Archive for May, 2008

We returned to Ocean Park last weekend and much to the joy of F we were able to catch the dolphin show. It was in the amphitheater and it was great, but pretty loud, and by the end T couldn’t take it anymore so I had to leave early with her. We finally were able to go to the fish and shark aquariums and we revisited the pandas. We also rode the gondola between the two park sections (they are on either side of a mountain). However a highlight was that Dolphin University was open – this is where the dolphins are trained and where baby dolphins are born (I feel conflicted between their captivity and the joy it brings my kids – however in this post I’m not going t dive deep into those issue). So, while M and F went on rides in the kids world section T and I were there for nearly 45 minutes and the two of us enjoyed watching them play and swim and we were about 5 feet away. Nearly the entire time T pointed at them while yelling something that I swear sounded like dolphin. She loved it. F came down after riding the carousel with M. She liked it but got bored after a while and wanted to move on to the next thing. Overall a great day. Some video highlights include:

We are also learning that in Hong Kong joining a club is a popular thing to do, especially with kids, as you can eat and swim and socialize there. Like most things ex-pat related here the membership fees at most places are absurdly expensive. We decided to buy a yearly pass for Ocean Park (surprisingly affordable and worth it if you go more than twice in a year) and we now joke that it’s our club. That and Victoria park which has playgrounds and a great pool – between the two places who needs a club ?!?!


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The other morning when F and I were leaving the supermarket we walked out into the courtyard in front of the building and it was silent. About 70 or so people were just standing there looking up at the big video screen (the photo to the right shows the courtyard and video screen) at a news broadcast of the earthquake. For the entire broadcast everyone just stood frozen, somberly watching the reports on both the rescue and tragic stories. Looking around at everyone – it was oddly comforting to have so many people stop and watch and share in these stories. It also made me realize how little I was allowing myself to read about it because I didn’t want to face hearing about another natural disaster with so many children dead. I’ve found since becoming a mother I have a very hard time reading about and seeing the images of such tragedy – maybe it’s because I don’t want to admit these things happen to anyone’s children because then I have to admit it could happen to mine. Being in this very public place of acknowledging this terrible news made me realize how in denial I’ve been and I’ve been engaging much more in the news reports. It’s so awful and heartbreaking and frustrating that these schools and buildings could have been built better. Another thing that’s made me realize how in denial I’ve been is a colleague of M’s, who happens to live next door with his wife and son, is at the quake site covering the story. His wife, who I’ve become friendly with, is pregnant with her second and she too is having a hard time reading and seeing the images. She has to think about her husband being there, especially as the aftershocks continue to come.

From my perspective (M writing now), the earthquake is yet another example of a different kind of light shining on China. So many people in the West think growth, economic expansion, world power when they think of China. Each of these is true. But China is behind in so many other categories that it’s almost scary. Needless to say, it’s been a tough year so far for the country. The winter snow storms and power outages showed just how weak much of there infrastructure is, or at least in parts of China that most Westerners would never see or care about. Regardless of where you stand on the Olympic torch relay issue, China’s record in Tibet and Nepal is atrocious. Again, the ugly side of China.

Case in point: Sichuan. It’s scientifically known that this province stands on a fault line and makes it the most likely province in China to get hit by an earthquake. And yet so many buildings collapsed, even though its known the area is susceptible to such a disaster.

The worst part for me is the images of all the children. Western media may have shunned such footage, but the papers out here showed graphic pictures of school children buried under the rubble. How is it that these schools were built on a fault line without being earthquake proof?

One columnist at the South China Morning Post sniped that it was an example of China’s growth at all costs mentality. As long as businesses are in good shape, strongly built, what else matters–so the thinking goes.

There are well-known stories of China denying and covering up major natural disasters and the carnage that followed. The government was quick to respond to the Sichuan quake, to their credit. The government also reprimanded newspapers focusing too much on the destruction and not enough on the recovery.

Let’s hope the country learns for this horrible disaster, which has left nearly a half a million people homeless, killing nearly 30,000 (at the current count). You can’t really predict an earthquake, but you can make sure cities are ready for the big one when it hits. With trillions of dollars in foreign reserves, you’d think China could afford to retrofit buildings, especially schools and hospitals and homes, along its more dangerous fault lines.

