Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stacking it Up with Project OREO

Every Wednesday and Friday afternoon, I teach English Corner.  During English Corner, students learn about western culture and practice their English in a relaxed setting.

One week ago, my students participated in Project OREO during corner time.  Project OREO is a worldwide competition to see how many Oreo cookies one is able to stack.  Each student in my club had two attempts to stack as many cookies as possible, and the larger of the two numbers went in a class spreadsheet.  We then determined the average number of cookies stacked per student in our class and submitted the data to the Project OREO website. 

This pack of Chinese Oreos cost about 19 RMB, or around 3 US dollars.  Many Chinese folks LOVE Oreos because they are not as sweet as other Western deserts.
Chinese Oreos come in a variety of flavors.  I have yet to try the Orange and Mango cookies. 
Some other Chinese Oreo flavors include peach/grape, birthday cake, green tea, and vanilla ice cream flavors.  I stuck with the traditional Oreos for this project. 
Here are some of the highlights from our competition.
A. stacked the most cookies...19.

K. and K. have some fun while stacking.

Many students took their time to ensure the cookies didn't tumble.

T.  spots J. as she attempts to break the record of 19 cookies. 
Some of my second grade students strut their stacking stuff! 
J. helps S. with a stacking strategy to stabilize her stack.
After stacking, we took a class poll to see which part of the Oreo was tastier, the cookie or the cream.  The cream won by many votes!

We then shared reasons why we like Oreo cookies.

My Wednesday class watched some old Oreo commercials, shared reasons why they like Oreos, and even created a jingle of their own!

FYI, our club average stack was 14 cookies tall! We had a sweet time participating in this project, and look forward to competing again next year!

Friday, September 27, 2013


The day after our tour of Hong Kong, Chris and I hopped on a ferry to Macau, another special administrative region of China. 

Macau is the Vegas of Asia.  MGM, the Hard Rock Hotel, the Sands, and the Venetian have hotels and casinos on this rapidly expanding island.    Chris and I were looking for a chance to blow off steam and rest before I dove back into the school year, and Macau was the perfect location!

The ferry was a great way to get back and forth from Hong Kong.  We were very comfortable surfing on the free wi-fi! We purchased our tickets the day we wanted to travel at the marina.  We were able to purchase our return tickets in our hotel the morning we left.
After our 1-hour long ferry ride, we headed to the Venetian on their hotel coach.  (Most of the casinos in Macau have clearly marked shuttles, so cabs aren’t necessary.)  Upon arriving at the hotel, I felt like I was in the Vegas Venetian.

This was home sweet Venetian.

Many of the decorative details were identical to the Venetian in Vegas.  

Our suite was beautiful and inexpensive.  We didn't leave the complex for 24 hours!
To promote their 3D Dinosaur show, the Venetian housed a dinosaur skeleton.  Ironically, in order to attend the show, you had to bring a minor to the show. 

I really didn't mind missing the show.  The cast was sort of creepy.  We ran into this character in the lobby.  SO realistic!

They followed us into the mall!!!  CREEPY!!!!
Like the Vegas Venetian, the hotel had a canal with serenading gondoliers.  We enjoyed a lovely boat ride. 

Many of the designer shops had over the top goodies for those who were willing to splurge. 

For soccer fans, one could experience what it is like to be a member of Manchester United Soccer Club.  While I didn't participate in the experience, I got a shot with their mascot, Fred the Red. 
We didn’t gamble too much because we weren’t familiar with many of the table games like Sic bo and Fan tan, and many of the poker machines were in Chinese.  Also, the table games we knew how to play such as Black Jack and Roulette had sky-high minimums.  However, I did double my money on a Michael Jackson slot machine!

Chris and I take time for a picture on date night.
We had a lot of fun, but didn't do much gambling.  The tables were too rich for our blood.

After my big Michael Jackson slot machine win, I decided to quit while I was ahead and listen to some live music.
Macau is a lot of fun, however if you want to go sightseeing, I would stay more than 24 hours.  We wanted to do more, but the last ferry to the Hong Kong airport departed at 4:00 pm.  (We had an 8:00 flight, so we spent quite a bit of time in a small terminal.)   It was nice to return to Shanghai refreshed and ready for my second year teaching at Shanghai Daning International Elementary!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hong Kong Part Two

After a night under the stars, Chris and I were ready for our tour of Hong Kong.  Fortunately, Gray Line Tours had a Deluxe Hong Kong tour that included many of the city’s highlights. 

Meet our tour guide Marcopolo.  He did a great job showing us around Hong Kong.

For our first stop, we headed to the Man Mo Temple.  The Man Mo Temple is a Taoist Temple that was built in 1847.   

If there was one word to describe the Man Mo Temple, it would be smoky.  The spring like structures hanging from the ceiling are incense.   
Temples are very popular at the beginning of the school year.  Many students visit the gods and pray for productive years. 
Many people also brought food to be blessed at the temple.  It reminded me of my in-laws' blessing of the food tradition. 

Many Taoists light incense so their prayers will float up for the gods.  

Chris lights some incense at the temple.  Every time I enter a temple, I say a prayer of thanks for learning about new religions.   Visiting these temples makes me feel very Catholic. 

