Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mid Autumn Festival and hiking

This Sunday evening, we went to the Mid-Autumn festival gathering at the beach in Discovery Bay with our friends Linda and Todd Hudgins and their girls, Samantha and Jessica. The Hudgins are another FedEx family here in DB, very nice people. We went to the beach with about a thousand others from DB, spread out a blanket and watched for the moon. Basically this is a celebration of family time and appreciation of the moon and harvest times. There is a legend about a young woman who lives on the moon with her jade rabbit. There are many versions of the legend, but Sunday was the day when you are supposed to see her clearly in the moon. You eat moon cake and gather with family and friends to enjoy each other's company.

Lots of glowsticks, candles and bonfires are involved in the Mid Autumn festival.

We didn't get a moon cake. We were talking about it at lunch and Sam decided to strike out and go buy a moon cake. However, he came back an hour later without it. He was disappointed and lamented,"No one had any moon PIES here! They must be good since they are all gone!" Oh well...you can take the boy out of the south...

The main activity here seems to be hiking. We've gone on a few hikes together and have a few more planned. Recently, Lizzy, Sam, Paul, and I went to a nearby waterfall. It was a short hike, but beautiful.


We have a long hike planned for Thursday which will be a school holiday for local schools here, so some of our new friends will also be going. Then Friday we will be going to a homeschooled teen meetup. Hoping that turns out well. We've gotten all our school books now and John starts his next dual enrollment class in a two weeks. Hoping that goes well, too! He will have to play close attention to deadlines with the time and date difference.


Dixie and RickyBobby

The biggest news of this week is that Dixie the dog had to have surgery to remove bladdar stones yesterday. Two days after she arrived, I noticed blood in her urine. She's had a urinary tract infection before, so I took her to the vet thinking it was the same. Unfortunately, the vet found stones in her bladdar and recommended surgery. After talking to her, some investigating and talking to a different vet...it was the only thing to do. So, yesterday morning, I walked her down to the vets office and she had the surgery. She is ok now, groggy from pain medicine and sore and stiff, but she is ok. The hardest thing for me is carrying her fat self up and down the stairs to go out! Bless her heart... And bless mine, too!

RickyBobby snuggling with Dixie and watching over his her after her surgery...

Thankfully, our other furry friend, RickyBobby has adjusted incredibly well. He spends his days playing with the kids and me, investigating all that is going on out of the windows and napping in various places all over this house. I cannot believe it, but he has not been begging at the doors and windows and he hasn't really seemed bothered by being in all the time. A real blessing, truly. We were all prepared for sleepless nights and a miserable cat and a terrible adjustment. But each night, he has piled up with one of us and gone to sleep....all night. Truly remarkable.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Hong Kong home, animals, and kids...

We are slowly getting settled in our Hong Kong home. We are so very fortunate to have a flat with this much space and we are enjoying every bit of it. Here are a few pictures of the living room/dining room, plus a space for a desk for Steve.

This is the living room showing the stairs going up to the bedrooms. The second door is the kitchen and the third door is our third bathroom.

This is the dining room and desk area. We love the big windows.

This is the whole area with Lizzy in front of the door to the biggest terrace.

Our sweet animals made it to Hong Kong after a three day trek around the world. They left Monday morning from Alabama, drove to Atlanta, and caught a flight to Amsterdam. They spent nearly 24 hours in Amsterdam and then flew on to Hong Kong. They arrive Thursday afternoon about 1:30pm...bewildered but amazed to see us. Cannot imagine what they thought that whole trip, but they were both SO happy to see us. Dixie was thrilled to see RickyBobby and he submitted to a through cleaning after he explored the flat. Dixie has done so well adapting to being here, going out for walks, and being inside with us all the time. RickyBobby has amazed me so far by tolerating being inside all the time without crying or begging at the door. He has followed me around the whole day today, we've played with him quite a lot, and he has enjoyed sitting by the large windows looking out at his new world. He LOVES sitting on top of his cat tree that Paul made for him at the barn. Here are some pet photos!





The children are doing well. Sam and Paul have joined the Discovery Scouts and will keep up with their BoyScouts of America program as lone scouts. This scouting program is very different, but they will camp and hike and do similar activities with the troop. It is an English speaking group with strong adult and youth leaders. Lizzy has joined the Discovery Scouts also, but her group is officially called The Grasshoppers, but because the leader is British and was the leader for this age group when it followed the UK scout program and was called The Beavers...her group is the Beavers! It is for ages 5-8 and is co-Ed. She loves it, but will remain a Girl Scout as well...as a Juliette.

