Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What have I been up to???

I'm giggling because I just told Steve that I'll give this a go, but in the end 'I may delete it'.

I started our family blog back in June 2008. You know, to let family and friends in on what we were planning to do this time out of the States. Little did I imagine where we'd be, mostly because we're now a family of 4! (sorry Libby - 5)

~Side note: I can't believe Steve just interrupted my writing to show me something. He gets so annoyed if anyone speaks to him whilst he's typing. Humph!

A day in the life...

Steve had always been an early riser, but Ethan George has him beat lately. Let's say around 5:30  he'll wake and maybe cry a bit and then start playing around in his bed. He has a musical bear that  he'll turn on and then sit and look at a few books I leave in the corner of his crib. There's an alligator xylophone that sits on the window sill in reach - maybe he'll pound out a few notes. Or there's always some sort of activity out of the window (he's 21 floors up overlooking a beach and waterway that has small fishing boats all the way up to huge cargo ships going by). Eventually we'll hear his nook hit the floor, that is his signal that he's had enough 'alone' time and it's time to come and get him. This act has just recently been followed by 'uh-ohhhh' - which makes us smile and jump up to go to his rescue.

Gabriel, who is now 14 1/2 and taller than Steve, is not such an early riser. He gets up and dresses and heads out the door with a breakfast smoothie by about 7 am.  He's got a lot on his mind right now. Some of his close friends have announced they'll be moving or changing schools. Then there's his music. His tastes range from the oldies to, well, a range that astounds me. Beatles, The Ramones, and Queen all the way to Green Day.  He requested an electric guitar for his birthday last Jan and has been playing faithfully on his own since then. He has one of Steve's coworkers helping him along and endless Youtube vids to learn whatever. He's with his 2nd band that play together after school. We're amazed at his ability, and how much he can do in such a short time. -I've noticed his sketching has taken a back seat, for now. He does, however, plan to study art in the future, so I'm sure he'll get back to it.

Back to my day...

Steve also leaves early, between 6:40 and 7:00am.

Then Ethan George and I are on our own. We take Libby out for a walk, stop by the playground and fit in a quick swim when we can. Then there's morning nap around 9am til 11am.

Naptime... here's where I get a few things done around the house, maybe read and journal, catch up on email/FB, throw something together for lunch, iron, and sometimes sleep.

There's an afternoon nap too. That's for preparing dinner if we're home. But we go out too. Always something going on. And I love going out a couple times a week. Maybe take the ferry into Central, HK Island and run errands or there's plant street in Prince Edward (a few blocks of plant and flower shops), check in on the boys out at the school (50 min from door to door by shuttle bus to the train station, ride 3 trains, and a short walk from the station to the campus) or just stay here and wander around our island visiting with friends.

Oh my, it's getting late and I must get some sleep. Gabriel and I just caught up a little on Once Upon A Time. We're still midway in season 1. What a creative expression of the classics! Fun.

Love to you all. Sleep well.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Walking Home from Mongolia with Rob Lilwall

 Last Sat. afternoon Tammy, the boys and myself had the opportunity to walk with Rob Lilwall and his companion, Leon McCarron, on the final stage of their 5,000 kilometer walk from Mongolia, through the Gobi Desert and China, all the way to Rob's home in Hong Kong.  The reason for the walk, besides the adventure, was to raise money for the children's charity Viva.  The guys started back in November and after 6 months on foot made it to the border between China & Hong Kong on Friday evening.

Rob's journey made the front page
I first became acquainted with Rob last year when we arranged for him to come speak to the  students at the school where I work about his first big adventure where he cycled from Siberia to London.  The stories he shared with the school were inspiring to student and staff alike and so when he announced that he would be participating in a new adventure walking from Mongolia to Hong Kong for charity, we were excited to see how we could be involved. For that reason we have been doing  morning assembly updates, showing video, photos, and blog entries so the students could follow along on the journey.

Rob & Leon at the finish!
On Saturday Tammy and I joined about 60 other volunteers to walk with Rob & Leon on the final leg of the trip. The route would start in Discovery Bay, go over the mountain near the Trappist Monestery, and down into Mui Wo where the journey would end at the beach in Silvermine Bay.

I would not want to carry that pack!
In hindsight, we probably would NOT have brought 16 month old Ethan George.  Although the hike was only about 7 kilometers, hauling the baby with stroller and carry-all, on a hot humid Hong Kong day was pretty tough.

But, we wanted to do it as a family!

