Welcome to Hong Kong!

On Monday, after spending the morning at Saint Mary's for a few final classes with the choirs, I said my goodbyes and thank yous and headed to the airport for my evening flight to Hong Kong. I got to Narita (Tokyo International) with some time to spare, so on Randy's recommendation decided to check out the Delta first class lounge. He had told me about the unique beer tap they have: you set your glass under the tap and push a button, gears whir and a bracket lifts and tips your glass and the beer flows out of the tap, contacting the inside wall of the beer mug-thus avoiding a mug full of foam. Then the beer flow stops and the glass is set fully upright, AND (here's the cool part) then the tap dispenses just the right amount of foam from an auxiliary tap. Only in Japan!

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I was glad to have been met at the Hong Kong airport by the director of the China University of Hong Kong (CUHK) chorus Leon Chung and two of his singers/staff members, Katie and Monica. Their warm welcome was a wonderful way to arrive!

My Hong Kong “home” is the Butterfly Hotel located in the heart of the city, in the Kowloon district. Surrounded by shops and restaurants, it's always on the go, and you better watch your step walking the narrow sidewalks as you dodge the pedestrians, delivery men, and ubiquitous “hawkers” offering special discounts on suits and “Rolex” watches.

Tuesday morning I found a good spot for breakfast and explored the neighborhood, including the very large Kowloon Park just a few blocks from the hotel. Sculpture, aviary, massive swimming pools and even flamingos.

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Soon it was time to head to my first appointment, a choral workshop with a choir of middle and high school kids at a private school in the New Territories region. Though I had been cautioned about speaking slowly and taking time to make sure they understood me, the kids were eager and promptly able to respond to my suggestions.

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From the high school, we traveled to the CUHK campus for my rehearsal with Leon's chorus. A group of about 50, they are both current and former university students who operate the choir as a sort of intramural activity. We rehearsed for a couple hours, Palestrina, Bruckner, Nystedt and familiar spirituals by Halloran and Hairston. They're a great group, talented and fun.

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After rehearsal, i was invited to join the group for a late dinner…just like our “Post Rehearsal Seminars” in Indy! We went to a neighborhood that looked like the typical university “village,” except this one was filled with chinese restaurants and bars. Several of the students asked me if I liked Chinese food, which of course I do, but then they all followed up their initial inquiry with “we eat a lot of internal organs.” Oh boy, this could be interesting! On the plus side, several of them explained happily when they saw that I could use chopsticks.

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The meal was traditional Chinese, with chicken, pork, beef, some vegetables. And among the “special” items was a plate of cow stomach lining, smooth on the exterior side but spiky like velcro on the interior side…the cow stomachs do church the food after all. I won't say it was my favorite dish of the meal, but was glad I tried it!

Wednesday was mostly free, and so I took the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island for a trip up to the Victoria Peak. I took the ancient tram up to the top, and then walked back down, taking pics along the way.

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Wednesday evening was set aside as a night to dine with the CUHK chorus members, and again we found ourselves in a very typical Chinese restaurant, with meals served family style for sharing. Chicken, seafood, vegetables, rice, lamb. Students came and went per their individual schedules, but all were friendly and warm, and spoke great English. From there we ventured to an ice cream stand, and finally a pub on the famous Knutsford Terrace for a nightcap. Great end to a great day!

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