Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year from HK

All Systems Are Go

...And we're back! Well, our internet connection magically reappeared late last night, so all those delightful Christmas posts I'd been working on during the internet interim will be trickling through to a computer near you very soon. Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and see you all in the New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Internet is Broken

Due to the earthquake in Taiwan 2 days ago, the internet is broken in Hong Kong and other surrounding areas. It's nuts! People here are not very happy with the situation, but then who's ever happy when an earthquake strikes? Ever so often we can log on but our service is sketchy at best. Somehow all things Google seem to be working moderately well, but who knows how long that shaky truce will last. So, no posts from me until this problem gets sorted out. Oh, and I haven't been able to check my email the past few days either. It's not the most efficient way to reach me right now. Here's hoping the internet keeps working long enough for me to post this...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!!!

Matt and Erika

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:8-12

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Comes Early

Just over 2 weeks ago we got a fabulously bizarre package in the mail.

Back in Lawrence we were part of a colorful Bible study group from church. We'd meet every week for a Bible lesson followed (or intermittent) by lots of laughter and goofing off. At one point we dubbed ourselves the "Renegade Splinter Cell", figuring that at any moment we were liable to be kicked out of church if word got out about how much fun we were having. Not to mention that our conversation topics often dabbled well outside the realm of the general study topic. We always had a fabulous time and not being part of that group anymore is one of the things I miss most about Lawrence.

Our fabulously bizarre package was from this lovely bunch of folks. Jake, Amber, Chad, Kim, Beth, James, Pat, Kristin, Dillon and Cara all put their heads together back in October and each contributed a few things. (Although shipped in October, we received it in early December! The US post office ain't kidding when they say 6-8 weeks. Beth told us it was stuck in California for almost 3 weeks.) The package contained the following items:

-Mini Green Flashlight
-Chocolate Brownie Mix
-Caramel Chocolate Balls*
-Cheese Pringles*
-Bouncy Balls
-Bronco Bob's Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (makes everything tastier!)
-USA Map Puzzle
-Halloween Pumpkin Party Plates
-Halloween Pumpkin Party Napkins
-Set of 3 "Ice Cream" PlayDoh bins
-KU Koozie
-Pair of Sticky, Oozing Eyeballs
-Hair Goo for Erika
-Hair Goo for Matt
-A Pen (that used to belong to us)
-"Instant Messages from God" Book for Guys
-"Instant Messages from God" Book for Girls
-Several Misc. Ads/Newspapers/Pamphlets from Lawrence, KS
-Several Goofy Pictures of our Friends
-Matt's favorite coffee from La Prima Tazza
-Bible Study Booklet about Calvin
-Framed Picture of the entire group holding papers spelling out "WE MISS YOU!"
-Individual Letters from each person (the Best Part!)

*This item was consumed before the picture was taken

God Bless 'Em. They put huge grins on our faces. We miss them all very much!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Street Doctor Update

I've been putting it off, but I finally took to the streets to find a doctor. Ironically, I found a little bitty sign for a doctor on the 10th floor of the building RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the pharmacy where I first went. Surely Mr. Not-So-Friendly Pharmacist could have said "go next door." But to go the extra mile would've put him in the friendly category, which he clearly isn't. Oh well, it's not like me to hold a grudge so I'd better work on getting over this one. My appointment is tomorrow.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Working Woman

Did I ever happen to mention that I got a job? Well, 2 jobs, and a volunteer position, so I kind of have 3 jobs. Those of you who know me well, know that I prefer part-time jobs to full-time positions. Even if I end up working the same number of hours (which I usually don't, thank goodness), I just like knowing that I don't have to do the same thing all-day, every day. I like a little variety in my life. Oh, and I like staying home, too. You get to do that more often when you're a slacker like me. Fortunately, I've been blessed with a very supportive husband who doesn't mind that I pursue my dream of being a super-duper florist (which currently pays peanuts) while he works hard to bring in the majority of our income.

So, as I started to say, I finally got a few jobs. I'm working about 15-20 hours a week at a hip little flower shop in Causeway Bay (on Hong Kong Island). They also specialize in some designer-y home decor items. I would love to mention the name, but as I may want to talk about work every now and then on my blog, it's probably in my best interest to keep that information to myself. I met the shop owner at a floral workshop I attended back in October. We sat next to each other, and when she found out I was looking for a job she told me to stop by the shop and check it out. And the rest is history, as they say.

My other part-time job is working with a friend I made through church who owns a silk-flower export business. I help her a few hours a week updating and re-decorating her showroom. She's sort of created a mini-position for me, which is great, and over the next few months we are going to try to create some new products. I'm basically her "trend watch" person--I scan the magazines, internet, etc. to spot the upcoming color/pattern/etc. trends.

And my volunteer position is at a local bookstore. It's a teeny, weeny storefront crammed with English books in the heart of the expat neighborhood. The owner can't afford to hire any help, so I go in for a few hours every week and help him sort through his books and find a place to shelve them. I LOVE to organize stuff, so it keeps me happy, and I get to choose a book to take home every week. That makes my book-worm husband very happy.

