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The Boy Who Cried Wolf

After seven typhoon seasons in Hong Kong, I've seen a moderate number of typhoons ranging from the mild T1 through to the massive T8, and I must admit I've kind of slipped into a 'shrug-your-shoulders' attitude towards typhoons. 

This is because every time there's a typhoon, even at the massive T8 stage, it never seems particularly dangerous. During each typhoon, the Hong Kong observatory issues stern warnings to stay indoors, lock your windows, take in any flower pots, and my favorite: 'The T1 signal is hoisted' (hoisted - how do they come up with that?!), and the news on TV is peppered with drenched and bedraggled journalists reporting 'live' (always) from the Tsim Sha Tsui and/or Central ferry terminal where you can see rocky waves in the background. Holed up at home, looking out the window, it always looks mild, sometimes it's not even raining and there's barely a gust of wind. 

There's also a multitude of rainstorm warnings here in Hong Kong - amber rain, black rain, the list goes on. Black rain is enough to shut down all businesses wherever you are. So if you're at work, you stay at work - no one is allowed outdoors. And if you're at home, you stay at home. Coming from Singapore where it rains all the time, frequently in sudden downpours, I don't even bat an eyelid at the black rain here. It doesn't seem particularly alarming to me and I wonder what the fuss is all about. 

So it was just another day yesterday when it started out with a T1 signal being hoisted (I cannot resist!). I was out at Tsim Sha Tsui getting a facial. While waiting for the therapist to arrive, I checked out the observatory news (a favorite past-time of residents in Hong Kong) on my iPhone, which said the typhoon was picking up speed and the T3 signal is now hoisted (hoisted!), but because of the direction the typhoon was heading, any chance of this being upgraded to a T8 signal later in the day was slim. 

Not an hour later, whilst having my face caked in green caviar, the therapist left the room and returned to report that the latest observatory news was that it would turn to a T8 in the evening. We were 6 hours away from the evening, plenty of warning. 

I was on my way home after the facial and walked outdoors in T3 weather conditions which was very manageable by the way, except for occasional strong gusts of wind. All of a sudden, it turned out to be so strong that my umbrella broke whilst fighting it. It was all I could do to hold on to my umbrella so it wouldn't fly off but it could not withstand the battering of the wind and broke in its mighty hands. What!

I got home in one piece and just like the observatory said, the T8 signal was in force in the evening. Still no biggie, we've had a couple of T8s already this season. I was sure it would be all over by the next morning and everyone would be back to work. A common wish for working folks is for T8 to be in force because it means you don't have to go to work. The city shuts down - the stock market, government, offices etc. It's always disappointing when the T8 signal comes on in the evenings because your work day is over with any way. 

However, overnight, Typhoon Vincente waged a massive storm and wreaked havoc, becoming more and more ferocious, inching up to a Typhoon 10 signal, the highest warning and the first that's been issued in 13 years. In bed, I could hear the wind howling and the rain smashing on to our window panes. This is hands down the worst typhoon I've seen in 7 years here. By this morning, the Typhoon 8 signal was still in force, Hong Kong was under siege and looking out the windows, it was a ghost town with nary a car in sight. Everyone was staying locked up indoors. 

A look out at my balcony revealed the chaos Vicente left in its wake. 

Plants blown permanently askew and flower pots overturned. 

It felt like the boy who cried wolf. Seven typhoon seasons and now it's the real McCoy.

Hong Kong, I'm going to miss you, typhoons and all.


Last Day of School

It was the last day of school for my son today. His nursery organized a graduation ceremony and as parents, we were eagerly anticipating attending the event. We had dinner last night with my aunt's family and they were laughing at how our son was having a graduation ceremony for graduating from nursery.

The ceremony started off with a speech by the school principal, followed by a slideshow chronicling the kids' past year in school - countless funny and happy pictures of what the kids did at school, the activities they were up to, the festivals they celebrated, the craft work they did. It was a simple powerpoint presentation but it struck a chord deep inside me and made my eyes well up in tears. I'm so proud of my son and how much he's grown on this journey, he was just a little baby but now he's older - all of 3 years old and so much more independent. I was quite overcome with emotion - it hit me that my son is so grown up and I don't know when he became such a big age. How did we get here so fast? 

I guess I've never stopped to think but I've actually been a mom for three years. Which feels surreal. It's an incredible place to be, it's bewildering, mind-boggling, and exhausting but I also feel so proud - so proud of my son, and so proud to be a mom. How many more moments like these will I know, how many more lie ahead, moments where I will see my son at centre-stage, and how proud I will be of him. 

After the slideshow, each child was called out individually to receive their graduation award. My son went up on stage, did a handshake with the principal, received his award with two hands, and even did a little bow. Too funny! I didn't even know he knew how to behave so proper!

The teachers gave a speech after that, and Ms Kwok, his teacher was getting all choked up too - she said she was honored to be the first teacher in their lives, which is really special. She was proud of how far they've come, she said she used to wipe the snot off their noses, but now they come up to her and ask for a tissue so they can wipe their snot themselves. She's seen the kids go from crying every day at the start of the school year, to not crying anymore. From wearing diapers to now being potty-trained. What a huge year for the kids!

