Morocco, November 2016

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Yesterday, I arrived in Marrakech, Morocco.  I am here with the SustainUs youth delegation for COP22.  So far, only some of the delegation has arrived.

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A mural within the Medina.

 

We are staying in a sort of house together, preparing for meetings and conference calls, presentations and actions, and many more things.  A lot of our time is spent pitching stories and creating media.

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Last night in downtown with fellow delegate Ben.

 

For dinner last night, we went to a cafe to meet some local activists.  I hope to write more about this, but things are sensitive right now.  We appear to be arriving at the time of a new Arab Spring of sorts here in Morocco…just days after a fisherman went to retrieve the swordfish of his police confiscated and threw in a garbage truck.  The police ordered him to be crushed to death.

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A pool by our “office” space.

 

We hope to scramble over the next few days to join actions and really pressure the world to see Morocco’s “greenwashing” under the present King.  Much like in North America, the indigenous peoples of Morocco are facing environmental racism/classism and are not given the rights they have survived off of for all of their existence here.  Like fishing freely and sustainably.

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A door in Marrakech.

 

In the morning, I will be traveling to a coastal village with only a couple delegates to cover a special mission.  The freedom we have to spontaneous follow these missions is a really amazing element to our delegation.  We hope to get some narratives from a small town subjected to environmental atrocities.  I’ll write about it when we return.

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Some art in the local money exchange.

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Moroccan Gringot’s? 😛

It’s nice to use my French again.  Here is a view of the markets from a rooftop restaurant where a few of us had lunch today.

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From the restaurant.

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Spices in the market.

 

More later!  Time to do some homework and pack for my day trip.

Has it really been this long?

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Don’t worry, I have a lot to share.

The last big trip I wrote about was a trip to Hong Kong.  In the meantime, I recently traveled to Nicaragua.  Please see some of my information from that visitation at this other link from my Faithless Faith blog: https://faithlessfaith.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/nicaragua/

Maybe I’ll find the time to detail that experience.  In the meantime, I am preparing for a November 2016 trip to Morocco.  I am currently living on the Navajo Nation as of 2015, and so I have become acculturated in many ways.  One of these ways is my consciousness regarding the position and relevance of the Four Sacred Mountains.

To Navajos, the four sacred mountains bound the traditional land given by the holy people.   Navajo maps have the east as “up”, which most conventional maps place in the north.  The sun rises in the east; that weighs largely into this decision.  The traditional Navajo land is defined by four mountains that sit in four directions.  So, starting up at the east, we have Mount Blanca, east, in Colorado; Mount Taylor, south, in New Mexico; the San Francisco Peaks, west, in Arizona; and Mount Hesperus, north, in Colorado.  Although Navajo territory expands through NM, AZ, and UT rather than CO.

In April 2016, I had a Navajo ceremony.  It used these mountains.  At the time, it felt like the ceremony failed me in ways.  But today I realize the ceremony is working in its unique, indirect ways.  It is eliminating from power people who do not belong there; it is giving me opportunities that very few people will ever see; it is keeping my health in check.  As I come into August 2016 and realize that my graduate school endeavor is about to being, I am seeing my need to honor this ceremony and its tradition.

So, today, I will be driving to Colorado.  I am on a tight budget, but I believe I have to respect the ways of the world I live in.  Tonight, I will drive towards Alamosa, Colorado and park my car along a rural route.  In the very early morning, I will start the 17-mile-round-trip job up a trail that circles many lakes, including Lake Como, to arrive finally at Mount Blanca peak.  This mountain is the eastern sacred mountain for the Navajo people.  I will collect a baggie of soil and rocks from this peak, as many medicine men do, and return.  The next mountain this week will be Mount Taylor.

I will climb all Four Sacred Mountains this week.  I will collect a baggie of each mountain and bring it home.  I will bring these bags to my COP22 retreat in September in California, and I will offer a small sample of each mountain to all of my fellow delegates.

This feels right and this is the best way I can represent who I am today through the people who  have helped me and held me up in the past year.  I need their traditions to carry through the work I will do this Fall in Morocco.  I have confidence in this approach.  And I am thrilled to be climbing the four sacred mountains.

