Sunday, October 26, 2014

From the land of Umbrellas

I live and work far from any of the protest sites. And I have a long commute, a hour door to door each way so on my one day off a week I don't like to travel far. Mong Kok is the most accessible for me, easier to get to and not as far as Admiralty so I have been there a few times over the past couple of weeks. The first time I went I was amazed by the sense of calm and community. But then there were the anti-protesters and the next time I could feel the difference.

Meanwhile I have been reading (special thanks to Webs of Significance and Fragrant Harbour) and hearing so much about the Admiralty occupy site from a variety of sources. I wanted to see the artwork, the long rows of tents, the study areas for myself. Every weekend since the movement started I have been either too busy or too tired. Today too, I wasn't really in the mood, I wanted to stay close to home, just run some errands, rest up for my next 6 day week. So glad I didn't give into that mood.

Admiralty is definitely occupied. If you asked me if you could buy a tent in Hong Kong a month ago I would have probably said "I doubt it." Holy cow, there are a ton of tents on the streets, who knew?
Visually, it is impressive in of itself, before you even start thinking of how people are voluntarily setting them up on asphalt or concrete and living in them for a cause they believe in.

I saw in person the signs and some of the artwork that I have seen either on tv, facebook, blogs or friends photos. And I have to say, seeing them in person is so much better. So if you are in Hong Kong and haven't been to any of the occupy sites, I highly recommend it.

Being an American I can't help but compare and contrast but again, many people have done this so well I am not going to rehash these things. But I do want to say that I loved all the art but there was one art that wasn't represented and that was music. In the US wherever there is a sense of community and common purpose, there are often jam sessions of musicians, a few guitars, some drums, whatever.  I know certain songs have been associated with the protests and when there is a mass demonstration they sing but no casual jam sessions. In fact it was generally very quiet, and that was even better.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


There are so many bloggers and reporters, professional and amateur alike, who have said what I would have liked to have said and done it, most likely, so much better. Being that I have not been inconvenienced one bit by the protesters and have had to go out of my way to even visit the sites, I feel even less qualified to give my thoughts and impressions such as they are. So I leave you all with simply with this:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Yep, still here in Hong Kong. And it is hot. But I have made it through half the summer so I am confident I will survive. But then again, I am never outdoors for long, I get quite cranky and I don't even want to be around me when I am like that, so when it is really hot I am only outdoors long enough to get from one place to another.

My Cantonese studies ended in April and now I am somewhat gainfully employed. I say that only because I haven't gotten paid yet so I don't feel any different in terms of money. I started at an international kindergarten as a fill-in the last three weeks of the school year. The break between school years is only two weeks, which seems absurdly short to my American mind, but since I am not getting paid these two weeks, my wallet will be happier.

To be honest, I am not sure about teaching Kindergarten, I worry about the energy level required to deal with 20-25 3 year olds every day. I am teaching K1, which is a lot of nursery rhymes and songs, they will be working on their ABCs and numbers, basic math and general knowledge, so content-wise it isn't a big deal, it is the energy required. But it is amazing to me how quickly I adjusted to the idea of high expectations for these kids in terms of paying attention in class (versus playing) and obeying commands (stop playing with your towel or I will take it away). These kids have homework every day, exams every quarter and at the end of nursery school they performed onstage for their parents which I guess is all very normal in Hong Kong. Sometimes I feel sorry for them, they should be playing more, taking naps, good grief, learning 3 languages at once and at such a young age! But then I wish expectations had been higher when I was younger, I might have achieved more.

The pay? Well, I am getting more than a local I am sure but still it seems a bit on the low side. Still, I should be able to put aside some money to travel and start slowly rebuilding some of the savings I have used up since I have been here. If I decide to stay past this one year contract, I will want to find my own apartment. I am already feeling itchy to do that, especially since my job isn't as conveniently located as my classes were plus even though I am blessed with a very nice roommate I miss having my own space. But one step at a time. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chinese New Year and rambling

Chinese New Year is so important a holiday that even though my semester started a week ago today, I have only 3 days of classes this week then I am off on holiday until February 10th. From a strictly educational perspective this is a bit weird because momentum hasn't even built up yet and we're on break but from a cultural experience it makes perfect sense. Chinese New Year is IT in Hong Kong.

I am looking forward to seeing it first hand. I have some folks coming into town from NYC and I am sure we will make the rounds of the flower markets and other festivities. I am looking forward to seeing how the city lets so many celebrate and yet still functions. Also one of my friends is a former local so I expect to enjoy more of it than perhaps what the average expat would, we'll see.

NYC is often referred to as the city that never sleeps. I used to think that was true. After all the subways run  twenty-four hours and there is an active nightlife. But it pales in comparison to here. You can go to restaurants and clothing stores a lot later here than in most of NYC. Most stores in malls, clothing, etc. are open until 11. There are so many 7-11's here and they are open 24 hours. I find I have stopped asking what time any retail establishment closes because 9 times out of 10 I wouldn't go there that late anyway. Not because Hong Kong is dangerous, no, but because I may be living in a 24 hour city but my lifestyle hasn't changed that much, at least not yet.

