Thursday, July 25, 2013

Halfway Done

Yup, my once giant summer holiday is halfway over. I think that ever since being a child, I’ve been programmed to want summer to go on forever and hence feel a tinge of sadness seeing so much of it in the rear view mirror. I love the flexibility and freedom to do so many things I want to do, as opposed to the dreaded responsibilities of work life. Still, stability is good and I’m sure by late August, I’ll be ready to get back into the routine. I do miss the kids for sure.

But between now and then, I’ll be going to Europe for the first time! As I said in the last post, it’s rather silly to write very much about this when I’ll be blogging about it extensively after I’m back. So let it suffice to say that I’m very excited to be exploring Ireland, England and Scotland for the majority of August! And with my girlfriend and parents no less.

In other news, many of you might have seen what I posted on Facebook about my new postgraduate program that I expect to start in the fall. To provide a few more details, it’s essentially a part-time primary (elementary) teaching certification program at the Hong Kong Institute of Education that will get me a diploma by June of 2015. Many of the specifics aren’t crystal clear at this point, but the gist is that I’ll go to lectures a couple nights a week, write some papers and arrange my six weeks of student-teaching at my current job in the spring. This whole thing was fairly last minute however—only applied on June 23rd—and even now, I’m still not even 100% enrolled. Sometime during the Europe trip, I expect to get my registration information and will sign up for classes on my return to HK. And I'll start attending those classes just a week or two later, if all goes according to plan.

I’d been deliberating over post-graduate plans for some time now, as I’ve always known that my Bachelor’s degree wasn’t the end of my student days. Even after this program, I half expect to return to a university one day to get a Masters in something. For this current degree, I’ve gone back and forth in my mind countless times between music, education and music education. And have also deliberated over going back in the US or here in HK. In the end, I chose this because being a teaching assistant at a primary school, I’m in a perfect position to do go after a diploma of this nature. Having full-time income makes the whole thing more financially doable and my current work environment makes it easy to put what I learn into practice without being overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a lead teacher. Let’s just hope I don’t come back and read this a few months down the road stressed and busy out of my mind…

So after four weeks of relaxed days filled with movies, badminton, tutoring and Skyping friends, I’m off to the UK and Ireland for 19 days. After that, busy times ahead as a teaching assistant, library coordinator and part-time student here in Hong Kong. Next post will have real-life Irish and Brits in it, the latter of whom will probably still be all excited about baby George’s first this and first that.

Friday, June 28, 2013

School's Out for Summer

And for the nineteenth year in a row, the school year has ended and my days will be substantially freer until fall. I really don’t like Alice Cooper too much, but I’m glad someone wrote a song about this incredible feeling that one gets as s/he walks out the school doors for the last time of the year. I don’t need to explain it; every person reading this surely knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s absolutely no different when you are a teacher. 

During this upcoming week, the first of my summer holiday, I will celebrate Sharman’s birthday and my own two-year anniversary of living in Hong Kong. To answer the question that American friends ask me frequently, no, I have no plans to return to the US anytime particularly soon, believe it or not. It’s staggering to think how two years ago when I was preparing to come here, I was very careful to make sure that I would be allowed to leave my job after one year if I wanted to. I remember distinctly thinking, ‘Two years is a really long time, and I’m not sure I want to commit to that right away.’ Lo and behold, two years (albeit two jobs) has gone quicker than I could’ve ever imagined! Really. 

This school year has been better than the first, which wasn't too bad in itself. Initially, I was excited about the close location to my apartment, working with older children and no school on Saturdays. Those aspects have indeed been a huge plus, but beyond that, I’ve worked with incredible colleagues and have become much more confident and skilled as a teacher. That being said, my job is only as a teaching assistant and I do less formal teaching than giving individual help around the class. But still, I’ve felt challenged, increasingly well-rounded and more sure of myself as I continue to pursue work in the teaching field. In the upcoming year, depending on how the die rolls, I may begin taking courses in a teacher certification program here in Hong Kong. I won’t say too much on that though, as it’s miles from being official. One thing that is official, however, is my position as ‘library coordinator’ for next year in addition to my TA position. I’ll use my four years of experience in the PLU library to get those Dr. Seuss books in order :) 

But before I return to work in late August, I've got a decent handful of things to do. Mainly, I plan to a) tutor as many children as I can, b) record another EP, c) read a lot more than I have been recently and d) go to Ireland and the UK with Sharman and my parents. Obviously, I’m looking forward to the big trip the most but no need to say too much about that while it’s still a month away. It’ll be strange not getting up at 6:10 every morning to go to work, but I think I’ll be able to cope with that. My only complaint is this brutal Hong Kong heat. Good thing I have air conditioning and a swimming pool!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

50 Photos from Hong Kong

This is my fiftieth blog post. I’m always a bit uncomfortable with the somewhat self-centeredness of posting about my life all the time so I deeply appreciate those of you who actually read this and sometimes even learn something from it. It reaffirms that this isn’t just a long-winded monologue.

