Really, this second year in China is going by so quickly! I can’t believe that in a little over 7 months I will be back home in the States for good. This year is passing so fast that I haven’t written many blog posts and I’m sorry about that. In some ways, there isn’t as much to write about because I’m not experiencing everything for the first time anymore. However, I will take some time to bring you up to speed with the events of the last 2 months.
In mid-December Hillary and I had to make a visa exit trip to Hong Kong. This time I was the “expert” and the one showing someone else around. Except that I wasn’t really enough of an expert to do an adequate job. All my brilliant plans for the trip pretty much fell through. First of all we missed the 9am ferry to Hong Kong on Saturday morning December 12th. So we had to wait around for 2 more hours to take the 11am ferry. By the time we got off the ferry it was close to 1pm. We still had to find our hostel and get checked in before we could really start our day. This proved difficult. We found the correct building in Tsim Sha Tsui but the information about where our hostel was located inside the building was incorrect. We wandered around for a bit trying to find it but couldn’t so we gave up and ducked into a nearby Pizza Hut to finally get some lunch and decide what to do. While eating we read the original email that the hostel sent us to confirm our booking, this email told us to go to a different floor of the building to check in. But it was almost 3pm by this time so we thought that it would be better, especially in light of the head cold that Hillary caught the day before, to just go back to Zhongshan in the evening rather than stay the night in Hong Kong. The hostel was pretty cheap and we didn’t mind being out $30 if it meant sleeping in our own beds. Looking at some more incorrect information we saw that there was a 10pm ferry back to Zhongshan. So we decided to go out to Stanley Market and come back in time for the 10pm ferry.
We crossed the bay from Kowloon Island to Hong Kong Island and made our way to a bus station where we caught the bus out to Stanley Market. The metro doesn’t go out that far. It was on this hour long bus ride, which I previously thought was shorter, that we discovered the incorrect ferry information. We realized that there is no 10pm ferry back to Zhongshan, there is only an 8pm ferry. And if we were going to get back in time to make the 8pm then we wouldn’t have much time at all at Stanley Market. The bus ride as always is breathtaking and totally worth the hour long ride; however, by the time we got to Stanley it was 5pm. We didn’t even have time to eat any dinner. We quickly walked through the souvenir market, I picked up some gifts for people, and we went back to the bus stop at 5:40pm passing by a lovely Christmas market set up by the Stanley mall only to find the bus stop packed with people waiting for busses to take them back to Central, Hong Kong. At this point we thought, “Oh no! We might not make it back to the ferry port in time.” We should have just accepted this fact and been okay with returning to the hostel then we could have spent more time in Stanley but instead we decided to try to make it back in time for the ferry. So we waited in an overcrowded, convoluted line for the busses. It was 6:30pm by the time we got on a bus, 7:30pm by the time we got back to the bus station and 8:00pm by the time we got back to Kowloon Island. That was the second ferry we missed that day.
We were so tired from the journey, lack of dinner, and from lugging around our backpacks all day that we only had energy to eat something at a McDonalds, look at a few Christmas lights and head back to our hostel. With the correct information from the email we easily found our check in desk and found our rooms. What a horrible misadventure! If only we had read the email thoroughly the first time, we could have saved ourselves a whole bunch of trouble! But now Hillary and I have a good laugh about the time we tried to enjoy a weekend in Hong Kong. On Sunday, due to Hillary’s cold we decided to take a ferry back to Zhongshan at noon. So we chilled in a café for the morning and went back home without any adventures on Sunday, which was a relief.
Christmas is always hard as an expat. It’s hard when you don’t have any family to celebrate with. It’s even harder when you live in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. This year was easier in some ways for me because I knew what to expect and I could comfort myself with the knowledge that next Christmas I would be back home. But it was also harder because many of our Christmas plans didn’t go according to plan.
We did watch a lot of Christmas movies throughout the holiday season. Sometimes it was just Hillary and I and sometimes the whole group joined us. We started off December with The Holiday. Hillary and I planned a girls’ night where we watched the movie and colored Christmas coloring pages. I printed off an assortment of Christmas themed coloring pages and Janessa brought the crayons and colored pencils. Very therapeutic. Later in December we organized another movie day. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas, some of the old Christmas classics. One week day night we watched the animated, classic version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Hillary and I watched Elf, A Family Stone, Scrooge, and A Christmas Story together. So as far as getting in as many Christmas movies as possible, Hillary and I definitely succeeded.
I also succeeded in decorating my apartment with more Christmas Cheer than I did last year. This year I looked up simple paper Christmas decorations on Pinterest and added some of those to my decorations from last year. I also burned large candles almost every night, found a fake poinsettia to put in a vase (really an old glass bottle) and had multicolored snowflakes on my walls. Of course I turned on my Christmas lights every night and played Christmas music as well. This year I used my computer to display a picture of a roaring fireplace on my TV screen and put my space heater near the TV to simulate the coziness of a real fireplace.