So that's how I've been spending my time lately. It's nice to be busy and have a regular schedule again. And during my spare time I stay at home and chill with Quincy and sew curtains. I love my life.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Big, Fat, Lame-O Excuse

Whoa, I can't believe it's been a week since my last post. I'm really sorry to all of you who faithfully read my blog. Really, I don't know what's come over me. In fact, I've been a complete and utter blob when it comes to responding to my emails lately. I don't think I've responded to any emails from my lovely friends and family in something like 2 weeks or so. Once again, I'm really sorry. I haven't even been busy...just lazy. And a little homesick. You think being homesick would encourage a little contact with those back at home. I'm such a dope.

So, tomorrow I promise to write a new blog post. And answer lots of emails. And maybe if I've still got some gumption after all that effort, I'll make a few phone calls. I miss you all and thanks for not giving up on me. I'm still alive (and kickin').

PS If I could, I would send you all a big bouquet of orchids like those in the picture to show just how sorry I really am.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Prescription Conniption

The good people of Hong Kong try so hard to follow the rules. Well, some of them do. Tonight I stopped into the pharmacy around the corner because there are a few prescriptions I need to fill. I waltzed up to the friendly pharmacist at his little window and asked him if he could fill a prescription from a US doctor.

"Absolutely Not!," he said. (I no longer regarded him as a friendly pharmacist.) "All prescriptions must come from Hong Kong doctors."

Darn. How am I supposed to find a doctor? I'm sure you all think I'm a dope sometimes (no drug pun intended), but seriously folks, this city doesn't have a yellow pages. I can't just look it up. And a google search is often hit or miss. I've searched the internet for many HK shops/restaurants on Google, only to find out they have closed, or sometimes never even existed.

I questioned the not-so-friendly pharmacist about what I need to do next.

"Go to a doctor," he says.

Right. Even I can figure that one out.

And I innocently ask, "Where can I find a doctor?"

"You can find one on the street", he answered smugly.

I'm not joking. This man just told me to go find a doctor on the street. Ok, Mr. Pharmacist, I'll go do that. Punk.

So just to test my luck a little further, I poked my head into a nearby dodgy medicine-y looking shop and asked if I could get a prescription filled. All I had to do was open my mouth and he would sell me whatever I asked for. Unfortunately he didn't carry exactly what I was looking for, but if he had, I would've been all over it. It was the real deal, too. Everything on the shelves was in the proper packaging. No luck this time, but I will keep this shop in mind for the future.

Like I said at the beginning, some people in Hong Kong try so hard to follow the rules, but in a city like this, teeming with fake Louis Vuitton bags and Rolex watches, it's hard for an honest man to stick to his guns. Oh well, I can respect that. I still don't have what I need, so perhaps I just better buck up and do what the rule-abiding man said and quit trying to work the system. Wish me luck...I got a street doctor to find.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Agitated Kitty

Quincy has been freaking out all day long. He's been nervous, not napping, pacing around the house, breathing funny, and just recently he yakked all over the couch. Poor little kitty.

Today is the first day that we've done laundry since Quincy came to live with us and Matt put his finger on the problem. The washing machine sounds like an airplane. This crazy Italian machine takes 3 hours to wash a single load and has many different cycles, and when you listen closely, it makes all the same noises as an airplane. Our dear little feline friend must be having horrid flashbacks of his journey here.

While discussing this on the couch with Quincy nestled between us, Matt said that maybe he'll get so used to the noise that his flight back to the states will be easy. Quincy bit me. I've always been suspicious that he understands English, but now I'm sure of it. I'll be sure to speak in pig-latin the next time I need to take him to the vet.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


A few nights ago Matt said to me:

"You know what made me miss America?"

Which I heard as "You know what made me Miss America?", and in my snarkiest manner I promptly replied,

"Your platform on world peace? Your excellent showing in the swimsuit competition?"

By this point we were both laughing so hard I don't think we ever found out what made Matt nostalgic for the good ol' USA.

Ahhh, it's the little things that make this marriage so much fun...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to Matt!

Matt turns 26 today! Hope he doesn't mind that I told you.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today I turn 26. If being 26 is even half as fun as it was to be 25, then I'm going to have a great year!

[Email me with questions about where to send balloons, flowers, gifts, ice cream, cake, pie, cheetos, books about dinosaurs, etc.]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Furry Reunion

America's Favorite Feline, soon to be Hong Kong's Coolest Cat, finally made the big journey across the ocean to join us here in the big city and complete our little family! We're so stinkin' excited!!! Now I can finally call Hong Kong my home. Being the resilient creature that he is he's already happily exploring his new home and already found his way into the bathtub. The only weird thing about the whole ordeal is that he came off the plane smelling like toothpaste. I wonder how long before that smell wears off. I guess of all the things he could smell like after a 2-day travel binge like he's had arriving with the smell of fresh teeth isn't such a bad thing. [Family and Friends: Caution---the following sentence could cause you to burst into tears, especially if you really love us.] However, it cost so much to have the little bugger flown over here it makes me want to stay a long, long time just to recoup a little on our investment. I guess if you all want to start the "Bring Quincy Back" fund in a few years, we won't complain.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers--we're all very happy to be together again. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Um, we just took a bite of my beautiful pie only to realize something was seriously wrong. I forgot to add the sugar. Part of me wants to cry, but the other part of me is giggling with her husband. This fiasco is now officially completed. Goodnight.

