Back on the Blog!

(written by Cait)

I can’t believe how nervous I feel about writing this post. It’s been so long since the last one, and I’ve tried many times to start a new one but haven’t been able to get through it. It feels like I need to explain the long absence of posts, but if I want to get through this, I’m not going to. Not now at least.

Let’s get on with it, shall we? Continue reading

First Time Tofu: The Stinky Kind

written by Cait

February 19, 2015

“You made a scene,” Emily said frankly, as we waited in line at The Beer Bay bar near my ferry pier. We needed something cold to sooth our burnt mouths.

“I did not!”

“Yes you did! You were loud. People were looking at you,” she insisted whilst laughing.

“I was not that loud…really, people were looking?” I was having a hard time believing that I would make a scene, AND being told I was loud says a lot coming from Emily. She is one of the loudest people I know. Then we got to the front of the line. “Two 1664 Blancs, please.” Emily bought me a beer a (sympathy?) beer and we sat on a bench on the waterfront and waited for my ferry.

Flashback to 30 minutes previously to the largest Chinese New Year Market in Causeway Bay…

“Want to get a snack?” Emily asked me as we approached two large stands, selling various snacks. We were happy with our plant purchases (plants and flowers are a common gift/decoration for New Years), and not looking to do any other shopping. I hadn’t eaten since lunch and my stomach was growling. Crowds of afterwork people were eyeing up the choices with us, when suddenly I am overpowered by this indescribable (but I’ll try later) smell that damn near knocks me off my feet. It was so strong it consumed all of my other senses: I closed my eyes, my hearing cut off, and I lost all sense of my surroundings.

Apparently (claims Emily, which I’m still skeptical), I also lost control over the volume of my voice and concept of appropriate social behavior…

“WHAT IS THAT!?” I think she might have answered me, but again, I was in my own stink-filled world. “Oh. My. God. What is that? That is so awful!” I really thought we were approaching the one and only location of garbage bins. Or there had been some kind of sewage catastrophe.

“Cait,” Emily laughed, bringing me back to reality, “it’s stinky tofu.”

Definition of Stinky Tofu: fermented tofu, made with a brine from various ingredients including milk, meat, and vegetables: and possible dried shrimp, herbs, bamboo shoots

 

sitnky tofu, eaten the traditional way, on a stick

sitnky tofu, eaten the traditional way, on a stick

What? Really? So that’s what stinky tofu smells like. I have been curious about it for a few years now, after watching in on several travel shows. I haven’t searched it out since being in China/Hong Kong, and just assumed I’d come across it at some point. Well, three years later, here I am…or it is. Maybe I have gotten whiffs of it before, and just mistook it for sewage/garbage/rotten food.

“Want to try some?” she asked.

“Yeah!”

“Really? Okay!”

I realize how, uh, ass backwards this might seem…I just admitted how terrible the smell is, and yet I’m excited to eat it. I think it was just the thrill of the unknown, or trying something with a terrible reputation. At least I could say, “I tried it.”

We followed our nose in search of the stinky tofu…and went to the wrong counter. But they directed us to the right place. We got one to share. Emily doctored up the cube of deep fried tofu with a couple sauces; a BBQ-like one, and I don’t remember the other one…something a little sour and had a zip to it.

condiments are necessary

condiments are necessary

excited for stinky tofu

excited for stinky tofu

“Let’s move over here, away from everybody,” she suggested. I’m starting to think she was preparing for another potential scene from me.

She offered me the first bite. And let me tell you! It was pretty bland. A little chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, and very hot! I’m sure I looked ever so graceful doing the open-mouth-chewing-to let the steaming air out (come on, you’ve done it too, and probably saying “hot! hot!” at the same time). But where was the smell? It had been so powerful just  moments before…hmm.

“What do you think?” Emily said, accepting the tofu from me and taking a bite herself. I explained my, well disappointment, I guess.

contemplating the second bite

contemplating the second bite

“Let me have another bite,” I said, thinking of Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods and his eating ideology about taking two bites, even if it’s terrible the first time.

