Our 2017 Blog ⇔ (Clicking on photos reveals the entire caption and often makes pictures bigger)
Jan-Aug (click here for Jul-Dec 2016)
Sep 11, 2017
As many of our family and friends in America are in our prayers, dealing with Hurricane Irma, Vivian and I have just returned from a quick work-trip into China, in the midst of our relocation. As usual, I’m too busy to write much, but here are a few pictures worth seeing.
Aug 26, 2017
While yet another typhoon approaches, our “housing storm” just took an unexpected course, but nonetheless has blown over. (The next typhoon is still officially called “Tropical Storm Pakhar”, but the “T1” signal is already up–see explanation in Aug 23 entry–along with the “Very Hot” warning).
Yesterday started with breakfast in the glass dining room atop the HSBC building in Central. Rain from the Aug 23-24 typhoon had streaked the window behind us, but you can still tell it has a remarkable view. The breakfast and my friends’ speech were also very nice!
As explained below, I took Vivian to see “apartment no. 24” on the morning of Aug 24; she liked it too, so we said we’d take it. The realtor (Candy) sought to get in touch with the landlord about some issues (no toilet seat, etc) and to tender our offer, but couldn’t reach him until yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, another realtor (Joe) had showed us “no. 27” (terrible location), and yesterday afternoon yet another Realtor (Rachel) showed me “no. 28.” [As explained elsewhere, HK realtors share only a limited amount of information, so you need to be talking to several–unlike the US where everyone has access to most of the listings, so you need only one good one.] In fact, I was standing (and sweating) in “no. 28” when Candy called with the bad news that “no. 24” had already been leased, as had it’s twin “no. 25”–and thus we were back in the “homeless” category. All of sudden, “no. 28” took on added brightness! We were supposed to be going to see “no. 29” but I’d agreed to see a “too small” apartment along the way. I’ll say a bit more in captions, but to make a long story short, it is in the perfect location, just two blocks from the office; it has a nice kitchen and bathroom, along with two new air conditioners; we won’t have to do anything but buy and add furniture–unlike “no. 24” which needed a kitchen and other things. “No. 28” is smaller than our present apartment (we are downsizing from 380 sq ft to 310), but it is also cheaper, which will save us 2500HKD ($320US) per month. So at 8 pm last night, we signed the preliminary contract and put down the deposit; the balance will be paid on Monday. Unless something weird happens over the weekend, we are no longer “homeless”!
Once we get the key, we’ll “bugbomb” and deplete a few cans of Raid, then we’ll clean it and start looking for furniture. Fortunately, since I work for a charity, we should be able to get some things from a local sister-charity called Crossroads. We have an appointment to visit them on Sept 5, and we have to vacate our current flat on by Sept 10.
Aug 23, 2017
We are once again sitting out a typhoon. The HK Observatory has a useful app, and they monitor storms closely so (if you are paying attention) you know they are coming long in advance. A series of warnings lets us know as a typhoon or other serious storm is approaching: thunderstorm, amber thunderstorm (then red then black), T1 (typhoon on the way), T3, T8, T9, +10. When it gets to T8, buses stop running, and soon thereafter the subways stop too (at least the parts that are above ground). We’ve been through several T8 storms, but today’s was the first +10 we’d seen; indeed there have been only 15 or so “+10” storms since 1949. If you Google “Typhoon Hato Hong Kong” you’ll see some remarkable videos! (You can see my thoughts on “public transportation in storms” on my “factors” page.)
The hours before these storms can be almost unbearably hot. Here’s what I wrote to family members yesterday:
America got an eclipse to block the sun’s rays; we felt the sun’s inferno. Today (Aug 22) reportedly broke records in Hong Kong, with 102 degree heat and high humidity. And what a day to be out house-hunting, as the places we visit have no windows open nor air moving. I was thanking the Lord for designing us with eyebrows, for without them I’d be looking through a waterfall (eyebrows make the rivers of sweat roll to the side!). I could also feel the water trickling down my back. Nonetheless, the 24th apartment (this season) I saw was bigger and cheaper than where we currently live. When the weather permits, I’ll take Vivian to see it, and then we’ll decide. (It’s been so hot that I’ve been acting as “screener”–going to see everything but only dragging her to the best ones!) This “prospect” is just over a mile from work, but close to the subway (two stops away from work), as well as to the subway line that goes to the airport. It’s also in walking distance to church and to Kowloon Park (one of Vivian’s favorites). It is basically two rooms (“large” by HK standards at 8’ by 15′ and 21′), with a kitchen alcove at one end, that leads to the small bathroom. Like every flat we’ve seen, there’s no closet, and few other storage places. We currently use a small “bedroom” as a closet; we’ll miss that, but we can cordon-off part of the bedroom for storage. It is basically a “blank slate,” so there’s no ugly furniture to argue with the landlord about or deal with (we’ll have to get furniture, of course). We’ll also need to install kitchen cabinets and hire an electrician to put power in the kitchen, at our own expense. But if the price holds until the contract is sold, we’ll save 3500HKD per month ($450US) compared to what our current landlord wants, so we can buy a lot of furniture etc and still save money over a year or two. We’ll also pay only $766US in realtor fees, compared to $1000 we were expecting (in HK, this fee is half a month’s rent). It isn’t perfect, but it beats anything else we’ve seen (27 places by the end of today). So if Vivian thinks she can deal with it, we may have a new home lined up in a day or two… DEPENDING on what the coming typhoon does tomorrow. It is supposed to be at it’s worst in the morning. Today’s heat was apparently related to the approaching storm.
