Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tian Yan Nei Gong

Tian Yan Nei Gong

I cannot tell you how fortunate I am to be in a city that offers opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. I am also fortunate that the city has a VERY active Association of Women to help put Expats together.

I have done many many activities with the American Woman’s Association (AWA). Today was the first time that I took a class that was centered just on wellness.

I took a Nei Gong class. Nei Gong was started over 11,000 years ago (11,000 years. ONLY in China people) Nei Gong means “internal work”. It helps you work on your “inner self” and your physical self. It is just a little bit like Tai Chi because there are “moves” However, instead of their being 65 moves, there are 15. You are working on your “qi” (energy) in the lower Dan Tien (the energy center below the naval). The Dong Gong is repetitive movements that come from the spine and pelvis using a beautiful series of movements. Nai Gong is based on Taoist movements where Tai Chi is based in martial arts.

Needless to say I cannot do its history justice. I am only hoping I can describe the class well enough for you see the work and beauty behind it.

First of all, it is work. Think of a time you have seen anyone doing Tai Chi. It looks fluid and pretty but not challenging (at least to me). Well, I have a new found respect for the effort being put forth!

We arrived and are immediately “evaluated.” We are seated on the floor with our legs not quite “crossed” and she looks at our flexibility. Some had already been evaluated and were sitting on 3 or 4 pillows (building a pedestal). I only needed one pillow. I am not sure if it was because of my flexibility or because of my lack of muscles that allowed my flexibility. Either way I was very happy NOT to have the largest stack. (This would change soon enough).

After we were settled we were shown our resting crane position. We were shown how to hold our hands a few inches under our navel with our legs in a specific position. Then we were taken through a series of exercise that last two to three minutes each.

I have never done Pilates. I have never done Yoga. This series of stretching and holding poses was very new to me and very new to my body.

There was one exercise where you actually capture your qi in the “air” between your hands as you brought your hands together... Doris said we should be able to feel a tremor and I actually could!

The one that got me the most was the stretch where you are sitting back on your knees, arms flat on the floor and head resting there. “Rumor” has it that if you can fall asleep in this position for ten minutes, it is like the rest of six hours. HOLDING the position for ten minutes was doubtful, let along falling asleep. This is where the revenge of the pillows returned. For me to be able to stretch enough to “sit” on my ankles, I needed THREE pillows! This is where pride gets you... SLAPPED in the face (or the butt). I was able to keep up (yay me) and I do like that there is a “no risk” policy. If it hurts, stop and rest. I could get used to that!

Finally, after the “calisthenics” of it all, we moved to the “fluid” part of the day. We sat on the floor and did a series of movements for 10 minutes. All very fluid, all very beautiful, using our arms and head and neck. I thought I would never be able to remember the sequence, but I soon did.

During the first few minutes what was going through my mind was “really, how long is this going to go on?” I had trouble letting my need to keep “moving on” go. Finally, my mind cleared and I just enjoyed the repetitiveness of the moves. I also liked the feeling that I was doing something well. (Pride returned when the teacher did not correct me).

My “body bugg” did not show me burning hardly any calories. However, I am realizing my need for Core strength is much more important than my need for “data” on said body bugg.

I am hoping this class becomes a regular thing in my life in September. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the company I was with.

Once again, I am thankful for the people I have met here.

Great Days don’t have to involve Major Achievements

The Washer that Aggravates

The View that calms

Corey left for the UK and Europe last Saturday (June 11). He normally doesn’t leave Saturday DAY for these long trips. This time, however, he was a victim of packed planes, so he left mid afternoon.

I spent much of last weekend in bed due to a cold Corey kindly shared with me.

It is very quiet and lonely when Corey is gone. I have learned to book myself out most days to make sure I don’t get holed up in the Flat.

This week I kept pretty busy. There was only one day when I was at risk of a meltdown. I had spent a lovely day shopping (not buying) and had a nice healthy lunch with a new friend. Somehow though, when I got back, anxiety threatened to set in so I took myself off to the movies.

