Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

The annual dinner was not my only birthday celebration. Two of my favorite people, Tamara and Sasha, came for morning tea and one of my favorite treats from Maxim's Bakery.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Hong Kong Annual Dinner

The Hong Kong Annual Dinner happened to fall on my birthday this year. When word got out to the committee, there was no question about my
attendance. They would have been very disappointed had I not gone. The dress for the evening was Chinese and we were at a lovely hotel in Causeway Bay.

Our venue overlooked Victoria Park where a Lunar New Year Fair was in full swing.

Our hosts were Barbara and Jenkin.

Just a few of the HK team.

Janet was sporting her Chinese jacket. We went shopping together in Li Yeung Street Market the weekend before and found a treasure trove of beautiful items. I think we did quite well.

With the dress theme being Chinese, we were each given a pair of stickers to vote for the best dressed man and woman. Can you guess who won?

After another wonderful banquet, the games were set to begin. Team captains were chosen.

And strategy sessions began.

The games were patterned off of Minute to Win It. There was the cup stacking challenge.

The hangar balancing game.

And my favorite was moving a cotton ball from one end of the table to the other using only your nose and some shaving cream.

The final game was using play dough to sculpt an item. The first person sees the word and builds it. The second, third and fourth each build off of the one before without seeing the earlier ones or the word. The last person guesses.

The funniest part of this task was the fact that when the category small appliances was announced, Janet's team started to strategize. Someone said the hardest thing would be a rice cooker. Well as luck would have it that is the item they got. But in a funny off hand remark Janet said, "Anything with a handle on top will be a rice cooker." Almost doesn't seem fair.

Lucky Draws were done and awards for service handed out. There was one last surprise item on the agenda.

What a wonderful surprise and how great to celebrate with the people who have made my life so fulfilling these past two years. For many it would be my last chance to say my thank you's and goodbyes. I am grateful for the opportunity.

Clean Windows

So often we take things for granted only because we do not have to deal with them. Clean windows in a high rise is one of those things. We live on the 35th floor and our building is half way up the mountain with our flat on the side away from the street. That means that our windows are actually about 40 or more stories above the ground. Over the course of two weeks time, our windows were washed by a very brave crew. They stand in a basket and work their way up and down the building. To provide better views the building has about 16 "sides." This can only make the job much more difficult when it comes to moving the equipment.

Gentlemen, I salute you.

The Year of the Snake

For the second time we were fortunate to celebrate Chinese New Year in China.  Preparations begin right after the calendar new year. It is such a festive time in Hong Kong. We love all of the decorations and the traditions and the symbolism each item holds for the coming year.

Lan Kwai Fong is always one of the first to get things started.

And the result is always festive.

As with all holidays, each and every mall works hard to be the best decorated. So one of our weekend activities is to go see who we like best. Times Square in Causeway Bay is always near the top of the list. They put up displays both inside and out. This year's theme was cherry blossoms.

Our closest mall is IFC. They chose to honor the panda this year.

The buildings along the harbor send their greetings as well.

Even our apartment building was filled with harbingers of good fortune for the coming year.

And I thing I saw the biggest traditional lanterns ever.

Chinese New Year would not be complete without fireworks over the harbor.

Kung Hei Fat Choi everyone!

Dungguan Annual Dinner

Each year as the Chinese New Year approaches, there is a tradition of annual dinners in most companies. Some are quiet formal affairs, some feature games and competitions, some entertainment but all are filled with good food, friendly conversation and tons of fun for all.

We were lucky to be invited to the Dungguan Annual Dinner this year. Spouses do not normally attend, but our hosts graciously included me in several of the invitations. 

Dungguan is city in mainland China about an hour and a half train ride from Hong Kong. It is the site of a manufacturing facility Steelcase runs where most of the Asian products are produced. Many or most of the workers are considered migrant workers meaning they are not from Dungguan but from other parts of China. Quite often these are rural workers who move to the cities to find more opportunity. Because this makes up most of the work force, companies provide room and board as part of worker compensation.  Therefore, these people work together during the day and live together at night. Because of this, there are many opportunities for group activities and performing which were shown off beautifully throughout the evening.

Wishing Fortune and Prosperity Brightens Your Year of the Snake.

We had four hosts who did an admirable job presenting the evening in two languages. I am always amazed at the ease with which they can switch from Cantonese to English and back.

As is always the case, the food was plentiful and delicious. The carrot temple was a work of art.

 And the conversation lively.

Following dinner the entertainment began. There were dance groups, skits and individual performers. Everyone who performed was an employee or in a few cases children of employees.

One of my favorite numbers featured the children of the employes. A young man played a beautiful piece of music on his violin while two groups of young girls danced. It was a sweet and beautiful moment.

Another big part of the night is the Lucky Draw. I love this tradition. All of the workers are given a number and throughout the evening guests are invited to come up on stage and pick some lucky numbers for the prizes to be awarded. Most of the prizes are cash, but there were also some appliances and a big screen TV up for grabs. First to draw was our friend Zing.

She pulled a group of winners from the "magic" box.

Perhaps the most impressive bit of entertainment during the evening was a group of men and women who read a poem. What made this so impressive was the fact that one year ago these workers could not speak any English. In their off time, workers who were fluent in English tutored them. They met several evenings a week and within one year were able to perform a group recitation. Many of these workers had not been around English speakers prior to joining Steelcase which makes it all the more astounding.

Group photos were being taken throughout the evening.

Next it was ken's turn to do some Lucky Draws. He had a nice group of winners who were all thankful for his "choices."

Another dance group heralded the arrival of the God of Fortune. He comes with the new year and gives gifts to all in the hopes of bringing good fortune throughout the new year.

And for those of us from the U.S., there was even a familiar sight to bring us smiles.

Every variety show needs a hula dancer in drag to provide some huge laughs.

There was one final song and the last and biggest lucky draw equal to 6 months wages.

A few more photo ops (including our choice for "shirt of the evening"), a group photo with a sampling of the workers and then off to Hong Kong.