Another difference between NYC and Hong Kong is due to geography, I guess. In NYC during the winter we go off Daylight Savings Time (DST) which always meant for me that I would wake up in the dark, it would be light on my way to work and when I got off from work it would already be dark, by 4:30 sometimes it would already be dark. If I didn't go out for lunch, which would often depend on how cold it was outside, I would not see sunlight. Here I live a more leisurely life as a student but still, I get up at 7 which is already dawn or close to it and then it is light until sometime past 6 p.m. I can't tell you how different that feels to me. Sure the weather is so much warmer here but just being awake in daylight for an hour to an hour and a half more--I can't even explain it, beyond that I feel a bit more productive, as though I can do more in a day. I already thought changing our clocks twice a year was absurd, I may find it intolerable when I go back to the USA later.

Rambling aside, I am not finished preparing for tomorrow's classes so ...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Not blogging

So apparently I am NOT blogging. I had good intentions but I think I prefer the interaction on Facebook especially since many of my friends and family are there.

I will just say that I am enjoying my time in Hong Kong. School is more challenging than I expected, I spend way too much time trying to learn to write characters, doing homework, studying for quizzes, etc. with less than satisfactory results. The program is quite intensive and my brain is not keeping up as well as I as I would like. And the more I study the harder it is to enjoy what Hong Kong has to offer.

I have a plan to have an easier semester in the Spring. And that will be it. Forget the diploma (3 semesters) I am just aiming for the certificate right now. And forget being a star student, I just want to freaking pass. What's the point of the certificate? For some people it will be useful in either finding a job or as professional development. For me? Not really sure. But after one semester, you don't leave with anything, after 2, if you meet the requirements, you get a certificate, just seems more fulfilling.

Don't get me wrong, I am learning a lot, I like my classes, the teachers and the program. It is just too much for me at this point in my life (yep, sometimes I feel my age).

After the certificate? I would like to stay on, get a job, put what I have been learning to use, enjoy Hong Kong more and travel in the area a bit. Still a tall order but as long as I am having fun and not in the poorhouse, then all is good.

If you want to follow my adventures here in Hong Kong and are on Facebook, let me know, look me up, whatever. If not, I will still attempt to blog here and there.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jet lag, the heat and housing

I am not sure if it is the heat or if I still have jetlag but I am still tired much of the time. I am sleeping but I usually wake up a couple hours earlier than desirable. It is annoying but I know that it will pass.

I am known for getting cold easily. Often when people say it is hot, I am still rather comfortable. But not here, not now. I am on the opposite side of the world and reacting likewise. I am assuming I will get used to the heat, at least somewhat, but until then I am really trying to keep my exposure to the outdoors minimal.

You can't stay indoors and apartment hunt and I did that for 4-5 days in a row. It really wiped me out. The college connected me with a property agent. This would be to rent an apartment. Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to do this but I wanted to give it a fair chance. The agent was showing me apartments I couldn't really afford but at least they were furnished. A couple were shareable but then I would have to find a roommate. For the most part they were rather horrible, terrible layouts and tiny, tiny bathrooms. Then the couple that I saw that I felt I could live in were problematic because of my being unemployed. One landlord wanted a year's rent in advance. Needless to say I wasn't going to do that. It isn't that I didn't understand their position, because I do, but it wouldn't work for me. 

I was on borrowed time, I had booked a room via airbnb for only 12 days. A new friend, a local who used to be an exchange student in the US with my cousins, kindly helped me out one of the days.  As we walked from apartment to apartment she called up service apartments for me. I had already discounted service apartments because of the price but also because there are very few in the New Territories but it was nice to have someone else helping me and coming to the same conclusion.

I had found a roommate matching website for Hong Kong before I left. It is free to a certain extent then there is a small fee. You really need to pay the fee to contact folks but it was worth it. I was lucky enough to only have to go to see two apartments to find one that I liked and that welcomed me. I am now renting a room from a very nice young professional woman in Tai Wai. The location is ideal, I am right across the street from the MTR station. And it is only 3 stations to get to school everyday.

Now some of you who know me may wonder if I will be comfortable sharing an apartment after so long of having my own place. Well, I shared my apartment with my niece my last two months in NYC, then I spent 6 weeks in the home's of my siblings then came here, renting a tiny room in Hung Hom from a great airbnb host. So essentially, I have already been doing it for awhile. And to be honest, financially and stress-wise it is the best solution.

Today was checkout day at my airbnb place. And it was moving day. Perfect timing. I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten this far. Now I can focus more on my classes.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I have arrived!

Despite springing for the more comfortable Premium Economy seat once again I didn't sleep much on my flight here. I wonder if I would sleep if I were in First Class? I may never know, this was already quite a splurge for me. And this time I boarded somewhat sleep deprived since I had to be up at 3 a.m. to get to the airport for my flight to JFK, leg one of my trip. But I already took a nap and I think I will get some sleep tonight. I  always have jetlag so I expect the same this trip as well. My airbnb hostess is very nice and the bed is comfortable so I think I will be fine here.

Tomorrow I will head to Chinese University of Hong Kong and get the lay of the land so to speak.