July – September 2017

Wednesday, July 5th 2017 Editing 05/04/18

 

G’day Bella,

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Spied this in Spain & immediately thought of you… XoXo…

Another epistle coming your way. So, where do I begin this dispatch? Perhaps with some wonderings…

 

I wonder how long it will be before you discover these letters of love? I wonder how long it will take you to read to this point?

 

I wonder how you treat your memories of me? Are you a little scared to relive them and mention the fun times we shared to anyone close to you? You’ve lived with these memories of the two of us for so long now, I wonder if it’s possible for you to preserve those moments we shared? The traces of Nandee, Pa and your family in Melbourne must flick through your mind from time to time. There’s hope in those memories. Hope is a mysterious thing, but it’s worth clinging to… Or, do you need to rule a line through the past and just move on?

 

I think about you so often that I dream of you, but mostly in those dreams that frequent my nights, you’re a child of 6 or 8, and not the fifteen-year-old you will be later this year. I wonder if we passed each other in the street, would we recognize each other?

 

How can we retrieve all those years we lost? Is it even possible? Can we reconnect & recreate that incredible harmony we shared? When I run, especially the long, hard uphill sections, I often wonder about you, Phi. I wonder if you’re clinging to the warmth of our once celebrated connection, or do the disjointed, fragmented flashes rob your soul of sleep?

 

Right now, I’m back in Honky Town, but C flew onto Tokyo to attend to a few things back in Nippon. We landed around 11am yesterday, kissed C goodbye (she’ll be back in Honkers Friday night), and raced home to Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. A few minutes after opening the front door, I raced off again to pick up Toro from the SPCA. Our little three year old pooch looked extremely happy to see his Dad, and he was looking very dandy sporting a new haircut & trimmed nails. Can’t wait for the two of you to become acquainted.

 

Our flat on the 11th floor smelt rather moldy & musty, in fact, courtesy of the high humidity, there was mold growing on the outside of the fridge, atop the table, and of course in the wardrobes. Shigata ga nai, ne – one of few negatives about living in Hong Kong. So, Dad washed down different places, did the washing, some shopping, ran 10 laps of Victoria Park (threw in 30 chin-ups, 100 crunches & 100 push-ups), and then went to our favorite noodle shop for five steamed gyoza & the spicy noodles. Dad needed you to help with walking Toro! In any case, your Dad ticked off all his chores without managing to nap, but by 8.40pm, jetlag was poisoning my mind & body and I just couldn’t stay awake another second.

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Aboard my jog home…

Slept extremely well, and so happy that I didn’t nap, because I slept on & off for 12 hours! This morning I strolled extra slow with Toro, did some more washing & folding, and now I’m settling down to my coffee & writing to you.

 

So, Monday morning we were still in Europe. We made our way to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, and at 10.40am started our journey back to the Orient via Abu Dhabi.

 

Sunday, we had a magic day in the City of Lights, Paris. Before any Parisians had risen, Dad started his morning with an early run, and the 100 Club of push-ups & crunches. While out jogging the cobblestoned streets, Dad purchased six different French cheeses & chorizo to take back to Honkers.

 

At lunch, we met “my friend” Nathalie… sounds a tad possessive, don’t you think? You see, C Chan & Dad have an ongoing joke about who’s friend Nathalie really is. She was my friend first! Nat & Dad were colleagues back at Saint Maur, Yokohama. We used to coach x-country together, and spent many a Saturday coaching our runners out at Tama Hills. Ever since Madame C & Nat met, however, they have become close buddies. Of course, C Chan speaks French after living in France for five years, so the two of them have that connection, too. We visited Nat in Istanbul, Turkey, twice, and she visited us in Cairo, too. Over the years, we’ve met her in her home country, France, too.

 

Anyway, it was great to see my friend (LOL) once again. The three of us had a lovely lunch in a local bistro near Bastille. Dad probably ordered his best meal in France (on this trip), duck, medium, with a pepper sauce, semi mashed-fried potato and green beans. The ladies both had a creamy white sauce salmon pasta… I couldn’t help but think, the salmon would have been your choice, too. Don’t you think so, Phi Chan? All those scrumptious meals at Couer in Numazu, the salmon creamy pasta was always your favorite… do you remember?

 

After a great chat with Nathalie, we raced out to the country to meet Jean Batiste & Gernola at a magnificent chateau. Gernola was singing, soprano! We had a delightful afternoon at the concert, a tour of the chateau (free), and a cidre to finish our chat. When we arrived back in Paris, we wandered slowly back to the hotel. Part way along our stroll, we stopped & enjoyed a chardonnay and a crepe. Magnific!

 

Saturday was shopping day. The sales had just started, so, off we went. Dad bought a pair of grey leather shoes for 60% off, and Madame C a stunning new top. For lunch, we wound our way to the Jewish quarter, and enjoyed a yummy & affordable falafel. With tired legs, we arrived back at our gorgeous boutique hotel at around 6.30pm. After a short break, we headed back out again to meet C’s friends, Kazue & Jean Phillip. The four of us had a beaut evening discussing Normandy, cidre, Nippon, France. Dad had a whopping French hamburger with a generous bacon ‘n’ cheese extra.

 

Well, Phi, it’s time to sign off, walk le pooch, vacuum & mop the floor. Next time, let’s visit Europe together!

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Friday, July 14th 2017

 

Hey Phi,

 

How’s summer treating you? I imagine you’re winding down to your own summer vacation by now. What will you do over the summer? Will you be running, jumping & throwing with the Track & Field Club?

 

Dad is just finishing up his first week of Summer School here at HKIS, Hong Kong. In the morning class I have 20 students, and the PM class just 12. They’re a great group of kids, some from local schools here in HK, some from international schools in China, a few foreign kids (France, USA & Japan – I have a lovely Japanese girl in my class who has come from France!), and some kidlets are from HKIS.

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What a jogging trail!

Last night, Dad met C Chan at the gallery she’s been working at, then we had ramen in Mid Levels. Tuesday, I ran home from the Tai Tam campus in a heavy thick blanket of heat & humidity. Gonna try and run home at least twice a week during summer school… won’t you join me?

 

Sunday we met Rita, our wicked real estate agent, and she showed us five flats in the Fortress Hill/North Point area of Hong Kong Island. The third flat was the pick of the bunch. More spacious than our flat in Causeway Bay, bigger kitchen, better main bedroom and believe it or not, cheaper than our flat in Causeway Bay. We made an offer, and 90 minutes later it was accepted! Happy days for Madame C and Monsieur Papa. There’s a spare bedroom for you, too. Do you want me to paint it for you? What’s your favorite colour, now? So, we’re moving house August 1st! Wow, Cc & Dad have had a few homes over the years… first there was Honmoku, Yokohama, then Miorenji, after that, Denenchofu. Next we moved to Egypt, first our massive home on Road 12, then a second place on Road 206. Now, we’re in our tiny shoebox in Causeway Bay, HK, but in a few short weeks we’ll move for the seventh time! Fancy helping move a few boxes???

 

Friday night, actually very early Saturday morning, Cc returned from Nippon. Ever since, your Dad has been doing his “old man” interval training at Victoria Park, banging out the 100 Club of push-ups, chin-ups & crunches. Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, I have taken the liberty of using one of my student’s coffee vouchers each day, sitting down for a coffee & writing to you in either Starbucks or Pacific Coffee.

 

Well, Bella, time to move on. I hope you’re in a great space. I hope life is treating you fairly, and I hope you’ll reach out and reconnect with Dad, soon.

 

When you’re ready… LOVE Dad… XoXo.

 

 

Friday, August 11th 2017

 

Oh, what a crazy few weeks, Phi. This morning Dad had another outpatient appointment with Doctor Lo, a specialist in lower back injuries. He’s also a doctor of Chinese medicine, in particular acupuncture.

 

So, let’s jump in the time machine to see what befell your not so young Dad. Friday, July 28th Dad’s three weeks of Summer School finished. Then, the hard work really kicked in. Cc & Dad spent a big, big, long night of packing our odds & ends for our epic move to Fortress Hill. Saturday, July 29th the moving company arrived and super smoothly picked up all our boxes & furniture. By evening, we had moved into our new home on the 21st floor.

