Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

I can't believe how quickly Thanksgiving break went by. I felt like just as I
was getting settled at home, I had to start packing my things again.
I really enjoyed my time being home, but I couldn't help but notice how
different my consumption was over the course of the break compared to when
I am at my home away from home, St. Mike's. On my first night home I
requested to my parents that we get sushi, one of my favorite foods. Although
sushi is one of my favorite foods, I rarely ever eat it here at school because it is
so expensive. When I was studying abroad in Hong Kong, sushi was extremely
cheap compared to here in the US, so I would eat it all the time, but now it's
hard to rationalize paying so much for it when I know how inexpensive sushi
can be in other parts of the world.
In addition to eating sushi over break, I had a busy Thanksgiving. I started
off the holiday by participating in a 5K road race called the Feaster Five. This
is the fifth year in a row I have run in this race and it has become a tradition for
my family to all run in this race every year. One of the benefits of waking up
early for this race is you get to witness ridiculous things like this:

Another benefit of running this road race is all participants get a free (well free after the race fee), apple pie! There are usually over 8,000 participants in this race, which equals a lot of apple pie. My dad is an excellent pie baker, so we never take advantage of the free pies, but I still think that it is a fun and interesting way to incise people to run a race on Thanksgiving day.
After lots of turkey and visiting relatives, I decided to go shopping on Black Friday for the first time. I woke up at 3:45am, or in other words the middle of the night and was at the mall before 5am. I got to the mall after it had been open for an hour, so there weren't any lines outside, but inside was not as crowded as I thought it would be. I was also surprised at the kinds of consumers I saw shopping, mostly girls between 15-25. I thought that most of the people I would see shopping would be mom's doing some early holiday shopping, but instead I saw girls shopping with friends, or the occasional daughter shopping with her mother. Most of the shopping they were doing looked like it was for themselves, not gifts for others. I didn't end up buying anything on Black Friday, mostly because I am not ready to shop for Christmas and I didn't need anything in particular. It was an interesting experience none the less.
Overall I think I had a pretty good break. Now just 3 more worked filled weeks before I head home again!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Entrepreneurs Insight: Gorilla Bars, Dog Biscuits, and the Buzz of Bees

Mike Rosenberg, founder and owner of Gorilla Bars spoke with my Business Strategy class this morning. Mike is St. Mike's graduate who was able to turn a passion into a successful business. His presentation was of particular interest because as I have mentioned in previous posts, Business Strategy is my senior capstone class where I am working with two awesome group members (Andrea and Lauren) to create a business plan. Our business plan idea involves opening a specialty dog biscuit business.
Now I know you might be thinking dog biscuits and energy bars, what could they possibly have in common? Well, maybe the products are dissimilar, but the process Mike has gone through to create a Vermont based business is exactly the kind of information my classmates and I have been searching for.
During his presentation, Mike spoke about the importance of distribution and how sometimes taking a more cautious approach can lead to success. One of the challenges my group members and I have been struggling with for our project is what retail channel would be most effective for our dog biscuit distribution. Mike gave us some interesting things to think about, especially because his bars are sold entirely through their online website.
Although I enjoyed all of Mike's presentation, the thing I found most interesting was that Gorilla Bars has not spent any money on marketing and yet they're turning a profit each month. This statement caused one of my favorite student moments to happen: when what you're learning in the classroom translates to something you can relate to in real life.
In my consumer behavior class I am reading a book called Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker. Just last night, within the pages of this text I was reading about a website called BzzAgent. BzzAgent is a social media machine that accelerates sales through product advocates, whose passion is creating a buzz about new products. Buzz seems to be exactly what Gorilla Bars is using, word of mouth coming from people who have enjoyed their products. As a consumer who truly enjoyed eating my first Gorilla Bar today, here is my shameless plug: Try Gorilla bars, the honey makes them extra sweet and so delicious!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Six Most Exciting Syllables of the Semester

This Friday at St. Michael's College is the annual Career Symposium. The career symposium is an event hosted by Career Development in collaboration with the Office of Alumni & Parent Relations. This is the third year students have been offered the opportunity to participate in the Career Symposium. The schedule for the evening is as follows:

The keynote address will be given by Diane Darling. Her presentation will feature information on effective networking, which I think will be especially beneficial. Last week I attended a "Take the WORK out of Networking" presentation through Career Development. After this short introduction, I am interested to learn more about effective networking and how to get started.
Later in the evening there will be industry panel presentations. I intend on attending the Sales and Marketing panel, as well as the Human Resources panel. The panel presentations will be presented by St. Mike's alumni. This annual event is intended to give juniors and seniors the opportunity to become familiar with tools that will help students in their careers. Now all I need to do is tidy up my resume and iron my business attire. Should be a great start to the weekend and my future!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Pumpkin Rule

It was so great having fall break, Monday and Tuesday off leaves only 3 days of classes until another relaxing weekend. Over break I decided to get a "classic" fall activity out of my system, carving pumpkins!
The first step in carving pumpkins, and maybe even the most difficult part is picking the perfect pumpkin. There are so many things to consider, size, color, texture, and shape. When I was growing up as a kid, my family had a rule for picking pumpkins. The rule stated that your pumpkin could only be as big as you were willing to carry back from the pumpkin field. I definitely had some trouble with this rule back when I was younger, I would always choose the biggest pumpkin and had to stop a few times on the way back because it was so heavy.
Now, older and wiser, I decided to take a different approach. Price was my main concern, and I ended up choosing a handsome three dollar pumpkin that was on the petite side. I was going to be carving my pumpkin with Clint, who chose a bigger, taller pumpkin. His pumpkin is on the left and mine is on the right.
After carefully picking our pumpkins, we brought them home to carve. I remember carving pumpkins being very different as a child, it seemed to take forever, was fairly difficult, and extremely messy. Having now carved a pumpkin just a few days ago, I realize those things had more to do with me as an individual, than about carving pumpkins. Here are few pictures of Clint and I during the carving process.
It surprised me how different our pumpkins turned out. I took a fairly simple approach, sticking to basic shapes and created a cat face for my pumpkin. Clint decided to do the silhouette method and created a wolf howling at the moon. Here are the finished products!
Overall, I would say I had relaxing, fun, much needed fall break. I'm glad to be back at St. Mike's with my friends and pumpkin carving has only made me that much more excited for Halloween!

Monday, October 10, 2011

7 Survival Tips for Week 7!

Week 7 of the semester already? Are we really almost halfway through the fall semester? It's Columbus Day and unlike many other colleges, St. Mike's students are not home for fall break. This year, St. Mike's changed our fall break to a week later than in past years. A week may not seem like a huge change, but to students working hard, midterms and papers are definitely on everyone's schedule for the week. In order to stay on top of my work, I've created: 7 Survival Tips for Week 7. Hopefully, using some combination will help everyone get through the week so we can enjoy the four-day weekend ahead.

Survival Tip #1: Don't skip on sleep.
Even when the work seems to be piling up, don't forget to get some sleep. Lack of sleep will only catch up with you later in the week.

Survival Tip #2: Exercise.
Sometimes, a 30-minute run or walk around the nature trail or track is just the study break you need. My dad always recommends this to me when I'm stressing about work, and surprisingly it works to calm me down every time.

Survival Tip #3: Don't forget your friends.
Although you may not be in the same classes as your friends or roommates, we're all working hard. Be respectful of their work and help each other through the week by balancing fun and work.

Survival Tip #4: Alliot is your friend.
Instead of skipping meals because you're too busy cook, use your Alliot meal swipes. Eating well will give you the energy you need to power through the studying, so take the time to go to Alliot for a meal or two if you're feeling crunched for time one day.

Survival Tip #5: Do something crazy.
Do something completely unrelated to schoolwork at least once. Break up you're studying and stressing by adding one thing to your week you normally wouldn't do. Volunteer with MOVE for a few hours, go on a hike with the Outdoor Club, or spend a hour hanging out with your peers at a club you've always been interested in, but never experienced.

Survival Tip #6: Coffee is key.
This one is pretty self explanatory. A little caffeine can go a long way, so grab a tea or coffee on your way to the library.

