Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things Have Been Accomplished

So, in the span of a week, I was able to accomplish three things that had been on my “to do” list. First, I was able to use Cantonese to help me order my food at a restaurant I frequent. Twice, actually. I only learned a small phrase, but it was enough to properly order the meal I wanted. What did I say? “No vegetables.” I had been having trouble getting them to understand that, and so once, when a few locals and I went to the restaurant, I asked them how to say it in Cantonese. Ever since, it’s been a lifesaver at more than just that restaurant!

Second, I went hiking/climbing with a Mexican friend of mine. I believe the area was called Ha Fa Shun, and at the top, we were overlooking Tsuen Wan. It was amazing, and the view was absolutely gorgeous, despite the fog. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I’m no hiker or climber, and by the time I reached the top, I could hardly feel my legs. We didn’t go straight up the mountain. We went in a spiral around it till we reached the top, so that meant tons of stairs. Looking down from the top and seeing where we started, and being told the path we’d taken, I was surprised. The cars below in the city were so freakishly tiny!

Needless to say, the walk down was the worst part of that experience. My legs were shaking so badly that by the time I reached the bottom, as I stood, you could visibly see my legs shaking, and rather violently, I might add. No matter, the whole experience was fantastic, and I’m so glad I went. Being up there at the top, on top of a boulder, the wind was high and the sunlight was just right. It was just beautiful, and it felt wonderful, like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It’s not easy describing how awesome it was. It made me wish even more that I could fly!

Right after that, I went straight to Central to meet up with a local friend, and once again, I got to explore a big city I’d never been in before. We went to the top of the mall building and sat on the roof area, where there were fountains and changing lights, and across the water we could see Tsim Sha Tsui, and the lights that played on the water from the city were amazing! Overall, that day just went rather swell. However, one thing I didn’t fancy was the taco from the Mexican restaurant we went to. Let’s just say it was a miserable excuse for a taco, and a cold one, at that!

That next Monday and Tuesday, though, DANG I WAS SORE! Talk about not being able to walk and barely being able to step out of bed! Next on my list is to see the big Buddha that I’ve been hearing so much about, but that’ll come once I get back from Australia. OH! And I tried Thai food. XD That is all for now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What I've Done

Sadly, I haven’t been posting as much as I should’ve, but now that I actually have ideas for what I’m going to talk about, I think I can keep up for the rest of the semester! I was thinking lately about what things I would like to do before I leave for the States, but then I realized I needed to figure out what things I have done first. My mind just has to be organized to get any good thinking done! So, within, and in later posts, I shall list a few of the experiences I’ve had while living here in Hong Kong, things I’m proud of or not so proud of. Maybe I’ll even forget a few details!

Let me begin by saying that there’s a benefit to getting lost. It allows you to forget about time for just a little while, forget the things you have to do, because let’s face it: You’re lost. Probably ain’t gonna make it to whatever appointment you had set up. So, walk around and enjoy yourself! Every now and then, everyone needs to experience this lack of time-keeping, to just step away from their busy lives and take time to let their minds wander without worrying so much about the minor things in life.

Most of the time, I don’t want to visit an unfamiliar city without a local because I’m afraid of getting lost, but I’ve come to realize, after getting lost in two rather large cities, and through other experiences, that it’s a great time to relax and explore. Plus, you usually remember the cities a whole lot better after getting lost in them! One was Mong Kok. The other was Tsim Sha Tsui. Now that I’m a bit more comfortable with the idea of getting lost, and communicating with the locals, I have a few other cities in mind to possibly get lost in!

Speaking of “other experiences”, apparently I haven’t talked about my little communication fun here on my blog. Since I’m feeling a bit lazy right now, and not wanting to repeat myself again and again, I’m going to go grab my description from something else I wrote.

“… my favorite experience had to have been when I was trying to communicate with a vendor at a street market. Most people are caught by surprise when they hear you speak English, and though they may know some, at times it can be difficult for them to come up with the words, and often they’ll tell you they just don’t understand. This vendor sold leather-bound books he made himself, and I absolutely love those kinds of journals. I had never been able to afford one that was handmade back home, and so I was amazed at the prize he gave me when I asked.

The journal had no indication of its origins, no seal or name or anything, so I wanted him to sign it. Problem was that he didn’t understand the English, and I didn’t understand the Cantonese. But, unlike some people I’d met, he didn’t shy away. In fact, he sat there with me, and we both seemed rather determined to figure out what the other meant. Eventually, I did get him to sign it, in Cantonese, and he was able to ask me how to say my name. Mostly, we just used hand movements and body gestures, because that was the only thing we both could somewhat understand.”

As you might be able to guess, this is one of those moments that helped me get to the comfort zone I used to shy away from. I was always nervous about trying to communicate with someone who spoke another language, even Spanish, which is something I’ve been taking classes for, for four years. Like the locals speaking English, I’m afraid of messing up while speaking Spanish, since I haven’t legitimately spoken it in a real conversation before. Now, I feel I’ll be perfectly fine with just walking over to the Spanish shop next door to where my mom works and trying to talk! I’m not scared of it anymore!

In relation to the previous experience, I’ve also bartered with people at the open-air markets, which is a whole new thing for me. You know, there’s an art to bartering. There really is. I certainly haven’t mastered it, but I got a taste of the uncertainty, and the thrill, and that makes the whole experience worth the embarrassment or nervousness I felt. Understanding the highs and the lows, the average price of an item, and especially being aware of the other prices being offered can greatly help you when you’re bartering. Also, you have to be firm, and don’t be embarrassed if they decline your offer. The concepts don’t seem to change. You just have to alter your strategy depending on the product and the vendor.

Oh, and for those of you who know me personally, I did try new foods, as you may have read earlier on in my posting. I may not have enjoyed most of those foods, but I still tried them, and being as picky a person as I am, I’d say that’s an accomplishment! My favorite happens to be the spaghetti. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but firstly, they don’t put the same sauce we do on it. They have something else on it, some sort of flavoring that makes the noodles kind of slippery. Don’t know what it is, but I do like the taste, and I like noodle. They were the first noodles I had that I really enjoyed!

And although I don’t want you to necessarily think I’m complaining, I have to say something about some foods I’ve tried. Two, mainly. First, there’s fried noodles, and fish. The fish were on top of the fried noodles, and they were smothered in some sort of … stuff, which migrated down to soup up in the plate with the noodles. Now, my friends know I’m very sensitive to food textures, and this was a texture CLASH. Crunchy noodles, which were generally flavorless and was completely new for me, with clear-white-ish goop that seemed like snot, well, that’s just NOT a pleasant combination for me.

The other one is nachos. Yeah, yeah, yeah, some of you have heard me shpeel about nachos before, but seriously, this one’s different. They weren’t even nacho chips! They were Doritos! With COLD cheese on them! Not even nacho cheese! I can’t say this is a problem on their part, because I suppose it’s normal for them, but for me, I was freaking out a little when they brought it to me. Inside, of course. I tried them anyway, but dang, I just couldn’t take it. My mind was still trying to wrap itself around the idea of Doritos and whatever kind of cheese that was.

Another thing I’ve tried is a new clothing style. The styles are quite different here. I mean, not drastically, but enough! The shirts are baggier. The combinations are more varied. I really don’t know how to explain it all, as I’ve never been a fashion person. However, I can say now that I’ll probably be coming back home with some interesting additions to my wardrobe. I can also say that I much prefer their shirt styles here. They’re very interesting.

Last but not least in this particular post, I would like to mention something that is personally important to me: learning a new art style. I’m taking a class on Chinese Ink Painting. It reminds me of watercolor painting, but still rather different. It’s difficult for me to understand sometimes, because the technique is something I’ve never really experimented with before. It’s new, and while it’s hard for me to work with the new technique, it’s a lot of fun, and besides, simply learning a new art technique is always great, because then you can combine techniques to create new artworks!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

7 Weeks

Seven more weeks of school left. (And a half, if you want to get technical.) I can’t believe so much time has passed by already. It’s almost surreal when I think about the past weeks, trying to remember what I did here and there, when I did this or that. Did I tell you about all the men that run around shirtless? What about the constant use of umbrellas even when the sun is shining? Have I told you about the various breeds of dogs I’ve come across? Or the nationalities of various people? Australian. Italian. German. Korean. Chinese. English. American. Mexican. Russian. Polish. French. Spanish. Belgian. And a host of others.

I’ve discovered new ways of doing art and new ways of seeing things. The people native here have such an expressive language, one which holds more to ideas of things than simple to-the-point vocabulary. Much of what is in Chinese, though said in a few words, takes me many more words to express. A single idea can be expressed in a character or two. It’s simply amazing to me. In Chinese ink painting, we’re learning how the uses of brush and ink were considered expressive of not only an individual’s talents, but their inner feelings about the world, their views, their desires, their thoughts. They were more expressions than representations.

I have been able to pull knowledge from all of my classes and use it in others, using information from two or three classes to discover what is meant by an idea in a fourth. I’ve never had this feeling of connection between classes before, and it’s really enjoyable. Rarely did this ever happen at home, many of my classes going in completely different directions. Somehow these seem interconnected despite their differences in study.

I’m getting along much better with my classmates, and I’ve met a few new people I think I can call my friends. I still miss home and the people there, but I do enjoy meeting people who, though some come from the same country, seem quite different from me. I’m also learning things from them and others, which is exciting.

That’s all for now. I’m kind of tired, so I think I’ll go rest a bit. I’ll try to post more on a weekly basis. XD

Friday, September 30, 2011

Long Time No Long Post

Yeah, so it’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated my blog. My apologies, guys. Time to inform y’all of all the fun things that have, or haven’t, happened since my last post. I don’t think I remember everything that y’all might consider the most interesting aspects of my life here, but I will do my best.

Well, I drank the 24-pack of Dr Pepper in the span of two weeks. That’s about two a day. Not really all that much when you think about how at Centenary, we have access to soda every meal in the cafeteria, and pretty much at any point during the day in almost any location on campus. I’m pretty sure I drank a lot more soda there than anywhere else, even at home, and that’s saying something. So, now, I’m without Dr Pepper again, and of course, I’m craving it like crazy. Call it an addiction, if you will.

I’ve somewhat started to curb the craving, though it’s still there the majority of the time. Every now and then I’ll grab a Coke from the Circle K at Fu Tai. Now, remember, I don’t like Coke. I really don’t. But I can bear it, at least if it’s in a glass bottle. The cool thing about the Circle K is that if you bring back the empty bottle from your last purchase, they give you $1HKD back to you, or, in other words, one dollar off your next purchase. Pretty simple if you just exchange the Coke bottle for another Coke, with a little less money.

In other food-related news, I have discovered French toast that smells exactly like funnel cake. Tasted pretty good, although of course, they had no powdered sugar. Sad face. But, like any determined, desperate college student, I went in search of this powdered sugar, and after meeting up with someone who had actually graduated from Centenary last spring, I ended up finding it. Almost the very next day, I dragged my friend to the restaurant with the French toast, and we tried it together. It was amazing, and is probably now my favorite dessert here.

As the cafeteria food is concerned, I personally think it’s mostly terrible, worse than Centenary’s food, in fact, and the other person from Centenary agrees with me. Now, I know all of you are thinking I’m only saying that because I don’t very much like Chinese food, but seriously, even their own students prefer going out to eating in the canteen (what they call the cafeteria, for those of you who are unaware). I tried their rice and chicken. The rice was bland, and I don’t like soy sauce, and they had no butter, or so they said. From what I hear from students, it’s all lies. . . . The chicken was okay, but I wasn’t really fond of picking pieces of bone out of my teeth afterward.

The only time I go to the canteen now, if I go, is in the morning for breakfast. I get toast, eggs, a hash brown, and two fried fish. The eggs taste better than those at Centenary, but they’re still too undercooked. (In the words of someone I know, the eggs at Centenary are “like sponges”.) The hash browns are usually undercooked. I prefer them to be slightly crispy. The fish are also a bit undercooked. At least, they’re gooey. But there’s ketchup, so no worries! Speaking of ketchup, I’ve discovered that restaurant ketchup over here tastes horrendous!

I FINALLY have some actual work to do, work which I actually would prefer NOT to do. They usually only require a single reading per class each week, and so, being used to the busy nature of Centenary, I’ve come to feel a bit lazy with too much time on my hands, and then I don’t want to even look at the work. It makes me appreciate Centenary’s business, to tell you the truth, after experiencing how lazy I can get when I have nothing at all to do. Granted, this “nothing to do” also stems from the fact that many people I know here are usually busy, and therefore the majority of the time, I’m stuck alone in my room.

Currently I am working in a group, preparing for a presentation that is to be done within the next two weeks. At first I was completely and utterly confused about what I should research specifically. I tried to ask questions, tried to understand, but every time I thought I got it, I was told it wasn’t right! One of the girls in our group is pretty hard for me to get along with at this point, as I feel she’s essentially taking over the entire thing. While I respect her being able to do that, I feel she doesn’t really help everyone to understand what they need to do. When you lead a project, you need to make sure everyone understands the role they’re supposed to play, and in this case, that everyone’s on the same page.

However, that negative part of our classmate relationship seems to be getting better, as we’ve pretty much argued (not angrily, mind you) and discussed what we thought about the project, the direction each part should take, and the like. We started to understand each other better, I think. I’m not saying we’re the best of buds yet, and I’m not sure we ever will be, but I won’t close my mind to the idea. The worst of enemies could become the best of friends in the end.

Overall, I really, really miss home. I miss my friends and Adam back at Centenary, my parents and the rest of my family, and Louisiana in general. I’m terribly homesick right now. However, counting down the weeks has helped. A semester abroad really isn’t all that long in the scheme of things, and when you divide the school semester into weeks, time seems to go by quicker than you thought possible. Already I think we have about ten weeks left of the school semester. The past few weeks have flown by, and I feel as though I’ve been here much longer than I have.

Okay, so that was a long post. Stay tuned for more. I have lots more to say, but this post just seemed, as previously state, long.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Post

Okay. I saw an animal’s heart for sale when I went on the cultural tour. And bits of raw fish. And a pig hanging down while they cut the meat off of it. I felt disgusted, and the smell was horrendous. Why had I happened to see this? We were on a cultural tour of a poorer part of Hong Kong. (Granted, they do the meat thing practically everywhere.) They actually consider it to be the poorest district, and there are SO many people. I learned a lot, but at the end of the day, I was bored, tired, and hungry.

Speaking of being hungry, dinner was a no go. Ride and chicken. Seemingly an innocent dinner, right? The chicken looked like undercooked organs, and the rice was undercooked and tasted slightly burnt. Needless to say, I did not eat it. I didn’t eat the oyster cake either, or the calamari, or the cooked vegetables. I was content with going back to my room to search through my food for dinner instead. Whatever food there happened to be anyway. I have a limited supply of noodles and cereal, so you can imagine how well that’s going so far. (Fine for me!)

There are a few interesting things I previously forgot to mention. One of them is that, when traveling, you hardly ever see people without a phone or other digital device in hand, and most with earphones plugged in. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem to be an obsession, like it would probably be back in the States. It just seems to be only a way of passing time. It’s a bit strange, though, to me, to see so many people seemingly disengaged from their surroundings. Oh, and the iPhone seems quite popular here.

As for classes, things are going pretty well. They’re keeping me busy, though I must admit, two of my teachers are a bit monotone, and by that, I mean boring. I don’t mean to be rude or mean when saying it, but I just cannot hardly pay any attention to them when they speak, unless they speak directly to me with questions. The material is otherwise interesting, but that doesn’t help when you’re in the middle of the classroom and are threatened by sleep.

On to something you all might find quite entertaining. . . . Yesterday I went to go pick up some Dr Pepper that a store ordered for me. (They only had singles, so they had to order packs.) I carried a 24-pack of Dr Pepper for about an hour straight, from the store to the train (in which I stood for about half an hour, balancing without holding on to anything and unable to sit because of so many people) to the school and my hostel. I now have bruises on my hips where the cardboard crate sat, and my arms and shoulders are extremely sore. But at least now I have Dr Pepper!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Was Coming to Post

Okidokie. Time for another post. Why? I’m bored. I can’t remember half the names (plus some) of those I’ve met so far, and they all seem to be busy working or sleeping. I’ve been to the mall two or three times by myself in the past few days. Although, I do feel proud of myself for buying some shirts on my own (you know, without having others help me pick it out). It’s easy for me to pick out t-shirts alone, but since I don’t wear “nice” clothes very often, I usually need help deciding. But, this time I didn’t. I even went back to the store a second time to get other shirts.

However, the second time I went I spent about two hours trying to find the dadgum place. It was hectic, and there were tons of people crammed into tiny hallways. I think I have part of the second floor memorized now, though, at least enough for me to get to the places I want to go, which I would very much call a success for me. The shirts I bought are perhaps a bit questionable by home standards, but I may think that simply because I’m not used to them. I don’t remember if I said so before, but their styles are very different from what I’m used to in the U.S.

One shirt in particular in solid in the front but fishnet in the back, so of course you see skin. I asked the lady if people here normally wore an undershirt under this type of shirt, and she said no, though she did show me an undershirt I could wear with it if uncomfortable (which I bought for another shirt that was sheer). I feel like by the time I come back home, I’m going to be wearing a completely different wardrobe. Next on the list is actually a t-shirt or two, but those are hard to find, at least the ones I’m used to, yet again. Theirs are much longer and nicer, though somehow I keep seeing people walking around with “normal” t-shirts. . . .

Oh, and yesterday I explored a small market on the street that was on the way to the mall. (Caused me to pretty much use all my bus card credit because of me getting on the bus and off of it multiple times.) It was all very interesting, and there were a few things I wouldn’t mind going back to see, but there wasn’t something there that really caught my eye. Except where there was meet hanging on hooks. . . . I tried not to look as I passed. At least these were cooked, unlike most I’ve seen in the markets. They like everything fresh over here.

I’ll finish this later today after I’ve done whatever I’m gonna do.

Okay, so I’m finishing this later later. The above was written about two days ago. Yeah, I got distracted.

Anyway, I’ve got more to say now, or at least I thought I did, before it all went out the window. I ate at the canteen. Ate some chicken and rice, which was actually pretty good, although seeing the bones and all the places where I think there were veins and organs did throw me a little off my appetite. The rice was bland as well. I wanted to put some butter on it, but they have no butter, sadly, and I can’t stomach the soy sauce.

On a big positive side, I now know where my favorite places are in that big mall, and how to get to them. Luckily, they’re all on the same floor, and most on the same hall. How convenient. (Yes, one of the stores happens to be Pizza Hut. It’s my point of reference.)

I started classes. I have two on Monday, one on Tuesday, two on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and one on Friday. So far everything looks like it’ll be interesting. At least, the assignments and material will be. I think the professors need to step it up a little in terms of enthusiasm, though.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Old People. They're Social, Too.

I realized today as I was walking around that I forgot to mention something in my other posts that I had thought to be a rather important thing. Guess food was the biggest thing in my head at the time. What I wanted to mention was my amazement at the amount of older couples I saw actually holding hands and putting their arms around each other. There are so many older people hanging around outside during the day, no matter how hot, playing with their grandkids, soaking up the sun, or just chatting with friends on a bench during lunch just like we do at Centenary. They’re so socially active, and even the ones in wheelchairs are getting out and doing things!

People here respect their elders. They don’t seem to just toss ‘em into an old people home. Not just that, but they seem healthy and happy. They take care of themselves as well. It makes me wonder if that could ever be possible in the U.S. I suppose that if it’s ever going to happen, it’s gonna have to start with us, with our generation. Who says we have to wait for other people to get the ball rolling? Why can’t we enjoy our lives no matter the hardships? Why can’t we enjoy being old together and be just as social as we were when we were teenagers? The only thing preventing us from doing so is our own self-pity and the stigmatism of the older generation.

One of the things that seems to make this possible is the fact that most people are forced to be next to each other. Many people don’t have cars and only ride the buses or walk. There are also many small parks and bench areas with shade and cover near local shopping areas. They’re clean and well-kept, and everyone can enjoy sitting with their friends and talking about old time or the prospects of a brighter future for themselves as well as for others. Seeing the couples holding hands, and the older women chatting, laughing, and just plain smiling . . . it made me happy. I wish I could see more of that at home. But we are separated. Everyone’s kept to their own space.

Speaking of space, it’s almost as if people here don’t have it. It’s not unusual to bump into someone. It’s not strange to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in lines or sit next to someone you don’t know at all on the bus. They’ll be right up behind you talkin’ up a storm with their buddies back there, and you wonder if they’re touching you and you just don’t feel it, because their voices are so close. I got used to it pretty quickly, but I think that’s just because I’m generally not a “Oh my gosh get away from me” type of person. I wonder just how old some of these people are. It would be awesome to find out. To find out how they view things, what their ideas are. If I could speak Cantonese, I probably would have already tried asking them something.