him hurtling through time whenever he is under stress, yet he still manages to have a meaningful relationship with the main female character at various stages in her life. We left the movie agreeing that the cast was good and the script was bad. It was a lot of fluff, but at least we could watch the fluff together.
After the movie, Natalie persuaded me to join her for a meal at Ruby Tuesday which is a popular restaurant in the States and other places including Honduras where she lived previously.

After our entree, I enjoyed a main meal of Parmesan shrimp pasta. Natalie had steak and chicken fajitas. We shared a brownie sundae. AND IT WAS ALL DELICIOUS!

I think we were home by 11 pm, but I'm not sure. We were having too much fun to worry about the time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Letter for Jemilla

Jemilla was so happy to find a letter waiting for her after school.

It was from her friend Joelle in Perth.

So what does the letter say, Jemilla?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our first visitor!

It has been such an exciting day as we welcomed our first visitor to our home in Hong Kong. As most of you know, I grew up in West Africa where I attended a boarding school in the Ivory Coast. One of my dearest friends from high school, Natalie Sudborough, lives and works in Xi'an, China. You can read more about the school where she currently teaches here: We have kept in contact over the years and when Natalie mentioned her school holiday period was approaching I was so thrilled when she suggested spending a week with us in Hong Kong. This is a photo of our Year Twelve class. Natalie is in the centre, and I am on the left side in a hat.

This is Jemilla's welcome poster for "Aunty Natalie".

Not to be outdone, Keegan also drew a welcome picture. In his drawing, each of the children is saying her name, and Natalie is saying "I like the Harvey kids."

I am cherishing every hour I can spend chatting with Natalie about our lives, past and present.

Tirzah took a while to warm to Natalie but was soon showing off for her.

Craig and Keegan enjoyed a game of Foosball this afternoon. I'm not too sure who scored this goal, however.

Natalie brought a suitcase full of special presents from China, including this gorgeous box of mooncakes for our family. You may remember that I mentioned them here when writing about the Mid-Autumn Festival.

I am holding a mooncake and on my wrist is a lovely dark jade bracelet, courtesy of Natalie.

Some mooncakes are savoury but this was a very sweet one with nut and egg flavouring. This was our first opportunity to try one.

Keegan received this frog instrument from Natalie.

Tirzah got some toys and a colourful hat from Natalie too.

Natalie chose some lovely little chairs, people and a tea set for Jemilla...a perfect present!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Word for the day: SHROFF

Signs for shroff are posted in many shopping centres here in Hong Kong. The word itself sounds like you have a bad case of phlegm. I have never come across it in Australia, so perhaps it is a British word. As far as I can tell, shroff refers to a cashier's office in a car park or shopping centre. However, it's not in my dictionary, so if you find out the meaning please let me know.

Craig's day yesterday

Yesterday was a fascinating day. Gail helped to organise an on-site meeting for me with Headmaster Ben Norton at International Christian School. It was gob-smacking really to see the facilities that they have. Check out the indoor pool with electronic timers on page 16 of this publication. halls, IT coming out your ears....even five large flat screen TVs donated by SONY spread around....a few very big benefactors (including one Buddhist?) writing huge cheques...Several hundred million HK$ later they have a new school. It was interesting for me to hear how they and quite a number of independent schools even issue Corporate Debentures (eg ICS issues them for HK$1M) in return for a guaranteed enrolment space!

With the HK govt still very nervous about Swine Flu, all school visitors have their temperature taken with equipment that looks like a portable speed radar gun from a police car. The data is then recorded by security at the front entrance.

Besides all the flash stuff, it was encouraging to hear first-hand how a Christian school to them is more than just a name in the school title. It's been surprising (and sad) to visit Baptist Colleges (a post-secondary one today) which are very secular... nothing Christ-centred, focused, or even mentioned by them in anything you see, or in the staff you talk to. It makes me wonder what triggered them to go wrong and lose their Christian foundation and what I can do to change that.

It was also very interesting to hear Ben share the process (challenges) that ICS went through in adopting a modified Carver model of their Board also follows the norm here where they are self-appointing and not formally accountable to broader stakeholders in the same way as all my previous school Boards have public AGM and very vague annual financial reports.......etc.

On a personal note, Ben also shared with me today of a new special education program that ICS is piloting / starting up for students with moderate disabilities. They are currently applying to the HK Education Bureau regarding their proposed fees. (You need permission/approval from the HK Govt on even your fee levels!) I haven't studied anti-discrimination laws here yet but understand it's very legal to charge students who need more support higher fees. ICS are interviewing teachers right now and they expressed an interest in seeing Renee's CV. Going off the way God has blessed us to date I wouldn't be surprised to see Renee get the job. It's right up her alley and really the only type of teaching job she's interested in. To cap it off, it's in a Christian school!

Since visiting ICS, my big picture plans for Small World have been stretched. I guess I also have a greater acceptance of the price of education here, even with cheap staff. I have been discovering many interesting things like the law here which says school fees can only be billed monthly in advance. HK has a very simple personal tax system (including something like a $150,000 annual deduction for a dependant spouse and $100,000 for each child!) yet a very complicated bureaucracy in Government agencies who don't communicate with each other very well.

I'm checking out what school (Accounting, HR and School Administration) software other HK schools use. Surprisingly to date, most of them just use simple in-house Access databases / Excel spreadsheets! There seems to be a lot of room in the industry to roll out software and consulting up here!

I also spent the afternoon being a 'very green' tour guide for Charles Ebden (SCEA CFO) and his wife. They were in HK for today only on a stop over on a seven-day cruise.

It was great to catch up with them and share some experiences with them like catching a train in our beautifully clean stations...

An almost empty train, a very rare experience here in Hong Kong.

From memory, Australian train stations do not offer free internet access...yet...

The next few shots were taken with Charles and Anne as we toured the central area of HK island and up from The Peak which overlooks the CBD and Kowloon.

Here's an interesting business venture that I haven't seen elsewhere yet.

It's an umbrella dispensing machine. For only $11AUD, you can pick your favourite colour of the rainbow and don't even need the right change, just swipe your Octopus Card.

After saying good bye to Charles and Anne it was time to go home and here's a few shots on the way (3 different trains - maximum waiting time between connections - 2 minutes) .

This is a "normal" train...packed quite full...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Language and customs

I thought you may be interested in Jemilla and Keegan's Mandarin classes. This is the text book they are using.

"Chinese Made Easy for Kids adopts a new approach to teach Chinese as a second / foreign language. It is designed for primary school students who just started to learn Chinese as total beginners. After completing this series, learners will be able to write about 100 simple Chinese characters from memory, recognize over 500 Chinese characters, and be able to develop listening and speaking skills from an early age."

The focus of this series is:
Basic knowledge of pinyin
Basic knowledge of strokes and stroke order of characters
Listening and speaking skills
A lively and free learning atmosphere of Chinese language learning through rhymes, pictures and story telling
Tasks and activities designed for this age group
Up-to-date topics relevant to primary school students

Topics included in this series:
Classroom language
Personal introduction
Numbers & dates
Countries & languages
Occupations & work places
Modes of transport
Colors & clothing
Daily routines
School subjects & facilities
Parts of the body & illness
Everyday articles
Articles in the house
House & rooms

The first page teaches numbers 1-5. Thankfully the workbook comes with a CD to listen to because I know I'm unable to help them with this homework!

Keegan said that he heard a story in class about a man called Hou Yi.

According to Chinese mythology, a long time ago the sky had ten suns. During one summer, the ten suns shone so brightly that all the plants and rivers dried up. Life became unbearable for the Emperor and his subjects. The Emperor called on the great archer Hou Yi who could reportedly hit any target with perfect precision. The Emperor commanded Hou Yi to shoot down all but one of the ten suns from the sky. Taking nine magic arrows to his bow, the archer pulled back with all his might and shot down nine of the ten suns. The summer returned to normal and the Emperor’s people were safe once again.

Because of Hou Yi's deed, archery has always been highly regarded in China.

You can see here how Keegan has been practicing the Chinese character for moon.

Next week is a special holiday in Hong Kong called "Mid-Autumn Festival". Sometimes called the "Moon Festival" or "Harvest Festival" it is one of the most important Chinese celebrations of the year. It is a cultural tradition for friends and family members reunite for the holiday. We have seen mooncakes for sale in all the shops and decorative lanterns hung in public places. (See pictures below).

Keegan also sang this song to me about four lanterns and four mooncakes.

A few more pics of our apartment and neighbourhood

This is the lovely pool we can enjoy anytime at Forest Hill.

I took this photo of Craig and the kids looking through a curtain of water that marks the entrance to the pool.

This is our favourite bakery. The staff don't speak a word of English, so we just point to what we want.

As the signs are all in Chinese as well, we never quite know what the pastry items will have inside them. They are always fresh, however, and so delicious!

Tirzah's new toddler bed arrived yesterday. I think she is still getting the hang of where to sleep on it. So much for the guard rail!

I forgot to include a photo of the main entrance to our apartment. These are two tiny rooms; on the left is Tirzah's bedroom, and the room on the right will be an office for Craig.

Isn't this a great feature? We take off our shoes as soon as we come in the door and hide them away in "the secret panel".

This supermarket is about two blocks from our apartment. It's smaller than your average IGA, but stocks most of the necessities.

The shopping centre at Tai Po is not wheelchair or pram friendly, as you can see by the sign.