Monday, March 24, 2008

Cover Boy

While I have spent more time on reading with the kids than grooming them, we are now branching into modeling of all things. Luckily, the grooming is pretty much done on site. The kids have been approached here for modeling a couple of times and we recently followed through in signing them up with an agency. The attraction for the kids in this is first, doing something new and, second, getting free toys. Unfortunately, after our first foray into modeling, neither of the assumptions was fulfilled. The photo shoot was remarkably similar to a dreaded day at Portrait People or any mall photography shop. And the toy was not offered.

Last week, the modeling agency contacted me regarding Adam. His presence was requested at a photo shoot for toy packaging to be marketed in the US. After spending a week stuck inside due to the Hong Kong wide flu situation (more on that to follow), we were happy for the opportunity to go anywhere, even to an industrial packaging warehouse. The whole thing was actually fun (for me) and reminded me of visiting factories in Ukraine with my old job. The similarities were remarkable even down to the elevator experience. In Ukraine, I was often stuck and scared in faulty elevators. Here, two kids got in an elevator that immediately took off with Royce and I still in the lobby. As Tori and Adam did not which floor (out of 50 floors) we were going to, it was a bit scary re-connecting with them but we did it.

At the assignment, Adam did a great job posing with the toy and following the directions as best he could. He played with a toy and smiled in the right direction for over an hour. During his 5 minute break, he showed dedication and stayed on the set, playing with the toy, primarily as he did not want his sisters to have a chance with it. At one point during the assignment, he looked up at me and waved. He really had no idea what he was doing but he was proud of doing it. After all this, I thought the kids might notice toy packaging a little more. But no, that is not the case. Phil and I are the only ones admiring the kids on the toy-cereal-toothpaste boxes more these days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Matilda Hospital

Recently we found ourselves, with zero desire, some place entirely new. With Royce in pain and suffering through a high fever, she was admitted to Matilda Hospital last Friday night. Chest x-rays immediately confirmed our doctor’s suspicion that she had pneumonia, a secondary bacterial infection. As our doctor sketched out the most probably option- a week in the hospital- Tori and Adam dissolved into tears. We accepted the situation, checked into our private room, tried to call Phil, got an IV started and immediately felt better. We give Dr. Thondup all credit for catching this infection and medicating it effectively. We have known him over a year and always liked him but now love him. He is a pretty relaxed man. I called him the wrong name for over a year and he never corrected me. When I finally corrected myself, he said whatever, I knew you were talking to me. I just heard a rumor that he a first cousin to the Dali Lama. Regardless, he has been a blessing to our family this week.

Royce’s hospital is a small beautiful institution on top of Mount Kellet, very near the Peak, an old aristocratic neighborhood in Hong Kong and the highest point on the island. The hospital has wonderful views on all sides of the South China Sea, particularly the Lamma Channel with all of its shipping traffic. As we were full time at the hospital for 4 days and nights and then out patients for a couple more days, we learned the hospital is 100 years old. It was established by Granville Sharp in honor of his wife Matilda Lincoln, both residents of the colony from 1858 onwards. The hospital has survived financial crisis, World War II (the director of the hospital died in the Stanley prison camp during the war) and typhoons. Its directive was to promote the happiness of the patient rather than the glory of medicine. We can definitely say that the hospital is succeeding in its mission. The hospital and its room were beautiful. Food brought up from one of the fairly swank downtown hotels. Pilates classes offered daily. I commonly slipped and said the “hotel” rather than the “hospital” when talking to friends on the phone. All kids speak of it fondly and in the same breath as our trip to Thailand last year.

Once checked in, things with Royce quickly got better. We were soon almost equally concerned about Adam’s continual pulling emergency cords as we were about Royce. While Royce’s news improved, news around us worsened. Hong Kong , and all of south east Asia, is experiencing a hard flu season. Newspapers are full of bad news, including two recent deaths. Some folks say the fear is starting to reach the SARS epidemic situation of 2003. Despite Royce having tested negative for the flu, staff kept coming in and asking us avian flu related questions. I was asked multiple times if Royce worked in a lab. If I wasn’t so grateful that she was getting good care, I might have pointed out that she doesn’t hold down any regular job yet, not even preschool quite frankly. Adam did pipe in and tell the nurses how he loves to eat eggs and he eats a lot of them. No one even laughed.

All in all, Royce was a trooper during this less than ideal Hong Kong moment. She had no problem not dressing, not combing her hair and reading books in bed all day. She explored the entire room and loved the fact that the room had a television (we don’t watch much at home). She welcomed her visitors. Her first words out of her mouth one morning were “Is this the day the Pelayos are coming to see me?” And she kept her sense of humor. At night as she walked with her IV to the bed, she said “tonight you don’t have to tuck me in. Just plug me in!” Well, I hope we are turning the lights out on this entire episode but not without renewed respect for all that Dr. Thondup and Matilda Hospital do every day and night

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Green Power Hike

In keeping with our trend of signing up for lengthy athletic events not matched with our meager training habits, I competed in the Green Power Hike last weekend. The hike was a 50 kilometer hike up and down and around Hong Kong Island. I have done some training as of late including a hard hike up local mountains called The Twins, notably with another mother of twins and a 20 kilometer parish walk but still called the event itself a “hike” on good days and a “walk” on bad ones. I knew something was up when the friends of friends I was sharing a cab to the start with kept referring to my hike as the “race.” With my new group, I found myself running the down hills and the flats and only walking up the hills. The pace was quick, the conversation was good, and the views were stunning. One of the biggest pluses- we ended up finishing hours ahead of my anticipated finish time.

The hike itself started at Hong Kong Island’s highest point, the Peak. From there we looped down to Pok Fu Lam, through Wong Nai Chung Gap (the central point dividing the island into north and south section, and the location of crucial battles in WWII), over a couple of mountains (Jardine’s Lookout and Mount Butler), on to the Dragon’s Back (a popular and scenic hike) and into Big Wave Bay Beach. It is amazing to walk this entire distance primarily on unpaved mountain trails. We crossed a paved street with traffic only twice and ran along paved catch waters a few times. I was familiar with about 50% of the trails, including the Dragon’s Back trail. This trail is well known for its short climb up onto the ridge of a mountain and then a nice rolling walk on top with views of the South China Sea on either side. We were moving- or trying to move- too quick to linger but the clear blue skies, blue seas and green islands all around were memorable. Actually, my mind at this point was more on the beast than the beauty. One of the last times, I was up on Dragon Back, I came across a very large green python. The memory of that guy quickened my steps more than my speedy team mates.

The hike ended at Big Wave Bay Beach, a popular beach with us and many other families. Though its name is a vast overstatement, the beach does collect a crew of surfers and with them, gear, food and an audience. Basically, the beach has a little going on and good amenities. A very nice place to relax afterwards, though getting up off the sand proved difficult. Throughout the hike, Adam called me a couple of times. Usually, he heard me breathing hard and my fellow hikers chiding me for the slow down. During a call, Adam asked “where are you? Is it a play date?” Sitting on the beach afterwards, I don’t think Adam was convinced I had not been at a play date all day. I am not sure I am convinced either!