Thursday, January 08, 2009

Repulse Bay: the school field trip

Repulse Bay Beach is a popular hangout with our family and, quite frankly, with all of Asia. There are moments there of breath-taking beauty with the mountains behind you and the South China Sea in front of you and lots and lots of sandy beach. And then the tour buses arrive and the beach is packed. Today Repulse Bay was crowded but with kindergarteners instead of tourists. Royce and Adam’s classes walked to Repulse Bay (they go to school a few blocks from the beach) to the Tin Hau Temple there for a field trip.

From the mid-1840’s, pirates used the bay there as a hideout, disrupting trade coming to and from China. Eventually, the HMS Repulse, the last wooden British battleship, was stationed in the bay to counterattack the pirates and hence the name. Around 1910, a beach was developed in the bay and in 1920 the Repulse Bay Hotel opened. The hotel was used as a headquarters base by the British and then taken over by the Japanese in December 1941. After the war, the beach was extended and improved and bus lines to Central were added to increase its viability as recreational area.

Today, the hotel has sadly been turned into a small mall. On the plus side, that hotel mall houses our dentist, pediatrician, physical therapist and the only grocery store I know that regularly carries tortillas and chocolate chips. Closer to the water, another mall is being built but thankfully it has standing empty for sometime now. The Repulse Bay area is known to have many high end properties with Jackie Chan and many others owning villas there.

The kindergarteners walked there to explore the Tin Hau Temple, built for the Goddess of Life Saving. The temple is completely outdoors, built right on to the water. Huge 15 foot statues of Tin Hau and Kwan Yum, the Goddess of Mercy make the temple visually arresting. Many other smaller statues, most made of brightly colored mosaics, fill up the area. A favorite is the Bridge of Longevity which by crossing one can add 3 days to their lives. The kindergarteners went across many times, challenging their understanding of addition by three but undeterred.

As it turned out, none of the teachers or parents had been on this field trip before. Royce and Adam and I were the only repeat field trippers as we went on this field trip with Tori’s class two years ago. Once their position of experience was announced, they each took it seriously. Both literally ran around the temple racing to explain the 4 faced Buddha or the 7 layered pagoda to their classmates. At one point, Royce looked around and asked me where Tori was? I explained she was in her second grade class. Royce said “Tori is only going on the field trips once? Is that enough to learn about temples?” I had the distinct feeling that Royce saw a small crack in her big sister’s authority, at least on temples. Luckily, I have been on two temple field trips and still have some respected knowledge. At least for now.


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