I promise, should all go as planned, to post my experience scaling these four mountains.

Ahee’hee.

The 37-Hour Monday

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I’m not sure when we actually went to bed on Sunday night, but it was probably actually early Monday morning.  Regardless, Jacob and I got up at 6am, slipped out of the room without waking anyone up, and jumped on the subway to Central.  At Central, we searched for one of several double-decker bus lines heading to Repulse Bay.  We wanted to visit the beach but were worried about how much time we had.  On the way to Repulse, we saw Deep Water Bay with an active beach a couple stops closer and decided to get out there instead.

This beach was much smaller with a view of mountains and a gondola going up them.  The beach was fairly busy for 7:30am on a Monday.  A lot of elderly people were jogging in the sand and doing morning exercises in the water.  There was a swimming area roped off for them.  We walked down into the water and along the coarse sand beach.  There weren’t many seashells, but we saw some interesting birds.  The water was a little chilly but it felt warmer the longer we stood in it.  We decided to head back at 8am to avoid the rush hour at 9am.

We got off sooner, at Admirality rather than Central.  It put us closer to Tsim Sha Tsui. At the complex where the station is, we split up.  I bought some coffee and macaroons at the McDonald’s and stepped outside to find myself in the middle of an Umbrella Movement riot.  We had passed some tents in the streets and some posters, umbrellas, and painted propaganda, but here there was a full-blown riot.  I pulled out my camera to join the others who were filming and looked around for Jacob.  He had gone to another floor.  I turned around to find McDonald’s had shut its doors so I couldn’t go back inside.

Out of nowhere, people in dust masks and construction hats started leaping and running into the mess.  Someone was being dragged.  A bunch of police were rushing in and the crowd was moving my way.  Jacob arrived just as they shut the A exit in Admirality.  He dragged me away as the riot move towards us and we sneaked down some stairs into a second entrance of the metro.  The police downstairs had A completely blocked off and we rushed to the train before anything got worse.  (Here)  Apparently we weren’t far from the pepper spray action when we walked the piers, Central, and SoHo regions Sunday night…

We got back to the YMCA and all scrambled to pack.  Katie and Tyler took a cab, but Jacob and I filled out our post cards, mailed them, and took the train.  When I got to the airport, Jacob wasn’t allowed to check in yet and I had one series of problems after another.  Well, either way… I ended up eventually boarding the plane with Tyler and Katie.  Jacob is, as far as I know, still in Vancouver at this point – but the rest of us made it to Dallas.  Then the other two went to Dayton and I’m back in PA.  So many photos still to upload…and, yes, my Monday was 37 hours long.  Thanks International Date Line!

Day 7: Championship & SoHo

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We took our day pretty slow.  Jacob and I spent the morning trying to find an open foot massage place, but it was a Sunday and most places wouldn’t open until we needed to leave for our Gold medal game versus China.    Instead, we bought a bunch of souvenirs and post cards.  We caught up with Katie, Tyler, Dave, and Chuck to get lunch.  Chuck ended up choosing to go to McDonald’s, but Dave joined us at Spaghetti House.  Jacob and I weren’t too impressed – it was literally just quick Italian food.  I guess spaghetti was a good pre-game meal.

From Spaghetti House, we headed early to the rink.  We stopped at Saint Alp’s again to get a bubble tea take-away.  We were all early and ready for the game… When we went on, the rink was sticky from the humidity.  We had a long warm up and then 2 16’s.  We started at a 2-0 deficit but ended up coming back for a 6-4 win for the gold over China!  We all took photos together and had a big awards ceremony, then cleared out.

Coach ordered two vans to take our gear from some weird alley in the hospital area.  Jacob and I left from that area and followed the construction detour.  (Side Note: Hong Kong is great for blind people, apparently.  No pun intended…  Because they have little strips for guiding them on the ground in most places, including the subway, and beeping moving walkways, etc.)  On our way down the ramp, we saw Gustav the Swedish goalie struggling with his gear.  Half of the small Swedish team missed where our team went, so Gustav was among the few players who didn’t get to share our van.  Jacob and I helped him drag his stuff so he would stop hitting people on the sidewalk (he’s really tall which doesn’t help).  Bear caught up with us in the subway and also helped.  Gustav repaid us with delicious Kinder bars.

