Easter In Beijing

Gettin' Our Great Wall On

We’ve just returned from our Easter holiday in Beijing, which was surprisingly enjoyable, laid back, and all around fun.  We spent four busy (but not too busy) days with Anderson’s aunt Aleda and cousin Reannon, who met us for touristing, shopping, and meandering about the Chinese capitol.  Our hotel was reasonable, perhaps a bit dirty (apparently vacuum cleaning is not yet popular) but with hot water, clean beds, and a surprisingly good Asian-style breakfast buffet.

We arrived Wednesday night at midnight, so after getting through customs, waiting in the mammoth taxi queue, and dealing with the language barrier to actually get to our hotel, it was about 2am.  Thankfully all of our taxi drivers were nice and honest, and when we used the subway it was cheap, quick, and convenient.

Close To Heaven?

On Thursday we began our sightseeing with the Temple of Heaven, which is set inside a large public park, showcasing some ancient buildings (the first of many).  For lunch we had hot pot at Xiabu, which was fresh, filling, and arguably the best and most diverse we’ve ever had.

Hot Pot With An Excessive Number Of Extra Ingredients

For the afternoon we explored the active (though slightly fake-feeling) Buddhist Lama Temple.  Incense aplenty burned, monks wandered the grounds, and cameras flashed as tourists explored the numerous chambers.  The main attraction was undoubtedly this massive Buddha:

Buddha - Large & In Charge

Incense & Prayers

From the subway we wandered the wrong way through “our neighborhood” (near Guomao), but eventually found our hotel just in time to meet up with Aleda and Reannon who had just arrived.  Our first proper dinner was the apparently mandatory Peking Duck wraps, which were quite good and crispy though a bit fatty.  They carved up a whole duck in front of us, so presentation points must be given despite the restaurant’s overly formal atmosphere.

Peking Duck Wraps And Plenty More

Friday was also busy: after breakfast we headed to the Forbidden City which took about two hours to see most of.  Like all the sights, it was a little hectic but not overly crowded.

Mao Watches Outside The Forbidden City

View Exiting The Forbidden City

From there we went to the Silk Market for lunch and shopping, where the bargaining was fierce but good prices could be had in exchange for tolerance and endurance.  Knock-off brands, presented as the real thing, were thankfully sold at relatively good value once negotiations got past the often ridiculous high starting price.  Next up was Tiananmen Square, which meant we went back to where we were in the morning – that was short and sweet since it is merely a large square with an implied police presence.  Feeling tired, we booked massages and then had a coffee.  After the massage, which was affordable and relaxing, we grabbed dinner at a local corner restaurant which was cheap and simple.

Warm Weather Meant Spring Had Sprung

Saturday was effectively the main event as we grabbed a taxi to take us to The Great Wall.  Of the many options, we chose Mutianyu since it has a good balance of smaller crowds, some restoration, twisting wall photo ops, and a cable car for easy accessibility.

Like Ants In An Analogy...

Our taxi driver was friendly, though communication was nonexistent, and he patiently waited while we grabbed Subway sandwiches for lunch, weaved through the ad hoc marketplace, and caught the cable car up to the wall proper.  It is definitely an imposing and impressive sight, worth the trip to Beijing without a doubt.

Hanging Out At The Wall

Best Take Of Our "Jumping At The Wall" Series

We took plenty of photos, fun and serious alike, and enjoyed a lunch atop the wall with splendid mountain views all around us.  The sun and walking were tiring, so after we’d gotten our view of touristic adventure we took our return trip on the cable car, haggled on a few more products, and then enjoyed the ride back to our hotel.  After a much-needed nap, we enjoyed a nice Chinese dinner (fried shrimp, hot and sour soup, lamb and green beans, and potatoes with salted pork).

Too Much Delicious Chinese Food

The restaurant was so good that we went back on Sunday night as well since it was just around the corner from our hotel.  We then headed out to a local bar, 2 Kolegas, for a surprisingly good live reggae show by multi-national eight-piece band One Drop.  The crowd was energized, the mix of originals and covers were well-played, and the band was skilled and clearly having fun.

