UN building New YorkIt was rather a sudden departure as some long-awaited meetings in New York with out colleagues at the UN finally fell into place. So three of the Global Hand team set off on a very long flight (I never seem to be able to sleep…) to meet up with Sally Begbie who was already in New York.

Our aim was to finalise some details regarding the resource sharing project that we’ve been working on all year (and much longer in Sal, Matt and Katey’s case). By Friday we were all face to face with lawyers, IT technical folk and keep people from various UN groups. It was a case of being careful on what to say, when and how – but very interesting.

At the end, though, I decided that I’m not really the laywer type. I seem to want to acknowledge the other person’s point of view too readily whereas in these meeting you need to know “when to hold ’em and when to fold “em” (as Kenny Rogers once said…).

Ng Tung FallsIt’s definitely not all tall buildings and noise in Hong Kong. Yesterday a group of went for a hike to Ng Tung Waterfalls, the main fall being Hong Kong’s highest. We were surprised at the beauty of the place. What better way to spend a very hot day than swimming in crystal clear pools surrounded by tropical rainforest. Thanks to Daniel Chan and his website Hong Kong Waterfalls for the tip.

duck heads

Left overs from a BBQ at the Gold Coast hotel! Not our BBQ unfortunately (fortunately?)

Isobel at Dingu Mountain, Zhao QingIn a few days we will have been here half a year. It has flown past. The daily routine with work and family leaves little time to get bored and we have continued to enjoy some great weekend outings. The highlights of the last couple of months:

  • A two week visit from Nana (Isobel): she was immediately put to work in the school and her gentle approach was really appreciate by all, but especially by Ed, Sam and Diddy. We had a few great outings including three days to Zhao Qing in south eastern China.
  • Uncle AliVisits from Vivien’s brother, Alastair, from Judy Friend and her mum, Nancie, from Arthur Mounter (Mt Kuring-gai) and from Neville’s friend Matthew Lai
  • A couple of great hikes. We discovered a great swimming hole a short way from home – plenty of water and cliffs to jump from. We also did a great overnight trip with some if the Crossroads folk in Sai Kung Country park…more of that one later.
  • Waterfall near Crossroads

    Tenth anniversary of the hand over – awesome fireworks (see Mike and Helen’s blog)

  • AND this Friday, our UN “Global Hand” version will be presented to a very large gathering of UN groups and multinational corporations. We were excited to hear that our director, Sal, has been invited to a special lunch with the head of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon. Hopefully this will “oil the wheels” a little!

memory stickIf you happen to be crossing back from mainland China into Hong Kong and you’re tired and somebody offers to sell you a 16GB memory stick (or 8GB or 4GB for that matter). Ignore the fact that the price is great (after much haggling). Realise that you don’t really need one. And Just Say No. The memory comes up fine and indicates that the specified memory exists and appears to allow files to be written. But, make sure you try writing and reading some BIG files – before you buy. These sticks are elaborate fakes. Just ask eBay.

Yes. I’m a goose.

It seems that Neville’s job confuses people who haven’t got an IT background so here’s a very quick overview. Neville works for the Global Hand team. This group is a kind-of subsidiary to Crossroads which aims to provide a more global means to share resources that are often wasted. (See GlobalHand’s website ) Neville’s main reason for joining the team was to assist in the development of a new website, based on the Global Hand concept, that allows, in particular, businesses and corporations to develop partnerships with the various bodies that make up the United Nations. The new web project is called (at the moment) the UN InterFACE and the first phase will be launched publicly in early July. (more…)

Felicity in GuangzhouWe had a very interesting time in China over Easter, visiting the capital of Guangdong province, Guangzhou (known as Canton in colonial days). It was a very busy time in the holiday period so getting there was more than half the fun. After catching a bus to Shenzhen at the border we then purchased a train ticket to Guangzhao. Tickets in hand we casually wandered over to Macca’s for a bite to eat (there’s only so much noodle soup you can eat…) and then, at 11:50 back to the station for the 12:05 train. But no… it was like trying to get home after New Years Eve in Sydney! We basically got pushed by the crowd onto the first available train about an hour later, well after our train has departed, and no seats of course. Lesson learnt… Shenzhen is not Mt KuringGai.

Buying fruitGuangzhou was another world. Walking along muddy backstreets, finding some hotels and negotiating a price (with much pointing and miming. Why can’t they understand English, even when I speak really loudly?) We ended up staying on Shaiman Island which is a little colonial preserve in the middle of the city. The British, when they began trading in China, were only allowed to live and have industries on the island, so it became a European haven…good for us as it is the only place of relative peace and quiet in Guangzhou.

We were surprised to find that there were a large number of western couples there, each with one or two Chinese kids. As it turns out, the US consulate is in Guangzhou and that is the last port of call for American couples who come to China to adopt kids. Some of them had to travel to quite remote parts of China to collect their child before getting documentation finalised at the consulate. It was quite moving and inspiring to hear a little of their stories and the efforts they had to go to to adopt.

boy selling in GuanzhouThe trip was an eye opener for all of us and, for the kids, their first experience of poverty on the streets. Of particular impact to them was a young boy who was selling some little framed pictures on the street. Neville thought that he’d buy one but when he offered the right cash the boy refused to trade. Meanwhile a crowd on onlookers had gathered to watch the negotiations. (Our family was quite a novelty) It took a few moments to see why he wasn’t interested – three soldiers had walked up to see was the commotion was and then ordered the boy to leave as he didn’t have a permit to sell. Our kids felt very sorry for the boy and hoped that we would be able to make enough money to eat.

dsc04188-1.jpgIt’s been fun trying to get a wireless router to extend it’s range. With the arrival of the humid days we’ve had to work a bit harder toget a signal at home. Here’s our modified USB wireless LAN stick. The router is in the window of another building. We will eventually get a cable to our house but it’s not that simple. With the tropical thinderstorms starting to arrive any outside cable is prone to lightning strike and Craig, our network guru, is not looking forward to having to deal with the damage to the network equipment. So wireless isn’t a bad option.

The koel must have known.  This weekends rain brought with it the humidity.   Clothes don’t dry very well and shorts are becoming very tempting (if rather untrendy in Hong Kong).  Luckily it’s not oppressive just yet but we’ve been told to get ready for the really heavy days of summer.

Another nice reminder of the arrival of summer in Sydney has be the cicada hatch.  But apparently the cicada noise will also become oppressive as the monsoon builds.

Sydneysiders have a love-hate relationship with the “Koel” or “Rainbird”. It’s raucous, incessant “ko-ell” song (click here to hear it) heralds the beginning of summer in Sydney, along with humidity and cicadas. The only problem is that the koel, who migrates from Asia, never gets over his jet lag and seems to start his racket at 3 or 4am.

But that’s OK we’re in Hong Kong…but…

A koel arrived at Crossroads village this morning and likes the tree right outside our flat.

Now they do sell these nice little plastic ball shooting guns here….

(Photo from Wikipedia)