November 29, 2004

birthday eve

The 30th is my 30th b-day :-) For me, that means tomorrow but I will likely celebrate it on Wednesday too since technically my birthday spans both days with this time difference here ;-) I made myself a birthday hat to wear for work, will teach the kids how to sing the happy birthday song and I bought a mini mango cream cake to share with my coworkers. Afterwards, I'll go to the Lush in HK to get myself some quality bubble bath and maybe go out to eat at a nice seafood restaurant. And maybe I'll go to a Chinese fortune teller or something fun like that, we'll see what I am in the mood for.

I'm in okay spirits though I waffle between wanting to be left alone to wanting to make new friends. Also, I don't feel like talking on the phone or writing email at all which makes me feel bad like my family or friends is taking it personally. I'm blaming my mood on Mercury being in retrograde but I'm sure it's a whole combination of stuff. Time to do laundry :-(

Posted by Christine at 05:24 PM | Comments (1)

November 27, 2004


I really don't like working on Saturdays too. Normally, it is only for 2 hours but today it is for 5 because it's an open house for the school. It's cold today too- 16C and I really just want to stay in. Yes, I'm a big baby.

I found out last week that the housing project I work in was the outbreak place for SARS in Hong Kong, heh. I don't know why but it doesn't scare me and I even find it humorous that I'd wind up working there. The area is still going strong and at least they have experience of proper hygenine and awareness of the spread of disease now so when the bird virus finally hits HK, I feel safer in that place than any other one :-)

HK seems to be proactive about avoiding the bird virus from hitting HK but really there is only so much a government can do. I'm staying away from eating meat but I normally do that anyway, no big deal. I think I am going to get a mini bug zapper at my place to hopefully cut down on the bug bites I get. I am trying so so hard not to scratch as I don't want to possibly infect a bug bite with the germs under my fingernails. I do wash my hands fairly regular with regular soap. I'm also trying my best to keep my immune system healthy, making sure I get enough vitamins by eating balanced, exercise, getting enough sleep, getting relaxation time, etc. It is still hard for me not to cringe when I see people cough around me, heh. I'm relatively young and healthy so I think I have a very low risk of having any flus I wind up getting being fatal. If not, well we all have to go sometime, heh, and I can think of a million worse ways to go. But in case anyone is worried, how knows what is being reported in North America, I feel as safe here as I did in the US and am making keeping myself healthy a big priority.

Posted by Christine at 08:13 AM | Comments (3)

November 26, 2004

Sitting area on Nathan Rd

sitting area on Nathan Rd2.jpg

Nathan Rd is a huge street and from what I understand, is one of the original streets to be created in Kowloon. I just love how pretty this sitting area is and the fact that there are sitting areas on major streets here.

Posted by Christine at 06:31 PM

side of train entrance ad for ramen

side of ad- train entrance2.jpg

There is another pic of this taken from the front with more explanation. Anyway, ramen here is much yummier than what is available 8/$1.00 USD. A pack of ramen is like about 30 US cents regular price and it comes with a sesame oil packet besides the spice pack. As you can imagine, there is a greater variety of options. You can find this kind of ramen in Chinatowns all over North America but the cost is like 3 times higher.

Posted by Christine at 06:28 PM

Set up for the Temple Street night market

setting up for night market2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:24 PM

cool boat with HK Island skyline

same cool boat with different HK Isle skyline background2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:23 PM

Police station in tourist area

police station in tourist area2.jpg

It's one of the nicest looking police stations I've seen. This is the first HK one I saw and when I took it, I was being cynical thinking it was only nice since it was ina tourist area. But then I found the one that is in my 'hood, which is adjacent to one of HK's largest red light districts, heh, and that was one was equally nice.

Posted by Christine at 06:22 PM

planetarium is on the right

planetarium on right2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:19 PM

park monument

park monument2.jpg

don't let the blue sky fool you, the air here is very polluted :-(

Posted by Christine at 06:18 PM

park in Yau Ma Tei

park in Yau Ma Tei2.jpg

There is more explanation and close up pics I posted earlier.

