Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adventure from afar

Enjoying Hong Kong before our summer move back to the states, we are doing all of our favorite things one more time; walking up the broad staircase at the end of Duddell Street, eating at our favorite sandwich shop at Stanley Main Beach and of course riding the Star Ferry a few times. An all-time favorite Hong Kong experience of ours is the junk boat afternoon. And we have luckily been included on a few junk boat trips recently. 

Junk boats are ancient sailing ships that started as river boats but became sea-going vessels by the 2 century AD. In Hong Kong, there is a more modern equivalent. Essentially, a junk boat in Hong Kong today is sailboat rigged with to look like the old sailing ships or just recreational motor boat. Folks rent these boats, stock them with food, and tool around Hong Kong’s many small islands. The boats anchor near a beach and everyone cools off in the water, with kids jumping off the top of the boat into the water (about a 20 foot drop).
There is much green space in Hong Kong but it does require some getting too by bus, train or boat. Boat is usually best.  On this trip, we left the Central Piers on Hong Kong Island and went up in the direction of the Sai Kung and the New Territories. We aimed for Tung Lung Chau Island, a green island with a beach, a campsite, hills and ancient rock carvings. We explored but quickly lost interest on what was on the ground and only looked at the sky. Right before us, we watched a helicopter rescue of a hiker. The helicopter hovered, dropped a line and rescue workers came down. More rescue workers came via a police boat and trooped past us on the island’s one small trail to the scene of the daring rescue. Despite the crush of rescue boats, we got off the island and hoped the injured would be as lucky.
As it happens, they were. We read in the paper the next day that a single hiker (exactly my age) had slipped and fallen off a cliff onto a rocky beach. He survived. And it made us think a little bit more about the rescue services here. We found out that Hong Kong has an extensive maritime rescue center, relying heavily on the Government Flying Service and the Hong Kong Fire Services Department. The Flying Services handles most non-military flights, rescuing hikers, responding to distress calls from tankers, recovering sunken fishing vessels and collecting water to put out fires. 
There is much to like about Hong Kong, including the green hikes, the warm seas and the overall efficiency. This maritime rescue seemed to combine all three. Perhaps that’s why it is such a vivid memory for us. And of course I am thankful that we never needed to be rescued from anything more than a dripping air-conditioner or a broken elevator. There was that gecko loose in the apartment once but that is another story. I suppose the lesson is that adventure awaits wherever you are. This excites the kids and scares us. And as usual, we continue to search for the mean.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Musical month

We have just finished a very musical month. It won’t be topped for ages or at least until the twins start playing an instrument or two. In the past two weeks, Tori played in a cello concert, a band/percussion concert and a piano recital. While it all seems a bit crazed looking back, we got here with the best of intentions. There we were just supporting the arts as a concept and luckily at a school that offers music classes. And now we are avid concert goers with a piano and cello in our front room. Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the drum set to arrive but I think that has to be a non-apartment living addition.
For the past two years, Tori has taken cello classes at school. She has cello class twice per week and then keeps track of her practice minutes at home. She is required to practice 400 minutes per month and generally does. Over time, she has gotten slowly better. We saw rapid improvement when her teacher passed out the theme song for Harry Potter. Tori, a huge Harry Potter fan, practiced that song over and over again until we felt like we were living in the movie. The twins started asking Tori to play it before I did my nightly Potter reading to them (almost done with Book 6 thank goodness!) but it got to be a bit much. Before Tori’s strings concert, her already high practice time increased. On the day of her concert, Tori had a 2 hour practice during school and then a 2 hour warm up and then the 2 hour concert. She turned professional in terms of time commitment, though output wise you had better just judge her on that Potter song.
Percussion is something Tori picked up just this past semester. She played all sorts of percussion instruments in a once a week after school club and loved it. We really had no idea what to expect as we never heard her play anything drum like at home. The concert was great. Tori played at the front of the group on a bigger drum and seemed to know what she was doing.
Our last musical event was Tori’s piano recital. Tori has played with the same teacher for the past four and half years. Tori played well, performing a four page song that seemed pretty complex to me. Again, we all clapped and thought she was great. Then one of the dads got up and played. He played beautifully for about ten minutes while we all stared open mouthed. He finished and told the kids that he played the piano seven hours a day until the age of twenty, at which point he switched over to a career in banking. He made a strong case for the arts enriching one’s life. Tori nodded along with him as did I. I am counting on enrichment by association, at least for this month.