It’s All About the Kids

Today, the sun is out for the first time in two and a half weeks! I’ve been bundled in rain coat and rain pants, donning socks with my flip-flops because I had no idea we’d meet winter in Hong Kong so am completely unprepared for the elements. It’s been freezing for Joy-standards (Nick’s loving it) and I’m reminding myself this is nothing compared to our trek towards China later today. To 16degrees and snow and ice and cold feet…

So I quickly finished packing my backpack, tied up my running shoes and headed out into the sunshine for one final run through Mui Wo. I ran through the villages passing old people sitting in their chairs quietly watching the lives of others. I saw the famous herd of feral cows chewing cud and roaming the cobblestone pathways that loop around corn stalks and swampy green fields, their methane stench thankfully overwhelmed by the smell of incense floating up from makeshift temples found at the bottom of banyan trees hanging above people heading to work (or not) on bicycles, pulling carts, pushing babies.

It’ll be missed, this small town and the people I hardly spoke with ever because I haven’t mastered their difficult language. Instead, we exchange a greeting with smiles, which pleases both parties I think.

Before taking a bus to the airport, we plan to lunch at the only Chinese restaurant I’ve figured out how to get a vegetarian meal in. It’s always busy with locals. No English on the menus. We had one of our Hong Kong buddies write down the order once a scrap of paper so now I simply show the waitress the handwritten characters that must say “vegetarian noodles and Sprite X 2” and we all laugh because it’s a ridiculous interaction. But it works every time… genius!

Work is finished. We’ve said goodbyes to all of our new friends who are also on their way to post-season adventures in Southeast Asia. We had a final get-together the other night in downtown Hong Kong where we reminisced about how meeting everyone’s been grande, the bonus travel opportunities are awesome, living in Asia is sweet, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids. Our dear friend, Jordan, put together a video of the Dragonfly 2012 season. Sums up this general sentiment wonderfully. It’ll have to do for photos from us for now…

 

More to come, hopefully, but till the next, enjoy December and thanks for keeping up with us!!

 

 

 

So we went to the Philippines…

Who wouldn’t take a cheap 2.5 hour nonstop flight from Hong Kong to one of the 7,100 islands that couldn’t be more different from the stoic Chinese culture and skyrise city life of mainland to the balmy beaches and warm, welcoming smiles of the Latin America of Asia??

!!Bienvenido a la vida guapa!!

First-Class Transportation

Service with a Smile & a Five-Star meal! Fresh catch of the day: Sea Urchin. Tasty treats!

(35k MTB ride through mountain villages, coconut groves, cornfields and water buffalo river crossings) + 1000m elevation gain + (a guide minus an extra tube for one flat tire) = epic day of exploration!!

Gnar

The next day, we found Havasu Creek IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!

…and then we ate Philippines dried mangoes IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!

More gnar

O Christmas Tree?! Decorations were EVERYWHERE for the approaching season…

November in the South Pacific…

What would you buy at Duty Free if you HAD to get rid of a few pesos? Only available in bulk: two full packs of Chewy Chips Ahoy… A remarkably well-spent $7.25 and the perfect  dessert to end a remarkably well-spent four day weekend…

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

Pulling My Blog Weight

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  I sure hope so.  Joy is the writer in this duo and she is off being really important with work, so it’s up to me to tell the story of our week long work trip to China.  

Hong Kong is Asia for beginners.  China is the real deal.  No more English, no more western grocery stores, and no more touching your rear to porcelain.  It’s amazing!

Blonde Hair+Blue Eyes=Celebrity

So Many Happy!!

Feeding Time!

Ink Stone Carving Master at work.

Blow drying my street waffle. Of course.

The best t-shirts you’ll ever find are in China!!

Chinese Wal-Mart.  Not the Western selection I was anticipating.

Meat and Produce Department

Joy is thinking, ‘Everyday, Low Prices’.

I don’t care who you are…that’s a good deal!!

Gold-Label PBR!!

A man writes riddles on the sidewalk with water for passerby’s to solve.  I wish  knew Mandarin!

Having loved China so much and with an extra visa in the passport, Joy and I have decided to spend our month of travel in December navigating the huge expanse that is China.  First stop, The Great Wall, with the Yunnan province and Tibet also on the list.  

Tibet in December. Probably won’t be that cold, right?

 


Mooncakes and Fish Balls: Mid-Autumn Festival 2012

Forget pumpkins, piles of fallen leaves and cooler weather. It’s October and the autumn we know is nowhere to be seen or felt or indulged in. No crisp mornings to be found here. We’re still dodging the heat and humidity, wondering where those rumored monsoons are that supposedly define the rainy season on this side of the world. And pumpkin pie? Try mooncakes and fish balls.

Different strokes for different folks, right? Despite the lack of the iconic fall staples we’re accustomed to, all of China, Taiwan and Vietnam are in the middle of a week-long celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival, a 3000-year-old tradition that marks the end of the fall harvest. Also known as the Moon Festival, festivities begin on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar (around the time of the full moon) and last eight glorious, work-free days for most.

Millions of travelers go by plane, train, bus, car, ferry, bike and on foot to reach family members or crowded holiday sites to eat sweet cakes made out of red beans, watch fire dragon dances, solve riddles and send off brightly lit lanterns into the dark night sky. Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong has one of the more elaborate celebrations in all of Asia but we decided to stay in Luk Tei Tong, the little village we call home here in Mui Wo.

Just around the corner from our staff flat was a family-friendly block party featuring a Lion Dance, traditional Chinese BBQ and games for kids and adults. Below are some snapshots from the evenings’ activities. If technology would step it up a notch, we’d try to upload the smell of burning charcoal from the BBQ that set the aromatic stage for the evening. Someday…

For $50HK (roughly $7US), we could partake in unlimited food and beverage, including the above buckets of assorted meat.