Posted by Christine at 06:16 PM

park fountain

park fountain2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:03 PM

another set of stairs into Kowloon park

one set of stairs into Kowloon park2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:02 PM

Another park gate entrance

one of the park gate entrance2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:01 PM

no cars allowed for now

no cars allowed for now2.jpg

Some of the streets close down to traffic on the weekends so vendors can set up in the streets. I really like walking in the street so this aspect of HK makes me happy even if the street markets get so packed with people. Some streets I've been on here have been unofficially taken over by peds when the sidewalks get extremely overcrowded.

Posted by Christine at 06:00 PM

cool staircase of the HK planetarium

neat staircase of HK Planetarium2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 05:57 PM

bus stop shelter ad

neat bus stop ad for pocket  tissues2.jpg

How cool is this ad. Pocket tissues are a necessity here because when you eat out, they don't give you any napkins. You are expected to take out your pocket tissues to use. They come in regular size packs and mini packs. Some are menthol scented and I've seen jasmine scented ones. At a lot of places, such as my job, a roll of toilet paper is used instead of how we use tissues, heh. Good news is that even the cheapest brand of toilet paper is 2 ply and very soft :-)

Posted by Christine at 05:56 PM

Neat ramen ad transforming a train station

neat ad transforming a train entrance2.jpg

I know I took several pics of this from different angles. People were taking pics of themselves posing with it, heh. I generally hate ads but when they go as far as this, even I think it is pretty neat.
When you use the train, it is called taking the MTR. If you ever find a sign with stairs saying 'subway' here, it is not a train station but rather an underpass to get to the other side of a busy street. All the MTR stations have a red symbol on them which kind of looks like an insect.

Posted by Christine at 05:52 PM

My street

my street2.jpg

This is the section of Canton Rd (pronounced gwang dong dao) that I live on. My apartment building to the right, there is a horizonal white background with red characters sign above the entrance.
My street doesn't generate too much pedestrian traffic as most of the shops on this section sell jade and the famous jade hawkers bazaar is down at the other end of the block.

Posted by Christine at 05:47 PM

Mr. Softee is in HK too!

Mr Softee in Hong Kong too!2.jpg

I know almost any city has ice cream truck vendors but the main one in NYC is Mr. Softee so it made me really cheerful to see one here too :-) This one was at the tourist area near all the museums, I haven't seen any driving down any of the streets. And thankfully, no jingle at all was playing :-)

Posted by Christine at 05:43 PM

November 24, 2004

more pics

I added about 15 more pics, only like 30 or so more to go until I take new pics and post them more spaced out. I took some pics of the 3 year olds and wow, they are such hams for the camera ;-) I wish I could post them here since they are so adorable but I feel weird about posting pics of children so publically without permission so I won't. I know no one is going to come out here and stalk them but still, they are children and I just feel their privacy at a private, safe place like a school ought to be respected.

I'm still unsure about how I feel with the whole school mess. By nature I am optimistic and my friends are too. It is so hard for me because I feel I need to understand more of HK life/culture to make wise decisions and it is hard for me to properly access the situation with this cast of characters and the drama this job has turned into. I don't feel like I trust anyone or what they say. Still, I feel confident that the tao (way/ the universe) has lead me here for some reason, that I have already learned what I need to handle things wisely, just need to apply those lessons. I am using a guiding principle that as long as love is in my heart for the kids and I treat my coworkers and bosses as I'd like to be treated, all will be well.

I only have 2 weeks vacation in North America but that is fine because I have more vacation time in HK. When they last gave me 4 weeks, I kind of felt bad staying away from HK for 3 weeks because I felt the kids shouldn't be away from English class that long. It is amazing how well they are getting used to me and my instructions in English, after just 3 weeks. They greet me so happily and maybe it is my ego but it feels like they enjoy my presence in the school. I know all their English names now and their are 60 kids, as well as some of their Chinese names too which I am trying my best to learn.

Next month, I'll begin to survey the parents and see if any of them are interested in learning English, computer/internet skills or just about American culture or any other skill I have they may be interested in. I figure I can devote about 15 hours a week to the kids, 15 hours a week to the parents and like 15 hours a week to do administrative stuff and lesson planning. I ran this by the bosses and they seem to be fine with this work load and it feels now that I can do that without overextending myself.