Pie Night Fiasco

In the Kirkland family there is this tasty little tradition known as "Pie Night"--it's the one night of the year where we feast and make merry all in the name of the heavenly concoction known as pie. Basically, on Thanksgiving Eve the Kirkland clan (along with those lucky ducks who have garnered an invite) gather at Papa and Mama Kirkland's house and eat lots and lots of pie. There is one pie for each member of the family present. It's incredible. Last year there were 25 pies. Back in the day before I started dating Matt, had I known that marrying him would open me up to the blissful world of pie-dom, I would have sought him out and dated him simply to get an invite to this most sacred of holidays. Fortunately (for him), I fell in love with Matt before he ever told me about Pie Night, and fortunately (for me) I am now married to a man who I not only love passionately, but also holds the key to my pie happiness. It's a win-win situation.

So with all of that said, this is our first year celebrating Pie Night with our little lonely selves in Hong Kong. (I'm hoping that playing the sympathy card will prompt all our relatives to figure out a way to mail us some pie!) I had yet to attempt using our fancy little toaster oven, but what better way to christen it than with a pie? I decided on pumpkin pie--it's a classic and pretty easy to bake. After hunting around town I found some Libby's canned pumpkin at a high-end grocery store that caters to the whims of us foreigners, and along with some flour and butter I was set. And off I went.

This is where the fiasco begins...

Ever since we moved in we've been having a little trouble with the lock on our apartment door. We were only given one key at move-in, so for the first few weeks Matt and I just traded the key back and forth until I was able to find a key shop that could make a copy. This sounds much easier than it was. There are thousands of key shops in this city--practically one on every block. However each shop owner was utterly baffled by my key and either refused to copy it outright or attempted it only to flub it up. Granted, the key does look complicated with lots of little circles and strange divots on it, but LOTS of people have keys like this. I don't know how all those key shops stay in business if they can't copy a common key? I guess they get by on the shoe re-soling business they run alongside their key copying stands. Eventually we contacted the agent who leased us our apartment and he recommended a place that did it very easily. Too bad we didn't think of that in the first place.

So having finally gotten our key copied we started to get a little concerned these last few days when our lock didn't seem to be working very well. It took a few tries to both lock and unlock it, and yesterday the whole lock started spinning around. It's not supposed to do that.

When I got home tonight with my arms fully-laden with pie ingredients, I put the key in the lock, turned the key, and nothing happened. I tried again, only to see something really small pop out onto the ground. One more try and suddenly the insides of our lock came pouring out onto the floor in front of me. What's happening!?! Needless to say I was stuck in the hallway with no hope of baking pie anytime soon. I called Matt at work and asked him to ask his co-workers about getting a locksmith to fix the lock. He called back minutes later with the verdict.

"Um, Erika, people here don't really call a locksmith. They go down the street, find one, and bring them back to their place to fix things."


We do okay getting by with just English here, but trying to flag down a local and explain that we need a new lock for our door is a whole different can of worms. There was a locksmith stall just down the street, so between our brilliant pantomime skills and a quick call to a friend who speaks excellent Cantonese, we were able to get our message across. The only blip in the whole situation was that we caught the locksmith in the middle of his dinner and he asked that we come back in 20 minutes. So a couple of mango juices and some fried bread-sticks later (we were hungry, too), we found our way back to the key store and the locksmith followed us back to our place and gave us a brand new lock and five keys! Yippee! We're pretty proud of ourselves.

And, I made some pie! I just took it out of the oven a few minutes ago and it looks like it's supposed to. It's nearly mid-night, but gosh darnit, we did it. Thanks everyone for putting up with my obnoxiously long blog post and...

Happy Pie Night!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Singapore...and More!

We had a fantastic time in Singapore, thanks largely in part to our great hosts Kelly and Malcolm, who introduced us to all the delights of Singapore. We ate wonderful food (as well as the famous stinky durian fruit), saw all the main highlights (Little India, Chinatown, the Merlion, the Durian architecture...and the list goes on), and basked in the cleanliness and governmental efficiency that sets Singapore so far apart from all the other Asian countries. And to breathe fresh air---what a joy!

Here are some highlights:

This is a shot of Chinatown looking down through the many stalls of random "chinesey things," and that's Malcolm in the center.

This is the famous durian fruit, known as the King of Fruit, and renowned for it's incredibly horrid smell. It's a must-eat for all tourists. The locals (many of them) love durian, but apparently it's an acquired taste. Malcolm said the one we ate was pretty mild--I didn't really notice the smell, but it tasted very garlicy to me. Strange creature, that durian fruit.

We spent one afternoon at the famous Singapore Botanical Gardens. The highlight of the gardens is the orchid section--what a stunning array of orchids they had! There was even a special VIP section for all the orchids that were named after famous people. Here's the "Margaret Thatcher" variety. It was one of my favorites:

Isn't she a beauty?

This is stunning phaleonopsis orchid. There were so many different varieties--I wanted to capture them all on film, but of course my camera just can't show how amazing they are.

The main purpose of our visit was to celebrate Thanksgiving with Kelly and Malcolm. We made a huge feast complete with turkey and the trimmings--Kelly is quite the Thanksgiving cook extraordinaire! It was actually some of the best Thanksgiving food I've ever tasted. There were about 12-15 of us total (Kelly and Malcolm invited their Bible study group over for a taste of true American cooking), and we all had a great time and stuffed ourselves silly. It was fantastic! Unfortunately all the pictures from that night are on Kelly's camera so I don't have any actual proof that we accomplished a full-out Thanksgiving dinner in Singapore. You'll just have to trust me on this one. (I guess I could always post a Matt and Erika belly picture to show how much our stomachs have expanded.)