WHOA! THERE IT IS! The stank had arrived. I laughed in the only way you can when there are too many thoughts going through your mind (but some were shock and disgust). There was more, “Oh my god!” “That’s so bad!” and maybe an f-bomb in there too from me, as I demanded she take it back.

Maybe since Emily grew up in Hong Kong, and therefore has been around stinky tofu for years, she’s gotten used to the smell because she foolishly asked:

“What’s it smell like to you?” And took another bite.

going in for a second bite

going in for a second bite

“All the farm manure you could think of…no wait, this is way worse than farm manure-that I can handle. This is like dog shit…and human shit..then sweaty crotch all-”

“STOP! Stop! Okay! I get it, but stop!” She said laughing through bites. Emily does laugh a lot, much of it’s at me. Not because she’s being mean, she’s just a happy person.

“Oh, sorry, but you asked.”

In conclusion, stinky tofu does not taste bad. But it doesn’t taste especially tasty either (kind of like all tofu in my opinion). It’s the smell that ruins the experience, or maybe the smell makes the experience. Depends on how you look at it.

I don’t plan on eating it again, but I can now proudly cross it off my list (along with durian, which I like-it doesn’t smell bad to me at all, but I’ll make that another post).

I do know one thing for certain. That is the most horrendous smell I have ever come across. And I have to agree with my friend Steve who wisely said, “if it smells that bad, I think it’s your body’s way of telling you not to eat it.”

Lamma Sunday Funday

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sundays are the best, minus the dark cloud of Monday that starts looming later in the day, but we Tupas, and especially here on Lamma, ignore that cloud for as long as possible. Sundays have taken on a new importance since I started my job last year, where my days off are Thursday and Sunday, leaving Sunday the only day off for Brad and I together.

You’d have to drag us off this island if you wanted us to leave Lamma on a Sunday. Before we moved to Lamma and lived in the very busy, noisy neighborhood of Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island, we’d come to Lamma every weekend to relax. People come here for vacation and to get away. Now, simply stating: we love staying home!

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the view from our balcony, facing the Yung Shue Wan harbor

 

It’s easy to slip into a routine on Sundays, but it does vary a little bit between summer and winter (or I should say hot weather and not hot weather).

Hot weather = beach

Not hot weather = hiking, lounging outside on the balcony, or on the couch with all the windows open, naps are lovingly embraced, and the beach can be good too, but no swimming

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summer swimming at Hung Sing Ye beach (during busy weekends-a 20 min walk from our apt)

 

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under the shade on Lo Sing Shing beach, on the south east side of Lamma-not as convenient to get to, so much less crowded

 

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The beach is nice during winter too. A friendly boy came over and with encouragement from our Chinese friend, Emily, he happily buried Brad’s feet in the sand

 

 

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friendliness reigns on the beach

 

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Why wouldn’t you bring your pet bird to the beach? If nothing else, the beach is a fantastic place to people watch.

 

No matter the weather, I’ll make a big brunch which kicks off the consumption of adult beverages (I mean really, what kind of Sunday brunch would it be without champagne with your eggs or a bloody beer?). Music is usually involved, and then with more beverages comes the singing. One Sunday evening this past fall, Brad and I were inside (with windows open) and he was singing along with Christmas song, O Holy Night by Josh Groban I believe. When he finished, suddenly we heard clapping outside! Unbeknownst to us, our neighbors were listening and were enjoying Brad’s “lovely singing voice”.

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herb baked eggs (a la Barefoot Contessa cookbook I borrowed from the library)

 

Lamma also loves Sundays. People come out of the woodworks to go to the beach, walk dogs, hike, or socialize in town. There are lots of house parties and barbecues. It’s a good time to get to know your neighbors. One does have to check oneself though. It’s easy to have too much fun on a Sunday and everyone has paid for it at least once come Monday morning. I know this from experience, but I can also see it on people’s faces on the Monday morning ferry. Yet, we all do it over again the next Sunday with no regrets.

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on a back trail where many owners let their dogs off-leash

 

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drinking fresh coconut on the way to the beach

It’s taken me all morning to get this post together, in between cooking brunch, eating it on the balcony, and hanging laundry on the line outside to dry in the sun. Now we’re headed to meet some friends at the beach. It’s 20 degrees Celsius, which is what we use here, so I have to look up what that is in Fahrenheit…got it, 68. And sunny!

So, cheers to Lamma Sunday Funday!

And We’re Back…For Now

Sunday morning, January 25, 2015

I’m shocked to see that it’s been three weeks since we have returned to Hong Kong! I know it’s been a VERY long time since my last post, but:

1. I didn’t think anyone was reading it anymore, which I’ve been told otherwise and

2. I’m frustrated with the blog itself, not looking the way I want it to

However, I have motivation to work these things out, so bear with me while I get things the way I like it.

UPDATE: Sunday, February 8, 2015

I didn’t finish that post because the internet on Lamma is so slow that the pictures hadn’t uploaded by the time Brad wanted to watch some UFC fights online, so I gave it up. Then I got the flu and that knocked me on my ass for a little bit, so now I’m trying again! So far, these are all the pictures I can upload, so more to come.

Back ‘Home’

I could kick myself (and Brad too) for not taking more pictures while we were back! I

Here are just a few of the people we got to spend time with. I can email any pictures, just let us know at bctupa@gmail.com. If you have any pictures, we’d love to see them as well!

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long time friends of Brad’s (and now mine too) left to right: Ben Bonde, Justin Burford, Jodi Murphy (Corey’s and Dylan’s Mom), Brad, me, Corey Murphy, Dylan Murphy, Tim Stowe, Justin Hagen

 

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Brad’s old work buddies, left to right: Kip Wiedl, Brad, Waylon Shugg, and John Benedict

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My (Cait’s) side of the family on Christmas Eve, trying out a new gift giving game

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My Mom and Uncle Brian, I don’t remember what’s going on but it’s some kind of shenanigans

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Jenny Bunday, my childhood friend, and her boyfriend Otha Burk, at their house in South Mpls

 

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Brad and Addi Hiipakka, our college friends Molly and Nick’s daughter at their house

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another new baby we met while back, this little stud is Weston, son of our friends Reed and Becca Sponsler

 

Niki Brustad, Cait's long-ago college roommate and great friend, out at Chino Latino's in Uptown, a place we often went before moving to Asia

Niki Brustad, Cait’s long-ago college roommate and great friend, out at Chino Latino’s in Uptown, a place we often went before moving to Asia

 

Morning Tourist

(written by Cait)

As much as I complain and hate working on Saturdays when it seems like the rest of HK is having fun, it is nice to have a day off during the week.  I have Thursdays (and Sundays) off, and it’s a great time to be a tourist!  So, last Thursday morning I slung my DSLR across my chest and headed out.  Most of the pictures are based around the water and boats, which has become a part of our daily life since moving to Lamma Island.

Overdue Update

(written by Cait)

Life has been so busy and this blog has clearly taken a backseat.  All is well here in Hong Kong for us; work is going well and summer is in full swing.  We try to get to the beach once a week, which is pretty easy since it’s just a 20 minute walk away.  The weather is the only thing that will get in our way, because it is still the rainy season.

Work is good-Brad is busy slinging art and I continue to enlighten the minds of children. I’ve been working on a new blog, featuring just my photography and I hope to have that up and running soon.  It’s been rough for me to get a grasp on this blogging business (as I’m sure you tell by this blog!), but I’m determined to make it good. We shall see!

In the mean time, here are some random pictures of what we’ve been up to.

 

 

Sunset Peak

(written by Cait)

I’m writing this about three months after the fact. I thought I had already wrote something about it, but I can’t find it.  Anyway, so this entry is about Sunset Peak on Lantau Island. It will cover the two times we went up there.  I’m anxious to get this posted so I won’t go into a lot of the details in this post. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking for now.

Looking at Sunset Peak from Yung Shue Wan village in northern Lamma Island. We see this view everyday we go to work.  The view is not always this great, it depends on the weather.

Looking at Sunset Peak from Yung Shue Wan village in northern Lamma Island. We see this view everyday we go to work. The view is not always this great, it depends on the weather.