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In addition to the bedtime shenanigans already described, I feel like with each passing day F and T, for better and for worse, are really becoming sisters. They laugh and giggle and spur each other on. They are also starting to get annoyed with each other and sometimes jealous (admittedly, at this stage more F than T). Today, when T went to pull F’s hair, F said; “T no, that’s not nice!” T than proceeds to basically laugh in F’s face and continues to try and pull her hair. Everyday when M comes home from work F hides and he has to find her. And everyday M asks T “Where’s F” and quickly T turns her head and looks underneath the table to where F is always hiding – totally giving away her sister’s hiding spot. My favorite may be when they hide together and when M calls their names T yells “Dada” and F says “T be quite!”

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Perhaps it’s my past of growing up in sports, but I found myself getting slightly anxious at the prospect of Fiona’s first soccer practice. It was the classic situation where the Dad was a bit more nervous than the child. What I feared was that F wouldn’t like it and withdraw–it’s happened before. To her credit, it’s happened when the activity is boring or chaotic. But I was thinking about how bummed out we’d be if within five minutes of getting to the YWCA, Fiona hung up the cleats.

Which is exactly what happened at first.

Even after my carefully planned pancake breakfast to fuel her up (I suggested the flap jacks, not her), F took one look at Room 101 at 9 a.m. on Sunday and said, “no way.” She said she was tired and immediately nestled up to E while the other kids wandered about. But then something happened.

As soon as Coach Paul let loose a dozen small soccer balls, F was transformed. She took off for one of the balls, and let loose with one of her “Super Soccer Kicks” she learned from Dora The Explorer (the inspiration for F asking to take a soccer class in the first place).

Turns out, Coach Paul, a tall British man with a pot belly, knows exactly how to handle a roomful of two and three year olds. Drills were fun and engaging, there was the ever-popular parachute, bubbles, stamps. The hour went by fast.

The room had hardwood floors and soft walls. It’s probably used as a dance studio when not for “SOCATots.”

F was supposed to be zig-zagging through the cones. Instead, she’s walking straight and looking at Mom for some reassurance. She nails the jump but then whiffs the kick. After a second try and a goal, she takes off for me with her arms up like she’s just won the world cup.

The only issue F had was with “heading” the ball, which at least two people have mentioned that they’d have issues with too. I’m not sure if F just didn’t like the head “bonk” as she called it, or if she may have been grossed out by touching the ball with her head, something I know her Mom would agree with. Heck, maybe she didn’t want to mess up her pony tail.

When she did that drill, she pouted-walked out to coach, head tilted all the way to the left just to emphasize the point. She made two half-hearted kicks and walked back to me, head still tilted to the left, bottom lip protruding up and out. The next drill she was fine.

The whole time T was asleep in the stroller, right next to the radio blasting kids tunes. When she woke up, she practically jumped out of E’s arms and onto the floor. She wanted in. She squirmed and rolled as close to the action as she could get. F wanted T to do the drills, which T kind of did.

Look out Mia Hamm.

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For quite some time now whenever we put the girls to nap or to bed together they usually goof around before finally falling asleep. Often F will ask me “Mom can I goof around with T for five minutes?” So I let them and come back in and then say it’s quiet time and for the most part they go to sleep. Until recently all of this was spurred on by F. That is until T started her new tricks. She now sits up and then pulls herself up in her crib and walks around which F finds hilarious. Or she jabbers away, making F laugh, which makes her jabber and yell even more. So now it’s T spurring F on and she’s too young to understand what’s going on. All she knows is that what she’s doing makes her big sister laugh and that’s all the encouragement she needs to keep right on going. She also will copy most of what F does so they’ll lay in their beds looking at each other laughing back and forth, or taking turns kicking their mattress, or playing with their stuffed animals. It’s so hard to keep a straight face and insist they go to bed because it’s so funny hearing them have a ball. On the other hand I can’t imagine what shenanigans they’ll be pulling in a few years if this is already what they are doing

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