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.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Does it strike anyone as strange that the blogger spell check doesn't recognize the word "blog" as a real word? Didn't they like invent the word, or very nearly? Hmmm...very curious.

Tuna Meltdown

This past Sunday I had a bit of a food meltdown. Matt and I were sitting in yet another super-cheap, dingy Chinese restaurant--the kind with an English menu, thank goodness. However, my food sucked. Really---it was slimy, undercooked, stinky, and secretly loaded with 3-4 short black hairs. Completely unappetizing. Even Matt didn't want to try it. Now that says something.

[Let me insert here that I hate to be the kind of picky, rich American who can sit down at a meal, only to turn their nose up and refuse to eat it, but can still afford to pay for uneaten food and manage to stop at Starbucks for an overpriced pastry afterwards to compensate. My mom taught me to always try everything and be adventurous. So, at these cheap restaurants, I really struggle with how to behave. Do I eat to be polite, hoping in vain not to offend the nice people who cooked and served me my meal? Do I just leave it barely touched, knowing that I will never go back there again? How do I live with myself knowing that there are starving children in Asia who would gladly eat my meal for me? If I keep trying everything set before me, will I eventually stop craving Chili's Chicken Fried Steak and start to really appreciate slimy, hairy, undercooked food? I'm starting to see that I spend most of my meals racked with guilt. Perhaps that's why everything tastes bad.]

I looked up at Matt with sad eyes, when something dawned on me. Not only was I not going to eat any part of my lunch, but I realized that I didn't feel any deep-seeded need to even attempt to like it. "No," I thought to myself, "I'm not even going to make an effort, and I'm perfectly ok with that." Something in me snapped and I began to embrace my pickiness. I felt I deserved to be picky. A girl can only take so much.

Matt looked at me with a glint in his eyes (that glint he gets just when he's about to be clever and funny and painfully honest, all at the same time) and said..

"Erika, do you ever think maybe you were born to be rich, and just aren't yet?"

[I pride myself on being adaptable and hardworking--never minding a little hardship and discomfort. I like thinking of myself as a farm-raised, tough-girl tomboy...sort of. So this recent realization that I wanted to be nothing but picky and selfish sort of threw me off a bit. Don't get me wrong--I'm often picky and selfish, it's just that I live in denial most of the time, so for once I was being completely honest about my true nature.]

So this prompted a discussion between us about if it's okay to hate Chinese food* and whether or not I'm really a picky eater or not. At one point I said,

"But I eat ding dongs and Little Debbie cakes. Lots of people hate those."

At which point Matt said, "Yeah, Erika, I think you are single-handedly keeping the snack cake companies in business."

By this time, as you can well see, the conversation had disinigrated into nonsense, so we paid for our food (mine still mostly untouched, but now minus the 3-4 short, black hairs because I had already very thoughtfully removed them) and left.

I'm not really sure what my point was to this blog, except maybe to emphasize that I'm still having some food issues. But as some great scholar surely said at some point, you can't live on eggrolls alone, so I'm bound to find a solution to my food aversions soon enough. Having my own kitchen will help considerably. That should happen by this weekend if everything goes well.

*I love eggrolls. They are exempt.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Guest Post: Apartment Update

Hi faithful readers: it's Matt here. Erika's graciously agreed to let me do a guest post now and again (she's always gracious, isn't she?). I've got a quick update on the apartment search.

We found one! Or, at least, we've put in an offer of sorts. After seeing about a dozen places, we found a really nice apartment in the Yau Ma Tei area of Kowloon. We're having an agent talk to the landlord - and we should know if we get it in a few days. It has the nicest kitchen we've seen, bright light, and it's super-clean. That's a rarity here. It's about a five-minute walk from my office, and I could walk most of the way underground, if it was a hot or rainy day . . . like most of them here.

For you future guests out there, it's a great basecamp for seeing HK - right in the heart of Kowloon, about a 2 minute walk to the subway station, and just a few blocks from places that every tourist should see. We'll give you the rest of the cool details when we hear for sure - so keep a finger crossed for us, and stay tuned.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Apartment Searching

This morning Matt and I are going apartment hunting. Everything (housing-wise) is so tiny here. We were prepared for this, but no matter how ready you think you might be to live in a teeny-tiny apartment, part of me still wants to yelp in surprise everytime I'm shown an apartment. Some funny facts about HK housing:

1.) The apartments are measured in square-feet, which seems perfectly reasonable. However, what seems perfectly UN-reasonable is that the given measurements will more likely than not include the hallway outside the apartment, the window ledges, the elevator space, etc. You name it, they measure it and inflate the footage. So, we've been mostly looking at places advertised around 400-550 sq ft. In reality, these places are more likely 300-400 sq ft. The HKers are nuts.
2.) No one cooks. Seriously. Well, ok--they use a rice cooker and maybe a hotplate or something. But that means that no apartments have an oven (although we're going to see one today that claims to have one), and lots of apartments don't even have a cooking range. My plan of making friends by enticing them with American home-made pies seems to be crashing down around me. My hopes have been dashed. We have some friends here that told us they looked at an apartment once in a building that was 13 years old and had an oven--however, the oven still had it's original plastic wrap on. It had never even been turned on. Several people here have mentioned that they just bought a super-duper toaster oven and can bake muffins, small cakes, etc. in them. Hmmm. I'll just have to deal, eh?
3.) Most apartments come furnished with at least a bed, couch, wardrobe, fridge, and such. Two property agents have already inquired about Matt's height (when I'm searching on my own) and have said, "Oh!..Ok, we skip next one. Bed too small...". And sure enough, many of the provided beds are too short for Matt. HK is just one funny surprise after another. It's weird when so many of the ridiculous things I thought of before coming here actually turn out to be acurate. I guess it makes for lots of blog topics.

Well, here we go. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Peak: A Magnificent Tourist Trap

It's a must-see for every tourist. At the top of the Peak, on Hong Kong island, is the most amazing view of the city--both day and night. We went on Sunday when one of Matt's former co-workers was in HK on business. They have the new observation deck finished, so now you can see the city skyline as well as the water-front view on the other side of the mountain. Even with all the smog, it's still quite an impressive site. Not to mention the steep-inclined tram ride that starts and finishes every good trip to the Peak. And, for all you future HK tourists, we'll take you there.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

So now the day is over (and it only got better!)

Tonight Matt and I went to dinner with some people from ECC, the church we've been going to the last few weeks. Along with other Cantonese specialties, we had "chili crab"--it was pretty tasty, but a little difficult to eat mainly because I made eye contact with the poor crabs before they got cooked and sent to my belly to rest. But considering I've sort of been avoiding eating Chinese food since I moved to China, it wasn't so bad. There was some tasty sweet and sour pork and also some yummy steamed veggies. The most interesting part of the evening (and the part that proves beyond a doubt that God does exist and He's taking care of us here so well) was when we met up with the first couple (I'll refer to them as M. and L.) and got to talking about our jobs. When I mentioned that I was a florist, L.'s eyes lit up and told me her family was in the silk flower export business and she would love some advice on floral displays. That was very exciting to hear and we all marveled about the chances of that. But then later when we met the rest of the group, and I happened to mention that I also worked at a chocolate shop, another couple looked up with surprise and said, "we own a chocolate shop and might need to hire some new help in a few months." For real, people, there is no possible way that in the real world, this combination of people sitting at a table could exist. Perhaps we were all in some sort of chili crab induced coma and we'll all have a good laugh about this when we wake up. God works in mysterious ways, even in Hong Kong.

Comments and Pictures

So, I think I successfully rigged my blog to allow comments from members. Give it a whirl and see if it works!

Also, I think blogs without pictures are boring, so I'm posting some random pictures to keep you enticed and coming back for more. Enjoy!

P.S. All of these pictures are from the bird market (rows and rows of bird cages, feeders, and actual birds, too). In the top picture with the little square cages, there is a bird in each one, and they are just stacked up in the corner. I feel for those birds the same sadness I feel for the beta fish I see at Wal-Mart in the states.

Today was a good day (and it's not even over yet)

For some reason today I walked around in a state of blissful wonderment. It rained last night and was still raining this morning--perhaps that was what set the tone for my mood. I absolutely ADORE rainy days. Rainy days delight me with their freshness--there is something completely exhilarating about the smell of rain. Not to mention there is no need to mess with your hair, because no matter how hard you try, it will still end up soggy and frizzy within minutes of stepping outside. I say, embrace this small inconvenience and enjoy the extra time in the morning that would normally have gone into your happy hairdo.

Shortly after waking up I got a conference call from two of my dearest friends. I guess the big "how to contact us in HK" email seems to have worked. It was so wonderful to hear some friendly voices. [My mom called me from Hawaii last night. That was the firtst time we've spoken on the phone since I've been here. It was great to hear her voice, too.] Keep those calls, emails, IM chats, etc. coming--they keep me sane and grounded.

Around noon I headed out the door in hopes that by making myself scarce around the apartment, the cleaning fairies would make themselves at home and vacume the place during my absence. We were sort of overlooked again this week (usually the place is cleaned on Tuesdays and today is already Thursday) and me, being the chicken that I am, am too shy to ask the front desk about it. (I know many of you think that I am a generally brave and self-confident person, but you would be amazed at how many everyday, ordinary things I am a complete and total coward about. Just ask my husband. It drives him nuts.) So I thought that if I just left for the whole day, maybe the problem would solve itself.

