Archive for December, 2010

FAMILY & FRIENDS

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Nothing is more important in our lives that those people who help shape us into what we were meant to be – our family and our friends.  I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing wife who loves me with all my faults, supports me in my wildest dreams, and encourages me when things get tough.  I hope she feels like I do the same thing for her.

The older I get, the more I realize the uniqueness of my family.  We are all very close.  You would probably classify my family as a “touchy-feely” family.  We like to hug and show our affection for one another openly by our actions, not just our words. And even though distance separates us, when we all get together, it’s as though we were never apart.

My parents instilled in each us of the belief that we are capable of doing anything.  “Impossible” was not a word that you would hear around my house.  Things like honor, integrity, honesty, respect, unconditional love, the value of hard work, and humility were taught to us through the actions of my parents – not simply through the words they spoke.  Through their lives, we were taught to live to make a difference in our corner of the world.  Our faith is not just a Sunday tradition; rather it is something that influences every decision, every action.

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity I have to meet new people.  And I get to meet lots of people!  As I look back over 2010, I’ve had the privilege of sharing time with individuals who have dedicated their lives to making a difference in the lives of others.

Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together to celebrate our appreciation and love for each other.  In this politically correct world, it is more important to remember that this is not just the “holiday season.”  It is a time to celebrate LOVE, one who entered into the world in the life of a baby and changed history.  He invites us to join His family, celebrate His love, and enjoy His forgiveness.

Merry Christmas everyone.

HONG KONG CONFERENCE

Friday, December 17th, 2010

This has been an amazing adventure these last few days starting with Xi’an, China and ending in Hong Kong.  Yesterday was my Hocus Focus presentation at the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research.  The presentation went very well – in spite of my extreme nervousness – and the response has been very, very good among international educators who are attending.  I’ll share more fully about some of the incredible opportunities that are ahead of us when I have the time to actually assimilate them myself!

I also had the opportunity to attend several very interesting presentations given by Educators from around the world – England, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and even the U.S.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been a bit sick since we left Mainland China – brutal cough, runny nose, etc.  And the weather turned from the sunny 70′s to the rainy 40′s overnight…and stayed that way for a couple of days.  Today, the weather is much nicer and returning to normal for this time of the year.

I did have the chance to step out of the hotel and ride the Metro up a couple of stations to the Tai Po Market area.  We performed at the Tai Po Civic Centre in 2007 but never made it out of the theatre to explore the area.  It is quite beautiful – and the culture is very strong.  There are parts of Hong Kong that are very “westernized” and you would think you were in New York City.  I was amazed that just three Metro stops away, the culture would be so genuine.  Here are a few pictures I was able to take of the area.  The central city complex is filled with fresh meat and fish shops (very fresh), fruits and vegetables as well as some clothing and dry goods.

Tomorrow, we are up early for the airport and the long flight home!  I am ready to sleep in my bed and see the beautiful face of my wife!

HONG KONG – DAY ONE

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Alan and I arrived in Hong Kong on Monday early afternoon.  It was an quick flight from Xi’an but the temperatures are very different between the two cities.  It is warm and humid here in Hong Kong – a nice change from Xi’an where it was freezing cold!

We are registered for the East Asian International Conference for Teacher Education Research.  I’ll be speaking here this week as one of the presenters.  I’ll be talking about the effectiveness of the Hocus Focus project and some of the general research data that we have already collected.

Today we had some time to do  a little sightseeing as well.  We packed in a lot of stuff in a short amount of time!  Last night, we were able to take a taxi to The Peak to see the spectacular view of the city at night.

Afterwards, we met up with Katy and her boyfriend Martin for  late dinner at a Thai restaurant in the Central district of Hong Kong.  We worked with Katy on our first tour in Hong Kong in 2005 and she came to visit us in the States in 2006.  It was great to see her again and we hope to get together on Friday as well.

Today, we caught the subway train to the Harbor, walked Nathan Road and the Avenue of the Stars, and still had some time to stroll through a couple of the Night Markets.

This was the one of two “stars” I recognized…the other was Bruce Lee.

Alan did a little Christmas shopping in the night markets and picked up some nice things.  I made a single purchase of a pair of jeans.  We had dinner in one of the local – very local - restaurants downtown for some authentic food.  One we wrapped up, we caught train back to Shatin to our hotel…which has a very nice view of the park and river.

It’s an early day tomorrow so I’m off to bed soon.

XIAN, CHINA DAY TWO

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

I was talking to an education consultant here in Xi’an about the condition of the schools. Many of them are very good but special education is very new.  She is a special education consultant.  Most of the children in these schools are abandoned by their parents because they have some sort of physical or mental disability.  Because China has a “one child” policy, if the parents abandon their disabled child, they can have another one and hope for one that is healthy.  It’s very sad.  These are forgotten children. I hope to be able to work with her even more in the future with the Healing of Magic and Hocus Focus projects.

Today, we also did a bit of sightseeing starting with the Big Goose Wild Pagoda.  Buddhism came to China from travelers along the Silk Road from India.  During the Tang Dynasty (629 AD) a “master” teacher named XuanZang traveled from Xi’an to India along the Silk Road to get the Buddhist teachings.  He brought them back in 645 and the pagoda was built by the emperor to house them.

After walking the grounds of the Pagoda, we moved on to the Xi’an City Wall.  Xi’an was a fortified city with a wall built completely around it to protect it from invaders.  Today it stands as part of the city’s history and an attraction.  The top of the wall is very wide.  We decided to bike ride from the East Gate to the South Gate and back again.  If we were to bike around the entire wall, it’s about 14 km and takes about 90 minutes or so.  It’s COLD here so we just did half of that!

After biking the wall, we were very hungry.  Lunch today was at a very famous dumpling restaurant across the street from our hotel.  Through the course of the meal, they brought out 18 different kinds of dumplings.  Some of them were great, others were interesting, and some were just not “tasty” at all.

After lunch, we decided to take another walk through the Muslim Quarter marketplace.  This place is HUGE and a major tourist trap.  And since this is a not  ”tourist” adventure for us, we just kept walking!  We did make our way to the Great Mosque.  It was also constructed ruing the Tang Dynasty (742 AD).  It is allowed to continue to exist by the Communist Government of China because the Muslims fought for the Emperor and their “eternal safety” was guaranteed.  It is unique because it is built in the Chinese architecture rather than traditional Arab style.

The entire Mosque is very large – about 13,000 square meters.  And it’s divided into four courtyards.

Today wraps up our last day in mainland China.  Tomorrow we will fly back to Hong Kong where I’ll be speaking at the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research – a great opportunity and very exciting!

XI’AN, CHINA

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

We did find an adventure after all….we decided to take a tour of Xi’an, China.  We flew out of Hong Kong and arrived in the mainland around 6pm.  By the time we collected our luggage and caught the airport shuttle into the city, it was about 7:30pm – and we were tired.

Our hotel is right in the middle of the city and pretty much in the center of most of the historic attractions.  Right across the street is the Bell Tower – beautiful in the evening.  I sent this picture to Cindy…and I’ve been able to talk with her everyday either on the phone or by Skype.

We found some food, walked the a Night Market in the Muslim Quarter, and passed by the City Wall before heading back to the hotel to get some rest.

We are still having a little trouble settling into the time zone.  Our minds say we should go to sleep but our bodies don’t want to cooperate.  There is 13 hours difference between here and home.  Once we finally feel asleep, morning came quickly.  We arranged for a private tour guide to show us the sights of Xi’an.

Emma (our guide) met us in the lobby of the hotel at 9am.  Our first stop of the day was the Banpo Neolithic Village.  This is an ancient – I mean 6500 years old – village about 30 minutes outside of the center of the town.  It was only recently discovered so they are still excavating much of it.  But what they have found is very cool.  Alan and I got our picture taken with some very old Chinese people.

After the Banpo Village, we made our way further outside of Xi’an to the countryside to see the Eighth Wonder of the World and one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th century – the Terracotta Warriors.  The terracotta warriors were created by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.  He is credited with uniting China from a collection of warring states to become its First Emperor. He built several amazing things including the Great Wall.  The Warriors were built to protect him in the afterlife.

There are over 8,000 of these soldiers made from very special clay found only at the foot of the nearby mountains.  They were destroyed in a peasant uprising once the First Emperor died.  This is only one of the pits – and the one that is been most excavated.

Tomorrow we will see the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Xi’an City Wall, and the Great Mosque.  But for now, it’s bedtime.

HONG KONG AND BEYOND

Friday, December 10th, 2010

We arrived safely in Hong Kong last night around 9pm.  It was a good flight but the trip started off a little odd from Dulles International.  After we made it through security and gate check, there were six or seven FBI agents INSIDE the boarding ramp checking passports and boarding passes again.  I had also checked several times to see what route we would be taking on this flight.  Gate Representatives and Flight Attendants all confirmed that we would be flying west over Alaska, layover in Taipei, and then on to Hong Kong.  Once on the plane, that flight map on the screens also showed this route.  Once we were in the air, everything changed.  We were redirected to fly east over Europe as a non-stop flight to Hong Kong.  Strange?  At least we got into Hong Kong earlier than anticipated.

Because of our earlier-than-anticipated arrival, we spent the night at an airport hotel.  It was clean and comfortable…and after 18 hours in the air, we were ready to hit the shower!  And the hotel was all decorated for the holiday!

Not sure what Alan and I will do today since we have some extra time on our hands.  I think we’ll find an adventure!

ON THE WAY TO HONG KONG…

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Alan and I drove up to Washington, DC yesterday afternoon to spend the night close to the airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave mid morning and this would take some of the pressure off of having to deal with traffic.  We made good time, checked into the hotel, and had a fairly relaxing evening.

When we arrived at the airport this morning, there had already been some changes to our flight itinerary.  Continental Airlines put us on an earlier flight to Newark Liberty International Airport where we would spend the next few hours.  We arrived in Newark around 11am and our connection doesn’t leave until 3:30pm…at least that’s the current schedule.

We were able to gain access into the Continental President’s Club (thank you American Express) so we didn’t have to sit in the terminal at the gate.  It’s much more comfortable in here – internet, snacks, showers, etc.

I’m not certain if we are flying from Newark and going West or East to Hong Kong.  This is the flight map as indicated on the website….so it could be across Europe or across Russia, who knows.

I think we’re going to head out and find food before we board.  We’ve got 16 hours of flight ahead of us.  I’d like to start with food in my stomach!

I’ll be blogging all along the way…and, hopefully, uploading some images to FaceBook as well.