Lizzy has started taking a gymnastics class here. It's once a week and after one class, the teachers moved her into an intermediate class which is perfect for her. Another FedEx daughter is also taking this class...a sweet 12 yr old and they will be walking home together after class. Lizzy is beyond excited about that!

We've joined a homeschool group that does activities together and have met once with them for playtime at the beach. It was very fun for us all. We didn't do the activity this week because the animals got here during the same time.

John is enjoying his time here...but meeting teenagers his age has been challenging so far. Many of them are sent to boarding school and so he hasn't met many yet. There's a group at church, so we will get plugged in there, but John mostly just wants to meet other musical teens. We are working on it, so please say a prayer that he is able to find a group to enjoy.

Next week, will be one month that we've been in Hong Kong. It really feels like months, but others times it feels like we've been here a day or two. We miss everyone like crazy still, but we are making new friends and making the most of our time here.





Sunday, September 20, 2015

Moved in!

We did it. We moved into our new flat, have furniture, and a working kitchen! The children worked so hard and the deliveries came off without too much trouble. I was able to buy some bare essentials in Discovery Bay and get my kitchen up and running by day two.

Wednesday, the kids and I packed up our large rolling suitcases, rolled them down to the new flat and met our real estate agent here to open the door for our IKEA delivery. We waited for a couple hours before they came, but they brought everything PLUS one item that we thought was back ordered! We got couches, chairs, and mattresses, plus linens and kitchen stuff!

We spent one last night at the temporary flat and then Thursday, we moved out full force and were in our new place waiting on another furniture delivery by 10am. This delivery came from a second hand furniture store and contained bed frames, dining table and chairs, and lastly desks. Only one major screwup and that was a huge loft bed Sam had fallen in love with couldn't make it up his staircase to his bedroom. He was sorely disappointed and so was I. However, he has rallied and found some additional furniture he wants for his space and this time armed with a tape measure....I will make sure it can happen!

I seriously don't know what I would have done without the help of the children, especially John. He helped me with the logistics of moving with a hire car, helped with his younger siblings by taking them out to eat (the gas cooktop wasn't connected for 24 hours), and was simply amazing. Paul, Sam, and even Lizzy moved furniture, helped put together IKEA furniture and were patient and flexible. In addition to the children, my guardian angel, Gary, our wonderful real estate agent helped us find our flat, negotiate a good rent, find a temporary flat, and then Thursday and Friday brought three different workers here to figure out the gas issue, before finally coming back alone, climbing up on my kitchen cabinets, moving ceiling tiles around till he found the problem...a switch that needed to be turned! I don't know of many real estate agents in the U.S. who would do this sort of thing. He is a nice family man and said he couldn't eat his own supper if I couldn't cook that night. Such an godsend he was.

Here are some photos of my kitchen. HUGE by Hong Kong standards, with an oven and a dishwasher AND more counter space than my Redwood drive house!

The kitchen is a square room, with sink and cooking area at one end...

Refrigerator on one side. That's my hidden dishwasher by the fridge. Full size and cleans well.

Pantry on the other...one is just shelves and one slides out! Love this! That door leads to my utility area.

My washer and dryer...that REALLY dries clothes! My favorite thing so far!

That's the kitchen tour. When we can rearrange the living room and dining room area to suit...I'll take some good photos of that.

Our animals arrive on Wednesday morning...Tuesday evening for you all. Please say a prayer for their safety and peace while they travel. You will hear our shouts of joy all the way from here when they make it!


Monday, September 14, 2015

Pretty ordinary...

We've been here two weeks already. It doesn't seem like two weeks. Seems like two MONTHS! We've done so much in that time, I guess I cannot understand that just two weeks have passed.


We are doing fine, adjusting well, and honestly, stuff is kind of becoming routine. Weird how we moved so far away just to do the same stuff. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, church, scouts, shopping, work, and school...not in that order...it's all SO different, but also ordinary.

Getting our trolley ready to go shopping...and flat Stanley's we are doing with my sisters class.
Riding on the bus to the store.

In front of the grocery store...The Wellcome...this isn't a typo

Steve went to work for the first time this morning from Hong Kong. Seems weird without him. This Thursday, we will be moving into our permanent apartment. If you think of it, please say a prayer for me and the kids this week...we have a delivery coming from IKEA on Wednesday (to the new apartment...which our agent will open up just for the delivery), and another delivery coming from a furniture store on Thursday, when we can actually be at the apartment. We have to move out of this temporary apartment by 10am on Thursday, which means gathering about 20 bags of luggage, groceries, and such together and getting it over to the new place. While I have NO desire to drive here...I would trade my right arm for a pickup truck on Thursday. Thankfully, there is a wonderful thing called a "hire car" here, which are mostly vans for hire to take you and your stuff from one place to another. So, I'll call them and we will load it up and move on out. Thank goodness for big strapping sons.