The kids sang a song afterwards - "I Love My Mom and I Love my Dad", and it was so, so sweet. They also sang a thank you song for the teachers, which was really cute. We made cards at home this morning for the teachers - my son drew pictures with crayons and pasted stickers in the cards. We gave them to the teachers today. His English teacher said it's been a pleasure teaching him and he's such a good boy (phew!).

I really didn't expect to feel so emotional at his graduation ceremony. All too soon, he has attended a full year of school and we've come so far from when he was 2 years old and just starting school on the first day. I remember we started him off in a two-week orientation program to ease him into being in a school environment. He was accompanied at school for one hour per day, and then gradually in week 2, he was at school unaccompanied, attending classes by himself. He didn't understand a word of Cantonese when he started - he didn't even know his name in Cantonese. I had a call from his teachers a few days into starting school and they politely wanted to know if he might have some hearing problems - every time they called his name, there would be no response. A friend found it hilarious that I didn't prep him before starting school, she said we could at least have told him: 'Uh heads up, your Cantonese name is Ka Ho.' 

I think my son is such a champ - we threw him in the deep-end for school, he went from being with mom all the time, to going to a brand-new environment full of strangers and other kids, no mom present, and in a language he didn't understand. He bawled every single day for an entire week, it was a tussle to get him out the door to school every morning. But in less than two weeks, he was adjusted and hasn't looked back since. He's never cried again and practically prances to school now, he's so eager to start off his school day.

And that's how I know he's in a good place, he's genuinely happy and he talks about his teachers and classmates all the time, and he's a happy camper when he gets off from school every day. What's been the most remarkable thing for us is his ability to pick up the Cantonese language. He went from knowing nothing, to being absolutely fluent in it now, so much so it's his native language right now. He prefers speaking in Cantonese and he loves singing all the Cantonese songs he learns at school. Completely home-grown! Spouting colloquial Cantonese! He cracks me up with the things he says. Where did this local boy come from? He's so much fun and such a delight!

This school is a great one, and I've been impressed by how caring the teachers are. They genuinely go the extra mile to ensure the kids are well, and to keep the parents engaged and involved in how the kids are progressing at school. It's with regret that our baby girl will never get to experience this. I would have loved for her to have this quintessentially Hong Kong experience, of being immersed in the local culture and language, and to be indelibly shaped by this, whether in ways we can or cannot see.

He went home with a graduation cap and a thick binder filled with pictures of his past year at school. It's such a beautiful and priceless keepsake, and I am so glad that he will have this to look back on when he's older. I am so grateful that he had the opportunity to have a Cantonese education, to have local friends to laugh and play with, to learn the Cantonese language, and to be such an integrated part of local society. His Cantonese proficiency is definitely one of the best gifts ever from our time in Hong Kong. 


Cupcakes for a Rainy Day

Since we were rained in today, I decided to do some baking with my son, and pulled out a Tom & Jerry cupcake mix that I had bought some time earlier. It promised "12 minutes to bake. Just add egg, butter and water!"

And exactly as it appears on the box:


  • Tom & Jerry decorations
  • Tom & Jerry Fun Sheet and Stickers
  • Improved Taste!

How could I possibly pass on buying this?!

Now this was really a fun little kit, the cake mix was in a strawberry flavor and smelt heavenly, and it also came with a packet of icing that you can mix up easily (just add water!). On top of that, it also had Tom & Jerry waferettes that you can decorate the cupcakes with. And lots of stickers, and also an entertaining booklet filled with games to play and crafts to make. ALL in one box! Could they pack any more fun in there?!

I love this cake kit! Just the waferettes alone make me laugh. 


Tequila Weekend

The heat here is really reaching a fever pitch - this past week has seen daily temperatures reaching up to 33°C. 

To escape the heat, our outdoor activity yesterday consisted of staying indoors by heading out to the mall at Elements. We almost always go to Cafe Iguana when we're at Elements because we can never resist having some Mexican. 

We were having a lazy afternoon, leisurely tucking into our tacos, spicy wings and magaritas. After wolfing down guacamole and chips, my son was getting restless sitting at the table waiting for us to polish off our Mexican feast.

He wandered off, and we, being totally absorbed in ceviche and salsa, failed to realize that he was not crawling about under the table (as he is prone to do). We suddenly realized with a start that he wasn't anywhere in sight. 

We hastily hunted for him and found him... the bar! Which totally cracked us up.

Looking lonesome and forlorn, the attentive bartender quickly served him a shot of tequila*.

Bottoms up! 

*apple juice


A Curly Affair

I've been growing out my hair for the longest time and now that it's really long, I think my hairdresser is getting bored with it. She keeps suggesting that I should perm my hair - you know, give it a try, and see how I like it.

I have never permed my hair before and after probably a year of cajoling, I finally caved and decided to do it. But to perm one's hair is not such a straightforward affair, it's complicated really. What type of perm would I like? Digital perm, ceramic perm, the list goes on. I was informed that the new perm in town creates big, loose, soft curls, giving hair curl and volume that lasts.

Okaaay...that sounds about right. 

Little did I know that getting a ceramic perm meant sitting down for over 2 hours as my hair got cut, washed, prepped, put in rollers, dipped in chemicals and strapped to an insane-looking spy interrogation, mind-altering contraption that made the whole perming process look pretty crazy.

A couple of days post-perm, the curls are indeed still pert and bouncy, but I now need to add on an additional hair routine of applying curling mousse and styling my hair. Not quite a wash-and-go kind of hair. But it's growing on me.