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.