Paul, Sam, and Lizzy attended a Discovery Scouts program on Saturday afternoon. It is similar to Boy Scouts and cub scouts, but it is very British. It is coed and Lizzy enjoyed joining in The Beaver scouts while Sam and Paul joined the Boy Scouts. They all enjoyed it very much and want to go back. It is only a five minute walk from our flat, so that is huge! Our plan is continue as lone scouts in the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America programs, but also become members of the Discovery scouts. So much overlaps and we will keep track of their progress in each as we move forward.

Steve and I have visited the two local Protestant churches here on Discovery Bay and enjoyed both of them. We plan to also visit the International Methodist church on HK island also and take the children to all of them before we make up our minds.

We've made friends with FedEx families already and have enjoyed spending two afternoons with them. Nice people with nice kids and it is so nice to meet other pilot families who understand completely this experience. And these families have been here quite a long time, so they are wonderful resources for us. This is Lizzy enjoying North beach on one outing.


But there's one thing I have decided I hate...Laundry in HK. I thought I couldn't hate laundry more, but I hate this machine. If I had to use one of these for the next two years, I would pack my bags right now. Thankfully, our new apartment has a separate washer and dryer. The temporary apartment has this washer dryer combo thingy..... Not a bad idea, but it is terrible in reality. The shortest wash cycle is two hours...the shortest drying cycle is two hours BUT nothing is dry once it comes out. It's all damp. If I could fluff and then hang, I would rather do that....add this to the fact that the only place to hang dry things is in the kitchen or the hallway and it is just an exercise in frustration.

So there...the one thing I hate about Hong Kong. Washer/Dryer combos.



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Going shopping in Kowloon

What a day!

We left our apartment at 10:00am heading out for a day of shopping for house furnishings. We took a bus, two ferries, walked a LOT, ate some lunch, took the MTR (subway train), and walked through this really crowded industrial area till we found the address, searched around in the building, found and rode up the Odd floor only elevator, and finally out onto the 21 floor into a pleasant used furniture store. We spent a couple hours looking around and left with bed frames bought for everyone, a dining room table and chairs, desks for everyone and a couple cute odds and ends. This wonderful little store will arrange for it all to be delivered to our new apartment on the day we move in next week.

Then we rode the MTR across town, walked through a huge mall and rode a bus to the IKEA store. I talked with them about delivery to Discovery Bay, which is difficult due to restrictions on delivery vehicles into our little town. I talked with several workers who all gave me different days and times the store could deliver to us. I was sort of able to determine that IKEA can only deliver on certain days. They can deliver AND assemble later in the month, like another two weeks later. SO, it will be better for me to arrange for someone to come pick up our necessary items from IKEA and wait on IKEA to deliver the rest. We walked through IKEA, looked at the necessary items and left with our exhausted selves to fight again another day. We took another long train ride, then a double decker bus ride home right to our little temporary apartment. SO glad to see it after 17,750 steps....Or 7 miles of walking.

I have some observations to make in general about this place. In no particular order...

There are elevators that only go to the odd floors...and the even floors, not to both. Weird...

Hong Kong citizens have a different view of personal space. They will cut in front of you in a hot second. They will crowd onto the train even when you are sure no more space remains.

These are the most connected people I've ever seen. Free wifi on the buses, the trains, the ferries, and in shops and restaurants. The folks my age and younger are on their phones all.the.time. Seriously...it's kind of shocking.

There are lots more fat people here than I thought I'd see.

There are squat toilets and sitting toilets everywhere. And toilet paper dispensers as you walk in the doors of the washrooms....NOT in the stalls, but just inside the main door. Now, HOW do they know how much toilet paper they are gonna use?

Hong Kong children go all over without their parents. Not uncommon to see 7-8 year olds at the grocery store shopping alone.

This is a very diverse city. I've seen Anglos from many countries, Asians from many countries, Arabs, Indians, and Africans. Amazing how many different people are here.

There are many accommodations for the elderly and the disabled. Special seats set aside for the elderly on all public transport and I have seen young people are constantly giving up their seats for their elders or for young pregnant women.

Someone is always trying to sell something here. Street hawkers will follow you and shove a coupon in your hand. Some of the streets are one big ole violation of personal space.

And sometimes, in the middle of the craziest day, a child makes a huge step forward. This child, the pickiest of eaters, the one I've never forced to eat things, and the one I've worried would starve here.... Well, today at the Mongolian BBQ, he bypassed the pizza, just glanced at the rice, and went straight for the ramen style noodles and fresh meat and sauce and ate himself a big bowl of Mongolian BBQ and loved it. He has always needed to choose for himself and I have always defended him in his choices. I've said many times that I wasn't concerned about his pickiness...that he should be allowed to decide for himself and eat whatever he chooses to eat. His taste buds would mature and he would be fine. Stop picking on Paul...he's going to be fine. I always said it, but I was frankly beginning to not quite believe it....till today.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

End of our first week.

