Wednesday, December 26, 2007

So This is Christmas

Because I'm removed from everyone I know and love, Christmas wasn't a big deal. Which is fine. I was exempt from purchasing presents for the most part. Definitely good on the wallet. And since I only had one day off from work, I just really wanted to sleep.

I worked a full day Christmas eve, and booked it go get home and get ready for a party. I was so so tired that day I was pretty much useless. The late nights are catching up on me. I'm trying my best to get to bed at a decent hour but it never works.

Did my best to refresh myself before the party, and then took a cab up and around to Pok Fu Lam. My new Aussie friend Natalie just moved in there with her sister, brother-in-law, their 3 children ages 4 and under, and the two helpers. Their building was a little bit removed from the action, but a nice place to be if you have a family. I think the building is full of families, and this one lives on the 22nd floor. The cozy gathering of people consisted of all couples, and I think they all that live in the building. Nat and I munched on canapes and drank wine and gabbed about the latest.

Slept a good 8 hours and then went to Church. I didn't go to the one that is closest to me because the mass was too early, so I ended up at this other church, very confused.


There's a service going on in the parking lot and kinda under the building. I was so confused. People were walking around and talking and sitting on plastic chairs.

It was a sea of Filipinas.

Eventually I figured out that the service I planned on going to was actually inside and upstairs. It was crowded and it made me feel very uneasy as I stood in the sea of people, but I didn't get woozy as I am known to do. The priest was from Brooklyn and he told lots of stories of paper airplanes and toy cameras. He also said "pooping" during his homily, which made me very happy.

It was a mess of people exiting and entering, and it felt like it took forever just to walk a couple of blocks. I made my way to a mall in Kowloon to meet a new friend for lunch and a movie. I didn't know what to expect because it was a holiday, but the mall was jam packed full of people, and as far as I noticed nothing in town was closed.


Amy is my new movie buddy and we'd never met before yesterday. She's Chinese and a translator in the media industry. She's pretty international for a Chinese gal, and I say that because the locals I have met tend to be pretty traditional, old school, conservative, and no fun. We had lunch at Spaghetti House and we really got along. I couldn't bring myself to telling her I didn't want to see National Treasure. I didn't see the first one and I'm not sure how they got away with the second. Well, it wasn't too bad for what it was and the bottom line is I didn't want to kill myself while watching it. But Amy's pretty well rounded when it comes to movies so I think we're going to see something more artsy on Sunday.

I stopped at home for a quick minute, and ran to the escalator to meet another new friend. Sebastien is kind of from all over the US and was born in Paris. We ate Mexican food and gabbed over beer and sangria. We talked about bad movies and good tv, and we have similar taste in music. He was very impressed that I am good friends with the beautiful bassist of Film School, and now we are scheming to get them out here. We both crave falafal, so that will be the next plan of attack.

I was pretty skeptical about how my Christmas would turn out, but I was just happy to have the day off. I was so thrilled though to meet two people that were not creepy and are actually pretty cool.

Last year I spent the holidays alone with Pepper in KS, and it was magic. This one was just as memorable.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas without Cougar

Cougar was supposed to be on her way to Hong Kong right now, but because of a few complications, the vet cannot release Cougar until she's been in California for 6 months.

She is now spending the holidays with Brian's family. I miss her so much.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not-so-Poor Man's Netflix


Netflix is the best. It saved my life. That's how you get by living alone. That's how you stay on top of good movies and bad movies and obscure movies and the TV you missed because you can't afford cable or tivo. Or the TV you missed because your parents didn't let you watch 90210. Or the TV you missed because you worked on Clever. Lorelei got me hooked on it and since then everyone else I know lives off of it too.

It took me a while to find an internet DVD rental in HK. Renting, especially internet renting is not so much a thing when you can buy pirated dvds off the street for pennies. I doubt anyone would bother pirating something I would watch.

For roughly the same price as Netflix 3 DVDs at a time, I get two in beautiful blue cardboard packaging, with the sent envelope and return envelope stamped with actual postage. The selection is pretty limited but it'll take me a while to get through it anyway, since it appears my DVD player is broked.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pray. Play. Pay.

