Hong Kong: On a clear day….

Doesn’t it always happen like this?

You visit a new place and weather conditions are such that you can’t see more than a few buildings down the road. Then, on the last day, everything is beautiful and clear.

On both my visits, I could barely see the harbor from the hotel window. Today, I could see the hills on the far side.

At least I have this great shot!

Hong Kong has been a great experience and I am grateful to the Jewish Community Center events committee for making it happen. Mira, Tara, Erica, Howard and everyone else were most gracious and very kind.

This trip afforded many opportunities to talk genealogy with so many diverse individuals and I hope that they may go on searching their own ancestry, whatever it might be.

My visit to Australia was a dream come true as well. Ziva and Sam Fain were very caring hosts and it was hard to tear myself away from them (and the two dogs); the conference was excellent and I thank everyone on the committee who made it possible.

Meeting my Melbourne cousins from Bobruisk (Alex, Jenny, Nelly, Leon, Fleur) was a wonderful experience, and my Sydney cousins Bob and Di were delightful, as usual.

Meeting up with geneablogging colleague Randy Seaver and his wife just added to the overall good memories of Sydney. That’s Randy and me on beautiful Manley Beach (right).

It was a great pleasure making in-person connections with gen colleagues Kerry Farmer and Carole Riley in Sydney, and finally meeting Linde Wolters, a member of MyHeritage.com’s farflung family.

I will always remember the great people I met on this trip, talking genealogy in two countries and with fellow passengers. I’d like to travel there again for the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival in November. We’ll see!

For now, it is back to Tel Aviv tonight, attempt to get ready for Pesach, and to catch up on a huge pile of work for upcoming conferences and other events.

Tracing the Tribe wishes a Happy Pesach to all readers who celebrate this special holiday.


Kangaroos, koalas and wombats – Oh my!

This non-genealogical morning was devoted to Australia’s unusual animals.

My first animal encounter (below) was with a joey – a baby kangaroo – named Blossom.

What did I see? Kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, echidnia (porcupine-ish), wombats, emus, many colorful birds and many koalas, of course. There was a strange white long-feathered white chicken.

Koalas were next up.

Sorry I didn’t get this one’s name (right).

There were lots of free-hopping wallabies, which are a smaller marsupial than kangaroos. Visitors can buy ice-cream cones filled with their feed.

Not sure what this bird is called.

However, he sports yellow feathers on his head which look exactly like a long blonde wig – kind of a rocker bird.

Fairy penguins – the smallest variety – were enjoying the water today – except for these two!

Melbourne: Shabbat down under

The weather report indicated possible showers today, and the heavens have really opened up, with thunder, rain and hail. Glad I’m inside today!

After nearly two weeks of travel, jet lag has finally hit.

This past week was spent kicking back, frequently napping and getting the travel fuzz out of my brain.

My hosts, Ziva and Sam Fain, couldn’t be nicer, and their two pooches are wonderful.

Last night, for Shabbat dinner, I cooked up a Persian Shabbat meal of abgusht, gonde, khoresht-e-lubia sabz, rice and golden tahdiq. None of the guests had ever eaten Persian food before and it seems this was a big hit.

For readers unfamiliar with the cuisine: abgusht is a chicken soup flavored with handfuls of mint and parsley, carrots, parsnips, onion and lots more. Gonde are meatballs of ground chicken, grated onion, roasted chickpea flour, cardamom, turmeric, pepper and salt, cooked in the soup.

Khoreshts are stews with meat and vegetables and/or herbs. Lubia sabz are green beans. This particular dish uses very lean stew meat, sauteed fresh green beans, lots of carmelized onion, crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, lime juice and cinnamon. Shirazi salad – finely diced tomato, cucumber, red onion dressed in lime juice, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil – was also on the table.

Ziva has a beautiful herb garden, and there is nothing like the taste of fresh-picked herbs (two kinds of mint, flat-leaf parsley, basil, oregano and more). It really made a difference. She also has a small vegetable garden, and a big fig tree in her front garden.

Dessert included watermelon and cantalope slices, strawberries and blueberries.

This week, we visited the new Holocaust museum that is just opening – school groups are already going through it. I met many of the volunteers, and some of the JGS people, including Lionel Sharpe, on our quick visit.

The conference starts tomorrow, so I’m trying to kick back and go over materials.

I’ve connected with my long-lost cousins from Bobruisk who have lived in Melbourne for quite some time – they are still in shock over my phone call and one of the brothers and his family live only a few blocks from my hosts! They are Katsnelson and their mother was a Talalay. We will spend one day next week together. Another day will be spent with Bene Israel friends from India, who have lived here for many years.

On Sunday, March 14, the plan is to be in a place called Kangaroo Flat for the Bendigo Family History Expo. My hosts are planning a visit down to Phillips Island to see the penguins (I love penguins). Sydney is also on the list as I will be seeing my cousins, Bob and Di Conley.

Stay tuned for the conference first day report!

Hong Kong to Melbourne

Tracing the Tribe landed in Melbourne, Australia late in the evening on Monday, March 1.

While we are down under, posting dates and times will be local for Melbourne and Sydney. Now, it is 11am on Wednesday, March 3.

After a long flight, it was great to stretch out and get a good night’s sleep at the home of Ziva and Sam Fain in Caulfield South.

It was my first flight on Cathay Pacific and very enjoyable. Although completely full, it was comfortable and the service was excellent.