 

Getting There

Carrying down empty buckets of sealant (for the roof of the cabin).

Sunset Peak is the second tallest mountain on Lantau Island at 869 m (2,851 ft). There are a few trails to get there, but hiking is the only option. No roads for cars (for emergency vehicles, which I thought about several times, especially when I saw Brad tumble on the trail and didn’t know if he could walk the rest of the way down-he twisted his ankle but we were both pretty scared for it bit that it might be worse).  These trails are no Sunday stroll in the park.  They are intense. Uneven, jagged stones put in place to create steps. Who made these steps? They should be fired because they are terrible! Since we were staying at a cabin for a few days, with no plans to return to town for supplies, we carried everything we needed with us…on our backs.

Both times we took a different trail. Both challenging but both beautiful. The second time we went up, we bumped into a group of friendly Korean men hiking, and one guy offered to carry my backpack!  What a gentleman! I was really tempted to let him, but in the end I graciously declined. We stopped a couple times to rest and drink water. It was amazing how light we felt without our packs on.

Cait Hiking Sunset PeakBrad Hiking Up Sunset

 

The Cabin

About a dozen cabins sit atop Sunset Peak, built many years ago by various religious groups. Monks, nuns, and missionaries would stay during the summer to escape the heat and humidity.  These days, they are privately owned and some are rented out.  Two of our friends, Ryan and Jake (who you’ll see in many of the pictures), are friends with the owner of the cabin we stayed in.  Actually, she’s not the real owner, but she’s been renting it and taking care of it for years.  Ryan and Jake have been a part of taking care of it, and in return they can stay and bring some friends for free.  Last time they resealed the roof and brought up propane gas.  Fortunately for us, she has almost everything  you need up there: sleeping bags, dishes, a water filter system, chairs, etc.  All we need to bring up is food.

Brad and Cait at the Cabin

Sunrise on Sunset Peak. Formally used by missionaries and religious groups, these cabins are now privately owned.

Brad, Ryan, and Jake outside the cabin.

Brad, Ryan, and Jake outside the cabin.

Clothes drying on the line outside the cabin.

Clothes drying on the line outside the cabin.

Inside the cabin the first time we went up there in January. It was a bit chilly inside, so hats were needed.  Ryan, Al, and Gabby.

Inside the cabin the first time we went up there in January. It was a bit chilly inside, so hats were needed. Ryan, Al, and Gabby.

 

So, We’re Here…

What is there to do on top of Sunset Peak? Rest is usually the first thing we do.  There’s several trails that lead to several other peaks and a reservoir to check out.  The cabin has a few kites to we tried (unsuccessfully at times) to fly that. We sat around a lot and chatted and relaxed.  At times we were happy enough just to enjoy the view.

I'm trying to find a good spot for flying the kite. It didn't work out that well.

I’m trying to find a good spot for flying the kite. It didn’t work out that well.

Brad, Ryan, and me

Brad, Ryan, and me

 

Brad took this picture of a hiker, who looks to be local from the style of hat.

I took this picture just after sunrise. The grass reminded us so much of Minnesota that it brought on unexpected warm feelings (it's hard to describe the feeling). At one point, I laid in the grass, in the sun, and just relaxed. That is until another hiker came up behind me. I don't know which one of us was more startled.

I took this picture just after sunrise. The grass reminded us so much of Minnesota that it brought on unexpected homesick feelings. At one point, I laid in the grass, basking in the sun, and just relaxed. That is until another hiker came up behind me to take pictures of the view. I don’t know which one of us was more startled.

Speaking of the view, with a name like Sunset Peak you would think it would have something to do with watching the sunsets. Well…I’m guessing you could see the sunset from the actual top of the peak, but since the cabins are built just below the peak we couldn’t see it.  The peak blocks almost all of the sunset if we are at the cabin. By the time we got up to the cabin, the thought of hiking even more forced me to plop down in a chair with a glass of wine.

This is the most of the sunset we could see from the cabin. It was pretty cool to sit above the helicopters (seen in the bottom right-hand corner).