When we got back to the YMCA, it was a mad rush to shower and dress up and head out.  Jacob and I led a group to our prime sushi place, Itacho, on Ashley Road.  It was a big group but they had perfect timing and walked right in.  Then Jacob and I got on the metro and crossed the Bay to Hong Kong Island at Central and started walking a long way up to SoHo.  We took the escalators the entire way – it’s the longest escalator system outside in the world.  We got to the top, turned around, and headed back down to SoHo.  Using my Fodor book, we almost got Peruvian (it was closed on Sundays) and decided to wing a non-reservation at SiChuan Da Ping Huo.  We were lucky and got the last table.

It was a small place with a set course.  It was $350 HK per person, then Jacob and I bought a bottle of wine for about the same price.  We had three appetizers, several main courses, and a dessert.  It was SPICY which was EXACTLY what we wanted.  In fact, the waitress said we won TWO awards: 1. The first people to actually drink the sauce from the spiciest dish, and 2. The first people to be so hungry that we slurped sauce all over the white table clothes and made such a mess that she had to put down napkins… Ooops… Haha!

After we paid and the sweet waitress took our photo voluntarily and wished us a good time in Hong Kong, we walked up the escalators about one street and stopped at an Organic Resto-Bar for beers to-go.  Yup, open container.  We walked down to the pier and watched the Bay, realizing we had missed the light show again.  However, a classic Hong Kong boat with its sails in a red-orange light cruised into view and made our night!  We tried to find the others, who were allegedly at Castro’s, but we ended up coming back to the hotel instead.  While setting our alarms to go to the beach in the morning, we fell asleep, books in hand.  Katie and Tyler walked in, the lights were still on, and it was so late that we all just went to bed – for real this time.

Day 6: Play-Offs & Victoria Peak

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Today was our first play-off game.  We had to win it to guarantee winning a medal.  We thought we were going to play Sweden, but we were actually scheduled to play Hong Kong instead.

For breakfast, Jacob and I decided to just try the hotel buffet like most of the team does.  We found that it was a lot of money for not that much of a food selection.  We sat and milked it as long as we could.  Bear joined us for a while, then we got told to leave because the buffet was closing.  We went back to our rooms and got ready for the game.

We had to be at the rink pretty early.  We kept Carl in net this game.  It was a much closer game than before, but we still knocked Hong Kong out 4-1.  Now we are guaranteed a medal in our Gold game tomorrow against China.

After the game, we had a little bit of time.  Jacob and I took off back towards Jordan Road and to the Miromar Tower for lunch at the Indian Kebab Factory.  Jacob got a spicy eggplant curry with basmati and I got paneer kebab with a yoghurt sauce.  We split some garlic naan and had two kinds of wine.  For dessert, we had a lassi with alcohol.  It was reallllyyy good.  We’ve had alllll kinds of Asian food since we came here….

On the way back to the rink, we stopped at a little bitty bakery and bought all of their egg tarts (only 13), then brought them back and shared them with the team.  Next, we scrimmaged the Australian team.  It was a pretty fun, easy game until one guy got too aggressive and head locked Chuck…but Katie gave me a pass that I one-timed, so were excited to have scored together.  The scrimmage really didn’t count for anything because we were having fun, but it was a 3-2 match – and we swapped our goalies around a lot.

That evening, I was exhausted.  We came back to the hotel and I fell asleep for a little.  Then Katie and Tyler went out with Tyler’s dad to Central and Jacob and I decided to look up how to go to Victoria’s Peak.  We took the subway to Central and walked up a hill to the Lower Terminus of the funicular.  That took us up to the top of the mountain which was shrouded entirely in a cloud.  The 360-degrees restaurant at the top had just closed because it was 11pm, and the last trolley left at midnight, so it was 11pm and we had to wander back outside in the fog to eventually find our way back down.  We really couldn’t see a thing…but when we got back, I grabbed a guava juice at 7-11 and passed out immediately.

