Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seoul, South Korea

Craig has also been doing professional development but in a more exotic location... Seoul, South Korea! He left on Wednesday and returned early this morning.

ICEC Asia (International Christian Educators Conference) is held every two years, and this time it was hosted by Dr Joseph Kim and Central Christian Academy (CCA). 

This is the lower of their two main buildings on campus.

There were many highlights at the conference, many great addresses were given, but it was particularly special to hear Dr. Wess Stafford. He is the President of Compassion International and Alumni of International Christian Academy, Renee's former boarding school in West Africa. Craig also enjoyed the testimony of Dr. Billy Kim, who during the Korean War as a non-English speaking village boy was taken under the wing of an empathetic American soldier. He went to the USA to study and has been instrumental in seeing Christian ministries in South Korea (including Christian schools) planted and flourish.

Away from the conference, one of the noticeable differences from Seoul to Hong Kong is the view from the hotel window. The buildings are noticeably shorter in Seoul.

Craig thinks the road traffic is also worse in Korea than Hong Kong, due no doubt to less public transport and a wider spread population.

Craig had the pleasure of reuniting with four colleagues from Pacific Hills Christian School during the conference and enjoyed several restaurant meals and lengthy conversations with them.

From the back left - Paul Campey, Stephen Fyson, Dr. Ted Boyce and David Bartlett (seated)

Back to the conference, a lower cost alternative for breakfasts each day was the US$5 buffet at the school's cafeteria.  With the diverse menu options on offer, each course had an English label/sign.  This one reminded Craig of confusion in translations. It should read, "plain yoghurt".

Craig and a colleague from Hong Kong, John Lok, spent yesterday afternoon exploring the centre of Seoul.

Another noticeable difference to Hong Kong is the lack of ticket turnstiles on the train lines. At the entrance and exits of the station platforms is just the following sign: "We Trust You! Only paid customers past this point".

Transport on Seoul's subway system does require a ticket to enter the platform. Having to wait ten minutes  in a congested ticket booth area made Craig thankful again for Hong Kong's great Octopus Card system.

Another noticeable difference  on the Korean subway was the wider carriage, higher ceiling, and very long handles that swing and sway from above when no one is holding onto them.

This square-shaped KFC hamburger bun got Craig's attention.

Korea has a system where once you reach your destination, you put your ticket in a machine and get a refund of fifty cents.

Craig felt like he was on the Amazing Race again...trying to store his bulky luggage near the subway station, dealing with an electronic machine in another language, facing -1 degree temperature conditions, trying to finish off some family shopping, having limited local currency, exploring as many parts of the city as possible, finding a transport option to the airport, and getting their in time.

Just like The Amazing Race (except Craig didn't notice any camera crews following them) a kind lady  suggested (via non-verbal communication only) they go somewhere close by that did have adequate luggage storage. It's possible she was a savvy sales agent as she escorted them to a three level store on a side street with storage facilities, an expensive cosmetic department on the ground floor, men's and ladies wear on the second floor, and a Korean restaurant on the third. After their luggage was secure, John and Craig were ready for a warm meal on a such a freezing cold day. They could have eaten like locals on the floor...

...but instead, John and Craig found seats with legs on the far side of the restaurant  and enjoyed a Korean meal together.

After filling their stomachs, they headed outside to the many blocks of retail shops to find some souvenirs.

It seemed like 90% of the shops in the city streets were either restaurants, electrical goods, or adult winter clothing...none of which they needed.While waiting for their airport bus, Craig noticed this modified road bike And is that a miner's helmet?

Craig finally returned home after midnight, so the kids had to wait until morning to see their presents.

And I was thrilled with my white chocolate.

Perhaps you heard the news reports on Tuesday night that things weren't looking very good in Seoul. North Korea shelled a community just over the border (only 80kms from Seoul), leaving four people dead. The press reported that hundreds of shells were fired and the two countries were on the brink of physical war in the most hostile action since the 1950's.
No government agencies posted travel warnings, nor were any flights cancelled, and the conference went ahead as planned. Thank you, God, that no further hostility has taken place and Craig has returned home to us safely.


In the last month I have attended three professional development workshops. I enjoyed all three, but it means that I have spent less time with the family.

“What is Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and its Application in Home and School Settings” presented by Dr. Ronald Leaf

"Assistive Technology for Children with Special Needs" by Paul Hamilton

"Sexuality and Developmental Disabilities" by Dr Tracee Parker

Friday, November 26, 2010

Out shopping

Today I went looking for a Mickey Mouse cake tin for Tirzah's upcoming birthday. Upon advisement from colleagues at work, I went to Shanghai Street (aka "Kitchen Street") in Yau Ma Tei. I'm pleased to report that I found just what I needed in this store.

A few blocks away I came across this cat guarding a selection of kitchen knives. She/he looks like our old cat's twin!

Sheree, what do you think? Bronte's a bit fatter and fluffier from memory, but otherwise they look very similar.

Then I spied this secondhand book stall which reminded me of my father who used to scour used book sections of the market in Africa for elusive Enid Blyton or Biggles titles in English.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I haven't really thought much about Thanksgiving since boarding school days when we celebrated the occasion with atypical dining hall food. However, this year the children and I are very thankful to be at an American school where we get two and a half days holiday because of Thanksgiving!

Pirate party

Ahoy there, me hearties!

Monday was the party of Keegan's friend Jakob. Celine took the children  for me and snapped the following photos too, so I could see all the fun they had.

Jakob's Dad showed all the prospective pirates a secret treasure map.

Then it was a race upstairs to find the hidden treasure.

A pot of golden lollies!

Pirate party food time...

Jemilla and Keegan especially loved the pirate birthday cake!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amazing Race

After wandering the streets of Wan Chai to find this Mr Bean look-alike car, Team Harvey received their next clue.

A Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. In this Detour, teams had to choose between "Fabric Swatches" or "Fabric Botches". 

Hong Kong’s reputation as a shopping mecca is well deserved. The sheer number of swanky malls and designer boutiques and souvenir markets could make a shopaholic’s head spin. The two tasks in this leg of the race reflect the shopping variety in this fashion capital.

Team Harvey elected to do the task "Fabric Swatches" which required them to travel by MTR to Central in the heart of Hong Kong and find 4/F, 79 Queens Street, the location of an inexpensive suit-making shop.

Here, men can select the suit fabric they want, then they are measured up for their new business suit to be picked up as early as that afternoon.

Team Harvey were shocked at how busy the little shop least thirty people crammed into the little space all vying for the tailors' attentions.

The task involved searching through this mountain of swatch books to find a fabric sample with a specific number. After skimming over twenty books, Team Harvey decided the task was taking too long and decided to try the other challenge.

"Fabric botches" required navigating the busy streets of Mong Kok to find this location: Fa Yuen Market.

Team Harvey had to find this particular shop, packed wall-to-floor with daggy vintage clothing, to find the ugliest item in store.

The job was much bad taste in one setting! 

Not ugly enough..

. Nah...that's not it...

Getting closer....

Aha! I think we have a winner! Team Harvey receive their next clue.

They travel by bus to this art store in Stanley, a peninsula on the southeastern side of Hong Kong Island.

There Team Harvey search through rooms of prints and paintings to find four colourful artworks by Ian Scott Anderson depicting Hong Kong architecture.

From there it was a race to Forest Hill in Tai Po, the Pit Stop for this leg of the race.