All in all, we had a fantastic time and hope to go back again someday. Hopefully Kelly and Malcolm will let us return the favor and provide them with some good ol' fashioned Hong Kong hospitality before too long.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Back in Action

Nope, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Matt and I are back in Hong Kong after a lovely extended weekend in Singapore. Pictures and details coming soon!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The New Do (More of the Same, Actually)

Well, after many, many weeks of putting it off, I finally got my self down to a hair salon. I usually put off getting a trim because I insist on getting moderately-expensive haircuts, but I'm too cheap to go as often as I should. Hence the "tsk, tsk" I can always expect the moment I sit down in the swirly chair and my stylist spots my ratty split ends. So besides the usual penny-pincher excuse, now I also have the whole language issue to contend with. I just wasn't sure I felt comfortable walking into a salon and putting my hair into the hands of someone who didn't know what I was saying. Granted I could just waltz into the local Aveda salon down in the ritzy part of town, but I that was definitely out of my price range. So I walked around one of the trendier HK neighborhoods looking for a reasonably priced salon and found one that looked friendly. Minutes after walking through the door, I was shampooed and sitting in the chair. Using lots of hand signals and with some help of another stylist who spoke some English, my new stylist and I worked out what I wanted. At one point I just pointed at him and look, "look, if you're good, do whatever you want." So he did. I sort of missed out on the usual chit-chat, but it did take off some of the pressure to converse that I occasionally feel in salons. (Not with my last stylist in Kansas, though--she was wonderful!) And I'm happy with the result. Probably because it looks pretty much like what I had before, only sleeker. No complaints here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Livin' La Vida Local

As many of you might suppose, I don't really blend in very well here. And now that I'm actually living here I want people to realize that I'm not one of those fly-by-night tourists that are so prevalent here. I came upon the solution unexpectedly.

During the process of setting up our new apartment, I've been scouring the city for regular household items like a broom, small trashcan, mop, etc. It dawned on me one afternoon when I was navigating the busy streets with a mop and bucket in my arms that I wasn't getting the usual "copy watch?" offers from the hawkers stationed on every corner. Why was that? Because none of the tourists (who often fall for the copy-watch routine) would carry a mop. Now if I can just figure out how to make carrying 10 rolls of toilet paper look fashionable. Then it would be perfectly clear that I am, indeed, a local.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Singapore Awaits

We just booked our tickets to Singapore! Our friends Kelly and Malcolm graciously invited us to join them in their annual Thanksgiving feast with their family and friends in Singapore. It's scheduled the week before the actual US Holiday, but I like mashed potatoes and gravy on any day so we're packing our bags for our first trip since moving here. Then the following week we'll get turkey-ed out with some more of our American friends here in Hong Kong. So instead of missing out completely on Thanksgiving, we're celebrating twice! Although this hardly begins to compensate for missing out the Kirkland Family Pie Night (only the biggest, bestest holiday ever!), we're still very excited to see our friends and eat lots of tasty food, not to mention being very thankful for how well we've been taken care of the last few months. We'll be sure to post lots of pictures when we get back. (Our trip is Nov 16-19, fyi.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Junk Trip

This weekend we were invited to join in on a junk trip. A JUNK is a traditional Hong Kong boat, although the one we rented was basically a simplified houseboat. But I think the term is used broadly. Regardless, it was a really wonderful day. Now that it's fall here, the weather is about 80 F everyday and it feels great. I'm glad the summer heatwaves have passed. I sure am missing my Kansas fall weather, but I guess being able to go to the beach every weekend is a reasonable trade-off. I've never really taken a tropical vacation so this is all very new and exciting for me. Two-thirds of the Hong Kong land mass is uninhabited, and there is soooo much more to Hong Kong than it's famous urban landscape. I just had no idea how beautiful and tropical it really is here.

So on Sunday we left bright and early for Sai Kung (a neighboring Hong Kong village) and met up with a group of 20 or so. Our final destination was a beach about 30 minutes from Sai Kung, where we spent most of the day. We anchored in the harbour, swam to the beach, collected sea shells, explored, got sunburnt, got hungry, swam back for lunch, lounged around, got more sunburnt, and then went back home. Matt and I rode on the upper deck the whole way back. It felt like the kind of place you go on your honeymoon, except that you invited 20 friends along. Here are some pictures from the day:

This is some of the group making the long swim back to the boat from the beach. It's quite a work-out fighting the waves.

Enjoying the breeze and the great view from the upper deck. Made me feel like that J-Lo "Jenny from the Block" music video where she hangs out on a yacht with Ben Affleck.

Herbie the puppy gets a ride back from the beach on the surf board.

Inevitably there always a few language mis-communications. We had hired a skipper, but instead got a stripper. I guess that's what some people might refer to as a win-win situation.

This was near the end of the afternoon when we were thoroughly sun-kissed and sandy. I'm still picking sand out of my ears. Where does it all come from?

So now that you are all completely jealous of us because it's chilly where you live, consider it as extra incentive to come visit us. It's even warm here in January! Miss you all so much!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Charades, Anyone?

