Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dave's Travelogue, Episode 3

This was sent August 12, 2005.

I wouldn't want to leave Hong Kong without touching the South China Sea,
so on Monday I took bus A35 to Cheong Sha beach, reputed to be beautiful.
Nice enough, kinda rocky, wish there weren't bits of garbage here n there.

That was the warmest ocean water I have ever been in, room temperature
or warmer. I didn't swim, just walked in the surf for a half hour.

There are these tiny crabs, just an inch wide including legs,
but they scuttle at an amazing speed. When they stop, they match the
sand so perfectly they are often invisible. I chased one around in a
circle for two minutes. I tried to get a picture of another, but settled
for a picture of his sand hole. I finally got a shot of a third.

Sitting there under a shade tree, it occurred to me that no one in the
world knew where I was.

The A35 bus goes once per hour, and apparently they don't wait if they
see you running for the bus. I got on the next bus that came, route 11,
and transferred at Tung Chung. Noticed that "Passenger talking to a
driver is an offence in law". Oops. Done that.

Hong Kong island faces Kowloon city on the mainland. Really, Hong Kong
and Kowloon together are one big city, with a harbor in the middle.
Tunnels and ferries make the crossing.

Took another shower and boarded the train after dark, to try to get to
Temple Street in Kowloon. Decided to get off at the Kowloon bus station.

Again, this is a building that expects no foot traffic, and they make it
difficult to exit the building. A couple others like me, who just can't get
the message, were searching for the exit, and we escaped through the
bus doors to an industrial neighborhood. I carry a compass, and turned
northeast towards Kowloon.

Kowloon is a city of small storefronts, and as you walk towards Temple Street,
the tempo picks up. More people selling more stuff to more customers
under more neon light. On Temple street, they setup street stalls, so as
you walk down the three foot wide center aisle, you see two sellers on the left,
and two more on the right. Shirts, hats, watches, CDs, DVDs, knives,
and novelties. I bought six items I didn't know I needed from four stalls.

From there, I wanted to walk south and take the required ferry ride to
Hong Kong, but Kowloon, like home, doesn't always allow you to
go the direction you wish. After some frustration, I found Nathan Street,
which is listed as a tourist attraction itself. Few stalls, but practically
paved with neon, and apparently the Rolex capital of the world. The Canon
20D camera I keep looking at still costs about US $1500. Walked maybe
ten blocks south.

Some very friendly young ladies said hello to me as I turned west towards
the ferry. I took a couple of shots of Hong Kong by night from the pier,
but I can't get this camera to do well with city-by-night shots. The
seats on the ferry have hinged (reversible) backs, so that they can face
forward or rearward. Roughly Kennywood style woodwork.

A youth symphony had just let out, and dozens of well-dressed youth,
mostly with violins and beaming parents, got on board ahead of me. Crossing
took maybe 20 minutes, watching the city through smeary plastic windows. Then
a ten minute walk to the train to the Airport/Hotel.


Back to the Blog

Back again, blogging to you from my Backup Blog Station (aka Older Son's Bedroom). I spent all evening yesterday cleaning up the kids' computer (there were 66 spyware/viruses on it) and defragging the hard drive so I can use it. Technically, it is my computer, I built it in Hardware class, I just always liked using the laptop better, so told OS he could use this one. Haven't decided yet whether I'll be moving it into my room or not. OS was doing alot of whinging about me being in his room (like he really wanted to go to bed.) But moving it would involve taking the desk too and that would mean Rearranging Furniture and A Lot of Work so, maybe not.

I spoke with Dave, he says he doesn't care that he can't read the blog. He was pretty uncaring about the whole thing, actually. (But you know, the Chinese are getting a raw deal, regardless. They obviously need more Freedom. AND, they have Weapons of Mass Destruction. George should get over there and Kick Their Butts! For Bloggers! For Knitters!) Ok, back now. He was pretty uncaring about the expenses, too. He says he'll get around to it sometime....

In Other News

Look at this:
That's a Big, Dead, Bug! OS found it on my window sill!! I'm still creeped out about it. It was only inches away from my head! I'm trying not to think about that too much. Both boys were kinda fascinated with it. (But not enough, mind you, to actually touch it or dispose of it or anything like that.) I had to do that. (Actually, I couldn't touch it either, I picked it up with the tissue you see here.) I had to take it way far away to throw out, too, because I kept thinking it might not be completely dead.

