Monday, October 25, 2010

Martha Stewart came to Hong Kong

And stopped by my place to help me out a bit. After some brainstorming, I went back to IKEA and picked up a second pair of curtains for the living room window. So now I have chocolate brown curtains at either end and then these lighter curtains  with various shades of brown and blue leaves as the next layer. Still considering sheers for the center part of the window...tomorrow's duty is to hem the curtains (IKEA provides the iron-on-hemming material - if only I hadn't accidentally thrown away the iron we bought at PriceRight last week....) So, a quick visit to PriceRight for the cheap iron (so I don't feel bad if I throw this one away too) and presto quicko: hemmed curtains....

While unpacking, I found a king size flat sheet for the bedroom window. I scored a new duvet cover for the bed to freshen things up and will eventually (after my sewing lessons in November) buy fabric in Sham Shui Po (fabric market) and make curtains for the three bedrooms.

The guest room is ready! We might have a visitor in February or March to try it out. Will definitely have curtains by then!

The office is almost done and then some small projects that I won't bore you with until the time is upon us to complete them. And! Thank you, gentle reader, for your ideas on how to remedy the curtain situation.

Oh! Another And!

As a newly converted WV Mountaineer, I couldn't resist putting out the welcome mat to all who enter our new home:

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Last week I met with my students and this time I had a couple of projects planned. First, each student made a "sik m sik" card. Sik m sik translates to " do you or do you not understand" (payoff for that morning's Cantonese class!). On one side they drew a happy face and the word "yes"; on the other side they drew a sad face and the word "no."  I made one, too.  It took some explaining, Lucy, but we finally got on the same page. If you "sik" show me the happy face and when you don't "sik" show me the sad face. And if I don't "sik" I show you my sad face but when I "sik" my happy face is rightsideup!  Wow - did that make a beautiful difference in our communication. 

Next I handed out journals. We discussed the word "journal." What is a journal? "Like a diary," said Silvia. Yes - like a diary! Our journal's first job is to start collecting new vocabulary words. Every day they must find one new word. "Where will you look?" I ask the group - trying to make my face look quizzical so they understand my questions - shrugging my shoulders to my ears, raising my eyebrows into my hairline, shaking my head (I might win an Oscar for this) - I try all sorts of monkeying around to help the translation. As if that really works. But, okay.  So, the students list a few places to look for new words and we agree they will have 14 new words the next time we meet. (No meeting this week as its mid-terms for them.)

Now the fun part! I pull out a stack of magazines that Mark has collected for me for the last two weeks.  I brought construction paper, scissors, and glue.  I explain they are to make a collage that tells me who they will be after they go to University. What will their lives be like? What are they hoping for? They have about 10 minutes to make the collage and then we will come back as a group so each person can present their project.  Let me back up a minute...

Remember in my original post I said they take a test to get into University and English is part of that test. I asked the principal last week how this actually works. Here's the scoop: kids are given a passage written in English along with questions written in English. They have 15 minutes to read the passage and consider the questions, make notes; then they must speak, in English, for 10 minutes about the passage and use the questions as a starting point in their discussion. Talk about pressure! So, now you can see the rationale behind our activity.

I wasn't sure what to expect of their projects. They only really had a few minutes to quickly page through magazines and create their collage.  Back in the circle I ask, "Who will go first?"  I look down at my paper, waiting, as I know someone will eventually give in.  There is some murmuring and then all 8 students have their fists in the circle for a rousing game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors."  After a few rounds and by simple elimination, it was Rex that went first. Here are a samples of their work:

 Brian made this one. He lived in California for a year as an exchange student. His English is okay- not great, but his comprehension is excellent. He spoke about wanting to take "the right direction" with his education but ultimately he wanted to escape from the rigid world of learning and enjoy life like he did in California where they had parties and he danced with girls.

Jenny made this collage. She likes learning (picture of the little boy) and she wants to travel. Beside Brian, no one else has been out of Hong Kong. I ask Jenny where she will travel to and she says, "Beijing." And where else? She shrugs. Then she points to the woman in the lower left corner. When Jenny is educated and has traveled, she will be powerful like this woman. Yeah. I was excited too! We talked about how the picture conveys power - her eyes, her stance..."...she looks confident" says Jenny in her tiny, quiet voice.

This last collage is from Charlie. Charlie really tugs the heart strings. Last week he was the class clown. This week he wins the Most Improved award. He is the last to go. Clearly he is nervous and now I know why: he has very limited vocabulary. He is a bright kid, so bright it starts to worry me that he has left too little too late and now is so far behind it might not matter. The words he selected are: "industry" "communicate" and "positive change." I almost don't have to tell you what those words mean to him - making positive changes in his study habits (girl working) so he can communicate better with his teachers and go to University to learn about industry. The knowledge of what is ahead for him this year makes him feel a lot pressure: picture of the volcano. He didn't know the English word - we made that the first entry in his journal.

And now I know a lot more about my students and just how prepared they are for the exam. We will come back to these collages in the coming weeks. We'll add vocabulary words and pictures.

The principal also suggested I give them phrases ("she was talking a mile a minute") and ask them to explain it right away - no thinking; have them read phrases aloud and discuss.  I'm so excited about the progress I think these students will make. I wish we were meeting every day - then I would know for sure we have some kind of I feel like the volcano.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesdays

I have been surfing a lot of other blogs and see many hosting "Wordless Wednesdays" when they a let a picture do all the talking.  Here is my first "Wordless Wednesday" contribution...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Apartment

Last week I was crowing about moving to our permanent residence and getting our bed (check), clothes (check) and automatic cat boxes (oh, um, check - sorta).  For the last four days Mark and I have tried to sort through all of the ridiculous junk we brought from the US, namely, unusable electric items such as: waffle maker(!), popcorn maker, hot water maker, coffee maker, at least 20 surge protectors, cables, extension cords, lamps, printer :( , vacuum cleaner (although this was marked to be put in storage, the movers made a mistake),  and the famous automatic cat boxes, really - its hilarious. Its sort of like when the electricity goes out and you think, no problem, I'll just read a book - oh, the lamp is out. Okay, I'll listen to the radio - oh, right, no electricity, no Wii, no microwave, no dishwasher, no washing machine, no vacuuming....what can you do! I can't even use the toaster I brought. (And yet, astute reader, you may wonder at the use of my laptop - magic I tell you! Magic!)

The day really went well - of course it could be because we had only to get out of the movers' way. For those of you that know me, you may have counted this as move number 9 in ten years. And for those of you who know Mark - he's well into the double digits - more than 30 at this point in his adult life. So, we are pros! But Asian Tigers (the movers) were fantastic. John came in, laid down blue runners to protect the floors then two other men delivered the goods. Each box was numbered and it was my complicated responsibility to check off the box number on a chart. That was my day. Oh sure, I unpacked stuff and put it away - stuff I didn't pack, carry out, load onto a truck, drive 5 minutes or 3 hours, unload and carry in. And still - we were exhausted! See Exhibit 1 below:

The only truly "difficult" part of the day was asking the movers (and paying extra) to haul the end of our sectional couch up 15 flights of stairs.  Inspiration to unpack was found when we were told by Asian Tigers that they would take away all the boxes/paper for free on the day of delivery - after that there would be a charge.  So everything came out of the boxes - ready or not - creating a few days of lots of stuff everywhere. See Exhibit 2 below:

Need I actually describe the post-move events? Sorting, piling, crying, sighing, moving piles, sorting - really you already know this part. Let's skip ahead. 

First - the curtains.  We have big, beautiful views from nearly every room in the apartment, especially the living room and master bedroom.
So Mark and I headed over to IKEA to see what we could find in the way of curtains. We selected a nice chocolatey brown set and brought them home for the living room. No deal. Just not wide enough blah blah blah. So, I decided to spend an afternoon in a curtain shop recommended by an AWA friend. I was overwhelmed by all of the choices but stuck it out and found a pattern I thought we could work with. The man came out, measured the windows, and the owner called me to say it would be $5,400 HKD - or roughly, $700 plus installation. And I had chosen the fabric on sale. So. For now, we have put up one curtain in the living room that we move around at various times of the day to block the sun and prying eyes; and we have one curtain in the bedroom along with a bedsheet. Yes - a bedsheet taped to the window. Thank God I don't mind living like a college student. See Exhibit 3 below. 