I really need to work on studying Cantonese in my off time. After my b-day on the 30th, I'll schedule myself an hour a day, 7 days a week. It's a big hurdle I have here, not being able to communicate in the language everyone here is most comfortable with and besides, I've always wanted to learn a second language fluently, especially Cantonese.

I do have some entries about my first few days in HK that can be accessed by looking at the Nov archieves, if anyone cares. At some point, I want to organize a subsite that just has all the pics with my explanations.

Posted by Christine at 08:26 PM

more of HK island skyline

more of HK Island skyline2.jpg

I'm not sure if people know this but most of HK is a pennisula, attached to mainland China. Kowloon is the southern most part of the pennisula and I live in SW Kowloon. There are numerous islands, some big like where the main airport is and many which are small scattered around and then there is HK Island, south of Kowloon. HK island is a natural island that has been extended using fill.

Posted by Christine at 07:45 PM | Comments (1)

More cool boats and HK isle skyline

more cool boats and HK skyline2.jpg

This is Victoria Harbour, water flowing from the South China Sea, as I recall. The air has the smell of saltwater which makes me happy. No seagulls though ;-)

Posted by Christine at 07:42 PM

monument that reminds me of the fist in Detroit

monument that reminds me of the fist in Detroit2.jpg

I saw this on the sidewalk on Nathan Rd, in the touristy section. Apparently, it was commissioned by the Rotary Club here in HK.

Posted by Christine at 07:39 PM

mini bridges in park

mini bridges in park2.jpg

In one park, I found these pretty little bridges. They were very short, just for decoration, about 5 or so side by side with a pond filled with lily pads (no fish I saw)
underneath the bridges. There are pretty carvings in the stone work and behind the bridges is a pretty stone wall which later on you'll see a pic of a portion of it .

Posted by Christine at 07:36 PM

men sleeping on the sidewalk

men sleeping on sidewalk2.jpg

Okay, the guy in the foreground is reading a paper but the guy in the background is
asleep. I didn't want to take a pic too close up as I felt rude. These are the first people I've seen with a sleeping set up like this. I have seen several padded mattresses about 2 inches thick laid down in some alleys. I guess these people are homeless. I'm not sure how the homeless situation is here in HK. There are tons of housing projects called 'estates' here, some nicer than others, but I am not sure how these are allocated to people. It's my understanding that the HK gov't has a generous welfare system but I need to investigate that more.

Posted by Christine at 07:34 PM

Market Street park

Market Street park2.jpg

In case you haven't guessed, I'm really taken by the HK parks ;-) This one is located by Temple Street, where the most popular night market is located. Bascially, Temple Street closes down to traffic and people set up stalls from 4 Pm to 12 am and sell lots of different things like electronics to food to trinkets to knock off purses and clothing.

Posted by Christine at 07:29 PM

Mahjong players in the park

mahjong players in the park2.jpg

Not that I am surprised but mahjong is really, really big here. There are street stalls just sell majhong sets. Eventually I will learn to play it properly, instead of the computerized version I am used to ;-) Mahjong is used as an icebreaker before big social events from my understanding but I see lots of people playing it like we play poker or gin rummy.

Posted by Christine at 07:26 PM

lots of people with HK isle skyline in the background

lots of people with HK Isle skyline background2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 07:23 PM

another tree pic by dorky me

looking up the tree2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 07:12 PM | Comments (1)

just like museum campus in Chicago

like museum campus in Chicago2.jpg

Most of HK's big museums are located in one area. In late December, I'll have a week off so I'll check some of those out then during the weekdays when they ought to be less crowded. I didn't see that there are any free days but museums here are really affordable, only like $2-$5 USD for admission.

Posted by Christine at 07:10 PM

Kung Fu corner staircase

kung fu corner staircase in Kowloon park2.jpg

Kowloon Park is the largest park I've seen in Kowloon, maybe about the size of Trinity Bellwoods in Toronto, like Juniper Valley Park in NYC and about four times the size of Koskuisko Park in Chicago (which is much smaller than Lincoln Park).