 

Sunday, we moved furniture and unpacked boxes galore, then Monday, August 31st Dad started with the Tai Tam transition team. This academic year, the G3 – G5 classes are moving from the Repulse Bay campus to the Tai Tam campus so that the RB campus can be renovated. So, during the day, Dad was helping move 27 classrooms, plus boxes/furniture for art, music, library, Chinese Studies, etc.

 

The evening of Thursday, August 3rd was likely the real undoing. Cc & Dad bought a new queen size bed (mattress & frame); unfortunately, only the mattress would fit in the elevator. To add salt to our wounds, the bed frame couldn’t be disconnected. So, muscles Cc and Dad took a deep breath and carried our new queen size bed up 21 flights of stairs! The lower back was well and truly sore, at this point.

 

Sunday, August 6th we celebrated the unpacking of the last of our boxes & took Rosanna (formerly a colleague from Cairo American College) to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch in Wan Chai.

 

Monday, August 7th your tired & weary old man was helping out at school, moving a few boxes, and suddenly his back seized up. The box I was moving wasn’t particularly heavy, especially compared to the desks, chairs, book shelves I had been moving, even so, I had a sharp intense pain that dropped me to my knees. After lying down and stretching, I thought I might be okay. So, your silly Dad continued helping moving classrooms, somewhat tentatively and definitely less powerfully. Some 10 minutes after the initial jolt of pain, I was gingerly lifting a very light piece of wood when the acute back spasm hit again. Only this time, the pain was excruciating & your old man crumpled in a heap on the faculty floor. Fortunately, Suanne (colleague) was with me, and nobody else. How embarrassing! Over the next 30 minutes, I tried three times, unsuccessfully to stand up. Each time, I only managed to get my shoulders about 20cm off the ground. Then, the decision was made for me, an ambulance would be called. By this stage, I was getting rather cold and a little shakey, and after hoping Krista’s husband could drive me home, I consented to the inevitable. I simply couldn’t move, so I had no choice but to take the ambulance.

 

I spent a few hours in the hectic emergency section of the Eastern Hospital, and then was moved to one of the wards. Cc was my savior coming to the hospital immediately and looking after me. My first night was a sleepless affair of pain killers and chronic spasms. Tuesday, I was informed of a pilot program for lower back injuries, fusing Chinese medical philosophy & Western medicine. Dad, who had previously viewed acupuncturists as witch doctors, quickly assented. I met with Doctor Lo, who gave me acupuncture, then a chiropractic/osteopathic massage. Miraculously, I managed to stand up and take a few steps after this first procedure. To this point, the Western doctors had only prescribed drugs/pain killers, and moved me ever so painfully to try and ascertain their prognosis.

 

So, I became a convert to acupuncture & massage and had several more sessions before I was discharged from the Eastern Hospital Wednesday afternoon. Cc had been amazing, and May (secretary at school), who had accompanied me in the ambulance, and had brought Cc & Dad a meal Tuesday night, just a saint.

 

Unfortunately, during all of this, our wicked mate, Milton, had arrived (Tuesday) for a visit. Quite obviously, I wasn’t much of a tour guide. In fact, I had the rest of the week off, and the following Monday. From that point on, I’ve been ever so grateful of my health, and religiously building lower back strength with lots of stretching & back exercises.

 

Oh Phi, I guess it’s time your old man slows down. It’s not easy to back away from intense exercise. All I want to do now, is get back out there and EXERCISE! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always lived by my mantra of: Why walk when you can run?

 

In any case Bella, where ever this life takes us, for each new place we visit, all we need are a pair of runners, a pair of shorts & a t-shirt, then it’s time to explore. Start jogging, preferably at sunrise when the rest of the world are still sleeping, bring your heartbeat up so that your endorphins are singing, and see the world through a different lens! Grab your running shoes Phi and join me; it’s a wonderful world out there.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Sunday, August 20th 2018

 

Wind, wind, wind!!! It’s howling outside Phi! Can you hear it? There’s a typhoon blowing through Honkers at this very minute. It has kept us in all day, so I’ve done a little research on Reading Projects, inquiry, and Genius Hour (for school).

