Monday, January 31, 2011

Hoppy New Year -- Long Live the Rabbit!

I'm a rabbit and it's the Year of the Rabbit so I'm expecting BIG THINGS in 2011.  (Do you hear me, God/gods/powers-that-be??)  Since most of you don't celebrate the lunar new year, I thought you'd like to know what's in store for 2011.  I "borrowed" this from another site:

The year of the Rabbit is traditionally associated with home and family, artistic pursuits, diplomacy, and keeping the peace. Therefore, 2011 is very likely to be a relatively calmer one than 2010 both on the world scene, as well as on a personal level.

Conversely, nations will also become more insular and increasingly lock down their borders to protect against the "other". However, 2011 will also see new art movements projecting a distinct national identity taking the world by storm. Shrewd and creative new business partnerships will also form to the benefit of all.

Rabbits who thrive on delicate business dealings are best suited to navigating the year ahead. Those compatible with the Rabbit — the Sheep,Dog and Pig in particular — will also find 2011's circumstances inspiring them to greater personal happiness and professional success.

Others will suffer, by degree, depending on how flexible they are to the world mood. Those who have cultivated careful negotiation skills (or, perhaps more importantly, can sniff-out and swiftly dodge dangerous situations!), may attain similar good luck enjoyed by rabbits and those compatible with them in 2011.

Bunny-licious display at Chater House (mall)
Now here's where I have a big issue with Chinese astrology - I know maaaany people born in the Year of the Rabbit and we all don't fall into this category.  Regardless, here's what us Rabbits are supposedly all about:

Characteristics of The Rabbit
The three words that best describe the rabbit? Calm and gentle, but persistent.

Quietly charismatic, thoughtful and calm, rabbits are admired for their tactful and considerate dealings with all who know them. As such, they are most often depended upon for their wise counsel, or as someone in which to put valued trust in a personal friendship or a business dealing.

One of the most cautious signs in the Chinese zodiac, they are the chess players who take their sweet time before making a move. Yet, they are also the ones most likely to win any intricate game of strategy!

This most obvious of rabbit personality traits also spills into their romantic dealings, and rabbits will not commit to any one person right away.

Once they are settled down in a domestic relationship, however, no truer or more sweeter spouse is likely to be found.

In dealings with family and friendships, they can always be counted upon for a sympathetic ear or a gentle hand to hold.

Their highly developed natures can also be found in artistic pursuits. They have an impeccable eye for color and line that is evident in their thoughtful fashion sense. The rabbit is usually on anyone's Best Dressed list.

Despite (or because of) their outwardly calm demeanors, rabbits are extremely shrewd In business dealings and may never show their hand until just the right moment. They are also quick to bolt from any perceived danger and intuitively know when to fold - and run!

While I would classify myself as a sharp dresser, I don't think I've ever been called patient. In fact, it's usually my impatience that people comment on.  Nor have I ever been called "calm" and "gentle".  Must be the other bunnies.

We are celebrating Chinese New Year by jetting off to a beach in the Philippines -- a nation where Catholicism rules.  Makes sense, right?!  

Kung Hey Fat Choy (Happy New Year in Cantonese) to you all!  

Fook Kiu Mansion

My friend Mahhhk (he's British, so the "r" becomes an "h") recently became a fan of this here blog and donated a fabulous photo he took of a building in Hong Kong.  He thought it would fit right in and we couldn't agree more.

Can you imagine giving people directions to your home or office and having to say, "it's the Fook Kiu building"?!  Nope, neither can I!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pizza! Pizza!

Anybody remember the old Little Ceasar's commercials where the Roman cartoon guy always said, "Pizza Pizza"?  Am I dating myself here?!

I've lamented a few times on this blog about the lack of decent pizza in this town.  I won't rehash it but suffice it to say, HK has felt like the big pizza desert.

Then today the heavens opened up and the pizza gods bestowed upon us the most gorgeous, delicious gift... a fat New York slice.  For all you New Yorkers saying, "BFD" (an acronym, btw, that I first heard from my mother!!), try going a month without a slice.  Then try 2 months and then 6 months and then we'll talk.

V and I were so overwhelmed by the piping hot pies in the window that we ordered 6 slices and a calzone, with the intention of bringing half of it home. Nothing better than cold pizza over the weekend, right?!  I wish you could've seen the local's faces when the food arrived at our table.  They looked at us like we were circus freaks.  Not that we cared - you can't trust someone who eats pizza with a knife and a fork.  V says you can't trust people who don't fold their slice (he's a real New Yorker!) and I'm not sure how to take that since I don't fold mine.