Knitting News

I finished knitting the "Potato Chip Scarf" I keep telling myself it looks like flower petals or a sea anemone, but all I can think is that it looks like intestines. I don't like it. I think I'm going to unravel it. It's too long, too stiff, too thin. I doubt I'll make this again. I guess I'd recommend it if you don't know how to crochet. If you can crochet, just chain the desired length, then work 1 row dc, next row work 2 dc in each st. Work these two rows ~3 or 4 times (or until as wide and ruffly as you'd like it. -- You could work this on both sides of the chain to make a double-ruffle scarf, which I think would be nicer.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Seeds of Sedition

Well. Apparently Dave cannot view my blog here. I have to find another host. So if anyone out there is actually reading this except me, don't get too attached to this web address, it's going to change soon. I am obviously so seditious (sneakily seditious, with all my talk of knitting and kids going off to school) that the Chinese Government is blocking my blog! According to Blogger, their sites are blocked by the Chinese Government. Hey Blogger Guys -- DON'T YOU THINK THIS WOULD BE SOMETHING TO PUT IN THE "KNOWN ISSUES" SPOT ON YOUR WEB SITE??? Cause if I had known this was an issue I would have never started a blog here.

AND, the above is just a minor inconvenience today because my laptop is dead. As a doornail. Just great.

ALSO, I'm flat-out broke. I had to transfer the children's college fund to my checking account to pay my bills this month. Why? Gee, I dunno. Could it have something to do with the fact that Dave hasn't bothered to send in his expenses for almost four weeks? And also the fact that the 25% pay increase he was promised hasn't materialized? Maybe. Also add in that my dad has had a Very Major Expense, which I can usually float, but couldn't this year because I still had to cover Dave's expenses from when he was in Virginia and some of his expenses in relocating to China and pay for the new car we bought on the presumption that we would be getting Lots More Money when Dave went to China. So, I'm broke. Dave, on the other hand, writes that he purchased a new guitar.

You go, Dave. It's all part of my seditious plot to overthrow the Chinese government. (Betcha the FBI reads my blog tomorrow!! Hey G-men! Send me an email and I'll knit you a pair of socks!)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday, Sunday

Another Sunday just about gone by. Older Son went off to feed the hungry with his Aunt (presumably, she's usually the one who organizes this stuff) and so Younger Son and I were left to our own devices. We tried to pick up his glasses at the mall but were too late. (I having put off going to the mall as long as possible and therefore making us miss it.) They are open tomorrow until 9, so I will just have to bite the bullet and go after work.

We did go to the grocery store and then delivered groceries to Pap. I did not get my car washed, however. (I was really hoping for more rain.) I also didn't get the lawn mowed.

But YS and I spent some quality time together. We had lunch at McDonald's. I promised him a trip for ice cream, too, which he has decided to take a rain check on. We went grocery shopping. He even held my hand while we were walking to and from the car. He still does that. I wondered how much longer that will last . He also will spontaneously hug me and say "I love you, Mom."

He came home and stood out in the yard talking to the next door neighbor for awhile. He's a friendly little extrovert, is YS. I hear him now, talking to the neighbor out of his bedroom window. Next Door is outside grilling. I think Younger Son just went outside to talk with him over the hedge while he cooks. From what I can hear, they're discussing the likelihood of things burning on the grill.

I did get some knitting done. I'm making the "Potato Chip Scarf" from the KnitPicks catalog. It starts with 180 sts and then increases every other row 3X. All the increasing makes it all ruffly. An interesting idea, but I think if I do it again I'll do it in crochet. Almost 1500 sts (1440, to be exact) is a lot to squeeze on a needle, and my wrists are paying for it. I thought about going the other way and starting with 1440 and then decreasing down to 180, but can you imagine a pattern that starts off "Cast-on 1440 sts..." Yeah, right. I'll post a pic when it's done -- right now it just looks like a squished up squirmy pink mass.

Dave's Travelogue, Episode the Second

This was August 8, 2005, while Dave was still in Hong Kong, waiting for his Visa to be approved.

I read in my guidebook that giving out namecards (business cards) was important and
somewhat ceremonial in Hong Kong. This explains the confusion when I failed to have
one when applying for my mainland visa. The person helping me had to call someone
to see what to do. I have some business cards at home, but they are from when
my title, phone number, and department was different. Dave the Barbarian.