Day 5: Korean BBQ, Hockey, and Sushi

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Today, we were so tired that we slept in.  We were supposed to have a late Thanksgiving dinner together as a team, but that ended up not happening.  Some people went to Outback Steakhouse.  Jacob and I went to a Korean Barbecue place on Ashely Road, near our Salisbury YMCA hotel.  We had all kinds of starter dishes, including two kinds of Kim Chee.  We also had our main dishes of noodles and tofu and some Korean beer.  Then, for dessert, we were given two “ice” balls of red bean – they were so good, literally these little ice cream filled desserts with powdered sugar on the outside that were ice cold.

Next, we were at the rink.  Our first game was a second match against Sweden and we tied 4-4.  We hung around the rink since we only had a short time.  Our goalie Sarah got kneed in the head during the game and knocked out, so she was recovering in-between games.  Carl ended up being our goalie for the second game, a rematch against China.  We beat China 2-1.  Then Bear, Jacob, and I took off back to Ashely Road to have sushi and sake.  We ended up having about 15 and a half shots of hot sake, fancy sake, and plum sake…and we even split some with our sushi chef.  (Honestly, we don’t think the sake was very strong…).  We had so much sushi and our bill was incredibly cheap considering how much stuff we had.  When we got back to the hotel, we ran out onto the roof to take photos before security came and told us we had run out the fire door and weren’t allowed up there at night.  And that concluded the evening.

Day 4: Macau, the Other Satellite Country of China

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Jacob and I got up very early and headed to the train station to transfer to a ferry at Central.  We got some breakfast in the building, then rushed up to grab a ticket for the 9am ferry.  We had to ride First Class on the way over or wait two hours, so we rode in style.  That really just means our seats awkwardly faced another couple with a table between us, and we got complimentary drinks and a box of cookies.  The ride was about an hour to the west across the sea.  It was only a little choppy and we felt bad for the small boats of fisherman getting hit by our wake and we cruised across towards Macau.

On the other side, we got off the boat and passed through customs to the curb where we hailed a taxi.  Taxis in Macau are dirt cheap, but they’re really difficult to find.  We were also expecting to use Portuguese to get around, but we found people didn’t speak Portuguese or English really.  When we got off of the taxi, we started in the A-Ma village.  We looped back around by Barra Hill then returned to the ancient temple of A-Ma.  There were people praying and incense burning everywhere.  There were smaller incense sticks people would wave in their hands, plus large, decorative ones burning where they were stuck into the ground.  In some roofed buildings, there were incense coils slowly burning, hanging from the ceiling like mobiles.  The temple was hundreds of years old and was built slowly since about 1488 and is one of the old Taoist temples in Macau.

From A-Ma, we ascended Penha Hill towards the Lady of Penha Chapel.  From the church, we could see the Macau tower and several bridges.  There was a wedding shoot happening on one side of the hill, so we dodged it and went towards the Saint Augustine church and D. Pedro V theatre.  It’s evident how much influence Portugal had based on the architecture (and, plus, all of the Portuguese on the signs).  We left next for Largo do Senado.  That square had a classic white and black Portuguese style tiling.  There were also tons of Christmas decorations up for the holidays.  We walked around a little, then stopped at a shop right at the front of the square to eat classic egg tarts.  Then we walked around to find yet another Fodor recommendation closed on our trip.  We finally settled for some dim sum in a restaurant that was so crowded, it kept sending us up a floor until one of its sections had the space.  We also had some Macau beer.

We rushed back to the square after lunch to see what we were most exited for: The Ruins of Sao Paulo.  It was literally just the facade of an old church, but it was up on a hillside and looked really cool.  The market on the way was so crowded that my phone got knocked out of my hand and broken (the screen only partially works now so it’s basically worthless).  We left the ruins to visit Monte Fort at the Macau Museum.  From there, we decided we needed to return to Taipa island to catch our ferry.  We ran down several streets and were beginning to panic when we finally dodged in front of a cab with an empty backseat, pulled open the door, jumped in, and asked the driver to take us very quickly to the ferry.  He did just that and so we tipped him well and rushed in to our ferry line, this time riding in the economy section.

