The golden days of summer ...

chopping blocks

Hong Kong sunset

Portuguese egg tarts

Macau bell tower

walking in coloane

Lantau cafe

Hope life is golden and full of light, wherever you are.


let's call it crab flu ...

I've been feeling a bit whiny lately about the Hong Kong government's decision to close all primary schools/kindergartens/nurseries, etc. It means that most other classes and playgroups we attend are closed as well, and now they've closed our building's beloved playroom, along with all the government-run indoor playrooms. And before you think I'm too much of a spoiled brat, remember that in HK there are no such thing as yards, and very few expanses of grass for kids to run around in. There are great playgrounds, but they almost universally have no shade and have a black rubber ground surface, which renders the area and the equipment so hot that they are virtually unusable this time of year. So, we're back to the stairwells, playing in the lobby and going to the beach whenever it's not raining. (Admittedly not a bad back-up option, though the rain clause is important.) 

I had been feeling whiny, that is, until I remembered two things about Hong Kong that make dealing with diseases a little bit different. My Hong Kong culture/history book puts the population density here as 35,700 per square km (numbers differ--this one represents the northern side of the island and Kowloon put together, but doesn't include the mountains or New Territories.) This is right up there with Mumbai, Karachi and Beijing. New York's population density, on the other hand, is 17,400/sq. km, London's is 4761/sq. km, and Tokyo's is 13, 416/sq. km. 

The other aspect is just due to the character of Hong Kong, as a metropolis in transit. As opposed to NY, London, Tokyo or other "world" cities, which, in my admittedly unstudied opinion, see themselves as the center of the world, with all things coming there, HK really sees itself as the hub of the world--all things pass through here.  

Put those two things together (extremely high density and constant international transit) and you have a territory that is extremely vulnerable, and still traumatized by the memory of SARS. I'm still not convinced that closing schools and playgroups was necessary, but I do understand why they made the decision they did.     

Now we're just praying that my mother-in-law shows no symptoms of illness when she arrives at the airport tonight, nor do any of her seatmates, either of which could land her in quarantine.



Remember that post about Cantonese language where I said that the number four was bad luck? Well, we've lived here almost 9 months, riding the lift multiple times a day, and yesterday was the first day I noticed this: lift

See it? (or technically, don't see it?) Try this--

lift 2  

Interesting, huh?


A love song to Montessori, part two.

So here's a quick rundown of household activities Finn and I do together (see yesterday's post for how I got started doing this):  

Teeth and hair-brushing: Finn rarely gets the right end of the brush on his head, but he does love to do it and especially loves to come over and brush my hair hit my head with the brush! He's pretty good with the tooth brush, though he thinks that twisting his torso means he's moving the brush back and forth.  

Sweeping: He bangs around his little broom while I sweep under the table (and then he picks through the dust pile, scavenging for food scraps!). Every once in awhile he gets the right motion, and soon I'm going to put a masking-tape square on the floor, (a la Tim Seldin) to give a visual reference for where to sweep the dirt. (One "Montessori" thing I haven't yet tried is devise any games meant to help him practice the skills used in the real activity. But I'm thinking that a little game with sweeping buttons into the masking-tape-square might be useful in helping him get the sweeping motion down, with a larger target than dust.)   

 Wiping: If he finds a cloth he wipes off every surface he can find, cleaning things I'm quite confident he's never seen me clean (because I've never cleaned them!). So I give him one if I'm dusting, or spot-cleaning the floor, or otherwise wiping something down. We have pretty clean chair and table legs, thanks to him.   

Kitchen: We recently purchased a step-stool from Ikea (go Bekvam!) and it's the perfect height for Finn to stand and watch me wash dishes, wash vegetables, etc.  I don't let him up there when I'm doing anything with the knife or at the stove ... our kitchen is so small that he could easily reach both counters from the stool in the middle. But he loves to watch and play in the water, and he helps too ... I hand him a lettuce leaf, he dips it in the water, and then places on a towel to dry. Of course, the clean lettuce often gets mixed back in with the dirty stuff, but that's ok. It's all clean in the end.  


Laundry: He actually is a help with the laundry. We have a front-loader in our kitchen, so I pile the clothes in front of the washer, then he puts them in, one at a time. It's funny--he loves doing it, but he doesn't have a long attention span for this one--he's done about halfway though and wants to shut the door. Finn unloading the dry clothes is about the cutest thing you've ever seen. He takes things out, one at a time, and places them in his little walker-cart, which he then wheels to the sofa and unloads. (Ok, so, full disclosure: this takes a lot of direction from me, and he's only interested in one load and his load consists of maybe four washcloths. But still, he likes it and he's learning. and it's so darn cute.)

 Montessori emphasizes "process not product" and I try to remember this when I watch him spend a very long time picking out those four washcloths and dropping them deliberately in the cart, then taking them out again and then back into the cart. He's not interested in the product of an empty dryer, he's interested in the process of taking something out of one place and setting it in a new place. 

 I think this explains why learning to eat with a fork is so much less frustrating for Finn than I expected.  He's perfectly happy to hold the fork, make an attempt to stab something, then eat with his hands for while, and then try again with the fork. He frequently picks up food with his hands and sticks it on the fork's tines himself. We keep waiting for him to get upset at his lack of success, until we remember that to him, he is succeeding. He's ultimately getting the food in his mouth, and he's learning how to use a fork, and again, the process seems to be as satisfying to him as the product. 





How Montessori changed my life ... or at least my mornings.

For as long as Finn has been taking regular morning naps, I have run a daily marathon. The second those sweet eyes finally shut, I would oh-so-gently tiptoe out the door, avoiding the squeak in the floorboard, and then literally sprint through the house: showering, tooth-brushing, dressing, cleaning up, throwing in laundry, etc. It was comic, yes, but exhausting. I always held out hope that I'd get to check email and scan the headlines, but this rarely happened before he woke up. (Maybe I should have focused on trying to lengthen his naps but I never had much luck with that ...)  

Thanks to the alternate universe of mommy-blogging, enter Montessori. (Specifically, thanks to Marcy at Life is Good and Meg at Sew Liberated (who just had her own Finn!), both Montesssori-trained teachers, now SAHMs, who occasionally post explicitly Monetssori stuff, and who got me reading Tim Seldin's How to Raise an Amazing Child and Polk's and Jessen's Montessori From the Start.)  

It's not that I'm by any means a "Montessorian"--my knowledge is limited and new, and I'm not really all that concerned about following any method perfectly.  But reading Montessori theory has given me confidence to nurture the interest that Finn shows in imitating everything we do, and it's given us practical tips in how to do so. 

So now, instead of rushing around to do everything myself, I wait for Finn to wake up and we tackle the chores together. The only thing I do during the nap is shower. After that, I sit with a cuppa and read emails and headlines in peace, and that 15 minutes or so of quiet lets me feel caught up with myself and the world and makes a huge difference in the rest of my day. 

 After he wakes, we spend the next hour or so working on all those chores I used to race through. I know, I know ... a 15-month-old? Doing chores? It's not that we're trying to raise a super-kid, and it's not that we're into slave labor. It's just that he, without any prompting from us, kept grabbing cloths and trying to wipe off any and every surface in the house, and kept grabbing the broom and trying to sweep.  So we're teaching him, very gently and with no pressure, how to actually do these things correctly, mainly by doing it the same way ourselves, over and over (ie, wiping the table from left to right each time we do it). He studies what we do, and over time, you can tell that he's getting it.

Really, though, it's less about teaching and more about just finding ways that he can be involved in as many household activities as possible. Believe me, this whole thing surprises us everyday. Oh, and just in case you think this sounds kind of cruel, he is way more engaged and interested in these activites than he is with most of his toys. Apart from physical things, like pushing his walker-cart or climbing up a slide, standing at the kitchen counter and doing dishes or dinner prep holds his attention longer than anything else.  

Since this is already so long, I'll wait until tomorrow to post what all we do, and how we've adapted things so he can help. But just to tide you over, here's a couple of pictures I took of Finn today, washing greens with me. (full disclosure: he fell off that step-stool just minutes after these pictures were taken. He's climbed up and down it safely gobs of times, I promise ... ) step stool

washing greens