Curtains temporarily installed (ahem), I moved on to doing the laundry.  We have a combination washer/dryer in our kitchen! So convenient, so Jane Jetson, so uber-chic. No manual and no decipherable knobs, buttons or whistles. After some searching, I found a "how-to" video online. Set the dryer time first, set the washing time second, push the "on" button, push the "start" button - and away we go! The dryer doesn't really dry - hence the clothes line in the spare bedroom. Also, the washer/dryer is very small, so I only wash about 4 items at a time. See Exhibit 4 below:

I've made a lot of progress in the last two days: I found a great double decker dish drainer (Exhibit 5), organized our storage area (Exhibit 6), have all my toiletries put away (Exhibit 7), and we can sleep in our bed without putting stuff on the floor that goes back on the bed in the morning (Exhibit 8). Our internet and cable are setup. Thanks to Skype, and Mark's sister, Faith, Mark's mom got a first-hand tour of our apartment (Exhibits 9 & 10). 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who needs Video Games?

Every day when walking around this island city, I am amazed at the vast number of people and where they are coming from, going, living, working, eating breakfast or if they are thinking the same thing. The one realization that I have determined is that this city is one large video game.
                Red Rover Red Rover come on over “if you dare” is not the same game we played as children. When you are standing three people deep starring across the street looking at the people getting ready to come at you who are also three people deep, I cannot tell you the number of times I have felt like yelling at the top of my lungs, “Red Rover Red Rover come on over”. When the light turns to green for walk, both sides go at each other meeting in the middle of the street dodging, weaving and using the force to slide by and to the other side. I am amazed at how thin people become and how they avoid contact, although not always.

                For all of you from the 80’s, if you visit Hong Kong you will know where the video game Frogger was invented. People dodge thru traffic, just to make it to the middle of the road where they stand waiting for the chance to get to the other side, while cars are within inches of both the front and rear of the bodies. At some point it will not surprise me to see the frogger game end with a squashed one in the middle of the road.  In my mind I hear the jumping sound of frogger and see them zig zag across to the other side.  This city is one large game of frogger.

                Then there is the game which is a cross between Bumper Cars and Operation. So many of the sidewalks are narrow with 4 people across going both ways on a sidewalk made for one person. The idea here is to get by and continue progress without stopping or getting yourself taken out. Being a large frame 6’4” male, I am very cognizant of being polite, stepping aside and becoming very skinny when need be. There have been days however, when I said to my wife, ok I am going to wipe these people out.  So far however, this has only happened in my mind. Both MB and I get a little annoyed at the impoliteness of the whole situation. People do not walk on the right side or the left side in the same direction, they just walk straight ahead. 
                And finally there is the “Where is Waldo” game. I am confident this is where the game started. If you are looking for a specific person, good luck. When I have met people it always seems to be in the most crowded areas. I am quite good at this particular game as I am usually taller than everyone and scan the crowd very well.  In fact now that I have described the games of Hong Kong people, I will let you play. Can you find Waldo in the pictures, in some of these pictures?  In this particular case, the part of Waldo will be played by Mary Barbara. My little Waldo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am 16 going on 17...

Today I had the privilege of starting a new volunteer position teaching conversational English to a group of 16-18 year olds. We will meet every Wednesday after school from 3:30p - 4:30p. You can probably guess what's going to come next. I fell in love with my little group! We laughed. We cried! We joked about below average teachers!