Millenium Plaza

My Chinese associate informs me that she cannot differentiate the pronunciation of PRAY, PLAY, AND PAY. All very important things.

Last weekend when I purchased my hair dryer, the cashier wished me a Merry Christmas. It stopped me in my tracks because I don't remember the last time a stranger said that to me. No sign of Kwanzaa here, and I only spotted a menorah in Ikea.

The picture is from Millenium Plaza, near where I live. Good luck with the last minute Christmas shopping. Pray, play, and pay.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Today's Lesson on Hong Kong

I didn't know anything about Hong Kong, except from what Marie's postcard from high school told me, until I agreed to move here.

Hong Kong was a crown colony of the UK from 1842 until 10 years ago. It now operates as a Special Administrative Region of China, so in ways it is and is not China. HK has it's own government and currency, the HK Dollar, and separate immigration policy.

The temperature is pretty mild but I could stand for it to be colder, since I am walking around everywhere and show up soaked in sweat. Right now it's been in the 70s and will get a little cooler and during the summer top out in the upper 80s. Even though that sounds lovely I anticiate myself being a hot and humid mess.

It's very very very safe here. Even for women, even on the subway, even late at night. But one can't be stupid either.

The big island near the bottom right is HK Island where I now live. The action is in the north part of the island facing Kowloon. There is actually space and beaches and such on the rest of the island. Across the waterway to the Kowloon peninsula is where I work. That means I can take the subway, taxi or ferry to work. I have yet to try the ferry but will do so on a morning when I am not rushed.

HK Island.

Due to the lack of available space, few historical buildings remain in Hong Kong. Instead the city has become a center for modern architecture, especially in and around Central. Dense commercial skyscrapers between Central and Causeway Bay lining the coast of Victoria Harbour is one of Hong Kong's most famous tourist attractions and ranked the best skyline in the world. Four of the top 15 tallest skyscrapers in the world are in Hong Kong

Over 90% of daily travels are on public transport, making it the highest percentage in the world. And there are more restaurants per capita here than any other place in the world, which is why kitchens in little apartments are not a priority. Hong Kong is also famous for having the most Rolls-Royce cars per capita in the world. Was that a lot of "worlds"?

While the traffic in mainland China drives on the right, Hong Kong still maintains its own road rules, with traffic continuing to drive on the left. Similarly, the Hong Kong highway code uses the British road sign system, which is different from the system used on the mainland.

This week I am noticing a heavy amount of spelling errors and grammatical errors. I guess staring at excel spreadsheets all day turns the mind into mush.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My New Home. I'm a Grow'd Up Now.

My Street
I've been here a week and I am disappointing my readers because I have not thrown myself into any Kung Fu action. Sorry folks, it's pretty darn safe here. I still plan to overthrow the Chinese Mafia once my Cantonese is strong enough. At the moment I only know how to answer the phone.

The above picture is my street. It's small, pretty quiet, lined with laundry shops and beautiful flower shops so it smells pretty good. That's really important since there is a strong chance you could live somewhere that smells like a sewer or fish market. About where I'm standing is the wine bar which I plan to make my second home. Well maybe third, after the office.

I live in between Fresh Laundry and Pizza Hut
The entrance to my building is in between Pizza Hut and Fresh Laundry. Come up the stairs to the landing and take the lift to the third floor which I occupy entirely. That whopping 320 square feet!

It's pretty much like living in a dorm room furnished by Ikea. It's an older building, but nothing in HK is really that old. They have a habit of tearing stuff down for something new and pretty. I was told that my neighborhood is a nice mix of old and new, and I think I have found just the right spot.

The bedroom and wardrobe
This little place is a little more expensive than my previous Silver Lake domain, but it's still at the very base level in terms of pricing in HK. Yeah, F'ing expensive is right. But included in my rent is the furniture, TV and cable, dvd player, broadband, and weekly maid service. I am also thrilled to have an air conditioner (I think it would be a crime not to have one here), and finally, for the first time ever, cable tv. You may think that is crazy since I love bad TV and I was a former cable tv producer, but Netflix got me through the bulk of it. Yeah, I think I would trade cable for my Netflix back.

The little wardrobe that is my closet is the same style Ikea unit I had as an entertainment system over 10 years ago.

The living area and study
My kitchen consists of a mini-fridge, microwave, and I think I have a hot plate somewhere. Kitchens aren't a big thing since there are more restaurants in Hong Kong per capita than any other place in the world. Although I could stand to make a few meals at home, I've only found a few things at the grocery. Yogurt, bread, peanut butter and jelly, pringles, granola bars and tabasco sauce. And TimTams. Life is not complete without TimTams. If you worked on Uncommon Threads maybe you know of them because Allison brings them from Australia.

I am very comfortable in this little room because it's clean and recently renovated. Laminate floors, new WC all that. Yes I said WC and I mean it because my bathroom is really a water closet.

With fluffy blue towels I hijacked from our former Kansas estate.

Toilet and shower in one!
And there it is. The elusive shower/toilet combo. There is no designated shower stall, just a drain in the floor and shower head. I got over the weirdness pretty quick since it's a clean and new bathroom. If it were older and creepier I would probably cry myself to sleep at night. The only bad part is I haven't found a convenient spot to put the TP, and the bathroom floor is all wet after a shower. I don't like having wet feet. It's like when your socks get wet. Not for happiness making. And that's why one of my Ikea priorties was a bath mat, outside the bathroom door.

Did you spot the Batman washcloth?

Monday, December 10, 2007

First Weekend in Hong Kong

The Hood

It has finally arrived. My first weekend in Hong Kong. I was really looking forward to it too, since I was pretty tired and ready to get settled into a new and normal life.

There were things that I needed in order for me to think clearly. A hair dryer, hangers, a bathmat, and mobile phone.

Friday I was in the office for 12 hours when I didn't have to be. I guess I'm a little overcautious about the job, but better safe than sorry. The only reason I realized it was late was because my eyeballs were burning from staring at this giant, bright computer screen all day. I'll have to take some breaks.

I was really really really tired and starving by the time I headed home, so I didn't bother taking myself out for a drink. And the wine bar on the corner had some Christmas party going on, and I didn't want my bright red eyes to scare anyone.

I stayed up very very late to first chat with Pepper, then Mere, then Marie on IM. And then I was completely out for the count and woke up just before 2 pm. It felt really good but I completely forgot they were shutting off our power in our building from 2-8pm. At first I thought it was my fault for running all my gadgets, and I was scared because I hadn't even used a hair dryer yet. And then I remembered, and then I walked down three flights of stairs in the dark. It's the stuff that horror films are made of.

I ventured to Central for the first time and got there in a matter seconds. Within five minutes of leaving my front door, I came upon this -

A five minute walk from my door

That makes me really really, really really happy. I can't buy any more clothes because I don't have the space, but at least if I need to I know I can get something cheap.

By this time it was about 3 pm and I hadn't had anything to eat. I was pretty delirious and stopped at the first thing I came across, which was a McDonalds. The menu is pretty simple and the only big difference I noticed was chicken wings. Some McD's also offer sandwiches. I went for a number nine which is an Egg McMuffin served all day! No hash browns though :( I was so hungry I didn't even taste my brunch, but it kinda hit the spot.

I was so wide-eyed cruising through Central that I didn't even realize I had landed right where I needed to be. FORTRESS. I think it's their version of Best Buy, only not so ginormous. I bought a hair dryer there. Check.

My next stop was not that much further. After many many many questions, as I am known to ask, I bought a beautiful new mobile phone. It took me weeks of research to wrap my brain around how mobile phones work in other countries, which, as you can imagine, is a zillion times easier than we make it out to be. It's actually so easy that it confused me. I decided on the phone I thought I wanted the night before (part of the reason I was up so late), and it turned out to be my best choice. The timing was just right. The phone just came out 3 days prior. The phone was kind of pricey but I gave into it because of the 5 megapixel camera (!) Now I hope to not carry around my point and shoot and ipod since my phone has those capabilities, and my shoulder is starting to hurt from hauling around a heavy purse everywhere.