Let me tell you, folks, I am going to be a killer charades player by the time we move back to the states. Living in a city where you don't speak the language leaves plenty of room for creative hand gesturing. Oh, and noises. For example, I needed to buy some screws to install a shelf, but I knew that once I actually found a store that suited my hardware needs, I would mostly likely encounter a serious language barrier. So I spent some extra mental energy on my walk through the neighborhood figuring out the best way to pantomime the word "screw."

I decided this word was best described by holding my finger like a gun:

And then when I added a "whirrrring" noise (you'll have to use your imagination for this one):

I ended up with this mind-boggling concoction:

And it was a rousing success! (In case you can't tell, I was imitating a drill. It seemed a better option than spinning rapidly and running into the wall.) I'm sure the fellas at the store had a good laugh on my behalf after I left, but I just don't care.

To give me the occasional break from the ol' pantomime routine, I can use this brilliant pocket picture book we got in the mail yesterday from our friends Kevin and Laura. (Thanks so much, guys!) It's pure genius.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Guest Post: Menu Delights

Hey folks, Matt here. I've got a list for you.

Things on the menu at U.B.C. Coffee, the only restaurant at the Fu Yong Passenger Ferry Terminal in Bao An, China:

- Mexican Passion Coffee
- Tortoise's Efficacious Lotion
- Pearl Milk Tea with Mung Bean
- Tuna Fish Waffle
- Salt & Pepper Frog Small Chop
- Fish's Circle Particularly of The Fragile Cover Small Chop
- Sichuan-Style Pork of Fragrant Explosion
- The Matrimony Vine Pumpkin
- The Pineapple is Fried The Bean Curd
- Ovaltine

Ever the Optomist

Being the everloving optomist that I am, I've rethunk my little subway incident from the other day. My best theory so far is that the woman who accosted me in the subway had just come from her weekly English lessons and the quote of the day was "Be Careful...Be Considerate." Her teacher had instructed her to use the phrase once a day until their next session. And thus, my dear friends, is the reason I got yelled at this week. It was all in the name of homework. I can deal with that.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Things I've noticed:

1.) Burping in public (without inhibition) is perfectly acceptable, even when riding the subway, eating dinner, or standing behind someone at the ATM.

2.) Guys don't seem to mind shopping with their girlfriends--the guys are often just as stylishly dressed as their female counterparts and seem to be enjoying themselves.

3.) Rotten-smelling food is a good thing, apparantly.

That's all for now, folks.

PS The picture is of me at the Deep Water Bay beach this weekend. I thought it kind of looked like I was taking time to notice things. Mostly, I just wanted to post a picture.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Lesson on Being Considerate

Why is it that a wonderful, productive, euphoric day can be temporarily wrecked just by someone yelling at you on the subway? After a full-day floral workshop (which was absolutely amazing and I'll tell you more about it later), I was making my way home on the subway will all my carefully crafted floral work wrapped up in bundles. It was awkward to carry and not something I wanted to trek onto the train with, but I had no choice. I wrapped everything up as best I could, and I thought it was manageable. Not to mention, I carefully selected a spot way down at the end of the train tracks where there were the least amount of people boarding.

Unfortunately, I was attempting this just at the beginning of the evening rush hour. There are literally THOUSANDS of people trying to cram into every train. I'm not joking. It's China. Lots of people live here and every morning and every evening they stack themselves into the subway trains like sardines, and when the doors open they hop out like from a clown car. Sometimes I just don't understand how we all fit. (On a side note: From what I can tell, Asians don't sweat much, so you rarely have a stinky armpit in your face. That's nice.)

I made it on and off the first train just fine, but when I was peeking around the corner at the second station to see if it was safe to merge with the crazy mass of people, a lady came rarin' around the corner and ran into part of my bundles. "Be Careful! Be CONSIDERATE!!!," she yelled at me and gave me a very nasty look, before barreling down the walkway towards the tracks.

Of course I felt bad that I might have gotten in her way, but I find it interesting that shortly the feeling of remorse passed and my emotions turned to anger--meaning that for just a split second, I would have happily ruined a days worth of floral work just to whomp the lady over the head with my packages and yell back in a childish way "No YOU be CAREFUL and CONSIDERATE, Lady!!" Where does that feeling come from? I guess part of my reaction to this incident stems from the fact that I find HKers to have some of the most INconsiderate subway manners of any country I've ever visited and had the pleasure of riding its subway trains. For the most part everyone is friendly and helpful here, but the second they enter the subway, some deep-seated animal instinct awakens and causes an all out race for the trains. Pushing, shoving, squashing small children, toppling old ladies--all of this is perfectly acceptable behavior. It's like watching a colony of ants crawl all over each other. It's bizarre.

Maybe I'll come to see things differently the longer I live here. And like I mentioned already, the people of HK are wonderful and welcoming, but their subway manners are a bit lacking. But then, who am I to judge? I got yelled at today, so obviously I'm not perfect either.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Milk Drink

In the states there is a phenomenon called the "Juice Drink"--a clever advertising scheme used by many beverage companies to mislead the public as to the true nature of their product. Using the term "juice" adds an air of healthiness to their product. Moms across the USA fall for this dirty little trick everyday. Simply by adding "drink" to the end of product description, they can fill it with anything they want. Sugar, corn syrup, coloring, preservatives, paint thinner, rusty nails (well, perhaps these wouldn't quite meet FDA guidelines) are ingredients that fall neatly into the "drink" category. Only when it says "100% juice" are you actually getting the real deal. (Sometimes they get real sneaky and say "100% juice drink". HA! Lots of people fall for that!)

