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Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States

May 23, 2011

The Peninsula Tea - Almarie's Birthday

My friend Almarie recently celebrated her birthday, I heard the number 29 and I won't argue that number in this post. Almarie leaves Hong Kong in June. On her list of things to do was high tea at
The Peninsula hotel Graciously she invited NIS moms and other related friends to join her in celebrating the big day in style. We gladly accepted the chance to dress up, and have time to get together without the kids. I bravely wore my heels, unheard of for me in HK. The walking, steps and endless concrete have kept me in flats for 2 years. It was nice to have a chance to put them on and be a little taller for a few hours.

The evening began by dropping the kids off at Constellation Cove clubhouse~natural alliteration, how fun to say that~ with babysitters and dinner provided, we could enjoy our afternoon/evening out in peace.
Jane and Hannah ( Almarie's oldest daughter) sang an impromptu Happy Birthday song to her.

Sally kindly drove us from Constellation Cove to Kowloon. It was fun to pull up next to The Rolls-Royce, Peninsula standard issue vehicles as the valet opened the door and ushered us out, it added to the excitement of the event.

The paparazzi shot of Tanya

The Peninsula no longer has a view on the harbor as a result of land reclamation but it is still arguably the most prestigious Hotel in Hong Kong. The website and everyone will tell you that you cannot reserve a table for high tea, yet Tanya with her Aussie charm managed to get a reservation so we did not have stand in a line.

Sally, Birthday girl, Linda and Abe

The sandwiches were delicious, The desserts, especially the raspberry filled tarts were splendid.
The cost $498HKD for the "tea for two" We stretched 3 of the tea for two among 8 of us and we had plenty.

Kendra arrived before us and held the table.

Afterwards we walked upstairs, and took a look around. It seemed there was a small restaurant, bar or cafe tucked away in one corner or another. The Swiss restaurant was decorated, woodwork included, like a chalet in the alps. The bathroom has an attendant that hands you a cloth towel.
Lillian, Sally, Almarie, Abe, me and Tanya back at CC

The wonderful women Almarie gathered together, made it a great time, and I am thankful to have been part of her special day shared with friends.

May 1, 2011


We made the trip to the "Land Down Under" during the kids Easter break from school. Consequently that song would not leave my head the entire time. We had come to the conclusion that visiting Australia while living in Hong Kong would be easier than while living in the States. The time difference is only 2 hours and the plane ride if you go direct is about 9 hours.

We chose Brisbane for our destination. One of our main reasons for choosing Brisbane was that we knew people who lived there. We met The Hooper family Stephen, Jenny, Owen and Toby here in Hong Kong. We were disappointed when we found out they had planned their vacation to visit their families in the UK at the same time as we were coming to Brisbane. The Hoopers generously offered us not only their house as a place to stay but the use of their car!
One of the possible side effects of raising kids in HK is the sterile environment, concrete paths and cushioned playgrounds. Kids don't often get opportunities to be barefoot, get their hands dirty etc. We spend a good amount of our time hiking and out in nature here in Hong Kong and still the kids were hesitant to be barefoot and play freely in the back yard. Geckos were to be seen everywhere and the trampoline was a hit.

Nathan took to driving on the "wrong" side of the road very quickly. He did often turn on the windshield wiper when he meant to turn on the blinker, but as it rained on and off while we were there it worked out most of the time. With the help of the GPS system we managed to get around quite well. The kids were quoting the GPS all week.
The voice was a loud, deep throaty-what we called -Australian pirate voice. " Come Along Ginger turn right, pip pip! "

Corinda is a suburb of Brisbane and we were about a 8 minute walk from the train station. We only took the train one day, the cost is not quite as economical as the Hong Kong MTR so we didn't use it very much.
This bridge, we were told by a local, actually has people live in it. It is government housing and there is a waiting list to get a spot. He remembered a classmate living there and said it was really loud.

our trip was over Easter Holiday and the Australian Holiday of ANZAC. Australian and New Zealand army corp. I think it is safe to compare it to the US Memorial day. What we thought was really patriotic and interesting was that service men and women from young and old wore their uniforms. They got to ride free on the train that day. The ANZAC parade features different military units. There weren't floats or clowns, just people marching, or in vehicles. We purchased Aussie flags and waved them as the people passed. Unlike living in China we could blend into Australia - until we opened our mouths of course.

Thankfully the other family that we knew lived in Brisbane were around during our trip.
Our friends the De La Portes are leaders at the YWAM base in Brisbane and have been in Australia over a decade. I met Darcie when we were teenagers at an outreach that was for all Michigan Youth. We have stayed in touch ever since. Gary and Darcie showed us all around and took time from their schedules to be with us, it helped make the time really fun and special.

A visit to Australia would not be complete without seeing the kangaroos and koalas. We visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which provided us with an opportunity to feed kangaroos, and other farm animals. Jane named the goat she fed cuddles. We also saw a tasmanian devil and a platypus.

We drove up to the Glass House mountains and while there we spotted a wallaby with a joey. To see one in the wild was exciting. The baby kept popping out of the pouch.
Jane commented," I thought they had pockets they kept the babies in, not holes." It is true the drawings and animation of kangaroos all depict a pocket like front part for the babies and it doesn't quite look the same in person.

A beautiful drive to Springbrook National Park and the Natural Bridge led us to the cave that is home to glow worms They look like tiny LED lights, It was loud because it was so close to the waterfall.

The maritime museum featured the boat of Jessica Watson the youngest person to sail around the world

We had a BBQ at the YWAM base where we tried Kangaroo. Jane tried it as well. I thought it was really good and would have it again.

There was so much more to see and do. The rain or threat of rain kept us away from the coast. We needed more time and better weather. It was a really beautiful country and it was a nice break to be in a place where everyone speaks your language, well relatively. I would like to go back to visit the Great Barrier Reef and to actually spot the Southern Cross in the sky. We didn't really attempt to find it until our last night.

highlights of the trip from the kids..
Jane--seeing the Wallaby in the wild- having a TV in the house

Elliot- feeding the Kangaroos- having a TV in the house.

Mom- The wallaby, and when the De La Portes took us out for "Devonshire tea" there was a kookaburra (pictured above) that sneaked a fry from the table next to us. He amused everybody walking around having this big fry sideways in his beak.