Friday, October 29, 2010

Public Transport

For the most part, I love Hong Kong's public transport system. It's convenient, quick, and there are many different kinds. There's big buses, mini-buses, ferries, sampans (little ferries), taxis, the MTR (subway), and the tram (trolley). So many options.

I've had several people ask me if I thought Hong Kong was more convenient than the last place I lived. Well, not really. Maybe if I lived in another city I could say that. For a city, it is definitely convenient. But I don't think you can really compare it to a small town, or driving for that matter, because cars will always be more convenient. I'm not saying that public transport is bad, not at all. I think it's great to save gas and walk and take buses and all that. But it's a simple fact that in a car you go straight to your destination. You don't have to wait for your car to arrive, you don't stop for other people to get on (unless you're picking up hitch-hikers), you don't have to rely on the driver's speed. In Canon, it took me seven minutes to get to school and nine minutes to get to work. Here, I always leave at least forty minutes early for wherever I'm going. Just something to think about.

But now that I am car-less, I have fully embraced the range of transportation options here. I ride buses, for the most part. I pretty much use all of the options (well, taxis I only use when I'm with other people, but I suppose that still counts). The MTR doesn't reach out to where I live, although it should be here in about five years. Hooray. My favorite mode of transportation is mini-bus, since there's a stop just three blocks from my house. I use big buses too, but then I have to walk up a ton of stairs to get there. Yes, it's good exercise, but it's hard to make myself want to do it, so I stick to when I have to do it, like on Sunday mornings.

Thankfully for me, I work in Causeway Bay, where one of the min-buses goes! Usually it's a fairly simple matter of hopping on the bus and then jumping off at the gold dragon, yelling "Bassi cham, m goi" to tell the bus driver I want to be let off at the bus stop. Usually it's fine. Not yesterday.

In the middle of the day, think ten to two, traffic is light. There's no traffic in the tunnel, and the bus usually makes minimal stops to pick people up. Although I've been leaving forty minutes before work just in case, it generally only takes fifteen minutes to actually get there. I like to be safe, though. Yesterday I was running late and only left a half an hour early. Bad idea.

I know, I know, I should always expect something to go wrong. But the last ten times or so it's only taken fifteen minutes to get there! How was I to know I'd have the one mini-bus driver doesn't drive like a racecar maniac? Still, it was my fault.

I got to the stop at twelve, and no bus was there. That's not normal, but it does happen sometimes. Finally, the right bus pulls up and I hop on. Three other people get on behind me and we sit. These buses can hold sixteen people, but during non-traffic hours, three is enough for a driver to go. Not this one. He waited for ten minutes to see if anyone else would come. Then he slowly drives off down the street. We kept stopping to pick up more people, which is also normal, but not THAT many people at that time.

Finally, we were full, so I thought that he would speed it up. No. We were the absolute slowest vehicle on the road. EVERYTHING was passing us. Trucks, cars, big buses, vans, other mini-buses. I was like, "What is wrong with this guy?" We come up to a green light. Most people would accelerate when you see a green light. But no. This guy SLOWS DOWN! By time we're at the stop it's yellow, so of course he stops. Thanks.

The rest of the way there I was verbally yelling, "Drive faster! You're not a ninety-year-old woman! See how everything's passing you? Doesn't that tell you something?" But of course I was polite and kept quiet. He probably wouldn't've understood me anyway.

We finally made it out of the tunnel and to the golden dragon. I made it to work, but I was five minutes late for a lesson. A couple students and teachers told me that this school is flexible so they don't care that much if I'm five minutes late, but I care. I don't like to keep people waiting, especially if they're paying for my time. Sigh.

I guess I just need to make sure to always leave forty minutes early. I suppose I can take a book. Or steal a mini-bus and drive it myself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Yes, I am skipping Music Monday today. To those of you who either don't like Music Monday or don't care, then you can rejoice. If there are any of you that actually like Music Monday, well, I'll get to it next week. And it will be good.

I actually wasn't going to post at all today. In fact, I just got out of bed to do it. I've been praying for some time tonight (in bed, of course) and I couldn't get this topic out of my mind, so I decided I should just get up and write it down before I actually fall asleep. Or type it. Whatever.

I recently finished reading Redeeming Love by Francene Rivers. I've read it before, but I brought precious few books over here, I don't have a library card, and that was one of the few novels my parents had lying around. So I read it again. For those of you who haven't read this popular Christian woman's novel, it's basically a retelling of the story of Hosea. God tells Michael, this young farmer (living in Old West California), to marry a prostitute, Angel. He does, and then he's in for quite the ride. Angel had been sold into prostitution at age eight and came with a lot of baggage. She didn't really want to be there at first, and she continually was running away from him. He kept trying to bring her back and assure her of his love. Just like Hosea, Michael's relationship with Angel mirrors God's relationship with us. We are always running back to the world, away from God, even though he offers us unconditional love, a better life, everything.

I'm sure that, like me, a lot of you have heard this before. I guess what really made it stand out in my mind tonight is when I attached it to heartbreak that I see in this world, in the lives of people I know.

Last summer, I worked at a camp with a dating couple. They worked in different areas of the camp and didn't always get to see much of each other. Even when they did, it was painfully obvious that something wasn't right. The guy was not that nice to her. She would ask him how his day had been or something little like that, and he would just brush her off. Although he was working hard at building relationships with other staff and his campers, he would never seek her out and work on their relationship. He basically abandoned her.

Their anniversary was during the summer, and the girl had been working all summer on this album of their first year together. When she finished it, she showed me and a couple others the finished product. It was beautiful, really. It showed them goofing off, dancing, him kissing her cheek, posing in front of the camp sign at the beginning of summer. While she turned one of the pages she said, "He used to like me a lot."

Oh! Such simple words, but the downcast eyes and slight hitch in her voice spoke volumes. I've never forgotten it.

It's been well over a year, but I can still hear her saying that. It plays back at me sometimes when I see a happy new couple, glowing with enthusiasm. He, too, once felt like that. When I see a girl crying over a recent breakup, I hear it. I definitely hear it when I learn about a new divorce casualty. They used to like each other a lot.

They broke up. Facebook told me that he's now engaged to someone else. I haven't kept in contact with her, but I wonder sometimes how she's doing. Did he break up with her (I assume so, since she was hoping to marry him)? How did it feel to learn he was dating someone else? Has she moved on or started dating anyone else?

This is just one story, but I think the sentiment is the same in many breakup stories. Whether it's a month-long relationship or a marriage, there is some degree of heartbreak involved in a separation. You believed in that person, gave them your love. You hoped that they would love you back as much as you loved them. Then the ugly truth becomes apparent, the beautiful dreams torn to pieces. They don't love you anymore.

God feels this way too. In the very beginning of time, Adam and Eve rejected God's plan for their life. Hearbreak. In Noah's day, God was grieved because man had abandoned him to live only for themselves. Heartbreak. In the book of Hosea (and most of the Old Testament, for that matter), all of Israel had traded in God for other lovers, their idols. Hearbreak.

This makes me wonder about my own life. Does God ever grieve over me? When I go for long periods of time without praying or spending time with him, does he miss me? When I'm wandering and ignoring him, does he ever say "She used to like me a lot"?

I don't want to break God's heart. I want to love him with an everlasting love. I want to make him glad that I love him back, that I'm faithful. As the old song goes, I pray that God "bind my wandering heart to Thee." Of course, I can only humbly thank God that he has a neverending patience with my failings. He is the ever-enduring lover, always welcoming me back with gladness when I return after a bout of unfaithfulness.

Thank you, God, for you know I don't deserve this. Thank you for your love and your patience to deal with the heartbreak I give you.

I love you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Anger

I've never thought of myself as an angry person. And really, I'm not. Anger is a very rare, fleeting emotion with me. If someone does something mean or unkind to me, I'm more likely to feel sad or kind of annoyed or just shrug it off totally. I let things float past me easily. Some people live with their emotions close to the surface. They anger easily, but it also leaves them quickly. For me, I think hold my emotions a bit deeper. Most stuff won't make it down far enough to affect me majorly, but when it does, it stays. For a long time.

Just the other day I was lying in bed in that wonderful drowsy state before I actually succumb to sleep, letting my mind wander as it pleased. In those times, my mind usually flits from thoughts about my day to plans for the future to books or movies to memories of the past or who knows what else. For some reason, it stopped on an angry memory. I was at once awake. Although it had happened almost two years ago, I was almost as angry thinking about the memory as I had been during the actual incident.

Really, it was such a small thing, and I doubt anyone but me even gave it a second thought. I used to be the Food Forum moderator for my college's website. Although forums are notorious for becoming heated, I figured not much contraversy could be stirred up over food. I mean, probably the worst would be whether carbonated beverages should be called soda, pop, or Coke (it's pop, by the way). Anyway, one day I started a thread asking about people's favorite restaurants. I don't even remember all that I put down, but I'm pretty sure Chili's was on there (for their Chicken Crispers) and possibly Fazzoli's (breadsticks). When I went back later to see who responded, there were several different restaurants posted, but also an interesting comment on my orignal post. This person had written that not everyone had Daddy's credit card so they can't eat out whenever they wanted to.

Such a small thing, but it made me so pissed. I remember all sorts of indignant thoughts bubbling up. My family almost never went out to eat as a kid, except maybe the occasional 99 cent fast-food burgers on road trips. On my own at college (at that point), I went out much more--once every couple of months. I've never owned a credit card. Besides that, I had never asked my parents for money while in college. If I didn't have much money, I would deal. And this person had the nerve to insinuate that I was a spoiled rich girl who manipulated my parents into giving me money instead of earning my own.

While lying in bed the other night, I stopped my silent tirade to really analyze it. Why was I angry? What was it about that comment that upset me so much? I think that all comes down to my pride in my independence. Ever since I turned eighteen, I've thought of myself as an adult in some sense. When someone else would talk about getting their parents to take them shopping for clothes, I would look down at my thrift store/bargain outfits and smile quietly to myself. I may not have been as fashionable as them, but at least my clothes were mine. Whenever faculty would make jokes about college kids calling home for money, I would smugly think that that would never be me. And, at least for the first three years of college, it wasn't (breaking my wrists kind of changed that, as well as moving to another country with no money).

But really, that's a silly attitude to have and a stupid reason to get angry. That's the independent attitude that they always say Americans are blessed/cursed with. I'm not saying it's always bad. God does tell us to work with our own hands and support ourselves. None of us are supposed to be lazy. And hey, an independent attitude gets things done sometimes. On the other hand, the Christian life is definitely the opposite of self-reliance.

I've been learning a lot about self-reliance over the past couple years. I still like parts of it. I think it's good not to rely on other people too much. Too often have I seen others who base their decisions, self-esteem and happiness on others. Yeah, that fails. At the same time, our reliance shouldn't really be on ourselves; it should be in God. But I digress. I've already written a whole post on lessons in dependence (typed during the time of my broken wrists, of course). Basically, I've learned that I shouldn't get upset when someone calls me dependent. As a Christian, I should be dependent!

Then there's my other anger incidents. Again, they don't happen often. Most of them stem from someone being a jerk to others. I can still boil when I think how one of my high school teachers treated some of us. My freshman year of college I got majorly pissed at some JBU students who were jeering the other team at a basketball game. They were going way beyond spirited ribbing; they were cruelly taunting individual players, especially targeting their looks. Oh, I was angry. I never forgot the students who did it, and it affected how I thought about them for the rest of college. In those cases, I don't think I was wrong to get angry. They were obviously out of line. What was wrong was holding onto it so long. That isn't righteous anger; that's a grudge.

So how do I change? With God's help, only. Starting a couple years ago, I began praying whenever old, mouldering angry thoughts arise. It really has helped. Sure, sometime things get me angry still, but I don't hold onto it as much. I can let it go.

Still, don't call a basketball player with corn-rows a tire-head in front of me. Just don't. You sound stupid anyway.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swing Kids

I just got back from swing dancing! Yep, swing dancing in Hong Kong. This really is the city that has everything (well, except for cheap Mexican food). Two friends from church invited me. Apparently the swing madness happens every Wednesday, and it's free! It's in the basement of Jardine's House in a place called Grappa's Cellar. It's also a restaurant, so there were diners and waiters around the place. Occasionally one of us would bump into a waiter, but it seemed to work out ok.

Even though I've danced swing for years, I kind of felt like a beginner tonight. First of all, I haven't danced for eight months or so. Forever, basically. So I was a bit out of the zone. Also, JBU swing favors the simple basic (or whatever it's called) while the people tonight liked the quickstep and some other pointing toe-step. I was a little messed up on things like spins since I didn't always know what to do with my feet with the different steps. I would automatically revert to the simple basic and then would be messed up. But I suppose practice makes better.

Still, it was really fun! Although there were more girls than guys, it was much more even than what I'm used to. Also, everyone did a very good job of circulating and dancing with different people. Awesome! Although most of the people there were in their twenties and thirties, there were a couple of older and younger people. I even danced with a high schooler and a middle schooler! They get a lot of points in my book for being gutsy enough to go to a mainly adult swing club.

This makes me want to watch Swing Kids again. I'll have to troll the internet and see if I can find it.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Music Monday: Becoming the Archetype

Ok, I confess that this is about Becoming the Archetype just because BA is the only band I've listened to today. I had some other great ideas (well, "great" in my mind at least) for today's Music Monday, but now it's late, I've spent most of the night working on tomorrow's lesson, and I need to go to bed. Lame, I know. I've failed you all. And most importantly, I've failed myself.

Ok, cutting the dramatic crap, Becoming the Archetype is an absolutely amazing band. Yes, they are metalcore, so I know a lot of you won't like them. But you know I had to talk about metalcore eventually, right? I mean, look at all the other MM posts in which I abstained.

Back to Becoming the Archetype. I really enjoy their music, and they are one of the clearest metalcore bands I've ever listened to. I don't have to concentrate at all to understand them! Their version of "How Great Thou Art" is just amazing. If you feel like listening to it, here's the link (the comment on the screen is kind of amusing). See how clear they are? And I love their instrumental intro.

And for those of you who don't like screaming, they also do some instrumental stuff too that is pretty nice. The first one is called Night's Sorrow and the second one is called Nocturne.

See? Something for the whole family. Now I'm going to bed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh, Meditation

Recently my friend Dulcina and I decided to meet weekly to discuss a Christian book we're both reading, Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster. I'm super excited about this book, as well as having someone to go through it with. I bought it last summer at an awesome Christian coffee shop in Gunnison. It has sections on all of the major spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service, solitude, and confession.

Dulcina and I started comparing notes on Monday. The first two sections we read were on meditation and contemplation. I have to say, I think meditation is definitely one of the neglected disciplines. I mean, I've occasionally heard a pastor or speaker mention that we should meditate on God's word, but that's about it. I've never really known the nuts and bolts of how it's done.

The first section we read was written by Thomas More, an awesome dude who stood up to King Henry the Eighth (to six spouses was wedded. One died, one survived, two divorced, and two beheaded. Sorry, this always pops into my head whenever I hear King Henry the Eighth) and told him that it was wrong to divorce his wife and make himself head of the church. For his boldness, he was executed. But they do say that he went to his death gracefully, even joking with his executioners. Sounds like a good guy to me.

His work was a poem of some of his own meditations called "A Godly Meditation," and it almost takes my breath away. Each one of his lines is just amazing and full of depth. For example, he writes,

Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love him.

I mean, seriously. Am I really always glad to think of God? Do I eagerly turn my mind to him during the day? And what about "piteously to call for his help." His use of "piteously" reminds me exactly of my helpless position in this world. What can I do on my own? If I think that I can live life on my own, I find that I'm utterly mistaken and have to call for his help. I could go on, but I won't. Basically, More's whole poem is awesome. You should buy the book and read it.

The next section is written by Joyce Huggett. I'd never heard of her before, but I'm glad that I read her section. She actually explains the difference between meditation and contemplation (the former is more focused on scripture while the latter is more focused on God's love) and tells you practically how to do it yourself. Awesome stuff.

For me personally, I think mediation is easier. The point of meditation is to take a bit of head knowledge and roll it around it our heads until it "trickles down to our hearts." With meditation, I have something tangible to think about, to focus on. Contemplation, on the other hand, is hard for me to grasp. Instead of words, you're supposed to focus on God's love and let its reality envelop you. That seems so much more intangible, and I know I haven't "gotten" it. Although, I suppose that is the point of a discipline; it's hard and you have to practice it.

So I'd love to hear from you guys. Have any of you read anything from either of these guys? Or have you read/learned anything else about meditation and contemplation?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Music Monday: Run Joey Run

Confession: I got hooked on Glee last year. Sure, it's kind of a mix between High School Musical and a soap opera, but it's still very hookable. Besides incredibly ridiculous (yet hilarious) characters, it also has some fun musical numbers. And yes, I like musicals.

I was quite saddened to find that doesn't work overseas. I use other sites to watch certain tv shows, but Glee isn't on any of them. My dad recently figured out that it does show on tv at certain times, but I hate starting a show in the middle of a season. I've decided to wait until I go back and then watch the whole season. Maybe even in one sitting (assuming I could stand all of that high school drama in one sitting).

I have watched a couple clips of some of the songs, and I really liked the Run Joey Run redo. It was totally over-the-top and hilarious. I especially love the end part where it shows the three different guys speed-walking down the misty corridor. Too funny.

I looked up the original song, and it was done by David Geddes. It was a US Top 5 hit in 1975. After listening to the original, I have to say that I like the Glee version WAY better. The guy's voice is ok, but I like the sound and emotion better in the Glee version. Also, as several netizens pointed out, the original girl sounds like a nine-year-old boy with a stuffy nose. Basically, she sounds like Justin Bieber. Someone even made a video of Justin "singing" this part.

But I'll let you guys decide for yourselves. Original or Glee-ified?



PS: It looks like the boy drama in this episode is ridiculous.
PPS: The actors playing Fin and Puck are WAY too old to be playing high schoolers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Real Hitch: Professional Pick-up Artists

I'm sure most of you have seen the movie "Hitch", a popular option for Friday night entertainment. For those of you who haven't, the story revolves around Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Will Smith) who is a dating coach. He takes insecure, clueless men and helps them land dates, even relationships. He advises them on the first contact, their personal style, dancing, kissing, women signals, etc. He takes a chump and turns out a Casanova.

While I always thought it was a fun movie, I never knew that such coaches existed. I recently discovered that there's a whole "seduction community" with "professional pick-up artists." These PUAs write books, run blogs, and teach seminars that focus on helping men land women. Neil Strass, a famous PUA, wrote a book called "The Game" that explored the seduction community, following leading PUAs around on their daily pick-ups. Mystery, one of the most famous PUAs, even has his own reality tv show called (surprise, surprise) "The Pickup Artist" where he takes Average Frustrated Chumps (AFCs) and teaches them how to be a real pick-up artist. Both Strauss and Mystery have had numerous articles written on them and were both featured (separately) on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

I was curious about this "seduction community" so I read a couple of articles and watched a few episodes of Mystery's show. At first glance, I thought it was terrible. At second glance, I thought it could be a great thing. At third glance, I decided that the seduction community has, as does everything, a good and bad side to it.

Let's start with the good. I really think that a lot of things that I saw on the show could be very helpful for guys. Mystery worked a lot with the guys on self-confidence and self-esteem. He showed them that it wasn't just about getting women to like them; it was also about respecting themselves. The confidence they learned not only helped them with women but also with people in general . They learned to communicate.

I also think it's good that it gives nice guys a fighting chance. Maybe a guy is nice, but he doesn't know the tricks that other guys do. He doesn't have the natural talent or confidence to just walk up to a woman and start a conversation. Maybe they'd get along great. Maybe they'd make a wonderful couple. But they have to meet somehow, and that can often be the hard part.

Sometimes these guys are slammed for using canned openers (the ways they begin a conversation with a woman or group). They'll share interesting questions or stories to start conversations. True, these aren't terribly original (and maybe even a bit dis-honest), but it does help initiate contact. In the words of Hitch, "Does it ever occur to women that maybe a guy might like to have a plan, you know, because he's nervous? He's not sure that he could just walk up to you and you'd respond if he said "I like you."" He's right. Most women would not respond well to that, because they don't know the guy. Maybe those canned lines will give them both a chance to get to know each other so the woman can make a fair judgment.

In my personal opinion the best aspect of the seduction community is that it teaches guys how to read women's signals. I think that's awesome. I mean, how many times have you beamed sympathetic thoughts to an uninterested yet ever-so-polite girl that is listening to an enthusiastic yet ever-so-clueless guy. Or tried to think of an excuse that isn't a lie for not giving a guy your number or meeting him later. OR, on the other end of the spectrum, seen a googly-eyed girl hang on the every word of some poor schmuck who never even takes the hint. Yeah, it happens all the time. And guys like Mystery are trying to give other guys a clue. I think they could use it.

There are definitely downsides to the seduction community. Sure, some PUAs are looking for the girl of their dreams. They use their new knowledge to try to make friends and ultimately find a girlfriend. But, for every good-hearted Romeo, there are plenty of chauvinistic slimesters trying to manipulate their way into girls' pants. They know how to read the signs, use just the right amount of friendly touching, make their target emotionally safe, and suggest that the women go with them at the right time.

Then there's the whole objectification thing. What do these women really mean to PUAs? Do these men actually care about the girls or do they just appear to care as one of their techniques? Is each new woman just a conquest that will raise their credibility as a pick-up artist? I don't know. I know that some just want a normal relationship and need the tools to achieve that, but others seem to have their hearts set on being man-whores.

I do have to admit that despite all the bad things that comes along with PUAs, some of their openers are pretty great. For example, here's a clip of Neil Strass (a seemingly likeable guy) demonstrating the Five Question Opener. I thought it was very creative.
See? That's just fun.

So if a guy ever comes up to you in coffee shop with one of those amusing games or anecdotes, know that he probably isn't that funny on his own. But then again, maybe it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Music Monday: Lullabies

I love lullabies. And I don't mean the "Rock-a-bye" lullabies, although they can be cool too. What I mean is the haunting, soft, sleepy melodies that just make you want to crawl under your green comforter and never come out. Unless your comforter is not green, in which case I would suggest you go shopping tomorrow to buy a new one. Everyone knows that green makes for the best comforters. Right?

But my tired mind digresses. I was thinking about lullabies because I'm tired. It's late. Since I don't have to stay up frantically writing papers or cramming for Greek tests, I won't require the services of Demon Hunter or Streetlight Manifesto. Now I'd rather have something to lull me to sleep.

A while back I was on a lullaby kick. I had great fun slowing down a ska or screamo song and singing it a capella to a couple of friends when they were going to bed. Some of those crazy songs actually make for some pretty sweet lullabies.

Unfortunately, I can't sing myself a lullaby. Not only would that be really lame, but I'd keep myself awake with singing. So who do I turn to? Annie Lennox's Into the West, of course! We all know it from Lord of the Rings, but it is one of my favorite goodnight songs. So soothing.

I was going to ask you guys what lullabies you guys like, but I think I'll be sleeping long before you answer. Feel free to do it anyway, though, if you want to. There's always tomorrow night.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Asian Laura

After living in the shopping center of the universe for three months, I now dress much more Asian. These are pictures of the new, improved, Asianified Laura!

Take special note of the bow, the rosettes on the sleeve, and the grape charm on my phone.

And the whole ruffly blue dress.

Also, an extra long shirt with writing that doesn't really make sense (take your hand?) and heel-like shoes.

Ok, maybe not really. But kind of. In reality, most of my clothes are still American. I did buy the dress because I could go to work in it, and it is some evidence of my Asianifying. The grape charm was a present from a friend. It seems that most Asians (at least girls) have charms dangling from everything: hats, belts, cell phones, purses, etc.

I swore that I'd never wear one of those long shirts, since I think they often look sloppy and shapeless, so I guess that shows how much my solemn oaths mean. I recently bought this shirt because my favorite shorts have these mysterious pink stains (paint? bleach?) on the butt. A long shirt allows me to still wear my shorts! Besides, I did like the colors (enough to ignore the odd words).

But the bow? No. Before you think I've gone too far, I did buy that bow just for this picture. So I'm still me! Kind of...