Here we are enjoying a beyond-scrumptuous New York Hong Kong slice:

Update: Only two weeks after posting this, Paisano's - the place above - announced that they're opening up a place in Discovery Bay in early March!!!  I'm overjoyed and scared for my life.  Don't be surprised if I've gained 40 lbs the next time you see me!

You've seen Town & Country...

but have you read "Country and Townhouse" magazine?  I thought not.

You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

America Bashing

Usually it's subtle. Sometimes it's unintentional.  Other times it's justified (sort of).  Living in another country has exposed me to some good old-fashioned America bashing.  Let's skip the big prologue and dive right in.

Exhibit #1. My neighbor Natalie's Facebook page (her original posting is the first thing here):

Natalie: Lady to me: Do you know Americans are so dumb, they don't know where the Cook Islands are?

 After she left, I googled - Location of Cook Islands... 

This is what I call Kantoi...
16 hours ago · Like · Comment

Jeff: haha actually I think I have to go google that now. Never did bother to find out for sure. :p

Natalie: The thing is... This lady is too much la.. If you say.. Americans don't know where Brazil is.. It is dumb but I just checked.. Cook Islands.. isn't exactly you know... Big....

Jeff: Just checked.. I think it's as big as all the islands in East Coast Malaysia... LOL

Me: I love when we are all lumped in together! She sounds pretty bright herself...

Stef: apparently some Americans still don't know where Malaysia is but know about Singapore. I still have to do the whole "peninsula north of Singapore" thingy with them.. *faint

Natalie: Then educate them.. Or be the next Michelle yeoh!!!!

Nika: I can add something as well :) The Americans don't know where the Czech Republic is but they know about Prague.. so where do they think Prague is then.. :D the country isn't called Prague :D The same goes for Vienna :)

On one hand:  Natalie's original post and her comments are really funny and not offensive at all.  Her friends Stef and Nika, however, are complete idiots.  Stereotyping an entire nation of 300 million people based on one or two people is asinine.  Secondly, we may not all know where Malaysia is - I couldn't pinpoint it on a globe before I moved to Hong Kong (I knew the general vicinity), but so what?!  Most people have no reason to learn where Malaysia is; memorizing where all 196 countries are located seems pretty useless, no?  Twenty bucks says Stef and Nika can't find Deleware or Puerto Rico on a map.  

On the other hand: When the Mumbai bombings happened and I commented on it, a family member of mine said, "So what? I don't care what goes on in India."  This doesn't help our cause, people.

Exhibit #2: A Scottish couple seated at our table at a recent black tie event

These two chose the slickest approach in the book - start off light with things I can laugh about and then really dig the knife in.

Wife: "I've found that New Yorkers live in a bubble.  They don't really care or know about what goes on in the rest of the world."  

Me: "I can see that and was definitely guilty of it when I lived in New York.  In a city like New York, you just feel like you're at the heart of everything, so it's easy to slip into that mindset sometimes. They don't call it the Capital of the World for nothing!"

Husband: "Yeah, Americans are not that bright.  When we were in Boston, people kept asking us if we were from Texas.  I mean, never in my life have people thought my accent was Texan."

Me (laughing): "Wow, now that is funny.  I can't believe that happened.  A Texas accent sounds nothing like yours.  Have you ever realized, though, how similar Boston and Aussie accents are?  They pronounce certain words the exact same way."

Wife: "Americans think everything is theirs and started with them."  Then she starts rattling off all these examples of people/things that are English and NOT American.  The list was hella long, but the only example I can remember is this:  "What about Winnie the Pooh - you think it's American, don't you?  Well, it's not, it's British."

Husband: "I mean, our house in Scotland is older than America."

At this point - and because V is strangely never by my side in these situations, I had to excuse myself from the table before I screamed "Get the f*ck over it lady.  The Revolutionary War is over.  We won it and are the super power of the world.  Scotland is not. That's just how the cookie crumbled."

Exhibit #3 - A British man I met at a party
Let me preface this by saying that the only place this man had ever been in the States was Memphis!  For this, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Since there was drinking involved, I don't remember exact exchanges but it basically boiled down to how "Americans can't fit in a normal sized airplane seat."

Having had my fill of him AND the Scottish couple, I couldn't restrain myself.  So I said, "Well, that's like saying that all Brits have ugly teeth.  I know plenty of British people who have lovely teeth, but you also see quite a few whose teeth are black, missing or too far gone for a visit to the orthodontist."  He was completely taken aback and I believe truly had no idea that this was a stereotype of Brits.  This guy said A LOT more, but it was a few weeks back and, for the life of me, I can't remember them now.