Sunday I decided to see sites on Lantau island (the closest island) instead of traveling to
Hong Kong island. I first went to see Po Lin (Precious Lotus) Monastery, where they
have the largest seated, outdoor, bronze Buddha in the world. I also decided on shorts
and short sleeves, unlike Saturday.

The Hotel provides a bus to Tung Chung bus/rail station, past the kind of bridges, bays,
high rises, and vegetation that I always imagined Hawaii must have. The bus station
is built into a mall. From there I must get on local bus 23 to Po Lin.

Bus 23 takes me over the island, which is considerably less civilized than all I have seen
so far. Even for a me, the roads seem impossibly narrow and winding. If you are
not going up a steep, curvy hill, then you are going down a steep, curvy hill. I was worried
about our brakes. Half of it is single lane, with convex mirrors to allow you stop and
let the other vehicle go past. Most of the vehicles are buses. This is some of the most
populated area in the world.

There are many staircases built into the sides of the hills, allowing foot traffic to take
shortcuts. Many hillsides are covered with a lumpy coating of concrete, punctured with
weep holes, to prevent landslides.

There are apparently larger Buddhas elsewhere, but at 26.4 meters, this was big enough
for me. He is seated on top of a hill overlooking the monastery, with 260 steps
leading up the hill. Very pretty hills and valleys, but shrouded in mist.

You must buy a ticket to get inside the museum, which is what Buddha sits on. Inside
there are several large murals of important events in Buddha’s life, but no cameras allowed.

The monastery is pretty, with probably as many believers as tourists walking around.
There is much incense burning, in various incense pots. The buildings have relief carvings on the walls of celestial beings and dragons.

I decided to get adventurous, and got on the bus to the fishing village Tai O. It looked a lot
like the poor Mexican villages you see in Hollywood movies. Buildings labeled restaurants
did not inspire me to eat. I walked up the market street, looking at all the trinkets and
dried seafood for sale. I didn’t recognize many of the dried foods, which looked like torn
bits of rawhide, in shades of yellow and tan. There were some live eels and fish also.

Back at the bus station, I tried to escape the mall to see the local fort before my bus to
the hotel was due, but the security guard did not know what a “fort” was, so I settled
for a McChicken and a McFlurry. Hey, I have five months in China, I don’t have to eat
local food every meal.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dave's Travelogue, Episode 1

I decided to post Dave’s adventures in the Orient, so here’s his first installment. This was sent on Aug. 8, 2005.

Most everyone knows that I have been preparing for a trip to
China this year. They promised to have me home by Christmas,
but they weren't sure when I would go. Some time between
February and August.

So, since January 3, I have been driving 6 hrs to work
each Sunday night, and 6 hrs home each Friday evening.

This Monday morning, when I walked in the building, they said "now".
So I drove home Monday night, spent two days and one night packing,
and got on a plane Thursday morning 10 am. They almost refused to
let me on the flight because I don't have a Visa to stay long
enough for my return flight in December.

Barely made a connecting flight at 12:30 in Chicago.

The plane went direct from Chicago to Hong Kong, chasing the sun.
It was 1 pm when we took off, and 5pm when we landed, but
the flight was 15 hours long, bright sunlight the whole way. We
went up near the north pole and then south through Siberia
to the southern edge of China.

I took pictures of the broken floating ice up north, and other
interesting land masses. Somewhere over China, a trick of the light
turned the land all pale silver-blue, with the rivers looking like
dragon-shaped silver inlays.

While I and two other guys were standing next to the rear exit door,
a stocky five-year-old boy tried to push the opening lever. We
shooed him away. Sometime, on some flight somewhere, some boy whose
mom is sleeping ... maybe not. Maybe they have an electronic lock or

I sat next to Al and LaLa ( yes, LaLa ) from Chicago, who are dating
each other, and recently graduated college. Opposites ( Al and La )
must attract.

Hong Kong time is exactly twelve hours different from home. Home's
5pm is my 5am.

I had the grilled eel fried rice and some unspecified soup for dinner
at the Ajisen Noodle restaurant at the Hong Kong airport. Best durn
grilled eel I ever had. Well, it was OK. I struggled with the chopsticks.
I may lose weight here.

The lady said I need to stay two extra days in Hong Kong because my
Visa for mainland China will not be ready until 3 pm Monday.