Regardless, this isn't meant to be a rant against the juice industry, or even for educational purposes, but simply to introduce the following concept:

The Milk Drink

The carton in the picture above looks like your average, unassuming 1/2 liter of milk. Only yesterday at breakfast did I uncover it's true, sinister nature. It's a MILK DRINK!!! (Let me note here that I don't usually drink milk since my stomach complains about it, but Matt does, so that explains it's presence at the breakfast table.)

Take a closer look at this carton. It actually says it's a "2% Low Fat Milk Drink" (and the clincher) "made with fresh milk." The ingredients (the fact that it has an ingredients list is your first clue that it isn't just milk) are: water, fresh milk (that's a relief), milk solids, stabilizer, and vitamins A & D. The Kowloon Dairy sure had us going. Due to my many preservative/additive allergies, I usually check most ingredients for everything I buy. But milk? Who checks their milk ingredients? Milk isn't supposed to have ingredients!

Later that afternoon I snuck a peek into the refridgerator of a friend and she also had "Milk Drink" instead of plain milk. Her "milk drink" was a cream-based product with slightly different ingredients than ours at home. It was produced by a different dairy, which led me to believe that maybe you can't actually get straight milk in this city. On the back it said (improperly quoted, mind you) "this milk drink product has been enjoyed by our customers for over 30 years...". Many Asians are lactose intolerant, and this is not a culture that uses much milk in everyday cooking. So my only working theory is that when milk became popular in Hong Kong, the dairies started to produce a watered-down milk product that could be more easily digested, and was cheaper to produce. And since the Chinese have been around waaaaaaay longer than Americans, maybe we imported the "drink" designation idea from the Chinese. Hmmmm...makes you wonder, eh? I'll be sure to let you know if I find some proper milk in Hong Kong.

PS It makes me giggle thinking about the British having their tea with "milk drink" for all those years. Don't know why.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Meet Jennifer Hawkins

This woman is everywhere in Hong Kong! Billboards, television ads, on the side of buses, and most recently they started to play her ads in the subway. The ads are for the Grand Waterfront property development--providing upscale luxury living like Hong Kong has (supposedly) never seen before. Of course the ad campaign doesn't really show you the apartments (because even though I'm sure they are obnoxiously expensive, they are probably still less than 800 sq ft, and who wants to see that?), but instead focus all the frenzy on Miss Jennifer Hawkins, the featured starlette. And as with any oft-played commercial, you start to feel resentful for all the time and energy it spends whirling over and over through your mind.

Each of the ads announce her as Miss Universe, and knowing my love of pageants, of course I had to do an investigation into just who this Jennifer Hawkins character is. A quick google search led to a Wikipedia article, which in turn led to some further juicy tidbits. Apparantly our little Miss Hawkins isn't just famous for her stint as Miss Universe, but also got quite a bit of coverage (or lack there of...pun intended) for her part in a mall fashion show in her home country of Australia.

(Disclaimer: I am not a fan of vulgar videos, but I found this one to be quite innocent, not to mention downright hilarious. )


I take a little guilty pleasure in seeing the rich and beautiful blundering things up a bit. Be honest, I know you do too. And this is exactly why I crack up everytime Jennifer Hawkins' face whizzes by on the side of a bus. I just can't help myself.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Not So Angry Anymore

Well, sorry about my public display of displeasure in my last post. I'm a highly opinionated and passionate person, but I try not to let my emotions get the best of me. My mom taught me to avoid using the word "hate" unless you really mean it, because it's a powerful word. Well, I did mean it, but I'm sorry to drag my lovely readers into it. I'll write more soon. Now it's time for bed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I really, really, really hate Insurance companies--particularly health insurance companies. It's a broken, broken system and someone ought to put it out of it's misery once and for all. Why would I want to pay money for medical coverage if they aren't going to cover the only thing I'm signing up for? ARGGGG!!! I'll say no more, in case some insurance salesman somewhere sees this post and decides that I should never, ever be covered for anything ever again. Makes me want to spit.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Go wash your mouth out with soap!

Every building in Hong Kong has a name. Much to our horror and delight, the big, black, ominous, eyesore of a building just down the street from us has a very conflicting name. While perfectly acceptable in Hong Kong, the name of this building should not be taken in vain in the USA. Printed plainly and largely in all caps on the outside of the building is this: GOFUKU

This city is just teeming with undiscovered treasures.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Welcome to the Kirkland's

It's our very own apartment and we love it. Every little (and I mean little) inch of it. As I mentioned during our apartment search, these Hong Kongers have a skewed sense of what should be counted in the square-footage of an apartment. It's completely normal for landlords to include part of the outside hallway, the window ledges, the bathtub, cabinets, drawers, perhaps even the elevator shaft in their careful calculations. Somehow I don't think this would fly in the USA. That's the kind of thing my law-suit happy fellow American would throw a hissy fit over. But that's not the case here, comrade. When we looked at the apartment, our property agent gave us a quote of about 400 sq. feet. That's roughly half the size of our former apartment in Lawrence. So, as I type this blog, Matt is taking the actual measurements which I will reveal at the end of this blog. Gives you something to stick around for.