Survival Tip #7: Listen to music.
Even if you don't like music while you work, take a few minutes when you're stressing out to listen to your favorite song or two. My sister recently recommended this song to me, maybe it's just the four minute study break you're looking for!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Ol' Alliot

I never thought I would say it, but I miss Alliot. For those of my readers who are not Saint Michael's College students, Alliot (pronounced Al-ee-o) is the name of the student center on campus, and it is arguably the one of the most important places on campus. Alliot is home to the SMC bookstore, the Student Life office, the MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) office, Campus Ministry, the Wilderness office, and the Green Mountain Dining Room. That last place mentioned, the Green Mountain Dining Room, is really why I miss Alliot.
No one really ever calls our dining hall the Green Mountain Dining Room, everyone just refers to it as Alliot, and everyone else knows you're talking about the dining hall. Freshman, sophomores, and juniors all enjoy the luxury of an unlimited meal plan for their first three years at St. Mike's. Now that I am a senior, I only have a limited meal plan, consisting of 40 meals per semester, roughly 2-3 per week.
At first, 2-3 meals per week doesn't sound so bad, but coming from someone who would wake up early to get Alliot breakfast before class, it's bad.
I've created a short list of reasons why I miss Alliot. Here it goes:
1) Seeing everyone. Alliot is the only dining location on campus that is covered by meal plan, therefore it is more than likely that while in Alliot you will see classmates, friends, teammates, and even some professors eating. I miss the ability to see everyone in one place.
2) The employees. Alliot workers are great! They are constantly working hard to provide the students with whatever it is they need. Last fall I had an internship that took me off campus two days a week during lunch hours and the Alliot workers prepared a bag lunch for me everyday I was off campus during the semester. It was pretty awesome.
3) Alliot breakfast. I miss my egg whites with hot sauce and half a wheat english muffin I would split with my roommate Abby. It was delicious and nutritious everyday that I had the pleasure of eating it.
4) Making Alliot creations. Eating in a dining hall for every meal of every day, you learn to be creative. I miss mixing and matching whatever Alliot has to offer to make a unique meals that never get old. One of my favorites is mixing the granola (that has red raisons, white raisons, and dried apples) with slices of a banana and a little bit of melted peanut butter. YUM!
5) The convenience. At first I thought that being able to cook my own meals in my townhouse wouldn't be that different from Alliot other than the fact that I had more control over my options. I was wrong. Cooking actually involves, prepping, cooking, eating, and cleaning. A few extra steps have been added since the convenient days of Alliot that just involved the eating step.
Although I miss Alliot, I know that living in a townhouse is preparing me for life after college, where cooking will became part of my everyday schedule. Living in a townhouse is like riding a bike with training wheels, you're not quite ready to do it on your own, but you're getting close. I think that St. Mike's understands that the college learning experience goes beyond the doors of the classroom. St. Mike's is trying to prepare their students for life after college in a number of different ways, including how to take care of ourselves and each other.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Guest Speaker

One of the courses I am taking this semester is Retailing and for two reasons, this course has been particularly important this past week. This past Monday, my friend Andrea and I presented to our retailing classmates for an hour on consumer buying behavior. Though an hour was a long time, I think the presentation went well and I was excited when I found out that we would be having a guest speaker for our next class.
The guest speaker in my retailing class was an incredibly interesting individual named Dan Clayton. Dan Clayton, CEO of came in to talk about what being a sales representative entails and what his company is all about. Dan described his business as a sales agency with a strong focus on advancing green initiatives and green products. As an avid snowboarder, cross country skier, and mountain biker, Dan described his passion for action sports and the need to protect the environment that gives us the opportunity to do the sports we love.
In addition to learning about how Dan's business got started, Dan described the process and the challenges that he must be overcome in order to run a successful business. The Chinese New Year plays a particularly important role in the manufacturing process of Dan's biggest account, Spyder. Like many other outerwear companies, Spyder produces their products abroad, in China, therefore the production schedule and order time frames are determined entirely by what day Chinese New Year falls on. Hearing about this reminded me of my semester abroad and the celebrations and festivities that take place during this important time of year.
I found all of Dan's talk interesting, but one thing he mentioned stuck with me, he said "marketing is what moves the stuff". As a senior, trying to figure out what I want to do after college, this made me think about how marketing is really what I am interested in and hopefully build my career around.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can't Wait to MOVE!

In the few short weeks I have been back on campus this semester, I am reminded of how strong a community Saint Michael's College is. Everyone on campus seems to be involved in something, everyone finds a way of making St. Mike's their home.
One of the ways I found my home here at St. Mike's is through MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts). Prior to coming up to campus as a freshmen, I participated in a pre-orientation program through MOVE where I worked with nine other freshmen and four upperclassmen doing service projects for a week. This is a picture from that week right before freshmen year.
Community service has always been important to me, but it is the MOVE program on campus that has given me the opportunity to make it part of my everyday life. At the end of freshmen year I was given the opportunity to become a coordinator for a MOVE program called Temporary Relief. I work with a few other awesome individuals to make this program run smoothly.
So what does Temporary Relief do? As a program and as volunteers, we provide temporary relief to marginalized members of the community. In the past, we have volunteered at three locations, Salvation Army, Dismas House, and St. John's Hall. The Salvation Army provides a hot meal to anyone in need six days a week, and as volunteers we help serve the meal to members of the community. Dismas House is housing for individuals who are making the difficult transition from prison to society. In order to help reconcile these individuals with society, we prepare and share a meal at the Dismas House. St. John's Hall provides low-cost housing to members of the community and as volunteers we provide a meal and share conversation with the residents. I am excited to continue building relationships with these members of our community, but I am REALLY excited about Temp Relief's newest addition to our program.
This year we have added a 4th location, the Canal Street Veterans Housing. This housing officially opened in February 2011 and provides two year transitional housing for homeless veterans. This newest location is of particular interest to me because for my marketing class last fall, I worked on an awareness campaign specifically tied to veterans. Along with three other females, we spent the semester trying to raise veteran awareness on campus. Now, a year later I hope that this new location will create even more veteran awareness on campus. The first few weeks of participating in MOVE have been an extremely fulfilling start to my senior year. I am looking forward to meeting many new volunteers and continuing with my service.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to the Knight Life

I can't believe I am starting my senior year at St. Mike's! After spending a semester abroad, it feels great to be back on the campus I know and love.

St. Michael's College recently switched their curriculum to the 4/4, meaning students are required to take four, four credit courses per semester. For my fall semester, I am taking Consumer Behavior, Finance, Retailing, and Business Strategy. The transition into the new curriculum has been a bit challenging for some seniors, being that major and minor requirements have changed. The biggest difference I have noticed is the amount of work, professors are really trying to stick with the hour requirements, 3 hours a week in class, 7 hours of work outside of the classroom. My business strategy class is a small class with only 18 seniors. We are required to work in groups to write a business plan over the course of the semester. In the spring, we have the opportunity to enter our business plans into a competition for a cash prize. Although my group and I don't have our idea nailed down yet, I am looking forward to utilizing knowledge from all of my courses to complete this assignment.

In addition to being interested in my new classes, I am also loving my new living situation as a senior. I am living in apartment style housing. The townhouses on campus are divided by their campus location and labelled by numbers. I am living with three of my closest friends (Abby, Sam, and Erin) in the 300 townhouses. Abby and I have lived together for three years now and we lived with Sam and Erin last year. Here is a picture of the four of us!

I think this year has many good things in store for me. I am anxious about the future, but I know the work I am doing this year will prepare me well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Highlights

Sorry for the slight summer hiatus!

Summer Highlights:

1) Being home! After a semester abroad in Hong Kong, it is great to be home, back in Boston. Seeing my family and friends on a regular basis (and not through a skype video chat) has made the transition from abroad quite seamless.
2) Running. Being abroad in Hong Kong, the streets were always crowded with people and running outside was hardly an option. This summer I have set a goal of running 120 from the beginning of June until I return to St. Mike's. So far, I am on schedule with my goal and ran in two races, a 5K Father's Day run and a 5M 4th of July run. Running along the coastal streets in Rockport was beautiful.
3) Visiting Vermont. In July, I spent a week in Vermont with my family. I did many "Vermont" things, such as hiking Mount Philo, running along the Burlington bike path, eating breakfast at the Skinny Pancake, relaxing on North Beach, a motorcycle ride from Burlington to Lake Willoughby, boating on Lake Champlain, and going on a 50 mile bicycle ride around lake Champlain. For the second summer in a row my family has participated in this bicycle ride that our oldest family friends got us interested in. On the day of the bicycle ride, it was in the 90's and made the 50 miles seem like 1000.
4) This summer I am working at Finale in Boston, a dessert restaurant. During my first week of training I was sent home with a box of mini cakes as "homework". I have enjoyed the many lessons in customer service, as well as the friendships I have developed with my co-workers. And...eating desserts every once in a while hasn't been so bad either.
5) July Birthdays! My extended family has 7 July birthdays, 3 of which are from my family. My sister Lindsay and I are a year and a week apart. July has always been a month of cakes in my house, we have barely finished eating Lindsay's birthday cake when mine is being served, and three days later we're lighting candles for my dad's birthday. This year for our birthday's, Lindsay and I got plane tickets to San Francisco, my next highlight.
6) Last summer my sister Aubrey moved to San Francisco and now, a year later I finally have the opportunity to visit her! Next week, Lindsay and I will get to spend some time exploring and seeing the place that my sister now considers home. This trip is what I have been looking forward to most all summer.

