Happy New Year!

As we rang in 2014, I never could have imagined where life would take us by the end of the year.

Pete and I moved into our apartment on December 15th.  It’s a modern 3 bedroom/ 2 bath in a high rise in the Mid-Levels and is really working out well for us.  The layout reminds us a lot of our place in Michigan, so feels like home.  We did a lot of cleaning out when  packing up our home in Chicago and are having fun picking out some new pieces.  Basic housewares are quite expensive, even thought most of them are made less than a hundred miles away.  I’m finding we have more options at better prices by ordering from the States and having things shipped.  I’m currently waiting for a large order from Overstock.com to arrive.  All of our belongings arrived in tact on the 24th.  Here’s a picture of our first dinner in the place at a table our landlord loaned us while we waited for our shipment.

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Rather than sit around in an empty apartment, I decided to join Pete in Shanghai the week before Christmas.  The first day, I did a tour that took me to the Shanghai  Museum, a pearl market, the Jade Buddha Temple, lunch at The Bund, a silk market and a tea ceremony.  It was a great way to familiarize myself with the city.  Pete and I enjoyed two nice dinners out and stayed in a lovely hotel.

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Our landlords live just a few blocks away from us and invited us to join them for church and dinner with their family on Christmas Eve.  Their two college aged daughters were home from school in the U.S. and family friends from Manila, Poland and England were there.  It gave us a taste for what an international experience this really is.

We spent Christmas day unpacking and getting organized.  A colleague of Pete’s and his wife invited us for dinner that night.  There were 8 of us sharing a traditional Christmas dinner purchased from the Mandarin Oriental.

We attended a concert by the Hong Kong Symphony (New Year’s in Vienna) on New Year’s Eve before going to our favorite Belgian place to ring in the new year.  The concert was in Kowloon where people gather for the fireworks on Victoria Harbor.  I have never seen so many people in one place.  They certainly know a lot about crowd control here.  Initially, we thought it would be fun to hang out for the celebration but it quickly became clear we’d be more comfortable a little closer to home.  Maybe next year.

Pete was able to spend two full weeks in Hong Kong.  He hadn’t been here for more than about 4 days in a row since our arrival.  It looks like he’ll be gone a few days each week for the next 3 weeks.  We’ll then head to Singapore for a long weekend at the end of the month.

I’ll post photos of our place when all the furniture is in and pictures have been hung.  Of course, the best way to find out what it’s like is to COME FOR A VISIT!

Another trip to Ikea…

I’m heading to Ikea for the third time this week in preparation for the move into our apartment tomorrow.  We received word last week that our shipment was delayed because of a back-up in Long Beach, so the earliest we can expect our belongings is December 24th.  I never thought I’d be hoping to spend Christmas day unpacking.  We were planning to purchase a new bed here, so we do have a place to sleep.  Our landlord has kindly offered to lend us a folding table and chairs.  We’ll make do.

My days have been full with some Christmas shopping, sending packages back to our families, setting up cable/gas/water/electric services, applying for my Chinese visa and buying some home furnishings.  While it’s all going well, I am looking forward to the day when I don’t have to figure out where things are located or the process for getting things done.  People here are very helpful, and most speak English quite well, but there’s still a bit of a challenge with communication.  Pete and I are planning to take a Cantonese class to learn some basics.

My activities have also included more dog walking at HK Dog Rescue, a Celtic Christmas concert at the oldest Anglican church in Honk Kong and a photography exhibit  and hiking with groups from the American Women’s Association.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that a very large portion of the AWA are women from elsewhere around the world; India, Germany (Koln!), France, Canada, England, Australia, Japan.

Pete continues to travel weekly.  He has been back in Shanghai and Jakarta since the last post.  I’m going to Shanghai with him for 3 days this week.  We were planning to take a short vacation to the Philippines the last week of December but, because of our move and a typhoon that hit there last week, have decided to stay in Hong Kong and do some local exploring.  We’ve purchased tickets to the HK Philharmonic for New Year’s Eve and will look forward to the fireworks on Victoria Harbor after the performance.

My apologies that I’m not posting any photos this time around.  In all my travels, I’ve never been much of a picture taker.  I’ll try to be more aware of photo ops in the future.

We miss our friends, family and dog but are still very excited about our opportunity here.  We’re really looking forward to visits from my mom in January, two flight attendant friends at the beginning of March and the Franceschina family (including the boys!!) at the end of March.  I’m not going to beg for more visitors, just know you’re welcome anytime.  Fingers crossed, the guest room will be set up on Christmas day!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

or, as they say in Hong Kong, It’s Thursday!