But that silliness aside, let me give you a quick tour of the place:

(As you can see, that's me.) Hi, Hello, come on in. Did you enjoy the flight? It's a doozy, I know. Well, at least you can rest easy knowing that we've got a nice, cozy IKEA sofa-bed waiting for you. Oh, and please don't mind the shower curtain in the window. It's the best we could do until we get a little more settled. Didn't want to pick out curtains until we got to know the place a little better. For some reason, deciding on curtains is really difficult for me. Too bad it didn't come outfitted with those great Venetian blinds we had in our last home. I loved those things! The dingy white color went so well with our dingy white walls. (Well, until I got them stuck in the vacuum cleaner. But we'll leave that story for another day.) We live on the 13th floor, which we find ironic because that floor is often omitted completely from buildings all across the USA. In China, 4 and 14 are unlucky numbers (4= death, 1= certain, 1+4=certain death), so you won't find those floors in most apartment buildings. I guess if the Chinese don't think 13 is unlucky, then I don't care either.
Our living room is really quite simple and bare, but at least it's something to come home to. In another month or so the rest of our boxes from the states should arrive and then we'll get this room looking real sharp. For now it remains an IKEA wasteland.

This is the view from our livingroom window. Better than most apartments we looked at. No ocean view, but we're not complaining.

This is the view looking down from the livingroom window. As a girl who has a teeny-weeny bit of height-fright (ok, I lied--change that to MASSIVE case of height-fright), it took some getting used to. But now I'm just fine. I even managed to wash the outside of the windows--as much as I could reach anyway. That's a huge accomplishment for me. When we first moved in I wouldn't even get close to them.

This is our tiny bedroom. Think college dorm room minus the bunk beds. Just out of view are some built in closets that make up our entire storage area. Who knows what we're gonna do when our 20 boxes from the states arrive. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I take heart knowing that half the capacity of those boxes are taken up by packing materials. Still, it will be a daunting task trying to find a place to cram all our stuff.

And not to be forgotten, the crown jewel of our room, it's the bed-time Snoopy drawer pulls that really tie the room together. They are classic

Here's a look into our lovely bathroom. Nice and clean. Never mind the upsidedown pink bow tiles. We've got hot water and a separate bathtub/shower. No straddling the toilets during my morning shower. That's a relief. (It's not uncommon due to lack of space in Hong Kong, for the bathroom to simply be a shower room. Basically, the door is waterproof, there is a showerhead over the toilet, and you have to pray that you don't soak the toilet paper everytime you shower. It's not pleasant.)

And this is our wonderful, delightful kitchen! It has a two-burner range, a decent-sized refridgerator, a washing machine, a sink with no hot water, and lots and lots of glorious sunlight. I love it!

Well, that's the tour. Hotel Kirkland is open for business. Hope you can all make it to our house-warming party!

(Oh, and the final measurement...drumroll please....about 275 sq. feet. Yowsers!)

Meant to Be

Some days I'm just not sure about this whole living in Hong Kong business. I mean, really, who moves to Hong Kong? Ok, so lots and lots of people move to Hong Kong--but me? What the jimmy are we doing here? But when I'm feeling a bit bewildered about all of this, I need only look at the ground to realize that, yes, this is where we should be right now. These lovely pothole/street covers are everywhere. Puts a grin on my face everytime.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

National Day

Sunday, October 2 was Chinese National Day, much like our Independence Day. Matt and I watched the fireworks show from the roof of his building (25 stories high). It was the best fireworks display I've ever seen--whew! and what a finale! Wish you all could've been there with us. Next year maybe we'll brave the crowds and try to find a spot down on the harbour. Let us know if you want to come and we'll save you a spot.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Desperate Times...

(Imagine this conversation being spoken in Cantonese. This conversation is purely fictional, but a similar one may have very likely occurred today at the Park n' Shop at the Kwai Fong subway stop.)

Customer #1: Did you see her?
Customer #2: Who?
Customer #1: That strange white girl in aisle 5.
Customer #2: Oh yeah, the one tightly clutching those boxes of macaroni and cheese?
Customer #1: Yeah, her. I always wondered who bought that stuff.
Customer #2: Yeah, me too. What a weirdo.
Customer #1: Yeah.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Asian Pageantry

I love Pageants. No, I love, love, love pageants. Seriously, I truly, madly, positively adore them. Can you tell that I love them yet? So imagine my sheer and utter joy to be channel flipping the other night and stumble upon the Miss Asia Something-Or-Other Pageant. I giggled with delight (much to my husband's chagrin).
My best friend and I used to sit in eager anticipation at the start of every Miss America, Miss Teen, Miss USA pageant, etc. We'd watch whatever got televised. But not only would we watch them, we'd get out our wide-ruled notebooks and start to track our favorites (Top 25, Top 10, Top 5, and on and on until we'd decided the fate of one special woman). We used to practice that special beauty queen wave. "Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, elbow, elbow..." and on and on until we had it perfected.

Regardless of the language barrier, I soaked in every pastel frenzied moment of this Asian pageant. I tuned in just in time for the talent portion and those Asian beauties did not disappoint. Only 8 contestants performed, and their choices were the following:

1.) Dressed in a sort-of slinky outfit, #1 performed a slighty awkward Britney Spears-esque dance. Nothing too outstanding.

