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Fully Automatic

17 Feb

The Plinkas and I were on our way home from Easter choir rehearsal, and XX was starving even though it had only been 2 hours since lunch (unfortunately, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). I’d been wanting to try a new pizza place that sold by the slice, so we popped in and munched together on slices of Hawaiian and 4-cheese.  On Hillwood in Tsim Sha Tsui, it is a typical Hong Kong  local joint open to street level, hardly bigger than a roadside kiosk. We sat all the way to the back at one of only three tables. We were halfway through our pie, when we heard a loud POP. Followed by four more… POP, POP, POP, POP growing increasingly loud. The first one unsettled me because my brain knew what it was but my heart said I was mistaken. By the fifth, I had pushed the twins under the table in front of my legs. Continue reading

Just getting around…

27 Sep

A few weeks ago, I asked someone if they would like to meet for lunch. She responded, “I’m sorry. We have a doctor’s appointment that day.” Genuinely concerned for what would constitute an entire day to be consumed with a doctor’s appointment, she explained that it was just a routine check-up, but that is was “on the island“, meaning Hong Kong island, and we both live on “the Dark Side”, aka Kowloon. I felt a bit dissed but let it slide. After all, I can get to the island by train in under ten minutes. Whatever. “Another time” we both agreed and the subject was closed. Misunderstandings are always opportunities for enlightenment, aren’t they? Continue reading

On being “Caucasian”

24 Sep

I have often objected to being classified as Caucasian. What is it even supposed to mean? I have searched the globe tirelessly for a land called Caucasia and have not found it. There is no documentation of my ancestors originating from a country or region formerly known as Caucasia, either. Near as I can figure, it is just a way for the government to lump all of us crackers together.

But alas, I may have certainly found it! Continue reading

Miscommunication HK Style

27 Jun

Apparently, I burned the shit out of my arm in the kitchen last week. I was taking the lid off of a pan and the handle slipped in my fingers. The top of the very hot metal lid rested against my inner wrist, meanwhile my brain had the “Be right back” sign in the window. Continue reading

FoFo is not a MoFo

15 Jun

When I started this blog, I opened a post category called “Foodie”.  Because I am. In every sense of the word. Living in Hong Kong, I imagined that all of my meals would be inspired – delectable dishes ready to hold their own against the droves of eatery options. As it turns out, that is not the case. I have been met with meal after meal of mediocrity, and have even begun to joke with my friends that the only way to be impressed is to have no expectations at all. Last Saturday, a group of us went to FoFo, by el Willy, in Central. Before the evening began, I teased on facebook, “Tell el Willy that el Izabeth is here and I will be the judge of tapas in Hong Kong…”As it turns out, I was impressed. Luckily, I didn’t spout off any pre-conceived verbal jabs, lest I be left with (62 degree, slow cooked) egg on my face. Continue reading

China smells like Wal-Mart…

18 May

… Luckily, I live in Hong Kong. This past week I took a 15 hour round-trip to the mainland – just across the border to Shenzhen, China. The day included near limitless shopping and closed with 7 hours at the spa to calm the frenzy.  Luxurious, right? Keep reading. Continue reading

Learning the language

28 Apr

Perhaps one of the most daunting, yet important aspects of moving to a foreign land is learning the language. It certainly helps ease the daily grind and maneuver throughout your new homeland. As I learn the language, I thought I would keep a running catalogue of key terms for anyone coming to visit:

  • Removal sale: clearance sale – first on the list, because it just might be the most important
  • Flat: an apartment that is situated on a single floor. This makes me wonder if a two-story unit should be called a stack?
  • Duplex: an apartment that is a single unit made from two individual units
  • To Let: for rent, as in, “I will let you pay me to live in this flat, which I own”
  • Zed: the letter Z. I now have to spell my name out for people by saying, “Elizabeth, with a Zed“, because if I say with a “z”, my name becomes Elicabeth
  • Haych: the bizarre pronunciation of the letter H, with a big breathy “h” on the front. This was met with a full 5 minutes of confusion on my part, as I was sure it was its own word.
  • Lift: elevator – yep, that’s what it does… it lifts.   :-I   And don’t bother asking for an elevator – no one seems to be aware that it is a different word than escalator. You will be directed to a moving staircase.
  • Cooker: the stove top – big brain award for whoever came up with that one
  • When in doubt – just  think of the primary verb that you would connect with an object, and use it as a noun. Someone is sure to know what you are talking about.
  • Hamper: please do not fill this with your dirty laundry. This word is used for both a Christmas stocking and any variety of gift box/basket.
  • Queue: Line, pronounced like the letter Q
  • Loo: toilet. I can’t take myself seriously when I am compelled to announce, “There is a queue for the loo!” Though, I will admit, it sounds better than, “Thays a line fo da baffroom”.
  • If something ends with a “g”, go ahead and spell it with a useless and antiquated “ue” on the end (see how I did that with catalogue at the top?). If it ends in the “er” sound, switch those up and spell it with “re”(kilometre, fibre, and theatre, of course), “or” becomes “our” (as in neighbour and flavour). Replace all zeds with “s” (recognise and organise). It is important to make words as difficult as possible to spell correctly.
  • Never use the Oxford Comma. It is more fun if your writing is ambiguous, mysterious and confounding to the reader. “I dedicate this blog post to my children, Captain and Hong Kong”

Oh, sorry. You thought I meant I would be teaching you Cantonese. Oh no, no, no. That, my dear, is a dreaded task for another day. Let me get the English-English figured out first!

(Wink to all you birds, blokes, and chaps whom I consider mates. I hope you are not buggered by my cheeky post!)

Kitchen Basics

24 Mar

Husband – read no further…

I am lodging my first complaint aginst Hong Kong… well, against Hong Kong living. Hong Kong, baby, I still love you.