Pete’s off to work today as, obviously, it’s not a holiday here.  We waited a bit too long to get a reservation at one the western hotels that’s serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, so will head to a place called Dan Ryan’s (owned by a Chicagoan).  It’s a pretty casual place, but we hear they’re offering turkey and the fixins.

Last week, we picked up our HK IDs, which officially makes us residents of Hong Kong.  We also signed the lease for an apartment so have a permanent address.  We can now open a bank account, use the library, etc.  More importantly, we can go through the residents line just using a thumb print at airport immigration.  That will really be helpful to Pete who will continue to travel 2-3 weeks out of the month.

Sunday, I participated in a walk to support Hong Kong Dog Rescue.  It was a Star Wars theme from The Peak down to a street  in Central that was closed off for a party with a band and booths of food and drink.  I was invited to walk with a couple from San Francisco and their dog Rascal.

Peak before walk View from Walk

I clearly haven't mastered the selfie yet.
I clearly haven’t mastered the selfie yet.

Yesterday, I attended my orientation to walk dogs at HKDR.  There’s no set schedule, so I can just head over when I want.  It’s in a nice area where there’s a park near the water, so will be a relaxing way to spend some time with dogs who could use some attention.

Nothing says Christmas in China like an Old Timey English Village.  The numerous shopping malls are decked out for the holidays and piping in (loud) Christmas music.  Celine Dion’s rendition of O Little Town of Bethlehem seems to be a popular choice (again, loud).

That's Dan Ryan's in the background.
That’s Dan Ryan’s in the background.

We’re starting to make plans for a little vacation between Christmas and New Year’s day.  There’s been a lot of activity the last few months and it will do us some good to relax on a beach for a few days.   We’re thinking of going to the Visayan Islands in the Philippines, which is about a two and a half hour flight from here.

Thanks for your feedback to the blog, notes on Facebook and emails.  I really love how easy it is to stay connected to everyone.  We’ll be thinking of you all as you gather to give thanks with family and friends.  Happy Thursday!

Settling In

After much consideration, we’ve decided to move forward with an apartment in a high rise building in Mid-Levels West.  It’s a nice compromise of space, location and finishes.  The paperwork is being drafted and funds are being transferred.  If all goes according to plan, we should be in by mid-December which coincides nicely with when our belongings are expected to arrive.  We’ll be ready for guests by the first of the year, so book your tickets!

I attended a few events hosted by the American Women’s Association last week.  As mentioned previously, the organization will provide nice opportunity for socializing and volunteering.  I met a woman who lives in the building we’ll be moving into and another woman who recently moved from Chicago (Southport Corridor).  Everyone is very welcoming.

Pete worked in the Shanghai office for several days last week.  He’ll need to sort out the best way to get up and back, as flight delays are frequent.  He likened the trip to the ORD-LGA route.  He’ll be going up for a few days about every 3 weeks.

Friday night we attended an event put on by the Hong Kong chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  SOM was given two awards for recent work in China.  After the event we went to dinner with Pete’s local colleagues (the two on the left) and their clients.  It was a very nice evening.

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We met our friend, Bill Rogers, for dinner Saturday night.  He made a stop in HK while on a business trip through Southeast Asia and China for his new-ish job with Nike.  We’ll look forward to more visits with him, as it seems he’ll be coming this way pretty regularly. (You made it into the blog, Bill!!)

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Pete and I took a ferry to the nearby island of Lamma on Sunday for some hiking and lunch.  It was a great way to escape the hub bub of the city and get a feel for the local topography.

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We’re hoping to wrap up some logistics this week; setting up the bank account, picking up our Hong Kong IDs and applying for a Chinese visa (I’ll need one to travel there).  Then it’s on to getting a bed, lamps, tv, etc. for our new place and getting our water, electricity, gas and internet set up.  There’s a lot to do, but it’s coming together nicely.

We think of our family and friends often and hope you’re all managing to stay safe and warm in the Arctic Blast.  If you need to get away to someplace warmer, we’ll be here!

    

Week One

We’re really starting to settle into daily life here.

Pete’s office, for the time being, is walking distance from our apartment.  He’s enjoying organizing his space and getting to know the surrounding area.  He had a last minute trip to Jakarta for a couple of meetings that went quite well.  He’s now mentioned the Krispy Kreme shop in the airport twice.  It must have been a highlight. I hope to be able to join him on his next trip there (Jakarta..not Krispy Kreme).  He’ll be traveling to Shanghai this week, as he will be every month, to work with the office there.

