Home > Uncategorized > Hong Kong! Internet cafes! Busses! New friends! Ahoy Friday 10/09/09

Hong Kong! Internet cafes! Busses! New friends! Ahoy Friday 10/09/09

Hey friends!

Ok, so it’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote to everyone or posted on wordpress and a lot has happened!  For one thing, for those of you who aren’t into watching the news (I’ve been really bad about it lately), some really gnarly typhoons ripped around this area last week and going to Vietnam seemed like a horrible idea.  So I canceled the tickets and hopped on a ferry to Hong Kong–alone!

I acknowledge how not-hard core I am by saying that it was an enormous thrill to see signs in English, to hear a guy behind me say, “Lady! Lady!  You dropped this!” and hand me my UV repellent umbrella, to not get stared and shouted at on every corner. I crowded onto the metro with the waves of rain-soaked businessmen and women onto clean and well marked metros and walked past both Starbucks and street markets to my hostel in Causeway Bay.

My hostel was on the 16th floor of a building full of apartments that emanated cooking smells into the linoleum tiled hallways.  I walked into my room where two British girls had just met–Mimi and Lu.  Mimi offered me a Hoegaarden white Belgian ale.  I about fell over.  We went out almost every night, revisiting Western favorites like lattes, pastrami sandwiches and Sierra Nevada, and weaving our way through the shopping district and rocketing to the top of a 30 story building to have a Kowloon Park cocktail at the sleek but unpretentious “Aqua Spirit” bar.  The two of them proved able to get us into any of the 10-deep Lan Kwai Fong dance clubs for free, where we danced with three boys in homemade “I ❤ Cuba!” shirts.

The days were spent wandering markets and taking the metro out to Lantau island, climbing a series of staircases up to the 110 foot high Tian Tan Buddha and visiting the temples at the monastery below.  It was my first time in a Buddhist temple, and with all of the flashing cameras and gray-robed monks with cell phones and Starbucks I can’t say it was the most religious of experiences.  However, it did clarify another link between peoples for me.  Coming from gilded-cathedral-lousy Europe, I was starting to worry that the tendency to  excess was a Western phenomenon.  Seeing the solid gold statues, the crystal lamps, ivory, vases, and jade soaking up the incense smoke made me realize that every culture shares that desire to spend money impressing, if not god, than at least each other.  And foreign visitors who take the elevated cable car over the mountain just to take pictures of wet markets and buy jade necklaces.

Which I did a lot of, incidentally.  Mimi and I snaked around the low slung Stanley Market shops after a zig-zag around Victoria peak to the opposite side of Hong Kong island where the water was jewel toned between rock walls, in and around fishing boats and yachts.  We bought presents, for her family to whom she would be returning in London after 2 months of medical internships in South America and Australia, and of course for ourselves.  We checked our fortunes from Joss-sticks, drawing a number from a wooden jar and then searching the paper booklet for our fate.  My number told me that I would have a lot of struggle and strife in my life but would come out victorious, that I would not get to be with my first love but “that will be for the best” and–in italics–“you will get your wish”. If I knew what my wish was I think that would be really good news!  Although I think the best part of that was that I’m not going to get to be with my first love!

The Tin Hau temples in Kowloon were crouched between high rises, surrounded by public patios where old men played Chinese chess.  People left all manner of food in front of pictures of their ancestors and statues of gods–the most popular were pieces of fruit with stickers still on, turreted mooncakes filled with eggs or almonds to celebrate the autumn moon festival, even half drunk bottles of rice liquor and fried chicken in Styrofoam boxes.  One goddess holding a mirror was surrounded by cakes of L’oreal eyeshadow.  I got some mooncake of my own after visiting the jade market, asking for a “special price” for gifts for friends and myself (enter an amazingly gaudy watch depicting Chairman Mao waving his hand withe every tick of the second hand–incidentally it hasn’t worked all week until I looked down at it right now.  I’m a little creeped out).

There’s plenty to be said about Hong Kong, especially about the fortuitousness of making new friends, and the potential to have two really fantastic reasons to go to UK, but also for the confidence it gave me to get out of my comfort zone and travel without my entourage.  Taking the ferry, running into Welsch Sue from work and getting to share a cab halfway home, taking the busses back through the dirty and anarchic Zhuhai and San Xiang streets, I felt prepared.  I’ve bussed around Zhuhai several times this week.  When I get lost I know who to call and always seem to find new friends to help me at most points of struggle stops (which I think warrants the occasional photo-op).

Megan and I were coming back from Zhuhai the night before starting back to work, sitting at the bus stop in Jinding surrounded by honking motorcyclists who kept yelling “hello! Hello!” at us.  It was late, and after twenty minutes, someone communicated to us that the bus that would take us through the village to San Xiang wasn’t running anymore.  Megan was upset and hungry, and I took her across the street to a restaurant that last years’ TA’s had recommended to us called “Mr. Pizza”.  I asked the girl behind the counter to write our address in characters so we could show a cab driver.  She happily did so and we sat down to really–really— good margherita pizza and coke.  As we asked for the bill, the hostess approached us and said, “You know we have the Mr. Pizza car, and he will drive you home for 40 kuai.”  Given that’s half the price I’m used to paying for such a ride, we were overjoyed.  The pizza car was Lakers purple with a mustachioed tomato painted on the side.  I’m pretty sure the week couldn’t have had a better ending.

All but five people (me and my roommates, Chris, and Zander) have now moved to the dorms at UIC.  In the meantime I’m going to have to embrace this isolation as I learn little pieces of Mandarin.  I can now say most numbers under 1000, properly greet people, talk about colors and food, also I can say that my older brother is very fat very fat.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of joker organizes our curriculum.  It’s a little lonelier now that the stolen internet network at my place has disappeared, but we’re busy working for most of the day with our paper-grading, tutorial groups and clubs (in mine, we had a beat-boxing clinic this week!), empty tracks and crowded swimming pools, and the beginning of the volunteer services program this upcoming week.  When we get home we still have our Sichuan noodle restaurant friends (who busted out with “See you later!” last time we were there), the orange-plastic paneled Q1 internet cafe, and The Wire.

All my love to all of you.  Let me know how you are.  I picked up a couple of your addresses off of facebook while I was in Hong Kong so if you want to check out some of the “back issues” you can find them at oolalang.wordpress.com.  If you want to see the Hong Kong pics, you can check them out at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/41955516@N04/.  Also, e-mail from you would be amazing.  A visit would be even better.

Also, my Mao watch has stopped again.

Best,
Emily

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