Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Slip of the Tongue: Tau1 Sik6

As any language student knows, every hint of progress is won by many, many mistakes.  Funnily enough, several of my recent mistakes were actually still workable in the sentence, although I didn't know it at the time.

A few weeks ago, I dropped into a Circle K to pick up some ice cream.  Since it's near my house, I know some of the workers.  This time as I entered, I saw that the two workers, one guy and one girl, were sitting down behind the counter munching some chips.

Ever trying to practice, I wanted to make a comment about "resting a bit" so I said "lei5 dei6 tau1 sik6."  They kind of laughed, and the guy rang me up.  

I wasn't so happy when later I realized that I had totally said the wrong thing.  First of all, instead of saying "tau5"(rest) I said "tau1"(steal)!  My second problem was that instead of saying "ha3" (a bit), I said "sik6" (eat).  So unintentionally I had said they were stealing food!  Which, although it wasn't what I was trying to say, did kind of fit the situation.

Another friend informed me later that my phrase "tau1 sik6" has another meaning also: cheating!  Hopefully they didn't think I was using that meaning!  Live and learn, live and learn.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Hill of the Nightmares

Recently I took a field trip with my Cantonese class to the Hill of Nightmares.  Well, it's actually called 10,000 Buddhas.  A lot of them are stately and beautiful, but some of the Buddhas would fit right in to a Tim Burton movie.  I mean take a look at these guys.

Seriously, that guy has arms coming out of his eyes!  If that doesn't haunt your dreams, I don't know what will.  

I guess I should rewind to the beginning. Let's start with something more cheerful.

A few of my classmates and I decided to meet up before the appointed time so we could have dim sum at Din Tai Fung, a famous Taiwanese place.  Unfortunately, it's too famous for us; the wait was forty minutes.  We haven't absorbed enough of the queuing culture, so we decided to ditch in favor of Triple O's.  Nothing like a good burger and shake to replace dim sum.

After lunch, we headed over to a historical place highly recommended by our teacher: Snoopy World.  Yes, I did squeal a little inside when I saw the little Woodstock nests surrounding poles all down the walkway.  So. Cute.  The main attraction the giant Snoopy sleeping on top of an enormous doghouse.  They have all kinds of other sculptures.  Not that I would know from going inside. As we were applying more sunscreen, we saw that it was closed because of a "thunderstorm warning."  Strange...

Snoopy is oblivious to the "thunderstorm"

After that it was about time to meet our teacher and other classmates.  On a side note, classmates isn't a word that I ever used in the US, but now after hearing it constantly, I also use it.  There are many English words that once sounded strange to me that now sound normal.  My English is slowly morphing, and I'm not entirely sure that it's a good thing.  Anyway, we met up with our class and headed over to the mountain.  

Now, besides the creepiness of some Buddhas, there was another reason for the nightmare.  It was so sticky-hot!  We were climbing the thousands of stairs to get to the top, and I think we were having some kind of competition to see who could sweat the most.  It was like doing a stair-climber workout in a sauna.  This is real life, people.  

We finally made it to the top.  Triumph!  Our teacher explained the significance of some of the statues, and then we high-tailed it up this tower.  Now climbing more stairs doesn't sound sane after what we went through to get up the mountain, but we were rewarded at the top by shade and a wonderful breeze.  The view of Shatin was also nice.

The tower

Peeking over a buddha's shoulder

 After tearing ourselves away from our breezy lookout, we wandered around the main courtyard.  It was still hot, but also very ping4 zing6, peaceful.  There were a few other people quietly burning incense or looking around, but it was empty compared to Wong Dai Sin or the other temples I've visited. Maybe the climb and the heat deterred other visitors from coming.  Either way, I was not sad.

A beautiful courtyard

We wandered further along and came to a turtle pool.  One couple had brought their six-year-old daughter, and she was enamored with the cute little gwai1.  Lou5 si1 (teacher) told us that it was kind of like a turtle orphanage, so people could take their turtles there if they couldn't take care of them anymore.  That got E's attention.  She has a turtle and has been worrying about what she'll do with it if she moved away from Hong Kong.  And here's the solution!  Although I can't say that lugging a turtle up all those stairs would be that fun...

They look like happy orphans

Just up from the turtle pool was a hill of buddhas.  We'd been seeing buddhas all over: on the stairs, around the courtyards, lining the walls of the temples, in the windows of the tower, etc.  But I think these looked the nicest, nestled against the green.  It kind of looked like it was right out of a storybook.  Above that, there was a beautiful white statue posing majestically in front of a waterfall.  A photo-op if I've ever seen one.


Finally it was time to go down.  We couldn't resist but pausing on the steps next to our chosen buddha and pose.  Although I was entirely too sticky at the end, I had a great time. Thanks for taking us on the field trip, Teacher W!  M4 goi1 saai3, lou5 si1!  

Do we fit in?

Monday, August 4, 2014

HK Shots: Golden Dragon

This is Falcor.  Well, I'm sure that's not his real name, but I decided to name him after the Good Luck Dragon from Neverending Story.  It fits, I think.

Most people don't even know he exists.  I'll tell people about the "hou2 daai6 gum1 lung4" near the Aberdeen Tunnel, and usually they don't know about him.  But to my family, he's very special.  We always say we'll meet at the dragon or when we're coming home we'll text each other that we're by the dragon.  He's a fixture.  But then again, if you don't regularly go through the Aberdeen Tunnel, I could see how you would miss him.

There's a plaque near Falcor.  I guess it's telling about how this golden dragon got there, but I can't read it since it's all in Chinese.  One day, maybe I will.  

So if you ever find yourself on a bus or taxi heading towards the Aberdeen Tunnel, look up from your phone for a moment and say hi.  He'll be waiting!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How I'm Learning Cantonese

I’ve been posting about things I’ve been learning, but recently someone suggested that I talk about how I’m actually learning Cantonese.  So it's a bit long, but a rundown of my Cantonese learning history.

My first forays into Cantonese were a bit half-hearted, I’m embarrassed to say.  The first year that I lived here I didn’t do much studying at all.  My friends or coworkers might teach me a word here or there, but it was all very hap-hazard.  I carried a little notebook around so I could write down new words, and I wrote them just like I thought they sounded.  At that point I hadn’t learned much about tones, so I just wrote high, medium, low, or rising lines to remind myself of the sound.  But even then, it really wasn’t exact, and I often forgot what my own lines were supposed to represent.  

I was so young and innocent (ignorant?) then

And after moving back to the US, I forgot most of the words I had learned, excluding the few I used as a secret code at the cafe I worked at.  I would say sai1 sau2 gaan1, bathroom (or literally, wash hand room), to my coworkers, alerting them of my imminent dash to the little girls room.  Soon, it caught on, and all of my coworkers started saying it.  Even my boss, who for some unknown reason seemed to hold a grudge against the phrase, eventually cracked and used it.  The other two frequently used words were leng3 zai2 and leng3 leoi5/2, handsome guy and pretty girl.  One of my coworkers especially liked to say “leng3 leoi2” to tell me to let him take the register when a fetching young lady approached.

After I had decided to move back to Hong Kong, I started my study in earnest.  I loved watching Carlos Douh videos, a Canadian guy who makes Canto slang videos. I also started watching a lot of polyglot videos that really inspired me.  Polyglots are people who can speak many languages, and they have a thriving community of bloggers and vloggers. I was inspired by some polyglots like Benny Lewis and Moses McCormick (whose favorite language is Cantonese!) and many others to jump into language learning.  

One of the biggest things I took away from them was to "just speak" to people, even if I was nervous and if I felt like my ability was low. Since I was still in Alaska, I didn't have many (any?) Canto speakers to speak with, but I was able to practice my extremely rusty college Spanish. Although I'd forgotten most of my grammar and a lot of vocab, I was still able to have fun conversations with people. Those interactions really built my speaking confidence, which helped me out when I made my triumphant return to Hong Kong.

I'm trying to practice, but my tongue is frozen!

Also while still in Alaska, I started studying a really old version of Teach Yourself: Cantonese from the library. It is quite thorough, but I didn't totally trust it. When I would text a friend, trying to get some practice with the words I learned, he told me that only his grandmother would use some of the words. So a little outdated.

After visiting one of my friends in California, a Canto speaker, I realized that my tones needed some serious work. At that point I kind of knew what they were in general, but I didn't have a very good grasp of them. My friend often had trouble understanding me because of my bad tones, so I decided to sit down and work that out. I found this wonderful website that does tone drills. I would do the basic tone drills at least five times a day for a few months until I felt like I really knew them. I found that after that, people understood me MUCH better than before!

Of course this was also before I fully realized that Cantonese has a written and a spoken language. Ah, blissful ignorance. Well, it was blissful until I realized that I'd been studying words from a website for several weeks that were only written Cantonese! No one would ever say those words! Aaahhhhh. Certainly frustrating. Most of my time in Alaska was trial and error, but at least it was a start. I still consistently run into those problems, as even now people will sometimes tell me the written word instead of the spoken (why?!?!?!?) but I'm more wary now.

After arriving on the island of milk tea, I was eager to start practicing. I've been in Hong Kong for nine months, and I'm still as eager to practice speaking as ever. I try to talk to as many people as possible: my security guards, people in my building's elevator, clerks at 7-11, ladies handing out flyers, etc. And of course I also try to talk to my ever so patient friends and coworkers. I've also joined a language exchange meet-up group so that I can have consistent practice every week. It's great to be able to ask questions and just talk with someone to help me.

I'll do it for you, Bruce.

I also started taking an ISS (International Social Service) Cantonese class. It meets for three hours Sunday afternoon. That can be a little brutal, especially on gorgeous days, but it's worth it. My teacher puts on a tough front to keep us from skipping, but he is really funny and dedicated to teaching us. He's great about mixing vocabulary, practice and drilling, as well as throwing in cultural information for fun. I'm in the intermediate class now (although I wouldn't say I'm actually intermediate level), but unfortunately there aren't enough students to offer an advanced class. I'll have to wait until December. But maybe that's actually good for me, since I can take some time to really go over my notes and try to memorize everything before starting the next class.

Yeah, memorization. Not too long ago, I bit the bullet and downloaded the Anki mobile app ($25USD!). I waited for a long time because of the price, but now I'm so glad that I have it. It's basically a spaced-repetition flashcard app that let's you study anywhere using your phone. I've been working on inputting my notes from class and from the language exchange, and it's a lengthy process. Slowly but surely! This also really helps me with the study challenge my sister and I cooked up. Now I can study anywhere! On the MTR, in between lessons at work, waiting for an ATM, anywhere! I think now I will be the study champion.

Finally, I also think that surrounding myself in Canto really helps. I think watching movies and tv shows are really important in language learning. I've been a little lazy recently, but for quite awhile I was watching at least one movie a week. I really need to get back into it, since I feel like i make a lot of connections that way. I usually watch long movies using English subtitles. I often rewind and listen again if I read something that I know but I didn't hear it. Or if I see it on the subtitle and think it's a useful word, I might pause the movie to look it up in Cantodict and then watch it again to try to catch it. I also like to watch Youtube videos without English subtitles They're shorter, so it's better for my attention span, since my level is still pretty low. I'd really like to start watching some Canto reality shows, so if you have any recommendations (and links to watch them), let me know!

When I'm cleaning, I like to listen to podcasts like Naked Cantonese (no new episodes but over 200 to work through) and CantoneseClass101 (you can find it on iTunes). I also listen to random ones from RTHK. And of course I eavesdrop everywhere I go. So be careful what you say around me! Who knows? I might understand!

Oh, I forgot the other important part, talking to myself! I often try to think in Cantonese. If I'm walking down the street, I will try to talk to myself about what is happening around me. I'll comment on a lady's hairstyle in my head, only to realize that I don't know what hairstyle is. On good days, I will immediately look up how to say "hairstyle." On bad days, I will forget.

Some days, I study. Other days, I just drink Hello Kitty beer.

It's a process for sure, and I'm very far from fluency, but I'm having fun and learning a lot. And that's what counts in language learning!

I've tried to link most of the resources here, but if you have any other questions about anything, just drop me a comment!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My HK July 4th

Mei5 Gwok3, Sang1 Yat6 Faai3 Lok6!  Happy Birthday, America!

I've always enjoyed July 4th.  I love the swimming, the outdoor games, the watermelon, the grilling, the fireworks.  And of course having the day off is always nice.  I've had a few memorable celebrations in my life.

One year I was working at my city's public pool (I was a cashier, not a life-guard, for the curious).  Every July 4th was a free day, so it was madness.  Kids were running everywhere, cannon-balling into the water, screaming at each other, wolfing down dripping popsicles.  We had vats of rubber ducks to give out as prizes for the water games lifeguards were trying to run.  I manned the door with a marker, only letting people in when others vacated the area.  It was as close to a bouncer as I've ever gotten.

Another year I was working as a camp counselor.  We had taken all the kids into the little nearby mountain town for the festivities.  There was a lot of hacky-sack and arm-wrestling going on.  I was a bit envious of the non-counselor staff-members.  They were able to join the townspeople in dancing while those of us shepherding herds of kids were relegated to a field.  Still, while lying in the grass with dozens fo teens watching fireworks light up the black sky, I was happy.

Now that I'm in Hong Kong, I feel like I like July 4th even more.  It's not as easy to celebrate.  I still have to go to work, there's no fireworks, and most people don't even know about it.  So take it on myself to celebrate.

Although I had to work on Friday, July 4th, I decided to dress properly for the occasion.  I had already told my students and coworkers that I'd be wearing red, white and blue, but when I surveyed my closet the night before I realized that I didn't actually have anything to wear!  I dashed down to Maple (a cheap clothing chain) to find a blue and white scarf and then to Bonjour to pick up some appropriately-colored nail polish.  American-attire acquired.

On the day of the 4th, I went around all day practicing my newest phrase: Mei5 Gwok3 dok6 laap6 yut6 faai3 lok6!  Happy American Independence Day!  Now most people didn't quite get that one.  Several friends told me I should say Mei5 Gwok3 gok6 heng3 (America's National Day) instead, but I wanted to say it exactly.  So I compromised by first saying Independence Day, and when they looked confused I would explain that it was our national day.  Seriously, I was practicing it all day.  Of course I said it to all my coworkers.  I said it to my security guards.  I said it to my friends.  I said it to the guy who works at the hardware store on my way to work.  I said it to the lady handing out flyers.  I think everyone who saw me that day should know what day it is.  And I definitely won't be forgetting that phrase anytime soon.

After work, I headed over to a friends to prepare a celebratory dinner.  We figured that breakfast-for-dinner would be a good choice.  He did most of the cooking while I chopped things.  When our other friends arrived, we ate and then played games.  Fun times!

Very traditional.  :)

The next day was Saturday!  I usually have to work on Saturday, but I took off just to celebrate Independence Day.  I was SO happy to be heading to a beach on Lamma Island instead of working. It was a beautiful day!  Well, maybe a bit more hot than I would like, but at least the sky was blue.  

The only way to get to Lamma is by ferry.  I was afraid that I would be late, but got there just in time!  Unfortunately, two of our friends were not so lucky since they had gotten stuck in a traffic jam.  They got there minutes after the gate closed and watched us pull away.  Sad!  They had to wait for another ferry and then hike even longer to meet us.  After we arrived, we hiked about fifteen or twenty minutes to get to the beach.  The sand was hot and the air was hot and I was tired from carrying two big bottles of honey-green tea (my substitute for lemonade).  

The trail to the beach

I rushed into the water, trying to find some relief from the heat.  Unfortunately, the water was also pretty warm, but better than burning sand.  I also found that if I swam out a bit further the water was cooler. I kept finding cool patches and trying to tread water there, but then the coolness would dissipate, and the cycle would start again.  A few of us swam out to the floating dock, and three of us managed to cut ourselves on the barnacles.  We joked that the slowest would get picked off by sharks on the way back.  But don't worry, we still have all our limbs.

After swimming for awhile, it was chow time.  One guy brought the meat (very nice meat!), and the rest of us brought sides like chips or plates.  I had wanted to bring watermelon, but decided that with the heat and hike it would be too troublesome, so I settled on grapes.  And those heavy (but delicious) honey green teas.  

Burgers and chicken. Brats, not pictured.

After eating (too much), it was game time again.  We played a fun game called Masquerade (I think).  It's kind of like a mix between Mafia and Go-Fish.  Kind of.

Let's play!

After the game, it was about time to go.  We packed everything up and headed out to catch our ferry.  The sun was going down on a beautiful day.  The only thing missing was fireworks!

Goodbye, Lamma!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Of Buns and Floating Children

Steaming white buns stamped with red.  Crowds spilling all over the small island.  Children in intricate costumes "floating" down the main street in the parade.  The pounding of drums.  Lion dancers.  Lots and lots of lion dancers.

Yes, this post is a little late.  Cheung Chau's Bun Festival was back in the beginning of May.  But I had such a good time there that I didn't want to leave it without a post.  So here it is!