Christmas week didn’t exactly go as planned. We had wanted to have a big Christmas party on Friday night after the Christmas Carnival and then chill out together on Saturday and watch some more Christmas movies. However, that week ended up being really busy and instead we had a small Christmas party on Saturday evening. First event of the week was a big dinner with the Secondary Hong Kong teachers on Tuesday night, Dr. Choi threw his annual foreign teacher Christmas party on Wednesday, and then we all went to the Christmas Eve party at Church on Thursday night. The Christmas Eve party at Church was not a typical Christmas Eve service that one would see in America. It was really more of a party. Different members of the church formed groups and put on performances around the theme of Christmas or other biblical themes. The Church was packed with people and I think overall the party was a success.
Of course on the day of Christmas the school held its annual Christmas Charity Carnival. This is where the students put together different acts and performances (usually songs and dances) as well as selling food and other items to raise money for the Red Cross. Unfortunately, just like last year the school asked the foreign teachers to do a performance. Last year, Andrew Macejak and I performed a short magic trick. This year we decided to keep it simple. We choose two traditional Christmas Carols to sing a Capella. On stage in front of an audience of Chinese people both Andrews and I sang, without accompanying music, Joy to the World and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We tried to show them what Christmas caroling is all about so we brought mugs and copies of the lyrics and wore Santa hats, scarves and sweaters and explained what Christmas caroling is. It wasn’t a hit. But we got through it and the audience members got to see the foreign teachers, which is the whole point anyways.
Christmas night, I made pasta for myself and Hillary. Together we watched Scrooge which is a family tradition for me and A Christmas Story. It wasn’t ideal because I had want to show everyone my family’s traditional Christmas movie, Scrooge, especially the Macejaks since we did Christmas eve together last year but it didn’t happen due to business of the week and Hillary and I had a singles’ Christmas party. What would I do without her?
On Saturday morning, the day after Christmas, the 6th floor got together in Hillary’s room, where we had set up a Christmas tree a few weeks ago, for a pot luck breakfast. We all made a different breakfast item and enjoyed a relaxing morning together. Later in the day the Fillers, Hillary and I went over the Macejaks for a small Christmas party. I made French toast again just like last year (unfortunately Vincy wasn’t able to come and help me). So we had breakfast yet again that day. After brinner we played a Christmas trivia game, girls v. boys, and we ended the evening with Christmas catch phrase.
Hillary and I spent the New Year’s holiday in Singapore. Our school only gave us Friday January 1st off for New Year’s so we made a really short trip. Our flight from Hong Kong to Singapore left on Thursday December 31st at 9:45pm so we went immediately from school to the Hong Kong airport. We landed in Singapore at 2am and took a taxi to my friend’s apartment. Hillary and I stayed with my friend, Bekah Steiner in Singapore. She was kind enough to give us a room and show us around the city. We really only had 2 full days in Singapore because our return flight was at 5:45 am on Sunday morning. Both days we explored different parts of the city but unfortunately we didn’t have time for the famous Singaporean zoo. On Friday we went to Chinatown, Marina Bay (which is the central area of the city and has great views of the skyline), took pictures with the Merlion (which is a fountain statue in the Marina Bay area and is the iconic symbol of Singapore) and saw the Gardens by the Bay light show. On Saturday we went to a historic hotel, the Raffels Hotel, where we saw the bar which created the Singapore Sling. There is a funny story behind that cocktail. Back in the day, late 1800s, ladies weren’t supposed to drink alcohol in public so the proprietor of this bar, called Long Bar, created a cocktail that looked like fruit juice for the ladies. Unfortunately, drinking a Singapore Sling is quite expensive at this bar so we passed. We then went to Little India to shop in the craziest department store I have ever seen. This department store, Mustafa’s, was a labyrinth of winding aisles and selves of merchandise. Everything under the sun was sold in this beast of a store. After Mustafa’s we went on a river boat cruise and then headed to Orchard Road to enjoy the once a month pedestrian street there and the local buskers. We didn’t go to sleep on Saturday night, rather we went back to Bekah’s apartment to pick up our things and take a shower then headed to the airport around midnight to chill until we could check into our flight.
We ate lots of different food in Singapore which was wonderful. We had Vietnamese, Mexican, Singaporean hawker, and Middle Eastern kebabs. Eating food from all over the world has got to be one of the many benefits of living in Singapore. I was truly astounded by this city. It must be the cleanest and safest city in the whole world. And it is true that you are not allowed to spit your gum out on the sidewalk in Singapore. In fact gum isn’t even sold in Singapore. Like Hong Kong, you aren’t allowed to eat or drink on metro which really helps keeps the metros clean. Even the buskers have to have a license to busk. Everything is very up to date and modern. It was like walking around in a futuristic city. Because Singapore is so small, they haven’t been able to keep many historic buildings. We saw only two historic hotels and one historic church. That would be one negative to living in Singapore; I love historic buildings. The only other negative to living in Singapore, besides an expensive standard of living, would be the hot and humid weather all year long. Singapore is close to the equator so there is little reprieve to the constant warm humidity. At least in Guangdong, China we get 2 months of cool humidity. However, I am thinking about living here for a couple of years if Donald Trump is elected president, hehe.