Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I'd like to buy the world a Coke, and make it chicken soup

Buy an assorted pack of Coca-Cola products and get chicken broth free!

Because Hong Kong.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What's black and white and bad all over?

So, I tried the new Black and White burgers from McDonald's.  I give my very highest recommendation to never do so yourself.

The Black: mashed potatoes, truffle sauce, two beef patties, bacon, squid ink bun

The White: mashed potatoes, pepper mushroom sauce, fried chicken patty, bacon, light bun

And both contain sadness.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Mona Lisa and puppies

Dafen Oil Painting Village is in a suburb of Shenzhen, and it's where pretty much every "artwork" you've ever seen in a hotel comes from.  Founded in the early 90s, it's populated by artists who make their living churning out paintings - replicas of classics and a few original works.  A lot of them are trained at art academies and are highly-skilled, and it's the place to go for all of your high midbrow needs.


Artists work in studios the size of closets -

Or on the street -

Works display various skill levels.

Steve Jobs taking his rightful place in the Chinese canon -

Bring a photo and have portraits done!

Some of the gallery owners are quite young -

Pick a pop culture icon - ANY pop culture icon! 

The art form has evolved - this place leveled up and was selling paintings with built-in aquariums.

And miscellaneous other photos from the village -

And finally, a naked Bruce Lee about to have his way with... something.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Being "nervous" in Hong Kong

While dealing with the cat situation the other day I ran across a word I've heard several times in several different situations in Hong Kong - "nervous".  

When dropping Hoggie at the vet she went berserk and raced around the office leaving a trail of destruction in her wake.  The vet tech said she was just nervous.

Calling yesterday to see how she's recovering, the vet said she's doing well but a bit nervous.

The other times I've heard this word were last year when in the hospital, sobbing after a miscarriage (the nurse told me "Don't be so nervous") and more recently being admitted to the hospital for a broken bone and being irritated I had to stay overnight (again, "Don't be nervous").

What's the meaning of the word "nervous" in Cantonese and what's the word it's being translated from?  In English, you're nervous before a job interview or a first date.  It indicates a lesser level of upset - something akin to being jumpy, easily startled, or worried.  The level of distress indicated when native Cantonese speakers use "nervous" seems to widely vary from "slightly agitated" to "panicked" to "inconsolable".

Any native speakers care to weigh in on this?

EDIT:  Got some interesting feedback when I posted this on another message board.  See below for comments - 

Native speaker here 緊張: nervous, anxiety, fast-paced
It actually does mean a lot. A few examples (colliqual):
我好緊張 (Ngo Ho Gan Jeung) - "I am very nervous" also can mean different things if you say:
我緊張你多過自己 (Ngo Gan Jeung Ni Doh Gwo Ji Gei) - "I care more about you than myself" so it could mean you really care about some one (expression of love) as well.
劇情好緊張 (Kek Ching Ho Gan Jeung) - The drama is very fast-paced, exciting, edge of the seat feeling
唔好緊張 (Ng Ho Gan Jeung) - Nurses would say that, as in "Don't feel anxious" and relax your muscles, usually. Sometimes its 唔洗緊張 (Ng Sai Gan Jeung) in a way it means don't be over-anxious on the issue, just relax it will be fine sort-of statement.

Another responder commented this:

I'm not a native Canto speaker but I do speak Canto with my folks when I'm home so my insight may be incorrect. From my comprehension and from the way I usually use "nervous" or "gan zeong", I usually use it in situations that cause stress, worry, or fear. But yeah, it's a much more comprehensive term than it's English counterpart. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Just another day in the village

I've previously posted about our favorite village cat, Hoggie.

A few days ago I noticed that Hoggie had a nasty gash behind her front leg.  It looked infected and swollen and generally awful, so I sought the advice of Crazy Cat Guy.

Crazy Cat Guy lives a few houses over in our village and can often be seen feeding cats, talking to cats, carrying a wailing box of cat to who-knows-where with a pack of cats on his heels, so I figured he'd know what to do.

He gave me some ointment to put on the wound but it didn't seem to get better so I borrowed a cat carrier and headed to the vet this morning with a howling Hoggie in tow.

Limping the eight blocks to the vet, sweating and swearing profusely in the rain, with a screaming cat and a foot brace that decides to break halfway through the journey and is now flapping around, I get lots of looks.  Most full of pity.  Some amused.  All punchable.

I arrive and they recognize Hoggie because Crazy Cat Guy has brought her in before.  It turns out her "real name" is Astoria.  Oh, that's nice.
Hoggie/Astoria FREAKING OUT and waiting to be seen by the vet.

The vet calls me in and opens Hoggie's carrier to examine the cut and Hoggie emerges like a cat out of hell.  She jumps from the table screaming bloody murder, then up the wall - taking down the cordless phone and the miniblinds - then circles the room bellowing until presented with her carrier.  She bolts in, leaving a trail of destruction and a terrified vet in her wake, and cowers in the corner.  Okay.

The vet tells me that Hoggie will need to be sedated to get stitches because she's "wild".  I try to explain that she's really very sweet, but the vet is hearing nothing of it.

After filling out endless forms stating that I'm financially responsible, that I understand the risks of sedation, etc., a vet tech comes to take Hoggie away, and recognizes her -  

Vet tech:  Oh!  Astoria is sweet kitty!  Love!

Vet:  *confused look*

I'm supposed to go pick her up in a few hours but she'll need to wear the cone of shame for at least a week.  How do I manage this?

UPDATE:  Hoggie is still at the vet, as the wound was deeper than initially thought.  She'll be home in a few days and due to cooperative effort between Crazy Cat Guy, Nicey Girl (another neighbor), and me, she will be taken care of.  Village power activate!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Speaking Canto even when you can't(o)

Look, my grasp on the Cantonese language is weak at best.  But I always try to speak it in the hopes that jumping in and allowing myself to look like a confused fool will help me pick it up faster.  

Before the broken toe I would take a walk every day around Sai Kung town.  I got to know a lot of the shopkeepers and regulars along my pathway and I would always try to greet them and have small talk in Canto.  Today this paid off.

Sick and tired of being cooped up inside with the broken toe, I figured I could hobble down to 7-11 for a South China Morning Post and a malted soy milk.  Halfway there I passed a small shop owned by an old guy that I always say good morning to, and he stopped me and asked what was wrong with my foot.  Lacking the Canto to explain, I simply pointed at it and said "Li go hai msufuk", which means (I think) "This one is sick."  He promptly brought out a stool, sat me down, brought out his daughter to ask what I was going to get, and sent her off to buy my paper and soy milk.  This is why it's worth it to try out your language skills.

Foolish gweilos speaking bad Canto for the win!

PS - want to improve your Canto?  Try Happy Jellyfish People's Democratic Language Bureau.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The toe saga

One of my first boyfriends once commented on my "natural grace" and said he loved to see me walk across a room.  When I told my now-husband about this he laughed so hard I thought he was going to stroke out.  Somewhere between 16 and 40 I grew out of that grace in a big way.

Case in point: Thursday morning I was walking across my living room and fell.  Let's just think about that - I was walking across my living room and I fell.  All of the times I've been tipsy in Central, walking in heels on steep cobblestone streets, hiking across mountains and slippery rocks on beaches, and I hit the ground hard in my own home.

I got my feet tangled in the cord to my laptop, spazzed out, and went down.  The husband was awoken to a strangled "GARRRGHHH" closely followed by a crash.  He came out of the bedroom to find me crumpled up on the floor crying, casually stepped over me, and made a bowl of cereal.  I continued to weep.  (To be fair, he often finds me crying in a heap on the floor - see above regarding the loss of my natural grace.)  After he'd finished his cereal, put his dish in the sink and run water in it (it only took me ten years to train him to do that), he came over, hoisted me up by the armpits, and dragged me to a chair.

I spent the rest of the day watching my toe swell bigger and bigger, elevating and icing it, and popping panadol every few hours. I insisted it was broken while the husband insisted that I would be in much more pain if it was broken and said I was exaggerating. Oh, but I was not.

I hobbled to a local doctor the next day to get a referral to the hospital for x-rays.  And this is where it gets weird.

At the hospital they x-ray my foot and find that it's fractured in several places and the cartilage in the joint is shredded.  On the x-ray the proximal end of my distal metatarsal (I think... it's been a while since my physical anthro class) looks like cookie crumbs.  The doctor looks it over and says I'll be admitted to the hospital and an orthopedic surgeon will take a look at it.  Okay that's fi- WHAT?  "Admitted?"  Wait - does that mean I'm going to stay overnight?  For a toe?  Apparently so, because the orthopedist can't see me until the next day.  I ask to go home and return tomorrow - nope, the place that rents crutches is already closed.  (This is a hospital - they can't access crutches?)  What if my husband goes and buys me crutches - can I go home then?  Nope.  Sigh.

