We’re now back in Pokhara, Nepal after 10 days out on the Annapurna Base Camp (“Sanctuary”) trek. Wow! It will be hard to choose the photos for that blog entry!
Mark Garvie was a good buddy of mine back in my University of Waterloo Systems Design Engineering days. He is a Sarnia boy with a booming voice, thunderous laugh, great smile, big heart, and very flexible right arm that allows him to imbibe alcohol at rates that would tear lesser folks’ elbow tendons. We were athletic colleagues too, on the class “boatracing” team. If you don’t know what engineering society boatracing is, I’ll leave it to you to look it up on google. But Mark was our very valued anchor man that helped take us to many final matches. Mark never lost this “athletic” prowess as the years progressed after graduation, and this was made clear to me when we visited the Garvie family in Hong Kong.
Mark married university sweetheart Krista Bulman from Brighton, ON and not long after (1997) opened an Asia office in Hong Kong for IT consulting firm Cap Gemini. Soon after they began building their family with Fenton, Shivahn and Shea who are now 15, 13 and 10. The family has been there long enough now to be officially known as “Honkies”.
Mark and Krista would often come back for Christmas and/or summer and our UWaterloo gang would get together.
Mark and Krista bought Krista’s grandmother’s farm near Brighton and now use it as their base for summer visiting. Krista and kids come for the whole summer, Mark for one month. We’ve enjoyed visiting them in such close proximity, and have so often remarked that we’d never seen their Hong Kong digs. It was because they are there that we put Hong Kong on our itinerary this year.
Mark moved on from Cap Gemini to open a Hong Kong office of an “off the shelf” legal products company (Legal Studio) then opened the Asia office of the French company Oberthur, which puts security electronic chips in bank/credit cards and any other place that makes sense. He’s a busy guy traveling, with offices in Philippines, China, India, Australia and Indonesia reporting to him. But fortunately for us, he was around during our week-long visit.
Krista runs her own “Stretch and Grow” business where she or her employees conduct on-the-spot fitness/movement classes for primary schools. She is also the family investment specialist and has made some savvy choices in residence location.
The Garvie kids all attend HK’s Chinese International School. Their classmates are a mix of Asians, Asian-Canadian/Americans and a few with both parents from abroad. Most of the school’s grade 9 year goes to a sister facility some distance away in mainland China for the year – that’s where Fenton is this year. All three kids are fluent in written and spoken Mandarin (and can get by nicely in HK Cantonese), which REALLY impressed us, given the completely different sounds and alphabet involved.
All three kids are up to their eyeballs in sports, which also partially surprised me. Fenton plays hockey at a high level, Shea plays on two teams – one as a goalie and one as a skater. They play softball and basketball and Shea is REALLY into parkour (very cool emerging sport … look it up). Shivahn won player of the year on her rugby team (awarded while we were there) and plays netball and soccer. The sports fields/rinks are scattered over HK, so you can imagine how busy Mark and Krista are with shuttling.
The Garvies took amazing care of us. Krista met us at the airport on the very far side of HK and was our tour guide extraordinaire all week. – Kaia will share some of our HK touring highlights in an upcoming entry. Krista’s 18 yrs in HK give her a great perspective on culture, economics and in particular the changes unfolding in Hong Kong since the changeover to Chinese control in 1997. Krista and their live-in Filipino helper Caren kept us fed with food we’d been craving all year; lasagna, smoked salmon, tacos, curry, good cereal, bacon and eggs, and fresh green salads of all sorts. Mark handed me a Molson Canadian beer upon arrival, took me to his hockey game, fed me beer & whiskey all week, and told many stories of HK and Asian life in general.
Mark and Krista used to live beside the ocean in the HK town of Stanley but 6 years ago moved to near Sai Kung and live high up on Razor Hill. They have a 1.5 storey flat with a fantastic terrace that gives views to the city and up to the mountain. But we visited during the cloudy month of the year and only twice during our stay could we see more than 100m from their place due to the cloud/mist (and smog?).
I was happy to head to Mark’s weekly hockey game on Wednesday night. There are a half-dozen rinks in HK – Mark plays on the rink on the 10th floor of the MegaBox office/shopping complex. Taking an elevator up 10 floors to a rink is a new experience for me.
Like me, Mark started playing hockey only 4 years ago. But anyone who knows Mark knows he is a fierce competitor (I told you about boatracing already). The Huskies needed a win that night to advance to the playoffs, and the team was a bit tense before the game. There are announcers for the league, and the very first announcement during the game was “Huskies first goal, scored by number 9, Mark Garvie” !! Mark lobbed a high shot that bounced off the goalie’s neck and into the net. Atta boy, Mark! Huskies won 4-2, so the atmosphere around the post game beer in the stands was pretty euphoric. The Huskies are best known for their post-game performances (read “drinking”) and other teams’ players joined us. We drank through the next two games as Mark and buddies recounted the nuances of their victory, we watched them cover the rink for the night (keep in mind it is 25-30 degC in HK) and ended up finishing the beer on the sidewalk in front of the complex after it had closed. It was fun to connect with various Canadians who had transported their lives and families to HK. A few were teaching at International schools, there was a pilot and several other business folks.
Mark and Krista have invested (as partners among others) in a couple of food/drink enterprises and they took us out for dinner/drinks and dancing the last night while the four kids went to a movie and had pizza. Mark was turning 50 in a couple week’s time and apparently is very hard to surprise, so Krista organized a birthday do well in advance, and to coincide with our visit. Their “Shores” restaurant is downtown HK on the 3rd floor and we started with drinks on the terrace. Even though we’d been there for a week already, I was still gawking at the crazy high towers rising at every point around me. We then moved inside for dinner, and what a dinner it was! Yvonne noted in her International Water Day blog entry that meat (especially beef) takes vast quantities of water to produce. But Shores specializes in steak. The manager is Canadian and the beef is from Alberta – really! So we set aside all “sustainability” thoughts for the evening and split two cuts between the four of us. The entire meal was without a doubt our best meal of the trip so far, and the Tomahawk steak (that’s actually what it’s called on the menu … see photo below if you’re not sure why) was the best piece of meat I have ever tasted. Thanks for dinner, M&K!
Krista had timed things perfectly so that when we returned to the patio for more drinks there was a cadre of Mark’s friends awaiting with a big hoot of “surprise”! And he was. I recognized a few from the hockey team and met many other fascinating types doing all sorts of things, including transplanted Canadian, Mark Daly, who runs a legal firm that specializes in Human Rights. He handles some of the most high profile cases where citizens had been prosecuted for standing up for democratic rights against the new HK (mainland China) government. He actually now fears travel to mainland China because of the cases he has worked on.
From the party at Shores we walked down to the main nightlife street where Mark and Krista’s Typhoon bar was located. It was a Saturday night and at 1:30AM the bars were still hopping.
We closed their place down then walked a few blocks to find the night scene still in FULL swing. At one dance bar one live band finished up and another came on to start their set … at 3:30AM! Mark is known to keep his Canadian guests out till breakfast but Krista kept us all in line and had us home for 4:30 or so … which for Yvonne and me was about 8 hrs later than our usual travel routine of 8PM (with uncomfortable beds, overheating and lots of very early morning noise you have to log more hours).
Mark drove us to the airport for our Kathmandu flight.
Hong Kong had been a wonderful contrast to our experiences in rural Indonesia and Philippines. But I can’t imagine visiting HK as a tourist arriving “cold” from the airport. It is a complex, vast, fast moving and at times expensive place. Thanks Mark and Krista for being such great hosts, and thanks Shivahn and Shea for giving Kaia and Jake a chance to get away from their parents for a few hours!