Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rain and Insects--No, this is not a Haiku poem

Rain Rain Go Away

We are experiencing the most rain on Lantau since 1889!

Late this afternoon Keohi and I came home just in time, we caught the beginning of the downpour as we were leaving downtown Mui Wo. Had it been even 15 minutes more, we would have been caught in an extremely heavy and windy rain and would have risked getting blown off the bike and falling into the bog. If we accidentally get caught out in the rain, he feels rather miserable so he starts to say “neh-neh” and then I have to break into some rendition The Sound of Music (admittedly a little weird singing about the Alps from a 1960s musical about WWII while cycling in semi-tropical Mui Wo in the 21st century). This seems to reassure him. I'm sure I am creating a bizarre sensory memory bank for him. I have to remember to check the specifics of the weather forecast. That rain today freaked me out a bit.

Courageous Moment

I killed an extremely large spider today. I was in the kitchen and noticed Keohi staring at the wall in the living room and come out and find this spider with a diameter of a good 5-6 inches on the wall! I was too shocked to scream. I ran and got the trusty can of Baygon and zapped it on the wall. It then scurried to the corner of the wall behind the lower bookcase. I zapped it again. It did not die. In fact, it started to continue to walk towards Keohi at which point I screamed, picked up Keohi with one arm and sprayed almost the rest of the can of Baygon on the spider. Keohi started crying as he could see how scared I was, in addition to hearing my fairly loud scream. The spider then hobbled over to the window and died.


But then the entire living room smelled like bug spray. I had nuked us with chemicals. I opened the sliding glass doors and then called upstairs for Mabel to watch Keohi while I cleaned up the bug spray. Mabel comes down and plays her Indian music dancing baby video on her phone for Keohi and I clean up and then she spots a roach on the wall. No prob, kill that one with a good whack. Then I go to the shower stall to get some water to mop up and I see a small worm up from the drain! I calmly pushed it back down the drain with water. I’m trying to be calm about battling the natural elements, but when I had to hit an extremely large mosquito against the shower door an hour later, and then again on the bare wall, and watched Keohi hitting the wall in imitation a while later, I realized that I am getting bugged…pun intended…by the bugs.

I calmed myself down today remembering Renee telling me that she killed a scorpion that little Amir had thought was a ladybug! I think if Keohi wasn’t there I would have just left the apartment. I’m not sure if I would have had the nerve to kill the spider.

The truth is that I loathe insects, reptiles, and amphibians, all of which are in abundance in my very YARD, my very HOME.


Madonna the helper told me yesterday that her friend said that she called the police as a snake went up the stairs of the house! I said, you call the police for that? She said, yes, they will get rid of it. Well, that’s fine and dandy if you have time and it’s not a poisonous snake, or a python, or something else, but who knows how long it would take the Mui Wo police to come? I’m a little sore at them for running over the handle of my long handle dustpan that I had bought at the Hard and Soft shop. While bringing it home, the long plastic handle came out of the slot, and it tumbled onto the road. Being Mui Wo, everyone cycled around it knowing that I was trying to get to it, even a car went around it, but did the Mui Wo police do that? No, they drove right over it and flattened the plastic handle of my dustpan. If you can’t count on them to drive around your dustpan handle, how can you count on them to come and get rid of a deadly snake slithering up the stairs of your house in time to save you from an untimely miserable primordial death?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hong Kong Public Service Campaign

Do Not Poo in the Pool

Apparently, this is a big enough problem that they have to do a public service campaign in Hong Kong. I remember when John and Elda came to visit LA, Elda said that she saw a public service announcement saying: “Do Not Poo in the Pool” or something to that effect. Now I remember as a child seeing these joke signs in people’s private pools saying: “I don’t swim in your toilet, so don’t pee in my pool” but this POOING in the pool takes bodily waste to another level! According to the pediatrician handbook, urine is sterile, so for example, if your baby pees in the tub, don’t worry about it, but if s/he poos in the tub, you have to start the entire bath process again. So I was wondering, is that why it’s a campaign about pooing as opposed to peeing?

I have typed in verbatim the contents of a small booklet given to Keohi when we went to the Mui Wo Municipal Pool. It features a small pink pig named McDull (BAD NAME OR WHAT? WHO WROTE THIS CRAP? No pun intended). Each line is on a single page and has its own illustration. It also came with two stickers of McDull the pig.

Title: Keep Swimming Pools Clean

With others watching, McDull threw the orange peel into the rubbish bin.

By himself, McDull still threw the orange peel into the rubbish bin.

With others listening, McDull spelt b.a.n.a.n.a., banana!

By himself, McDull mentally spelt b.a.n.a.n.a., banana!

With others watching, McDull buried a seed in the soil.

Alone, a white flower sprouted through the soil and the stars glittered in the sky.

With others around, McDull got chubbier.

By himself, McDull still got chubbier.

With others cheering, McDull swam hard in the pool.

By himself, McDull had a sudden urge to poo.

With others nearby, McDulls never pooed in the pool.

By himself, McDull’s never pooed in the pool.

No one noticed, no one saw. Only the pool water shimmered in the sun.

No one noticed, no one saw. The white flower, the chubby tummy, the glittering stars and the shimmering water.

Even when nobody is watching, remember to behave.

And in the summer, follow the Charter on Swimming Pool Cleanliness:
“Take a shower from head to toe/Through the footbath you should go./Please make sure that you are seen/Wearing only what is clean./In the water nothing spill/And do not swim if you are ill.”

The End

Now this booklet was in English, but as far as I can see makes no sense at all. First of all, why call a character McDull? Also, isn’t a kid who is old enough to spell the word “banana” old enough to know that s/he shouldn’t POO in the pool? What’s the deal with McDull getting chubbier?

In all fairness, perhaps in Chinese this would all make sense. Maybe in Chinese culture this message has a different nuance, but it definitely does not work in translation.

That said, our Mui Wo swimming pool is sparkling clean, and I am totally supportive of all efforts McDull and all, to promote hygiene and good citizenship, if that is what it takes to keep our pool poo-free.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keohi's Theme Song

Rainy Days and Typhoon Signals Always Get Me Down

Rainy monsoon season. If it’s not hot, it’s raining here! It’s been a tough two days inside with Mr. Keohi, who has spent the better part of each day staring at the downpour and showing me his bike helmet and shorts. These two items means he gets to go outside since most of the time he runs around in a T-shirt and his nappy. I’ve taken to hiding the bike helmet on top of the bunk bed in his room, but he runs to the room and points to the top of the bunk bed. In the Philippines, the helpers told me, they say that children must stay inside during any kind of rain, and they noted with some amusement that the children in Hong Kong, and the children of Brits play outside during the rain. Typhoon 8 means that you have to stay inside due to falling debris and a potential direct hit, which is Signal 10. He plays outside, but not during a typhoon. Sure he’s half-English, but there’s rain and then there’s Typhoon 8 rain.

The new beige rug has seen better days. In fact, a better day was right before this rainy spell began, before the upturned bottle of apple juice, milk, spit up pieces of bread, yogurt, and lentils were scattered, and I’m sorry to say, probably ground into the carpet. Yuck. He pooed in the corner of it the other day when he had a brief moment of indigenous baby diaper freedom. The spot is now bleached white, a reassuring reminder that it is clean and that bleach really does work. No wonder it’s killing the ocean and polluting the streams. Suffice to say that this carpet will not become a family heirloom. It’s from Ikea.

Oh, so a little more about shoddy construction in Hong Kong, one of my big concerns. Being inside these past two days led to Keohi finding new ways to entertain himself, one of which was to pick the chipped paint off the wall. I thought about testing the paint for lead with my lead kit, but then I thought, it’s probably at a toxic level and I can’t deal with that now. I need another week before I do the test and then find out that we’re slowly killing our brain cells. I have to get my visa. I have to take Keohi to the doctor. I need to figure out why the water purifier keeps falling off. I really can’t deal with lead poisoning at the moment…Anyway, I was obliged to cover up the chipped paint area with the book jacket of his favorite book Goodnight Moon. This is our only wall decoration. It is perfect eye level for a toddler sitting on a futon.

While having my brief Martha Stewart moment, I noticed a large crack in the wall, right where the chipped paint was. To preface, this house was built less than two years ago, and I believe is the newest house in the village. It’s newness is one of the primary reasons Stephen rented it, but already the crack goes straight up and down the side of the bedroom wall. If you’re sitting at Keohi level, you see it wiggle up and then go right through the hard stone surface window ledge, break for the window, and then snake its way up the wall. All I can say is that we will be out of here before the place splits in half. I can also look out my sliding glass door at the marble patio, installed only three months ago and see a large crack that travels the width of it, right to the flower boxes that frame the yard. Standards? Contractor? Maybe just workmen issues. So my feeling is that the kind of workers who pee in your front yard in broad daylight are not the kind of people who should be laying down your patio…just a thought. Then again, it’s not like you can ask someone: “Hey, are you going to pee in my front yard. If you do, I won’t give you the job.”