2.) Waltzing out in a frothy pink number, #2 wowed the audience with her best rendition of the yodel song from the Sound of Music. It was a classic.

3.) #3 followed with an equally awkward dance as #1, but with a belly-dance theme.

4.) "More brains than beauty" contestant #4 played the Asian version of the Dulcimer.

5.) Donning a fire-engine red pleather pants suit, contestant #5 played a hookah-type clarinet. She was well-received.

6.) Sadly, #6 had to sing with only the accompaniments of previously mentioned hookah-clarinet. I'm not sure who suffered more, contestant #6 or the poor clarinet. Contestant #6 was not very good, to say the least.

7.) Another frothy outfit, and another awkward dance.

8.) And last, but not least, our good friend #8, displaying the ultimate mark of a talented contestant, she pantomimed and lipsync-ed to her favorite Asian ballad. It was a nail biter.

And the winner is...our hookah-clarinet playing contestant! She came from behind to win it all--who would've known?! (My guess is that the instrument is actually an ancient Chinese traditional instrument and the elderly judges were impressed that she was keeping up with the ancient practice.)

After the talent portion came a group parade, where all 50-75ish contestants wandered across the stage with their vaseline smiles and their high-and-mighty heels, working desperately to smile and prance at the same time. Their choreography was set to the Prince song Kiss, sung by a local male super-star (dressed in more sequins than all the contestants combined), singing in his best country-Western accent. It was a total hoot!

Then came the swim-suit contest. This was actually so painful to watch that I had to change the channel. In all the US pageants I've ever seen, the girls simply walk across the stage in their swimsuits--it's all over in just a few moments. But these poor Miss Asian Etc. contestants (only the Top 8, mind you) were each subjected to an interview while standing on stage in their teeny-weeny bikinis. I felt so embarrassed for them. Not too mention they must have been freezing! Those large convention halls are always so cold. If only I'd known what they were saying.

Then we got the standard super-star serenade, except that the reigning queen joined in on the fun. I guess her talent the previous year must have been singing.

And just as I thought the pageant was coming to an end and the winner was going to be announced shortly (with those Top 8 girls being narrowed down to 3 and a big ugly sedan-like throne looming in the background), they brought 15-20 contestants on to the stage, handed them each a certificate and placed a sash over their heads. Then everyone clapped...and they ran the credits. What?!? Who won?!? What's going on?! Is this To Be Continued? What the h---?!

I have no idea what happened. We never got a winner. There was no crowning of the new queen, no gnashing of teeth by the losers, no walk down the stage with the special wave...nothing. I have no idea what kind of pageant these people are running. I guess that's what you get when you live in a Communist country. Everyone's a winner. What a complete and utter let down that turned out to be.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Guest Post: The Joys of Apartment Living

Hi Folks: Matt here.

We moved into our new apartment this week, and it's wonderful. It's a great feeling having our own place. Our IKEA furniture arrives today - so we can sleep on a mattress intead of the floor - and we've started cooking, actually cooking in our kitchen. Home cooked food! It's great!

In fact, I'm writing this in between washing up some dishes and helping with this morning's breakfast - bacon and pancakes. Such luxuries! We're happy people today.

We'll post photos after we have a bit of furniture in the place. And hey - for all you world-travelers - we made most of our furniture decisions based on how they'd adjust to accomodate guests. So we're counting on your visits . . . dust off those passports!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Odds and Ends

The apartment is ours! We packed all our meager belongings back into our 5 suitcases and some odd boxes on Saturday, and Matt went to pick up the keys to our new place. Only then did we discover that all the power had been shut off (we thought everything would just be transferred to our name), so we were delayed a bit. Good thing we didn't check out of our current place yet. So, the apartment is officially ours, but we won't move into until Tuesday. In the meantime we're slowly bringing our things there, one box/suitcaseful at a time. We'll post pictures soon.

Until we get everything hooked up at our current apartment (internet in particular), my Crabby posts could be a bit sparse. Don't panic--I'll be back before you can throw a fit! To keep you coming back for more, here are some future post topics...

Big Buddha and his luxury Cable Car
Cheap Optometric Wonders
MTV Asia presents CRIBS: Meet the Kirklands

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Toilet Stew

Last night there was a disturbing report on the local news. Apparently some of the restaurants in town (of the cheap, dingy, fresh seafood variety) have been diverting their water supply for their seafood tanks (think of those poor live crabs with their rubberbanded pinchers you see sometimes in grocery store tanks --but think waaaay grosser and more stuffed with weird sea creatures) from nearby apartment complexes. No big deal, right? Until you find out the water they stole was intended for the nearby apartments' toilet bowls and is loaded with E.coli and other nasty stuff. (I guess you guys know all about E.coli right now, don't you?) Unlike in the US where the water in your toilet bowl is so clean you could drink it, the eau de toilet of HK is not so delightful. Perhaps my Chinese food aversion is not so unfounded after all. I should know better than to watch the local news. It's nothing but trouble.

I've included some pictures Matt took outside one of these type of restaurants. In fact, in our soon to be new neighborhood these fresh seafood restaurants line the streets. Can't wait to take you there! Bring your Pepto!

Yes, those are eels and toads. (As my sister-in-law put it best, "I think it's the fact that they're piled so closely together in a McDonald's Fry Basket that makes them the least appetizing...". Laura, you are so right.)