Today, Saturday, I awoke to relatively clear skies. It has been awhile since we have seen some really blue skies. I did not have anything formal planned and I awoke late due to a worse than normal bad night of sleeping.

I decided today’s mission was to catch up on laundry. I have a combo washer/dryer that in the past has taken (wait for it) FIVE HOURS to wash and dry a load of towels. By load I mean no more than 4 pounds of wash.

This small capacity and ridiculously long washing time discouraged me from doing my shirts.

Today, however, thanks to a friend urging me to investigate the washer closely, I found a better and more functional setting to get things done.

That small discovery led to one of the most productive days I have had here

Getting rolling on laundry led to vacuuming, led to dusting, led to bathrooms, led to kitchen, led to de-cluttering, led to laundry being taken to the Cleaners, led to …well, you get the idea.

I was getting all of these chores done, but not all in one felled swoop.

My day ended at 6:30 with the last of the laundry being hung up to dry (NO, not out our windows! They are hung in the extra bedroom with the A/C on to help with drying).

This type of day has shown me I do not need to have formal activities or even much contact to be happy and satisfied. Mind you, I do not want to make it a habit of my days consisting of only “hello and thank you” with the desk staff. However, when I look back at what I accomplished, I know now it is ok to have these days.

My friend Barbara has told me this more than once and now I can appreciate her advice on this!

Now, I just got off of Skype with Corey, who is in London. I have a glass of wine (no one is shocked at that) and I am looking at my amazing view. More than once this view has calmed my soul. Tonight, it is making me smile.

The water is moving at such a pace that I wonder if the boats in the harbor even need motors. There were many boats out there, but now that the nightly light show has ended, there are just a few.

It is all of 8:30 pm. In a minute I will take myself in to catch up on a couple of shows we have DVRd from Seattle on the Sling box. I will settle in knowing that I have had a great day, and this great day was because of the series of minor accomplishments.

Great days do not have to comprise of great deeds or great achievements. Great days are whatever satisfies you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When Things Just Aren't What you Remember...

Kirk and Kari have been real troopers sending things over to me as I have wanted them.

Notice I said “wanted” because really, just about everything sent I could do without OR I could have found some substitute here.

Kari nicely refurbished my 100 cal popcorn stock. Kirk had sent a few packs, which I did make last, but Kari brought me 24 packs! I am in HEAVEN.

Kari was also especially nice b/c she actually ran out to the store the night before she came over to buy me a few things. It was really just two things.

First she bought Fiber One bars. I had her bring these because I knew it would be something she could grab for breakfast. I had wanted her to bring three boxes worth, but she brought two. No problem until her Dad and I got into them “just a little” (hey...I TRACKED them…I’m ok!)

Next I had her bring me Betty Crocker Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. She brought me five whole bags of them…because Albertson’s had five whole bags of them.

Those that know me from my meetings, or those who eat in my home know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE these potatoes. Did I mention I LOVE them? They are institutional, and quick, taste nothing likes home-made but I LOVE them.

I will plan a dinner around them. Turkey breast? Hey, how about Garlic mashed? Wine chicken? PERFECT with Garlic mashed. Pork chops? You get the picture…let’s grab the Garlic Mashed. PointsPlus wise they are not a bad investment. They are made with water and I NEVER add the butter so I keep the PointsPlus value down that way.

I really anticipated Kari unpacking her suitcase and bringing me all of my goodies. She spread them though out her checked baggage and she did not “declare” she had any food when she came through customs here (oopps – do not try this at home…it must have slipped her mind).

Well, Corey had a dinner the first night so Kari and I had chicken and …Garlic Mashed Potatoes! I reread the instructions, though heaven knows it is something I know by heart. Easy. 2 cups hot water…mix in the flakes, stir, wait. VOILA. Potatoes.

Here goes. 5 months. 5 months without my very favorite food.



Hm What could have happened? I measured perfectly. I did everything the same.

And they were horrible. Kari agreed. Just gummy and awful.

I was sad.

I put the other four packs on my kitchen rack. I knew once Kari left, I would have other chances to make them up (more for me right?)

Last night I had the opportunity. I had marinated some chicken breasts, and made up one packet (resisting the urge to make two for “leftovers” )

I once again, reread the instructions…made up the potatoes.


EWWW. Even adding milk did not help this sad, gummy, icky, mess of a food.

So, I started to think.

Could the water in Hong Kong be sooo different than the water in Lynnwood Washington that my potatoes would stink? I have heard that Coke tastes different all over the world NOT because of the syrup (it is imported to all plants from the US0), but b/c of the water!

Had the formula changed? The package is different, but they do NOT say “New” OR “Improved”

Both of these things are possible. However, I have my own theory. I actually have two.

First, my tastes have changed. I have experienced this before. The best way for me to explain it is with foods I had to “go without” when I moved from Los Angeles (Tommy’s Burgers anyone?) I would RUN to Tommy’s when we visited to Los Angeles. And every time I went back I liked Tommy’s just a little less. I also experienced this when I gave up certain foods when I started losing my weight. Things I just loved held little appeal for me (I am still waiting for this to happen with wine).

Second, they have never been good. Ever. Being away from them for 5 months has shown me that what I thought was a great “go to” side dish” just wasn’t great.

So, I have three more packets, but I have made a decision. The first two packets were just not good. I don’t see them getting any better.

I am throwing them away. They are not worth my effort, and they are NOT worth the PointsPlus value. No bad food ever is…even if it used to be a favorite.

There was a time in my life when I would have eaten them anyway...not enjoying or liking it...but I would have "wanted" it so I would have eaten it. It's a sad day b/c my favorite food is not a choice to me anymore, but it is also a liberating day b/c I can let this food GO...right into the trash!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

That is one BIG Buddha

Kate @ the Wisdom Path ------------------------- Kari on the steps to the Buddha

One of the BIG draws in Hong Kong is the Tian Tan Buddha. It’s a BIG draw because it is the home of the BIG Buddha.

I can’t help it. Every time I think of the Buddha…I have to put BIG in all caps. Because, it is one BIG Buddha.

Getting to the BIG Buddha is more than half the fun. The BIG Buddha is on Lantau Island (near the Hong Kong Airport and very near to Hong Kong Disneyland )

The first time I went to the BIG Buddha we took the MTR (trains) to the cable cars. Now, one would think that traveling in cable cars up and over a huge mountain hanging from a tiny steel cable would be the scariest way to travel. The view was beautiful and you can get an “all crystal” cable car, which means it has a clear bottom to really scare the B-Geezus out of you. While a little un-nerving, the view made up for it.

This time, with Kari, the cable cars were not an option. It seems the cars and cable needed a month long maintenance session. Hm. Strangers on our Dolphin trip told us they had heard that the maintenance was necessary due to accidents. I had not heard that, and quite frankly, I don’t believe it. I think that cars that climb mountains need checking once in awhile.

So, Kari and I took the MTR to Tung Chung, and hopped onto the No. 23 bus.


I have written before that the bus drivers have NOT mastered the art of smooth driving…at all. I also ask that you go back and re-read the beginning of my post about going to Stanley.

I have to admit I did not read the ENTIRE description in Frommer’s Guide to Hong Kong about the ride to the Buddha. It was hidden in the middle of a paragraph. They call the ride “not for the faint of heart” Boy, is that an understatement. It was 45 minutes of turns, stops, starts, farm animals and holding on for dear life. Kari and I got the last two seats on the bus so we were in the very back on the bench we did not have arm rests to hold on to…we braced our feet and prayed the entire way. The ride to Stanley was a cake-walk compared to this ride!

The BIG Buddha becomes visible well before you get there. Well, you catch glimpses of it before you get there. There are vast rolling hills of green and trees that the Po Lin Monastery is nestled in to.

Once there we hopped off of the bus and made our way towards the statue.

So…how BIG IS the BIG Buddha? Here are some of the stats: It was started in 1990 and was finished at the end of 1993. It is 34 meters (112 feet) tall. It weighs 250 metric tons (280 of “our” tons). It was the biggest sitting Buddha until 2007. Rumor has it on a clear day; you can see it from Macau. I am not sure I believe that with the quality of air around here. There are over 260 steps that take you to the base of the Buddha.

There is no charge to go to the BIG Buddha. To go inside the BIG Buddha, you must buy a ticket. For that, you do get served a vegetarian lunch. Kari and I passed. We had our hearts set on Subway.

Walking to the Buddha, you pass 12 warriors. There is also a very fun series of signs that lets you know how far you are from various places in the world. I liked taking Kari’s picture in front of the New York sign.

After getting up the stairs (and taking pictures along the way giving us the opportunity to stop and rest), we walked around and admired the views from almost the peak of Lantau Island.

We worked our way down and made our way to the Wisdom Path. This was a 15 minute walk from the Buddha on a smooth path, but through some very humid woods and through bug central. I knew they were bugs. Kari was convinced there were snakes; we didn’t see any, thank heaven!

The Wisdom Path was built in 2005. It consist s of 38 huge wood pillars that are engraved with part of the Heart Sutra in Chinese characters. Frommer’s says that they are placed in a Figure 8…you cannot tell this from the ground level...and it is supposed to symbolize Infinity.

We were definitely smart by getting to the Buddha relatively early in the day. We also lucked out by being alone on the Wisdom Path. By the time we were making our way back, there were hordes of people coming to get wise. (I felt I look wiser?)

In true Hong Kong fashion…what would any destination be without shopping? There are many shops that line a walkway that would have taken us back to the safe cable cars, had they been running. My favorite shop is the chop stick shop (and I do have to admit that when I was there the first time I did buy two pair of shoes)…but Kari and I only had time to glance at one or two shops before heading for the bus.

Because we got to sit in seats on the way down, we didn’t have to cling to each other to stay upright. The ride down was just a little more hair raising b/c the momentum of the bus going downhill made the ride seem faster.

Some of the not – so faint hearted even stood on the way down. That would never ever happen...I would rather wait for the next bus. I don't stand in the city, let alone hurtling down a mountain.

Kari and I ended up at the “outlet” mall (because, once again, what would any destination be w/o shopping?). The outlet malls here need outlets…that’s how high end they are!

The BIG Buddha is just that…one BIG Buddha. It is the center of Buddhism in Hong Kong. It is beautiful, breathtaking, and scary to get to and well worth the effort! I will go back and explore the Island even more.

Vegas v Macau...uh, there is NO comparison!

One of the new adventures we embarked on when Kari was here was a trip to Macau.

Macau is an island. At one time it was a Portuguese settlement. It also is known for its clothes manufacturing (Quick...go check some of your sweater labels…I’ll wait…and I will bet that somewhere in your house there is a “made in macau” label on something you own.)

However, what Macau is BEST known for right now…is Casinos. In the true sense of “if you build it they will come” mentality, Macau has been a hot spot of casino building and boy oh boy, are these places impressive.

The easiest way to get to Macau is by Ferry. There is no shortage of Ferry’s heading to Macau. You can take them from either Hong Kong Island or Kowloon. We opted for “Deluxe” class, not knowing what “not deluxe” would be like. We sat upstairs, in assigned seats, and were served a light dinner with a drink. We did not have to pay for this…it was “included”. The ride was smooth, uneventful and perfectly on time. It was great. “Deluxe” class was pretty empty for a Friday night.

We also opted to have a car from the hotel meet us at the ferry terminal. Never having been before, we were not sure what to expect, our timing to the hotel, or what immigration would be like. We were met like clockwork with the dutiful hotel employee holding up “MAHJOUBIAN” right at the exit from immigration.

OH…immigration? Yep. Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) like Hong Kong is an SAR…but even though they have the same designation, they are completely different places and we needed our pass ports to get in (and out) Kari liked it b/c it meant yet ANOTHER stamp in her brand new passport.

We booked in at the Venetian Hotel. It was a fifteen minute drive from the terminal and even in the fading light was something to see.