And what a week it has been!!

Moved to the other side of the world with four children.

Successfully received as Hong Kong residents (a much bigger deal than it seemed thanks to our relocation folks).

Found an apartment that will fit us ALL!

The view of a Hong Kong from our terrace!

Explored a lot of Discovery Bay and a little of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Met two other FedEx families...nice people with nice kids. We all had dinner last night and felt very welcome. Kids all had a good time and didn't want to leave.

Experienced Hong Kong medical care, which was wonderful, quick and convenient. I have bronchitis, but I'm already better today.

Today is Sunday morning and will visit one of the nearby churches. We want to visit several and then choose. Pray for us.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Apartment hunting

On Wednesday, we took the ferry from Lantau Island to Hong Kong Island to area known as Central. It is literally the hub of everything and is crowded with people, taxis, buses, etc... Once you walk off the ferry terminal, you walk into the biggest mall I've ever seen. It's four floors of everything. The mall is connected to many other buildings by elevated, covered walkways. We met our relocation specialist person, Cheryl, who walked us to immigration to apply for ID cards. That was fascinating. The officials were incredibly nice, helped with the forms, worked quickly, and we were done in 45 minutes. One official barked a question at Paul and he didn't understand her, so he just stared at her trying to figure out her question. She waited for a second or two, asked again and then came around the desk saying,"I need the mama!" I jumped up thinking terrible thoughts and walked around the corner to see Paul sitting bug-eyed. She asked where he went to school and I had to ask her to repeat it, but I finally caught it and told her homeschool. She asked again. I repeated and she said,"Homeschool? In Hong Kong?". I smiled and said yes, she just shrugged and took his picture and moved on. Whew...International incident averted!

From immigration we traveled to the bank to start a Hong Kong bank account. She chose CitiBank for us and they were also very quick, immensely kind and patient and we were done in about an hour there.

We walked to a small cafe inside The Hong Kong Maritime Museum which was staffed by mostly mentally challenged young adults. They were lovely and very good at their jobs and our food was quite good. This cafe is a part of a non-profit that trains and employs the mentally challenged.

Cheryl took us then to the FedEx office to meet the staff and to work through Steve's paperwork. Then it was a ferry ride back to Discovery Bay where Steve took the kids back to the hotel and Cheryl and I were off to meet a real estate agent, Gary, and look for apartments. Gary is Chinese and good at his job. He had lined up about 10 places for me to see plus a golf cart to take us around.

This was the day I've been waiting for! Finally time to see in real life some actual Hong Kong apartments!! Gary took us to see so many, but the very first one I was able to see us living there. There were four actual bedrooms and the tiny room set aside for the maid. This one is a townhouse and has the tiniest backyard, two terraces, a nice large kitchen and a large rooms for the living room and dining room. The other bedrooms are small but manageable.

The second apartment is a third floor condo with a nice large living room, dining room off a good sized kitchen, utility and maids rooms, plus a full bath on the main floor. Up the stairs is the master bedroom and two smaller bedrooms, plus two baths. Then built later is a third floor loft area!! The loft itself is big and nice with sloping ceiling over half of it. BUT the best part of this one is the second loft. It is an area with a five foot ceiling just up three steps from the first loft. It is oddly shaped and right now full of empty storage cabinets, but it is a dream room for a small girl! Plenty of room for a bed, toys, and everything else she has, but it has the feel of a attic hideaway. This one also has four terraces...one large one and three smaller ones off the bedrooms.

The third apartment is on the 7th floor of a high rise complex. Very nice apartment, five separate bedrooms, though one is very tiny indeed, two baths and a huge open living room, dining room kitchen combo. It is nicely renovated and really lovely. It has no outdoor space at all and no utility space either. BUT, it is really really well done and we could live there.

Once I finished looking at them all, I rated them and Gary made arrangements for us to return to the top five today with Steve. Poor Steve was back at the hotel terrified I wouldn't find anything for us...he was just sure I would return saying that I was going back to the U.S.! But, today Steve and I returned it the best ones, talked finances with Gary and he will make offers on the three I listed above and we will see....

Please say a prayer that we get the best apartment for us. There are pros and cons to each one, but I am confident it will work out for us as it is supposed to. My hearts desire is for Lizzy to have that attic loft room. She has been saying she really wanted to live in the tiny maids room, but the rooms are just very tiny and she would soon be very frustrated with her lack of space.