One Drop Performing At 2 Kolegas In Beijing

Our final full day balanced sightseeing at the Summer Palace in the morning (full of expansive gardens next to an enormous lake) with a return trip to the Silk Market to get some bargains we’d missed out on earlier.  Liz got some nice work clothes at lower prices than can be had in Hong Kong, and Anderson’s bargaining skills and patience both got tested (but not bested).  We were able to use the subway much of the time, which saved plenty of money and perhaps a little time.

Lake + Buildings = Summer Palace

Monday morning was just breakfast and then we headed off to the airport, but having seen everything we wanted to and done plenty more as well it felt like the right time to go.  It was great to see Aleda and Reannon – good to catch up and our mix of interests made Beijing much more exciting than it would have been otherwise!

Otherwise life in Hong Kong is normal: busy yet fun.  For all your dub/reggae/bass music reviews and needs, please check out Anderson’s music blog alter ego The Groove Thief, on both Facebook and Twitter for your social media convenience.  He also has a new dub/reggae DJ mix coming out on 19/04 on Mixcloud and Soundcloud.  A preview remix mashup of some nice reggae tunes is available NOW.

As always, thanks for reading,

Peace

Anderson & Liz

Apparently We Now Dress For Work While Also On Vacation

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No, We Haven’t Forgotten How To Blog

Hong Kong: Day N’ Night

Here comes the blogger’s lament, when real life has de-prioritized writing and posting photos about real life.  With the 5.5-day work week, a plethora of visitors, Anderson going back to school, Liz getting a promotion, trying to get caught up on How I Met Your Mother (a truly great TV show), and the general business of life, and that’s why you’ve been blessed with same post about our no-longer-new dog Joey for the past several months.  We’ve done a lot of fun things, and whiled away more than a few nights blissfully doing nothing, finding some sort of balance within our busy lives.

Sharing A Beer (L to R: Liz's Aunt Jean, Liz's Aunt Linda, Liz, Liz's Mom Jane, Anderson)

Special thanks go to all of our wonderful visitors, Blaise and Joe (from Canada via South Korea) early in the summer, Liz’s mother and two of her aunts (from Wisconsin and Alaska) for summer vacation, and more recently some fellow travelers and far more prolific writers, Iain & Claire (from South Africa via China, sorta).

Chillin' With Bruce Lee Atop The Peak

Gettin' Our Gump On With Blaise & Joe

Gettin' Our Gump On With Blaise & Joe

Between all of their visits we’ve seen and done quite a lot in Hong Kong: markets in Stanley, Mong Kok, Prince Edward, Sheung Wan and elsewhere; uber-tourist attractions like the Peak Tram (with Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. drinks and Bruce Lee), the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car and Big Buddha statue on Lantau Island (with freshly brewed Typhoon Brewery beers), Ocean Park amusement park, and the Symphony of Lights show in East Tsim Sha Tsui;

Sunset Near Lamma Island

we’ve ridden boats of all sorts – an all-day party cruise, an afternoon fishing trip, and plenty of ferries; seen cultural events: Dragon Boat racing, traditional Chinese dragons, the Mid-Autumn Festival; we’ve ridden countless subways, buses, mini-buses, taxis and trams; and most importantly we’ve eaten a lot of delicious food: Chinese in a multitude of styles including cha chan tengs, dai pai dongs and yum cha, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Egyptian, Syrian, Belgian, and the list goes on… why not conclude with watching Premiere League football in Hong Kong?

Aston Villa vs. Blackburn

Hong Kong is a city of endless variety, and we’re just getting started.  Anderson’s found an amateur football team to play goalkeeper for (it’s a Korean club – Korchina), Liz is still in search of the perfect spa, and we’ve rapidly become regular Sunday lunch customers at our favorite Indian restaurant AshokaCarcassone is back – yes, yes, how could it ever have been truly gone? – we’re still cooking massive Asian-fusion stir-fries and curries, and in a rare literary victory we recently got a bunch of cheap English books randomly on the street.  We’ve become fast fans of local football club Citizen since Anderson used to teach a few of the players, somewhat regulars at Happy Valley’s Wednesday-night horse races, infrequent (but monthly) hikers, and now finally cyclists again since we just bought folding bicycles!

