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A Walk through Tin Shui Wai, New Territories, Hong Kong

Whilst visiting my N2D (Number 2 Daughter) in Hong Kong as she recovered from hip surgery I finally worked up the courage to take a long walk and explore Tin Shui Wai, New Territories, Hong Kong.This area had been the home of N2D for the past 18 months. I’ve been meaning to put a post together to show everyone what Tin Shui Wai was like, but found time a little constrained lately. However, I have finally managed to put something together and for those who are interested, I hope you enjoy.

During my stay, I’d regularly visit the gym and learnt to use the treadmill, however, I was craving a good old fashioned long walk. The only problem was, and why I hadn’t gone sooner, was Tin Shui Wai is a concrete jungle, with high rise buildings that appear to all look the same. Until you’ve been there awhile and begin to slowly notice the differences, to the unobservant eye, everything blends in and looks the same. Everything, including street signs are written in Chinese and I did not know any landmarks to help me out.

One thing I had noticed though was the grey skies of Tin Shui Wai. In the 12 days I visited we got a total of 20 minutes of sunshine; no joke! Sunshine seemed scarce in this part of the world. Yes, it was winter, but gosh, you’d think it would be sunny for some of it. I’m not sure how I’d go living there for any length of time. I’m sure I’d miss my Brissy climate. Us BrisVegas folk are really quite spoilt when it comes to weather.

After Day 6, I decided that I just had to take a walk, no matter what. What the heck! It would be an adventure and a chance to feel vulnerable just like I know I will when walking through Spain. I procured a local map from reception of the hotel and began to study it. I would walk alone and hoped not to get lost. N2D gave me the hotel’s phone number to call if I did. I hoped I would not have to use it. Today’s post will be pictorial. I hope you enjoy.

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The start of my walk began at a park close to where N2D lives.

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I found some children blowing bubbles near the water fountain.

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A typical view throughout the parkland

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The gardens are well kept and clean

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The backdrop behind the park

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Identical bridges just like this one are built all along the canal at set distances

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Locals stroll and ride their bikes along the banks of the canal

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The walkway beside the canal

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These bridges help locals cross from one side of the canal to the other and are all identical

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 The grungier side of the canal

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Contrast: Wall art vs neglect & litter

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A sacrifice of thanksgiving

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High rise apartment buildings like this one are found everywhere. People string their washing outside the windows.

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Until the 1990’s Tin Shui Wai did not exist – it was totally a vast wetland and rice paddies

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Many locals make use of this area – I even saw a man getting his hair clipped while sitting on a kitchen chair along this walkway

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Little boxes full of people

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Hong Kong Wetlands Park is a feature of this area

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I ended up making a full circuit back to where I started by following my local map

(instead of retracing my steps as I originally planned – it seems I became more adventurous)

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The electric trams are used to get the locals to the nearest train station – they are a fast and efficient mode of transport

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I had to smile at this…

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Here marks the spot where I begin to head away from my circuit and begin to navigate my way back to my starting position – into the jungle I go

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The autumn leaves of winter

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The colours of Tin Shui Wai

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It’s a rabbit warren in there – there are tunnels and ramps everywhere – you really need to know where you are going

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I had to chuckle

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More traditional styles of signage

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I wonder if this school has a playground?

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It really is a jungle in there – a concrete jungle with a dash of green

In total I walked for nearly three hours exploring Tin Shui Wai. I enjoyed the walk immensely and I found the sights and people intriguing. I didn’t get lost, although a lovely elderly Chinese couple did stop and confirm that I was headed in the right direction after I paused at one of the intersections (for a wee bit longer than normal). I was trying to get my bearings and they could see me studying my map (maybe the way I kept turning the map around gave them a clue). They kindly came to my ‘rescue’ and set me on my way once again.

Buen Camino

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Time Spent Researching is Never Time or Energy Wasted

I returned home from my trip to Sydney and feel armed and dangerous. It’s been a couple of weeks since I flew down to do the Camino Downunder workshop and once I got back, I literally hit the floor running with the start of the teaching year, my evening work, Spanish lessons and catching up on the four days of work  I missed while I was in Sydney.