 

Last night, Anna (a Kiwi who we met at our old building in Causeway Bay) & her Kaiser (pooch), and Rosanna (former colleague from Cairo American College who has just started working at HKIS, too) joined us for dinner. Dad did the roast vegetables, mushrooms, red & yellow peppers, and onions, while le Chef Cc, created her famous chicken karage and her yummoliscious shu-creams for dessert.

 

This evening the wind dropped and a few shops & restaurants opened after the typhoon was downgraded. We took Toro out for a wander, then we had some local spicy noodles & gyoza at a nearby restaurant.

 

School resumes for students Tuesday, and to complicate matters, another typhoon is scheduled to hit Tuesday night, Wednesday morning.

 

Love & licks,

 

Dad, Cc & Toro… XoXo…

 

 

Thursday, August 31st 2017

 

Hey Buddy,

 

How’s the end of your Summer Vacation treating you? Hot & humid in Saitama, no doubt. I hope you and your mates are getting to the pool daily. Perhaps you could grab a train and make your way down to Zushi, Kamakura or Enoshima. Do you remember looking around Enoshima, the aquarium, and a swim or three? All those years ago, we used to visit David Barrett, Yoko & Luka… built sand castles, splashed through the waves, and ate big meals famished after our day frolicking at the beach.

 

So, this time next year, you’ll be beginning High School! Can you believe it? Your Dad certainly can’t. I guess, you’ve already started researching where and what type of High School you hope to attend. Will you have far to travel? Will your best mates be joining you? Beyond High School, what are you thinking you’d like to do? When I was year 9, I fancied myself as an artist, so I was pretty keen on becoming an architect, a designer of some sort, or a sign writer. Just as well I didn’t pursue sign writing! These days, the art of sign writing on shop fronts has been replaced by computer generated images; besides I would have missed my calling as a teacher.

 

It wasn’t until I was in year 11 that what I really wanted to do became clearer. Our parish priest (yes, your Dad went to Catholic schools) at Saint Francis de Sales asked me to coach the grade 5 & 6 Australian football team. I loved it, volunteering to coach a second year, too. During my first year, the Father Robinson (parish priest) asked me to lead the Parish Youth Group of year 7, 8 & 9 students. During these leadership experiences it became pretty apparent that teaching might be a perfect fit for me. And so, I sort of fell into university, initially thinking I would like to become a PE teacher.

 

So Phi, as hard as it is, don’t succumb to all the pressure placed upon you. Be yourself, give your best effort, and keep a positive mindset. Give yourself time & space to make the decisions that will affect you long term.

 

As for Dad, well, it’s certainly been a big mindset hurdle returning to regular life with my back as it is. The back certainly feels a lot better than earlier in the month, but I’m very cautious about it as it just doesn’t have the strength it used to. Each & every morning, I’ve added to my back stretches & conditioning. Before I even get out of bed, I go through five different stretches & strengthening exercises, but the lower back is not what it used to be. I’m back jogging, not really running, and very slowly jogging downhill as the jarring needles the back. I can’t really do crunches, or planks, YET, but I’m getting closer & closer to full mobility as every day passes. I need a training partner, you keen to boss Dad around?

 

At the chalk-face, my new class is coming together. They’re a hard bunch of kidlets, talkative, somewhat aggressive, and a few learning difficulties, but I believe the best fun is hard fun. So, I’m taking up the challenge and determined to make this a year to remember!

 

Our students have had a bit of an interrupted start to the academic year, albeit somewhat exciting, especially for my four new students to Hong Kong. Tuesday, August 22nd was the first day of school at the new campus, and the very next day another crazy typhoon hit HK. Obviously, day 02 of school was cancelled. Dad, who goes to bed at 9pm every night (good sleep without pills is so healthy for mind & body!!!) was up early, wide awake by 6am. Initially, the winds weren’t too severe, so I took Toro for a walk, then we had a bit of a jog, too. Slowly does it. On the flat, the lower back feels pretty solid, so I often head to Victoria Park where they have a cushioned jogging track – like a regular athletic track.

 

Alright Bella, it’s nearing Dad’s bedtime. Time to brush the pearly whites (teeth) and hit the pillow.

 

Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Saturday, September 15th 2017

 

Hey Phi,

 

How are you doing? How’s your final year in Junior High School progressing? Who are your best mates? Who’s your best teacher? Who’s your best ever teacher?

 

Dad’s in a pretty good place. I keep running, keep kick, and keep barracking!!! Life’s ace! I guess I’m in a pretty good head space. How’s your mind, heart & soul coping with life? Next month you’ll be 15 years old. How has your first fifteen years been? Are you in a happy place? Who are your best buddies this year? Have your closest friends changed in the past 12 months? Are they open and honest with you? Can you truly talk to them? Do they listen to your heart? How accepting are your peeps to your bicultural, bilingual background? I hope your friends are there for you, always. I wish I could be there, beside you, too.

 

Last night we met Sarah & Trey at Little Chili’s here in our new neighborhood, North Point. The Friday before we spoiled ourselves with a night out at a nearby Japanese restaurant. Spicy Chinese food! It was great! Duck, beef, dumplings & loads of vegetables. The dumplings were ace! Tons of chili, too! After dinner we came back to our new home on the 21st floor. North Point/Fortress Hill is very Hong Kong-esque. It’s a burb dominated by the locals. There’s plenty of bamboo scaffolding, markets that could easily be presented on a postcard from yesteryear, and cool little eateries without much need for English menus.

 

I’ve also been lucky transport-wise. Both HKIS campuses are a little awkward to get to by public transport, but as it happens, there’s a 6.25AM staff bus that leaves just a five minute walk away. In the evening, there’s a 5.15PM bus that leaves for Tai Koo Shin, and from there, it’s just two stops on the metro.

 

Sarah & Trey have been great to us over the last two years. We arrived together as newbies and were put up by HKIS at the same hotel. Trey is quite the chef, so he & Cc are always talking food & recipes. They’re also dog-people, so over the past couple of years they’ve taken care of Toro a few times. Back at our new digs, we talked more & more, especially about you, Phi. Before long, I pulled out our photo albums, and all of sudden, you were there beside us, in front of us, next to us, with us. Your beautiful face smiling up at us from the cherished pages of our photo albums. I miss you Phi. Every day I wake, you’re missing. Every night I sleep, I wonder.

 

During the week Dad & Stan talked the grade 4 parents through this year’s grade 4 camp. Stan & Dad are leading the camp again this year. We’re leading 200+ kids on a camp in the New Territories, north of Hong Kong. It’s a new site, as last year we were in Sai Kung.

 

Thursday, Dad ran home after the faculty meeting. It was the first time I’ve run from Tai Tam to home since injuring my back, so I took it easy and walked in parts. Happy though, pulled up quite well. So important, because next Monday Dad starts his Middle School Run Club.

 

And pretty much early every Saturday & Sunday morning, Cc, Toro & Dad hiked up beyond Bramar Hill along the numerous dog-friendly trails.

 

Alright Possum, time to shut up shop. Love Dad… XoXo…

 

 

Tuesday, September 26th 2017

 

Ophelia,

 

A few short weeks to your 15th birthday. Can it really be?

 

Yesterday I coached my middle school Running Club. There are 61 participants! Dad’s pleased to report, the back is feeling pretty damn fine. Coach Morice made his runners run the stairs, lots of them. From bottom playground to the top tennis courts it’s 12 floors! Coach Morice had a hard time keeping up with the front runners, but I’ll smugly say, I safely beat 80% of the teenagers. Last week we did interval training. Just about killed me, but I put on a brave face each time the kids asked, “How many more do we have to do? To which my response was, “Just one more,” every time they asked. I was sore all week!

 

On the weekend Uncle Tim’s team, the Tigers, beat the Giants, so now they’re in the Grand Final. Tim is a very happy camper! We’re all very happy for Tim, especially after the year he has had.

 

On Sunday your Nandee sent a photo of the first Ophelia rose from her garden for 2017. It’s spring in Melbourne, so the first roses are in blooming. This Friday Dad finishes school. Then it’s the October Break, and Dad is heading to San Francisco with a group of teachers to explore inquiry in schools.

 

Tomorrow after our G4 meeting Dad hopes to jog home. Wish me well… care to join me?

 

Love Dad… XoXo.

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