The Big Buddha On Lantau Island

In our professional lives, which are ever increasing in seriousness and time-consumption (apparently the 30s couldn’t arrive quietly): Anderson continues to work for ME English Learning Centre (now on Facebook! and Twitter!), splitting his work-time between adult group conversation classes and private lessons (primary, secondary, and adults).  He’s started a Masters of Education in Learning, Teaching, & Curriculum with an emphasis in Learning & Instruction and a focus in TESOL (TESOL = Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) at the University of Missouri, which he is not only enjoying but also may have the longest degree name imaginable.  Since multiple weekly flights to Missouri were going to be expensive and impractical, he’s opted for the less-stressful online/distance learning option, which is quite interesting, flexible, challenging, and applicable.  The first two classes, Second Language Acquisition and Language & Culture for Educators, have both been great, with solid and helpful instruction, excellent non-boring course-books, and a good mix of students from across the globe.  If you’re interested in a TESOL Masters degree, Missouri offers a competitive program at a great price.

At A Tin Hau Temple Near Repulse Bay

Liz meanwhile, is still working at Tutor Time, however she has been promoted from teacher to Assistant Centre Director.  That means she’s switched schools (from Red Hill to Midlevels), now focuses on administration, curriculum, staff development, maintaining enrollment and parental relationships, and the millions of other things that happen every day at a busy international pre-school.  She still does occasional teaching when needed, and is still around children all day, but her promotion means her typical workday has changed dramatically.  One definite upside is she’s now over her fear of lizards, thanks to Sunny the bearded dragon!

Today’s the end of the Chinese year, so the Lunar New Year celebrations start tomorrow.  We’ll be going to the Asian Challenge Cup football tournament to celebrate our break from work,

Peace,

A&E

PS – Anderson now has an awesome music blog highlighting all the musical awesomeness he finds out in cyberspace: The Groove Thief presents…

Here’s your moment of zen:

Joey Reading The SPCA Newsletter

Enjoy these extra photos:

Bruce Lee Is Everywhere In Hong Kong

Chelsea, Aston Villa & Blackburn All Came From The UK

Panda Bear At Ocean Park - Guess What, They Eat Bamboo...

Cable Car At Ocean Park

Dolphins At Ocean Park

Ladies In Line At The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Ferry At Night

Our Friends (R to L) Cosmo, Jun & Leticia Throwing Coins For Luck

Giant Goldfish Lantern For The Mid-Autumn Festival

Globetrotters Iain & Claire Were Great Houseguests - They Even Cooked Dinner!!

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A Hong Kong Dog Adoption Story…

Hi, My Name's Joey. Nice To Meet You!

Since we just put in a lot of research time, and checked out all the available options, we thought telling our tale might help out some future pet adopters, rather than just publishing endless photos of our adorable and sweet British Bulldog, “Joey.”  You’ll still get a lot of pictures though, don’t worry!

We knew upon arriving in Hong Kong that we wanted to adopt a dog – we haven’t had one as a married couple yet due to our tendency to be out vagabonding, but moving here has meant a practical shift in priorities as we need to get out of debt, build our careers up, and do all those things you never seem to think you’d want to be doing until suddenly you are.  Living in an apartment rules out both large dogs and high-energy dogs, and since enduring potty-training also sounded a bit wearisome we ruled out puppies, focusing on smaller adult dogs from laid-back breeds.

Losing The Battle With Sleep

We began our initial dog search in March, after familiarizing ourselves with the three private dog rescue groups:

HKDR (Hong Kong Dog Rescue)

LAP (Lifelong Animal Protection)

PALS (Protection of Animals Lantau South)

In reverse order…

We spoke to Jacqui on the phone with PALS, but the call didn’t have the best reception and we never heard back from her… could’ve easily been either of our faults, but we ended up pursuing the other options so we don’t have much room to comment either positively or negatively.