Okay, I'll start at the beginning.  This school is located on an island: Ap Lei Chau. When I first heard about this opportunity I was told it was a rural school for poor students. Is it too much to say I actually pictured thatched roofs and dirt floors? I tried not to, but the image didn't really improve until I looked up the island on Google. What? Most densely populated island in the world until a few years ago. Huh. So much for rowing a little fishing boat across the vast harbor to a remote world untouched by indoor plumbing or electricity. Just the drama queen in me.  No - its a beautiful school with students in uniform (boys: white pants, white shirts, black ties; girls: light blue dresses with dark blue cardigans), average classrooms and Internet access.  I had my choice of 13-14 year olds (Form 4) or 16-17 year olds (Form 6). I chose Form 6 as I thought they would be much more interesting - right on the verge of graduation and college or finding work.

Like many Chinese kids these kids also have English names: Golden, Karen, Jenny, Rex, Silvia, Billy, and Charlie. So. Cute. Each and every one of them. I have two more coming next week.

Today was "Getting to Know You Day" (in my head). I was very excited to try out my newly mastered Cantonese phrases. If only you could hear me "lol."  So, I start off with "Oo hai Mrs. Hanna."  OMG. The blank looks, embarrassed looks,  uncomfortable looks. As I stated earlier, its all in the delivery. So, confidently and clearly I stated "Oo hai Mrs. Hanna."  That just made things worse. Not only was I not speaking Cantonese, I clearly was not speaking English. And, I could not judge how much they understood when I was speaking English. Oy. (Yiddish - the go to language.)  So I asked the group, "How do you say 'my name is' in Cantonese?" And what followed was indecipherable. Okay! Lesson Number One: Cantonese is best left to those who actually speak it.

We got past that moment and pulled our chairs into a circle. So, here's the thing - sometimes they know exactly what I'm saying and other times their vocabulary is so limited that they don't know what I want or don't know how to respond in English. Sometimes they are just being 16/17 year olds, who want to please the teacher, who have gotten into this group (there is a waiting list) and don't want to be expelled from the group, who want a chance to get into University. In this school system, you don't just go to college. You have to pass an exam - approximately 1/3 of all students pass and are accepted. That's it. That was your chance. You now have to go find a job.

The rest of the hour I used some worksheets to get to know them and give them a chance to get to know me. We started by going around the circle and having each student tell me their name and how old they are. Golden, Karen, Jenny then Rex. We get to Silvia (with an "i", not a "y" - she was very emphatic) and she says "I am 16 going on 17...." and I respond with "Sound of Music?" and she bursts into a huge grin and nods her head. She is a huge fan (and of course, so am I!) and suddenly I forget myself and start gushing about Sound of Music on FB and that its some big anniversary and SOM is playing in theaters across America and you can sing along - yeah. Its been awhile since I was in the classroom! So, I collect myself and we move onto Billy and Charlie - who are completely bewildered by what just happened with Silvia.

From there we started to fill out a schedule, talking about what time we wake up, what we eat for breakfast, what time we leave for school, how do we get to school....  the idea here is for me to listen to them answer questions and try to get them to answer in complete sentences. "What do you like to eat for breakfast?" "Bread."  "Please try to use a complete sentence, such as..'I like bread for breakfast.'"  "I like bread."  Okay! Good! They're scared and so am I. But I feel us warming up to each other.

Then two things happen. First, I want to tell them I have a daughter who is at University (as they phrase it here) and so I say she is yi saam (23). But that's not quite correct - I can tell from the looks on their faces. It is Silvia that is bold enough to correct the teacher; she says, "Yi sap saam." Other students giggle in embarrassment, and some actually suck in their breath and look from her to me and back to her. I smile and say - "Great! Okay - so, yi sap saam. Thank you!"

Second, the students are now talking about their first class. Golden has Economics. I ask him to tell me one thing he learned today. He struggles a bit for the English word but also his pronunciation is not good, so he and I are working together to figure out what he's saying. Then Billy speaks up and helps us - they are learning the Keynesian Model. Wow. Okay. And then Golden goes out on a limb and declares the Economics teacher is just "so so." This brings another round of gasps and giggles from the group. Its quite daring to speak lowly of a teacher in front of or to another teacher. So I say, "Well - teaching is not always easy and its true - some teachers are very good and others are not...we might say, they are average." And Silvia pipes in with "This teacher is below average." Now we have outright laughing and the students are more relaxed. Too bad we have just 2 minutes left of our hour together.