Our new flat is gorgeous, including the kitchen which is very stylishly outfitted with granite (contrasting colors on the counter tops and floors), stainless steel, a “built-in” style fridge in the same beautiful woodgrain as the cabinets, and stunning smokey glass cabinet doors with interior lighting that accent the design in just the right places.  For a small kitchen, it is spectacular.

When we first moved in, I realized (1) there is no oven. Weird, but no big deal, I thought. I can just get a large convection toaster oven instead, which is probably more practical anyway, right. Yeah. Try finding one. (2) Then I noticed there is no garbage disposal. Hmmm. I will just get one of those little screen catchers and make sure to rinse it immediately. (This is much grosser and drippier than I imagined.) (3) The washing machine is one of those dual purpose wash/dry machines that magically do it all. Cool, I thought – no more forgetting a load in the washer until your nose reminds you it is there. It is really great – the drum is the size of a mop bucket and, fyi, you have to break up the mini-load into micro-mini-loads to dry if you EVER want them done. The manual calls the finish “damp for ironing”. Really? Thanks. The average cycle is 3:35 long and generally requires another 40-60 minutes of drying. I have calculated, based on the quantity of washable fabric in our house (clothes, linens, etc) it will only take 25.5 days of running the machine non-stop to get everything clean. I better get busy. (4) Finally, there is no dishwasher. My hands are already chapped and nails are peeling from the constant submersion. I can import one from the Phillippines relatively inexpensively, I have been told. Her name is Dalisay and she will be happy to live in the closet…   :-I

I should probably be tweeting…

16 Mar

My apologies for the shortest post ever…

I am finally having my OMG moment. Our apartment is amazing. I am sitting, looking out the window at the skyline of Hong Kong reflecting off the harbor, ferries and ships passing in the night over the glimmering water. It is beautiful and life feels perfect. What else can I say? I am in love.

From now on, we get to the park by 2…

4 Mar

Do you remember that girl from high school? Not THAT Girl, but the other one… always a little left of center. Most people didn’t bother to speak but they all knew who she was, and as she walked down the hallway they just stared. Their looks were a combination of confusion and mild disgust, top lip snarled a bit like Elvis impersonators. I remember her well. I was that girl. To quote my cousin, “You weren’t mainstream. There wasn’t even any water in your stream.” (For anyone reading, who doesn’t personally know me, you might be feeling a bit sad for me right now. Don’t. Frankly, I didn’t care. I thought they were all equally odd. Wink!)

It has been years since I felt like that girl. Not that I succumbed to conformity, just that I am no longer forced to exist in the bizarre social microcosm that is high school. Until today.

As I walked the twins to Kowloon Park, it actually struck me as odd that I am perfectly comfortable in my new surroundings. I am not having the, “OMG – I moved to Hong Kong!” feeling. Rather, I feel that I am exactly where I should be. Which is great. We arrive at the park following the usual points, smiles, questions, and paparazzi. I pay HK$135 (US$17.33) for a pack of Chinese diapers that I picked because it was the only pack I could tell were the right size. In fact, the only things on the package I could read were the kilogram weight range, the product name, and the manufacturer name. They are Goo.N diapers, yes, goon diapers made by… wait for it… BabyGoo. “When your kid goes poo, choose BabyGoo!” OK, I made that up. But I do wonder if the humor is lost on the marketing manager so desperately trying to Westernize the product. They suck, by the way. The twins literally peed right through them. Sitting them atop a roll of paper towels would have been far more effective, and possibly made for a great You Tube upload. The search for Pampers starts tomorrow.

So, I have my diapers, we wheel over to the park and the kids start to play. I mostly focus on preventing broken bones, (more) stitches, and stopping TwinXY from pushing other kids off the slide. As I interact with other adults on the playground, I start to realize that I am the ONLY mother there. Every other adult is an “amah” – a Filipino nanny. (They are live-in nanny/maid/cooks, make ~US$450/mo plus room and board working 6 days/wk, living in what almost every apartment is outfitted with – “servant’s quarters” – which sound luxurious until you see that it is actually a broom closet with a sink and toilet.) The amahs are friendly but distant and everything is cool. Around 5 PM, the real Moms start arriving, amahs and kids in tow. Here I am alone, chasing my two who absolutely refuse to play on the same piece of equipment or run in the same direction, when the looks begin. THAT look. Confusion and disgust, with a tad of pity and maternal judgement thrown in for good measure. As one twin falls off a stair and the other twirls on the slide speeding down head first on her back (of course it was her!) one Mom grew particulary tired of watching my chaos. The conversation went something like this:

Her: You don’t have “help”?
Me: No. My husband is out on business. We usually try to do the park together, but the kids really needed the outing today.
Her: No, no… you mean you don’t have an amah, a nanny?
Me: Nooo, I don’t. But we’ve only been here a week.
Her: But you have started interviewing?
Me: Not really. We don’t even have an apartment yet.
Her: And???
Me: …and I haven’t decided if we are going to have one or not.
Her: (head tilt, looks at me like I am from Mars, and, without another word, walks off to chat with her amah.)

By the time I rustled the kids (who remarkably survived the park with only a single caregiver) up to get into the stroller, an amah came up to me to give me a phone number because she has a friend. I don’t know. Sure, it would be a tremendous help and a fabulous luxury. And, we are considering having someone come in to help a few days per week because school is only 3 hours long and a girl’s gotta work. But, it never struck me that I was incapable of functioning without a nanny. I left the park feeling like I showed up at prom in Bjork’s swan dress. Whatever. The thought of outsourcing my parental duties, cramming a fifth person permanently in our 1300sf apartment, and forcing them to sleep in a closet makes me feel equally confused and disgusted. Thanks, but I’ll take my BabyGoo and be on my way.

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