Category Archives: Hong Kong

Potential reasons why the blogging stopped

1. I hit a slump and never came back. (Never say never?)

2. I became a full-time primary school teacher and feel weird about how readily available my  inner thoughts are (which have been known to include ‘drugs’ and PG encounters)

3. Who knows what’s acceptable for a teacher to say or write.

4. Its an endless game getting Facebook and other social media sights to cooperate and show your content to people. #algorithms #paidposts

5. If I write something good and stats are low I die a little inside. I put so much effort into each post and then Facebook plays hide and seek with it.

6. I became increasingly unsure of my brand and what I was bringing to the table. It became less about travel and more about me and my opinions. Perhaps I needed a new space.

7. But I love my space! Just look at it!

8. If my personal online behaviour and click-through rate is anything to go by……. no-one reads things anymore! So what’s the point.

9. Someone I Once Met was the most continually successful dimension of the blog. Somewhere along the line I lost my nerve writing about people I know and who know me and who I can potentially insult. I need a formula.

10. The haters. People are violent bullies when they have a cyber facade to hide behind. Just like I left South Africa before I became a statistic, did I stop the blog before people said shit I couldn’t handle?

11. I find it very difficult to ignore negative comments/feelings/cybervibes. Things stick with me and ruin my day!

12. I’m lazy.

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The One With The Boerewors Making Competion in Hong Kong

A few weekends ago a local establishment, The Butcher’s Club, held an event that saw various Saffas, and a Brit, go head to head in a boerewors making competition. $550 got you in with unlimited food and booze for the afternoon, as well as a duty to taste and rate each competitor on their boerewors.

Obviously no matter what happened our votes were to go to our friend Steven. And while his boerewors contained more spice than a winning spiced sausage should, he received numerous votes based on the amount of buddies he had there to support him. Unfortunately the rest of the voters did indeed have taste buds and could detect a slight overworking of the ingredients and a liberal-to-extreme amount of spices.

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No, that day a South African spiced sausage competition was won by a Brit. However, in true South African style, the MC abused the free alcohol and misread the winner’s name. A Brit hadn’t actually won, but he did go home with the prize.

The rooftop event on the south side of Hong Kong Island was a fantastic day, well worth the money spent. Of course we were concerned about this; over-indulged and left feeling disgustingly over fed. Low carb/no sugar went out the window upon sight of the confectionary stall and I’m pretty sure beer and gin are also not exactly on the green list either.

Are you in Hong Kong? Keen to give the Butcher’s Club a visit? Find more details here:

http://www.butchersclub.com.hk/

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Faces That Say “I Just Finished the Hong Kong Marathon”

As a tidal wave of marathon finishers surged past me, I waited for my marathon runner to appear. Unfortunately we were not able to find each other in the sea of 75 000 people and had to rendezvous back at home a couple blocks away.

I had an inkling this might happen but I also had a feeling I’d get in some good practice with the zoom lens I hardly ever use. Asians to the left and right of me obviously put my weighty lens to shame with their stereotypical telescope look-a-likes. With the zoom I was able to put faces to the otherwise faceless crowd. I found Caucasians, Asians, Africans, celebrants, wincers, stretchers, sitters, elders and all the combinations of adjectives you can think of from ecstatic to defeated and everything inbetween.

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How to Grab Some Quiet Time in Hong Kong

There’s not much opportunity to get away from it all in Hong Kong. It is the most densely populated part of the planet and boy can you really feel it sometimes. Every now and then you’ll find a place all to yourself – but you’ve gotta make sure of a couple things first.

Don’t go in search of quiet time on the weekend. Seriously- rather just stay in doors or you will be competing for sidewalk space with the rest of them. We went to the seaside village of Shek O last Monday {which we’re lucky to have off every week}. Everyone else is working which kind of makes up for having to work Saturdays.

Go in winter. In the summer, Shek O will be crawling with people- Monday included. Like anywhere else in the world, summer means no school and no school means packed beaches and other fun places. Winter vacations seem bearable since everyone heads out in search of snow…or sun for that matter. Neither of which Hong Kong tends to offer in winter.

Not a long list but a fool-proof one. See how uninterrupted and glorious it all looks? The sun coming out to play helped a lot too of course but that’s not something us mortals have much control over.

So just remember- if you’re looking for some quality quiet time outside of your house in Hong Kong – make sure its a Monday, absolutely not during summer vacations and organise some elusive wintery sunshine and you’re good to go!

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The View’s my Muse: as Seen From the 21st Floor

A few weeks ago I came out and admitted that I feel Hong Kong is stifling my creativity. She’s a lovely city with many strengths like banking and shopping, but her ability to feed (at least my) creative side is a little lacking. Then one day, while working from the home office, I looked up and realised that I needed to open my eyes. This is not Barcelona who throws herself at creatives, begging them to use her assets to fuel their imagination. Its not India who’s poverty, overflowing religions, customs, cows and enlightened-wrinkled-half-naked men are available on every corner to photograph.

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A deeper look and a sharper eye will go a long way in Hong Kong if you wish to capture its soul and share it with the world. And then came my epiphany. The apartment I live in is the apartment I live in simply because of the view. We chose it based purely on the fact that it had a great view (and it fell into our price range). The ktichen’s not great, the bedroom only fits the bed, its generally pretty f*cking tiny- but that view!

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IMG_0866Cliche as it sounds, sometimes the things you’re looking for really are right in front of you. Just like my view of Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong is said to connect the east to the west, two worlds far apart in almost every respect from geography to culture. All this connecting is naturally going to keep its harbour operating at a maximum 24/7. While a busy harbour means a fruitful economy, for me it simply means a view that is in a constant state of flux. There’s not a minute that my view remains the same. In the time its taken me to write two sentences its changed again.

IMG_0882It changes with the weather, it changes with the sun, with the vessels that pass, the ones that anchor within sight and even the buildings change. The ICC is the tallest in Hong Kong and if its not disappearing into the clouds and smog, its constantly showcasing impressive moving, 3D images. Sometimes it tells me when its going to rain by way of a stormy rain cloud. In fact as I write this the whole building, from top to bottom, resembles a peppered TV screen that’s lost signal. You know how they go all black and white and make a god-awful noise? Its hard to explain.

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Christmas is fast approaching, and more than ever, you don’t have a choice in staying ignorant on the matter. Way before December arrives, the decorations, sales, and all round madness begins. If, for a moment, I wanted to gaze out my window and forget about it all- the consumerism, the red, green and white, the fake snow splashed all over the tropics –  my eyes would rest upon a festive, christmasy, Hello Kitty building across the water. I do wonder what their electricity bills must be like.

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I’ve always maintained that a good view is imperative. It does something for the soul, and at the very least it gives you something to do if the electricity goes out. Its true, one fateful night while home alone, the electricity failed and I had nothing but a half cooked meal and a dying phone to keep me company. The bright lights only kept my attention for so long before I resorted to creeping out the inhabitants of the building opposite. It really is a different life here- single apartments for whole families including grandparents and maids. Its enough to keep a creepster like me entertained.

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On Trying to Fuel my Creative Fire in Hong Kong

I don’t blog enough about Hong Kong. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but its probably got a lot to do with the fact that I’m not a city girl. As far as cities go, Hong Kong is supposed to be up there with the best and yet I find myself lacking the inspiration to produce content on it. Also my teaching job leaves almost zero hours in the day to work on my hobby. Valid excuses but excuses none-the-less right?

That being said I’m going to do my best to change my ways. I won’t be here forever so it really is in my best interests to take a deeper look and let myself be inspired and challenged to document this Gateway to the East.

I started my new leaf turning by taking my camera to work one day so that afterwards I could stroll past the arts festival/mardi gras happening in the famous Victoria Park. Finally I was being proactive and exploring (the bf was away and this was a better option than Saturday night in an empty apartment). Luckily my hopes weren’t high since the majority of stalls and activities had already shut down, and although there were a good amount of people around they were 70 percent infants and I felt like I was back at work.

I stayed a couple minutes photographing the mediocre dance routine on the main stage before continuing my walk in the direction of home. There’s a great little modern art museum/gallery on the way and I noticed it was still open so I popped in. I’m hesitant to label it ‘modern art’ since I really don’t like modern art – least not their museums. So lets call this a hands-on cultural center, with a current showcase called ‘Imperfect’.

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I’d been in a couple months before to finally get a closer look at a very cool installation they had up. It was a massive mirror erected at a 45 degree angle to the ground. Below it was the facade of a building. The cool part? That you could lie on the facade and by looking into the mirror above you it would appear that you were dangling, standing, posing on the side of a building. (No idea what I’m talking about? see here) Naturally this would have made a fantastic photo opportunity but naturally by the time I got my ass there it no longer existed. This was when I discovered the ‘Imperfect’ exhibition.

It was too hot to explore so I drank some free hot tea on the hot day and took part in the exhibition by writing something on a coaster which was there to be written on and soon went on my way again.