Speaking of bodily functions and construction—the bathroom tile on the exterior of a building in Wanchai fell down and injured people! The big news is that it made the paper. As I mentioned before, a similar incident happened when we lived in Sheung Wan in 2002—fortunately no one was hurt.

Stepped outside during a lighter rain period to shake out Keohi’s Aloha Swimming Pool, as I call it, and let out a loud scream.
“A huge black bug!” I said to Madonna, the helper. Madonna gingerly shook out the plastic pool.
“A frog,” she said.
It was a tiny brown black frog with yellow markings on its legs. I have not looked up the species. Keohi liked it. Glad to know that someone appreciates the amphibians.

Later at 5, the rain had turned into a sprinkle, so Keohi and I headed to town to buy a basketful of groceries and then stopped at the soccer pitch by the Mui Wo swimming pool. It’s a hard playing surface, a basketball court is in the corner. We watched dragonflies buzz around and then we saw two pumpkin colored dragonflies wildly circle and suddenly cling to each other and continue to fly around—dragonfly mating season. The entire pitch by the goal was abuzz with them. I know that sometimes people tied a bit of string to them and they were like little pets. Well, maybe some other time.

The rainclouds were still present when we headed home from the pitch, gray skies, and we ate a meal of tofu, zucchini and salmon (glad he liked it, he hated it last year). Post bath splash, I put him to bed, and he called out: “Moon, moon.” When you leave the door partially cracked, there is a bit of light that reflects off the surface of the doorknob if it is shiny, and from the side, it is a perfect crescent.
“Yeah, it’s a moon,” I said. It was a moon. A moon shape. And isn’t it better to be able to see the moon in the light of a doorknob than learn what a doorknob is? What is a mere doorknob in comparison to the luster of a moon? The outside was rain and clouds and night, but inside, from a dark corner on a futon by the wall with the taped book jacket, you could swear that a small moon perfectly lit up the dark.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Natural Wonders

Creepy Crawly and Fish Update

Saw the Hong Kong Newt today on my way to the supermarket, Wellcome. Really newt-y looking, which means it was slimy, dark, and alarming. I zipped by on my bicycle. I am dearly attached to my bike. I can’t imagine if I was walking and saw it.

This is how much I hate reptiles: I can hardly look them up in the book that features real photographs of reptiles, preferring to identify them through the drawings in the Hong Kong Animals book.

Bloodsucker Lizard #4 spotted yesterday, again from the safety of my beloved bicycle, my lifesaving raft and sanctuary in the ocean of slimy creepy crawly things that live on this island.

According to the South China Morning Post, the rare sturgeon (there are around 1000 left) that is from a species dating back to the dinosaur age 140 million years ago, was attacked and killed by a barracuda in the marine park aquarium.

I killed only 4 small biting flies tonight. I am not kidding when I say that I spend 15-20 minutes every evening chasing bugs around the flat with this battery operated bug killing plastic tennis racquet type of thing. Last night again, there was a very large spider that I zapped to death with lethal chemicals. My terror of spiders overrode my strong anti-bug spray sentiments and knowledge that spiders eliminate small biting insects. I became overzealous and went spray crazy. Then I saw it all shriveled up and felt pretty stupid. I was spraying and then slamming the bathroom door, and then opening it up and then spraying it some more and then slamming the door again and became really ridiculous about it (in retrospect) as spiders make me crazy.

Keohi was wondering what was up, but he too has come to accept insects. He now does this same jerky movement of clapping all of a sudden once or twice really hard, like I do when I kill mosquitoes. Except he is not killing any mosquitoes, he is only imitating his insect-crazed mother.

We’re on tentative semi-lockdown (no playgroups for a few weeks) as chicken pox has hit Luk Tei Tong village and I really am not up for dealing with Keohi and the pox at this stage.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Luk Tei Tong Cooking Segment

Steph’s Balinese Cucumber and Corn Salad

Had this in Bali.

Corn (preferably fresh off the ear)
Cucumbers (peeled, seeded and thinly sliced plus cut lengthwise)
Shredded coconut (I tried this with the dried coconut, as they didn’t have the packaged shredded coconut, but fresh is undoubtedly best.)

Salt/sugar to taste. Toss and eat.

Green Mangoes and Dip

As taught to me by the local helpers (or amahs).

Go outside and pick green mango, or ask upstairs helper to get some from your landlord’s private stash. Slice green mango into pieces you can eat with your fingers or fork.


