February was a bit quieter month here in Hong Kong. Weather was cool and sometimes cold, but not freezing, thank goodness. We had a nice valentines party in early February with some of our homeschool friends. This is a group for mostly younger kids, so Sam and Lizzy and I went and enjoyed some fun Valentine box decorating, minute-to-win-it style games, and a wonderful spread of party food. It was a fun day with friends.
The second week of February was the Chinese New Year celebration. Chinese New Year is celebrated in the second new moon after the winter solstice and ends on the full moon fifteen days later. Schools are closed for a week or more, people travel to spend time with their families, and there are lots of celebrations, fireworks, and special traditions, like giving red envelopes filled with money, eating long noodles, giving oranges, lantern making, and dragon dances. We were invited to spend the day with a Chinese homeschooling family who live in the nearby village of Mui Wo. Michelle was and raised in Singapore, but her parents are Chinese. Her mom came to spend two weeks and cooked for days for CNY celebrations. I've decided that grandmothers the world over cook well and insist on feeding you LOTS....even when the grandma only speaks a few English words. She said,"Eat. More? Yummy." And got her point across very well! I didn't take pictures...didn't seem appropriate, but know it was very good, unique, and yummy! The kids and I enjoyed our time with them very much.
Basically the whole place slows way down for CNY. Shops close and everyone goes on vacation. Streets were deserted! But, it was a nice time and we enjoyed the quiet.
Sam and I stepped a bit out of our comfort zone and joined a mission of our church mid February. Our church cooks lunch weekly at a refugee center run by Christian Action. Sam and Iaccompanied two others and served 30 people a hot lunch. The refugees and asylum seekers come into Hong Kong from all parts of the world looking for a better life...mostly Middle East and Africa. Hong Kong allows them in, but will never to become residents or citizens. The refugees cannot work and are given a small amount of money to eat and live on each month. It is nowhere near enough for them to pay for schools for their kids or apartment rent. So they often rent illegal apartments which are basically just rooms and maybe a bathroom (or they share a bath with others), no kitchens or separate rooms for families. They apply for asylum or residency in other countries around the world and just wait in limbo. The center provides hot meals three times a day, English and Cantonese lessons, social worker services, and opportunities for gathering and fellowship. As Sam said,"This is a good thing, but it makes me sad and makes me want to do more." He really soaked it all up and spent a lot of time talking about it afterwards. Pictures of the clients were not allowed, but we managed a couple of us anyway.
Next up, our two Discovery Scouts, Paul and Sam, went on a backpacking trip over a weekend. A fellow Fedex dad went and sent us pictures of the trip. They had a great time, though it was a hard 16 kilometer hike (9.9 miles), up hills and down and packing all their gear on their backs. They got to explore an ancient fort and see some beautiful sites of the other side of Lantau island.
Before they left...
Whole group on the edge of the ancient fort.
Glowing tents and campfires....universal to all scouts, I guess.
The boys had a great time and are still talking about their adventures. Scouting is giving them a chance to see so many amazing parts of Hong Kong. I'm a little jealous!!
Back at home, Steve got the flu and was laid out for nearly two weeks. He had fever, cough, chills, and terrible lethargy for a week, then he went out on a trip and came home and this week is still trying to get back to his normal energy level and get rid of his cough. The animals tried to help him...
Then Lizzy had a gymnastics display at a local school program, called Food Fair. It is held at DBIS (Discovery Bay International School). They set up booths for lots of countries and serve native food. Plus many local vendors set up and sell their wares. Lizzy's gymnastics troop was asked to perform. Nearly 75 of the 300 kids did a short routine and then had a tumbling display. Lizzy did wonderful and was quite proud of herself. We were too.
We have a short video of some of her tumbling, but I cannot put it here, so I may send it out by email separately.
Steve and I had our birthdays....well, mine has passed and Steve's is tomorrow. We enjoyed some sweet potato pie, a homemade video and homemade cards from our children and have decided to get patio furniture for ourselves! Steve is now 50 years old. He is struggling with that large number. But I keep telling him, we are blessed indeed with good health, wonderful kids, and a good life. Here's to 50 more years of Steve!
Lest you think John is being left out of this monthly update...never fear!! John has been working hard at his new job, his classes, and enjoying exploring Hong Kong. He went backpacking for two days and a night by himself a few weeks ago and enjoyed that a lot. He took some beautiful pictures, hiked about 20 miles, and stayed in a rat infested campsite!
John finished his third dual credit course with Troy University just today. He had an A going into the final, so we are hoping he continues the trend. Regardless, we are really proud of his work during these courses. Two professors have told him his writing was the "best they've seen all year..."or the "best in the class". We are truly reaping the benefits of lot of hard work all these years. I am not ashamed to say I got weepy when John showed me an email from his professor asking to share his essay outline with the class, because it was "perfect". Wow.
I will close saying we have now been here six months. Somedays, it feels like six weeks...sometimes six years. We discussed it at lunch the other day and everyone is happy we made the move to Hong Kong, even though it was tough at times. We all look forward to coming home to the states and we miss you all terribly. But, we are managing here well and hope to continue to do so. Steve loves the work he is doing here. The kids and I are enjoying homeschooling still and enjoying all the field trips here. We are traveling to Vietnam at the end of March-first of April and will have lots to tell about that!