I'm then wheeled up to a bed in a ward with five other women and made to put on hospital-issue flannel pajamas.  

These are supposed to be full-length pants.

About an hour later two nurses appear to give me the intake questionnaire - two of them stand at the end of my bed and after I answer each question they look at each other and giggle wildly:

Nurses:  Drink alcohol?
Me:  Yes.
Nurses:  Bowel today?
Me:  Sigh  Yes.
Nurses:  Today?
Me:  YES.

After my intake I get up to use the toilet and the nurses FREAK OUT.  To complete my utter humiliation, any time I need to use the toilet a nurse must transfer me to a wheelchair with a toilet seat instead of a regular seat, wheel me to the restroom, and park it over the toilet, where I am (thankfully) allowed to pee in peace but must then ring a bell for another nurse to come fetch me.  I immediately cease all liquid consumption.

So, in a stifling hot ward in flannel pajamas, I settle in for the evening with my ward-mates.

The woman to the left of me slept the entire time I was there.  She woke up only to eat, belch, and then roll over and go back to sleep.

The woman to the right of me spent all of her time talking on her cell phone and applying makeup.  I never saw her have any visitors, so I suppose she was just applying makeup for the nurses.

The woman to my far right had her arm in a homemade sling, which was then encased in the foam that's used for padding in boxes of new appliances.  Like, a big square foam thing that she (or the hospital) had cut a hole in for her arm.  It looked like she had a well-packaged new blender stuck to her torso.

The woman kitty-corner to me would have random sneezing fits during which she also passed gas uncontrollably.  I was glad she was across the room.

And the woman directly across from me was hooked up to some monitor that showed two lines.  One monitored her heartbeat and I'm not sure what the other monitored, but every ten minutes or so it would flatline and flash red while an alarm would WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP for several minutes before a nurse would shuffle in, turn the alarm off without looking at the patient, and shuffle back out.  This went on all. night. long. 

Everything is fine - WHOOPING and farting and snoring and me staring wide-eyed and sleepless at the ceiling tiles  - until around 4 am when the pain sets in.  Some of the worst pain I've ever felt.  It feels like someone is jamming the underside of my toenail with an icepick (I later learn that the swelling is causing bone fragments to move around and stab me).  I repeatedly press the nurse call button begging for something - anything.  I'm sweating and squirming and they finally concede to an ibuprofen.  One ibuprofen.  ONE. After much more begging they give me an ice pack.  And after an hour of multiple call button pressings and uncontrollable sobbing, they finally have a nurse hold me down while another says "calm down" and jabs a syringe full of tramadol in my arm.  Thank god.  I manage two hours of sleep after that.

After a hearty breakfast of congee and bread the next morning -

Full of flavor!  (And the bones of last night's chicken.)

- I lie around for hours waiting for the doctor to see me.  I've been told I may require surgery, but the orthopedist needs to carefully examine my foot to see what the best course of action will be.  Around noon a young guy in jeans and a white coat strides up to my bed, flips through my chart for a couple of seconds, and says "okay - you splint. Monday cast."  WTF.  

I'm so freaking exhausted and done with this shit by now that I throw an absolute fit and refuse to stay, so I'm granted "weekend leave."  This means I get to go home if I agree to return on Monday morning.   The husband buys me some crutches and I hobble off.

Monday morning rolls around and I'm seriously toying with the idea of skipping out altogether but I'm worried they'll issue some sort of bench warrant so I show up at Orthopedics only to be directed back to my bed.  They've saved my bed for me.  Still unmade with my dirty flannel pajamas wadded in a ball on top.  It's apparently beyond comprehension that I should simply sit in a waiting room until it's time to get my cast - nope, I must lie in the same room with the same women, listening to the WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP, the sneeze-farting, and the blaring Cantonese soap operas.  I initially refuse to don the pajamas but the nurse looks horrified and returns with a supervisor who says I must.  I retaliate by demanding a pitcher of cold water rather than the hot water they bring to everyone.  FIGHT THE POWER.

I refuse breakfast.

Around ten I'm wheeled down to get my cast.  A young woman takes a mold of my foot, disappears into another room and returns an hour later saying, "One moment - I injure myself" and holds up a bloody bandaged finger.  She's somehow mangled her finger while making my cast.  Dammit - NOTHING is easy here.  (Note: "one moment" can mean anything from five minutes to five hours - that's the takeaway lesson from this whole ordeal.)  An hour or so later I'm fitted with my new cast and wheeled back upstairs to my bed.

