Sunday, February 20, 2011

A trip to Hong Kong

Sometimes you just have to get away.  For whatever reason you so badly need a break from the activities of daily life before you break down.  I was feeling pretty close to this way at the end of January.  Luckily, we had a super long break at the beginning of February.  However, it is also spring festival time which means everyone in China is trying to travel to their hometowns.   This means train tickets are pretty much impossible to come by.  So, I decided to forgo the trains entirely and hop on a plane and fly to Hong Kong!  One of my students  from last summer, Echo, is going to school there so it provided the perfect host and tour guide for an amazing trip.

I arrived around noon and as Echo met me at the airport I was immediately loving the weather and the scenery.  After checking into the hotel we went to the main part of Hong Kong and rode the Star Ferry across Victoria Bay, which was one thing my dad told me I had to do because it was on the Amazing Race.  We then walked around a little bit and made our way to the tram that goes up to Victoria Peak.  After waiting for a long time we finally made it on the tram, which was pretty amazing.  It was super steep in some places and quite the engineering feat.  At the top it is pretty commercialized with a mall and other areas, so that was a little disappointing, but the view was still pretty amazing and definitely worth it. 

The next day Echo's friend Edith showed us around Hong Kong Island.  She grew up in Hong Kong so knew a lot of places that were wouldn't have seen otherwise.  We started in the central district where we walked up and down the streets and rode part of the longest escalator  in the world, which is really just a series of many smaller escalators.  One thing that I didn't realize about Hong Kong is there are so many mountains and hill and everything is just built into them.  So I got quite the workout walking around.  After a traditional Hong Kong noodle lunch in a tiny shop we got on the ding ding bus, which is the old double decker electric bus that runs on the main street in town.  We rode it to the other end of the island and saw many different areas of the city, stopping for a snack of fishballs, tea, and other Hong Kong specialties I had to try.  I loved seeing so much of the city and learning so much more than I would have if I went on my own.

My last full day Echo and I went to Stanley which is on the other side of the main island.  Here there is a little beach community complete with shops and restaurants along the water and a military cemetery used by the British where many casualties for World War II are buried.  The and water was beautiful and we enjoyed wading in the water and finding different colors of sea glass in the sand.  We even made our best attempt at skipping some stones, which Echo had never done before.  It was a great way to end the trip, even though I got slightly burnt, my chaco tans lines are back ;)

I am so thankful I was able to take this time to get away and spend with Echo in Hong Kong.   It was a great time of fellowship for us and a wonderful relaxing break for me.  I am so thankful that God has provided me amazing friendships here in China and that He also provides me with breaks when they are so desperately needed.

my computer isn't cooperating, so follow this link to see pictures!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spring Festival-Fireworks

For the rest of my life whenever someone talks about the Chinese New Year many images will fill my mind.  These include dumplings, lanterns, not able to get train tickets and many more, but the one that will shine the brightest is fireworks.  The country that invented them loves them and can't get enough.

Think to 4th of July, everyone is excited to go see the fireworks display in their town and have a few small things at their home with sparklers.  Now multiply this by about 100.  And add 15 or so days.  Chinese start with firecrackers early in the morning and continue onto aerial displays at night.  But each family does their own aerial display.  

The following is from midnight on New Years.  A 360 degree show that you can sit back and enjoy.  Just be careful that nothing comes too close to you or your house as all American safety codes are non-existent.  Needless to say, there is nothing that compares.

(as I sit here writing this 3 days later I can still hear the sound of fireworks going off all around me :) )

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spring Festival-Dumplings

In China everyone makes and eats dumplings for the spring festival.  Each part of China makes and folds them a little differently, but the basic process is the same.  So, we decided that we would make our own dumplings.  Some of us had made them with the help of the Chinese staff before, but since they are all home for the new year we were on our own.  We started in the early afternoon with finely mincing all of the vegetables which took an hour or two with 6 people working on it.  Then we mixed the fillings are were ready to make the dough and fill the dumplings.

Next it was time to roll out the dough and fill the dumplings.  The first try didn't go so well.  It wasn't a complete failure, its just that the dough wasn't soft enough and there wasn't enough.  So...we decided to try out luck and make some more.  The second try worked MUCH better.  First the dough was better, but more importantly out awesome building manager came and helped.  She, like many Chinese, is an expert at rolling and filling dumplings.  You see, when you roll dumplings there is a special way to roll it so there the middle is a little thicker so it is easier to seal the edges and the filling doesn't fall out when you cook them.  So, she tried to teach us and we all had a lot of fun making the rest!

In the end, they tasted delicious we all had fun so it was a great success!