Overall, it has been an eventful summer and I can't believe it is almost over. Everyday I get more emails from St. Mike's about the start of the semester. I am moving up a few days early for the 4th year in a row to prepare my MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) program called Temporary Relief. I will also be doing a service project with the other MOVE coordinators. This weekend always starts my semester off on a great note!

Senior Year at St. Michael's College starts in 24 days!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Long flights and Long delays

I've landed in the good old U-S-of-A! I have not even seen my family, I am not even in Boston but I can already feel the excitement.

My flight from Hong Kong to JFK was 16 hours. We left on time and luckily I had an aisle seat. This is the second time I have taken this long flight and it truly is the strangest thing. The lights are turned off for almost the entire flight, except during meal times. We had two full meals, a small snack, AND a then an additional bag of snacks. Whenever it was time to eat again, the cabin crew would turn on the lights and make an announcement that we were eating again to help our bodies adjust. I'm not sure all the snacks in the world can make a 12 hour time difference any easier. During this flight, I also found it interesting to peak out the window every once in a while because we flew over the North pole. On the flight to Hong Kong it went from light to dark to light to dark throughout the course of our time flying. After snacks, movies, and naps I had finally landed in New York.

From here, I am taking a flight to Boston. My 4:30 flight has been delayed until 7:55. This is not ideal, but my friends from St. Mike's have been keeping me company. My friends Andrea and Erin read my blog on a regular basis and they both are keeping me company during my long delay by sending me pictures like these:

Above is Izzy, Erin's cat, and below looking a little shy is Chip, Andrea's cat. Although these cats have relatively little to do with my return to America, they are making me more and more excited to get home to see my family and my little pup Bert.

The next few days should be a mix of jet-lag, spending time with my family and friends, and getting reacquainted with being home. I will keep you posted on my re-entry to the states, but now it's time to board!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Goodbye Hong Kong, Hello America!

I can't believe I am writing my LAST blog post from Hong Kong. At times, the five months seemed like it was never going to end, but now I cannot believe it is finally here.

I have spent my last weeks in Hong Kong trying to fit in all the things I had planned to do over the semester. This is not an easy task, especially not when it is 90 degrees out with 100 percent humidity. But, I still managed to fit a few fun things in right up to the very end. My favorite day was spent on Cheung Chau island.

Cheung Chau island is a small island south of Hong Kong. The island is a 45 minute ferry ride away and when pulling up to the dock, tons of old fishing boats fill the harbor. Cheung Chau used to be a fishing village and you can still get great seafood there today.

The day I was visiting Cheung Chau was the last day of the Bun Festival. At midnight on this day, local Hong Kong people attempt to climb 60 foot high "bun towers". Although I wasn't on the island until midnight, I thought this sounded like a pretty cool tradition. I did get to catch some of the festivities, a huge parade, music, and dragon costumes. Here is a picture of two of the girls in the parade.

As I was filming a video of the parade, it really made me think about all the different things I saw and learned about while living and studying in Hong Kong. My experience was entirely unique, I don't have any regrets about how I spent my time while staying here. I could always say I should have done this and why didn't I do that, but now that I am leaving, I really feel like I had the full experience during my 5 months abroad.

Now, it is just a 16 hour flight to JFK and a hop over to BOS and I am home! I cannot wait to see my family and friends. Although I am returning home, I will still be blogging! I am sure I will be posting on re-entry and what I am up to once I am back in the states.

Goodbye Hong Kong, it has been great!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Exploring Tioman Island in Malaysia

Before I start this post, I have to apologize for leaving my blog on the back burner for a week. After ten weeks, classes have finally ended. Finals week was definitely stressful, 2 projects, 4 finals, and a 5000 word paper definitely kept me busy. After the long week, I hopped on a plane and headed for Singapore and Malaysia!