It was a public holiday, so I didn't have to work the Monday of the Bun Festival.  I ignored the advice of countless people and decided to make the journey to Cheung Chau.  I heard that it would be a nightmare of sweaty crowds and unending ferry queues.  While it was crowded (I heard around 20,000 people descended on the island), it wasn't quite that bad.  Maybe the slight rain kept the crowds at a fairly manageable size.  Either way, I was happy.  I waited for less than an hour to board the ferry on both ends, and I even had a good view of the parade (although maybe it was just good luck; I'll get into that later).  

I met up with my sister and three friends at the ferry piers in Central in the morning.  The parade was supposed to start in the afternoon, and we wanted to catch lunch as well as grab a good spot well before it started.  We were lucky enough to get seats on the ferry ride over; some people had to stand the whole way.

Goodbye, Hong Kong Island!

When we arrived at Cheung Chau, the crowds were out in force.  We were all starving at that point so tried find a nice place to eat.  I had looked up a restaurant on the internet, but it appeared to be closed.  Another one nearby looked nice, but it was full.  We were tired of fighting the crowds and getting a little "hranky" (you know, hungry and cranky?) at that point.  Thankfully, I remembered that a friend suggested going to a restaurant on the back of the island.  The others didn't have faith in me when I had them walk across the beach and down some people-less paths, but finally we made it to the restaurant!  They forgave me then, because it was so nice.  The tables were outside, overlooking a windsurfing beach.  It was quiet and beautiful, a great place to chill and talk.

Much happier now.

After eating, we plunged back into the crowds to stake a spot for the parade.  We still had an hour before the parade was supposed to start, but we heard it was hard to find good places.  We went to the main square, but it was already filling up.  We were standing behind row upon row of people and couldn't see very well.  We squeezed around a corner onto another street.  It wasn't quite as crowded there, and I noticed that people were setting out chairs.  We figured that they must know something.  I saw a space in front of a shop that looked like a good place to stand, so I saved it while the others look for another place.  In fact, the shopkeeper next door even told Y that she should go watch the parade by the tree; it was a better place.  Of course, we had just been there and knew it was super crowded, so I think she was just trying to get rid of us.  

Now this is where my foreignness helped us out!  While I was saving our spot, several older people set up chairs in front of me, but they didn't say anything.  I suspect that they didn't speak English so they didn't know how to shoo me away.  Several groups of Cantonese people tried to get past them to stand  by me, but the old people waved them away.  Score!  Finally the others came back; no better spots had been found.  It really was perfect.  Since the old people were sitting down, no one was in our way.  We also had an awning over our heads, so when it started raining, we didn't get too wet. The only thing we were missing was a chair!
Eating a potato spiral

People chilling, waiting for the parade to start.

After waiting for an hour or so, the parade started.  I have to say, although this was the floating children's parade, the majority of the parade was people in t-shirts.  They'd have a couple lion dancers and drummers, and then a long crowd of people in matching t-shirts.  It was also amusing to me that a lot of the people in the parade were very casual.  I mean like smoking, texting, drinking beer, casual.  I don't think I've ever seen parade participants texting as they walked down the street before.  A bit amusing.

These guys were more serious

I like the action.  Note the beer can on the left.

It seemed that we had stumbled into the local viewing section of the parade, since the people around us kept waving to those in the parade, laughing together, changing seats to sit with someone else.  It was a nice experience.  We also noticed that the parade groups would often pause a little to our left and do a special trick or blow a kiss or something to the people sitting a shop or two down from us.  We were wondering who was sitting there.  Finally Y heard some people talking about it; all the kung fu sifus (masters) were sitting next to us!  

Of course, we were looking forward to the floating children (yes, not the people in t-shirts).  Although they were few and far between, it was very fun to see them!  Their costumes were great.  Some were historical and some had to do with current events (even poking fun at current events).  

In case you were wondering, they aren't really floating (darn it).  It looked like they were standing on a pole which also ran up their pant-leg and attached to a harness/belt around their waist.  Or something like that.  Anyway, up close you can see that they're standing, but from far off they did look like they were floating above the crowd!

They were all really cute.  Miss Brazil was definitely the most confident floating child.  She was waving and blowing kisses like nobody's business.  Then they had a mini bun-scrambler climbing his mini bun-mountain (the main activity of the festival is bun-scrambling).  So cute!  The little girl in blue and pink looked kind of scared but resolute.  And then Mr. Ga Ga in a suit.  I had asked my friend what his sign said, since he looked like one of the satyrical ones.  She said "ga1 ga3" but didn't know how to translate it. I was very happy because I knew the answer!  We had just learned the phrase "ga1 ga3" (yes, it sounds like a baby noise) in Canto class, so I knew it meant "increase price."  There's nothing like real-life application to make your learning stick.

