29 September 2006

1 Month in Hong Kong

Monday August 28th, 2006. This was the day I left Winnipeg to come to Hong Kong. It all started with a flight to Chicago, which was actually in the opposite direction of where I was going. This was possibly the worst part of the trip, with a very cramped plane, and not so friendly flight crew. In any case, it was a short flight. Next up, my flight to LAX. I'd have to say this flight was much better, even though it was almost twice as long. Can't say I'll ever feel a strong urge to fly with United again, but I've done worse. From LAX, I finally hopped aboard my flight to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. This proved to be the best part of the trip, despite being an almost 15 hour flight. The section I was in was mostly young adults, no babies or children, and it was more than half empty. I had seats to myself, which left plenty of room for sleeping. We had dinner at 1am, strange, and then it was another 6 or 7 hours for breakfast. Who lives on this schedule? Anyway, it was actually decent food, and the onboard entertainment was quite nice. I didn't even read the magazine I had purchased. Each seat is equipped with its own tv, of which you have full control over. Anything from TV stations, to 10 movies at a time to choose from. Also there were a few music channels. The thing that made me laugh the most though, was Battleship! That's right, you could play battleship, and other games, live on your tv, against other passengers! hahahaha, whoever thought of this is brilliant. I beat the computer twice, it was a pretty lame challenge really. So for the most part, the long terrible prospect of a 24 hour journey was really not so bad. And now I have been in the craziest city I've ever been for 1 month!

Still quite groggy from the trip, my first empressions of the city were a little tame because I really just wanted to shower and sleep. The following few days of being here were when I really got an empression of the city. It's HUGE! for one thing, and there are more neon lights here than probably 5 Las Vegas cities put together. Every night there is an amazing light show 'downtown' (everything looks like downtown here though, but I mean Central) Also there is an amazing assortment of malls, all of which are rediculously huge compared to Canada. The funny thing is they all go up! Like 10 floors of consumer raging goodness!

I had been to 3 job interviews altogether, and I ended up getting and taking the first one, even though I had thought at first they didn't like me. I teach in 3-4 different schools a week, so I get to see a lot of the "country side" of Hong Kong. It is the same schools throughout the year so once I get used to the bus system a little more, I should be able to get to each school in less than an hour I hope.

Also I have already joined and played 2 games with the Hong Kong Typhoons Rugby Club. They are loads of fun, and after every game or practice there is the chance to go to the pub where the first 2 beers are 'on the club' which really means it's our sponsors money. Well spent! With any luck we'll actually be competitive to some extent, we're in the third devision, but mainly it's just a lot of fun. No rough play other than the usual required for rugby.

So that is a brief summary of how I've come to be here, and how I've been getting along the first month of being lost. I still stick out anywhere I go, but I'm getting used to it. Moving in with Mai had also gotten alot easier as we have become a little more used to living with each other. The cat still doesn't like me too much, but she hasnt bit me lately, so that's a plus. In conclusion to my first month, here are a few things I have done and learned and small things that some people might find funny!

1. 50 storey buildings now seem average to me, and kinda small actually
2. Typhoons of signal 3 strength are like a nice thunderstorm.
3. McDonald's internationally is just as bad as back home
4. Hockey puck sized cakes are too much money
5. Buses are worth the price, I even witnessed a fight the other day! With police and everything!
6. It doesn't smell as bad as I had thought it might
7. I'm really really tall
8. AC is simply amazing
9. Honglish is not English
10. I miss Canada!
11. But I love Hong Kong too.

25 September 2006

Baby's first mooncake!

Today I got my first mooncake! I haven't eaten it yet, but I'm mostly excited about it's figurative importance. There is a big autumn/fall festival in Hong Kong, and it starts at the end of the month. There is a lantern festival and some cool dragon parade and many other small events.

The big deal concerning a 'mooncake' is because this is what people eat here during the festival time. It's kind of like a festive desert, almost like pumpkin pie in Canada I guess, but it's not as big, and the ingredients vary a lot. The traditional ones have duck eggs inside them with a paste of somesort. Not sure what it tastes like, but I will let you know!

In other news, I've allowed comments from any user on this blog, but spam will be deleted.

Valley 15's Tournament Results

I'm still alive, that's the most important detail from Saturday's rugby games. It was kind of a weird tournament set-up, but it was easy going which made for less stress on the body. Being 15's, there was 15 aside on the pitch, which made it difficult for us because we didn't quite have 15 players. A few guys on the team managed to steal some players from other teams/devisions, so it was all good. The tournament wasn't too serious, so swapping players didn't matter much. Each game was a straight 15 minute game, no half or anything. 15 minutes goes by very quick, there wasnt much chance to score, but we managed a few tries.

The first game ended with us losing 7-5 mainly because we missed our conversion kick, and the other team got a lucky offside call to win their try. We dominated the physical part of the game for the most part, with some nice aggressive tackles and mauling. Mauling basically means pushing/blocking to advance your group.

