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.