I end by telling them how excited I am and how much I look forward to coming next week. We put the desks back in order and as the students leave, Rex stops me and says, "We will do better. We will try harder." See what I mean? So. Cute.

View from the hallway outside of our classroom:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yat, Yi, Saam!

So, my Practical Cantonese class seems to be going well. I can count to ten (my post title is 1, 2, 3!), tell you the food/drink is delicious (ho sik!), say "no problem" (mo mun tei) say "you're welcome" (m sai m goi), ask how you are doing (nei ho ma) and tell you I'm very busy (ho mong) or fine (gei ho) or not bad (m choh). I can beg your pardon (tjie tjie m goi) and tell you my name (Oo hai MB). You, on the other hand can only tell me things if you say it very slowly and with an American accent. This Wednesday we meet at Hopewell Center to practice our skills at the market. I still have to study "how much is this" and remember "peung de la" (do you have a discount?)  One interesting note: people don't expect a gweilo (white man - I don't know the feminine version) to speak Cantonese. So when I told the waiter last night "ho sik!" in regards to the wine, he smiled, tried to process and then his face said, "What did she just say?" So then I wonder if I've got the right phrase, the right tone, not too much Ohio, and then retry but with less conviction, "ho sik?" Aaaah - then he gets it! Yes! Ho sik! Very good! Its all in the delivery my friends.

I've noticed that last several days it is much less stressful to go out and about my day. It helps that I've had a couple of meetings and am working on a few projects. I'm better at looking right then left when crossing the street, not as annoyed by the lack of personal space when walking down the street, and feeling infinitely better about getting places I want to go. The heat has abated somewhat and after a month (yes! a month! - it actually seems longer) I think we're adjusting to the humidity.

Things I love about Hong Kong: the big city that circles the green mountain in the center of HK island, walking everywhere or taking the MTR, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and fish, the mix of Eastern/Western culture - the Buddhist temple next to the curtain store, the crush of people and smells in the markets, the cleanliness of the city, and dining al fresco. Are there things I don't like? But of course. I will only tell you one as it is the thing I am determined to overcome. As with any culture, there are people who do not like people of other cultures or colors. It is a little disconcerting to be met with glaring looks, outright staring and in some instances, physical obstruction. For example, yesterday, in the ladies room at the mall, a woman was absolutely not going to move (she took up the whole doorway, arms folded, glaring at me) so I could exit the restroom. I had to turn and sorta squeeze by. I did smile and say excuse me (but not in Cantonese), and then mentally made a small sneer of frustration. Okay - that might of come through in my eyes, its difficult to say. Maybe she was just pissed at the world or had eaten something sour, I'll never know. But! If we are to be "the change we want to see in the world" then I have some work to do. Overcoming? Ignoring? What is the verb here? Turning a couple of cheeks? Rise above? Go with the flow.  I should learn to say that in Cantonese. Go with the flow.

Last bit of news: we move into our new apartment this coming weekend. To say I'm excited is an understatement. Why make understatements? YAY!!!! Our couch! Our bed! Our clothes! Our automatic cat boxes!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Mysteries of the Mater Dei

I was rubbing my hands together in anticipation and excitement as I sat here thinking about writing this post. I should have gone into anthropology or archeology or apoplexy - well, I kind of did that when I spotted the topic of this blog. As I told you in my previous entry, I visited Macau last week - a little island off mainland China that was ruled by the Portuguese until 1999. I checked out Frommer's recommended spots and saved what I was sure would be the best, for last. And it did not disappoint: the Ruins of St. Paul's.

If you are not into history or relics or details of details, you might want to skip on to something else. (May I recommend an activity very similar to Chatroulette (but not as um, racey?) Look up at the top of your Blogger Screen. One of the tabs is "Next Blog."  If you click on it, Blogger just randomly takes you to another blog. Word of caution: IT IS ADDICTIVE. Have fun! See you next time!)