Assorted Meat Buckets included, but were not limited to, squid balls, big and small fish balls, chicken wings, beef tendon balls, steaks and hot dogs.

The event was hosted in both Chinese and English for the eclectic mix of community members. This was our BBQ group.

Vegetarian Option

Watermelon Eating Contest for the kids!

Nick and I were picked to go on stage, wear wigs and sunnies, listen to Chinese music through headphones and sing into a microphone what we thought the lyrics were so the crowd of a hundred people could guess what song we were trying to sing. It was awesomely horrific. We’re kind of famous now too; a couple of little girls giggled and pointed at Nick in the market the other day saying “we know you!”

The final event was a beer-drinking contest for the ladies. Only no chugging – you had to drink a bottle through a straw. Canadian Ellen dominated and won a sandwich maker!

A family sends off a lantern into the sky.

A quiet moment on the beach as two ladies send off a lone lantern marking the end of full moon festivities.

Mooshi Mooshi

Ahoy friends and family!

We all knew this was going to be difficult. But alas it’s happening: a SECOND entry in this slogging blog effort.

It’s been a mere 10 days since our departure from the United States but this week and a half has been stuffed with training for our new jobs. The only tragedy so far, thankfully, is perhaps the state of the bicycles we bought second (or 32nd) hand off Ernie Ming at the BMW (Bikes Mui Wo) shop here in Mui Wo, our quaint little seaside town resting on the outlying island of Lantau we’re to call home for the next two and a half months.

In Mui Wo, the lay of the land isn’t defined by sky scraping buildings. The crazy commotion of epic Hong Kong King Kong-sized city life you see in movies about the end of the world and spreading diseases (a hilarious must-see!) does exist but it’s a 30-minute ferry ride across the sea. Might as well be on the other side of the world.

Mui Wo (moo-ee wo) is the town where we can buy groceries, go to ATM, catch a ferry or bus, and relish the most amazing Turkish food known in the history of the world. Oh yeah. Chinese food’s okay here, too. Where the Dragonfly office and staff flats are you couldn’t drive a car to. It’s down a winding, narrow footpath in a village called Lok Taik Tong, I think. Home of the feral water buffalo and wandering cow. They’re found roaming through the sharp green grass of the broad fields below the backdrop of mountains that make up the island of Lantau. Mostly the lumbering beasts stink up the cobblestone walkways along the Silver River, a dreamy name for a channel of water (sometimes) that changes with the tides.

Most of us just buy beater bikes and a bell to get around. The bell is key to warn obstacles of your approach, such as the elderly. Keeping to the left is also noteworthy. Hong Kong was colonized by the British (of course) so everything is the opposite as Napoleon Bonaparte would have it.

Apart from that, most things are straightforward. So far we’ve spent our days getting to know our new coworkers (Nick’s the third oldest here to give you an idea of demographics), getting trained on leading kayaking, biking, raft-building, canyoning, climbing, hiking and other various teambuilding activities suitable for ages 8-18.

In our spare time, we dominate the daily crossword puzzle of the South China Morning Post.

The weather’s been hot and humid until this morning when the North wind shifted and offered a breeze that lasted all day. Pleasant. Nearly like a decent day of a summer instead of an inferno. Dry heat is way better. Yeah, Phoenix summer shout-out! Holla!!

Since this is a Special Edition blog issue, I thought I’d throw in the answer to one of the many pressing questions we’re receiving: What we find to be the BEST part of Asia (except for Hannah Morris, who’s wondering how our hearts are. They’re doing really well. I think. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe? Umm. Yes.).

BEST PART OF ASIA, VOLUME 1:

Nick discovered Pocky sticks today (a skinny chocolate coated biscuit that comes in a box of 50), but I think he’d still agree: laundry. There’s a beautiful system set up here where you take, say, 10 pounds of laundry to a walk-up window in the morning on your way to wherever. Drop it off, sign a slip, come back around 4pm, and boom! For just $7US, a nice lady hands you a bag of your now fresh, clean, FOLDED clothes. So we give her the money, thank her with a smile and some really poor Cantonese (so much for those Mandarin classes), put the laundry in the basket on the front of my beater bike that I’ll admit I LOVE, and bike on through the maze of buffalo into the setting sun of the Far East. Except the sun still sets in the west here. Oddly enough.

Some things never change. Thank goodness.

PS. Mooshi Mooshi is the phrase of all phrases in Asian culture according to Nick. We use it for everything from communicating with the locals to pretending we know what subway signs say. Supposedly, it might be Japanese for ‘mooshi mooshi.’ Yet to be determined.

Before we begin…

Welcome, friends, to the middle or beginning of an adventure with Nick & Joy. The year’s been chockablock full of epics with no sign of stopping any time soon. Freshly back from summer in Whistler, we’re now in Oklahoma, savoring the send-off notes of Daylight Donuts, a torrential downpour, and salt-of-the-earth conversation with people who keep us grounded.

A week from tomorrow, we’re off for Hong Kong whose flag features a white, stylized, five-petaled orchid tree flower known as the bauhinia blakeana in the center of a red field depicted in the following Google images: Hong Kong flag

Inspiring, yes? We thought so, enough to dedicate an entire blog effort with the blazing title of this pretty little piece of Asian flora. Plus, it has that same nice ring as Bohemian Rhapsody, which fits in too well with our lives this year.

And so, enjoy the potential posts we’ll update. Will probably respond well to nagging, for once, so don’t be shy to send requests and questions to us to inspire at least some product between now and January…

Till the next, enjoy the remains of summer and the quickly approaching relief for some (sorry, Scottsdaliens) crisper morning air and change of seasons.

Hugs and Love to all!

Nick & Joy