I didn’t really have a choice of whether to blog or not; I simply did not have the time. But whilst I’ve been away from blogging, it’s given me an opportunity to process all the information I gleamed from a couple of seasoned pilgrims and try to put it into perspective and implement it into my planning.

Let me first say, I had such a great time while in Sydney that I’ll probably blog about some of the good times later on. I used the opportunity to explore Sydney in such a way that is similar to how I think it might be when I’m in Spain; to get a taste of things yet to come. With a mindset of expectancy, I experienced a wonderful time meeting strangers and experiencing just some of the many things Sydney has to offer. It was remarkable and I will share some stories down the track.

It was drizzling with rain the morning of the workshop and I headed out from my hotel with brolly in one hand and Google Maps GPS on my iPhone in the other. I knew I only had to walk a street or two away from where I was staying. This sounds simple, but you are yet to know what I am like when it comes to finding my way to intended destinations. After my trip to Sydney, I realise that orienteering is just not my thing. Something internal wills me to go in the completely opposite direction to where I actually need to go. Although proven many times over, I still argue to the death with whoever happens to be with me. I object till I’m blue in the face and even after I have been proven wrong, I still feel driven to go where I feel it is the right direction. My head tells me one thing; my heart, another.

Trying to read the GPS on my phone didn’t help me either. I am one of those people who has to turn the map around so I can see the direction I am meant to take. In truth, I think my spatial awareness could use some fine tuning. My brain simply won’t process upside-down. This time I had no one to argue with, and I won. I took the direction of my burning desire, and yes, you guessed it, I ended up streets away from where I needed to be. At one point I decided to ask this girl I was standing next to at the traffic lights. “Can you please tell me where Clarence Street is?” She smiled shyly at me and held up her phone and shrugged. She had just arrived in Sydney and was using her GPS to find a street. We both laughed  and continued on once the lights turned green. Next minute, I found myself on Clarence Street and outside the building that the workshop was to be held in.

I’d given myself plenty of time and had arrived early so I decided to find a place to buy some breakfast. I headed off down the street, after noting a couple of land marks and found a little breakfast bar on the next intersection. I ordered an egg and bacon roll and a lovely hot cup of coffee, which I enjoyed immensely. I made it back to the meeting point without any more misadventures and was met by Yvonne Grossman. She took a group of us up to the ninth floor where we met her husband Marc and other members of the group; about 20 people approximately. Marc was rearing to get started. Once everything kicked off, we spent an intense morning jammed packed with information. Marc worked his way around the room and asked us all to state every concern we had while he filled two white boards with these queries. Most of the session before lunch was spent answering all the questions raised.

We spent a good deal of time looking at the book of 30 All Weather Maps of the Camino that most of us purchased, along with a print out of the cross sections and elevations of the mountains that we will meet along the way. Throughout the day we discussed topics such as: the concept of a pilgrimage, the timeline and a little bit of the history of the Camino, the walking of the Camino de Santiago, a proposed itinerary, a packing list, a food guide, health issues, resources, phrase guides and various scenarios. As part of our package, we received a very informative guide-book called, The Guide for the Spanish Camino ~ Walking the Camino Frances as a 21st century pilgrim, by Marc Grossman, as well as other information and a souvenir cloth badge of Camino Downunder.

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I purchased the 30 All Weather Maps produced by Camino Downunder because they are very good quality and made from waterproof plastic paper with highly UV-resistant colours to prevent tearing and fading, they show a 3D aerial view of the terrain using geographic information system (GIS), and on the back of each map of the section of the walk, there is an accommodation guide and food recommendations and finally, it has been successfully tested by pilgrims walking the Camino Frances in 2009.

The Grossman’s also provided a wonderful selection of snacks for morning tea that lasted throughout the day. A surprise treat offered toward the end of the day was some traditional Spanish liquor.

I’m glad I invested the time and energy into flying down to Sydney to participate in this workshop and I would recommend it to anyone contemplating their first pilgrimage to a land unknown, as in my case. I learnt a lot and I know I still have much more research to do.