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That exhibition was still going strong the evening I strolled onto the property again. This time I was game to have a better look around. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. In an Asian country focused on education, good grades, math, shopping and banking, I was intrigued to find a little artistic sub-culture manifesting itself inside these walls. I was more compelled to photograph then than I had been in a long while.

The idea behind it, I believe, is to partake in various activities, whatever tickles your fancy, or none if you just wish to wander around. There’s a room full of old sewing machines available to the public to make use of and donated clothing with which to sew. Or you can make a post card with hand made stamps which is what I took ten minutes doing. I was told though that the volunteers would help me if came by and wanted to sew. Maybe I should do that.

Upon further investigation, this arts and cultural center is called Oi! and you can read more about it here.

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Hong Kong, Occupy Central and the Struggle to Maintain Democracy

In the wake of back to back days of bumper to bumper traffic, Hong Kong slowly tries to readjust to life as it was pre-Occupy Central. Protester numbers fluctuate- still far from zero- rising mainly over the weekends when the dedicated find each other, once again, in the streets.

But for the most part, main arterial roads are again available for motorists to use as they were intended and Hong Kongers might let their minds flitter back to the hours and days spent in the unforgiving heat, fighting for an ideal they believe in. Others will reminisce less romantically about what it all meant for their daily commutes – if indeed they want to remember at all.

Photo from The Straits Times

Photo from The Straits Times

If nothing else, the far reaching headlines might leave a trace of curiosity in the minds of many about the world class city that is Hong Kong. Who is she exactly, this gloriously tall city? Is she China? Is she single? What is she on about and why?

The reality is that when, how and why Hong Kong came to be is often not widely known. Although the same can be said for the history of any city, thanks to our disinterest in the past and perpetual concern for future. The future in a personal capacity of course- not necessarily in a preserve-our-world kind of way.

The truth is that Hong Kong has a narrative. It might not be the longest or the goriest, but it is a rich one that is probably more relevant to now, and the future for that matter, than any other city’s history. Hong Kongers should, for all intents and purposes, suffer from an identity crisis. And a unique one at that.
Once ruled and shaped by the British Empire, who bred ideas of democracy and capitalism, Hong Kong emerged as a world leader, a gateway to the east. A vibrant port city and banking hub. When their work here was done and it was time to retreat, Great Britain and China came to a complicated agreement. Hong Kong would remain a semi-autonomous region for 50 years, during which time the People’s Republic of China and her socialist system would keep their distance. One country two systems.

Photo from International Business Times

Photo from International Business Times

Just less than twenty years into the agreement, an uneasy mass of Hong Kongers assembled in their thousands for days on end to protest against the lack of independence from China and her policies. The democracy introduced and instilled by the British almost centuries ago, a local might argue, is slowly slipping away as China begins to play a bigger role. Puppet master if you will.

There is no better insight into the minds of the masses than through the mouths of their children. In contrast to the Catalan, who inaccurately lead their young to believe that Catalonia is indeed a country, Hong Kong appears divided in its opinion. Or in its dedication to the cause anyway.

A classroom filled with children from top earning families, offers an interesting cross section of opinions. ‘What’s the point? Nothings going to change’ shows what has to be parental apathy. A yellow ribbon sitting over the heart shows support for the cause, most likely not obtained and attached by the 11 year old himself. ‘I’m on the police’s side’ means mom and dad have obviously cheered on their efforts to rein in the protesters and their growing negative effect on the city’s functionality. Which is really quite a short sighted goal.

Photo from EJ Insight

Photo from EJ Insight

These folks owe their riches to the capitalistic economic freedoms that Hong Kong has relished in for decades. Might their children enjoy the same opportunities when China takes full control in 2047? If she can bare to keep her distance that long.

But fair enough, the average parent doesn’t dream of their child becoming a revolutionist – waiting for that phone call saying their baby’s been arrested and jailed. A parent wants the best for their child. And in Hong Kong, more than anywhere on earth, the best is seen as a high paying job in a well renowned company. Climbing that ladder as best as you can. But will that ladder even exist when China comes? Its easy to avoid revolution, but it’ll be hard when oppression arrives. Because lets face it, having something like democracy and then losing it is the epitome of persecution.

Photo from Time Out Hong Kong

Photo from Time Out Hong Kong

Of course China is petrified of her own people catching on to the unrest. Not unless a mainlander pops over for a shopping spree would they ever be aware of the battle against Beijing. Only those who happen to be around during Occupy Central are privy to the details, either staring them in the face on the street or on TV. Its preposterous to think the people of China are in complete agreement with their government’s limiting socialistic policies. China knows it and will naturally keep her people uneducated on the topic.

