Thursday, October 31, 2013

Open Mic Night

     A few weeks ago I decided to organize a school staff team to compete in a charity soccer tournament to raise money for political refugees/asylum seekers in Hong Kong.  The tournament was to  be held at our school and I figured it was only right for us to be represented.  Since it is a charity tournament, one of the requirements was for our team to raise as much money as possible to pledge towards the cause.  After spending some time thinking about different ideas I thought back to the "Teacher Talent Show" at East Paulding and the "Entertainment Evening" at ISF Frankurt.  Our current school, DBS, has a rich tradition of holding formal concerts of a very high caliber, but there is no such thing as an informal equivalent for students to step out of their comfort zone and play/perform something in front of a small audience.  It struck me that this is exactly what the school needs and it would double as a good idea for a fundraiser.  I decided to go with the generic "Open Mic Night" title and go from there.

     I assumed that this would be a fairly easy event to organize for a school that is so musically-oriented.  I quickly came to grips with the reality that: 1. there is a lot of red tape to get through in order to hold an event at our school; and 2. borrowing equipment within the school would be a lot more difficult than previously imagined.  This was one of those things that you just keep reminding yourself to give it up to God, everything will work out somehow, and it will be worth it in the end - no matter the means.

     I won't go into all of the details of the emotional rollercoaster leading up to the event, but I will say that it came down to the Thursday before the event on Saturday to reserve sound/light equipment.  After going through several different contacts I finally struck gold with a colleague's spouse who had connections with event management.  We were able to rent the equipment for next-to-nothing and the quality was excellent. 

     Overall, the goal was to have an enjoyable evening that would give students an opportunity to display their talents without the commitment of months of rehearsal and without the pressure of flawless performance.  I think the "open mic" concept is relatively unfamiliar to our students, but those that decided to show up had a great time and quickly picked up the idea.  We had probably around ten performances, sold sausages off of the grill, had a 16-yr old tell his story of life as a refugee in Hong Kong, and were able to raise around $14,000 HKD (1,400 Euro / $2,000 USD) for a noble cause. 
     Below I'll outline a few of the acts from the evening:

I performed a few songs with my colleague, Vlada, who also doubles as my brew partner.  We played: Free Fallin' (Tom Petty, but John Mayer version); Sexy and I Know It (LMFAO); and Somebody I Used to Know (Gotye).  We really didn't have any time to practice with all of the running-around beforehand, but felt surprisingly relaxed and pulled off a respectable set. 

My friend, Matt, played some of his own songs and traded off with Franck from Colombia who also shared a song he wrote.  I'm always impressed with those that can write their own songs. 

Some of our students performed some acapella songs which was a nice change of pace.  I have to point out the full moon shining in the background - that was probably the best part of the night.  It was perfect weather with clear skies and I had no idea that it would turn out that way. 

The success story of the night came when these students overcame all odds when their drum kit that they were going to borrow from the school fell through.  They quickly took a taxi down to Mong Kok, rented one from a studio, and packed it into a taxi to make it back for a later performance.  They covered some songs I didn't know, but it was cool because this was the first time that they'd been able to play in front of any kind of audience.

     The evening was a success and the question I keep getting is........."when's the next open mic going to be?"  Now I've got the next task of trying to acquire funds to acquire equipment to make sure that we can keep doing these in the future!

--Justin


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mid-Autumn in Macau

     After the whirlwind tour of the U.S. this summer we had a sense of missing some relaxation once we arrived back in Hong Kong.  With a quick glance at our school calendar we saw that there would be a long weekend in September that just might do the trick.  The easiest place to get away for a weekend is the nearby Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Macau.

     We'd only briefly visited Macau last year when we had to leave HK and re-enter in order to activate our work visas.  At that time we literally arrived, took a bus to one of the many casinos, had lunch, then came back on a ferry.  Macau is an interesting area with three main islands: Macau, Taipa, and Coloane.  The history of the area includes heavy influence from the Portuguese so besides the large, modern casinos you also have cobblestone streets with designs, old churches, and plenty of egg tarts - all with a Chinese feel.  This time we went with the quieter area of Coloane down at the southernmost point.

Not Macau, but the reason we had a long weekend was for the Mid-Autumn Festival which takes place on a full moon. Lunar holidays make sense.

We enjoyed a sea-side walk from our hotel down to dinner. 

Lanterns are the big thing for Mid-Autumn festival and these lit the way to our dinner at Fernando's. 

We had a really nice meal at Fernando's which was the one place that everyone agreed on for a recommendation.  They have a nice sangria and I can vouch for the prawns in clam sauce and roasted chicken.

The Portuguese feel is everywhere with tons of these mosaic sidewalk designs.



Like I said, everything with a Chinese influence. 

Marisa and the incense. 

Sniffing out Lord Stow's bakery - famous for egg tarts. 

Lord Stow's workers doing their thing. 

The view from our hotel balcony.  Although I can't recommend the hotel, it had a great location.

Macau proper by night 


After an Italian dinner we walked around and were surprised to come across an international fireworks competition.  Basically two different countries face off each night - this one was from Portugal.

     Although our weekend was cut a bit short due to super typhoon Usagi that was approaching Hong Kong, I think we got what we were looking for.

--Justin
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