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Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States

Sep 18, 2010

Video updates and some pictures

It was a big deal when dad finally said yes the kids could get ice cream from the truck. They have asked every time we have passed one since we first arrived in HK.

We bought a pass to Disney this day, Hopefully we visit enough to make it worth it. This trip was fun, Jane got to ride the teacups with Alice ( her favorite character) Elliot was picked out during the Stitch Experience and talked to by Stitch

Plover Cover- Tai Mei Tuk

Plover Cove from outypants on Vimeo.


Disney 2 from outypants on Vimeo.

Sep 6, 2010


I have had at least one kid home with me everyday since September 29 2003.
This year we decided to send the kids to an International School here in Tai Po called
NIS. It stands for Norwegian International School.
There are various reasons I am not home schooling anymore. I enjoy choosing what the kids are taught, I love being right there when they learn something new and the flexibility it provides.

I might one day do it again, but I know for now this is the right decision.

7:45 we get on our estate shuttle bus and drive 4 minutes to MTR. We take the train one stop to Tai Po Market, walk about 12 minutes to Elliot's campus. 8:30 Jane gets on a school bus that takes her across town to the primary campus.

The Kindergarten campus sits on top of a good size hill and is called the Bungalow. It was built before WWII and has belonged to various people and used for military purposes at one point. The cannon seen in the photograph is a real one.

These first days of school in Hong Kong does not allow for sweaters and new warm leggings to be worn. Temps are still in the high 80's early 90's and extremely humid. I have found myself ready for the A/C and a nap, by the time I get to the top of the hill at the Bungalow.

The First Day
Jane's campus is just across the bridge behind our place, so we walked that first morning. On the way, we saw a girl we met the day before at registration who was in Jane's class. 
 In order to get Elliot to his school on time, I had to leave Jane almost immediately, I was worried she might not want me to go so soon, but when she saw her new friends were playing on the soccer field she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and ran off.

We arrive at Elliot's campus.
8:45 the teacher rings a hand held bell and children began lining up ready to go inside. Elliot had this dazed look about him as he was being herded and told where to go. I follow the kids inside, helping brother get his shoes off and slippers on, they don't wear their outside shoes at the Bungalow. Kids are putting backpacks away, taking out lunches, a lot of commotion is going on and the teacher gets the kids into the classroom and closes the door.
When I had said goodbye, I was unsure Elliot heard me as he didn't reply. Now I am faced with the situation did he really understand I was leaving? Should I go into the classroom so I can give him a hug and kiss?
I took into consideration he is 5 not 2 and decided entering the classroom would be more disruptive then helpful.  Then I left. At first I was a little sad thinking my children could have made some fuss about me going, but over all my kids being content and not sad, kept my emotions even.

The crying that happened that day was when I picked Elliot up early, so we could get Jane. He was upset he had to leave before it was time to go because he wanted to play with a toy.

My First day of school experience
I felt dazed. I imagine I must have had a similar expression on my face as Elliot did that morning. Here I was among these crowds going along, shops and street markets not really sure what to do.
The kids got placed in a structured day, being told where to go, when to eat, time to clean up. I felt I now needed someone to tell me what to do. OK Sarah time to clean, stop and go get lunch, now you need to grocery shop etc.
My 9-5 day for 7 years revolved around creating structure, and education for someone else, and I found myself at a loss where to begin this for myself.

Observations and reflections of a day without kids
No more McDonalds- I can eat spicy ramen, sushi, kimchi and rice for lunch. I can also choose to eat lunch at 11 or 2pm.
Sounds of Silence
Even when kids are in the house sleeping, you know they are there. It is a different quiet from an empty house.
I go back to the flat and sometimes I listen to an audio drama, or a radio program, and sometimes I choose to have no background noise and enjoy the silence.
Did I forget something?
In HK we travel by foot, bus or train, as a result I am in a habit of taking a hand, always looking back, and being aware in general of the kids location. Their absence from my day to day is new to me, but my mother instincts are still heightened.
I go to grab to a hand that is not there, or look back and no kid
The funniest one to me is when I panic for a second after hopping off the train- thinking I left one of them behind.
I know this feeling will go away soon.

It is a new journey, a process and I will have to ease myself into a week that I can call fruitful and meaningful.

Suzhou the final post.

Shanghi / Suzhou from outypants on Vimeo.

It was so interesting to see how people still live alongside the canals. This boat ride was more of a sampan style not a gondola.

Suzhou is known for pearls and silk. Shops had these on display, you could also choose oysters kept in tanks.

Our dinner at the Japanese restaurant. The adults enjoyed the kids 'brain box" game. The object is to memorize the photo, then you are asked questions about what you saw. It was a great party game. The cards had Chinese and English written on it, so everyone could take turns reading and guessing.
Lisa ( in the green) came to the U.S a couple of years ago along with Candy and Jesse. I remember her daughter was going to school to be a doctor and I asked her -in Chinese- about it her.
How nice it was to communicate something without help.

it isn't uncommon to see 3- 4 people on a scooter. I cringed at all the kids I saw riding without helmets.
Is that Fred Macmurray on that scooter?

Elliot and Queenie playing paper scissors rock at the Sichuan restaurant.
Scooters are a major mode of transportation in Suzhou. Crossing the street or walking on the side walk can be a bit scary with the kids. Some scooter drivers zip through lights and they tend to travel wherever people can walk.

This is potty training in China.

Sep 2, 2010


The Bund

The one full day we had in Shanghai it was 40 degrees C (104˚ F). Visiting during the World's fair ( Expo) and not attending may sound like a waste, but we had been warned of the conditions and decided against it. Waiting 1-3 hours in line to visit a pavilion is hard as adults, but with kids it is almost near impossible. The heat alone I think would have changed our minds if the crowds did not.

I felt I needed one picture commemorating the expo even though we didn't go.

The Maglev

The Magnetic levitation train reaches speed of 300 KMH.

It isn't China without the occasional strangely grotesque statue and a sign in English not quite right.

People lined up to view the skyline along the Bund.
Shanghai has about 20 million people residing in it. It felt like 20 million people to me almost every where we went. We are use to people asking for the kids pictures either posing with them or just of them, but to be asked as an entire family was new for us, I kept thinking who really wants a picture of me with my face red and hot and my sweaty hair pulled back?

Sep 1, 2010

Tiger Hill Suzhou (part two)

No visit to Suzhou should exclude the famous Tiger Hill. According to the Historical Records, the Wu King Helu was buried on the hill, called then "the Hill Emerging from the Sea". The legend goes that three days after his burial a white tiger appeared squatting on the hill. Hence the name.

Although we are prone to take crooked photos this is not bad photography. The Yunan pagoda is actually leaning. It is older than the other famous leaning landmark in Pisa.

Doing my best to keep it up.

Jane got to lower a bucket into the well to get out water.

They were featuring a bonsai exhibit in the gardens. The most impressive bonsai I have ever seen.

I feel I should insert something witty about Mr. Miyagi here but since he was fictional and Japanese I won't.

We visited Tiger Hill with Jesse, another person who use to work with Nathan, his daughter (English name) Wendy and his mom.

Jesse took us to a local place. The crushed cigarette and dirt under out table did cause me to worry. No one was in a hurry to clean it up, probably because the place was packed and no one else seem to mind. It is just a different standard over there especially in regards to public smoking and what is acceptable. The dishes and chopsticks were clean so I decided to put aside my "western" way of standards and ate my food.

Elliot posing with his chili paste that did not make its way onto any of his food.

The dumplings in broth were delicious, even the kids ate them up. I believe pronounced (dwo tee in)