The 2nd game we won 7-5 on a great last second play which allowed us to score and convert our kick. All was for not though, as we didn't make it to the final based on our first loss. Not much of a big deal really, not much to play for, and it was too hot and we were all dead anyway. The team that won our division was actually the team we beat, but they made the finals on a basis of points scored in their other game.

All in all I'd have to say my first competitive action in awhile was a success. I touched the ball only once, but made a few nice tackles and have some awesome bruises to show for it.

20 September 2006

Phoons Rugby

Despite the fact I haven't played any type of organized sport in 5 years, I decided it was time to get back at it and join a local rugby club. I have been wanting to play rugby the past few years, but I've never had the time. The opportunity of being in Hong Kong means I have a few club teams to chose from. I decided to play for the Causeway Bay Typhoons, mostly because they are closest, but also they seem like the most fun.

I had my first practice tonight, and it didnt go as bad as I thought it could have. I'm really out of shape, but I managed to keep up for the most part. The season doesn't start till October, so I have a few weeks to get into game shape. We have a 15's tourney on Saturday that I should get to play in. I'm excited, ever since I stopped playing football in Winnipeg I've always missed sports.

The nice thing about this club is that they have a pretty stable sponsor and HK rugby in general is supported very well as there is a lot of support because of things like the Hong Kong Sevens tourney. For anyone who doesn't know, this is a rugby tourney where only 7 aside play and has gained lots of international support.

Anyway, the first practice was good, and afterwards we went to the sponsor pub, where the first 3 pints were free from the club. Very nice. Also it's the first place I've been able to get proper nachos since leaving Canada, so that was awesome. All in all I'd say it was a very positive impression of the Phoons. I've linked the site to the team page on the right hand side of the blog.

As the season goes I will update of course, but I'm happy to be on a team again and it makes living in a foreign country much much easier.

18 September 2006

Don't tell my mom

Only 2 weeks in Hong Kong and I've already had my first Typhoon and my first earthquake! As exciting or scary as it sounds, the Typhoon was only a T3 Storm (meaning small) and comparable to a mild Winnipeg thunderstorm with waves. Also this UWE (Unidentified Woosie Earthquake) was 36km from HK, 3.5 on the R scale, and I felt absolutely nothing, not even a little wiggle. I have not even heard anyone talk about it or seen anything on the news.We found out because my girlfriend's mom saw it on the news in Beijing. As it turns out, HK has had very few quakes ever, and none that have cause major damage to my knowledge.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 19:15 IST

HONG KONG: An earthquake rattled Hong Kong on Thursday causing skyscrapers to shake and sending people running into the streets in rural areas, officials and witnesses said.

The Hong Kong Observatory said the quake, measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, struck in the sea around 36 kilometres off the coast of Hong Kong, which sits on the coast of southern China.

Police said there were no initial reports of injuries or casualties, but local radio stations were inundated with telephone calls and e-mails.

Hong Kong is one of the world's major financial centres and has some of the tallest buildings in the world. The city is closely packed with high-rise buildings.

English teacher Kate Hodgson said residents of the village of Shek O on Hong Kong island ran into the streets after the tremor struck.

"I was lying on my bed reading a book when out of nowhere the walls and furniture started to shake. The whole house moved," she said.

"I didn't know what it was because I had never felt anything like it before," said Hodgson, who picked up her nine-month-old baby Mathilda and left her house.

She said the streets of the village were full of people wondering what had happened.

Martine Montagne, 46, who has lived in Hong Kong for 11 years, said her building in the Tai Tam district shook for around three seconds.

"I've lived in earthquake zones before but I have never experienced anything like this in Hong Kong," she said.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory website, just six tremors measuring over 5.0 on the Richter Scale have hit the territory since 1874.

17 September 2006

On the Menu

Probably one of the hardest things to get used to in Hong Kong is the vast array of food choices there are. I've already notice a huge difference in terms of cost depending on where you go to eat. Here is a list of food I really like and some things I've learned.

Good Food (Prices in HKD)

1. Chinese waffles on the street, numerous locations, $10
2. McD's Icecream, only cause it's super cheap, $3-5
3. Soy based juice, very tastey, and not too sweet
4. Popcorn* tentative, but i've heard it's yummy at the theatre
5. Street food / Local restaurants = CHEAP!
6. Chain American Restaurants = make you feel at home, but pricey
7. Beer from the grocery = much much much cheaper
8. Inn Side Out - Nacos are awesome ($65), under palms in Causeway Bay HK Island, sponsor of the rugby team

Bad Food

1. McD's grilled chicken, there is nothing "grilled" about this, it's just gross
2. Pickled anything, uugugugggggg
3. Sugar cane juice, not my type of juice, and way too sweet
4. Fermented bean curd, I didnt even taste this one to know I would puke

Misc. Food tips

1. Location - Food in malls is expensive, but easy to order in food courts. They tend to be all in English and the tellers speak very good English usually. However it cost at least $50 for anything decent.

If you want really good dinner for pennies practically, go to a less touristy area and into a local restaurant. We had a huge plate of food each, a tonne of choices on the menu, and a full meal was I think $24. The downside is, it's all in Cantonese, and the waiter/waitress don't speak any English, so it's kind of risky.