Anyhow, the big moment as we waited at the Discovery Bay pier to begin was wondering where Rob would be joining us.  He ended up arriving on a small "junk" (boat) and as the junk approached Rob suddenly jumped in the water and swam to the group to applause and cheers of "well done".  We could all only imagine what it would be like to have been walking for 6 months straight and now, to be joining friends and family for the final 7 kilometers.
With Rob and his wife Christine

We all journeyed together for about 2 hours until Rob & Leon, leading out front, reached the Silvermine beach.  They dove into the water together completing an astounding 5000 kilometer odyssey.

It was a family affair!
Afterwards we joined with everyone for a celebratory dinner and welcomed our friends home after a long, and fruitful, adventure.  For Tammy, myself, and the friends with us, we considered it a real privilege to participate in a small part of their grand journey .  Our family raised HK$ 1200 in donations for the walk but we felt like the blessed ones being able to join in on Rob & Leon's special day.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

20th Anniversary!

Ah yes, the baby!!
Just a quick little post to celebrate my wife Tammy and I's 20th anniversary.  As I mentioned previously on my blog, Tam & I met nearly 22 years ago (actually Oct 8, 1990) in Hong Kong and we married about a year and a half later on April 4, 1992.

We celebrated by heading over to Macau for a night at the Venetian hotel.  Each room there is like a mini-suite and the hotel laid out a chocolate shaped heart filled with different chocolate pieces surrounded by rose petals to celebrate our little evening!

The Venetian Hotel (and Casino)
Although it is our 20 anniversary...we do have a 15 month old baby!  Our 14 year old was good for a night alone by himself, but the little one came for our romantic getaway for 2.  Yes, 3 is a crowd in such circumstances...but we love him so we made a way :) !

And our evening out for dinner was wonderful.  We had originally made reservations at Morton's Steakhouse but we made a last minute decision that with Ethan, a dinner at Morton's may be more of a challenge than we would like so we fell back on our traditional Macau favorite, Fernando's.  Fernando's is a Portuguese staple in the former Portuguese colony and we have been frequenting it for at least 20 years.  Fresh bread, chicken, veal, salad, and Portuguese fried rice washed down with Sangria (for Tammy) and red wine (for me).

We also had a drink with some new friends we had just met and had gotten married.  One of the things Tammy and I love are the interesting people we meet on this side of the ocean.

Anyhow, we had a wonderful night reaffirming our marriage and looking forward to the next 20 together!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cocktail Reception On Board the U.S.S. Carl Vinson

Tammy and I had the most wonderful evening this week as we attended a cocktail reception on board the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson which is in Hong Kong for a few days.  If you are follower of Beyond the Pale than you may remember that this is the second visit by the Carl Vinson to the territory this year.  In that blog post I chronicled my friend Francis' invitation to the opening night reception and my subsequent (minor) jealousy surrounding that invitation.

I mean,  I want to hang out on an American aircraft carrier walking past rows of F-18 Hornets with a drink in one hand and my beautiful wife on the other... but how.

These receptions are public relations events and in this case it means hosting U.S. Consulate workers, American businessmen, Hong Kong local vendors, visiting military guests of the People's Republic of China etc.  I don't really qualify under any of those categories per se.  

The food was fantastic!
But...as God would have it, He saw fit to fulfill certain desires of the heart so to speak.  And just how did God fulfill this little heart desire of mine you ask?  Well, I got to know a friend here in Hong Kong who has a little say over who gets invited and lo and behold, I received an invitation a couple weeks ago.

So on Tuesday evening Tammy and I headed down to Fenwick pier on Hong Kong Island where the "water taxis" waited to cart us out to the carrier.  The U.S.S. Carl Vinson is really big and as we approached, the serial number "70" was lit up as a beacon cutting through the nighttime sky.

Guests rode the elevator up to the deck
The reception itself is held in the giant hanger bay and the U.S. Navy knows how to do food.  People think the huge American defense budget is all bullets and missiles but they forget the shrimp tables and roast beef carving stations.  But what I really had my heart set on was the chocolate chip cookies.  Yes, you heard me right...

...the chocolate chip cookies.  My friend Francis who attended the last reception said, "Seriously though, nobody has better chocolate chip cookies than the U.S. Navy."  And you know, he was right!  (I had 3)
Besides that high end shrimp and roast beef, it was also nice to have some good old American spicy jalapeno poppers.  Darn they were good and when Tammy wasn't looking I snuck another one!

Reception entrance
One of the highlights of the evening was everyone heading out onto one of the aircraft elevators for a trip up to the flight deck.  Yes, I got to fulfill my dream of having a glass of wine in one hand and my beautiful wife on my arm as we walked past rows of fighter planes.  My childhood always comes back in these moments as most American boys my age wanted to be a fighter pilot at some point as a kid.

