Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Caroling on the Hong Kong Tram

On 22 December we rented one of the Hong Kong trams, invited a few friends to come along, and caroled up and down the streets of Hong Kong. We regaled the public with every Christmas carol from Rudolph to Silent Night. It took about two hours, and by the end of the evening our voices were pretty much gone, but we had a great time. People on the street below looked arond to see where the Christmas music was coming from, and when they saw us and heard our cries of "Merry Christmas!" they waved back and wished us the same. Here are a few pictures from the night:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

Dear Friends and Family,

We have loved our first year in Hong Kong. We live in the Mid-levels on Hong Kong Island. It is just outside the heart of Central where tall skyscrapers fill the skyline. Jeffrey did his own rendition of the HK skyline last year in Kindergarten.

It is a beautiful city with lots of people always on the go. There are walkways throughout the main city allowing mom to walk for miles above traffic. The harbor is filled with ferries taking people to and from the mainland and surrounding islands. At night the view is striking and as Christmas approaches the buildings add lighted decorations and Christmas greetings which adds to the sparkling magic of Christmas here. After Christmas the lights are changed with Chinese New Year themes and so the twinkling beauty continues for months. It brightens the drab winter months.

In HK we have had some fun family outings. One of our favorites is our day trip to Lamma island. We took the ferry there in less than an hour and then did an easy family hike, walking through an interesting village and some great seafood restaurants with very fresh delicacies.

After Christmas last year we celebrated Rebecca’s eighth birthday and her baptism. Tanner was home from BYU and had the honor of baptizing his sister.

In celebration of this important event, and at Rebecca's request, we made a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland a few days later. It’s a miniature version of California’s Disneyland, but we still felt the magic, had a really fun time and watched some great shows.

Audrey finished fifth grade this year, which means she also started middle school this fall. Her fifth grade year was filled with fun memories. She made some great friends, went on a fun camping trip with her class, and learned new things in her studies of the US Civil War. Doesn’t she look great as a union soldier?

Jeffrey had a fabulous first year of school. He made some good friends in Kindergarten (aka “R2” in HK). His best friend was Mitchell. His class went for some great field trips exploring the wonders of Hong Kong. He loved his R2 teacher, Ms. Park. The teaching assistant, Mr. Farooqi, (Fawookee – as pronounced by Jeff) was an energetic friend whose playful nature was the highlight of Jeff's daily school attendance. Jeffrey is now in the first grade with Ms. Lewis. He enjoys it too.

Sarah survived her first year of High School. She actually did very well settling in and making new friends. She cut her hair and donated it to “Locks of Love” (

She joined the Hong Kong Singers last year and had a solo and a duet in their Christmas program. Her debut was fabulous. This year she is in Jazz Singers and Women’s Chorus at school. She loves to sing, and we love to listen to her beautiful voice.

Speaking of singing, Joey won the teen idol competition at school. Well, he came as close as he could to winning but the students in charge never held the final round. The school year ended too quickly. Joey was in first place in the student voting and the judges all loved him. Now known as the Hawaiian Stallion, Joey wore a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, sunglasses, shorts, sandals, and sang original songs he wrote for the ukulele and the guitar.

Here is a video of the Semi-Finals:

A-Team Idol - Semi Final - from DragonMedia
A day doesn’t go by without hearing Joey singing. During the summer he worked at a Boy Scout Camp in Wyoming and could be heard as he led the boys in canoes down the river singing at the top of his lungs in the canyons. Other boys joined in and they had a marvelous time. When he returned to Hong Kong, Joey served a week long mission and lived full time with the missionaries and experienced life as they live it. Joey is a senior this year. Graduation is around the corner and he is excited for the adventures of college.

Tanner finished his first year at BYU. He is now in HK teaching English to young children. He is preparing to serve a full time mission for the church. He is saving money to pay for it. His job contract is over in July and that is when he plans to go. He keeps us laughing at the dinner table where he shares his stories of teaching the “ABC’s” to Chinese children ages 2 - 6.

Matt is home this holiday season. He finished his full time two-year mission for the church in October. He is now fluent in Mandarin and can speak a lot of Cantonese too. That comes in handy to communicate when English or Mandarin isn’t enough with the Cantonese speakers here in HK. Matt returns to BYU in January, and plans to major in construction management and go on to an architect/design school in NY for graduate studies. He is enjoying HK but is anxious to get on with his education and socializing with old friends.

Brian and I were able to go to New York City to pick up Matthew when he finished his mission. It was an awesome experience to meet the people that we only knew as names in letters. The Chinese people there were so kind to us and made us feel like royalty. We had some great food and were able to spend time with Matt’s friends. We also got to see some of the famous sights of New York: Times Square, Broadway (we saw a performance of "Wicked"), Manhattan, Empire State Bldg, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Coney Island. Each day there was filled with wonderful memories and fun. We were so grateful to speak Mandarin and be able to enjoy learning about Matt’s mission in a very personal way.

We spent our summer in the western United States, playing with friends and family in Utah, Oregon and California. We got to ride on ATVs, go tubing on lakes, hike trails and mountains, tour the Tillamook Cheese Factory, build sand castles, walk through some beautiful home gardens, swim, and see Timpanogos Cave. We always enjoy time together in the summer. It doesn’t last long enough and we wish we had more time with our friends and family.

Brian was in training for the better part of this year in preparation for the Oxfam Trailwalker hike on the Maclehose Trail in Kowloon. This is a fundraising event for the Oxfam organization that does various good works in Africa and Asia including Hong Kong and mainland China.

It is a 100km (60 mile) hike with a team of four people, and teams are allowed 48 hours to complete the event. Brian’s team was made up of men from the consulate. They trained regularly this fall. Brian finished 90km of the trail and then suffered from dehydration serious enough to put him in the hospital. Though deterred from the finish line this year, Brian is determined to do it again next year since after the rigors of 90km he didn’t have any blisters nor did he suffer from any muscle pain.. He is ready to go again. He learned the hard way that he has a habit of not drinking enough, but in training it wasn’t a big deal for the short hikes (of 2 – 6 hours) that he did. He jokes that he has developed a drinking habit and next year he will be well hydrated and in even better shape. He will be turning 50 next year just before the hike so it will be a memorable 100km for his 50th.

The garden on our 17th floor apartment patio is Nadine’s pride and joy. Starting out small, it has grown to a number of flowering plants. Some herbs and veggies will soon be added. When Nadine gets out of the apartment her favorite part of HK life is the hiking trails. Many a day she is found hiking around the trails with friends or by herself. She was part of the support team for Brian's Trailwalker hike, transporting goods to the trail from home as the team requested things at various support stops.

At Christmas time, our hearts turn to our friends and family who make our life so special. As the entire family gathers together this year we are grateful that we can all be together and celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. His love, His Atonement, His example and His gift of eternal life brings us joy and hope of good things to come. We wish you a Merry Christmas filled with sparkling memories and loving moments. We feel so blessed because of time shared together and memories of you. God bless you.

Love the Christensens
Brian, Nadine, Matt, Tanner, Joey, Sarah, Audrey, Rebecca, and Jeffrey