2. I've been told eating street food isn't a good thing upon first arrival, but I did it anyway, and it's really good and cheap! I guess the safe thing is to make sure it fresh and cooked. Stay away from the 7/11 Slurpees if they even have any. According to my girlfriend they made a bunch of people sick a few years ago because they never clean the machine.

3. Water is cheap/plentiful at the grocery stores. Bottle of water at a restaurant = $36. 6L/bottles mineral water at the grocery store = $36. Easy to figure out which is best.

12 September 2006

New Furniture

After sleeping on a cot for a week, I decided to get myself a new bed. Thanks to IKEA, I now have a super duper cheap bed, that should hopefully last me at least another week. I've had IKEA beds before, but this one is by far the cheapest. It's fairly solid, but the matress leaves much to be desired.

If you are looking for cheap semi-reliable furniture, go to IKEA, it's very easy, and if you're familiar with the store, it will be a painless ordeal. Delivery is very cheap, about 1/5 of what it costs in Canada. In Hong Kong not many people have cars, so delivery is much more common. The showroom is fairly nice, and you can test out what you get before you buy it.

I checked out a few more places in Causeway Bay, but they were all super pricey. If I end up getting a nice English Teaching job, perhaps a better bed may be in my future, but not for now.

Welcome to Hong Kong!

09 September 2006

Say hello to Mr Bob Harris!

Well I'm finally here. That's right! I'm Lost in Translation. In Hong Kong. The big HK. I only have dial-up for now, but I will be regularly posting here as an extension from my photo blog...... . . . . .

01 September 2006

Hong Kong Tips

I have only been here a short while, but have already learnt a great bit which has enabled me to adapty fairly quick. This post will be updated as new things are found out and explored. For a quick briefing, I am 6 feet tall, white, and speak no cantonese at all. So needless to say I stick out a bit in public, but not all the time (there are many brits in certain areas) Also I am living with my girlfriend, who has lived in Hong Kong since she was 7, we met in college. She also does not speak Cantonese, so going out together proves not much easier in terms of communicating. So here's my first impressions on the main areas, and generally getting to know Hong Kong.

1 - I'm Big! I wouldn't have thought being 6 feet to be crazy tall being from North America, but here I feel like a giant sometimes. Particularly in buses or trams. Double decker buses are hard to manage on the top floor, especially if you have bags with you. My advice, stay on the main floor seating area, but you might have to give up your seat to an elderly person.

2 - Sit on top! I know I just said stay off the top floor if you are tall, but it is the best way to see the city. From the top of a double decker, sit in front, and you will feel like you are on an amusement park ride, the fee is well worth it, especially if taking the East route to Stanley market, we almost had a head on collision with another bus, aparantly this is normal on this road.

3 - Take buses/trams to save money. Generally this is the best way to travel if you have time to spare. The fares are quite low, usually less than $1 CDN, and the buses are all AC! Trams however are not, but they are really cheap. Personally I would avoid trams because I am too tall to stand up on them, and you will probably need to stand at times, guaranteed during rush hour. If you want to get from one end of HK island to the other quick, take the MTR/Subway, it's very clean, and very fast, also AC. If you want to go anywhere else in HK you must take a ferry or the MTR or an expensive cab ride.

4 - ONE camera at a time. If you plan on bringing a camera(s), only use one at a time! Do not attempt to have 2 cameras out at once, or one will most likely be stolen, broken, or dropped. It is just too busy to be carrying around any more than what you can hold in your hand. I would not bring a tripod unless it is at night. Also bring a Polarizing filter!

5 - Shoes! Well the first thing I bought here was a pair of shoes, and I have to say the experience was awesome! Go to Mong Kok! Go there for anything! There is one street in particular that has at least 50 shoe store within 3 blocks. And they are all legit stores. No fakes. Prices will be low if you buy out of season wear, and even if they are not most pairs will be probably half what you'd pay in North America, and there is amazing variety. I think I saw at least 200 different version of converse classics. Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Puma, Reebok, and most other major brands can be found here.

6- Umbrella. I highly recommend bringing one every time you go out anywhere. I have been caught in the rain twice now, and it's not fun!

7- Carry cash. Most places take cash only unless it is a major establishment or nice restaurant. Even the 'Peak Tram' the most well known tourist site, only takes cash!

8- Learn to walk on the left side. Most NA's tend to walk to the right. Well not only do people drive on the left here, they also walk on the left. Escalators etc. are all backwards compared to NA. Also be prepared to walk into people, or be prepared to be walkin into and knocked down. Although most people inside malls etc. are friendly to everyone's own path, the streets can get ugly. If people are carrying umbrellas they don't notice what they are hitting so watch your eyes. Also if it's crowded don't wait for everyone, or you will wait forever, you don't get "waved in" here.

9- Phrase Book. As with any country it helps to know what people are saying sometimes. I picked up the Lonely Planet Cantonese phrase book, so far it's been great. Very small, simple easy to learn phrase book.