Where I wait.  And wait.  Lunchtime comes and goes, and I continue waiting.

This was disgusting, but I was starving.  Don't judge me.

Finally, I ask someone - I've got my cast and my crutches so what exactly am I waiting for?  Oh, I'm waiting for "physical therapy" - that makes sense.

A few more hours pass.  Finally a young guy shows up with a gaggle of nurses and wheels me to the stairwell.  The "physical therapy" consists of him demonstrating how to go up and down stairs with crutches, then having me do it while one nurse walks in front of me backwards, one walks beside me, and one walks behind me holding the waistband of my pants.  I'm not quite sure what the plan is because I'm pretty sure I outweigh the three of them put together and if I were to fall I'd take them all out easily.  This "therapy" lasts all of five minutes and I'm finally allowed to leave.  I've been at the hospital for eight hours for a total of one hour of medical attention.

The husband comes to pick me up and we head out.  Three days of hospital care for a total of two hours of medical attention and at a cost of approximately $50 USD.

First stop after leaving hospital.

And thus the saga ends as every saga should - with beer, my loyal Argos.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

So orange!

Those are lovely oranges!  Except they're not.  Sun-dried duck egg yolks on Sai Kung promenade.  

I have not tried one yet.  I do not know what they're used for.   I am useless.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Leaving Hong Kong

Sad, but true - in around three months we'll be leaving Hong Kong and headed back to America.  These four years have flown by and I wish I could stay another four, but opportunities knock at inconvenient moments and it's time to begin a new adventure.

But I'm happy to say that I've done a lot with those four years.  I've seen lion dances, bartered for counterfeit goods, eaten durian (and pork throat!), traveled the mainland, holidayed in Bangkok, ridden a camel in the Gobi Desert, wandered around Kazakhstan, learned a bit of Canto, sailed a racing yacht around Victoria Harbour, hiked and swam and walked and danced and sweated and eaten and played cards and gotten drunk and made awesome friends.  I plan to do much more in the next three months.  So thank you, Hong Kong.

This isn't the end of this blog.  It won't end until we step on that plane for our last 15-hour flight home.  Our last substandard meal, malfunctioning in-flight entertainment, and handfuls of tiny wine bottles.  And who knows - perhaps I'll continue by examining the oddities of the American South (just what are chitterlings, anyway?).  

So many more posts are coming in the next few months - I'm sure the intricacies of moving a household halfway across the world will present a whole new set of challenges and disasters.  Thanks everyone for reading so far.

For now, I sign off with this - Thousand Island Baked Potato flavor chips.  With a hamburger on the bag.  Of course.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Grumpy cat (Hong Kong version)

At the candy shop when I heard a crunch crunch crunch and looked over to see this guy walking across the snack bins.

He then took a bath and fell asleep on the dried mangoes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oh China

From fake eggs to fake Apple stores - is there anything China can't simulate to save a few pennies?

Behold, fake walnuts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snakes are scary

Although Chinese New Year is officially over, Hong Kong is still celebrating the Year of the Snake.  In Sai Kung it's a tradition to build a bamboo opera house a few days after CNY for a week-long performance of traditional Chinese opera.  Here's the structure being built in front of the local temple:

And here is one of the snakes that will adorn it:


Monday, February 18, 2013

Yellow fever

If you've somehow managed to miss it, here is a link to an English translation of a widely-read blog post from a Chinese message board regarding why Chinese women shouldn't be "duped" by laowai (white men).  

Choice quotes:

- "Laowai in China are all misers."  (Regarding how white men want to sleep with women without buying them things)

- "When it comes to laowai in China, after they marry you, there is a 95% probability that they will have extramarital affairs."  (Comparing them to Chinese men, who will take a mistress but not divorce you for her)

- "You must be able to satisfy their various sexual peculiarities." (Apparently this includes oral sex and woman on top)

- "In China, only homosexuals pay attention to things like women's clothing brands." (White men want you to dress in designer clothes, while [straight] Chinese men don't care)

This is part three of three, but my favorite thus far.  It's all worth a read.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kung Hei Fat Choi

This year I finally broke down and bought a mandarin tree for Chinese New Year.  The word for "mandarin" sounds like the word for "luck"and orange is considered a propitious color because it symbolizes wealth.   But they taste like crap.