Monday, 15 December 2014

The Christmas Round Robin

When I was growing up I vividly remember the heavy thud as bundles of cards landed on the doormat in the lead up to Christmas.  Times have changed - this year we've received two.  One from my sister in law and one from Jayden, one of my students!  Hopefully this is a reflection of our increasingly digital world, rather than our lack of popularity.  Back then, Christmas cards from distant friends and family were often accompanied with the inevitable 'Round Robin' letter.  These letters appeared to be a legitimate way for people to gloat about their idyllic lives and their children's successes over the course of the year, while meticulously glossing over any negatives.  I remember mum and dad chortling away about what positives they could possibly find to write about us when I had just been 'bust' for smoking, Tom had been discovered instigating spitting games at school, and Ben had been caught photocopying our neighbour's porn collection.  Personally, I think that would have made a far more entertaining read than boasts of marvellous Martin passing his Common Entrance and super Susannah achieving her Cycling Proficiency.

Anyway, in place of the 'Round Robin' letter, I am adapting this into a 'Round Robin' blog to update you on the year that has almost passed.

Living in a city that is celebrated for its impressive firework displays, it seemed fitting that David and I should completely miss them having collapsed jet-lagged in bed by 9pm.  After the excitement of missing seeing in 2014, we were straight back to business with me starting my English teaching course and Dave heading to China to work at a boat show.  January was a 'heads down' month.  My course was very intensive and I threw myself into the teaching, loving every moment.  Meanwhile Dave took full advantage of staying out of my way with a pint in his hand at The Phoenix, loving every moment.
My teaching course

February started with Chinese New Year and yet another impressive firework display that we both missed.  Dave, because he was taking part in a yacht race to Macau, where the naughty crew went swimming in the canal at The Venetian on arrival.  Me, because I was in a pub with a long-awaited cocktail in my hand celebrating finishing my course.

I took on my first paying students in February and started earning money after a couple of months of contributing nothing to the bank account.  This was also the month where I suffered the most humiliating experience of my life, turning up for a job interview and being told I had to teach a class. Completely unprepared I floundered around like an idiot singing 'Hello, hello what's your name?' to the tune of 'London Bridge is Falling Down' to a wall of blank, unsmiling faces.  I didn't get the job.

Finally I found a job teaching pre-school children.  In retrospect, what was I thinking?  I have never been baby and toddler friendly.  To be honest, they scare me!  Therefore, being trapped in a classroom in charge of 10 toddlers was hell on earth.  Place me on a stage and ask me to present on healthcare marketing to 100 people - no problem.  Place me in a classroom with a handful of toddlers and I'm a quivering wreck.  Within a week, I'd resigned.  Leaving my exasperated husband wondering if I would ever manage to hold down a job again!

Besides, finding and losing a job, I also participated in one of the worst sailing races I have ever experienced in my life.  You know the expression, 'by failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail'? Well, we did that spectacularly.  The Pedro Blanco race was a windy overnight race with uncomfortable seas.  One crew member disappeared down below after eating a 7/11 sandwich, never to be seen on deck again.  We had forgotten to do any proper catering or arrange a watch system, and we had a near-miss with the Pedro Blanco rock we were supposed to be rounding.  I have never been so relieved to get off a yacht!

The highlight of March was a visit from my brother Tom and our first outing to the amazing Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.  Dave sadly missed out as he was at K-TV in Sanya.
Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

Despite the horror of the Pedro Blanco Race, it wasn't sufficient to put me off taking part in the China Sea Race to the Philippines over Easter.  Although we had a terrible start to the race, having picked up a large mooring line around our prop, we were finally off albeit at the back of the fleet.  Over the next couple of days we managed to creep our way up from last position and were sailing pretty well.  However, as the Philippines coast came into sight, the wind died and we spent hours and hours going round and round in circles.  It got so desperate that eventually the rum was opened and when the wind finally filled in, a rather inebriated crew finally managed to cross the finish line.  There was a great sense of achievement having made our way all the way from Hong Kong to the Philippines simply under the power of the wind.

Once we had delivered the yacht safely back from the Philippines, it was time for David to disappear to Singapore and me to start another new job.  This time teaching at a kindergarten until the end of June, in addition to my tutoring work which was building up well.

May marked the month my weight started to increase and our bank balance started to drain as M&S Food opened by the Mid-Levels escalator.

The highlight of June was a visit to Hong Kong from an old work colleague, which was a great excuse for me and two other old work mates from MindShare who live here, to get together.  Even though 10 years had passed since we had all worked together, we had a fabulous evening reminiscing about our London days.