This is the most of the sunset we could see from the cabin. It was pretty cool to sit above the helicopters (seen in the bottom right-hand corner).

Sunrise on Sunset Peak

One morning we got up for the sunrise.  None of us were quite sure what time the sun came up, so we ended up getting up earlier than needed but I’m glad we didn’t miss it. We got up on the roof and waited with coffee.  Other hikers/photographers were also there, which at times made it a little annoying with their talking.  I’m trying enjoy a potentially once in a lifetime experience here, could you quiet down!

The other mornings at sunrise the cabin and peak were engulfed in clouds, so it seemed lucky we got one good sunrise.

Ryan taking photos on the roof.

Ryan taking photos on the roof.

The sun coming up over Lamma Island, taken from the cabin rooftop.

The sun coming up over Lamma Island, taken from the cabin rooftop.

Sunrise on the roof of the cabin.

Sunrise on the roof of the cabin.

Pretty nice spot to watch the sun rise.

Pretty nice spot to watch the sun rise.

The reservoir, about a 15 minute hike down from the cabin, is pretty small and the water was low. Brad, Ryan, and Jake went down to wash off and I went down out of curiosity. I was not interested in getting the water (ew!). So I took pictures.

Walking down to the reservoir.

Walking down to the reservoir.

Cleaning up at the reservoir.

Cleaning up at the reservoir. That’s the cabin we stayed in, top left corner of photo.

The reservoir and Sunset Peak in the background.

The reservoir and Sunset Peak in the background.

Ryan trying to catch (and he did!) a salamander.

Ryan trying to catch (and he did!) a salamander.

We don’t know if we’ll get back to the cabin again, and I’m not sure if I want to this summer. The summer’s heat and humidity in Hong Kong make it uncomfortable border line miserable just to walk around, and hiking is even worse.  I might wait until cooler temperatures.  We really did enjoy it up there!

 

Year of the Horse

(written by Cait)

Gong Hei Fat Choi!

That’s Cantonese for Happy Chinese New Year!

So the Year of the Snake is in the past and 2014 is the Year of the Horse, based on the Chinese lunar calendar.  The Year of the Snake contained a lot of changes for the Tupas: new jobs, new city, and new friends.  In upcoming posts, I’ll write more about these things.  So far, the Year of the Horse is looking to be a good one!

Year of the Horse

Narnia: Hong Kong Style

(written by Cait)

“What are you doing?”

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

“I’m trying to arrange my purse so they can’t see the bottles.”  I had three airplane size bottles of red wine in my purse preparing to sneak into the play.  We were about to walk into The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, put on by the Hong Kong Performing Arts Academy.  As kids, Brad and I both loved the BBC TV movie version as well as the book.  I’ve reread all of the Narnia books within the past few years and still enjoy them.  We decided to see this play as our Christmas-y thing to do this season.

We walked into the theater and were pleasantly surprised at how small and intimate it was.  Stadium seating took up the main area with a small row of seats on the side/balcony area.  Our seats were top and center.  We sat down and looked around, happy with our seats and excited for the play to start.

Brad flipped through the program and asked me, “Is this an all children’s play?”

I was the one who found the play and booked the tickets, so I replied, “hmm…possibly.”  Then I looked through the program, “Yep.  I knew there were kids involved and thought that this ‘academy’ put it on or provided the actors for the kids’ parts, but didn’t realize it was ALL kids.”  We took another scan around the theater and both quickly realized the same thing.  “I think we’re the only people here without kids,” I whispered to Brad.  “No…” he said, unconvincingly.  We definitely were-and laughed about it. “If anyone asks, we know some kids in the play,” I suggested.  Soon, the lights dimmed and the play began.

I handed Brad a bottle of wine and took one out for myself.  We cracked them open under disguise of the loud music.  I looked to the usher on my left, then to the usher at my right-the coast was clear!  I took a sip of wine.  Stage lights flashed on and I put my mini bottle down.  If I took a drink now, anyone would be able to see me (food and drinks were not allowed in the theater-clearly posted everywhere).  Brad wasn’t trying to be as incognito as I was about drinking the wine and I whispered to him, “It looks like we’re drinking out of a flask or something!  How are you going to feel when we get kicked out of an all children’s play for drinking wine?”  The thought was hilarious and we couldn’t help but laugh (quietly of course, we’re not rude!).

While surprised at the fact that the cast was all children (and teens), the play did not disappoint.  In fact, we were very impressed with the production.  The props, costumes, special effects and the acting were creative and of high quality.  The interpretation of the story was very clever and imaginative: actors used the audience seating as part of the set and ran through the rows, actors dressed as evil/good changed props in front of the curtain, and the best costume was Aslan.

Aslan was played by two actors; a teenage boy held a large mask of a lion head in front of him hiding his own face, while a teenage girl stood visibly behind him.  Their walking was coordinated and when he talked (with a microphone) she made the facial expressions, while holding her hands out in front of her to look like the lion’s back.  They wore matching costumes of gold and she looked like a lion with bronze colored skin and brown hair like a lion’s mane.

Intermission was very short and most of it was spent in line for the concession stand.  Looking around at all the kids we kept saying (Brad, more than me), “Oh, he’s so cute!  Oh they’re so cute!”  An adorable toddler waved at us, prompting more

“I’m around this every day at work,” I said, so I’m used to a lot of cuteness.  Brad however, isn’t, and we haven’t been around kids much since leaving MN.  Did we feel our internal clocks ticking?  Maybe, a bit.

Just as we bought our wine (the other stash gone and evidence thrown away in the bathroom), an announcement was made that it was time to return to our seats.  An usher approached Brad and I at the little table and reminded us to take our seats.  I must have made a face of surprise and disappointment (I just got this glass!), but before I could respond, she looked at our full glasses of wine and gave a sympathy smile.  We waited as long as possible to go back in but still had a lot of wine left.  There’s nothing I love more than slamming wine (uck!).

The second half of the play was even better than the first, with an impressive battle scene between the White Witch and those on Aslan’s side.  The fighting was well coordinated and more aggressive that I would have thought for a children’s production.  When it came to the curtain call, we clapped enthusiastically along with the rest of the crowd.

Shortly before getting on the Lamma ferry, we stopped in a convenient store nearby to get a drink for the commute home.  Lo and behold, Mr. Beaver from the play was there buying a drink, still in full makeup (how else would we recognize him)!  We had previously commented during the play how well we thought Mr. Beaver acted.  “It’s Mr. Beaver!” Brad shouts from the other side of the store.  I look up from a magazine I was browsing, and we both say, “great job tonight!”  Mr. Beaver casually says, “thanks,” then doesn’t take a second glance at us.  What?  That’s it?  Aren’t you surprised to have fans complement you in public, somewhere not even close to the play?  He must be jaded from all of his fame already.

That theater hosts a variety of plays and we hope to get back there soon for another performance.

Lucky Shots on Lamma

(written by Cait)

My intention was on this particular hike was to go to the windmill on Lamma, more commonly referred to as Lamma Winds.  On the way, I stopped by this little pond that  someone made and decorated/planted flowers around but now seems abandoned.  I think this area is so cute and my first lucky shot of the day was of a couple butterflies.  I’ve tried to get photos of butterflies before, but they’re always too flighty…AND I really like these in particular because they remind me of the monarchs at home.

Dining Butterfly

 

Two Butterflies

 

It's a party at the flowers

When I was 10 minutes to the top, a distant sound stopped me in my tracks (because I instinctively thought I could hear better if I was standing still).  What I originally thought was construction noise and tried to drown out, I realized it was music!  Fantastic fast, upbeat drumming!  I threw my windmill plan to the wind and followed the noise.  It took 20 minutes to get down to the beach where I found a group of men sitting in a circle playing on bongos.  They were practicing for an upcoming performance but provided fun music for beach goers and hikers, like myself.

Drum Band

 

Drum Band Practice

 

Band Practice

After listening for a while, I went to Lamma Winds and while the photos turned out fine, I don’t really consider them part of my “lucky” shots of the day.  So, I’ll end this post with what I consider Lamma’s version of the 4-leaf clover:

Lucky Clovers