I attended a coffee put on by the American Women’s Association and have already signed up to join.  They offer a lot of social and volunteer opportunities that will give me something to fill my days until I’m able to figure out job prospects.  It was really nice to be with a group of women who have experienced organizing life as an expat in HK.  We discussed everything from setting up bank accounts to tipping cab drivers (you don’t) and where to get the best manicure.  My first function as a member of the AWA will be this Tuesday evening.  A group meets weekly at a wine bar. It’s not quite reading to the blind, but that will come in time.

A friend I’ve known since junior high, Fouad Onbargi, was in town on business this week.  We were able to meet for some sightseeing at The Peak and lunch.  Here’s a photo from the cable car ride down the mountain.

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If one is looking for where all the expats hang out, one only needs to go to the local Ikea.  While the store sells almost everything I was able to purchase at the Ikea in Schaumburg, it was with great disappointment that I could not find a single Swedish fish.  I imagine we’ll be making more trips once we secure our permanent housing so will hope they will stock them in the future after a polite email to customer service.

The political demonstrations continue quite peacefully in Hong Kong.  They’re located in several areas and are fairly disruptive to traffic on the north side of the island.

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There was an anti-demonstration demonstration in a park nearby on Friday evening.  Ironically, it was raining so those protesting the Umbrella Revolution were carrying umbrellas.

I attended an event to celebrate the opening of a building in which we’re considering an apartment.  A Chinese lion dance is a symbol of good luck.  I must say, it was unlike an broker’s open house I’ve attended in the past.

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I met one of the owners of the building.  She is an Australian woman who owns Habitat Properties, the real estate and management company our agent works for.  For three years in the 90s, she lived at 2020 Lincoln Park West in Chicago (about 3 blocks from our place on Sedgwick).  It really is a small world.

About 60% of Hong Kong is public parks with a variety of hiking trails.  Pete and I are going to try one out this afternoon.  If all goes according to plan, we should wind up in a small seaside town for a bit of swimming and lunch.

More to come…..

Our First Weekend

I wonder how long it will take before I stop waking up at 2:30am.  I’m really trying to power through the days without taking a nap.
Everything is going well, so far.  We went out with our “property agent”, Myriam, on Saturday and saw a bunch of apartments in several neighborhoods.  It’s the universal conundrum of space versus location.  We saw one place that makes all the sense in the world (large, nice finishes, under budget), but we’re not excited about the area.  We saw another that is in a great neighborhood and is beautifully done but is pretty teeny.  We saw a third that is really cool but the neighborhood is a little far out.  The metro will start running there in a couple of months and there are already some really neat restaurants and coffee shops going in, so it looks like it’ll be coming up.  I just don’t know how long that might take.  It’s one thing to be a pioneer, another to be a pioneer in a foreign country.
The 3rd place
The 3rd place
Sunday, we had brunch with Pete’s colleague Silas and his wife Susan.  They just moved here from Shanghai.  Susan and I are going to attend a coffee Thursday morning hosted by the American Women’s Association.  A friend from high school (junior high, actually) is in town for business.  Pete and I hope to meet up with him for dinner Thursday evening.
I went grocery shopping on Sunday….it ain’t the Jewel.  There are numerous markets around that have a lot of recognizable brands, although you pay pretty dearly for them.  The markets are really small.  I also stopped in a drug store and found my brands of eye creme, shampoo & conditioner, lip balm…most of the essentials.
Anyhoo, we’re having fun and think this is all going to work out well.

Leaving Chicago

Pete and I left Chicago on Thursday the 30th after dropping our beloved Maisy off to be boarded for a night before returning to our home with her new (hopefully temporary) owners.  It was an emotional time for us but we know she’s in good care.

We flew Cathay Pacific non-stop from O’Hare to Hong Kong….just over 15 hours.  The service was fantastic and the amenities provided in business class (thank you SOM) made us quite comfortable.

Jen on the plane   Pete on Plane

We arrived at our home for the month of November, Shama Central, at about 9:00pm on Halloween.  The apartment is a spacious, fully furnished,  1 bedroom that will be very comfortable. After unpacking and getting organized, we went out for a night cap and to take in the local ambiance. The neighborhood was full of people dressed up and ready to spend the evening celebrating.

So far so good…..