Twice we established email contact with LAP, during both of our serious search efforts.  First time ended because we thought we’d found our perfect dog, second time ended because they never got back to us about meeting a potential canine candidate.  We communicated with Sheila, Jen, and Belle, all of whom seemed sincerely nice but perhaps a bit preoccupied.  We have heard great things about LAP from other people, it just didn’t seem to sync up for us, so we’ll never know if that dachshund would’ve been the dog for us…

HKDR was our initial choice: we’d heard good things about them, Sally responded to our emails well, and their regularly updated Facebook page meant that we could check out all the available dogs easily.  Without going into excessive detail, we adopted a dog from HKDR, an situationally-aggressive male corgi who had severely under-emphasized food guarding behaviors.  His initial cuteness wore thin as his behavior worsened – first he just growled by his bowl when it had food, then he guarded the dish when there wasn’t any food, which logically led to protecting the kitchen where he correctly deduced the food was stored.  After consulting the online experts (ha) we tried hand-feeding, which resulted in Anderson getting attacked, and our email to HKDR for help was responded to with a request for us to return the dog.  Apparently they feared precisely this scenario, based on his earlier behavior, but had hoped he would behave well in a new environment.  While returning to farm-life (and unlimited food) was definitely the best choice for the dog, we couldn’t help but feel slightly taken advantage of, both financially but also in regards to our safety since it appeared the dog’s true behavior was no mystery but all of that was downplayed in order to get him adopted…

A Certain Someone Kept Itching Her Eye...

After spending a few dog-less weeks “recovering” in a variety of ways, both physically and emotionally, we decided to begin the adoption process over again, much more cautiously the second time around.  We decided to include one more possibility, run by the government, which we’d heard mostly good things about:

SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

As we learned during our second search, the main difference between the SPCA and the rescue agencies is where they are in the proverbial pecking order.  All of them have plenty of high-quality animals, taken from private sources who no longer want their pets, obtained from the various government kennels, or strays that have been rescued from the streets.  But the SPCA euthanizes animals it deems unlikely to be adopted, while the rescue agencies are all no-kill, which means they take on some of the SPCA’s unwanted animals to give them a well-deserved second chance.  This does create a hierarchical system though, with cute and small purebred dogs being the ultimate prize due to their higher chances for adoption and the associated financial windfall.

General adoption rates in Hong Kong range from about  (Hong Kong  Dollars) $1200 at the SPCA to $1500 with the rescue agencies for purebreds, while mongrels usually go for a bit less.  This rate includes vaccinations, sterilization, a vet check-up, but a collar, leash, and all the other prerequisite doggie gear can easily add up to another $1000 depending on food, cage, and toy costs.

Back to our story, over the course of several weeks we tried to see the aforementioned dachshund, kept tabs on the HKDR’s choices, and frequently checked the SPCA’s website.  The latter is well-updated, and we twice went to different locations to check out contenders who didn’t quite measure up.  Then we spotted this adorable face, and we started to get a bit excited:

Joey's SPCA Profile Pic

She turned out to be a bit bigger than we’d hoped, weighing in at 25kg, but her friendly personality, enjoyment of affection from anyone, and fun-loving laziness inevitably won us over!  After a preliminary visit to the SPCA’s main location in Wan Chai, we placed a two-day hold on her, to give ourselves time to thoroughly think things over.

Hard At Work Panting On The Couch

Being patient definitely paid off, as we’ve really found an amazing dog.  Joey only had one previous family (she’s four years old), so she’s quickly become an integral, slobbery part of ours, though it took at least a week for all of us to sort out each other’s preferences.  She’s all about sleeping in her cage while we’ve sold her on twice daily walks to decrease indoor bathroom usage (which she was previously trained to do); she likes to play tug-of-war and fetch for about twenty minutes at a time while we have to be responsible parents and corral her curiosity to protect the trashcan or our seemingly forgotten shoes.  A good balance has been found, and her cuteness is quite irresistible when her tongue and/or snaggle-tooth hang out of her mouth!

Needless to say, we are quite satisfied, and wish anyone else the best of luck on their search for a four-legged friend!

Peace

A&E

 

PS – You can vote for Joey as the “cutest dog” at our vet, which she clearly is, and we’ll win a year’s worth of vaccinations!  VOTE HERE or click on the photo below:

My Tooth Doesn't Fit Into My Mouth!