Visitors hang wishes from lanterns in the hallway.
Next on the agenda was a ride on the Victoria Peak tram for a breathtaking view of Victoria Harbor. 
I was so thankful that our tour company had purchased our tram tickets in advance.  Visitors frequently wait hours to take the tram to the top of the mountain.  We only had to wait 20 minutes. 

The tram creeped along at a 45 degree angle.  The scenery was gorgeous.
Chris and I take time to pose at Victoria Peak.  The view was breathtaking!

At the top of Victoria Peak, we caught our tour bus and took a curvy ride down the mountain to Aberdeen, a small fishing village.  Upon arrival, we decided to take a ride on a sampan, a traditional Cantonese fishing boat.

Chris and I were accompanied by 8 fellow tourists on this sampan.

Some of the yachts were absolutely beautiful!

Others made me realize the large chasm between the have and have nots.

About 10 minutes into our sampan ride, we saw teams piling into dragon boats. 

I was SO excited to watch a dragon boat race from the water!

Unfortunately, team six felt the agony of defeat.  The banging of the drums and the splashing of oars make for a fascinating racing experience.  I was thrilled to witness this bucket list item. 

After our Sampan ride and dragon boat race, we pulled up to a colossal floating restaurant for a dim sum lunch.  Of all the Asian food I have tasted, Cantonese is most like the Chinese food I enjoy in the States.

After our dragon boat excitement, we dined on dim sum in the Jumbo Boat.

Don't let the dragon scare you, the food was great!

The food was eclipsed by the restaurant decor.  This lobby mural was amazing!

Chris strikes a regal pose in the dining room throne!

It is my belief that all tours require a trip to a tourist trap.  This tour was no exception.  So when our bellies were full of rice, noodles, and egg rolls we headed to the Dynasty Jewellery showroom for some jewelry deals. 

Welcome to Dynasty Jewelry Manufacturers.  One of the most famous jewelry stores in Hong Kong. 
Here is the token worker who shows that all of the jewelry is authentic. 
We get educated on the different one of a kind pieces that Dynasty has to offer.
They almost snagged me with the Year of the Snake flippy charm.  When they told me the price ($100 USD for a silver pendant) I passed.  The company has a strict no bargaining policy.
Before we were carted back to our hotel, we headed to the Stanley Market. 

The Stanley Market reminded me of many Shanghainese markets. 

Overall, it was a fun day.  Gray Line tours exceeded my expectations, and I will use them again.  That evening we ate our traditional Hard Rock CafĂ© dinner, and headed back to home sweet Courtyard early.  The next day we were heading to Macau!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hong Kong Part One

During my last few days of summer vacation, Chris and I headed to Hong Kong and Macau for some rest, relaxation, and adventure! 

Hong Kong is like China’s independent, rebellious, wealthy child.  China owns Hong Kong, but Hong Kong has its own government, currency, and dialect.   There is very little Internet censorship in Hong Kong, so I was able to access sites like Facebook without a VPN.  Since the United Kingdom controlled Hong Kong until 1997, many of its citizens speak both Cantonese and English.   Their ports are packed with shipping containers; and like Shanghai, the country never sleeps.  As soon as we arrived at the Courtyard by Marriott on Hong Kong Island, Chris and I were ready to explore the island where “East meets West”.

After we grabbed lunch and a few Mini Cards, we headed to the Tsim Sha Tsui area to check out Victoria Harbor and The Avenue of the Stars.

We found these awesome mini cards at the hotel concierge desk.  They gave wonderful descriptions of different Hong Kong tourist attractions on one side of the card.
On the reverse side, the card list directions and a handy map to the attraction.  I later learned that the company that manufactures the cards has an app that can be downloaded from the iTunes app store.  These babies are free and very handy for traveling in Hong Kong and other countries!
Welcome to Victoria Harbor!

The entire pier/ harbor area smelled of fried shredded squid.  
Avenue of the Stars is a Hollywood Walk of Fame/ Grauman’s Chinese theater like tribute to the Hong Kong film industry.  Distinguished actors and actresses earn stars on the avenue, and make imprints of their hands in wet concrete.  It is all very glamorous!
Many people were out taking pictures when we visited Avenue of the Stars.  
There were plenty of sculptures that provided fun photo ops.  

Chris gets ready for his directorial debut.

People of all ages knelt down to get a picture with their favorite star!

I recognized a few of the names.

Many people wanted a snapshot of a fun pose with Bruce Lee.  This made getting the perfect pic difficult at times.

I decided to jump in to get my shot when a stranger started posing a la Kung Fu with me.  The iPaparazzi went crazy with this scene.  I felt like a D-list celebrity again!

After our Kung Fu pose, my new friend wanted a friendly shot.  Like China, many people wanted to take a picture with the western white girl.

One woman gave me her child so she could snap a picture.  I guess people aren't afraid of kidnappers here. 
After our visit at Avenue of the Stars, we hung around the harbor area so we could catch the Symphony of Lights show.  During the show, the Hong Kong skyline flashed in time with classicalish muzak playing over loudspeakers. 

This is Victoria harbor at night.  Asian cities love lots of neon at night.
The show was impressive, however it did not exceed my expectations.  Chris and I were both exhausted from a hectic week and early flight, so we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest.  The following day would be our whirlwind tour of Hong Kong!