I climbed those stairs but was sad to not see any Kung Fu going on. But when I walked through the park, I did see some people practicing Tai Chi but it's hard to find a park where there isn't someone doing Tai Chi. Some parks I've seen have a whole section devoted to Tai Chi.

Posted by Christine at 07:05 PM

just like Fozzie

just like Morgan2.jpg

See Fozzie, even some HKers have this sucky job, heh.

Posted by Christine at 07:00 PM | Comments (1)

front gate of a park

front gate of park2.jpg

About 50% of HK's land is set aside for parks. Of course most of it is in the New Territories which have huge national parks but there are tons of little local parks with beautiful landscaping. Day or night, there are always people in them which is nice. Most local parks I've seen are about a typical North American city block in length and width, and have 4 gates/entrances.

Posted by Christine at 06:59 PM

fortune teller shop

fortune teller shop2.jpg

I've seen several of these and I'm sure eventually one of them will call to me to check out. There are also feng shui experts here that make a good living advising planners and developers how to construct new buildings and parks following the prinicpals of feng shui.

Posted by Christine at 06:55 PM

flowering trees in November

flowering trees in November2.jpg

This is still strange for me to see. The irony is that the only thing I do like about cold North American winters is seeing the bare trees. I love bare tree branches and photographing them.

Posted by Christine at 06:46 PM

fan tree

fan tree2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 06:41 PM

drum competition in the park

drum competition in park2.jpg

The southernmost part of Kowloon, facing HK island is a huge tourist area where you can hear lots of Mandarin, Tagalog and other SE Asia languages I am not yet familiar with. Anyway, in the park adjacent to all the main museums, there is some sort of free cultural event every Sunday afternoon. The day I went down was a drum competition.

Posted by Christine at 06:40 PM

Ready to eat

dragonfruit inside2.jpg

I should have put something next to it so you can better judge the size but after it was peeled, it was the size of my fist. It tasted really yummy, kind of like a kiwi but much less tart, more water tasting if that makes sense.

Posted by Christine at 06:36 PM

Easy to peel

easy to peel2.jpg

I realize this is going backwards, oh well. Anyway, I wasn't sure what to do with this new fruit so I tried peeling it with my bare hands and to my delight, this was very easy to accomplish. I loved how bright the green and pink was with the black and white inside.

Posted by Christine at 06:34 PM

dragon fruit

dragon fruit outside2.jpg

I saw my first dragonfruit at a supermarket and with a name like that, of course I had to get one. It also looked very intriguing and it only costed like $1 USD too.

Posted by Christine at 06:31 PM

November 23, 2004

Pics, pics and more pics

I'm doing my best to resize and upload pics as fast as I can. Work has got me really busy and working with all these pics is time consuming. My new pics I'll just take at a lower size/res so that'll save me some time in the future.

I should add that some of the street pics are taken generally early to mid morning on weekends when there are less people about. Add about a million people per street or intersection to get an idea of typical HK city life ;-) It seems that HKers are more night people and I spot more tourists in the evenings too. This works better for me as I am more of a morning person. People here have really bad manners and push and shove their way or just block the crowds by being in lala land. I swear, it's amazing that I haven't punched anyone yet because I really can't stand rudeness like that.

Posted by Christine at 09:33 PM | Comments (1)

crazy to cross intersection, as most are here

crazy to cross intersection2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:29 PM

nice sidewalk outside of a park


Posted by Christine at 09:28 PM

I love how this tree trunk looks

cool tree trunk2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:28 PM | Comments (1)

cool boat and Hong Kong Island skyline

cool boat and HK Isle skyline2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:26 PM

typical crosswalk

closeup of crosswalk2.jpg

The crosswalks here have metal on both sides, I guess to help blind people to know the borders of the crosswalk. Smaller streets tend to be one way and almost all crossings have a pedestrian walk/don't walk sign with audio signals to help blind people know when they can cross and also so peds know when the light is about to change (the beeps slow down).

