Sunday, January 13, 2019

Weddings in Hong Kong - part 2

Today there were two weddings outside my window, the first I missed most of because of housekeeping.  By the time I got back, the wedding party were still taking photos and I thought to myself, perhaps they paid more because they were there for several hours and during the photo session, the hotel staff was not in a hurry to dismantle everything.  After the photos ended, the hotel staff removed the gold covers off the chairs, leaving silver covers.  This means there would be a 2nd wedding later in the day!  They had covered the chairs twice in the morning so as to not have to set up again for the 2nd wedding.  I love it!

Here is the precise detail of today's 2nd wedding:

5:00pm - groomsman spread flower petals for bride to walk on
5:10pm - wedding procession song (the only song of the entire ceremony)
best man and maid-of-honor give speech, all other bride maids and groomsmen stand behind the audience
5:14pm - vows and rings exchanged, kiss
5:18pm - sit and sign document, kiss again
5:24pm - champagne toast
5:27pm - wedding ceremony is over, guests standing to enter reception
5:33pm - photos continue while hotel staff remove silver chair covers and stack chairs
5:39pm - it's getting dark, entire wedding party appears to have moved indoors

My thoughts are, you really don't want to be late to a wedding in Hong Kong! 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Weddings in Hong Kong

I occasionally amuse myself by watching weddings from my hotel window in Hong Kong and they confound me every single time.  This is my 2nd wedding witnessed from this corner which looks down on an outdoor reception area and I really need someone to explain it to me because I'm really quite confused.

1.  almost no music, not even procession music, just one burst of sound to announce the start of the wedding and that's it
2.  there is almost no ceremony that I can see, unless you count the one minute speech given by one person as the bride and groom stand in front of a table and then they say their vows
3.  the bridesmaids stand at the back of the audience, with cell photos, taking photos, I guess with no ceremony there is nothing for them to do except wear a pretty dress and wait for their turn in the photo procession
4.  after the one minute speech, and the vows, the rest of the hour is spent with the entire audience lining up to take photos in various combinations.

From what I can tell, it's all about the photos.  And then, before the hour is even up, the hotel staff is busy stacking chairs while the photos are finishing up.

At the very end, everyone in the photo line up is making a claw with their hands and there are two people behind the wedding party in black workout clothing, jumping around and making claw hands.  They also appear to be supporting the photographer by posing everyone and occasionally stopping to drink a Starbucks that was left in what might presumably be the staging area.  I'm having a hard time connecting the jumpers as part of the wedding party as they are not interacting with the guests so I guess I'm confused as to why they were in the claw photo.

Before the wedding started there was a cake set out and a drink cart, then somewhere in the middle of everything, the cake and drink cart went back inside.  Were they only brought out for photos?  As props?

At the end of the hour the entire flower trellis is packed up and wheeled away, while photos are continuing, so there is almost no evidence of a wedding even left at this point.

I'm guessing the food is served inside and hopefully there are more decorations.

At some point the groom gets bored and wanders inside, leaving his beloved to take a few more photos with the bridesmaids, which completely confounds me because they are supposed to enter the reception area together and be introduced.  After a few minutes she wanders in with a hotel staff and her bridesmaids are left outside to continue taking photos and wasting the photographers time.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Back to Hong Kong ~ Jan 2019

Every January, the toy industry heads to Hong Kong where there is an international toy fair, but I'm not sure everyone even goes for that anymore, it's more a time to meet others in the industry and show product.  It's the first of 3 major fairs, next in Nuremberg in late January followed by the biggest one of the year in New York mid-February.  Thankfully I'm not in sales so I only have to do the Hong Kong trip and even more thankfully, this year our main client pushed the meeting to mid-January so I didn't have to leave the day after New Years!  Which, considering our recent health insurance debacle, I was glad to be stateside to resolve it.  Can you imagine getting a call while in Asia that health care has been canceled?  I go straight into China and work so my access to the world is extremely limited, no Google, Facebook, Twitter, I can't even schedule a Southwest flight! 

Preparation for these trips is two fold:
1.  Prepare family for my two week trip
2.  Pack for trip

Part 1 involves meal planning for the entire time I'm gone, along with a starter grocery list, doing all laundry, putting it away and all the cleaning I can possibly squeeze in.  This because I know, despite best efforts, keeping 4 kids happy and not killing each other requires the other parents full attention.

Part 2 is pretty routine, I have a travel wardrobe that is black, gray, pink and yellow, it all matches and I pack exactly one week of clothes where everything can mix and match.  It's taken years to compile and it can't have any holes or missing buttons or housekeeping will return with a note confirming I know it's there and won't clean it until I sign off on the item, that can be a hassle so this prep week involved sewing on several buttons at a furious pace while kids clamored for me to help them sew too!