Our ferry was another hour back, then we transferred from Central to the Tsim Sha Tsui exit on the other side of the Bay.  We met up with our team at the hotel and headed over towards our games.  This time, we beat Sweden then Jacob and I got Starbucks with some of the guys and left to find food in the Miromar Tower.  We had no luck getting what we want, so I grabbed some fries and a Taro Pie and rushed back to the game to beat Hong Kong yet again.  We headed back for showers and went straight to bed yet again – a really long day!

Day 3: Dragon’s Back Ridge and Opening Games

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Today, Jacob and I woke up early to take the subway to Hong Kong Island.  There, we changed lines and headed towards the east side of the island.  We got off of the subway at Shau Kei Wan and took a bus towards the fishing village of Shek O.  We got off on the ridge where the Dragon’s Back starts.  We wanted to hike to the end and take a bus back to the subway, but the map didn’t seem to have a way to do that.  The only cut-overs were “impassable” and we didn’t have luck finding them, so instead we hiked about half of the 8km trail and turned back.

The trail had a lot of steps built in it which made it pretty easy to walk, but it was definitely a dragon’s back – going sharply up and down across the top of the mountains.  We would dip down into some brush and sometimes trees, then emerge again on an open hilltop in the strong sea breeze.  We could see different villages, towns, and small cities with high risers here and there around the horizon.  There was even a golf course and some beaches with people on them on the north side of the trail.  The breeze was nice but the air was still incredibly humid and somewhat hot.

When we reached the bus line, we took a ride back down and returned to Central on the subway.  This is the area where the protests are currently.  We got off at Central and headed towards Yung Kee for some dim sum. It was a lot fancier than we expected and we had to wait until 2pm (which was only 15 minutes) before we could have dim sum.  The service was pretty terrible and Jacob ended up not even liking his tripe dim sum.  We left as quickly as we could and headed back to the hotel to get ready for our games.

Our first game, we lost 4-5 against China.  In between the games we had enough time to grab dinner.  Jacob and I took off for bubble tea from Saint Alp’s beside the Starbucks by the Jordan stop.  I had been wanting bubble tea since yesterday when we came back from practice and stopped in iSquare to grab some pastries.  (I’ve found that I basically love any dessert stuffed with red beans.)  At Saint Alp’s, we also had very cheap bowls of rice and noodles.  We came back to the game against Hong Kong and won 7-3.  We plan to go to Macau tomorrow so no late night for us.  Besides, we’ve already walked around the Stars along the Bay and paid too much for cheap beer.

Day 2: Tian Tan and Rainbow Seafood

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After another morning practice, the team left together on the subway system to Lantau Island.  There, we took gondola cars up a really long route to the mountains.  Jacob and I had dim sum at the village on the top of the mountain until the rest of the team joined us, then we walked up to the Tian Tan Buddha – or “Big Buddha”.  Although one of the people in our group had originally told us it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it is in fact not and was built in 1993.

We walked up the pathways to the enormous Buddha, took a lot of photos, and didn’t really see anything else because we had to make it back for a team dinner.  We came all the way back to Tsim Sha Tsui through some underground passages and met in the lobby.  We crossed the roads outside a short distance to the Bay and waited for our boat.  Mr. Weedman, or “The Weed” as we call him, made reservations at Rainbow Seafood on Lamma Island at Sok Kwu Wan in the Lamma Fisherfolk Village.  Our boat took us straight to the pier outside of the restaurant.

We sat down to two large, circular tables with spinning centers.  One dish came out after the other of seafood and bean curd and all sorts of rice and vegetables and meat dishes.  Tsingtaos were included on the rotation.  After a long time of eating, we finally were done eating, loaded on the boat, and headed back to our hotel for the night.  Our first two games are tomorrow.