Its also fun for us Americans living overseas to have a little "home" turf arrive for a few days.  Chatting with some of the officers is very lively and sometimes, although I usually love the diversity of Hong Kong,  its just fun to talk in "Americanese" about America with other Americans

The evening ended and we headed back out to the ferries that would shuttle us back to the dock but not before we picked up a U.S.S. Carl Vinson T-shirt for Gabriel and a ship photo for my office.

Your mission should you choose to accept it...
I have to end with a special thank you to our friend Christine and her daughter Claire who kindly watched Ethan George for the evening.  This was our first night "out" with a babysitter and knowing he was in such good care allowed us a relaxing evening.

Special thanks to the officers and crew of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson!  Thanks for the work you do and for such a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

USA Trip 2011: New Orleans Lousiana & Boulder Colorado

Just got back from a couple weeks in the United States.  When Tammy and I used to visit the States in the 1990's, we split the time between Detroit (my home town) and Louisiana (Tammy's home state).  Now though our years in Boulder Colorado has thrown another destination into the mix and with the time I had to be away from work limited, something (Detroit) had to get cut. 

Had a great time catching up with family and friends.  Some of the highlights included:

The National World War 2 Museum:  My dad and mom came down from Detroit to spend a week with us in New Orleans with Tammy's family.  My dad turned 70 during the visit so Gabriel came up with the idea of us "boys" taking "grandpa" to something we would all really like: The National World War 2 Museum which you think would be located in Washington DC but is actually to be found in New Orleans Louisiana.  It was the PERFECT birthday present for my dad; to walk with his son and grandson through an
amazing display and multimedia presentation of both the European and Pacific theaters of war.  On top of that there is an amazing 4D movie, Beyond all Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks that should be mandatory viewing for all Americans.  What is it about Tom Hanks and WW2 that makes me fight the impulse to stand up and salute?

White Water Rafting in Colorado:  My friend Tre had the good idea for his boys and Gabriel and I to go on a daylong white water rafting trip during our time in Boulder Colorado.  Actually, we drove about 2 hours west into the Rocky Mountains to the town of Buena Vista and from there hooked up with the Buffalo Joes rafting company for a trip down the Arkansas River through Brown Canyon.  We spent the day shooting rapids, diving off rock outcroppings, and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery God felt fit to place on Earth.  For lunch our guides cooked us the most delicious steak, along with corn on the cob and salad right alongside the river.  Incredible!

A Colorado Rockies Game at Coors Field:  Just before I returned to Hong Kong I had, what is for me, the cherry on top of the dessert; a baseball game at Coors Field.  When we lived in Boulder, we spent many a summer night at Coors Field watching the Colorado Rockies.  I love baseball and would joke that in going to Coors Field I was visiting "my other church."  When Gabriel was a young child he would play on the children's jungle gym while I kept an eye on him, and the game, from the left field foul line.  My game last week was wonderful and the highlight was as I was holding little Ethan George in my arms wearing his little # 2 Tulowinski Colorado Rockies t-shirt, the cameraman caught his cuteness and broadcast us on the giant Jumbotron for 40,000 fans to see.  It was quite a night.

Some other highlights:

  • Teaching Gabriel, along with his grandpa and Uncle Trent, how to shoot a gun for the first time
  • Eating Chipotle Mexican Grill burritos
  • Hanging out with my brother and his family who trekked 10 hours from Salt Lake City to spend a day with us.
  • Cajun Fish Fry with Tammy's family in Louisiana
  • Going with Tammy up to Flagstaff Mountain overlooking Boulder with breakfast burritos and coffee like we did when we lived there
  • Spending quality time with our church friends in Boulder while drinking Friar Smith's Agent Orange I.P.A.
  • Spending 3 hours on the tarmac as United maintenance crews tried to fix our plane before my flight to Hong Kong.  They were unable to and I spent the night, courtesy of United Airlines, in San Francisco
 Well, now I'm back in Hong Kong while Tammy and the boys still have ANOTHER WEEK in Colorado.  Yes, one of us has to get back to work...can you guess which one?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ethan's Dedication & Kingdom Conference with Bill Johnson

Last Sunday was a busy day!  I had to speak at Island City Church in the morning and then race over for the beginning of the Kingdom Culture conference at Queen Elizabeth Stadium...all that while thinking about the 5000 word assignment I had due the day before for which I was granted a small extension. I played the "I had a new baby" card (which is very true) and was granted an additional 72 hours.

The Sunday preach went well (it's always a blessing for me to go back and speak at ICC) and for me the best part was to have everyone gather around as we dedicated little Ethan George to the Lord.  There is something powerful that happens when you pray prophetically over a child believing that God is going to impart anointing even on a newborn.  For me, to hold Ethan out and declare before the congregation that we will raise our child in the precepts of the Lord is like the vow made before witnesses at a wedding.  Gabriel, Tammy, and I did it as a family and it was a special moment.