I almost always do one carry on and one giant purse bag that sits on top of the carry on.  In winter this involves the dilemma of what to do with a coat.  I'm going through Chicago, what if I get stranded there, it has happened before, at least twice.  To get from international terminal to domestic one has to take a bus, so I elected to keep the coat and packed a flat tote that can easily hold the coat once I get off the flight.

This trip is only 12 days so hopefully it will go fast!  I believe this is my 24th trip in 18 years so it's all become rather routine at this point. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

My Black Boot Obsession

This year I was determined to go to Hong Kong with a nice pair of black boots.  Our HK GM has a pair that she wears every January and she always looks so stylish, warm, and cozy.  The Asian girls know how to rock black stockings with a skirt and boots and I've been eyeing their style for years now.  All I needed was the perfect pair to transform my style into posh urban traveler. 

I started with Zappos.com and ordered a pair that was under $100, they have free returns, although I'm sure shipping is wrapped in there somehow.  They didn't fit so I returned them.

Next I spent over an hour at HSM trying on every black boot in my size, that's a very long time for a non-shopper.  I didn't find one pair and quite nearly ran us late for church as I wasn't watching the time, nor was I enjoying myself.  I thought perhaps it was the skirt I had on and that I just needed to wear one I'd be wearing in Hong Kong.

Or maybe I needed to spend more money on boots!  I'll wear them for 10+ years, every winter, every day, maybe I just need to spend more to get a nice fitting pair.  As a side note, I prefer Reebok shoes so my idea of comfort is a running shoe.  So I spent $300 on a Munro pair, I've worn this brand before and I can confirm they build a comfortable dress shoe, although my pairs were more around $100 range but with free returns why not try them.  They came a day later and did not fit, no zipper so I could barely get them on.  I'm not sure the hassle of running to the UPS store twice in one week is worth it.

Back to HSM with newly minted four year old in tow.  We spent the next hour on different aisles yelling "moma"?  "Evie?" to each other while I meticulously tried on more boots and she ran my phone data into the ground.

I finally found one that promised cloud soles.  Never mind the narrow toe area, I sized up 1/2" so it should all be good.  I got them home and tried them on with my entire Hong Kong wardrobe and they really do look magnificent, never mind the 1-2 miles I'll be walking in the airport, they have cloud soles!

Today, after .6 miles, accordingly to my phone app, I had to pack them into my carry on and switch to my Reeboks.  I hope I can still wear them for days when I don't have much walking, otherwise they've just made my bag much harder to close for nothing. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

We lost MCHP for the kids

This morning went off the rails right at 7am with a call from the doctor saying we were showing no coverage as of Jan. 1st, 2019 and how did we want to pay for today's visit for the four year old!

After a lengthy call with Maryland Health Connection I'm told we no longer qualify for MCHP.  There's no way to appeal even though research online shows we are well below the max income requirement for a 6 person household and the person I spoke to can only repeat like a robot "but the computer says you no longer qualify".

In November, I had to go in and make an address change from our recent move, and I updated our income slightly but not enough to go beyond the stated max for a family of 6, but we think that because we've separated ourselves as parents to go through a non-insurance route, and only had 4 kids in the program, maybe they couldn't count us as a family of six. 

We are still within a 90 day window to apply for a QHP (qualified health plan) so I made a chart to compare their lowest plan VS putting all the kids on Samaritan Ministries.

It breaks down like this:


I'll miss that $68 MCHP plan that covered everything and it sure was a blessing to have it for four years, but we'll also be fine with Samaritan Ministries.  It's amazing how this blow waited to happen until right after we had paid off ALL debt (except our mortgage).  One year ago it would have been more devastating.  Our montly impact is approximately $250 per month which was a car payment last year.

It forced me to dig deep and make sure Samaritan Ministries is really the right plan for our entire family, I called the kids doctor/dentist/vision offices to get a better understanding of cash payment prices and I even called Samaritan to better understand sharable bills.  It turns out that anything dealing with a sickness over $300 is generally sharable.  This helped me to budget $200 per child as they seem to each get sick enough once per year to visit the doctor.  I haven't included prescriptions yet as I'd need to update those on a case by case basis but they are generally paid out of pocket.

I called the ortho pediatric office and they said no insurance will even cover the kids for braces until they have all baby teeth gone, so for this reason I decided to not put the kids on a dental plan for the next 2 years.

Samaritan Ministries covers broken teeth from accidents (not from eating), and any bone surgeries but they consider most dental care outside their list of covered issues.

It's unexpected, but we'll be fine.