After the parade, we ducked into a small dessert shop to relax and restore our energy.  After all, we had been standing for around three hours!  I felt better with some sugar in my system, so we went to find the bun towers.

Now the biggest event of the festival is not actually the parade but the bun-scrambling.  They have these huge towers totally covered with lucky buns!  They have a competition where men (do women do this too?  I've only seen men do it) scale the towers and see who can collect the most buns.  It sounds really exciting.  Unfortunately, the competition starts at midnight.  After a full morning and afternoon, I was definitely too tired to stay for the scrambling.  Next year I hope to go at 8 or 9 at night just to see the event.

At least I got a picture with a tower

Before we left, we tried to get more buns.  I looked for a sesame bun in vain (sesame is my favorite flavor).  I had a communication problem earlier when trying to buy some buns, so my hot "sesame" buns turned out to be cold lotus buns.  Well you can't win them all, but at least I persevere!  The others lined up to buy more buns (custard, I think).  While I was waiting for them, a lion dance started right next to me!  I've never been quite this close to the lion before.

The lion snatching up the lettuce

It was a good end to a nice (but tiring day).  We tramped back to the ferry (queuing for an hour) and wearily made our way home.  I can't wait for next year!

This little guy did make it home with me.  Now I'll have a lucky bun all year!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

More and More

I've been learning jyut6 lai4 jyut6, more and more, recently.  It's kind of exciting to catch more, understand more, interact more.  Of course my level is still really low, but I'm climbing the hill.

Recently I've learned some really good phrases that help me express myself more, like "at the same time," "before", and "you've got to be kidding me." Then I've learned a lot of new vocab for things I see on a regular basis.  Just this week I finally decided to look up "tunnel" as I was riding through the Aberdeen Tunnel (Heung1 Gong2 Zai2 seoi6 dou6).  Then later that week I was telling someone that living in Ap Lei Chau was a little troublesome because of the tunnel.  So I got to use it right away!

As I said before, sometimes looking up words aren't so straightforward.  Just like English, often several words will come up, and I don't always know which one to use.  I looked up "must" today, but there are SO many entries, so I couldn't even hazard a guess on that one.  Same story for "only/just."

Last night I watched Young and Dangerous 4 (Gu2 Waak6 Zai2 Sei3).  I used subtitles, but it was cool to hear some words that I've recently learned in class or on my own.  When I learn a word, I think I need a human element to cement it into my mind.  Although it's better when I use it in person, like in conversation, movies also help.  And on a side note, Ekin Cheng looked really cool the whole movie, but he kind of ruined it with the last fight he got in, flailing around, throwing up his arms, grabbing at his opponent.  Not. Very. Cool.

Today I got a lot of practice in, some successful and some not quite so much, but it's all practice.  I was helping my mom, since they're moving to a new flat.  It's only a few blocks away, so we were carting stuff back and forth in suitcases.  I tried to strike up conversations with people in the lift.  I'm not sure how to say "moving" so I was trying to say that my parents are going to live here, but I didn't always get the message across.  After getting off the lift, one man pointed at us and said something to the security guard about "airport."  I don't think he got what I was trying to say and was extrapolating from our suitcases.

Then when I was going home later, I was standing at the stop, waiting for the minibus.  The lady in front of me was watching something on her phone, and I recognized the song that was playing.  It was Dream High, a Korean drama.  I commented that I watched that drama before, and so we started talking.  She asked me if I was watching Sing1 Sing1 (My Lover From the Stars, or something like that) the new Korean drama that is tearing through the city.  I told her no.  Before I was studying Korean so I watched Korean shows, but now I'm studying Cantonese so I watch Cantonese movies.  We went on to have a good conversation.  She said a lot of things that I didn't understand, but I was able to respond and make comments, and we were still able to talk until the bus showed up.   It was quite nice!

I think that's one advantage of being a foreigner: small talk.  Hong Kong people don't seem to be much for small talk, which is quite different from where I grew up.  Of course, I like talking to strangers, and I try to do it even more now because I want to practice.  If I were a local, or even a waa4 kiu4 (overseas-born Chinese), I don't think they'd be so accepting of my small talk (or so I've been told).  But since I'm a foreigner, and a fairly non-threatening one at that, I think people are more open.  Either way, it works for me!