We arrived at the Singapore Airport around midnight and in true "poor college kid" fashion, we slept there for a few hours before getting on the first bus to Malaysia that morning. The bus dropped us over the border where we then took a taxi to the Mersing ferry port. While on the bus, we met a retired couple from New Zealand who was also headed for Tioman Island and were able to split the cab with them. The cab ride was air conditioned, but it was no match for the Malaysian sun's heat. I am pretty sure the temperature in the cab was well into the 100's for the entire 2 hour duration of the drive. After the cab we took a ferry to the island. The island itself was beautiful. It consists of seven small villages and traveling between them can only be done by boat. The local people on Tioman island were so welcoming.
During finals week, I had to write a paper for my Southeast Asia and the World Political Economy class and I chose to compare the level of globalization in Singapore and Malaysia. I wrote about cultural globalization, specifically looking at the languages spoken in the region. I was surprised at how many people spoke English in Malaysia, not only speaking it, but speaking it really well. The official language in Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia, but everyone we spoke with on the island was able to speak and understand English. I think the reason why I was so surprised at how well people spoke English is because after visiting Beijing and Shanghai, I thought I would have been able to communicate with more people in mainland China and after seeing the lack of English there in two international cities, I wasn't too hopeful for a small island off the coast of Malaysia.

Not only was it great to talk with the locals, it was interesting to watch some of their daily routines on the island. Every night, when the sun would start to go down some of the Malay men would go to the local court and play this game that looked like a cross between hackie sack and volleyball. Some of the guys were good enough to do bicycle kicks with the ball. Check out the video I recorded of them one night.

My favorite part of the being on Tioman Island was going snorkeling everyday. One day we went on a round island boat trip where we went to five different snorkeling locations around the island. I saw a barracuda for the first time, a sea turtle, squid, and lots of tropical fish. When we were looking into places to stay on the island, we wanted to be close to good snorkeling and we were. On the days we snorkeled off the shore, we were still able to see tons of tropical fish.

After a great week of rest and relaxation, it feels good to be back in Hong Kong. Getting off the plane, it hit me that I really only have a month left before I head back home. I will start my independent research this week on repurchase intentions for mobile phones in the Hong Kong market, which should be pretty interesting.

I am going to make a Hong Kong Bucket List for my last few weeks and don't worry I will be sure to share my last few adventures here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hiking Dragon's Back

Today I hiked Dragon's Back, my second hike this week! The hike is in Shek-O, which is on the south side of Hong Kong island. An MTR and bus ride got me to the head of the trail. It could not have been a better day for a hike, a beautiful warm sunny day in Hong Kong. The hike is 4.5 kilometers and took a few hours.

The trail was flat and shady at first but soon opened up to some rolling mountains. Looking out to either side you can see the ocean, including a few beaches I have explored before. I was noticing how different this hike was from any other I have been on and I think it started with the different plant-life. In the states, my family usually hikes in New England, in Vermont where there are different kinds of tall trees. On this hike, as soon as we were at the top of the mountains, it was flat with low green plants, leaving a clear view in all directions. It really felt incredible to be surrounded by blue skies and the warm sun. I actually saw a few para-sailers who I can only assume must have taken off from the mountain top.

After hiking for a few hours, the trail ended and I was at the road. My options were to take a bus to Shek-O beach, take a bus back into the city, or follow a set of stairs down the hillside with a sign that said Tei Wan village and beach. Of course I picked the last option and headed down a million stairs. At the bottom, Clint and I found what makes me stand by my previous blog statement. If something says restaurant, you just have to trust that it is. We ate noodles from what I am almost positive was someone's house and kitchen. This "village" only had a about six houses right on the ocean, but regardless, the food and people were great.

An afternoon cat nap on the beach and I was ready to head back up the stairs and back to Hong Hum. Dragon's Back hike equals success!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A day off from school

Today was the Ching Ming Festival in Hong Kong. This festival is also known as Ancestors day or Tomb Sweeping day. This public holiday is meant for people to go outside, enjoy the greenery of springtime while tending to their ancestors graves.

This day ALSO means, public holiday, no school!

On this beautiful Tuesday holiday, why not enjoy the sunshine and spend the day outside? That's exactly what I did. Clint and I explored some of Hong Kong's waterfalls. To get to the waterfalls we took the MTR to Tai Po Market and then a short taxi cab ride to Ng Tung Chai village in the New Territories. We got out of the taxi and were greeted by two puppies and some locals. After scratching our heads and taking in the new surroundings, we were pointed in the right direction. A concrete path lead us past a few houses were we could see people farming and of course, more local pups made sure to say hello.