Posted by Christine at 09:21 PM

close up of a section of a park wall

close up of park wall section2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)

More beautiful flowers

close up of flowers2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:17 PM

Chinese stop sign, rare to see since cars can pretty much do whatever they want here

Chinese stop sign.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:16 PM

beautiful flower

beautiful flower2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:15 PM

November 22, 2004

streetcar in Wan Chai, HK island

streetcar in Wan Chai, HK island2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:35 PM | Comments (2)

yay, I live among palm trees :-)

yay, I live among palmtrees 2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:34 PM

Saturday afternoon in Mong Kok, Kowloon, HK

Saturday afternoon in Mong Kok, Kowloon2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:29 PM

hidden alleyway on Jordan Rd

hidden alleyway on Jordan Road2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:27 PM

nighttime outside a window of mine

nighttime outside my window2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:25 PM | Comments (1)

my train stop platform

my train stop platform2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:16 PM

my hallway

my hallway2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:15 PM | Comments (1)

more bamboo scaffolding

more bamboo scaffolding2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:14 PM | Comments (2)

local park at dawn

local park at dawn2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:13 PM

another of Jordan Rd at 5 AM

Jordan Road at 5 AM2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:11 PM

fire extinguisher, HK style, right outside my apt door

fire extinguisher, HK style2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:02 PM

first moon and seen first morning in HK

good morning moon2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 09:00 PM

haha, it says ass bomb ;-)


Much thanks to fozzie and neil for the funnier caption :-)

Posted by Christine at 08:58 PM | Comments (1)

cool apt building seen from my window

cool apt building as seen from my window2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 08:44 PM

apparently, Budweiser is the offical beer of Manchester United, that figures ;-P

Budweiser, offical beer of Manchester United2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 08:43 PM

first dawn in my new 'hood, Jordan Rd.

another of Jordan Rd 5 AM2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 08:40 PM

bamboo scaffolding!

bamboo scaffolding!2.jpg

Posted by Christine at 08:39 PM

Jordan and Canton Rd, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

another from Jordan and Canton2.jpg

this is the view from my crosstreets

Posted by Christine at 08:29 PM

the self disinfection centre upon entering computer city in Wan Chai, HK island

the self disinfection centre upon entering Computer City in Wan Chai.jpg

Posted by Christine at 07:16 PM

Chain store devoted to Japanese snack food

chain store devoted to Japanese snack food.jpg

Posted by Christine at 07:08 PM

Manic Monday

okay today wasn't too bad but I know I need a title and don't feel very creative now.

Yesterday, I went for a hike with the owner of a noodle shop across the street from the school and his wife. He speaks English but she does not which was kind of funny cause whenever she wanted him to translate something for me she always used "gweilo" among her Cantonese words, heh. Gweilo and other variations of it used to have a very negative conotation to it like "foreign devil" but supposedly these days it is commonly used to mean "Westerner"... same difference, eh ;-)

They took me to the New Territories, Tuen Mun to be specific, (pronounced like 'chin moon', FYI) and we hiked in a national park at Tai Lam. The New Territories are part of Hong Kong but are much more rural, north of HK island and Kowloon and maybe like 90 miles south of mainland China. We took a doubledecker bus there and the views were spectacular. There are lots of mountains, which are called slopes here. Kind of makes sense since they aren't mountains in the sense of like the Rockies or Alps for instance. I doubt the highest one is even a mile high.

I love the archecture of the bridges I've seen so far. The tunnel we went through, built into a mountain, was really neat too. I didn't take pics cause I know I'll be there again and right now I am kind of fustrated I can't upload pics yet. Anyway. the country park was grand. I got to see so many different plants, flowers and birds I never saw before. I saw this amazing black and white bird, of course I took that as an omen of good things, being on the right track.

There were trees with leaves almost as big as my body- crazy! And then I saw these squatter homes in the park, signs saying that some were advised to leave due to the danger of landslides. I give it up to HK for not setting fire to these squatters like Guiliani did in NYC. There homes were one story high, made of cement blocks and from the outside it appeared they had electricity and running water.