As I said, Macau is building Casino complex after casino complex. The Venetian Macau boasts the largest casino floor in the world…not the most rooms, but the largest casino floor.

The newest complex to be built in Macau is the Galaxy. It opened May 15 to much fanfare. We tried to get a reservation, but they were 100% booked. It is three different hotels. The opening was so grand and touted, that the Galaxy bought every inch of advertising space in our MTR station for AN ENTIRE MONTH!

Walking into the Venetian was breathtaking. If you have seen the Venetian in Vegas, this looks pretty much the same.

We checked in quickly and efficiently. Corey was only propositioned once on our way to the room, but hey, it was early on in the evening and we were pretty sure the working girls were not out yet. We would see plenty more of them working the floor later.

All of the rooms at the Venetian are suites and ours was beautiful. Our view was of the Power Plant…but I am used to that type of view. In Las Vegas we normally get the parking garage view. Hey, if you care about your view, you are in Vegas (or Macau) for the wrong reasons.

Friday night and we were ready to get some dinner and drinks and hit the tables. Kari wanted to freshen up…so, WELL over an hour later, we hit the floor.

Let’s just say that the paint job, the rooms and the shops of the Venetian is pretty much where the similarity to Las Vegas ENDS.

There is obvious security everywhere (maybe to help deter the not so subtle working girls?). Someone is standing at every entrance to the Casino floor, and there is someone at the entrance of each wing of the hotel to make sure only key holders go upstairs.

Next, come the games. I was looking around for a simple black jack table, but there weren’t many of those to be found. Those that I did find had some pretty high stakes. Baccarat is one of the most popular games, along with Roulette and Sic Bo (a triple dice game that allows you to bet on what the total number of the dice will be OR bet on what the three numbers will come up to be…crazy, but boy oh boy were people standing in line to play and bet).

So, the rooms were like the Venetian in Vegas, the paint job was like the Venetian in Vegas, and some of the games were like Vegas. But the next thing we noticed literally almost stopped us in our tracks.

For those of you who have been to Las Vegas, besides the games, the noise and the cigarette smoke, what is the one thing you notice about to see on the casino? Cocktail waitresses of course, with endless trays of drinks for the players. Some players order water, but most are taking advantage of the free flowing alcohol. In fact, I have always thought that the Casinos were eager to provide the drinks so people would play loose and free with their money.

This is not the case in Macau. In fact, the only thing you see going by on trays are tiny water bottles…hundreds of them. There are so many water bottles that there are carts full of them staged all over the casino floor. Macau has NOT gotten the memo about plastics and bottles. I hope these are being recycled, but I am not holding my breath.

From what we understand, the Casinos were built to appeal to the Mainland Chinese gambler. For them, it is all about the play not about the entertainment.

Kari and I went to a Cirque du Soleil show on Saturday night. It was called ZAIA. I thought it was about the beginning of man(the clowns kept running around with an egg). Come to find out it was about a young girls’ perception of the stars and the universe (um ok) It was a good show. We enjoyed it. However, the theater was 40% full. When in Vegas could you ever get a 4th row seat to a show on a Saturday night two days before the show? NEVER!

Even the stores had very few customers. In TST on a Sunday shoppers line up to get into the high end stores…not in Macau!

Again, it is all about the gambling, and not about the other possible entertainments. As we left we found out that the Venetian had 93% occupancy last year. That is CRAZY for a hotel…but not there!

I hate to admit this in writing, but quite honestly, I found relatively sober Macau pretty darn dull! The only action in the form of yells and screams was to be found at a Craps table, and the party leading the screams was a group of Americans. Kari and I played slots and roulette. Corey played some poker (where he was taught to say $300 in Cantonese)…but I just did not feel the “buzz” (and NO not b/c of a lack of alcohol).It is also still strange to me that I am not able to strike up a conversation with the people next to me. Sigh.

Macau has all the wrappings and trappings of Las Vegas, but little of the excitement…

I really think Kari put it best. “A dry casino is like a dry frat…what’s the point?”