We then raced over to the conference and were totally blessed. The conference was sponsored by a pan-church organization called City Renewal and was supported by a number of English and Chinese language churches. There are few things Tammy and I get excited about more than church unity and how it can affect a city.

It was great for Tammy and I as we got to connect with some old friends and acquaintances that we knew when we lived in Hong Kong in the 1990's.

And Bill Johnson's teaching?  Put it this way.  I'm not a big note taker during talks.  (Actually if truth be told, I rarely ever take notes)  I jotted down a page of notes from Johnson's talk and realized in many ways it reflected the vision we had for Hong Kong when we were here 10 years ago.  To identify with the city, to be part of it not outside of it.  To create a culture that honors people... and then watch what the Holy Spirit can do...

Of course one funny anecdote, the stadium officials wouldn't let Ethan in without a ticket.  Even though he was newborn, he needed to have a ticket (and the ticket was not particularly cheap)  Finally the event organizers were notified what was going on and arranged for Ethan to have a complimentary ticket to satisfy the stadium ticket takers.  I enclose a picture with Ethan proudly ready to present his ticket at the gate.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hiking in Hong Kong!

Folk that don't live in Hong Kong often think of it as a hustle, bustle city crammed full of people, buildings, and cars...and...well it is... but its also so much more. Hong Kong is a pretty big place and what people often don't know is that its more than 50% country park. Get a short hop outside the city areas and you find beautiful ocean vistas, rugged mountain cliffs, and systematically marked trails to guide you through them.

This week is Chinese New Year so on Wednesday I had planned for Gabriel and I to go on a "short" hike.   At 8:30 AM Gabriel got up though and fired up the X-Box 360! Something rose up within me as I saw my son about to embark on yet another adventure into the virtual world rather than the real one.

"Get dressed and fill your water bottle...we're leaving in 10 minutes."

Of course I had to endure the initial despise that emanated from Gabriel for the next 60 minutes.

I decided on a nice stretch of a hike on South Lantau Island uphill to the top of the Island where the Ngong Ping Cable car village (and the Big Buddha) was. It was about a 2 - 2 1/2 hour jaunt and I figured we'd have lunch at the top and then either take the cable car or a bus back down.

We took the Park Island bus to Tsing Yi station then caught the MTR to Tung Chung on Lantau. After a little search we found the number 11 bus to Tai O but exited at the Shek Pik Reservoir. Just to the East of the reservoir was the trailhead but it had a large sign and a large brown gate that was chained closed:

"Danger: Due to landside damage this trail is permanently closed."

So I did what most hikers do when they see these things. I went around the gate and started walking.
"Papa, where are you going?"
"On the trail"
"But its says "Danger" Do you want us to get killed?"
"We're not going to get killed...lets go"

As we began to meander up the hill we began to look back and see the reservoir and the sea behind it descending into incredible views from our ever increasing height. Gabriel's attitude softened (as I knew it would) and before long we were having the father-son day I had envisioned. As we trudged along our little "fellowship" covered such conversational topics as God, girls, drugs, and world history.

Because it was a "closed" trail the normal encounters with other hikers didn't happen. The whole morning we passed no one having the trail and the mountainside all to ourselves and finally reaching the top Ngong Ping Village. This is a tourist area of Hong Kong where the largest Buddha in the world has been constructed along with all the restaurants and souvenir shops that inhabit these types of places. We had lunch at Ebeneezers which is an Indian curry fast food chain in Hong Kong. While we were eating I asked Gabriel if he wanted to take the cable car down (expensive) or the bus (cheap)?

"What if we hike the trail under the cable car down?"
" Huh!!" I thought. Was this my X-Box 360 loving son who I practically had to Shanghai to get him out hiking now suggesting we hoof it for another 3 hours back down to the MTR station.

"OK...lets do it"

We finished our curries and headed off for Lantau Hike Part 2. As the cable cars glided over our heads we eschewed such luxury for the thrill of the trail. We quickly discovered though, that although primarily a "decent" back down to the city, the trail went back up at each of the cable car towers so we had a extreme workout of non-stop accent and decent.

Occupants of the cable cars shouted out to us and gave us the thumbs up along the trail no doubt saying, "Look at what those crazy guys are doing!"

About two hours in we ran out of water which made things even more fun! Up....and down....up....and down! This was a lot more than I originally planned but it was now becoming a challenge for both Gabriel and I. At 4:00 PM we finally... successfully...reached the bottom...but then had another 10 minutes to walk before we reached civilization...and a 7-11 where we bought two large bottles of water and downed them while still in the store.

(Gabriel followed it up with a Slurpee)

Anyhow, wish I had a camera, but I pulled a few generic pics from the area off the internet of the area. It was a great day and one we'll do again soon!