The rolling concrete path lasted only so long before we were climbing stone steps toward the waterfalls. Clint and I decided we wanted to see all four waterfalls, making a big loop through the trails. The path between the third and fourth waterfall has technically closed, and has been for some time because of a landslide a while ago. A few rocks and bypassed signs later we were on this closed part of the path.

On this path we saw some of the biggest tree leaves I have ever seen, seriously. They were huge!

After seeing all four waterfalls we started our decent. It was getting closer to sunset and we started to walk through a bamboo forest, joking that if a tiger were to pop out the bushes, it would be here. After this conversation, it sure didn't help that Clint kicked a stone into the bushes, scaring me to the point where I screamed and jumped.

We made it down the mountain and followed a sign that said beer and icebergs, even though we weren't quite sure what "icebergs" meant. The little store where we grabbed a few cokes and a water was closer to someone's house then a store, in fact I definitely pet the family cat while sucking down my coke. After living in Hong Kong for a few months, I have determined that regardless of looks, if something says its a "store" or "restaurant" you just have to trust that it is.

Clint and I headed back to the MTR where we quickly made a friend. The thing I didn't mention about the Ng Tung Chai village and the new territories in general is that there are far less foreigners than on the island or where I go to school. Having said this, Clint and I were the only english speaking people, that is until we met Jimmy at the MTR. Jimmy was eating dinner in the same restaurant as us and helped us order off an all Chinese menu. Not only did he help us order, but Jimmy spent a great deal of his meal standing at our table practicing his English. He was quite the character, commenting excessively on Clinton's beard.

Overall, it could not have been a better day off from school.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Buddha

It has been a week since my family left Hong Kong. I have spent the week catching up on work, but mostly missing my family. It was so great having them here.

Missing them makes me think of my favorite day in Hong Kong so far. It was spent, with my family at Lantau Island. Lantau island is an island southeast of Hong Kong island. It is home to 200,000 people, as well as Hong Kong's international airport. Additionally, Lantau island is where the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery is.

To get to the Big Buddha we took a 4 mile cable car ride that provided 360 degree views of the South China Sea and North Lantau island. After the cable car we started the hike up to the Big Buddha. The Buddha on Lantau is one of the largest seated Buddhas facing north. The statue in itself is beautiful, but more than that, the grounds surrounding the Buddha and the views out toward the ocean are awesome. Lantau has many hiking paths throughout the island, I think I will have to go back before the end of the semester to check them out.

After exploring the monastery, we hopped on a bus to a town called Tai O. Tai O is one of the coolest places I have been in Hong Kong because it doesn't remind me of any other place I've visited in Hong Kong. Tai O features traditional stilt housing of traditional Chinese fishing villages. The village was full of local people selling dried shrimp and other various foods. One man was using his boat as his store front and was measuring the weight of his fish with a simple weight and stick.

As I enjoy my life abroad, I got great news from back at St. Mike's. Last week was room selection and my trusty roommates Erin and Sam handled the grueling process that is housing. I woke up at 7 am (so early!) to skype with them and find out we're living in townhouse 317 for our senior year! Can't wait!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Back to Beijing

I can't believe how long it has been since my last post (sorry!). I have been overwhelmingly busy this past week because my family was visiting!

Last Friday, Clint and I hopped on a plane to Beijing to meet my family. I eagerly waited for them on the other side of customs and looked silly as I waved at whatever strangers saw me before my family. Finally, my parents spotted me and quickly nudged Lindsay, pointing to me on the other side. One by one, I was greeted by family with hugs and kisses. I can't even describe how amazing it was to see my family. At school in Vermont, I only see my family on breaks, maybe three times a semester. Something about being half way around the world though, it makes it seem like normally I see them everyday. Technology makes a text or a phone call between class something I can respond to right away, but with a 13 hour time difference, phone calls are always scheduled and text messages are non existent.

After about a million hugs, we headed into the city of Beijing. Our first day was spent at the Summer Palace, something I did not see my first time in Beijing. The palace is set near a lake, which on that particular day was covered in fog that looked pretty cool.