Yes, pricey phone, but cheapy rates. My phone plan is so cheap that it is actually less expensive than what I am currently paying Verizon to not use my phone. And I can call the US for very cheap as well. That in itself was pretty exhausting.

I had to run back home and drop everything off because next on my to-do list was Ikea. I had a little trouble finding it because the road it was on turns, and I was going in circles on the opposite end. I finally found it in the basement of a building. Since I had just dropped a lot of money, and I could only purchase what I could carry, I just got the most needed items. Hangers, a bathmat, corkscrew, and a little tray for me to eat off of.

Yesterday I did some more walking, bought a few things at the grocery, and finally started to unpack.

Here are some more pictures -

A Ben and Jerry's, just in case I need a snack.

Santa in the HK

Mexican food. Check. Now where can I find some Greek?

A cool building near Lan Kwai Fong, the bar hotspot.

Book store
A bookstore in Central that carries some books I want to read. My brain won't go hungry for a while.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

That One Time in the Phillipines

Time for a backdated post.


Last month during the Thailand/Hong Kong/Philippines power trip, we spent one day in Manila to enjoy some Filipino treats and see family.

That's the Jag store. Unfortunately everything in there is sized for a pre-teen American. I did find a store with items that would fit me. Not Lane Bryant, not Torrid, not with items marked plus sized... this place was simply called Tubby. Should have taken a picture.

I did grab a picture of this:
I'll have to ask them to explain themselves next time.

This is a scrumptious treat that I highly recommend. A flan-topped dessert is definitely for happiness making. Roughly around this time, a government official was being gunned down outside our hotel across the street.

We had a big lunch with a handful of family, and this is me with a few of my cousins. Turns out we all watch Heroes and Grey's Anatomy. And we prefer McDreamy.

The other white meat.

I haven't taken any pictures since my arrival in HK, but things will definitely change now that I have a sexy new phone with an awesome camera.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The King and I

Not just a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical anymore.

I'd like you to meet the King of Thailand. I dig this guy. Everybody digs this guy. He's very well loved in his country and there are funny pictures like this all over the place. I love it.

Wednesday was a HUGE party and holiday in Thailand for his 80th birthday. Unfortunately I left Thailand Sunday.

So instead I spent our birthday at a factory in China! It's what all late (am I now out of the mid-twenty category and into the late-20s category??) 20-somethings dream of right? Anyway, I was very happy to spend my birthday visiting China for the first time.

We only spent the day there, as the factory is maybe 2 hours outside Hong Kong. I don't know I wasn't really paying attention. I got up super early, as this has been a series of super early days, got on the MTR (I have to stop myself from saying metro), and met David at our bus to China. There's a chartered bus that leaves every 15 minutes to China and takes you to the border. It's a little a little bit of a hassle because once you get to the border you clear customs on the Hong Kong side, hop back on the bus for a few minutes, and then clear customs going in to China. Other than that it was seamless.

The factory was in an industrial area not too far from the border, so I didn't get to see much. It was a full day of meetings and we had an excellent lunch. This particular factory is quite massive and like it's only little city with dorms and everything.

I was completely spent by the time the work day was done, and the ride home was pretty exhausting. I didn't have it in me to meet up with some other lady expats having a Christmas dinner in Central. So instead I got back to my new home, dropped off my workload, and walked approximately 7 seconds to the rice bar on the corner. It's a very cute, small, dark, candle lit bar that I just might frequent. They played jazzy music and jazzy covers of An Eternal Flame, In My Life, and a song from Moulin Rouge. And on the monitor The Way We Were was playing! And my wine was 2 for 1 so I had a couple of good glasses for under 10 bucks. It was fabulous.

theloreline is right, I have not been quick with the updates but things will change right now. I'm still getting into my groove.

David left to go back to Thailand, so as of this moment, I am la jeffe de la oficina HK. Fortunately, we were able to hire a Jr. Merchandiser so I am not alone in the office and she can help me with all things Cantonese.

I miss you. I wish you were here. This place is F'ing amazing. How does the song go? I don't care how you get here, get here if you can!