September and October, 2013

Here are some highlights from September and October.

Magdalena started School

(Click on a photo to see the full image.)

Magdalena started K3–the 3rd year of kindergarten (although for her it was her first year)–at a local Chinese school. The instruction is completely in Cantonese, except for occasional English and Mandarin classes. There are several other expat (non-Chinese) kids in her class, which made the transition a little easier I think. Although she doesn’t understand the language yet, her English-speaking classmates and the teachers (who all speak English), help her. And they follow a pretty routinized daily schedule, so I think it’s pretty easy for her to follow along.

Every night she has 3 homework books. One math, one Chinese writing, and one English writing. On Fridays she also has a voluntary book report on an English book. Every week she has an oral test where she reads 3 Chinese words and 4 English words. And every week she has a written test rotating each week between Chinese and English.

I volunteer in the classroom about once a week for 45 minutes. It’s nice to get a glimpse into how things work there.

Here are some things people used to school in the U.S. might find interesting:

  • The school uniform is a polo shirt 2 days a week and an apron over your own shirt the other 3 days. They can wear whatever pants and shoes they want. Most kindergartens here have a much stricter uniform that includes a certain color pants and shoes.
  • The kids remove their shoes when they arrive at school. They are required to wear socks.
  • The kids wear slippers when they enter the bathroom.
  • The kids bring their own towel/handkerchief to school to dry their hands on when they wash them. They also bring their own cup every day to use for water at snack time.
  • Parents pay a supplies fee every semester. Then the school provides all  of the supplies they need–pencils, erasers, glue, scissors, etc. They do not bring any school supplies from home.
  • If a child brings a book report book back to the school late, they are no longer allowed to participate in the book report program in the future.
  • The kids are required to eat their snack, like it or not.
  • The school break in the winter is called “Christmas break”. The kids sing Christmas songs, make Christmas crafts, etc.
  • The playground equipment is mostly for looks, as far as I can tell. Magdalena’s class has only been allowed to play on the equipment 1, maybe 2 times, in the 4 months she’s been in school.

There are things we like and things we don’t like. But overall we’ve been happy with the school. Magdalena is happy after school every day, which is worth a lot.

James also attends a Cantonese class at Magdalena’s kindergarten with 0-3 other kids (depending on the day) his age 2 or 3 days a week for an hour each time. He is always excited to go–his teacher is really great. At the age of 3, he should be in K1 (the first year of kindergarten) this year. If a child is  2 years and 10 months old or older by either September or December (I can’t remember which), that’s the year they start. School is 3 hours a day every day. We’re holding off–the early years are too precious and I don’t feel like anything a school offers can possibly compare to being at home in a family setting for that time. As James and I run errands during the day, everyone–Chinese and non-Chinese–wants to know why he isn’t at school.

Next year, I will be homeschooling both kids. I’m trying to figure out how to still provide a language immersion experience regularly to help with learning Cantonese.

Here are some pics from the first day of school for Magdalena and James’s first day of Cantonese class:


Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn festival I have heard is the biggest holiday in Hong Kong, next to Chinese New Year. One night, we had some families from Church and the missionaries over. They taught us how to make traditional Chinese Dumplings–yum. And then we went to the beach and lit lanterns.

Another night we went to Victoria Park and saw lots of lanterns. And then we went on a quest to find the fire dragon dancing around the streets not too far away. We found it and were watching from a distance, when to our great surprise, a lady from the tourism board told us to follow her. She whisked us away, through barriers, and gave us front row seats. She also gave us water to drink and commemorative Tai Hang fire dragon dance moon cakes. Not to mention an amazing view of a cultural event which has been around since 1880. More on the history here


The kindergarten threw a really great Halloween party complete with games, food, and a parade around the community. Here are pictures of Magdalena with her teacher and with her school class.

Other Stuff

Here is a picture of our yellow bike that we take around town. The kids sit on the seat in the back, and groceries fit great in the back. We can’t leave town via our bike–there’s a gigantic hill on one exit out of town, and ocean on the other side. When we leave town, we do so by ferry, bus, taxi, and for Josh, trail running. A nice lady from our area gifted us her children’s bikes when her kids got new ones. Magdalena can go anywhere in town by bike. James has a hard time on the incline on the way home, so for now, he only rides his bike to places that are close. The pictures of them on their bikes here are taken in our village square, which our family calls “the open area”. It’s a 3 minute walk from our house, and a great place to find old Chinese ladies sitting outside gossiping, and a great place to ride bikes, throw a ball, play frisbee, etc. Magdalena’s school comes here twice a week to run (P.E. time).

Here are some pics of the waterfall near our house (5 minute bike ride?). And some water buffalo near the beach in the next town over–Pui O. We have ferrel cattle and water buffalo in Mui Wo where we live too. Farmers here used to use them in their farming, but I guess when the farmers stopped farming, the released them and they’ve been roaming wild ever since. South Lantau Island where we live is known for the ferrel cows and water buffalo. I don’t think these are found anywhere else in Hong Kong.