Shrimp paste (The Filipino kind Bagoong that is pre-cooked is best. Homemade better—but I don’t know anyone who makes homemade or how to make it)

If desired, add some extra spice: chiles, garlic, and/or chili garlic sauce. You may also splash some white vinegar on it for an extra pickly kind of kick.

Dip mango into sauce. Goes well with beer.

Green Mango and Pork Soup

1-2 green mangos (obviously peel and slice them and don’t use the seed—# mangoes will determine how sour the soup is)
Pork (for soup stock so with bones—oh by the way, it wasn’t pig penis before, it was pig TAIL. I did not use the tail)
1 chopped yellow or white onion
potatoes (however many you like)
1 turnip
6 strands of Chinese long beans chopped into shorter pieces…like regular green bean size
salt/pepper to taste
olive oil

Stir fry pork with oil, onions, salt and pepper. Add water. Throw in the rest of the ingredients. Boil and simmer. Look for soup ladle in Keohi’s toy box (an old suitcase). Ladle soup into bowl and serve as is or with rice.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Medical Care in Hong Kong

The Luk Tei Tong Peanut Butter Incident

Ah, so it is age 3, not age 1, that peanut butter may be introduced. I made a mistake having given Keohi a few tastes of my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, specifically the peanut part, and noted he had no reaction. So I figured, what’s a little peanut butter on a few Carr’s water crackers?

Big mistake. An hour later he was itching and red around his throat area. I wasn’t too alarmed at first as I remembered that babies are often allergic to something introduced too early. His first food—which we had ceremoniously chosen to be a nectarine, given that a Korean invented them he had a slight allergic reaction to. But this was a little different, the peanut butter reaction didn’t really go away, it started to get more pink, and then I remembered my reaction to lychee, how my mouth swelled up, and my throat started to itch, and one time (I tried lychee a few times) how my throat started to feel like it was closing up.

I look up peanut butter in three baby books: The Portable Pediatrician for Parents (a great book from my friend Renee), Super Baby Food, What to Expect During the Toddler Years.

Introduce peanut butter at around age three.


So I tried to call the pediatrician in Central. My cell phone wasn’t working. I had run out of minutes and failed to buy more minutes at the local 7-11. I called up to Mabel, the helper upstairs who came down and let me borrow her phone. I call Keohi’s doctor and leave a message. But the office is closed now, it would take too long to take the ferry, and if there was a real emergency, I wouldn’t know what hospital to go to...I remember something about emergency helicopters working out in the New Territories, which is where we live.


Keohi itches his throat and says “ball” a few times.

Is the Mui Wo clinic even open? Mabel tells me to ring the bell of the Mui Wo clinic—it’s 24 hours and right next to the post office.


I stick Keohi on the back of my bike and furiously book to the clinic.

I wave the peanut butter jar at the night clinician, he nods understanding the gravity and takes info from my Hong Kong ID card and notes the amount consumed: one teaspoon. Keohi is chasing around a small stuffed animal that the nurse is waving to get him to stand on the scale. The doctor comes in. She examines him.

Keohi’s rash has subsided a bit. The doctor says: “Do not give him any more peanut butter.”

Point taken. Anti-histamine prescribed. I’m starting to feel silly. He’s going to be fine. The rash has really been going away the past 30 minutes.

“What do I owe you?” I ask.

The doctor and nurses look at me with surprise.


Keohi put on the back of the bike again, and we head home to No. 59. The pediatrician from Central calls. Keohi is fine. Anti-histamine from clinic administered to protesting baby who spews up half of it.

Free good health care given by competent medical professionals in a small 24 hour clinic that serves the town of Mui Wo and the surrounding villages.

Ahhh…yes, this is Hong Kong. Medical care. FREE. This is NOT the U.S.. They took one look at my old Hong Kong ID, Keohi carried no ID, they asked nothing about my immigration status, my health insurance coverage, and I waited in no line.


The sun returns

Flat Tire

Got a flat tire once yesterday, and then it went flat again just as I biked away from the shop and onto the bike path. Luckily I was not too far out on the bike path. Flat tire in miserable humidity and heat with a hapa baby turning pink is a little stressful.

However, I was not on the 405 heading over to the Valley, waiting for a tow truck or calling on my cell to AAA and breathing exhaust!

No, I did not learn how to fix a flat tire on my car.
No, I do not care. I could never get those bolts off the tire.
Forget it.
Yes, I know that anyone can fix a flat tire.
Yes, I know that it’s good to know how to do it in an emergency.

I picked up a menu from La Pizzeria. They do take-out pizzas. The graphic looks very unattractive and unappetizing, maybe it is the white blobby ovals of mozzarella next to the green squares that are supposed to be, uhm green peppers? I heard it’s okay though.

We do manage a half Western and half Chinese kind of diet here. I was excited to see my flax pumpkin granola here on the shelf. But most stuff like that is hard to come by—requires a little visit to one of the international markets.

If anyone visits me, please bring steel cut oats…☺

Today I turned and faced the mountain. The sky was clear, no rain after days and days of gray weather. Above me was endless blue and clean white cottony clouds, the mountains full with all hues of green. Banana plants, big lotus leaves with maroon stalks waving in breeze, coconut palms like fingers splayed against the light.


And then, in the distance…the sound of a jackhammer…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Environmental Musings


Pondering this a great deal here in Hong Kong. It’s on my mind a lot, but more maybe as we live in this lovely semi-tropical rural village and are only 30 minutes away from a city that cares nothing for the environment.

The big campaign here is the elimination of plastic bags from the supermarket. This is admirable, and they use plastic bags for everything—all goods from baked items to clothes are packed up in plastic bags. The paper bag is not a part of the commerce landscape. One, plastic bag, quite humorously, I got from the Soft and Hard Shop, was a fine example of a linguistic mistake. Just as a good many English speakers run around posting signs in Chinese characters or tattoos in Burmese that may or may not be correct here, here you get the same. People wearing T-shirts or carrying bags with grammatically incorrect English that may be embarrassing to them should they understand what the English really means. The plastic bag I got from the Soft and Hard shop said: “I Fucking Love You” and featured designs of pink hearts and black and white cartoon characters smiling.

But I should add: elimination of plastic bags is only one small aspect of being environmentally friendly. Many HK people seem to think that plastic bag elimination is the answer to the environmental problem. What about land reclamation? What about diesel trucks thundering down the middle of the city filled with pedestrians? I read a headline that a local school, with the full cooperation of the kids, were turning off the AC to save the planet. If there's one place the AC should be on, it's in a K-12 school! Why not do something more radical like focus on factory/auto emissions instead of making little public school kids sweat to death? But people here in HK are no different than people in the US, and hey, as a former Los Angeleno, well, LA is the most ridiculous city in the world with its lack of public transportation. At least HK people have that right--public transporation is excellent here--ferry, taxi, bus, minibus, subway. Everything runs and works and goes on time, all the time. They beat the majority of US cities hands down and so in this way, may be more eco-friendly in terms of transportation than US urban areas.

Pondered our family’s environmental consumption: for a modern family, we live stripped down to the rock bottom minimum. Haven’t used my oven yet, have cable, but barely turn on the TV (Stephen watched the European cup, but that’s it), have a shower and no bath, drive no car, don’t own a microwave, and only bought two pieces of furniture for our minimally furnished apartment: a futon and a secondhard table—teak, it should be said, the worst wood to harvest. We should have bought bamboo, as everyone should, but at least it was secondhand. Honestly, I could never justify buying anything new made of teak. I am pro-bamboo. That's the only wood people should buy new. We run the AC and a dehumidifier, but have no other appliances and live in less than 700 square feet. In terms of product shopping: where can you shop here in downtown Mui Wo? The wet market? The Soft and Hard shop -- there is a limit to how much stuff you can buy that is unattractive and plastic, after all... Assessing our consumption, I’d say that our environmental impact for a modern family is quite low. This is a good feeling. Still, something is wrong in the world if the first thing I think of when Keohi plays after the rain under a dripping roof by the outdoor playground is polluted water! Acid rain! Quick, take a shower! I live in HK! It's dirty here! The truth is, the human species has wreaked hell on the environment, and we are headed on a straight and direct course to utter annihilation and in the process, will consume and kill everything in sight to feed our own needs. The modern developed world does not live in harmony with nature.

My one comment is this: the only real way to make a big environmental impact is to quit buying stuff. I would hazard to guess that if you didn’t recycle a single thing all year long and simply didn’t buy any new clothes, furniture, appliances, or anything else beyond the basic necessities in life, you would do more for the environment. If you drive a car, run your AC, buy a pair of shoes, or anything else, you are contributing to global warming and the destruction of the planet, never mind reproducing and having a baby.

The existence of Keohi is a huge environmental no-no, what can I say?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Keohi updates

Keohi updates here, for those who have met Young Master Keohi Ki-Chan Aldred-Yoo a.k.a. Mr. Boo or Keohi Ki-boo.

Vocab words at 16 months: ball, mama, dada, neh-neh (nursing), uh-oh, dog, bird, moon, juice, and apple. Apple was added today. There was a little confusion as he seemed to apply it to the orange as well...

Walking began at 15 months. He didn't exactly walk off the plane to greet Stephen (Stephen's thought) but he did walk shortly after.

Main obsession: balls, books (I am so pleased he loves to look at books even on his own--he'll get up in the AM and look at his books), and his bike helmet

Favorite books (as of late): Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Go Dog Go, and the big Classic Treasury of Nursery Rhyme Favorites.

Verboten: television!

Fondness for: banana milkshakes, bike rides, pointing at the moon, the playground, and oranges in the supermarket.

Mixed feelings about: his baby doll, broccoli

Monday, June 16, 2008

Le Weekend

A Fun Leech Fact

I’ve now been duly informed by my friend, Vanina, that leeches have been used for viable medical purposes—for example to assist in cases of “reattachment of limbs, esp. fingers, b/c they have a natural anticoagulent in their saliva, so it makes the reattachment much easier.”

Go leeches, go!

Le Weekend

Took the 8:30AM ferry into HK on Saturday and ran a bunch of errands. It was raining and I was wearing my plastic wrap raincoat that had a huge hole, at around $1.10 USD, not surprising; it’s my only protective rain covering, so it usually means I walk around a little damp when it rains. Stephen took my $2.50USD raincoat the other AM. Since it’s so warm here and the rain so constant, I don’t get bothered by the rain anymore. Here people often wear plastic rain ponchos that are like mine, more like kitchen plastic wrap, or basic ponchos. I never see practical sturdy sporty REI type of raingear. It’s too hot and I can’t imagine the locals would stomach paying so much for raingear.

Luk Tei Tong is often overcast with pockets of sunshine that guarantee a relentless stifling still heat. Rain is a relief. Keohi has gotten used to the rain too, but the first few times he was caught in the rain on the back of my bike, he was a little miserable and kept saying “neh-neh” (for nursing), as if I would actually stop right in the middle of the bikepath to nurse him. Even with his little umbrella, he still gets drenched during a downpour and by the time we hit the narrow bikepath through the bog I find myself singing hits from 'The Sound of Music' to distract him from the rain.

But I like it when it rains in Hong Kong—it is often slightly less crowded and the air seems better, although it is still so filthy that even here in Luk Tei Tong, surrounded by a vast sweep of green and mountains, I can hardly smell the foliage. Unless I pass a delivery truck or some roadworks, I don’t smell the pollution here, but that constant wave of earth and green that fill one's nostrils in the countryside eludes. In HK proper, depending on where one walks, the smell of diesel, wet rain, and sweat is a permanent thick cloak; a few seconds later, the strong scent of fishballs steaming in a boiling pot sticks to one’s skin, and rounding the corner of an old time building, one passes into the dark rise of incense.

I was able to catch the fast ferry so arrived from Mui Wo about 30 minutes later and trudged down the gangplank and then up the stairs under the covered walkway to the IFC. When I was here before, there was the IFC 1 and now they have built IFC 2. International Finance Centre. Big tall office buildings plus a mall connecting the two of them.

HK’s Central is a labyrinth of covered walkways and passages and corridors through malls and office buildings that allow one to snake through the entire downtown with hardly ever leaving the cover of a building or at the very least, an awning to shelter one’s head from the rain. When I was here before, I avoided this, preferring the clack and movement of the streets, but I often suffered because of air pollution. On certain days I would feel sick and would feel my brain cells seemingly shrivel or shout in protest with my every step, and I would be obliged to spend the entire day inside or feel a warm itch in my throat, as if I was about to vomit when I walked for long periods of time outside. It was reported that 24 hours in Central is the same as smoking 4 packs of cigarettes, no wonder people try to use the walkways! And the wealthy and the powerful continue to ignore the problem as they simply wind their way through these passages, navigating past the Dior boutique, the Tiffany’s outpost, and other designer stores, enroute to the banks or buildings at Exchange Square. Your average working class HKer would hardly think of entering such a place, never mind using such buildings and besides, many of the locals live on the opposite Kowloon side.

That said, I found myself enjoying the swish IFC, specifically, my mocha and raisin bran muffin. Mui Wo really needs a bakery and the one café we have seems like a paltry substitute when facing a rack of freshly baked muffins and croissants, kiwi juice, and hot miso soup to go. I felt like I was coming out of a time warp, yes, I had eerie memories of a nice freshly baked muffin, of cranberry orange scones…but where and when?

Enroute to HSBC stopped at the Mustela boutique for Keohi’s diaper cream – let me be frank here. Either Mui Wo babies do not get diaper rash, there is some local remedy for it, or they just suffer because they don’t really sell it at the local supers and instead sell a pathetic Japanese brand substitute cream that does nothing. Bummer for the babes—no pun intended. Keohi was a diaper rash free baby until he got to nearly a year and it wasn’t an urgent need, but out in the booneys in Mui Wo, you got to stock up on the ole pharmaceuticals!

Went to the HSBC building to get some yen. Banking in HK is a million times better than banking anywhere else in the world. First of all, you can get any number of currencies at most banks. If we’re going to participate in monetarism, then the average bank should be set up for this. I’ve included a link because it is one of my favorite buildings in Hong Kong.

Day finished with Thai food at Café Siam with Adeline near the escalator around Cochrane Street. I noted a new Starbucks around the escalator

and I also heard that they are “redeveloping” that entire area of small shops, restaurants, and mom and pop businesses. Starbucks is everywhere now. How awful. There’s something really terrible about the entire planet ordering GRANDES and TALLS instead of small and medium sized drinks…

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chicken Scare and DB

Chicken Scare

Avian flu is goin’ round, so we are avoiding chicken. Mostly, we buy imported meat anyway from Australia. There is sometimes chicken from Brazil and the Netherlands. I bought chicken from China before, it comes in a neat little bag with the head and the feet still on. I have to say that it made the consumption of chicken less appetizing seeing the dinky black closed eyes and the tiny toenails of the chicken. I whacked off the head and the feet before sticking it in the pot to make some soup…Then I boiled pork for a Filipino type of soup (add green mango—tastes great in stew) and saw in the bones a pig penis. Equally unappetizing. I know the Koreans are protesting the U.S. beef, but really, I’m not exactly trotting down to the old store to buy meat from China, either.

Keohi has gone from being an organic food, cloth diaper, all-natural baby to living in HK so he wears disposables more, has no organic food, and drinks from various plastic drinking cups that are probably strewn samples from a factory floor in Shenzhen. Well, what can I say? He seems healthy. He’s a normal California kid but a bit of an anomaly here in Mui Wo, I think.

Keohi and I went to Discovery Bay aka Disco Bay, DB and to some The Bay of Pigs with my friend Mee-ling. It’s a big sprawling suburban enclave that bears no trace of being in Asia. The Plaza underwent a big renovation. It was my third trip. Trip 1 was in 1997 when I did the Lonely Planet tour and stopped there for about 25 minutes as I was waiting for a ferry and then got the hell out. I thought it was a little creepy and wondered why anyone would live there. Trip 2 was in 2002 when I went to someone’s pizza party. The party was fun and the existence of someone’s oven a downright exciting event for this ole 1-burner gal (at the time, I am now 2 burner, plus oven that I have not tried out yet, moving up in the world). Then people went down to the plaza and sat there on stone benches and drank by the 4 restaurants and 7-11. It reminded me of Andover, when kids would go into Boston and sit and swig beer from brown paper bags on the Boston Common.

Anyway, everything is governed by the developer and there are signs prohibiting bikes (although I saw some kids biking) so that they can make money off the golf cars which are leased for some crazy amount like 20K US. No one is riding a bike! The place has people speeding around in little white identical golf carts! It’s like a retirement home but no one is retirement age. The plaza is a little mall. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed a) the bakery b) the organic juice bar and c) the fact that my shopping world was expanded from the Mui Wo Soft and Hard Shop.

But the place is soul-less. Then again, so is most convenience, perhaps. Isn’t a mall convenient? Isn’t that what big shopping stores like Wal-Mart are all about? Convenience? But what is lost in the process?

So, I’ll take my Soft and Hard Shop and my tiny Luk Tei Tong Square over DB.

Today is Mom's birthday! Have a good one, Mom! We'll celebrate and maybe go down to the one pub, or the one cafe, or the one Turkish restaurant when you come to town....xoxo

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Black Rain and Creepy Crawly Things

Black rain warning and wow, did it come down! The bog overflowed, the yard was entirely underwater, and a few people were walking on the bike path with water above their ankles. I couldn't believe they were even out there. Who knows what snakes were on the loose, what centipedes were snapping away...yikes. Black rain warnings are flash flood warnings and we live near the River Silver, so this is not to be taken lightly. Businesses close. On HK island during the amber, red, and finally black warnings, people head to the bars to drink and get some free shots. Get drunk and watch debris fall! Yipee! Here on Lantau, all I was thinking was that yesterday, I should have been practical and stocked up. It was raining and there I was in the amber warning level (I later found out) taking little Keohi out (well he was restless) for a bike ride down to the shop and to look for some Wellies (neither of us has rain gear, have to get some). I should have gone shopping for food instead of buying a candy bar at the 7-11, and a helium balloon and a yo-yo for Keohi from the little kid's shop. I should have bought SUPPLIES to prepare us for the rain! We live in a rural area! I have to be prepared for such NATURAL DISASTERS. I woke Stephen up after I watched our entire lawn flood in thirty minutes. He said, "We have food, don't worry about it" and went back to sleep. Yeah, we had an old eggplant, two eggs, Carr's water crackers, sardines, and a few bags of rice. I figured Keohi got the last of the Campbell's soup minestrone, so Stephen and I would split the brown rice if things got really bad.

I saw my first leech today. Stephen pointed them out. I had read so much about leeches and this was my first leech viewing ever. I actually saw two leeches on the sliding glass door. They look like worms but with little hammerheads on the end--kind of a like a hammerhead shark, but imagine that on the end of a worm. Now imagine that you live in the 19th century and you are ill. Imagine that you are in a Bronte novel. Imagine having a bucketful of these disgusting things sucking the blood out of your chest and you are in your dirty smelly nightgown because you don't bathe a lot. How miserable.

I seem to recall an article I read years ago where there was a return to using leeches and that under certain conditions they could be effective. But who would submit to such treatment? Yeah, I like organic food and I don't like what the drug companies do, but would I ever have a bunch of leeches on me? FORGET IT!

I also saw my second centipede on Lantau today by the side of the house. I saw one darting across the bike path a few days ago. I heard from a local friend who was bitten by one that they are deadly to young children and old people and that he required a shot, intramuscular (?) antiobiotics and his skin turned black from the bite.

Post flood we went to town, had a mocha/latte/banana milkshake (Stephen, me, Keohi) and shopped. The waters had receded and the river was high, and the tall plants and greenery around the edge of the bike path had flattened, debris pushed up against the fence, the gray clouds sucked up into the white sky. We biked home and I looked out at the layers of green, the wide leaf of the lotus plants, and the wet earth and smiled.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Olympics and the Earthquake

Briefly about The Earthquake and The Olympics

Honestly, I have not been following either particularly closely—so the following are general observations that might not be so obvious from the U.S.:

The earthquake and the Olympics together seemed to have provided a chance for Chinese nationalism to flourish in Hong Kong. Hong Kongers have usually expressed their insistence that they are indeed Chinese, but first and always Hong Kong people, some of this having to do with the northern versus southern Chinese split culturally and linguistically. There was a small fundraiser put on by locals for the earthquake in tiny Mui Wo in the small plaza on the River Silver that seemed well-attended.

To add to my clearly LEGITIMATE complaints about the damn architecture here—there were a good many new buildings that collapsed while the old buildings remained standing. Upon close examination they found such buildings were missing basic steel structural elements and were held together with some WIRE, as if WIRE is sufficient for a building!

Okay, to add to the WIRE business, if anyone comes to visit, do not go on the Lantau chair lift ride that gives a view of the island as it has had engineering problems. You laugh, but when you are dangling several thousand feet in the sky on a wee chair off some wire, you won’t be laughing…save that kind of stuff for Switzerland or Italy.

To return to my commentary (clearly, I am concerned with engineering and architecture here in HK) …

The Olympics have been controversial here in Hong Kong as there have been some local protests, some of them organized by a local University of Hong Kong philosophy student/model, unlike let’s say Macau. I have noticed at least in the coverage of the English language daily here, however, that the Olympics have taken a back seat and the turmoil of protests (some possible international protesters having been turned away by immigration at the airport) have been overshadowed by the earthquake.


I am thinking of how foreigners refer to Koreans born and raised in Korea—“nationals.” One might ponder the idea of national pride and how it distinguishes itself from cultural pride. I have a flexible approach to my national identity. In Hong Kong I simply say that I am Korean—this saves some explanation time. Koreans, South Koreans that is (who would be the only Koreans traveling) have a decent reputation in most of Asia as they are not viewed as colonizing sorts, so being Korean, as opposed to even claiming American identity is more convenient. I am not nationalistic enough to assert and then describe the long tale of being a 4th generation Korean American.