Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hong Kong To-Do List

Sunset at the Kwun Tong Ferry Pier

Even though I've already been in Hong Kong for almost eight months (hard to believe!), I still am incredibly excited to explore everything!  Maybe even more so since it's my second time living here.  After I moved back to the States, I'd think about things in Hong Kong I had ever done or read about places I'd like to visit.  Right after moving back, I made a list of things to do and see.  I've been slowly working through the list and I've already gotten through a lot of them!  Of course, I also keep adding to the list, but that's part of the fun.  There's always something cool to do or see.

So here's my complete Hong Kong To-Do List.  I've put Xs next to the ones that I've already checked off.  Maybe later I'll turn some of these into blog posts!  I have pictures for a few of them but not all. 

Hong Kong To-Do List

X  1. Kadoorie Farms.  I finally visited this farm in Tai Po, New Territories.  This farm was built on a mountain to create jobs for Chinese refugees.  Absolutely beautiful.

  X  2. Tai Po.  See the big white statue, go shopping at the market, etc.  I went with Amelia and Mom.  We didn't end up going near the white statue, but we did see it.  We were hoping to take a boat out to a Hakka market (only on public holidays) to get some traditional food and watch some dancing, but we didn't get off the bus in time.  So we ended up hiking to a waterfall instead.  Then we went to the Tai Po Waterfront Park, which is wonderful.  Tons of flowers, a kite park, a tower, a waterfront, lots of bikes.  I definitely want to go back.

X  3. Eat in a dai pai dong.  I just did this last night!  These outdoor restaurants are all over, but for some reason I've never eaten at one.  The government doesn't seem to like them, though, so they're not granting any more licenses.  That of course means that they're a dying breed!  So go while you have the chance.

4. Swimming in Sai Kung.  Last time I visited Sai Kung I didn't bring a swimsuit.  I regretted it when I saw the beautiful, clear water.  I went wading instead but it wasn't the same.  

5. Go to Ocean Park.  Yes, yes, I'm a terrible person.  I've never been to Ocean Park, Hong Kong's most famous theme park.  I will go.  Sometime.

X  6. Eat at the Aberdeen harbour view restaurant.  My parents told me about a nice restaurant in Aberdeen that is pretty cheap but has a great view of the harbour.  I finally went there a couple weeks ago.  Two thumbs up.

7. Noah's Ark.  I mean come on.  It's a full-scale ark.  I have to go sometime.

X  8. See the Bruce Lee statue and get a picture.  I don't know how I managed it, but I lived in Hong Kong a whole year without going to see his statue.  I mean, I went to see the light show many times but for some reason I never went to the Avenue of Stars.  I finally went with Amelia and one of her friends who was visiting.  The only problem is that I went at night so I the flash turned me into a ghost, a true gwai2 mui6.  But that didn't stop me from making that my FB profile picture.

9. Go see and mainly understand a Canto movie.  This one will probably take awhile to tick off the list.

10.  Visit an artist village (Fo Tan, Cattle Depot, etc.).  I'll have to wait for this one as well, since they only hold open houses once a year.  I missed them this year, so I'll have to wait until November or January or something like that.

X  11. Go to Knockbox Cafe in Mong Kok with Nika.  Done.  We had affogatos.  Happiness.

12.  Common Grounds cafe on Shing Wong Street.  This is the cafe where Wong Fu filmed "Left on Shing Wong."  I'm starting to wonder if this one is just not meant to be.  I've tried going there about five times and have failed every time.  Two times I went too late.  Since I was in the neighborhood I thought I'd try dropping by.  I also had no smartphone so couldn't look up their hours.  Another time I tried to go on a Tuesday, my day off.  But it turns out that they're closed on Tuesdays (again, should have looked it up before going but I really didn't think they'd be closed then).  Another time I went on a public holiday during their opening hours, but they must have closed for the holiday.  Finally, I was sick this week and went to a doctor in Sheung Wan.  The nurse told me it would be over an hour wait so I thought I would try them again.  But no.  They don't open until 11, after my appointment time.  Sigh.

13. Go to the Hello Kitty Cafe.  Need I say more?

X  14. Visit the Bruce Lee (I mean Cultural Heritage) Museum in Sha Tin.  I had a lovely day going to the museum, seeing Snoopy World, wandering around Kwun Tong, taking the Kwun Tong ferry to North Point (see the first picture), and taking the tram back home.  Wonderful!