Unfortunately, never has freedom been won peacefully. Starting out, Occupy Central’s protesters were commended on their behaviour- composed and mostly unagitated. But will their efforts ever come to anything without a fight?  As Occupy Central becomes weeks old, clashes between protesters and police intensify. While numbers have dwindled, passions soar. Parents are starting to receive those dreaded phone calls from their handcuffed babies, with 30 arrests made this weekend. Should Hong Kong buckle up for a bumpy ride? What is it going to take and will anything ever be enough? 27 years to go.

photo from abc.net.au

photo from abc.net.au

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A Day in my Hong Kong Life

I roll out of bed, but not before I moan and groan and make my ‘monster’ noises. Getting up never seems to get easier. God help me when a child arrives to dictate my sleep pattern. I do the usual routine, one that is common place for anybody recently risen and preparing for work. Rub sleep from eyes, shower, dress, eat, put off walking out the door and then eventually do it.

I call the lift to the 21st floor and get in. Its an old lift and not the most efficient. By the time I reach the bottom I’m already two minutes into my commute. Then, depending on my mood, I have a quick chat with the doorman. ‘Doorman’, as he asked to be called, speaks a high level of English. Either he is chatty by nature or he just enjoys practicing his English with one of the few people around to do so. I don’t mind either way. I’m grateful for his presence and interest in my activities. He is easily the closest thing to a father figure that I have in Hong Kong.

The lobby, or doorman’s office, is blistering cold. In Hong Kong, it’s not uncommon to counteract the miserably hot summer with subzero indoor temperatures. As much as I love Doorman, he has a bad habit of exaggerating a problem. “Ohhhh, its a big problem,” he says when you ask where to dispose of your trash. It didn’t take long to figure out that we have differing ideas of what is ‘problematic’.

Its a good 5 minute walk to the bus stop. 7 if you’re taking it slow. And the beauty of finally having been here a while is knowing the short cuts. Up this side street, through that building and voila, your commute to the bus stop involves only one problem traffic light instead of three. Newbies waste so much time.

And waste time they do! Before my education ‘on how to catch the bus to work’ by the School of Life, I knew of only one bus I could take. There are actually five- and now I no longer have to curse as I see the 601 drive by while I’m stuck on the other side of the busy road. Within 3 minutes the 680, 10, 8 or 19 will be around to take me to work. Settling in really has its pro’s.

Work starts around 10am. This depends on when your first and last class is. Either way you are expected to be there for 8 hours. I’m a teacher, but not at a ‘real’ school. Here we are expected to bend over backwards to please the richest of the rich while helping their children gain entrance to UK schools like Eaton and Harrow. Hong Kong parents are no joke. Being a Hong Kong child is no joke either- their childhood is so vastly different to mine that I struggle to comprehend it. I won’t go into much detail but let’s just say they enjoy a one day weekend, and seeing your friends is reserved for school.

As each day passes and my hope of becoming someone who writes for money lessons, I think more seriously about becoming a ‘real’ teacher at a ‘real’ school. With a PGCE under my belt I could increase my already high pay check by a third, enjoy summer, winter and Easter holidays like a real teacher should and use that time to get my ass to new and old favourite places.

But for now I’ll enjoy my late morning starts and short commute to work. I’ll hope that someday someone feels like employing me as a writer but I’ll also accept the fact that I’m too lazy to pursue that goal entirely. It’s no small mountain to climb and while I feel like I have the equipment, I’m not sure I have the will-power to push through all the others trying to do the same. Even if their equipment sucks.

Oh and speaking of equipment, my laptop is broken and I have to pay through the ass to recover my hard drive and I’m writing this on not my computer and I’m feeling very sorry for myself.

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Why Moving Across the World Doesn’t Always get Easier

Each person, city and country will present its own relocation difficulties, but today you’ll hear about Hong Kong’s (slash mine). I can almost officially say that uprooting yourself does get easier after a while, but there are always those hidden stumbling blocks.

Time to get my gripe on about moving to Hong Kong….

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Its fucking hot. I think its appropriate to have this at the top of the list. I never knew I was one of those weak people who cant handle hot, humid weather, but turns out I am. Its the boob sweat, dehydrating kind of heat that leaves me wondering if next time I’ll be so stupid as to join in on the hike. the only place to be is indoors with the AC on. Although apparently the AC needs to be sub zero in order to counteract the heat. You can’t win.

Finding an apartment. On the one hand there are a tonne of apartments available because people come and go like its nobodies business. On the other hand, property costs about a zillion dollars per square meter. The moment you start looking at places within your budget, you realise your previous ideas of big and small spaces will soon change.