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Beach BBQ; A = MEd; Food Photos

From The Local Wet Market

The crushing humidity of summer has shown up in force, but at least it’s balanced out by the multi-day thunderstorms that cool things down at least once a week.  We have some exciting dog news, but that will be a separate post coming soon – if you’re on Facebook you’ve already gotten a sneak peek of our adorable new pooch Joey.

We’ve been fully immersed in work and life’s routine for the past few weeks, for Liz countless teaching hours have been spent preparing for the school’s annual Summer Concert, while Anderson has just completed his first month of full-time work.  Only real exciting thing we’ve done over the past few weeks was a Hong-Kong-style BBQ get-together last weekend up in the New Territories:

Hong Kong Beach BBQ

Food was good, meats well-marinated, but cooking everything on skewers is hot and takes a while.  Does work well to prevent over-eating though!  We also played a bunch of games, including a new (to us) Chinese ball-game, concluding with some 4-on-4 beach football.  Anderson’s birthday was also this past week, his 20s are officially finished, so onwards and upwards in a new decade!  Our original plan of going to an amusement park was rained out, so we ended up going to the Art Museum before swinging through “Korea Town” to get a bunch of delicious treats:

Kimbap & Side Dishes...

Anderson’s Masters plan is also coming together nicely, the University of Missouri’s MEd-TESOL program has won out, which means he’ll be starting classes as a non-graduate student in August, with intentions to officially join the program in January following a successful application and GRE exam this summer.

As promised in the title, here a few delicious sandwiches we’ve made recently:

Deluxe Chicken Salad Sandwich

Some Sort Of Toasted Super Sandwich

More news, canine and otherwise, very soon (we promise)!

Peace

A&E

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Gone Boating & Hiking; Dragon Boat Festival; Plenty of Working

Early Morning Dragon Boat Racing At Sha Tin

Here’s a brief wrapup of our last two weeks:

Anderson’s now working fulltime, about 10 hours/week teaching adult group conversation classes, and then the remainder of his schedule (up to 30 hours/week) is teaching private students who are either secondary students or adults.  So now we’re both quite busy with work, which obviously has its benefits and its drawbacks!  He’s also looking at going back to school starting this fall to get a Master’s degree, more details on that when things have been fully figured out…

Our social life has been increasing, three months here means we’re finally settling in apparently.  Went and saw Dragon Boat Racing appropriately for the Dragon Boat Festival on June 6th, which was a national holiday.  The racing wasn’t necessarily the most exciting, but it was a fun cultural experience and a group of Anderson’s students joined us for the early morning trek up to the New Territories to watch it.

Urban Boat Racing

That weekend we also went on a fun boat-cruise with one of Liz’s co-workers, leaving from Causeway Bay and stopping in Clear Water Bay for some afternoon swimming.  The water was perfect, the all-you-can-eat food and drinks were both high-quality, and the staff at Jaspa’s Party Junk took excellent care of us.  A memorable day, and not just because of our sunburns!

This weekend we finally went to a cinema, and we definitely enjoyed The Hangover: Part Two.  Good mix of same-sameness from the first movie, while upping the ante appropriately for Bangkok.  Having been both there and Vegas, to us it was the more believable of the films given just how insane SE Asia can be.  Maybe fewer jokes than the first installment, but still well-made and well-executed.  Looking forward to the upcoming Green Lantern movie, and in case you were wondering – yes, they are played in English (but with Cantonese subtitles)!

Full Bellies All Around After Our Sunday Lunch

Had a fun day today with a bunch of Anderson’s students: had a great Indian lunch at Ashoka, our local favorite, which hopefully impressed a few taste buds.  We then went on a hike, starting at nearby Tai Koo and then finishing up in Fortress Hill.  Took about two hours, and once we’d gotten a good sweat on the weather seemed almost downright comfortable at times.  Hong Kong’s summer is hot and humid, and it has certainly arrived and will only be getting worse.  Weather-wise, we already can’t wait for September to arrive.

Liz Enjoys A Moment With Buddha While On Our Hike

City-View From Braemar Hill

Hope all’s well in your part of the world, and as always – thanks for reading!

Peace

A&E

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