Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More trees

We're not finished with the trees yet, not by a long chalk! This is the tree in the local YMCA which as well as a cafe, swimming pool and hotel has an excellent shop where I bought some cards and paper.

Small but perfect...oor ain wee tree with our gifts below. I'm like a small child, I want to open them NOW ,but Les is adamant. Although he agrees it would be mad to take them all the way to Australia, he insists we wait until at least the weekend...and it's only Wednesday! Bah Humbug!

Jiao Festival

The hapless chicken, who later escaped, bringing the whole proceedings to a halt!

A deity

The Lion head ready for the dance

Deity guarding the main altar

The duck leads the parade, with a red cloth ried to it's legs. Next comes the dragon and the chicken brings up the rear.

I had a great day out at the Jiao Festival in Sai Kung. It's a Daoist ritual called "Pacifying the dragon" and it takes place only once every thirty years. It's very much a local event for the Hakka families in the village, so it was a great privilege for our group of 20 women to be able to witness it first hand. There are lots of excellent photos on my facebook page, taken by my friend, who is a much better photographer than I am! Anyway I'll add a few of my own here too. We were also the subject of many photographs as locals wanted to capture the event. Few if any white Westerners get to witness such an ancient and rare ritual.
Our day started with a visit to the temple, still covered in red paper shreds from the night before's firecrackers. Then we watched as the various components of the parade were assembled; a duck to lead, a lion, a chicken at the end, a "Man of fortune" bearing a clay urn containing grain, which is buried on the hillside to pacify the dragon. We all followed the parade up the steep hill behind the village. After some 20 minutes of steady climbing, the parade stopped. We were told it was because the leaders had reached the burial ground and women were not allowed there. True enough, but why then so many men still in the queue? Next followed fantic calling down the hillside, phone calls back down to the village and my limited Cantonese picked up the word "gai" which means chicken. A local lass explained that to everyone's consternation, the chicken had escaped into the undergrowth and frantic efforts were underway to procure another live chicken for the ritual to continue.We all decided at this point we should descend, as we wouldn't be permitted to progress much further anyway. Also, we were concerned for the welfare of the duck, suspecting it was about to meet a messy end as part of the ritual. As we neared the village, there were more frantic shouts and we had to stand aside to make way for a young man ascending at speed...clutching another chicken! We spent the rest of the day wandering round the village with our very knowdgeable guides, then we went out to the main road to await the parade's descent. Their approach was heralded by loud drums and gongs, then much to our relief, the duck,still alive but looking somewhat subdued, the lion and bringing up the rear, not one but two chickens! The original one had been captured! After more photocalls, we headed home. What a terrific experience!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Our "Hostess with the mostest"

Every month, a group of Laydeez get together at Laurie's house for coffee and a chat. On Thursday, she had a few surprises in store! We had champagne (at 10.30am), a Christmas prize draw, mince pies and fabulous old Christmas music; Bing Crosby et al. What a great morning!
I have been doing a little bit of Christmas shopping, just a few house gifts to take to Australia, so that was fun.I've taken more Christmas tree pics, uploading shortly, and some friends have now got caught up in it and are taking pics of trees in their local area and sending on to me!
The weekend in Macao was a laugh; Les had a go with the Chinese fortune sticks in the afternoon and his said "If you gamble tonight you will be lucky". So he had a go on the slot machines and won $300! We spent a whole day wandering round the old Portuguese influenced part of Macao, not a camera between us. The weather was sunny but there was a snell wind. We ate Portuguese on the first night and Mexican (via Portugal) on the second. We did not go to the famous Cotai Strip, which is a new landfill area full of Casinos. We caught an early ferry home on Sunday as we felt we'd seen enough of casinos to last us a while. Unfortunately the crossing was quite rough and the man behind us was spectacularly, noisily, sick for almost the whole hour. Every time I looked at Les he had his eyes shut and his hands over his ears; he said every time he looked at me I was enveloped in a Pashmina with my fingers in my ears!(The Pashmina was over my nose because the sme...) Ok, enough, you get the idea!
Anyhoo, what else is new? Well, I passed my listening and speaking Cantonese with 69% but there is a long way to go before I could say I can actually speak sentences. However, I can (sort of) make myself understood in shops, restaurants etc, although mainly they just laugh and say "Well done". I think they find it amusing that I even try, as they all speak such great English it hardly seems worth my bother.
Both Les and I have had a bit of a cold this week, so I have been out less than usual. I dropped out of my study group lecture on Chinese cemeteries and also reneged on a lecture on Chinese opera. I did go to my Book Group on Tuesday where we had a great discussion about Kazuro Ishiguro's Never let me go. Even though it has turned a little chilly here, we were still able to sit on the balcony for our lunch and discussion. There were about 20 of us and the balcony could have held another 20 easily. It had a wonderful beach view.
Last night, Les had the first of his office Christmas parties. Because he works part of the week in China and part here in Hong Kong, he gets to go to two parties!So anyway as usual at these dos there was a raffle...and as usual, Les won something! An envelope containing $1200. Not bad, eh?And I noticed our local supermarket has a good deal on champagne.....
Our weekend so far looks as if it will be quiet. We'll probably go and buy some kind of heater, or maybe even a rug,it's getting to be quite chilly sitting in this big airy room in the evenings now. The weekly trip downstairs to the supermarket with the shopping trolley also needs to be done; there is not much food storage space here, so I tend just to buy daily and then stock up with tins, bottles, etc. at the weekend. Les loves to collect the stamps they give for purchases. He saved the last lot and we got a frying pan and a wee saucepan. Now the deal is for white porcelain. He's just been counting his stamps (what fun we have here! Never a dull moment, eh) and announced we already have enough for two espresso cups and saucers or four coffee mugs. But I'm aiming big!I like the look of the big serving platters! We need to buy loads more groceries before the deal ends in April. I hope to have the platters by the time the family gets here in March.See, already I can feel that you, too, are getting caught up in the excitement of our lives out here!
We don't as yet have our usual tourist trip planned for Sunday, depends how we feel. Les is still quite choked up with the cold, although I feel a lot better. The sun is shining but I expect it will be cold out. But it's all relative, as I know Scotland is shivering and would think our 17 degrees is warm. My friend Sue is currently in Tokyo and is excited by the big fat flakes of snow that are falling there, as she is from Perth, Australia and they don't get snow.
I have quite a few outings planned for next week. On Monday I have my art lovers group,we're going to a museum, not a gallery this time.Tuesday, there is a trip to an outlying village to witness a ritual ceremony, called "pacifying the dragon",which only takes place once every 30 years. On Wednesday, some girls might go to the cinema, I'm organising it so need to see what is on. I quite fancied Rum diaries with Johnny Depp but it ends Sunday, bummer.I'm meeting Elaine and Hannah on Thursday and on Friday I really need to get my hair cut. I look like a wild wummin in all this wind.I also have two Cantonese lessons, Stanley is making sure I don't miss out due to our forthcoming trip to Melbourne. So there's another busy week!
Only ten days to go till we fly to Melbourne!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A poem lovely as a tree...

Okay, not a tree, but still gorgeous!

The finishing touches....

Looks delicious...but they are not real. How do I know? The man putting the last few on, gave me one! It's a polystyrene ping pong ball.Here it is, on our dining room table.

Santa's cabin