The best part is the down payment on your over-priced apartment.In Hong Kong, be prepared to part with 3.5 month’s rent for your initial payment. Its made up of your first month’s rent plus a 2 month deposit plus half a month’s rent in agency fees. Most people I know had to ask their parents for help when they first set up shop in Hong Kong. Me? Well I payed my dues on the yachts.

I share a 3/4 bed with another above average sized human being. This may sound impossible to westerners but its doable I promise. I’m 5.9 and he’s around 6.1 ft and we, believe it or not, have managed to make it work for us. Its not even that we cuddle the whole night through. The early days and winter are clearly behind us.

The mattress incident. The extra-length mattress we had delivered to us but then needed to return is the mattress we sleep on today. Why is that? Because coffee spilled directly on and ALL over it before they managed to take it away from us. Think of one of your worst 48 hours and then think of this. A stressful and PMS-filled move, topped off with ‘the mattress incident’ that brought me to tears. The mattress now fits because it has to. When I tell this story everyone always wants to know ‘who spilled the coffee?’ the answer is and has to be ‘both of us’ to avoid ruining a relationship over spilled coffee.

An initial loss of social life. Drinking at any establishment is as expensive as if you were doing it in Australia. Drinking alcohol is abut 50 times more expensive, relatively speaking, than anything else here. We’ve been here 3 months and only went out for the first time a few days ago. Moving to Hong Kong without a job or steady income means that you SHOULD NOT have much of a social life at first. That is if you want to keep your head above water, financially.

Other than that, things are going swell 🙂

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Eye Spy With my Little Eye Something Beginning With ‘Mainlander’

Us westerners are guilty of a lot of things. One of them is being of the opinion that all black people look alike. (It makes me feel better to know it works both ways though). We feel the same about Asians. To the majority of white people, the majority of Asians look alike. We can’t tell them apart.

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When you live in Asia this changes a lot. I have fun eyeing out the hordes of passers by on my way to work. Looking more closely at their individuality. There differing styles, facial features and body types and noticing that they’re just as much, if not more, unique than us whities.

Hong Kong is full to the brim with people. There’s not a moment in time when its quiet and there’s almost no place you can go for some reprieve- apart from your home. This overflowing of people has been an issue on the news recently and it’s not because Hong Kongers are reproducing at a rate of knots. Its the influx of mainland Chinese coming to visit (shop). Recently the visa rules have relaxed and mainlanders have been taking advantage.

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But how does one tell the difference between people from mainland China and their lookalikes- the people of Hong Kong? Here are four giveaways that I’ve noticed so far.

1. Luggage. If someone hadn’t pointed it out to me I would be none-the-wiser. People come from mainland China with one thing in mind… to shop. But what do you do if you’ve hopped across the border for a quick weekend throughout which you intend to buy more than you can carry? Well you take your luggage shopping with you of course. Blocking up sidewalks and escalators are tourists on their spending sprees with their trusty roller-bags by their sides. If you didn’t know any better you’d think folks were between the hotel and airport. These suitcases are actually for shopping-till-you-drop purposes.

2. No-one loves their luxury brands like the Chinese do. Luis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Fendi, Versace. The more I’m exposed to them here in Hong Kong, the more I am of the opinion that a sometimes ugly item of clothing, branded with these household names, is the biggest waste of money. If you see someone walking out of one of these high fashion, luxury brand stores, they are almost definitely Mainlanders. They probably also have roller bags by their sides- Gucci of course.

3. The subway/underground system in Hong Kong is called the MTR. The MTRC (corporation) own everything- but that’s besides the point. The MTR swallows people up and spits them out at different places around the city, just like any semi-functioning underground system would. The MTR is always busy. A good day on the metro is when you have breathing space- not a seat. This is one of the areas of concern regarding the influx of Mainlanders.

It’s argued that their numbers are clogging up the main arteries of the city. A counter argument is that without them the luxury brand business would suffer.. hmmmm. If you see a Chinese walk out of a metro carriage and straight up to a map, congratulations, you’ve spotted a Mainlander! No Hong Konger needs a map! Not even me… well sometimes.

4. Hong Kongers speak Cantonese as opposed to Mandarin, which Mainlanders speak. Now, its very much the case that you would never ever be able to tell the difference between the two. However there is a way to tell if you listen really closely. Mandarin, spoken by Mainlanders, is much higher pitched, uses much more intonation and is way more sing-songey.

The only time I am able to make out a difference is when the metro speaks to you about what stop is up next. The clever metro speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese and it is here where you will observe the very obvious difference between the two Chinese languages. I’m yet to identify an actual Mainlander based on their language, but there’s still time.

 

 

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