There are different hikes you can take and I assume my hosts wanted to take it easy on me for now (thankfully) so we didn't go up too high. The hikes are really safe in the sense that you are walking up stairs, not through trees and jagged rock. I'm sure there are more nature like hikes but it'll take time before I can find them and feel comfortable on those, I'm a city girl afterall. Then we walked around the mountain using a path. I loved how it wasn't crowded and the air was cleaner, as well as the beautiful birds and plants to see. I am going to look for a bilingual guide to HK's wildlife to help me identify some of the things I've seen.

After the hike, we went to their friend's BBQ park on Castle Peak Rd. For only like $10 USD, you pay entry into it. There are some video games, a place to 'fish' for pawns and an area for kids to run around and ride bicycles. They give you a circular grill (about 5 people can sit around it) with a bag of rectangular shaped charcoal to burn, tongs and metal skewers. They give you 2 tickets to redeem for drinks and you get a tray of food to BBQ yourself. You can go up as many times as you like to refill your tray. I'm not sure of what all the stuff was available- recognizable to me was squid, processed fish balls, small whole fish, ribs, beef slices, fried tofu, chicken wings, hot dogs, mini hot dog shaped processed meat, yam, sweet corn and buttered Italian bread. You can stay there for as long as you like. The thing is that they only give you one pair of plastic gloves to use as you skewer the meat. And all the raw meat is on one plate. It just screamed bacteria universe to me but I went along with it all, even though I really don't like to eat meat, esp not BBQ cause it was a new experience. I had a good time and left with a full belly.

It was suggested I bring the idea to the states since the guy who started it in Tai Lam is very wealthy now but I reminded the guy about how the states are, especially with lawsuits and he just laughed and agreed. That place is a lawsuit waiting to happen if you are a dumbass. I know I took my chances on getting food poisioning but I've done dumber things and lived so as I said, I just went with it. I'd rather die having a good time in good company, eating fresh seafood and tofu than getting hit by a car, which is always a possibility in urban areas.
24 hours later and I'm still okay ;-) They go hiking every Sunday and invited me to come along so I think I will more often than not. I can easily get around urban HK by myself, any city for that matter, but remoter areas I can definitely use help.

Posted by Christine at 06:56 PM

November 20, 2004


After I returned from the supermarket and shoe store, the festival stage had much more interesting things going on, like a Tai Chi demonstration and traditional Chinese singing. Which admittedly, wouldn't be up most people's alleys as the singing is very shrill, loud drums get banged and no dancing or fancy costumes but I thought it was pretty cool regardless.

I bought a nice pair of Coleman hiking boots for only $26 USD! My friend tells me to bargain down but I bought this at a local shop and besides it feels strange to get these boots that would run at least $100 USD for even cheaper. I have 7 days to exchange the shoes if I don't like them. It seems lots of shops in HK have a liberal exchange policy.

I've been looking into checking out Cantonese opera. There are free tickets for some performances, not by the best opera troupes of course, but already the tickets have been available for a week so hopefully I am not too late to score one. If not, it seems like even the best tickets for the best troupes are only like $50 USD, but I have to wait until January for the performances. I've never been to an opera and Cantonese opera is very intriguing from what I have researched so far. Maybe it is better I have to wait, by then I will know more of the language. But really, I am going to see the costumes and hairstyles. I'm sure the stories are interesting but truthfully I care much more about visual aesthetics. I can come up with neat stories in my mind, I mean, I live my life as one epic adventure, at least in my mind. Like I've told myself with this opportunity to live in HK, unseen mystical forces sent me here, not that this is a fruit from my life and work in Chicago for the past two years. But I need inspiration to see beauty for myself and this is where my interest in the arts lie.
I also tend to entertain myself, enjoy life so I don't do things to escape but to learn. It's just how I am wired and it's taken too much energy to try and change that so I'll just accept how I am and work with it.

I also want to attend some symphony performances while I am here. I just started to get into classical music in Chicago and I love it. I got to see a performance before I left for Chicago and it was grand. You can really feel the music and to see how the musicians channel the music, become one with the instrument, quite awe inspiring and emotionally touching.