For those of you still present, let's dig in! Its ridiculous but I'm grinning from ear to ear! Okay, first a picture of our topic:

Yes - there it is, at the top of the steps - you just turn a corner and blam! You almost stop dead in your tracts the first time because its so eerie and holy and relic-y. So, after crawling all over this place, I found a little souvenir shop that sold a book called, "The Mysteries of the MATER DEI Facade at Macao" by Louis Antonin Berchier. 

Mr. Berchier has been a fan of St. Paul's for many, many years. Let me clear up something here, the words MATER DEI, as you probably know, mean Mother of God - the name of the church face you see here. But the entire group of buildings were called St. Paul's College and this facade is also referred to as the ruins of St. Paul's. In 1994 Mr. Berchier brought binoculars on his visit to St. Paul's and really began to study the facade - its intricate carvings and subtle details. He realized the facade contains quite a bit of symbolism, story-telling and and and - defending of the Catholic creed against the accusations of Martin Luther. What I love about this is the historocity of this monument. The ability of man to tell his story, to defend, explain, imagine over the centuries. Please understand this post neither supports nor defends any particular religion. We are just enjoying the scenery here.

In this picture you can see some of the detail (including some interesting fashion choices). I do have some close ups I'm going to post here as well so you get a sense of the power and impact of these images.

At this point I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Berchier's book and tell you more about this amazing facade. Heat up your coffee and butter up your scone...

* The church was completed in 1603 and the staircase, designed by mathematicians of the Society of Jesus were complete between 1622 and 1640.

*Most of the craftsmen, sculptors and other workers were Chinese and Japanese Catholics. The Japanese Catholics were seeking refuge in Macao from persecutions in their own country.

*The Facade is all made of granite carved by hand.

*In 1537 Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, whose objective was: the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

* It was because of the Reformation that the first missionaries of the Society of Jesus appeared in Macao in 1555, in the steps of Francis Xavier who died three years before on a small island not far from Macao.

* Berchier gives some background on the years the Jesuits lived on Macao, mostly peacefully and in accord with the Chinese government. However, in 1762 the government arrests all the Jesuits and St. Paul's comes under attack and many of its valuables are stolen. A fire in 1835 destroys everything but what you see now standing. In 2005 UNESCO named this facade a World Heritage Monument.

* Over the last 15 years, Berchier did an incredible amount of research into the symbolism of the stairs and facade.  Here are some of his gleanings:

* The Monument has three distinct parts: A base, starting at the bottom of the stairs, forms a square and represents the earthly world of men.  Second is an intermediate horizontal part where the great mysteries linking man to God are represented. Finally, a summit in the form of a triangle, which symbolizes the Divine World. (Yeah - told you this was cool.)  So, now you can go back up to the pictures and get a sense of what he is describing. 

* The great flight of stairs symbolizes the beginning of spiritual ascension - the path to Divine Revelation.

* Berchier reminds us that the early Christian church used something akin to comic strips to tell stories. Think of the stain glassed windows you've seen in Catholic churches - telling stories of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.  Now look at the top of the second storey - pictures going across that tell the viewer a story. 

* Here are parts of the story -

* The ship: it symbolises the difficult journey which the soul of the believer must make to reach salvation. The temptations and dangers that lie in wait for him are represented by the monster-like figures that we see in the waters. Guided by virtue, the ship will arrive at its safe haven.

* This is The Devil. He is represented with the body of a woman (sorry sisters) to symbolise all the passions and temptations that lie in wait for man at every moment. The Chinese inscription means "the Devil tempts man to commit evil." But the Devil is defeated, lying on the ground, his heart pierced by an arrow, representing victory over temptation. 

* And this is a skeleton lying on a scythe - representing Death. Death has also been defeated, pierced by an arrow:

*  If you go back to the larger picture of the facade above, you will see a center statue in the third storey, or the Divine World. This statue is of Jesus as a child to show that he is the Son of God. He points towards Heaven as if to say, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life...."

* At the very top is the image of a dove, representing the Holy Spirit and finally, at the very top of the entire facade is The Cross of Redemption. You might be able to tell it is slightly tilted towards the East...corresponding to the passage from the earthly world to the Divine World.

