We got up early this morning, of course, to go to mass. I was counting on getting a full 8 hours sleep with the cute little gecko in the quiet contemplation monastery. I had total control in my sparse little room (except for the critters). Then I started texting and emailing (I woke Hannah up) and stayed up an extra 1 1/2 hours. This place was so beautiful and quiet except for Michael screaming out a semi-curse word when a big cockroach was heading his way in his room during quiet contemplation time. I quietly contemplated my iPhone after taking a cold shower (no hot water) and drying myself with a pillowcase (no towels). We won't even talk about no soap or shampoo.
At mass I counted 14 monks in full garb. 8 priests and 4 brothers. Most of the priests (except for Fr. Paul) seemed really old. They were so adorable. Wise sweet faces. 2 women volunteers were helping us by continually showing me where we were in the prayer book I guess not realizing that I couldn't read one word of anything and was not even sure If the book was upside down or sideways. I did recognize some of the hymns and could hum along. I really wanted to line them all up around the altar with Chuni in the middle and snap a pix, but i did not dare. After mass I was dying to find the cookie kitchen and sneak some dough and bake with the adorable monks, but we only has 10 minutes to pack and have breakfast (and wake Michael up) before we had to leave for the ferry). You don't argue with Fr. Paul. He's not the head honcho for nothin'. If Chuni is productive, and she is, he is uber productive.
Father Pei, Brother Simon, and Fr. Paul picked us up precisely at 8 in a very old van with a little plastic monk hanging from the rear view mirror. Fr. Pei had to have been in his 80's and had joined the monastery when he was 11! Brother Simon was probably in his late 50s and had been in for 7 years. He had been an international business lawyer in the UK before that. They took the ferry into Hong Kong with us. I asked Br. Simon all about the cookie baking. They actually churn the Trappist milk into butter to make the cookies. I told him I was disappointed that we didn't get to help and he said he would email me some pix! Plus, I'm looking forward to hearing his full story. Fr. Paul's great uncle was the oldest living Trappist monk when he died a few years ago at 110!
Our good friends' daughter, Leigh Tsang, and her darling 8 month old baby, Julia, met us at the pier. We had a great day together! Leigh's husband, Chi, who was born in Hong Kong, just got a great job with HSBC and got sent from NY to live in HK. They've just been there about a month. Chi works long hours, so Leigh showed us what she had discovered and was happy to try some new adventures with us. We had lunch at a great Sechuan place, saw their beautiful new apartment in Mid-levels, took a cab to the Peak of Mount Victoria and rode the tram back down. Initially from the pier area, we took the world's longest outdoor escalator up to their apartment building. It is SO cool. We were so thankful we didn't have to run up the mountain in 100 degree heat like we did with Fr. Paul the day before!!
Julia was such a little trouper! She ate when she wanted to, slept in the front pack when she needed to, and smiled and played with us the whole day! We all got to hold her..even Michael, whom she loved. He'll be a great father some day (if he doesn't sleep through it). Julia so reminded me of Karyn and Jeff's little Ina, born almost the same day!!
I vowed to try to talk Greg into coming back with Leigh's parents some day. Hong Kong is made up of Lantau Island, where we stayed at the monastery yesterday, Kowloon, New Territory, Hong Kong island, as well as many other small islands. This island has the population of NYC in much smaller area. Much of the island is green parks, do the residential areas are all TALL, close together buildings. This is a very exciting place, easily accessible, more international, but not as friendly, as Taiwan (in my vast experience of 12 hours). They speak Cantonese here, not Mandarin, so we're a little more challenged. Most attempt English. They drive on the other side of the street here and you don't seem to need to byotp into the toilets, although, as in Taiwan, you have to beg to get a napkin in a restaurant, even though this food is MESSY! Again, if you want more cultural/historical details, either read Chia's daily comments (no pressure, Chia) or look it up on the Internet yourself. I'm too busy having fun.
Aside...Do you know how hard this is to write this darn thing on an iPhone??? It takes me 3 times as long as it should and by the time I get the time to write it, I don't give a crap about grammar or bizarre auto-iTypos or wordiness or goofiness!! Bear with me. And please, someone figure out if I can just hit print on this and save it to read with pix and all as a nice souvenir someday, cause I can barely remember anything from day to day (must be the alcohol deprivation destroying my brain cells).
Tonight and tomorrow we are staying at the Youth Center Hotel, which is very reasonable for HK and at least has towels and shampoo! I thought we would be rejected at the front desk for not being under 21. Tomorrow, more Catholic cousins (fresh back from a mission)!! Woohooo!! Maybe Leigh and Julia will have a glass of wine with me.
Love to everyone back home. We're coming into the home stretch and will return to NJ 7/13, hopefully after YOUR heat wave is over and the water main is repaired. I used to love the sun, but no more...p.s. I ate that pigeon head you saw in the dim sum pix yesterday. Tastes like chicken head...