Aug 3, 2017
While Vivian was away, I stayed busy in the office (in part, piling things on her desk to deal with after she returned!). I never find time to say as much here as I’d like, but here’s a few more photos…
July 10, 2017
Just as I returned to Hong Kong, Vivian was packing for her next trip. She had planned to be in South Carolina when our newest grandchild was born, but Caroline couldn’t wait and made her debut a few days early! Vivian is enjoying her part in caring for the family. We’re also thankful that mommy (Beth) and baby are doing well, and that Vivian has already had the chance to see other members of her family. She will be back in HK by the end of the month. Unfortunately, grandpa (me) won’t get the chance to join in the fun in person, but I’m enjoying the photos from 12 time zones away!
June 29, 2017
As is my habit, I’m working on this blog after midnight when I have to get up early for a flight back to HK in the morning. So “more” about my wonderful ten days in Yunnan will have to wait. But I was struck today while wandering around Lijiang at how people’s expectations can be so different from the realities we meet. I’ll explain with a few photos below, the first of which shows a new friend I met on the train from Dali this morning.
When I get on a train in China, most people just ignore me, most likely because they are afraid that we won’t be able to communicate. Likewise, I expect to sleep (uncomfortably) or read, instead of “making a new friend.” But today Jody and I talked for about half of the three-hour trip–sometimes in Mandarin, sometimes in English. We talked about traveling (like the “longest trip” I’ve ever taken), EFL–English as a Foreign Language, and family; she seemed interested in the textbook I’ve got published in China, as well in the book on “reconciliation” that I was reading. Just before we went our separate ways, she said she’d tell her friends she met an author today, and I asked if I could put a selfie on my blog. I’m sure we were both “unsure” of our ability to communicate with a stranger from another country, but I enjoyed our talk. She reminded me of the many students I’ve enjoyed teaching all over China.
In addition to the photos below, you can see our older photos of Lijiang here.
June 24, 2017
I’m traveling in Yunnan at the moment. I hope to add new photos later, but for now, I’ve brought some photos of Kunming from my old website to this (click here) new page.
June 13, 2017
In June 2017, I thought of one more reason to rent close to where I work: typhoons (or to be more precise: avoiding transport in bad weather). Hong Kong’s public transportation system is normally wonderful, but Mother Nature can play havoc with everything. A series of warnings lets us know as a typhoon or other serious storm is approaching. When it gets to a certain level, buses stop running, and soon thereafter the subways stop too (some parts are above ground). The law says that unessential personnel have the right to head home before the transportation system shuts down. Well, on June 12, I let my staff leave at 4 pm, but I stayed at the office until 6 pm–when even I thought it would be better to be at home than to keep working at the office. I ducked into the Mongkok station (as I often do, because it is dry and air conditioned–and gets me half-way home), and saw one of the biggest crowds I’d ever seen. It looked like this in all directions, and the “subway mall” is almost a quarter mile long. Within the turnstiles, people were wall-to-wall, so the workers (yellow shirts) had closed the turnstiles. I can only imagine what it looked like down on the train platforms! Here you see people, wall-to-wall, waiting for the chance to join the wall-to-wall crowd inside the turnstiles. NO THANK YOU! And in the next storm, I’ll know better than to “duck into the station,” and just take my chances in the typhoon!
May 15, 2017
Between mid March and early May, we logged 7500 miles in the USA, visiting colleagues, partners and relatives in OR, WA, CO, OH, PA, VA, DC, DE, NC, SC. Vivian says we unpacked our suitcases in 16 places! No time to explain now, but here’s a few photos to prove we were there and back again.
Mar 1, 2017
We are into the third month, and weeks keep flying by. Most of the time, I’m busy in an office in Mongkok or meeting with partners in Hong Kong. But from time to time Vivian and I get to visit the people we work for in China and around the world. To that end, we visited NW China last month, and in March and April, we will be visiting at least eight US states. I just hope I can find time, now and again, to post updates here!
The day after we returned, I got to attend the Global Leadership Summit in Hong Kong (hosted at The Vine), featuring two days of challenging and inspiring speeches. This was the second year I’d had a chance to participate, and I recommend the Summit to any leader (it is broadcast in hundreds of venues around the globe). (See willowcreek.com; and I also highly recommend the free GLSNext App for your phone!)
Last night, Vivian and I had been invited to a special exhibit at the TST YMCA. For the next few weeks, a rare copy of the Torah will be on display in the lobby, as part of a much bigger exhibit of precious scrolls, Bibles and artifacts that will be hosted at St Andrews Church. This exhibit presents the people of HK with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see priceless materials that testify of the reliability of “the most banned and beloved book” in history–the Bible. Additional information is available at http://inspiredexhibit.org/
Feb 15, 2017
This year, Chinese New Year fell on January 28, but the celebration actually runs for about three weeks.
Feb 8, 2017
Can it be February already? January flew by, and I’m just now getting time to catch my breath and post our first 2017 update. And it looks like 2017 will be as packed as ever, with a trip to China’s western region later this month, followed by six weeks or so in the USA. Here’s a glimpse of how the new year has gotten started for us.
(click here for Jul-Dec 2016 blog)