So, I’ve been writing this update in my head for a good long time and am now actually sitting down to do it. For the most part, all is well and I cannot complain. Getting settled in Hong Kong is miles easier than getting settled in our last post on so many levels. First, there’s the fact that so many people speak English. We are living in a large apartment block with maintenance people and staff to call when things inevitably go wrong. Supermarkets are well-stocked with plenty of familiar items. But, it’s still a new place where we don’t know anyone.
The kids seem to be doing well at school, adjusting to the new curriculum and sailing along academically. Older daughter has started playing the flute for the band and is trying to catch up to her classmates who started last year. She’s actually doing very well, though she is frustrated that she’s not playing like James Galway from the word go.
She’s also taking swimming lessons that eventually csn lead to a swimming team. The pool is a 50-metre lap pool. HUGE! After the first lesson she wobbled to the stands on legs that looked like they were made of jelly. While she’s swimming (and I’m waiting) I watch the Chinese kids who train in the same pool for the pool’s club team. Imagine 25 kids in each lane, swimming lap after lap after lap, keeping a distance of about 2 feet between swimmers, never more, never less. Like a well-oiled machine they just keep going and going and going. For those practicing backstroke, they take an empty yogurt drink container and have to balance it on their forehead while they swim. Unbelievable!
She's made some friends though there’s some 5th grade girl meanness to deal with. One girl in particular is nice one day, not nice the next. We’re still learning the hierarchy but there seem to be a few small groups and then a large pool of mostly nice girls who sort of float between groups. Girl politics! Ugh.
The smaller boy has also adapted well and is boldly speaking Mandarin enthusiastically. He has a fantastic teacher who I think he feels very comfortable with. The teacher is experienced and encouraging while setting the bar high for the kids. He’s taken up basketball, karate and golf, with lessons each week for both. He’s also playing floor hockey at school. Next term, who knows. There’s rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis – you name it, they can try it!
I marvel at the way they’ve adjusted and then, BAM!, we’ll have a setback or a rough night with someone in tears. Tonight was the smaller boy's turn and I have to admit that I’ve not heard him sob that way in a long time. He was missing his friends from our last post, and named each and every one -- from his friends at school, to friends from our compound, to his favorite 13-year-old guy babysitter. I tried to comfort him by telling him we could send some e-mails tomorrow to say hello and he said, “I don’t want to just e-mail them, I want to TOUCH them.” It just about broke my heart. We’ve arranged for a playdate on Friday after school so slowly, slowly, we are getting there.
My husband's job is only a short 15 minutes away. It has been a real treat to have him often home by 6:30 p.m. for dinner when he’s not traveling. We can actually eat together, or at the very least, have him home to help with a bit of homework and tuck in the kids.
And me? Well there is certainly no excuse for being bored, as every possible activity ever invented is available for those who are interested. And yet, Hong Kong has a way of making you feel utterly and completely lonely sometimes in a way only a large, crowded city can.
I’ve signed up for 8 classes of Catonese which is ridiculously hard as we are not learning to read or write, just speak. Throw in 5 different tones and words that start with a “ts” or “ds” sound and it’s an 1 ½ hour brain scramble. We learned that if you say the word for 9 with a “middle” tone versus a “rising” tone you will instead be saying the word for male genitalia. Proceed with caution!
Grocery shopping, as I said, is relatively easy as there are plenty of familiar foods available. All displayed neatly next to the unfamiliar yet entertaining foods like chicken feet (imported from Brazil!), tongue, pigs hooves, and snacks such as BBQ-flavored shrimp puffs. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because for so many years it was easy to keep my kids off crappy American snack food as we couldn’t find it or it was unbelievably expensive. Here, you can often find it and it’s merely more expensive. A slippery slope. And of course, there are 4 or 5 major chains and you can’t find everything you need at one place. Things come and go, so buy when you see it as it may not be there tomorrow!
The weather has gone from scorching hot to just blazing hot. When the humidity’s below 70% it’s bearable. And when it’s higher, yuck. The kids have off a week at the end of October so we’ve decided to stay here and play tourists, doing all the stuff we would have liked to do when we first got here but couldn’t because it was just too hot.
Ocean Park and giant buddha - here we come!