The seats were the best part of this long flight. In most aircraft, the seat back reclines – generally into the face of the person sitting behind – making it very difficult for that person (the “squashee”) to get up, open the table or work on a laptop. On Cathay Pacific, the seatbacks themselves do not recline, but the cushion section itself slides forward. It was quite comfortable.

Long flights are great for catching up on movies and I managed to see such recent productions as Up in the Air, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and the new Twilight sequel.

Business and First on Cathay Pacific are wonderful – wish I had managed an upgrade! Each seat becomes a flat bed, a luxurious creature comfort on long flights.

Tuesday was spent catching up on email. This morning – Wednesday – I’m trying to get posts up on Tracing the Tribe, and will also be going over to the new Holocaust museum (more on that later).

Hong Kong: Victoria Harbour

Finally made it down to Victoria Harbour today. I had wanted to take the ferry across to Kowloon and visit the markets, but time was limited, so I settled for an hour-long cruise.

I love lake and harbor cruises. When I travel through Zurich and change planes there, I always build in a half-day so I can take the train into town, and tram or walk down to the lake and enjoy a relaxing boat trip. All the stress seems to melt away. I highly recommend it if you have a chance.

It wasn’t a bad day for the ride today. The sun kept trying to break through the cloud cover and I did get some nice shots. See below.

Star ferries leave from Central Pier:

The terminal and adjacent building offer some food outlets, like Subway, a deli, a Burger Box, and Haagen Daz, where a featured flavor is green tea (a favorite). I had green tea and Belgian Chocolate in a waffle cone.

Views of the Harbour before leaving the pier:

There were some smalll fishing boats:

Colorful waterfront:

Here comes the sun – or tries to:

All too soon we were back at Central Pier, and I returned to the hotel to get ready for the hands-on getting started in Jewish genealogy.

Hong Kong: DNA Project and blast from the past

Tonight I presented the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project at the Jewish Community Center of Hong Kong (JCC logo at left), and also experienced a blast from the past.

I reconnected with someone I haven’t seen since 2002.

Joining us (Mira, her husband, me) for the Wednesday night buffet at the JCC coffee shop was Gary Stein of Toronto. Longtime Jewish genealogists will remember Gary, particularly if they attended the IAJGS conference there in 2002, when some 1,200 people attended that week-long event. Gary has been been living in Hong Kong for a year and loves it.

The good turnout included people of many different backgrounds: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, spouses who were one or the other. They represented Israel, Australia, the UK, the US, France, North Africa, Iran and elsewhere – a great mix of people.

I’m also doing a hands-on Intro to Jewish Genealogy tomorrow night, and many people will be attending that as well.

It was great to see Gary, and we will be going to Shabbat services and dinner at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (the Liberal congregation). I’m also looking forward to their Saturday night Purim Shpiel, billed as “The Little Theater of West South Northampton presents Mordechai Python’s Flying Purim.”

Nothing really scheduled yet for tomorrow (Thursday) yet, and if it all works out, I’m hoping to take the Kowloon ferry tomorrow and visit the Jewish cemetery on Friday morning.

Hong Kong: A desire for dimsum

Dimsum have been on my mind since I arrived.

Traveling means enjoying good food with great people. Hong Kong has provided several opportunities this week to do just that. And we did it again today!

Today, vegetarian versions were on the menu at Pure Veggie House in Coda Plaza. The same building also holds other restaurants serving hotpots, regular dimsum and more.

Here’s their card:

Here’s the regular menu (the dimsum menu is a printed list, something like a sushi order sheet, where you check off the items and how many of each dish):

We arrived at around 12.30, only one other table was occupied. By 1.15pm, every table in the place was filled; 1pm is lunchtime in HK.

We sat at a large round table with a revolving glass center.

Every dish looked delicious, but this group has gone there often and knew exactly what to order.

We started off with what turned out to be fried bean curd skins. They tasted a bit like vegetarian bacon bits – chewy, crisp, interesting.

The other dishes began arriving in bamboo steamers, small platters and bowls: transparent wild mushroom dumplings with black truffle sauce, steamed vegetarian BBQ buns (these were fantastic), turnip puffs (a yellow fried shell surrounding soft melting turnip), pure veggie siu mai, noodles in soup with sesame sauce and peanuts (very delicious), and wonton in red chili soup. Of course, green tea and jasmine tea were on the table. For our group of five, we ordered two of most items and stuffed ourselves silly. The bill? About US$10 per person.

We could also have had other deep-fried pastries – such as wild fungus spring roll, vegetarian cake, pan-friend pumpkin cake or vegetable turnover – or other steamed offerings – fried rice in lotus leaf, steamed eggplant with bean paste, bamboo fungus bundle or steamed rice flour pancakes with vegetables or mushrooms, or another 15 rice or noodle dishes.

Frequent diners get a 10% off card, which one of our group had today.

I learned that there are two types of vegetarian restaurants. One serves dishes that look, smell and taste like various meat products but aren’t – such as platters of roast “pork.” The other type doesn’t try to imitate meat products, like Pure Veggie House.

How did I enjoy it? A simple one-word answer: YUM!

There were some interesting dishes on other tables and asked about them. One was a delicious looking spiced bean curd. Next time.

We didn’t have dessert, but if we had room, we could have had sesame pudding, red dates and snow lotus seeds, red date pudding, or sweet rice dumplings.

Back to the hotel to prepare for tonight’s talk. More later.