David abandoned me late in the month to take part in a sailing regatta in Penghu, Taiwan.  And as my kindergarten prepared for its Graduation Day, I prepared to find a job a bit closer to home.  Having heard that a friend was leaving her job at a lovely little kindergarten in Happy Valley, I put out some feelers and secured an interview at her school.  This time I was warned I would need to teach a class so I avoided a repeat performance of 'Hello, hello, what's your name?'
Little Munchkins

School was out for summer!  I was supposed to be teaching in Beijing over the summer but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute.  Rather than lounging by the yacht club pool every single day, I managed to motivate myself to find some more adults and kids to tutor and a summer course to teach.  I did manage to squeeze in a little bit of pool time and lots of sailing, but I must try harder next summer.  Yet again, my husband, realising that I wasn't going to be kept fully occupied over the summer ran away to Singapore again to escape from me.  While he was gone I booked us a summer holiday and as a punishment, I arranged us a holiday at a boutique resort that was also an animal sanctuary.  My idea of heaven, David's idea of hell!
School's out for summer

This was a special month as I inflicted my immense karaoke talents on not just one, but two groups of lucky people!  Both groups quickly worked out that I do NOT share microphones under any circumstances, and I like to have full control over the music choices as well.  I am a self-confessed karaoke hog.

At last, it was time for David and I to go on our animal sanctuary holiday in Langkawi.  David took the news that he might just be sharing his room with a few cats quite well.  He also resigned himself to dog walks being part of our itinerary.  The holiday started with David shooing cats out of the room every few minutes, and ending with him sharing a sun-lounger and our bed with four lovely cats.  Naturally, I managed to fit a dog walk in too.  Langkawi is a beautiful place for a summer break, made all the better for animals.

After we got back from Langkawi, David escaped from me again - this time to Italy and England.

At the beginning of September I started my new job teaching at Precious Blood Kindergarten in Happy Valley.  It quickly proved to be an absolutely lovely school to work at and there was a huge sense of relief at finally finding a school where I genuinely felt very happy and settled.

Shortly after returning to school, it was Mid Autumn Festival and a naughty visitor, our troublesome friend Sophie, came to visit.  Sophie came to see us solo, leaving her husband cleaning the house and walking the dog back in England.  It was great fun showing a good friend a taste of Hong Kong and we covered everything from sailing, to hiking, to beaches, to shopping.  Unfortunately I couldn't keep up with her drinking prowess and had to leave her in David's very capable boozing hands.

Once Sophie left Hong Kong, Dave fled to Indonesia.

I had been looking forward to October for months as this was when my mum and dad were going to come and visit us.  We spared them the pleasure of sharing our tiny apartment with us and booked them into a flat just down the escalator from our home.  A lot of time and effort had been put into building an action packed itinerary for them and they had barely dropped off their suitcases before we were dragging them to enjoy a lychee martini and chinese feast.  This seemed to remain the theme for the week - drink, eat, drink, eat, drink!

Their visit coincided with the start of the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations so they were able to witness first hand a historic moment in Hong Kong's history.

It was wonderful to give mum and dad a glimpse of our lives here in Hong Kong and to reassure them that despite the difficulties of the previous year, we really are settled and happy now.  The worst thing about having my parents here was that there would be the inevitable 'goodbye' at the end which was a little tearful.

David forgot to abandon me in October so we celebrated by going to the Hong Kong Open Golf together and drinking far too much rose.

A month of firsts.... My first Thanksgiving dinner, my first Hong Kong Round the Island Race, my first Asian music festival - Clockenflap.

The highlight - Clockenflap - but it wasn't quite the same without my badly behaved UK festival buddies to spike my drinks and trip me over in the mud!

Once more David forgot to leave the country.


Holidays are coming, holidays are coming!  And now, here we are in December.  The flat has been transformed into a grotto, the fridge is stocked with M&S party food and the mulled wine has been on free-flow.  We have been Christmas partying and Christmas sailing.  This weekend is my school's Nativity and Dave has front row seats - yes, he's forgotten to flee Hong Kong again.

We have a quiet Christmas arranged, with just the two of us which will be really weird as we're both used to large, noisy family Christmases.  It could be our first and last Christmas a deux!  And we're counting down the days to our holiday to Cambodia and Vietnam between Christmas and New Year.

2014 has been a great year for us both establishing our lives in Hong Kong and roll on 2015!


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