We literally spent the entire day at the palace, there were tons of paths to explore and interesting Chinese architecture. It was great to wander around a new place with my family and Clint, it is one of the things I love most about Millen family vacations. We joke that we never spend our vacations laying on a beach, we are always looking for a site to see or some place to drive to and explore. Here are a few pictures from the Summer Palace.

After a day at the palace, my dad and I went to the airport to pick up my sister Aubrey. We all went to bed early because the next day we would be climbing the Great Wall. After much debate, we decided on a part of the wall called Juyongguan. Unlike the last part of the wall I climbed, this area was extremely steep and mostly stairs. Some of the stairs were over three bricks high (or about knee height for me). The wall was incredibly windy, but beautiful once the sun came out. The wall truly is indescribable and pictures hardly do it justice, but here are a few.

The last day in Beijing was spent at the Forbidden City. Aside from seeing the city, one of the highlights of the day was seeing Clint participate in a camera battles. Being foreigners in China, it is impossible not to stand out, particularly for someone like Clint, blond hair, blue eyes, six feet tall. Local people were itching to take pictures with him. Whenever someone wanted a picture, Clint was more than willing, but for the people who tried to sneakily take pictures of him, Clint reciprocated by taking a picture back of them. Both my family and the locals thought this was pretty funny and I think by the end of the day, Clint had his picture taken with over twenty strangers.

More pictures and stories from my family's trip are to come later this week!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome to China Millen Family!

My family is arriving in Beijing this afternoon, I'm headed to the airport now to fly there as well with Clinton. I cannot wait!

Beijing for four days, my family here for over a week...

The firewall will prevent me from posting until at least Tuesday, so I will post information about my weekend after then.

Family family family! I cannot wait to see you guys :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Quiz is the Same in Every Country Right?

A quiz is a quiz is a quiz right? Wrong!

Learning a new language can be challenging, especially when the language bares no similarities to ones you already know. I am taking Cantonese right now and my speaking skills were recently tested. Now, this was not your average quiz. No pencils or paper were allowed or required. For my last Cantonese quiz I was accompanied by my professor to a local food market where I was assigned three items to buy. The items included, apples, bananas, and chicken wings.

Needless to say, I had spent the previous 24 hours preparing for this quiz, learning the names of an assigned list of fruits, vegetables, and meats. In order to receive full marks on the quiz I had to:

1) Tell the vendors "I know very little Cantonese, please speak slowly"
2) Ask how much the desired items cost
3) Ask for the desired number
4) Bargain for a lower price

The first requirement is actually a very useful phrase, I have been using it at restaurants when I try to order in Cantonese. It looks like this "Ngo sik hou siu gwong doong wa, m goi gong maan di" (looks complicated... it is!)

Asking for the price and desired quantities was the easiest part and the bargaining was the fun part. I wasn't able to get the price lowered, but I did get 5 apples for the price of 4.

It was really difficult to be quizzed in a crowded market, but the things we learned how to say were useful. Buying fruits and vegetables at the market is the most inexpensive way to shop here in Hong Kong, so I will definitely use my newly acquired knowledge on my next grocery run.

Monday, February 28, 2011

First Field Trip

Throughout the semester, we have a few field trips scheduled. This past weekend, my history class went on an all day field trip on Saturday. The day started with the Hong Kong Museum of History where we walked through years of history. After spending the morning at the museum, we went to an Indonesian Restaurant for lunch. I can't say that I have ever tried Indonesian food before. It was interesting, lots of peanut flavors and unexpected textures.

The afternoon was where we saw what I thought was the more interesting stuff though. We went to a Buddhist Nunnery in Hong Kong. The structure is made out of wood and is filled with small ponds and gardens. Inside the nunnery there were many separate rooms, all containing statues of Buddhist figures. The entire nunnery was calm and relaxing, we were there on a Saturday, but it was not an overly crowded tourist attraction.

After the nunnery, it went from calm to chaos as we went to the busiest Taoist temple in Hong Kong. On Chinese New Year, the temple sees over 250,000 visitors! The temple was filled with people and bright colors, lanterns, and burning in-scents. People come to the temple, light in-scents and bring food as an offering. People will then kneel on the ground praying. It was pretty interesting to watch.

Aside from the field trip, Clint and I booked our tickets to Beijing last night! My parents and sisters are coming to visit (in less than 2 weeks!). I am meeting them in Beijing for a few days and then they're coming to Hong Kong to see where I'm living and studying. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE MY FAMILY !!!