Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rugby 101

We love football but American football, particularly college football, is hard to follow in Hong Kong. Rugby, however, is quite popular. It has confused us for years but we now have Adam to thank for our family’s introduction to the sport. Starting this fall, Adam plays on a rugby team and an added benefit, the main reason we agreed to the addition of one more sport at this house, is that we have an early opportunity to buy tickets to the Hong Kong Sevens. The Sevens is a huge raucous international rugby tournament hosted by Hong Kong every March. The town is over run by players and fans and the party like atmosphere. Rumor has it that Adam’s team will play an exhibition game before the real competition starts and then get to act as ball boys for the professionals. Though the details are still being worked out, we already have our own tickets to the Sevens in hand!

Rugby here is the main team sport for little kids, mostly boys but with some little girls. It looks to me to be co-ed in the early years (teams start at 4 years old) but within a few years there only a few girls left playing. Our own girls have no interest in the sport and typically just bring books and read on the sidelines, never even looking up when a team scores and the crowd cheers. The hundreds of boys who turn out are divided into age groups and then teams. Adam plays on an under 7 team called the Pumas.

All these teams are part of a larger club called Valley Fort Rugby. They meet in Stanley, the town where we live, and practice on the fields of the People’s Liberation Army base. When we drive in, we enter through a military check point and drive about a mile to the field. All along the way white gloved uniformed soldiers direct us to the field, making sure we do not deviate. Once at the field, a more relaxed feeling takes hold. Every week there is a BBQ stand, with a large crowd of folks milling about watching the action of 10-20 different games.

So far, Adam has loved rugby. It helps that the teams have great uniforms. Adam’s favorite components of the uniforms are the mouth guard and the cleats. The rules of the game are mostly lost on us though we all understand that a pass cannot be thrown forward, only backwards. Adam does fine with this though he confided to me that in his first rugby tournament he was worried the whole time that he would throw a forward pass. (He did not). It also helps that his team is good. They won all 4 of their games at the tournament, making the long day seem worthwhile in the end.

Most of Adam’s teammates and coaches are European with a few Americans and a few local kids thrown in for good measure. Adam has learned new rugby terminology like the pitch, which is the game field, and scoring a try, which is a goal. Adam has also picked up just general terminology, referring to his cleats as “boots” and asking for “crisps” instead of potato chips. It is all very cute at this point but we have to wonder what is next. We plan to put our foot down at cricket.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Red Hill Halloween

For years, we have heard about it but never dared to try it. Red Hill, a residential complex near us of low rise townhouses, is reported to be the best spot for trick-or-treating in Hong Kong. This year friends invited us to the Red Hill Halloween and we are now converts. After leisurely walking the streets going house to house for candy, it will be very hard to go back to a hot elevator crowded with hundreds of kids riding up and down looking for the one or two apartments that are listed as Halloween participating flats.

The ocean views from Red Hill were stunning. The views there are essentially the same as the views out of our apartment, proving once again that a new perspective is always good. With temperatures around 28 C, finally not hot, we grilled hamburgers on the second floor and watched the kids run around our friends’ small backyard. Disregarding the warm weather and the beach, Halloween really did seem like Halloween this year. The kids’ costumes were quick and easy and stayed on all night. Adam was Dracula and Royce was an Indian. Tori opted for the truly scary and went as a plague microbe. Needless to say, most people did not guess her costume right away but as she explained they partially caught on and said something about swine flu.

As the kids trick-or-treated, we ran into many people we knew and realized that non-Red Hill residents are clearly coming up for the holiday. And while there were plenty of interlopers, the actual residents themselves were ready for it all. Most of the houses were open for trick-or-treating and typically decorated to the hilt. Domestic helpers stood in front of the house passing out candy from huge bowls. Many adults decorated their street level garage in Halloween spirit with added haunted houses for the kids or ongoing parties for the adults.

Over the course of the night, our kids grabbed as much candy as possible. At home they quickly sorted it into chocolates, hard candies and Chinese candies. There were a few things that defied categorization such as seaweed cookies and ice cream bars, completely melted but at least with the plastic still on. Adam and Royce immediately began eating their candy but Tori did not. Her approach seems to be to savor the possession rather than the candy itself. I thought there was a lesson in there somewhere about instant and delayed gratification but it did not come to pass. A few days later when Tori remembered her candy and tried to eat some of it, she found temperatures had gone up again and the candy had all melted. Now those seaweed cookies are starting to look better and better! Internationalization through desperation.