15.  Tsing Yi Island.  It sounds nice.

16.  Grass Island.  It also sounds nice.  I think you have to take a boat from Sai Kung to get there.

X  17. Eat snake soup.  Done!  I went with my friend Veronica.  It was pretty good.  Very comforting, like chicken soup.

X  18.  The Wetlands in Tin Shui Wai.  I went with my family over Easter.  My brother was visiting, and it was his fifth or sixth time, so he's already seen a lot of things here.  We all went together and it was quite lovely.  They have lots of flowers and birds, as well as crabs, fish, snails and mud-skippers.  They even have an ngok6 jyu4, a crocodile, named Pui Pui who seems to be a bit of a celebrity. 

19.  Karaoke at Mr. Red with Nancy.  Nancy, we have to make this happen!

20. 10,000 Buddhas.  For some reason I've also never done this.  Not sure why, though.  All the members of my family have been there, even multiple times.  

21.  Infinity Pool.  There's some Infinity Pool out in the middle of nowhere that would be cool to visit.  It's supposed to be a bit of a hike and kind of hard to find, though.  

That's all I have for now, but I'm always adding to the list.  We'll see how it goes!  Some of these will end up as blog posts, I'm sure.  

Have you done any of these things?  Any suggestions?  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ups and Downs

My Cantonese progress, like most things in life, is full of ups and downs.

Some days I feel eager to talk with my security guards or convenience store clerks or anyone who will listen.  Other days, words whizz past me, slipping through my fingers as I desperately try to catch at least one of them.  Some weeks I study at home, watch Canto video clips on Youtube, try to practice with coworkers and friends, and write down questions to ask my teacher.  Other weeks, my brain feels like a cold turnip cake, tired, squishy, and useless.  I usually do nothing then.

Today was a good day, as you might have guessed.  Usually if it's a bad day I can't muster up enough enthusiasm to create a post; if I'm feeling good I'll want to keep going, whether that be studying, watching a Canto video or writing a blog post.

This evening I took the ding1 ding1 (tram/trolley) down to Central for a language exchange meet-up.  I've been going to for several months, and they're pretty fun. They run about two hours.  I practice with one partner at first, and we switch after an hour.  For a half an hour we practice English and for the other half an hour, Cantonese.  After it's over, there's an optional dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Tonight was a good night.  My partners spoke slowly (in general) and were pretty good about explaining new words to me.  I learned a lot of good ones, like yao5 si4, sometimes.  So useful, la!  Then at dinner I was able to talk with more people, having actual conversations!  Of course I made so many mistakes, but the communication was fun, so that's key.

It's funny how much of a difference the other person makes.  On the listening end, I feel defeated if I can't catch anything they're saying.  I swear some people are practicing to be auctioneers.  I've been told by a lot of people that Americans speak more quickly than other English-speakers.  That may be true, but if that's the case I think Hong Kongers are the Americans of Asia.  Wah, they speak so quickly!  I think some people just aren't able to speak slowly.  Even after I ask them to slow down, they'll just repeat what they said at the same speed!  Aiya!

And then there's the vocabulary side.  If we're speaking about some topics, I know a lot of words.  Despite my mistakes, the communication is fun and natural.  I can even throw in some slang words or phrases I've learned.  But then other times we'll be talking about something, and I feel like I don't understand every other word and have to keep looking them up.  And then I don't know how to express myself, so it's a cycle.  A slow and frustrating cycle.

Even week to week my mood can vary.  On good weeks, when I watch videos or read blog posts by other language learners, I feel inspired.  It makes me want to keep going and gives me new study ideas.  On bad weeks, I feel like a failure.  Why am I not putting in as much study time as they are?  Why am I not seeing as much success even though I've been studying longer?  Why don't I know how to say "short"?

I've come to accept the ups and downs; they're part of life.  I think I've settled on a fairly good system of relaxed learning.  Some weeks I work hard and other weeks I slack off, but it evens out in the end.  Maybe I won't learn as quickly as some others, but I can still enjoy the process as well as keep up other activities outside of language learning.  I'll just learn yut1 bou6 yut1 bou6, step by step.

I'll get there some day.