Friday, January 28, 2011

Karaoke Time!

On Wednesday, I went to lunch-time karaoke after class! I've never really done karaoke before. One time we had karaoke at college and I sang one or two songs, but I've never actually gone to a karaoke place. Lunch-time karaoke is such a great deal! This place was only HK$38 (US$5) for lunch and an hour of singing. Besides, it's right across the street from my work, so I can just zip over for a little singing fun!

I was quite impressed by their selection. They had many songs I had never heard of before, but they also had a lot of good classics. I ended up singing A Whole New World, Cecilia, Californication, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Can't Get Enough of You Baby, Hotel California, and Heartless. It was a lot of fun.

The lunch was also pretty good. I had a saucy pork chop with french fries and vegetables. I also had a very sweet lemon tea to moisten my tuneful throat.

See the screen? It had all sorts of funny background videos, like ladies in old-fashioned bathing suits and a even a naked little boy playing in the surf. Interesting, that's for sure.

Getting my sing on.

The Karaoke crew. Woot woot!

FYI: I'll probably be MIA for the next week or so. I'm leaving tomorrow for CAMBODIA for Chinese New Year. Hooray! Stay tuned for pictures and adventures stories.
If I don't ever post again, I've probably been squished by an elephant so go find some other blog to read. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Music Monday: Brave Saint Saturn

Even before listening to Brave Saint Saturn, I considered it a quality band. That probably had something to do with the fact that its frontman is Reese Roper, the former lead singer of my beloved Five Iron Frenzy. According to my good friend Wiki, Roper felt that some of his lyrics were too dark for the mostly light-hearted FIF. Brave Saint Saturn gives him another place to share more of his struggles. BS2 has a whole story about a space journey that spans all three of their albums. They use lots of symbolism (yeah for English majors!) and tackle themes like loneliness and heartache and self-sacrifice.

Musically, I have mixed feelings about them. I'm always intrigued by their offerings. They use the traditional guitars and drums and stuff, but also speaking parts, robot voices and electronic goodness. Some of their songs I absolutely LOVE. I can listen to "Titan," "Heart Still Beats," " and "Starling" for hours. Even little parts of songs affect me. I'm always moved by the music at 2:25 of "Titan," although I couldn't quite tell you why. It's soul-stirring. There's also "Blessed be the Landmines." I absolutely adore how they've built the bridge, transitioning from the more mellow verse into the more intense chorus. The background guitar whirring is amazing.

Other songs of theirs are just ok to me. Songs like "Daylight" are nice, but musically not as exciting to me. Other songs I don't care for at all; musically boring, I suppose. But then again, I know that a lot of you have vastly different tastes than me. Maybe you should avoid the songs I like and listen to the rest!

On both musical and lyrical merit, I think Brave Saint is worth a listen. So here you go!

Starling. Quite sad.

Enamel. Here's a nice, feisty breakup song which is deceptively upbeat.

Blesssed are the Landmines.

Titan. I apologize for the video but I couldn't find any others. Unless you like Final Fantasy, in which case, enjoy!

P.S. If anyone in BS2 reads this, you should come out with another album! Please?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Best of HK 2: Transportation

I haven't driven a car once since may. And other than a taxi, I've only ridden in a car maybe three times. While I miss driving a little bit, I'm definitely glad I don't have to drive in this city. That would be a terror! Since they drive on the left, I could totally see myself veering into the wrong lane and having a head-on. Also, I hate city driving. Too much aggression and headache for too little fun, not to mention how hard it is to find a parking spot.

Hong Kong has an awesome transportation system. The MTR, their subway system, runs all over. I only ride the MTR a couple of times a week since it hasn't come to Ap Lei Chau yet. It should be there in about five years, but I somehow doubt I'll be there at that point. Since we have no MTR, I usually take a minibus or a big bus.

Minibuses are quite fun, although sometimes terrifying. There's one that goes to Causeway Bay (a main drag on Hong Kong Island), so I always hop one to work. You actually have to yell at the driver to tell him where to stop. You also can flag him down on the street, which you can't do with big buses. Big buses are also fun. They're double-deckers, and I like sitting in the front. They always get SO close to the other buses that you think they're going to crash, but they never do.

The tram (trolley, for you Americans) is also a cheap, fun option. It has open windows so it gets quite breezy. I really enjoy riding it at night. Also, there's ferries and sampans. The ferries will take you across the harbor to the Kowloon side or to outlying islands. I ride sampans (little boats) to get across the Aberdeen Harbor to get to Aberdeen.

Another nice thing about public transportation is that it forces me to walk so I get lots of exercise. In the States if I'm going to meet a friend, I drive to their house, park in the front and walk to the door. Then I walk back to my car and get in. Here, the bus stops or MTR stations are usually a ways away from where I'm going so I have to walk. Although it takes more planning, I am grateful for the forced exercise. I've already lost ten pounds!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music Monday: Celtic Bliss

Well, I should be in bed by now. I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to book a ticket from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, but for some reason there's an error and it won't accept my payment. Stupid AirAsia.

Anyway...Music Monday. Since I'm pretty tired (no surprise there), I won't wax poetic about Celtic music. I think we all know that it's awesome. If you don't, then climb out of that hole you live in and get a grooveshark account. Either that or smack your head into the wall for having bad taste.

Irish music can be lively or mellow, wickedly merry or hauntingly sad. I love listening to it all! I've even started to learn the tin whistle and trying to play along with some of the songs. Granted, I'm pretty bad and I don't practice much, but hey, it's a start.

Flogging Molly is really the first band that introduced me to the genre. They're a bit more modern than some other bands, but they know how to rock it while still maintaining Irish sound and content. Over the last couple of months, I've been expanding my listening repertoire to include the Dubliners, the Chieftains, Grada, Danu, and Clannad. Clannad sings in Gaelic, which is kind of nice. The only thing I don't like about that is when I get one of their songs stuck in my head and I can't sing along to it! Solution: make up my own lyrics.

Well, I'm heading to the land of sleep. But before I go, here's some links for your listening pleasure. See all the variety?

Here's some Flogging Molly action, complete with a fun music video.

John Riley, a nice story song by Grada.

Teidhir Abhaile Riu by Clannad. One of my favorites.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Worst of Hong Kong 1: Walking Places

I love walking, I really do. So it isn't the walking that I don't like, it's just Hong Kong isn't a great walking environment.

I walk a lot during the week. Every time I want to catch a bus or go anywhere, I have to walk at least a bit. Whenever I'm waiting for someone, I'll walk around. When I have a break from work, I may walk to get a coffee or milk tea or go to the library. I also walk when I'm sad. Tonight I was supposed to go to another King Ly Chee concert. I was so excited! I always get super excited before a concert and then I'm usually happy for a couple days afterwards. Anyway, I went all the way over to Sai Wan Ho just to be told they were sold out. That was really sad. I even turned down an offer to go to the Israeli film festival just for that show! I was really bummed so I ended up walking all the way from Sai Wan Ho to Causeway Bay. For those of you not familiar with HK, that's a pretty long ways. I also walk when I'm happy or want to think or feel like moving. Yes, I walk a lot.

Even though I walk a lot, Hong Kong isn't that great of a place to do it. Well, it is in some ways. There's always something interesting to look at, and there's plenty of things to tempt you off the path. Tonight I made a pit-stop to pick up a chocolate hazelnut milk tea (my new favorite. I even learned how to say it in Canto!). I do enjoy looking at the different shops and watching the people who walk by.

What isn't fun is the bad air. There's always fumes coming from the cars and buses that go whizzing past. Strange smells sometimes float out of trash barrels or from buildings. Then there's the smokers. For some reason, smokers feel that it's ok to light up right in the middle of a crowd and blow smoke in people's faces. I don't know about you, but I'm not too crazy about the whole second-hand smoke thing.

Although this isn't nearly as bothersome as the other two points, another small annoyance is always getting bothered by people in the street. First there's the people handing out paper flyers. They are always shoving papers at me, trying to get me to go to their store to get a massage or order a couch or buy an oversized, jet-powered tub. Oh yes, that's right up my alley. Then there's the handbag/watch people. They walk after me going, "Miss, miss, want to buy a handbag? A pretty handbag? Handbag? Handbag?" No, I don't want a handbag. I have one hanging on my arm, thank you. It works just fine. And it was only $10USD, not the $50 (or whatever) you're charging. And then, there's the charity people. They go out with their boxes and ask for donations on the weekends. Every once in awhile, a whole school will do it together. You can't go a half a block without running into two or three of the kids trying to get you to donate. Once you've donated, they give you a sticker to adhere to your shirt and then the rest won't bother you. I see it as buying protection.

Finally, the thing that annoys me more than anything else: slow people walking in the street. Now, I do admit that I walk quickly. I don't know why, but I've somehow picked up the habit of walking like I'm missing something; it just feels comfortable to me. I walk faster than at least %90 of the other people in the street. While I know I walk quickly, it would help if the people wouldn't blob. When people walk down the street, they tend to spread out. If it's just one person, they'll wander all over the sidewalk, cutting you off as you try to pass. If it's a group of three, they'll spread until the whole sidewalk is blocked. If it's a group of five or larger, I suggest you jump into the street to pass them because you won't get past the human amoeba. The only thing worse than people blocking the street while they're walking is the people who stop right in the middle of the sidewalk and just stand there. Oh my freaking donuts please move! Or at least become permeable so I can walk right through you.

I guess I should look on the bright side. At least I've become very skilled bobbing and weaving. It'll come in handy if I'm ever trying to survive a sniper attack. On that day, I'll thank the streets of Hong Kong. But until then....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Best of Hong Kong 1: Food

As promised, here's the start of my series on the best and worst things about Hong Kong! And what better way then to start off writing about food? Since this is such a large topic, I'll just breeze through it with some of my favorite things.

I love food. I love cooking. I love reading food blogs and food magazines. For a food lover such as myself, Hong Kong is a great place to be. It's probably one of the most international cities in Asia so it has all kinds of restaurants as well as imported food for poor, craving expats like me. I mean, you can get peanut-butter and blue cheese and stuffing here! I definitely still miss food (especially Mexican food!) but at least there are a lot of other foods I can console myself with.

Dim Sum is one of the most popular things to eat here. Usually you go with a group of people to a dim sum restaurant and order a lot of different dishes. Or if you're a Hong Kong person, you order a LOT of different dishes. All of the food is served in round, wooden boxes that they stack into these gigantic towers. You also drink a lot of Chinese tea (I prefer Jasmine).
This is one of my favorites. I don't really know what it's called, but it is a kind of dumpling with pork inside. Yum yum.

These are also very delicious. I call this a dumpling shrimp wrap. Again, I don't know the names of things (Canto-speakers always order) but it's delicious! The vegetables are very good too, but they're so slippery! My chopstick skills have gotten pretty decent, but not as far as picking up slippery vegetables. I usually embarrass myself by dropping them, which is always fun.

This is a sesame dessert filled with lotus paste. Really delicious.

This is a different version of the sesame balls. They're awesome because you bite into them and they deflate. :D

Then there's random little dishes that I get at hole-in-the-wall places. Some are quite traditional. Some are just tasty. Either way, I'm not complaining.

This is cold bean curd with orange sugar on it. It reminds me of Cream of Wheat.

Here's some tasty fried rice I got at Cheung Chau (Island). The shrimp is the best I'd ever had.

Lemon chicken! I got this at a little place in Stanley Market.

On to drinks. They have some awesome drinks around here (although I do miss the cheap, delicious Thai smoothies).

Picture credit: Lillian
This is the drink stand on the corner. When it's hot I usually get an iced caramel coffee or a chocolate banana smoothie. When it's cold, usually caramel hot chocolate.

Picture credit: Lillian
The one on the left is milk tea! I have come to LOVE milk tea. It has a very strange taste, but it's so good. Especially iced. This particular version is Taiwanese so it has the colored glutinous balls in the bottom. They're chewy.

Desserts are also super delicious. I don't have too many pictures of desserts, but believe me, there are so many wonderful kinds! They have a kind of really thin shaved ice cream that is served with marshmallows and chocolate sticks. There's lots of kinds of almond or sesame soups that are popular in the winter.

See? Doesn't that make your mouth water? Mine certainly was. Although it is called Summer and I was eating it in December.

And of course, there are all sorts of odd foods that are here. I have tried many, many strange things and have liked most of them. Don't be afraid of something that looks weird! It might be good!

This is me eating a duck foot! It wasn't wonderful, but it wasn't terrible. Kind of bland and rubbery. But hey, it's an experience!

There are lots of things I didn't include, like hotpot and street dishes and other kinds of ethnic food. But this is already too long, so goodbye!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling!

As promised, I have to report on my exciting weekend! I went to a Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling match! Now, I'm not exactly a WWF (or E, whatever) fan, but I figured I couldn't miss out on this opportunity to see such an interesting spectacle. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures at the moment. I was waiting to post this because I was hoping to get pics from the people I went with, but I'll just have to add them later.

On to the story. Now that I work at a center that thrives on talking about current events, I read the local paper pretty regularly. I happened upon an article that was about Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling. I was a bit incredulous. Really? Like, the dress-up-in-spandex-hit-the-guy-with-a-chair-throw-him-out-of-the-ring Pro-Wrestling? Yes. Yes. And yes.

I convinced a co-worker as well as a swing friend to accompany me to the spectacle. We had an interesting start to the evening. First, Alvin and I were going to meet Oliver at the Sai Wan Ho MTR station. Neither of us were paying attention and we got on the MTR going the wrong way. Oops. We got off and onto the right MTR and ran into a creeper. I noticed a strange-looking guy standing near us in our car. Not only did he have an odd expression on his face and blood-shot eyes but he also was wearing white rubber gloves. So strange. After a bit, I noticed he was staring at me. Like, hardcore staring. I casually re-positioned myself so that Alvin's head was in between us, shielding me from his unblinking gaze. Then, slyly, his head would slide to the other side, forcing me to shift in the other direction. This went on for several minutes until finally he got off the train. Yuck! All I could imagine was him saying, "Don't worry, I'll kill you in a very interesting way and treasure your remains in the freezer." Sure, maybe he was just a nice, normal guy, but then he should take off the creeper gloves and stop staring at people! Seriously!

That aside, we met Oliver at the station. The very same thing happened. Well, not the creeper, but we all started walking in the same direction while none of us really knew where we were going. I assumed that Oliver knew where it was since he said he knew the area. He thought I knew since I was the one who looked up the website. And Alvin was blameless. Anyway, after asking a few pedestrians and consulting some iPhones (not mine), we figured it out.

The event was held in this youth outreach center. For some reason, we had to sign a membership card before entering. Dad later told me that the place probably wasn't zoned for a public event but if we were all "members" it would be considered a private event. Hey, whatever works. The building was really odd and interesting. It seemed all made out of concrete and was very open. There were all sorts of stairs and secret rooms and walls adorned with graffiti and band posters. Broken down chairs were in some rooms while others held paddle-less ping-pong tables.

We finally made our way into the gym. A worn ring stood in the middle, surrounded by plastic chairs on three sides and a portable stage on the other. We quickly claimed our front-row seats, briefly wondering if any large men would soon be hurtled at us over the side of the ring. While we waited, we looked at a printed flyer and claimed the wrestler we would root for. Oliver chose a guy dressed in short, red spandex shorts and a devil mask. I chose a skinny guy in a black-and-white baseball T and green plastic sunglasses.

The lights began to dim and the show started! A dance-crew opened the show. We saw them practicing right before the lights went down, so that already wasn't a good sign. I suppose everyone has to start somewhere, right? Then the real show began.

There was a total of five fights, each with its own quirks. The first was a young guy in basketball shorts (conveniently slit up the side) and an older man in jean shorts. Oliver thought he looked like an angry cabbie. Could be. I mean, I'm sure cabbies store up a lot of rage during the course of their lives. My chosen wrestler certainly made the show interesting with his gyrating hips. He and his opponent took turns pulling the other around by their hair. The most memorable fight was the huge Australian man in a dress versus a little Asian guy. The head honcho (manager? promoter? I can't understand Chinese) of the event kept intervening right before the Australian won and imposing new "fair" rules. The Australian first had his hands and then his feet duct-taped together and then was set upon with a chair and shovel. They even ventured over the ring and the little guy stole my chair to prop up the Australian! The last act was the devil guy against two Canadian brothers in their undies (I mean extremely short spandex shorts). That ended in the devil smashing the brothers in one move, holding them both down until the ref counted to three (or should I say sam?).

It was a pretty nice show. I think I can enjoy it more than regular fighting because I know it's all staged. I'm sure they get hurt form some of their stunts, but at least they aren't trying to hurt each other. I don't think pain can be avoided since they are hurtling their bodies onto concrete floors and off of tall nets. But still, at least I don't have to watch them beat each other's faces into a pulp. Afterwards, we were all hoarse from screaming and yelling. I suppose that's a good indicator of greatness. At least it's an experience I won't soon forget.

Oh, before I sign off, here's a a perfect song for a Wrestler's Music Monday.

If you prefer a more upbeat (ok, just hilarious) listen, try the Chipmunk's version!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hong Kong: The Best and Worst

I've finally started getting some things resolved. I now have a bank account, and my online banking is working! Yeah! It only took four trips to the bank to figure it all out. I'm going to (hopefully) get my library card today as well. I've already tried and failed two times, so hopefully three times is the charm. Also, I'm almost done making curriculum for our school. I just have to finish my last lesson! All that to say, I've been busy.

Now that things are slowing down (slightly), I'm going to start a new series about the Ten Best and Ten Worst things about Hong Kong. I'll probably mix other stuff in there too (I have exciting weekend plans that I will be writing about) but stay tuned for the pros and cons of living in this fair city!

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Holidays, HK Style

I've taken a brief, holiday hiatus from blogging, and now I'm back!

I definitely missed a lot of stuff about US Christmases. I never really got into the holiday spirit. I think it was because a lot of holiday traditions were missing. I didn't drink any eggnog, no snow, we didn't really carol much, hardly any decorations at home,no snow, no myriad of Christmas cookies, no Christmas crafts like snowflake angels, and no snow.

Although I things were very different and I only had two days off for Christmas and one for New Year's, I still had a pretty great time. So in this post hopefully I'll give you a better idea of what Christmas (and New Years) in Hong Kong looks like. Definitely different than in Canon City or Siloam Springs. So be prepared for a plethora of pictures!

Nothing says Christmas more than a giant spraypaint can.

A market where I could have bought a Santa suit.

Christmas building art.

As Lillian says, Hong Kong people love to put up large plastic things and take pictures with them. And I would never be guilty of that....

On Christmas Eve, I went to a Christmas Eve service and then hung out with two friends afterwards. We went to dinner, walked around Causeway Bay (it was WAY crowded), and then went to Times Square for a very anticlimatic countdown.

Our church, in a school.

In Causeway. See the crowds? See the Coca Cola bear handing out free Cokes?

At Times Square. Fun times.

Christmas Day was pretty quiet. I got a bit sick in the morning (and it lasted most of the week) so Dad cooked up the bacon, eggs, and pancakes for our special breakfast. It was quite delicious. I ate a lot of bacon. I just slept and watched tv while Dad went on an afternoon hike. That night we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The next day, Lillian joined me for the day. We made gingerbread cookies together, watched Youtube videos, and made me into a human optical illusion with makeup.

The only pan we had was wavy on the bottom.

The final product! We named them all. They're our little Cyclops family.

The next day, Dad and I went on a hike on Lamma Island. It was a beautiful day. The air was a smidge chilly, but when the sun was out it felt wonderful.

We walked past this sweet house.

This house is sweet too, but for a whole other reason. Do you see that? That's a TREE growing up the house!

The turtle bay where we ate lunch. In season, turtles lay eggs here!

Lunch time! Hooray!

And finally, New Year's Eve! I had to work that day, but I got off at five. I met up with Josh and Lillian for dinner and then went to a party at some church people's house later that night.

Me and my awesome dessert. It's called Summer.

This delectable chocolate cake had gold flakes on it! Even the cake blings.

Yes we are. And notice that we're sleeve twins

Anyway, that was what my holidays looked like. I could have shown you a LOT more pictures, but I'd better sign off now and leave it at that. Happy belated New Year!