My first stop was my favorite coffee shop down the street, which seems to be turning into quite the lucky charm, because I made another friend there today. A nice girl from the UK sat down next to me in the big, cushy chairs and we started chatting. We ended up talking for the next hour and decided that we must stay in touch. She likes to hike, so maybe she can come along on our next trip with our new hiking group buddies. Regardless, she was really nice so I'm sure we'll stay in touch and have lots to chat about.

After lunch, I wandered around and took in all the greeness of Hong Kong. After a nice rain, HK looks extra lush. They do a really nice job of keeping things well landscaped here. My new friend gave me directions to "Armani Fiori", the upscale floral shop sanctioned by Giorgio Armani himself. There wasn't very much on display, but the arrangements were amazing--the kind where you pay more for the empty space around flowers than for the flowers themselves. That's the hallmark of a true floral genius--someone who can sell air.

I ended my wanderings at Page One, a very expensive, but utterly inspiring bookstore. I could (and did) spend hours just paging through books about floral design, papercrafts, cake decorating, t-shirt design, knitting, etc. at that bookstore. They have a great selection of books and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite hangouts.

When I finally made it back to the apartment, much to my surprise and delight, the cleaning fairies had come and gone. Yeah!! Another cowardly triumph. (Just wait--tonight Matt will tell me he called about it 'cause he was sick of hearing me complain.) So now I'm just hanging around, watching Sesame Street (in English!), and waiting for my husband to come home. Tonight we're going out with some people from our Bible Study. We're going to a "chili crab" restaurant. Matt tells me that chili crab is the unofficial official dish of Singapore. I hope it's tasty. Wish me luck! If it's anything noteworthy, you're liable to hear about it on a future blog.

I hope I have many more days like this.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Traditional Thai Massage

This is a story about the time I got a massage in China:

I was in a world of hurt when we arrived in Hong Kong, having just finished a 15 hour plane ride in itty-bitty seats (not too mention the several months of stress leading up to our crazy move), and I've always heard that massages in Asia are wonderful and cheap. After spending a few days sick in bed with a stomach ache and alot of back pain, I mustered up the strength to go out and get a massage. It fixed me right up. However, it was simultaneously one of the most relaxing and bizarre experiences I've ever had. I looked up some massage places in an ex-pat newspaper and found one that looked reasonable (I paid approx US$20 for an hour session). I opted for the "Traditional Thai" massage--I had no idea what this meant, but it sounded nice. When I called the place to make a reservation I asked what the difference was between a regular massage and a "thai" massage. In very broken English, the reception said "it's cracking.." and then she hung up. Umm, I seriously wondered what I had gotten myself into, but I didn't care at that point. When I actually got to the place, they led me to a small, dark curtained-off area and handed me a large t-shirt and some used mens shorts. They had a weird bleach stain, but smelled freshly washed, so I put them on. Then I stuck my face in the little massage table hole and the magic began. A "traditional Thai" massage involves a little Thai woman who massages every part of your body and relaxes you completely, and then performs a sort of yoga on you. She bent me around in every which way, stretching me, making all sorts of "cracking" noises (just like they promised!) and over all fixed me up quite nicely. No more back pain! The weird part about the whole thing was that she massaged me using her entire body. She hopped on my back, crawled all over me, used her hands, feet, thights, elbows, whatever she had available. It was nuts! It felt like there were actually 3-4 small Thai woman frolicking around on my back. It was a very weird feeling, but also very relaxing. Any lucky souls who make it over here to visit are definitely going to have to try it. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Just like being at your Neighborhood Applebee’s

This is the start of week 3 here in HK, and I’ve just had an Applebee’s moment. You know those Applebee's commercials that show everyone all friendly and happy and knowing everyone who walks through the door? [Ooh, and then they show those tasty looking baby-back ribs, and they start singing that song, and we all feel happy and hungry...] Well, it's true. Everytime I'm at an Applebee's anywhere, inevitably, someone I know walks through the door. So, everytime I'm at a restaurant and I see someone I know, I call that an "Applebee's moment."

This leads me to my point. I wasn't at an Applebee's, but I was at a Pacific Coffee Company shop in my neighborhood, and lo and behold, someone I knew walked in (and it wasn't my husband). I made a friend at an art gallery show (see previous post) and we've met up a few times. Anyway, she was on her lunch break and stopped in for some coffee. I can't believe I've been here less than a month and I've already had an Applebee's moment. I love this town.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Trouble in blog-la land

The pictures I promised in my last post obviously aren't there. Due to a slow internet connection (I think the entire complex shares a single internet line) I have had some trouble posting pictures on my blog. Until I have the patience to solve this problem, take a look at Matt's flickr site. That's where all the good pictures are anyway. Just visit: