Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘life in honkey town’ Category

We went for a great walk in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve with friends a few weeks ago. There is a nature walk and then three loops – red, yellow, and blue – of varying lengths. The reserve is one of the oldest forests since the government began the reforestation process. Many of the trees here date from the 1920s. The winding paths are well shaded and in the midst of dense forest.

We decided to start with the nature walk and it wound its way through a really nice forest with sign posts describing the different trees and natural habitat to take note of. It was all uphill so for the 4 and 3.5 year old it was a bit much but they made it. We had some lunch at the top (watching out for the monkeys – none of which were there) and then decided to do the shortest walk which is the red loop.

It’s simple enough to get there – we took the KCR from Hung Hom to the Tai Po Market stop and jumped in a taxi for the short ride to the reserve. If you’re looking for a good day trip that will make you feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle this is a great place to go.

Read Full Post »

2362141019_47227a801c_mOh what a difference a year makes. When we began our housing search in Feb ’08 it was the height of the market and what we saw in our price range was absolutely horrible – it made us cry. Of course we wound up going over our budget and our wallets have been hurting ever since. We had heard that the property market can be quite volatile but I don’t think we quite realized how much – and while it really hurt us last year, we are about to benefit greatly this year.

We decided we would ask for a price reduction in our rent and just to be safe, prior to asking our landlord, I spent a few days viewing apartments to see what we can get if our landlord won’t negotiate. I was pleased with what I saw both in our immediate neighborhood, as well, as others we are considering. So feeling like we had options to fall back on M contacted our agent and informed her we wanted to talk rent. She immeditely responded that our landlord would drop it 20% – which puts us at the rent we should have been paying in the first place. Me, being the terrible bargainer, was thrilled. He, reveling in the whole game of negotiating, decided to ask for more. I told him it’s up to him and any more he can get us would be great.   Well we had our sit down negotiation a few days ago and we agreed on a 25% reduction – YAHOO!!!! I am so relieved we are staying – we moved across the world a year ago so the thought of moving again, albeit within Hong Kong, overwhelmed me.  Here’s to another year in HK in what has become our home.

Read Full Post »

img_8844

Christmas Trees are available in Hong Kong, for those of you wondering. They’re expensive, and the ones we’ve seen so far are thin and smell weird. A five foot tree will run you at least HK$650, or around $80. We bought a six foot tree and, let me tell you, it’s the worst tree we’ve ever gotten. So let’s talk about our tree ordeal.

I had a bad feeling when I reached in to carry the thing home. My arm was immediately covered in dead pine needles. Things were snapping. I carried it around the corner and through the apartment building, leaving a trail of green for our poor doorman, Lai. When we brought it into the house and I cut the plastic wrapping stuff open, we had an explosion of needles. Literally half the tree fell to the ground. The picture above is after we cleaned up needles.

At this point, T is hysterical. She has no idea why on earth we’ve brought this tree into our house. The whole situation scared the crap out of her.  F, meanwhile, was ecstatic. Practically out of breath. Sprinting around the house. Offering to do this, offering to do that. “F, can you get the broom?” “Okay!” And bam, she was off, and back before you could turn around. She caught on that the dead pine needles were an issue, but we assured her it was fine. We opened all the ornaments at F’s demand. T thought we’d purchased balls, so she started throwing the ornaments. Thankfully the large, cantaloupe sized ones were fine to throw, we learned. T loved the fact that they bounced when she tossed them. We had to move the ornaments once she threw a glass one and broke it. F started crying. T laughed.

So many needles fell off that there’s hardly a speck of green on the last 12 inches of the tree, like the bare tail of an opossum.

And if that wasn’t enough, we think E is almost definitely allergic to the conifer. She starts coughing wildly whenever she gets near it and when she’s out of the house she feels much better.

However, I’m starting to think that, overall, the tree has character, other than its awful top. E, thank god, found an outdoor deck ornament meant for hanging. It’s an orange star and it fits perfectly on top of the tree. F hung so many ornaments we had to put the rest away. She hangs them all in one place, often three to a branch. F flipped out when E tried to put our red sofa blanket around the base of the tree to make the bottom look decent before we had friends over. I was with F on that one and she won that argument.

We played the Muppets and John Denver Christmas album. It was when they sang “Deck the Halls,” led by Ms. Piggy of course, that I realized F only knows the Chinese version of the song. She was singing it in Mandarin!

My Mom has mentioned on several occasions that this tree could be a fire hazard. It’s not a hazard, yet. We are contemplating going back and asking for a slightly more alive tree (what do you expect, I suppose, when you cut the trunk). I don’t know where this tree comes from, but by the looks of it I’d say Sweden, or the Saharan Desert.

Read Full Post »

wanchai_streetmarket_phot0226Yesterday my 3-yo and I went to the Wan Chai market to do some shopping. Once we got there she wanted to walk so I was pushing the stroller and we browsed. We needed to get several items, one being tights to match her dress for her upcoming school holiday concert. In a rare moment of preparedness I put her dress in my pocketbook to see if the tights matched. Well, we weren’t there ten minutes when we found some red tights. My purse kept slipping down my arm so I absent-mindedly put it on top of the stroller (in the fold of the hood). I turned for 3-seconds to look at the tights, turned back to get the dress from my purse, and it was gone. I worriedly said “my pocketbook!” and with that F proceeded to FREAK out. I mean she was hysterical. It was disturbing how upset she was. I picked her up, told her it was okay, and at the same time was looking around for any sign of someone running off with my purse. A woman working the stall called the police for me and F and I waited, she very upset, confused, and scared and I trying to comfort her and at the same time not be too upset myself. My only real concern was the loss of HK ID card, bank card, credit card, membership cards, and US drivers license. The mere thought of the hassle of canceling all of those items and the time to reissue them was overwhelming me.

After 5-10 minutes the police officer arrived and asked me all sorts of questions, which proceeded to scare me more as he was concerned about my keys and if I had my address in there and the chance of burglary at my home. I hadn’t even thought of that, and now, in addition to all the calls I would need to make, I would have to change the locks….

Well after a few minutes someone yelled and the police officer excused himself and ran over (all of this was in Cantonese so I have no idea what was said). Needless to say, the purse was found – minus my mobile phone, cash, F’s dress, and her snacks. Intact were my wallet with all cards, my keys, and other miscellaneous items.  Not sure why they took her dress, but after having her relatively calm for a while a whole new round of tears came on when I had to tell her the dress was gone. I told her we’d go straight away and find her a new dress, which we thankfully were able to do. We then went home and made cookies for the party after her concert – what a way to make you feel better after a terrible day!

The one thing I keep asking myself is how could I be so casual? We came from New York City, I’ve never been robbed before, and think of myself as fairly street-smart. The one thing I keep going back to is in someways I’m out of practice. I know there are signs throughout HK about theft, but honestly, I feel very safe here. Yes, I do frequent pretty safe places – Victoria Park, the library, I ride the MTR – but regardless of where I am I usually don’t have that “haunches up,” suspicious feeling I did in New York.  I guess I learned my lesson – I just wish F weren’t there when I learned it. I tried, on some small level, to use it as a teaching moment and we talked afterwards about stealing and how we felt after having our things taken and it’s never ok to take something from someone else. We also talked about being scared and that it’s okay to feel that way. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what else to do with our experience.  Randomly and unusually she woke up last night hysterically asking for blueberries and it took a while to settle her down – I’m only guessing this was some sort of reaction to the stress and fear she felt earlier in the day. Then today when I mentioned going to the Wan Chai post office to pick up some packages she got wildly scared and started to wimper – “Mommy don’t take your pocketbook! We can’t lose things again!” Unfortunately I think she’ll be afraid to go to Wan Chai for sometime….

Read Full Post »

img_8545Since moving to Honkey Town in February ’08 we’ve been keeping a fairly consistent blog for family and friends back home. In the course of doing so we’ve realized that there is information, musings, and general reflections from our experiences that we think would be interesting to share publicly. So from here onward we’re unveling our public face for a wider audience. Below are posts we’ve altered for our new public life and we’ll add content as we go. Welcome and we hope you (if there are any you’s out there) enjoy!

Read Full Post »

It is a common issue in the Hong Kong expat world that farewells are inevitable. I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly and to two such crucial people to my life here. I met J first, quickly followed by A. Both of their husbands work with M and pretty quickly I knew I’d befriend them both. They had organized, with another woman, a weekly playgroup for the kids and through those meetings, then socializing as couples, and then just socializing as girlfriends I’ve really become to rely on them as great, smart, funny, open, honest friends.

img_0516A and her family left a few days ago to move to Vietnam. A is from there originally but left at age seven as a refugee and after spending a year on a beach in Malaysia, then another in Nebraska, her family finally settled and thrived in LA. Since college, where she and her hubby met, they’ve lived and worked all over Asia. A is one of the most honest, forthcoming, no-bs people I will likely ever meet. She lived in the building next door to us and it was wonderful to have a friend I could count on in the neighborhood. We would call and check in about random stuff, bounce ideas off each other, or just meet in the park – and all of this was done with a no-nonsense, get straight to the point, ease with each other. We would share our frustrations with motherhood, life in hong kong, or just about anything else and I could say anything to her without being judged. She is incredibly funny and smart and will be missed terribly. On the bright side, Vietnam is close so we’re already planning a trip to see them and venture into Vietnam – hopefully around this time next year. And they very well may make their way through Hong Kong going to and from the US so ideally we’ll be seeing each other several times in the coming years.

toronto_7J leaves in two weeks to return to her native Canada. She is inspiring! A few nights ago I attended a benefit for the organization she co-founded. She’s been here three years and to be there tonight you’d think she’s been here for more than twenty by the amount of people and enthusiasm in the room for what she has accomplished. In addition to her passion and visionary work, J is also hilarious, compassionate, thoughtful and plan old fun. I simply love hanging out with her and can spend an entire evening chatting with her with weaving topics that touch on the serious to the profane and back again within seconds. That is my kind of lady!

I am so sad to lose these two profoundly important woman in my life here in Hong Kong. J and I joke that we are FFL – Friends for Life – and I so sincerly hope that’s true. We’ll make a big effort to see A & J in Vietnam and sincerely hope that whenever we’re back in the US, on visits or for good, that we’ll also see J & J. Here’s hoping and here’s wishing both of this amazing woman all the best in their new adventures.

I guess I’m a real expat now that I’m losing my first round of friends…

Read Full Post »

return to lamma

On Sunday, we attended the 8th annual Lamma Fun Day event, held at Power Station Beach. I’ll get to the name of the beach later. We love going to Lamma. As you may recall, we tried very hard to live on this Island. In hindsight, thank goodness we didn’t (need to qualify that E still wistfully thinks of living on Lamma). The commute to work would have been murder, and F would eventually have had to take a ferry to whatever school she went to. Plus most of the apartments are crap, and you usually have to live on Lamma for a while to get a decent but small flat. Anyway, it’s still a fun place to visit. The people are extremely laid back, and there is this definite hippy element to the population there that kind of appeals to us.

And that’s what greeted us when we got to the beach. People sold jewelry and garments and trinkets from tables propped up on the path just above the beach. A snack stand sold burgers and soggy fries. There was a drum circle. Further down there was a small beer tent with Tsingtao on tap. People roamed around in bathing suits, buying stuff, eating, lounging on the beach. When I came back from scouting a spot on the sand, E informed me that she’d lost her phone on the ferry. I called the phone several times to no avail. I swear one person hung up on me. Then E’s phone called me, and it was a nice man on the other line, who happened to be the ferry engineer who happened to have found E’s phone. He kindly arranged for us to pick it up and even gave us his cell number because E’s phone was running out of batteries. I texted him a “thank u” the next day.

There was a cool jazz band playing under a make-shift stage. There was a kids area where if you paid HK$100 per child, they could get their faces painted, decorate cup cakes, shoot a pellet gun (we opted out of that) and play other games—plus free entry to the jungle gym set up near the shore. F squirted seven kinds of frosting on her cupcake and dumped rainbow sprinkles on top. With a colorful, and slightly weird looking finished product in her hand, she bit into the cupcake, only she never reached the cake part. It was essentially a snack of raw frosting. T decorated her own as well, with the help of some nice volunteer ladies.

This was a gathering of pretty low-strung people for the most part, as expected on Lamma. People made friends with us. We made friends with them. F even decided to take part in a relay race (she was the only girl). I thought for sure that when it was her turn (or earlier) she’d drop out, but damned if she didn’t go for it—with a little help from me.

Later we met our friend Mark and his wife Carolyn and their two kids who F loves. I gladly bought into the bar special of 3 beers for HK$100, splitting them with E over the course of a few hours (the bar ladies let me grab them one at a time). There is was a fairly serious beach volleyball tournament going on. The sun was hot and a bit intolerable in the beginning, but by 4 pm it was perfect.

Okay, so the one imperfect part is the giant, coal fired power plant next to the beach. I can’t believe that the people on Lamma haven’t come up with a better name for this plot of sand. “Rocky Beach,” “Little Wave Beach,” “Little Lamma Beach.” The three power plant stacks are quite ominous, though I’ve never seen smoke coming from them. If I have, it’s the fluffy white kind, not thick black soot.

I suppose living in this region you get used to this kind of thing. A beautiful spot tainted by the presence of an industrial beast that never should have been located there. Or shouldn’t it have? Perhaps that was the only spot it could successfully power Hong Kong with electricity. What strikes me is that in the US and elsewhere, there are town hall meetings and civic votes on the making of these things. Not in China. I imagine the Lammans saw some cranes one weekend and three months later they woke up to a power plant. That’s the way things work around here. That’s how this area has Power Station Beach. A pleasant, rocky alcove tucked into a wooded corner of Lamma, 100 yards from rows of vegetable patches and a popular tofu stand. In the background, an ugly power plant.

We rushed to grab the 5:30 pm ferry, and barely made it, after picking up E’s phone at the front desk. The ferry bounced over choppy waves on the way back to Hong Kong. F, T, and I pointed out birds, fish and floating items on the water from a ferry window. This was the only way to keep T at bay. If we’d have let her, she would have run up and down the ferry aisles, waving at sleeping passengers.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »