Monday, April 26, 2010

My kind of hike

I haven't been posting much lately because my awesome mom and dad were in town for a visit, which means that it was a week-long marathon of eating and drinking. Hong Kong is still struggling to replenish its beer supply, which I'm pretty sure we depleted by about 40%.

Now, I wanted mom and dad to see the sights, but we couldn't interrupt the feasting - what to do? No problem - we went for a hike on Lamma Island. This "hike" is essentially an hour-and-a-half strolling banquet from the village of Sok Kwu Wan to the village of Yung Shue Wan, which is interrupted only briefly by a walk up a mountain.

Here's how it goes. You take the ferry over to Lamma (pack a couple of beers for the ferry ride. And yes, it's okay to drink beer at 10am - how else are you going to get over your hangover from last night?). Stroll through Sok Kwu Wan, pausing to buy a few more beers and some grilled squid dipped in hot sauce:

(We also had grilled pork, but that got wolfed before I could take a photo).

Stroll a bit more, buy another couple of beers, start thinking about how much you love hiking and how you should do this every weekend - you know, to stay in shape - have another beer or so, etc. etc.

Then comes the mountain. Now, this isn't a big mountain, but you're somewhere in that grey area between last night's hangover and today's drunk, and it's really humid, and the incline seems really steep, but you don't have a choice so you climb. And climb. It seems to go on forever (about 10 minutes), but when you get to the top you've got a great view of Yung Shue Wan and all of the beer and seafood that's waiting for you there.

You descend into the village, passing the so-called "kamikaze caves" where the Japanese stored ammunition during the occupation. You also pass several monstrous banyan trees strangling other trees ("Nature red in tooth and leaf", as my dad so aptly put it):

(My parents quickly learned that when in China it's mandatory to flash the peace sign any time you pose for a photo).

And you pass a beautiful temple, but I couldn't take any pictures because:

Finally you're in the village, and it's time for seafood and more beer. We started with sweet and sour seafood soup:

then on to deep-fried garoupa (here's the before and after):

garlic prawns:

and clams in black bean sauce.

Then it's time to waddle to the ferry and pass out on the way home. It feels so good to get exercise, doesn't it?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pop culture goulash

Once upon a time in Hong Kong there was a toothpaste called "Darkie." The logo was a very vaudeville-looking African-American man in a top hat and bow tie. In the 1980s someone finally realized this might be offensive, so the name was changed to "Darlie." The toothpaste (which tastes like crap) is still sold today:

A couple of days ago at a street market I stumbled upon this purse, which is shaped like a Darkie/Darlie toothpaste tube:

So here's the question: does someone at some factory in China have a surprisingly nuanced sense of irony, or did they just sub one African-American face for another?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Could this be the next Farmville?

During the Qingming Festival, families gather at their ancestors' graves to pay their respects by lighting incense, holding memorials, and burning paper goods in order to deliver them to their dearly departed in the afterworld (Paper money? That might come in handy. Paper clothes? Of course! Paper Big Mac? Okay. Paper Viagra? Just what the hell is going on on the other side?).

But if you're out of town there's no need to worry - you can now perform all of these activities online at a virtual grave located in a virtual cemetery. Services offered are virtual offerings of flowers, candles, incense and fruit. No word yet on whether you can plant and harvest crops, become a mafia don, or raise adorable tropical fish.

And do you really want to get to the next level? (Well, maybe if they have Big Macs and Viagra...)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More on my flawless Cantonese

Okay, look - whoever makes up these languages needs to stop making similar-sounding words mean opposing things. It's just not fair to new language learners. I'll never forget when, while living in Uganda, I learned I'd been asking for shit (amazi) instead of water (amaazi) for three months.

And here's what happened this morning: in my building's lobby, there was a cute little girl dressed up in a fairy princess costume.

Me: Ho genga!
(mother looks horrified.)
Me: *runs away*

Yes, I told the little girl "how scary" instead of "how pretty."

To all my American readers, please rest assured that I'm representing us well over here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hey there other white person - you suck!

The best thing about learning a new language is feeling those new neural networks forming, allowing you to hear new tones, new sounds, allowing you to see the world in a new way, beauty in things you would have overlooked before, seeing the culture HAHAHAHAHHAHA!* Ohmygod, sorry - I can't go on.

*catches breath, wipes tears from eyes*

Actually, everyone knows that the best part of learning a new language is speaking it in front of other white people who don't know it. Today I was at the pharmacy to pick up a medicine, and while the white lady next to me was trying to pantomime "nasal spray" I had this conversation with the pharmacist:

Me: Good morning.
Him: Hello.
Me: Do you have this one? (pointing at empty box I need a refill on.)
Him: Yes. How many do you want?
Me: One box.
(He goes in the back to get it.)
Me: How much does it cost?
Him: $120.
(I give him the money, and he starts to put the medicine in a bag for me.)
Me: I don't need a bag, thanks.
Him: Bye bye!
Me: Bye bye!

Of course, everything I said was in Cantonese and he would only answer me in English, but it was still excellent. When I left the lady next to me was still acting out shoving something up her nose.

*Cantonese is a really cool language, and I love it for many reasons. But showing off is the primary one. Does that make me shallow?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Sevens. And Jesus.

Last weekend was the Sevens - a two-day rugby tournament held each year in Hong Kong. This is one of the biggest social events of the year, and is characterized by thousands of white people who dress in costumes which are inevitably too hot, drink gallons of beer, and end up somewhere along the drunk-stupefied-insensate-comatose continuum. I'm sure many things are lost at this event - wallets, cell phones, lunches, dignity - but I especially like this notice that appeared in the newspaper yesterday:

Somewhere in Hong Kong, probably behind a rubbish bin or in a back alley, is a hungover white guy wearing a monkey head. God, I hope I find him first.

And to my Christian friends - happy Good Friday, which in Cantonese translates as the "Jesus Experiences Difficulties Festival." The Chinese are masters of the understatement.