Thursday, May 29, 2008

Camping in Hong Kong

While we like to think of ourselves as outdoorsy, we really aren’t anymore. At one point in recent history, we had a bumper sticker on the refrigerator that said “walk on the wild side- have twins!” That is pretty much as adventurous as we have been lately, at least until Tori joined the Girl Scouts. Tori and I are now veteran campers in urban Hong Kong, having survived and loved a hot and humid yet oddly wonderful camping experience in Hong Kong’s New Territories.

At the start of first grade, Tori joined Brownie, which is a precursor to Girl Scouts, Troop #1. Her troop meets afterschool every other week for about an hour. They work on crafts and other projects, including a postcard exchange with American Girl Scouts. I always think this is somewhat poignant that Tori’s pen pal sends her American flags and she writes Mandarin characters for the Iowa girl to see. Earlier this year, Tori and I did an overnight in her school’s library with the Brownies. While other girls ran around playing flashlight tag, Tori curled up with books such as “Experiments with Heat,” and “Industrial Use of Crystals,” but all had fun in their own way. And we all got ready for the real deal; getting outside.

Last week, we did just that. The Girl Scouts were let out of school early and we all took a chartered bus out to Sai Kung Country Park in the New Territories. We drove past the part of the country park we knew, out to a pier. From there, we took a half-hour ferry boat ride to a remote peninsula. We stepped off the boat and set up camp right there in a wide open campsite with campfire and washing facilities.

But it was actually easier even than that. An outfitting group met us there with about 5 guides, who proceeded to help us set up tents and cook. We had a total of about 80 campers and thus about 40 tents. All tents were the same color except one which was robin egg blue. Tori managed to claim the “fancy” tent for us and picked out a great isolated campsite for us. While most tents and troops camped together, we were apart with a great cross breeze blowing through the tent and a great view of the water. With a hot high humidity day, our campsite proved crucial in keeping us sane and able to craft and sing and attend periodic flag ceremonies.

Despite the extreme heat, we had a great time. Tori loved climbing trees and finding bugs. She actually laughed happily as ants crawled all over her arms. She found inch worms and crabs and carried many around on sticks and in jars for our hikes and activities. At one point, Tori was leaning over the railing behind our tent looking at the water and spotted something. She yelled for my attention, saying she said she had spotted a jellyfish. I came over and looked. The water was extremely polluted, with plastic bags and the like floating near the shore. I shook her off, saying no, no that is only garbage. Tori persisted and finally pointed out to me, amidst the trash, a huge and beautiful translucent jellyfish. It seemed so sad and so Hong Kong to be peering into trash to find something natural. But the fact that she could find anything was somehow hopeful. There should always something to wonder at, especially when camping.


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