I also plan to go to the movies while I am here. The American movies showing are Dodgeball, Fahernheit 9/11 and Supersize Me. I think I'd rather see a Cantonese movie, especially a martial arts one. Though I am tempted to see F 9/11 here to see how the audience reacts to it, if they applaud and make comments throughout like the crowd in Chicago did. Going to the movies is more affordable here. They have matinees which run about $3 USD and I think peak times are like $7 USD. From the outside, it looks like they have snazzy theaters.

Tsingtao makes a dark beer and it is good. Not in a Guiness league of course but still tasty. It also has a higher alcohol content of 6.0%.

My 30th birthday is in 10 days and I am thinking about what fun things I can do that weekend. I do feel a bit melancholy that I am not in Toronto for that milestone birthday, but I am in HK so I will appreciate that and the fact that my life is in such good shape at this point. Ten to fifteen years ago, I really thought I'd be dead by this point but instead my life continues to improve with each passing year and that alone is reason to celebrate :-)

I miss riding my bicycle but I know she is in good hands. I gave her to an older homeless lady I met after voting absentee, in person while still in Chicago, several days before I took off for HK. Bicycling here seems close to impossible. I've seen some older men on bikes but they are rare and far between and it looks like they make deliveries on the bikes, not using it to commute. Vehicles here have right of way it seems, though I don't think the law is on their side technically but the law doesn't matter if you get run over and killed. No SUVs but lots of luxury vehicles, double decker buses, commuter vans and taxis. They drive very fast and do not yield to pedestrians at all. It makes me want to go to a parking lot to key the cars but I don't dare as I'm sure there is closed circuit TV security. The parks have CCTV security. People in HK have 'smart card' identity cards which they are expected to carry all the time. I'm not sure if I will get one when my work visa paperwork is completed. I don't care for the lack of privacy here but it's getting that way in the states too and at least here it is safe.

Anyway, back to my vehicles rant. Where I live and work, there is little space on the streets for bicycles. Sure, the mass transit system is very efficient and affordable but still I miss biking. The best way I can describe biking here is for Chicago people... imaging having to bike on Sheridan Rd from Foster to Loyola with only several inches between the traffic you are riding with and the curb. Meanwhile the traffic is driving as if it is the autobahn, like Sheridan north of Loyola or even like Lake Shore Drive, they go that fast. I don't have to skill to even attempt biking like that.

Posted by Christine at 06:58 PM | Comments (2)

Please shoot me

So today on my block there is a street festival, sponsored by the government to promote the appreciation of jade. I briefly checked it out and I just see lots of vendors. There is a stage set up which faces one of my windows and the live performances so far have been people singing Cantonese pop which sounds like Disney songs sung in Chinese and clubby eurotrance, Venga Boys kind of stuff. I've been watching out my window, I hate crowds and there is a guy juggling on the stage now to the Venga Boys. I am kind of tempted to bring down one of my happy hardcore CDs and spin some poi and flags but while I think it would be well recieved I am too tired and lazy.

The brother in law showed me this international food store where I can find lots of comfort foods from back home as well as try out some new European stuff. Still can't find any spicy brown mustard, only British or Frendch style mustard which is not my thing. I did wind up getting this medium hot mustard from Germany which is decent and will have to do. The prices are high which is understandable but at least when I do get homesick, I know where to find these things and may even be able to afford them if I budget right.

Ah this festival is driving me up a wall. I don't want to shut my windows because it's about 22 C and there is a nice breeze. Maybe I'll go out again for awhile, hopefully this thing doesn't run too late.

I've been drinking a lot of Hi-C coconut soy milk which is really yummy, one of my favourite finds here so far. It's pretty nutrious too, with calcium and I need that since I hate drinking cow milk and I'm not the biggest fan of regular soy milk, unless it is fresh. Oddly enough, I haven't been able to find freshly made soy milk here though the ones available in the stores in cardboard cartons are tastier than the ones in the states.

Posted by Christine at 02:58 PM

November 16, 2004

water water everwhere and not a drop to drink

Even in the urban areas of HK, it is not advised for you drink tap water. You need to boil it first. In the rural areas, you're supposed to drink bottled water. This goes for everybody, it's not just a foreigner thing. Now it is making more sense why everyone here drinks plain hot water. The tap water here so far has a clear color and doesn't have any strange odors but I am heeding the warning.

I woke up today with a little cold. The weather this week is a bit chillier- about 20 C and everyone around me has the sniffles. I'm trying to take it easier and rest more to fight off this cold. I've been careful to wash my hands right after work to wash off all the icky subway germs. As far as I can see, anti bacterial washing stuff isn't commonplace here which relieves me a bit.

Posted by Christine at 04:15 PM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2004

first week in Hong Kong

I'm not even sure where to begin. I've been here for about 10 days though it feels like a month and I mean that in a good way. I finally have a computer at home as well as broadband internet (5 mb dl) so now I can make regular updates :-)

I have adjusted well rather quickly. I arrived here after 18 hours on 2 airplanes and a 13 hour time difference, around 22:00 on 11/3, HK time. Thanks to my lack of routine for the prior 2 months and whirlwind October travel back and forth to Chicago, NYC, Seattle, Toronto, I didn't feel too jetlagged upon arriving and settled into HK time quickly. And while I was in a strange land, it did feel like home and comfortable from the getgo.

I haven't had any problems getting around or getting things done so far. I have some contacts here I can ask for help but I'd rather try to figure things out on my own and that is working out so far. I've been exploring the area I live in, just meandering down streets, trying to get lost but that hasn't happened yet. Hong Kong is a very safe place as far as crime goes so I feel fine exploring.
I am starting to pick up some Cantonese and I can recognize about 10 traditional written characters already. I understand more of the spoken language than I can speak but when I do try to say something in Cantonese I am understood and not laughed at. And now I can easily tell when someone is speaking Cantonese and when someone is speaking Mandarin. Mandarin is the official language of China, and Hong Kong is a "special administrative region" of China since Great Britian returned HK to China in 1997. This means that HK is a part of China but it is a limited democracy and capitalist economy until 2047. Hong Kong has its own money, called the Hong Kong Dollar and that is pegged to the USD which means the rate stays consistent at about $7.75 HKD to $1 USD. Mainland China's currency is called the renminbi and it is also pegged to the USD, I think at about $6.8 to $1 USD. Good quality clothes are fairly cheap here and I got a really good price compared to US prices on my Toshiba Satellite A 50 laptop. Food is priced the same as most major North American cities though I think eating out in restaurants is a bit cheaper here. Western style groceries like grated Parmesian cheese and Italian salad dressing is hard to come by and is expensive by US standards, which makes sense I suppose.

I live on the 16th floor in a small, furnished flat and I really like it here. It is more than enough space for me and comparable in size to the last studio I had in Chicago (500 sq feet) but it is layed out different and my bedroom is also my living room. The kitchen is very tiny- no stove or oven. I guess who wants to bake when the very coldest it gets here is about 10 C (50 degrees F). I do love the weather so far. It is bizarre to me that it's November and the temperature has averaged 28 C (about 82 F). It is also quite humid but I don't mind that so much cause the temperature is so mild. I'm sure when the summer comes and the mercury consistently hits 40 C (about 100 F), I won't like the humidity. I do have an air conditioner as most places here do. I have a hot plate and microwave to use and a hot water heater for my bathtub/shower. The building is very clean and quiet with an elevator, which called a lift here. I live around lots of stores and restaurants and only about a 10 min walk to the train station. The walk would be shorter but sidewalks are very crowded here and people are not so considerate. This does get on my nerves a bit and it has taken a lot of my willpower not to punch people.

Public transit is amazingly efficient and very affordable. Fares are charged using a zone system and range from like 50 US cents to about $2.50 USD. My commute to work takes about 30 mins and only costs about $0.90 USD, one way. The stations are very clean and you rarely have to wait longer than 3 minutes for the next train. Trains tend to be crowded but it's nothing like Tokyo where people get forced into packed trains by hired "subway pushers" during rush hour. The train system seems to cover much of HK but it doesn't run 24 hours a day. The system is very easy to understand and announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin and British English. Each train car is air conditioned and has computerized maps and signs that tell the time, date, station names in Chinese and English, and lets you know train transfers are available.
I am getting tired so I'll stop now but expect more updates soon :-)

Posted by Christine at 08:25 PM