Anyway, for the big five-oh, I have decided to a Buzzfeed-esque post with mostly photos, with each one representing something significant about my time here. They are in no particular order, and many of them have already been posted here or on Facebook. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy fifty photos from Hong Kong, taken since post #1 nearly two years ago.

1. One of the very first photos I took in Hong Kong. From the balcony of my Clearwater Bay house.
2. A different view of that same house. Abundant vegetation. 
3. My room for the first eight months in Hong Kong. 
4. Hard at work, teaching one and two year olds how to march.
5. Possibly my favorite picture ever taken of me. Chinese New Year celebration at school.  
6. Informal class photos are better than the professional ones. I'd rather have confused faces than terrified ones!
7. Was hard to say goodbye to all the teachers and students at my first school.
8. First photo of Sharman and I as a couple. On Halloween 2011 in Ocean Park, shortly before a man in a ghoul costume scared the sh*t out of us.

9. One year anniversary on Lamma Island.
10. Parents visit to Hong Kong. 
11. Typhoon warning. Level 8 and strengthening! 
12. Outside the MTR station, the morning after level 10 typhoon Vicente.
13. Sure do love taking ferries.
14. And swimming in the ocean, sometimes even with high school friends. 
15. What can I say, I'm a beach boy.

16. Who also loves hiking to get to these beaches.
17. This is the best one I've found in HK, tucked beneath the rolling green hills of Sai Kung. It's called Long Ke.

18. I go to the beach to escape these crowds, like in Causeway Bay.
19. But climbing small mountains also does the trick. Thanks to trek leader Henry.
20. Che Kung Temple, the closest landmark to my current home in Tai Wai.
21. Tai Wai. There's actually room to stretch out your arms here!
22. A door-knocker that would make Scrooge shiver. The apartment shall be known as THE LION'S DEN.
23. Not quite as exciting as it sounds but, pleasant.
24. The view from atop Amah Rock. My building's in the very middle of this photo, just right of the one covered in green construction tarp.
25. Speaking of nice views of buildings, here's looking down from the Peak on Hong Kong Island.
26. And looking across at night, from Tsim Sha Tsui.
27. My favorite building on the HK side, Bank of China.
28. And on the Kowloon side, the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower
29. I guess the Big Buddha's a building too, as it has two levels and multiple rooms inside
30. I've had a lot of great coworkers.
31. At both schools I've worked for.
32. Glad many could join me for an excellent 24th birthday at Tequila Jack's Mexican restaurant. Possibly my favorite eatery in the city.
33. But I've branched out with food as well. Snake soup anyone?
34. Along with this blog, I've written tons in this journal. Now completely full.

35. My favorite place to sit and write, when the weather is tolerable. In the public park area, one floor down from my room.

36. If it's too hot to write downstairs, I can swim instead.

37. Just after summer's swim season comes autumn's peaceful bike rides.

38. But my favorite way to workout is swinging this racket as hard as I possibly can (sometimes). 
39. Between playing songs for kids and recording an album, my ukulele skills have increased a bit. 
40. As have my singing skills, from "Twinkle, Twinkle" at school to Beethoven's Ninth with the Hong Kong Bach Choir.
41. I guess my countless hours practicing Cantonese have given me some Chinese skills, though I can still hardly understand a word when watching a Hong Kong movie.

42. Or joining in on a Leung family dinner. My smiling and nodding has gotten great though. 
43. Speaking of Sharman's family, the best decoration in my flat is this, painted by her talented father.
44. A Mariners fan, helping out with basketball, makes it into an education magazine. 
45. These are the children I'm trying to prepare for the future. 
                        46. Many things have changed, many stay the same. I find myself at the cinema nearly every weekend.   Sometimes even at 10 am.

47. I also love when old friends come to visit. Here's Luke, one of seven high school classmates to find me here.

48. Public transit in Hong Kong is beyond incredible, and this little card is the key to the magic.
49. But much of my time in Hong Kong has been dreaming about going other places.

50. A few words of wisdom to neatly wrap this all up.