Of course there is just so much more in Berchier's book! I will go back to this site several times, no doubt and will continue to bring you snippets from the great Facade.  I will also post more pictures of the ruins themselves - there is more to come!

In the mean time, Google images of St. Paul's Macau - you won't be disappointed.  Here is one more shot I got from the side. Somehow I find it just a little unsettling that this thing is just standing real supports, despite centuries, hurricanes and monsoons.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Introduction to Macau

I visited Macau last week. The purpose of my visit was to leave the country of Hong Kong, visit another country, Macau, and re-enter Hong Kong so as to validate my visa in order to apply for a Hong Kong identification card. I don't understand the process and it doesn't really matter, because it worked and I will have my i.d. card in a matter of weeks.

Macau is west of Hong Kong, and like Hong Kong, is just a snippet of an island off the large mainland of China.  Taken over by Portugal in the 16th century, Macau is similar to Hong Kong in that everything is written in two languages, in this case: Chinese and Portuguese. Unlike Hong Kong, Macau has recently become the "Las Vegas of Asia."  In fact, the Sands Hotel is the first recognizable casino resort one sees as they approach the island by ferry.

Oddly, when I left my apartment on this "errand," I really just considered it a little sightseeing trip and didn't consider money, going through Customs, etc. I somehow pictured a small ferry chugging across a small bit of the China Sea and arriving at a quaint little port where people milled about before getting back on the ferry and going through Customs to re-enter Hong Kong. Upon boarding TurboJet(!) and perusing my handy guidebook, I understood that I had underestimated the size and scope of my errand.

Once through Customs and inside the Ferry Terminal I found the ATM and then the Visitor Center. Map in hand and bus number in head, I walked out the door to a group of men at the ready with their bicycle-driven rickshaws to give one a picturesque ride through the city. In the 90 degree weather, I couldn't imagine asking another human to peddle me around the city and continued towards the buses.

My bus arrived and thankfully, HK money is accepted in Macau. In Hong Kong, every stop (on the MTR, at least) is announced in Cantonese and English.  In Macau, every stop is announced in something other than English. I can't tell you if its Cantonese, Mandarin and nothing sounded like Portuguese. Mark and I always joke that this adventure of living in HK is our version of "Amazing Race."  In this case my "Amazing Race" skills were in full force, and I was able to follow the bus route on my map and found the Public Square recommended by my Frommer's guide book.  I was tempted to sprint from the bus and yell, "C'mon! Hurry up!" ala Amazing Race, but being alone and in a skirt, well, the timing wasn't quite right.

The buildings in the Public Square date back hundreds of years, when they were built and occupied by the Portuguese.  With brightly colored facades on winding streets (where cars and scooters are not allowed), this old area has maintained much of its ancient look while housing 21st century stores such as Starbucks and McDonalds.

The real activity is simply walking up and down the streets of this little village area and enjoying the sites.  There are a few places to visit and I will post about one place in particular in my next entry. I had lunch in a little out of the way Portuguese restaurant. I ordered tuna salad with black eye beans and baked eggplant with tomatoes and mozarella cheese. The tuna salad was tuna in oil over lettuce with fresh tomatoes, red onion and cucumber, and of course the black eyed beans. It was very refreshing!  The baked eggplant was delicious and huge. I asked the server, using hand gestures, about the size of the eggplant (she made it look like enough for one person). When it arrived, the eggplant was so long it hung over the side of the plate, so I quickly ate 1/2 of it so it would fit nicely on the plate. After lunch and a chapter of my book (Julia Child, My Life in France) I set back out to complete my afternoon of sightseeing. And that's when I saw what will surely be my favorite tourist spot for some time to come: the ruins of St. Paul's.  I will write separately about that topic in my next post.  After visiting St. Paul's, it took a bit of walking up and down the street, on the wrong side of the street, to find the correct bus stop to catch the correct bus back to the Ferry Terminal.

Just so you know, I never saw one rickshaw anywhere in that city besides outside the Ferry Terminal.