As I said in a previous post, it is not the destination but the journey that is the pilgrimage and my pilgrimage has already begun. Attending this workshop is part of my pilgrimage. I plan to put as much time and energy into research as I can. I want my trip to be successful so I am planning for its success. None of it will be wasted.

I plan to discuss many of the things I find out here in more detail in this blog. It will be my record and reference point. I also plan to share interesting stories that crop up along the way.

So, hasta la vista amigos,

Buen Camino

Camino Downunder Workshop ~ Sydney

At the end of this week (Jan 31) I am heading off to Sydney for a workshop (short course) on Walking the Camino de Santiago run by husband and wife team, Marc and Yvonne Grossman. The course is held in down town Sydney close to Darling Harbour. It’s a hard life. But as they say, someone’s got to do it! I will spend the Saturday, beginning at 9am and closing at 5pm, covering all aspects of the pilgrimage, including: maps, guide books, discussing the gear necessary for a successful trip and anything and everything that relates to the Camino that you can possibly fit in one day!

As part of the course, I will receive a copy of the ‘Camino Guidebook‘ (5th edition and revised for 2012-13 ISBN 978-0-646-51466-6). I will also be able to purchase 30 all-weather maps (Camino de Santiago: 30 all-weather walking maps ISBN 978-0-646-52975-2), which we will be using in the workshop for practice and research. I will also receive as part of the package, paper elevation maps which will be used as part of the training and learning, plus something I’m a little excited about, the Camino Downunder cloth badge, that I will be able to sew to my backpack.

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Photo Credit: Camino Downunder

The participants will also be using for ‘geographical training‘ the brand new, innovative and bold overview maps (2.3 metres long – the long version) – which are oriented direction-up or forward up – replicating the anatomical way every person walks and which is in portrait design, not landscape. After crossing the Pyrenees, these wall maps go in a constant westerly direction all the way to the Atlantic coast.

It is promised that we, as participants, will not come away from the course without a ‘tsunami’ quantity of information, insights, knowledge and skills to assist us in our great enterprise of being joyous and successful pilgrim/walkers. The team promises that whatever is, or are my motivations, their workshop will be a watershed.

I’m excited about attending this course and meeting the other like-minded participants and educators. I am hungry and thirsty for their knowledge and hearing of their experiences. I have huge expectations of what I will receive out of this latest adventure.

Another bonus to the course is just one street and one block away (Kent Street) live all the recommended outdoors stores mentioned in the Camino Guidebook for Sydney. No doubt during my short stay in Sydney I will find some time to visit these outlets. It will be interesting to see what Sydney stores have compared to the Brisbane outlets I have visited.

As preparation for the course, the participants were given some homework to do. We were asked to bring along our written lists of the following:

1.

  • i.   Your concerns and/or anxieties;
  • ii.  Questions, including confusing and /or contradictory information gleamed from the internet sites;
  • iii. Unresolved issues about walking the Camino de Santiago as an independent pilgrim/walker. They assure me that no question or issue raised by anyone is ever unimportant or treated offhandedly.

2.

  • Write down your list of all your gear (i.e: walking clothes you will be wearing and clothes carried in your backpack) including your footwear; hat wear and clothing accessories. AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THE QUANTUM (i.e: how many items of underwear, pairs of socks, etc, etc

3.

  • Write down your list of non walking gear (e.g. a torch, first aid kit items, guide-book/map and communication devices; i.e. mobile phone, etc, etc)

4.

         A Reflective & Philosophical Meditation Task:

  • i. Whilst you are undertaking the Camino de Santiago, what do you think your ‘core business’ should be? Hint: before answering this question, you will need to clearly separate in your mind and on paper ‘core business’ from ‘non-core business’. I strongly encourage you to put in writing this fundamental question.

I have completed these four tasks in readiness for my travels to Sydney. It took some time and research, but I think I got there in the end. It will be interesting for me to find out just what I need (suggested) to take and what I don’t need. I think I will add a page to my blog regarding my packing process. Then after my course I can add to it or delete unnecessary items and make adjustments.

Below, if anyone is interested, I have included the link to Camino Downunder’s website:

http://www.caminodownunder.com

Until next time…

Buen Camino

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