Saturday, June 14, 2008

OK, Fine, Now It's The Fifteenth

All righty people. I'm going to give you a quick bulletpoint rundown on the past six days.

June 10th

  • hung out around the house while Annie made calls and wrote emails, ate breakfast

  • headed out to Maxim's Palace with Tim, Annie, and Annie's husband (sans Colin and Brian, who were at school)

  • ate some weird food

  • hiked up to the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas, taking photos the entire short walk up

  • took enormous amounts of pictures of the temple and surrounding incredible-ness

  • it started to pour horrendously as we were walking back down, and we got soaked

  • wet t-shirt contest (being the one wearing a thin white shirt, I believe I won)

  • went back home to dry off and hung out until it was time to go to the hotel where we'd be staying for the last five days of our stay in Hong Kong

June 11th

  • got food and ate breakfast in the room, which, I might add, is not too shabby

  • headed to the mall; bought a magazine for Hanna and a mini guidebook with two fold-out maps--one of Central and one of Kowloon--for me

  • went to Hong Kong Park, much against Hanna and Nate's will

  • visited the Conservatory in the Park, which was beautiful and thrilling

  • came back to the hotel, by which time Dad was done working

  • met Dad for lunch

  • saw Indiana Jones

  • went back to the hotel and watched TV and ate until we fell asleep

June 12th

  • got up, breakfast
  • Dad went to work and we hung out in the room for a while
  • consulted my miniature guidebook for directions to the world's longest escalator
  • bickered with Hanna and Nate for a while, who wanted to take a taxi there instead of walk
  • lost the argument
  • took a cab to where the escalator starts near Central Market
  • rode the escalator, which is more like a long uphill moving sidewalk, to Hollywood Road
  • convinced Hanna and Nate to get off at Hollywood Road because I'd heard it was a great place to shop and get lost some
  • walked around Hollywood Road a little and bought souvenirs and a necklace for Hanna
  • took a taxi back to the hotel
June 13th

  • stayed in the hotel room until noon, sleeping and hanging around, before getting up the energy to go out
  • consulted my mini-map again to see where the library was, but ended up going online because evidently there are tons of public libraries in HK
  • took a taxi (I know, I know, we're lazy bums) to Hong Kong Central Library
  • stayed at the library for a while, checking out the Chinese picture books and computers in the 6-floor establishment
  • ate at the library cafe
  • got lost a little in the streets around there--well, we tried. Actually, we ended up going in a complete circle and trying to hail a taxi back home. Taxis are stingy about picking up little kids standing alone in the rain.
  • went back to the hotel upon Nate's request
June 14th

  • got up and had a special breakfast at one of the schmancy hotel restaurants, having a breakfast buffet that would have cost US$50, complete with fruit-topping-topped Greek yogurt and cocoa Rice Krispies (!!!), which I didn't know existed
  • Dad went to work for a couple of hours, during which time we went shopping.
  • first tried to find a graduation dress for Hanna in the mall, which didn't work out
  • then went to street market only a New York block or so from the hotel and got a purse that a neighbor had requested we get her
  • met up with Dad back in the hotel room and went out to the Wan Chai computer market
  • went to the HK museum of art
  • went to Cafe de Coral
  • went home

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Today is June Thirteenth

Yes, it most definitely is. I've finally figured out--with two days to go, no less--that the time here is equivalent to home time plus 12 hours, which I knew but did not connect. So yes, I now know that it's June 13th. And I haven't written for four days.

On June 9th

We went to the pool all morning. Hanna and I were there alone with Nate for several hours, getting along just dandy. At about noon, Annie finally came with Brian, catching us just as we were wrapping up. She told me to get ready to go out with Colin and Tim to a recreational club. Colin's friend, Margaret-Ann, had invited him to come to a club she belonged to. Margaret-Ann was with a friend, Sophie, who was intimidatingly pretty and dressed like I think I'm supposed to as a girl my age. They seemed like nice-enough girls, although Sophie kept repeating the phrase "Oh my frickin God!" over and over to such an extent that I almost blew up at her.

First off, Colin, Tim, and I caught a subway into the middle of the city, where we hailed a cab and took it all the way to the club. Clubs are very big in Hong Kong, as I've both noticed and read, be they family recreation or gambling. Ours was the first, obviously. When we got out of the oddly silent taxi ride, during which no one said anything to each other, the girls were standing there being all giggly. You can just guess what I thought of that--'Oh, great, I'm in for a long afternoon with this kind of people? I'm so glad I made the social effort.' Because it had truly been an emotional schlep to drag myself out of bed and go meet a couple of girls who I'd never met before. The threat, of course, was that they could be really cool and good-looking and exclusive for all I knew.

They treated Colin unlike a nerd. This threw me totally off-balance because when Colin lived down the block from my family, we were the freaks of our school, the geeky crew who didn't really want to hang out with each other but kind of had to, along with Tim. Combined, we represent the epitome of our stereotype: between the computers, braces, twitchy nervous habits, senses of superiority, and the piano, we're a freaky gang. (Our parents are all friends, dooming us to a life of being grouped together.)

But I'm pretty sure Colin likes Margaret-Ann, so they're good friends. Add to this her tight friendship with Sophie, and you've got an equation for a (at least a little) popular guy. Who doesn't like a ladies' man?

Sitting at the western fare dining area on the deck surrounding this weirdly huge rec club, I felt a pang of awkwardness. I was so confused. Just because Tim and I didn't know those other two girls didn't mean no one would have anything to say, did it? I'd done everything right so far: I'd come, I'd smiled a lot, and I'd gotten a Sprite instead of a seltzer so I would look cool and not wimpy. Maybe it was the fact that Margaret-Ann had already gotten a Sprite...maybe it made me look like I was copying her...Goddamn being social! It was so hard! Was this what a group date was like? Jesus, was this what hanging out with other kids was like? 'No wonder my "friends" are always coaching me as to what to do and say,' I thought, amazed. 'No wonder I haven't got a boyfriend! I'm completely socially inept!'

When the torturous three-quarters of an hour of eating was through, we went up to the "Teens Room," skillfully both lacking any apostrophe and indicating a sense of trying too hard. We played foosball, air hockey, ping-pong, and pool. God, pool took the longest time. In total, we were probably up there for about two and a half hours. And somehow, even among people I would probably not see for years, most likely never see again, I managed to make myself the outcast.

This is why I have a blog.

Then--it's getting painful to relive this, so I'm making the rest quick--we went bowling, back to the game room, and at LAST, Colin, Tim and I took a cab and a subway back to the settlement where Colin lives with Annie, Brian, and their ever-traveling dad.
coming soon: june tenth, eleventh, and twelfth

Monday, June 9, 2008

Monday, June 9

I just woke up from sleeping through my second entire night of sleeping!! Hanna says to tell you that she slept all night too. Yesterday went like this.

We woke up at around 6:30 or seven. I took a shower, and then we had breakfast. Then the boys finally woke up and we went to the Dragon Boat Races. In the beginning, Dad and Hanna and I just stood there and watched for 15 minutes or so while the boys played on the beach where the races were taking place. Then, while they continued to play, Hanna and I took Dad "exploring" in Stanley because the races were not too exciting. They were just there, along with a whole bunch of foreign people in matching Lycra t-shirts. First we walked up through this little street to a cafe because it was burning hot and so incredibly humid. We got iced lemon tea and pizza breads. Then we continued up to a Haagen-Dazs, where Hanna got one scoop of cookies n cream and Dad and I shared two scoops of green tea ice cream, which I wanted because I thought it was exotic. It certainly did taste like green tea. I didn't have that much of it because I'm making an effort to detox, but it's not working out exactly. Maybe I'll detox at home, or if that doesn't happen, further into camp.

We rambled into Stanley Market and out to some random little piazza by the water surrounded by places like "PizzaExpress" that screamed 'tourist trap'. Dad took pictures of the water because it was so incredibly polluted, sickeningly so. When we were done taking pictures and looking around at the various beaches on the shoreline, we went back through Stanley Market to the open street we'd come in through, with the Haagen-Dazs and the cafe. Lots of little shops were housed on this big stone setup. We bought my mom some gifts.

When we returned to the beach, we stood there for a few minutes while Colin (Annie's son who's my age), Tim (Colin's visiting friend), and Nate got their shirts and shoes on. Then we walked up to find some taxis to get us home. Once home, we ate some lunch, and at about 1:30, Hanna and I went to the pool. We hung out there for a really long time before Colin and Tim got there, and then we hung around with them for an hour or so. Finally Annie showed up with Nate and Brian, Annie's younger son. Hanna, Colin, Tim and I went upstairs to play badminton. Then Barbara and Felice got there, local girls. One of them lives in the complex and the other is her friend. They're Hanna's age, and very silly. It was fun playing badminton with them, but then they wanted to go swimming with me and Hanna. That's when they got annoying. Pushing us into the pool over and over again isn't that funny, and it's even less funny shooting freezing cold water guns at my back in the dressing room after I just took a hot shower, where there are people with dry clothes.

After that, we headed into Central in taxis and a bus to have dinner (Dad finally talked Annie into it). Once we got out of the bus in Central, we walked around for a while and then found an outdoor Chinese and Thai place. We ate family-style, with a variation of foods from calamari to fried rice to greens with garlic, being careful not to have any chicken. Then we went to an ice cream place called XTC--read 'ecstasy'--where I got a single scoop of mango sorbet with rainbow sprinkles.

Anyway, we were planning to go up to the Peak in a tram, but the line was insane, so instead we walked to the ferry to see the light show. The ferry ride was short and sweet. This guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and he said something I couldn't make out, so I said "I don't know." Witty, right? He looked at me like I was insane and said, "My name is Ajid. What is name?" I, ever the clever one, stared at him for a second before turning around. Dad later said to say "My name is I'm ** years old". Haha. So we got some amazing pictures of the buildings in their light dance. Have to go--breakfast. Bye!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's hard not to notice...

  • the overabundance of students wearing absurd school uniforms, especially girls
  • the banyan trees hanging thick with moss and palm trees that seem to be everywhere
  • the bizarrely random English words on people's T-shirts, e.g. "Natural Dog" or "Satisfy With Smile Make Happy"
  • all the pretty young girls who dress really well
  • the crazy narrow streets
  • how close to the curb the bus drivers careen
  • how every female is wearing some sort of heels, whether they be a pair of slightly raised ballet flats or six-inch stilettos that seem destined to fall the storm grates
  • that everything is translated into English, or sometimes even written solely in English
  • that people look at their feet a lot when they walk
  • that the American music they play at the mall is basically on ice-rink level (very very bad)

Random Facts

  • There are 9 dialects of Cantonese
  • Cantonese is a tonal language, where a swerve of the voice can make all the difference
  • The number 4 means "very unlucky" and can be said differently to mean "death"
  • 8 is extremely lucky, and gifts are often given in quantities of it
  • In about 20 years, the street market culture will probably be gone (sad)

More HK Diary

June 4th

Today we got up and went to Kowloon. First we walked around the local market. There were so many cultural differences; it was surreal. I love how all the women are the same size. They're small-boned and thus tiny, with straight black hair. Everyone here always seems composed.

For some reason, Western clothing is widely worn: cheap graphic t-shirts, depressing neutral-colored polos, mesh shorts with white stripes running down the sides. Yet the posture of these people is so much better, and they carry themselves so well, that the American garments appear almost charming.

Even the older women seem quaint and elegant. There is a kind of organized chaos about the whole place, a different kind of aura. That's definitely what it is: a peaceful, mutual hurry, and fast-paced serenity, with everything and everyone in their place. The feeling is like when, in a movie, the character stands frozen in time while he watches life continue on at light speed all around him.

I'm sorry, I just got so relaxed I couldn't think to write.

At the open Kowloon food market, young girls, old women, and middle-aged men sell their wares at different stands. I like it so much more than Stanley, which I have recently decided I hate. There are bunches of grapes, huge and triangular, like when you doodle a bunch of grapes. There is durian, the worst smelling fruit in the world, which is banned from being brought onto the subway in Singapore for its smell. There are huge oranges, tiny rambutan and lychees, fruits that look like something you could never imagine, like a cross between an artichoke and a pear. The butchers ruthlessly cut up meat with giant knives six inches high, slicing so fast you're convinced they'll chop off their own hands. Huge sides of beef hang amiably side by side with long, chunky pigs' legs (I never realized pigs were so tall).

Then we walked to the Jade Market, a vaguely indoor setup of so many jeweler's stands selling the exact same things: "jade" bracelets, a glass circles on a string, little glass Buddhas, woven friendship bracelets with charms on them. Everyone claimed what they sold was real jade and tried to prove it by lighting a lighter to it. I guess that works for those dumber tourists who know nothing about jade or stone, because all that trick shows is that it's not plastic. The sellers all tried ripping us off insanely. People look at me as something of a token. I like this alienation, though. It's not lonely. It feels kind of good.

In the end, I bargained (well, Annie did the bargaining, I stood there nodding) a thread drawstring neckalce with a purple glass flower from HK$120 to HK$35.

Then we got lunch at this huge local place where we were the only Westerners, which was great. There was fried rice, different kinds of rolls (from sweet with barbecued pork to spring to rice), greens, everlasting noodles in soup, and Hanna tried chickens' feet. I tried to try it too, but I only had the guts to get some of the coating. I dislike cartilage.

We went home and slept forever, then ate really good chicken and biscuit stuff. I dropped to sleep--after two movies and some reading.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Right Now, In The Early Frickin Morning

It's quarter of two in the morning here and I'm bored as heck. I've been awake for a long while now, and I'm beginning to realize the horridness of being up in the middle of the night. I really sympathize with my mom now when she talks about how she's been up from two to four or whenever it is because of her sleep apnea. And the worst part is that Annie made me and Hanna stay up all day so we wouldn't be up in the middle of the night! She let us sleep at around 6 and then got us up after a while for dinner. Then we went back to sleep. Hanna's totally out, but I'm buzzing with energy!!

2:17 - Hanna just woke up because she's having a nosebleed. So here we are, awake and bored bored bored.

2 A.M. - More HK Thoughts

At this point, I am bored beyond all measure, and wish with all my heart that I could be back at school for the last day. Only for the last day, and then I could magically come back to Hong Kong.

Anyway, here is one of my computer documentations. There's more writing in my physical journal, you know, the kind with binding and lined pages, but I can't find that in my room and don't want to wake anyone up looking for it. For the record, Annie is a friend of my parents. She and her husband have one son my age and one younger son. They've been family friends since I was a baby. Annie and her family moved to Hong Kong some years ago, and so we're staying with them.

June 3rd

Here in China, it's 3:45 in the afternoon, and we're waiting for Annie to come back with the boys from the dentist. Last night, we were so jet-lagged that we were up until 3 in the Hong Kong morning. Then we ran out of stuff to do and fell asleep. Today we were woken up by Annie at 10, which felt miserably early. I had toast for breakfast. Seeing as we didn't get to eat lunch until 3, I was burning with hunger all day. So we went into the Stanley Market, which is a difficult-to-explain outside mall. Then we went to Taste, the supermarket right near there, which Annie said was about as big as they get in Hong Kong. It was tiny. There were no more than 3 checkout lines. The slogan for Taste is More Than Food. It took a lot to not make a crack about that. Then we went to the pool with Ophelia. I read The Chosen while Hanna and Nate swam. Then we walked back to the house and we ate cheese and turkey sandwiches (Hanna had salami on hers). Annie says she has to food shop every single day. I think that sounds painful.

Once we got back from the pool, we hung out with Nate for a while. When Dad got home, I crashed into a deep sleep on Nate's little yellow mattress, which is in the same room as Dad's bed. Dad did the same. I didn't wake up for an hour and a half, that is, until 6:30, when Hanna got me up. Dinner was mashed potatoes, chicken, broccoli, and corn. Hanna and I woke up Dad to eat, and we thought he was coming up for dinner because he turned over and opened his eyes and said he'd be right up. We waited about 15 minutes for him to show up, at which point Hanna went back down to see if he was awake. She returned saying that he sent his regards but couldn't get up. Annie says he'll be up at four in the morning, which is probably true. Annie set up the DVD player with the TV in me and Hanna's room, so we watched Robots. I still hate that Rodney, the main robot character, ends up with that flashy high-class business lady robot and not the cool young one, Penny. That's OK, though. I guess there will be enough time to make amends to automaton culture when I'm not thousands of miles away from home, sleeping on someone else's couch.

Annie says that there's some big festival this coming weekend for Tin Hao, the goddess of fishermen. We saw a shabby little temple today for that godddess. This is going to be one of those festivals where they use the long boats with a drummer at the back. I'm so excited! She said, though, that she wants to get there before the festival actually starts and then leave when it gets too packed, which sounds like kind of a letdown.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thoughts on Hong Kong

I have returned!! Much to your delight, I am sure, I have been permitted to blog because it lets me write every day, which my literature-craving brain needs. Here, I will now post the journal I've kept until this very moment of flying to Hong Kong. I have to exclude some more personal parts, though. Enjoy! I'll update tomorrow.

In The Airport – My Time=1:05 PM, Sunday, June 01, 2008

I’m sitting in the food court because our gate is full, and there aren’t any seats for us. Dad is waiting in line with Hanna and Nate at A&W. I saw a sign for A&W when we were on the moving sidewalk, which advertised it as “All-American.” That, I think, is kind of disenchanting, considering the board depicted a greasy bacon cheeseburger and almost moldy-looking root beer float. But they’re in line anyway because Hanna and Nate both want burgers. I think I’ll get a muffin and maybe a Snapple. I’ll get diet Snapple if they have it, but definitely not peach. I got that once at the upper school drink machine and it was disgusting, plus it left a weird, cold aftertaste. Instead, I’ll get lemon flavor...or that one that sounds like it.

1:14 – I’m BACK, and beware, I wield a corn muffin and bottled water. Hanna and Nate returned with a “cheeseburger,” fries, onion rings, and two root beers on a blue cafeteria tray. Truly, the whole thing has just been charming so far. OK, Hanna just finished eating her half of the burger she was sharing with Nate, and he’s totally thrilled to be eating it, as he keeps making satisfied sounds. Why do men grunt? I hate that. Anyway, Dad just came back—with a lemon diet Snapple! Unfortunately, he appears to want to drink it. I have faith in my powers of persuasion, though.
Ew, what is Dad eating?! It looks like some sort of toasted and breaded innards on lettuce. It’s fine, though; I respect that he tried hard in this option-lacking plastic bore of a food court. Well, there’s only about 10 minutes of charge left on this bucket of bolts. Later.

In The Air – 12:45 to go

That is, according to the little TV on the back of the seat in front of me. Actually, even that’s a lie—I looked at the TV that the nice middle-aged Chinese guy next to me is watching because I’m too lazy to pause Juno for a second to look at my own. I was only watching Juno to pass the time; it became boring after about ten minutes. However, I had to do something, and the “dream big” exchange about the Weimerauners (don’t know how to spell that) is only the best thing since sliced bread.
Oh my gosh, I almost forgot to say, even though Dad’s travel agent said she had gotten me, Hanna, and Nate three seats together, we’re actually all sitting in different rows, all in middle seats. I’m in Row 33, Hanna’s seat is in 26, and Nate’s is in 28. Lucky them, though: Nate got whoever was sitting next to Hanna to switch, so they’re sitting together. I’m between the Chinese dude and this young, slightly good-looking, irritable- and uppity-seeming guy who’s with his three friends, two of whom happen to be sitting right behind us.
The young guy—who will from now on be referred to as Jon, no matter what his name is—is watching Casablanca, which totally increases my faith in this whole on demand movie system they got for the TVs. It’s really great. I think there’s probably a genuinely decent selection, considering they’ve got Casablanca, Juno, that movie Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway that I have an inexplicable desire to see, and Forrest Gump (Hanna’s watching it; it’s become her latest obsession, and she’s pushing me to watch it).
Jon got up to go somewhere a little while ago. I’m wondering what happened to him. The lavatory, whose name reminds me painfully of the Survival latrines, is only two yards ahead of my row.
I’m back; Jon just returned from the bathroom, a cocky grin on his face—“It’s a long ride, so I can’t guarantee I won’t be doing it again.” Exactly who uses the word ‘guarantee’ if they’re a normal person? Actually, never mind, that wasn’t fair. In the mini-limo that came to pick us up, I started talking to Hanna about how twisted and corrupt I believe the media to be, in response to her inquiry as to why I don’t freak out about flying. She scolded me for “doing nerd-talk.” I didn’t tell her that I actually get petrified about losing luggage on the suitcase carousel.
I’m sad that I chewed up the mint I stole from Nate. (Emily says that the way I grind stuff up in my teeth—ice, Tic Tacs, etcetera—says a lot about me. I say it’s part of my I do about all my flaws.) It was one of those fancy speckled ones from Icebreakers that came in the green tin, boasting about all the energy it supposedly possesses. I don’t understand why Icebreakers got a makeover. It seems like they’re trying really hard to be cute and Zen, which I totally respect, but personally, I think they should stick to their guns. No gum, mint, or any other breath-freshening helper should be doomed to be the misfit in the drugstore candy rack.
I had a dream on Friday night, the weirdest dream I’ve ever had about school, save for the one where a boy I know was dancing atop our dining-room table and my bed simultaneously in a tank top and cargo shorts. In this dream, the whole grade was in this huge, really nice, high-ceilinged cafeteria. Everything was highly glossy and sophisticated, the walls were an unimposing yet fresh and cool light green, and the tabletops were made of circular glass panels that seemed to be floating mid-air.
AND NOW FOR A BRIEF INTERMISSION: The Chinese guy on my left is watching a freaky techno movie with digital numbers and people who look like Chad Michael Murray.
We now return to our feature presentation.
I tell you, my subconscious goes wild when I sleep. Freud could find a hundred psychoanalytical mysteries in my messed-up mind. (I can't continue with the rest of this dream because it gets too offensive to other kids in my school.)
I feel like listening to my iPod but am starting to feel slightly stupid for two reasons. First, that would be a waste of entertainment reserves. Second, the existence of a clock right there in the corner of my screen just registered in my tiny brain, which I coulda-shoulda-woulda consulted to record the time when I started to write this. Well, I’ll calculate it when I feel like summoning brainpower. Besides, now it’s 7:55 my time, so there you go.
Ooh, turbulence! The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign! This is exciting. Yummy, darkness...maybe I’ll go to sleep. Have to take our my lenses. Let the records show that I should be able to fall asleep because I’ve been dozing from 8 to 6 lately, for reasons unknown.
Bye-bye, my little electronic one. Sleep tight.
It is currently 3:28 AM my time, and I am awake, hopelessly and entirely. There’s no way I’m getting back to sleep. The TV says that we have eleven hours to go still. God, it feels like it’s at least six. Why did Jon have to have his window open? All that Arctic ice is so bright it glows. Oh well, I won’t write any more because this is probably gibberish, considering the time. I’ll just be annoyed with my iPod’s incapability to play “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” eat my sandwich (maybe), and watch a movie.
UGH I’m so bored...and tired...but we’ll never ever get there and I’ll never ever fall asleep! Wait, just realized: I must’ve somehow dramatically misread the time, because I just looked at it again and it says FOUR HOURS! WOOHOO! OK, I’m watching The Holiday. Cameron Diaz looks sad.