Day 1: Practice, Ladies Market, 10,000 Buddhas

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(Photo upload still not working, sorry…)

We got up nice and early this morning to have our team meeting.  Then Katie, Tyler, Jacob, and I ran off to McDonald’s for some bizarre Chinese fast food.  (It was also one of the only places open that wasn’t hotel food.)  When we got back, our team bus failed to arrive, so we got to walk as an entire team with hockey equipment through the busy streets, into the crowded subway, and onto the train line to Jordan.  Our team was seriously struggling at getting anywhere as a group, or at getting through the turnstiles with equipment, and even taking the train in the correct direction…but we eventually made it to the rink.  We were also mostly sporting Team USA clothing and were the focus of many local photos and surely subsequent Instagram posts. #omgthey’resocool

The walk was hot.  And it just got hotter.  And we started skating for our 2.5 hour session and I felt like I had a fever, my face got so hot.  We started by skating really hard laps, then some drills, and finally we had a water break and scrimmaged.  Oh, and we had a GoPro selfie session in uniforms.  That was interesting.  The Swedish team came on right about then and probably wondered what kind of team used practice time for selfies.  Anyway, we scrimmaged for a little more before packing it up and handing the ice over.  The team looks fairly decent, actually.  We ended up combining three collapsed teams, so we have 2 youth team members, 4 women, and 8 men I believe – 1 of each category being a goalie.  Our team is pretty diverse, and we were lucky enough to recruit a Pro/NHL player and his brother.  We have another practice tomorrow, then games start on Wednesday.  We have the first game of the whole Cup so we’ll see how it goes.

After practice, we all went back to the hotel to shower and meet up for lunch.  After walking briefly, the group started heading towards a pasta joint.  This is where we divided.  Half of us did NOT want to come to China to eat Italian.  So I followed assistant coach Mr. Weedman, his son Carl, Jacob, Tyler, Katie, our female goalie Sarah, and two men’s players (John and who we are now nicknaming “Bear”) over to the Ladies Market.  We tried to find the Tim Ho Wan dim sum place and a local even pulled out his phone to no avail.  Turns out the place has closed, but we ended up choosing a Sichuan place that filed the store where the other place was.  This lunch was pretty amazing.  We had beers all the way around and everyone ordered something new.  We even got a platter of thousand year old eggs and everyone who hadn’t tasted them before got to taste the yellow and green (local) ones.  We were passing dishes back and forth, tasting everything on the table.  There was a lot of laughing and we were the focus of the waitstaff’s entertainment for quite some time.  We even confirmed “mh-goi” and “do-jeh” proper usages.

After the lunch, we walked back to the Ladies Market and wandered through blocks of crowded shops.  Jacob and I weren’t too amused by buying random little trinkets, but there were some real things for good prices.  I did buy a small gift for a friend but didn’t bother haggling because it wasn’t much to begin with.  Jacob and I then wandered into a mall to find a bathroom and bought some stuff at Starbucks.  (I got some spearmint drink I haven’t seen in any other Starbucks before.)  We wandered the mall and noticed how absolutely tiny the stores were, like little boxes in a shoe closet.  When we returned to the end of the Ladies Market, the other kids hadn’t even reached the end of the half we had walked.  Mr. Weedman had already walked to the end with us and was planning to walk to the far end so we went looking for him.  We walked the whole stretch of the market and never saw him.  We knew the others were taking their time buying a bunch of stuff so we decided to pull out our maps and do something else before the sun went down.

It was about 4pm so we didn’t have too much time.  We decided to run into the station, transfer to another line, then take the East Rail up into the New Territories which border mainland China.  We stopped in Sha Tin and wandered up the hillside to the 10,000 Buddhas temple.  We literally ran up about 1/2 mile of stairs (even after my practice AND walking around the markets all day) to try to make it in the doors before close.  We managed to make it into the monastery and walk around.  There were Buddhas EVERYWHERE.  We looked for Amah Rock among the mountains from the view.  It felt like the China you see on wall art in restaurants.  It was much more rural and peaceful than Hong Kong city.

We swatted mosquitos on our way back down the mountain and caught the line all the way to the end of the rail.  We got out and walked back to the hotel then decided to take a nap.  Katie and Tyler were already napping when we got back.  Then Tyler’s dad called and they went to get dinner with him, so we decided to try Gaylord’s again for Indian food.  It was open this time and we shared some Saag Paneer.  From the restaurant, we wandered along the shoreline of Victoria Harbor and took photos of the impressive lights on the skyline.  Some skyscrapers were lit up to look like “Season’s Greetings” cards.  We got to see some live music and sculptures and even a bell in a tower before heading back for the night.  Practice again in the morning!