So, I got up 9:15am Saturday, and made it to the hotel breakfast
buffet. They had lots of ordinary breakfast stuff, like cereal,
an omelet bar, sausage and ham, plus some interesting items,
like dim sum dumplings, barbeque pork in a steamed biscuit, chicken
and rice wrapped in leaves, and Japanese Miso soup, which was very
similar to the other soup, and plain Congee, which is like rice grits.

I wanted to go sightseeing, but I couldn't use the train schedule,
because I don't have a watch. I left my cell phone in the USA.
So I bought a cell phone for $1078. Hong Kong dollars. Divide by 7.
Everyone who wants to sell you something speaks English.

I pulled $1200 HK from an ATM, purchased the Lonely Planet guide
to Hong Kong, and ventured out to see the world about 2:30pm.

The airport and hotel are on an island by themselves, a man-made
island that is almost connected to Lantau island. A train runs
from the airport, over a bridge to Lantau, another bridge to
Ma Wan, another bridge to Tsing Yi, another bridge to mainland
China, then and undersea tunnel to Hong Kong island.

Hong Kong is Humid. And Hot. And Humid. You don't get hit by the
sun much, because the buildings were tall, so it is a shady,
damp kind of hot.

It is similar to an American city, with lots of small shops like
New York, and lots of malls. The supermarket had brands I knew,
like Betty Crocker, and also things in Chinese.

At first I was kind of trapped in a mall above the train station.
I tried to leave one way, but a doorman explained I was going in
the wrong direction, the walkway dead-ends, so he sent me to
an open square on the roof of the mall, where I got some pictures
of the harbor.

Then I followed a couple from Norway who knew the way. You need
to leave the mall via a second-story walkway. They have these
walkways all over Hong Kong, some just cross one street, others
go for blocks.

I found a nice little air conditioned restaurant called the
Bauhinia on Queens Central, and had Japanese noodles with
various seafood, including squid or octopus. Sat there
until I had figured some sites to see.

Hong Kong Island is a mountain, though a small enough mountain
to walk up, if you care to. You need to really care. The city
is along the north shore of the island, and relatively flat,
from my point of view. Up the hill side they have
residential areas, and on the Peak there is a hotel and amusements.

I first walked uphill to St John's Cathedral, more of a
pretty little church than a Cathedral, then downhill to Statue
Square, where all the house servants spend their Saturdays. The
statue was of some bank executive. There was a group of Christians
singing "Above All" and other songs to an electric guitar. I met
a Canadian named Andrew, who wanted to use my guidebook to find
the entrance to the tram car up to the Peak. It turned out to be
near St John's.

I walked to Central Escalator, which is the world's longest
escalator. It is built into one of those second story walkways,
leading from the city up to the residential levels. I hit it at
evening rush hour, so there was a steady stream of people riding
it home from work.

I walked back down to the city, then up past St John's. I figured
it would be best to ride the tram to the Peak just after sunset.
Everyone else in Hong Kong had the same idea. There was not quite
a thousand people waiting in line for tickets.

The tram is very much like the incline at home. Longer, with a
bigger brighter city, but at the top, our city actually provides
a much wider, better view of the city. Hong Kong provided fireworks
above the city.

I have been struggling with my new digital camera. It seems that
my old camera was simple enough to keep me out of trouble, but
my new camera provides a hundred ways for me to take a bad photo.
Mostly, I like to use that big 10x zoom, which makes the exposure
longer while also magnifying the shake, which generally spells

I was going to take an after dark harbor tour, but as I walked in that
direction, my feet decided I had seen enough Hong Kong for one day,
so I took the train back to the airport and hotel.


Welcome to my blog! And welcome me to the blogging universe. I'm killing time this morning before calling my husband in China. It's noon here, so he's about ready to go to bed. I called earlier, but he was still "out with the guys". He has apparently gotten a gig at the local bar playing guitar and singing. He says there are lots of younger, better looking people there, but they really like him. Must be the novelty of a real American.

My regular knitting group met last night. I took my camera to take pictures, but forgot after taking the first one.

That's Sara with her current sweater project and our Starbucks drinks. We ended up with about 7 people there. (They had to get more chairs!) Since Sara, Kelly, and I thought it would be just the three of us until Barnes & Noble kicked us out, we're pretty happy.

Can you feel the joy? Do these kids look EXCITED or what?
At least my baby wore his hand-knitted socks.
He's obviously extremely happy about them.