To be fair these are extreme examples; the overwhelming majority of people I meet in my travels are wonderful and don't harbor ill will to Americans (or if they do, they have the decency not to tell me!)  And I do see why certain American stereotypes exist around the world.  (Let's be honest, I'm probably pretty good at perpetuating a few of them!) But at the end of the day America is an awesome country - and I'm damn proud to say I'm from there.  In that same vein, Americans have to realize 1) other countries are pretty damn awesome, too, 2) being completely ignorant and disinterested in other countries doesn't win you any friends and 3) our days of being on top are numbered.  

OK, I'm stepping down from the pulpit.  

Swim at Your Own Risk

We are surrounded by water in Hong Kong - and Discovery Bay, for that matter, and it's gorgeous. You can see water from every window in our apartment and we have a beach that looks straight out of a postcard.  Honestly, it's kind of ruined me - it's tough to imagine living someplace that doesn't have a water view.

And then you realize that we share the water with all the barges and ferries and cruise ships that roll into Victoria Harbor - a water highway that makes the Hudson River look like a desolate country road.  And that water doesn't seem quite so nice anymore.  One day a week, our picturesque beach has more trash than a garbage dump. Of course the powers-that-be quickly send the minions out to clean it up before too many people take notice.  (And THANK GOD for them!)

I tell you all of this because, in spite of it, we have friends who swim in the water here and claim it's just peachy-keen.  They swear up and down that it's clean and that they haven't caught anything yet.  I used to give them the benefit of the doubt (although I never stepped a pinkie toe in that water!)

Then today, I walk outside my front door and see the following:

I have no idea what it is, but it sure gives the term "swim at your own risk" a whole new meaning...

Monday, January 24, 2011


The Discovery Bay fairies erected this thing of beauty last week:

What is it, you ask?  Well isn't it obvious?  It's a backdrop that you take cheesy, prom-style photos in front of.  Every town should have one - along with a grocery store, fire house and police station (the latter of which DB is missing).  Cheesy prom backdrop?  Check.  Local police force?  Err...

In only a week I've passed by it and seen a few couples (all Asian, of course) doing the face-to-face, holding-hands prom pose.  Maybe they're being facetious and find it as ridiculous as I do.  Maybe not.

If you're lucky, I can talk V into posing with me for one.  Yeah, right...

I just found another one of these things!!!  Nothing says "I love you" like an arch of made out of fake flowers.

If you're feeling fancy, you could always choose this gem:

And the sign next to these beauties cracks me up!  Can you imagine getting prosecuted over plastic roses and stapled astro-turf?!

My Life in Beers

Saw this in our supermarket and thought it summed up my (current) existence pretty nicely.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Massage Misery

I've encountered a new breed of masseuse here - they are all women, all Asian, all polite and perfectly professional before the treatment and all leave me feeling utterly violated.

Now I've had a fraught relationship with massages since my first one when the therapist, who knew it was my first time snidely remarked, "I'm not massaging your breasts" when she came in and found me laying topless on top of the sheet.  (Before I undressed I told her I didn't know what I was doing and I sure as hell didn't see that tightly pulled sheet underneath me when I decided to lay face up on the table.)  In the decade or so after that traumatic experience, I got back up on horse and learned to enjoy a good 60-90 minute Swedish massage.  I must've had 50 massages since that first one - some good, some mediocre, but all enjoyable at the end of the day.

Two years in Asia and I'm starting to dread a massage the way I dread a trip to the dentist or an hour-long Legs, Bums & Tums class.  Why? Every third time I go, I am mounted, my breasts are mysteriously massaged (until I ask them to stop), and therapist fingers come dangerously close to nether regions. And 9 times out of 10 it's all happening while I'm splayed open in an awkward position, the towel is pulled well below my ass crack or a boob is hanging out.  

I'm not a prude; it's not like I'm freaking out because someone's touching my leg.  But I do start to tense up when someone is repeatedly rubbing my bikini line and then some.  And isn't being tense the last thing you want to feel during a massage??  The worst part is the anticipation because the first misguided rub you can explain away as a mistake, but when the motion is repeated over and over again, there's little doubt this is the intended stroke.  Then - and I realize I'm starting to sound like a Seinfeld episode - I have to worry about offending her by asking her to stop massaging my breasts.  (I'm still working under the assumption that her intentions are on the up and up.)

At this point, should I start having an up-front conversation where I go through the "off limits" areas?  Given the language barrier, I can already picture how this fun conversation of "here and here - ok; here - NOT ok" charades will go.  Then, have I just scared the bejeezus out of a therapist who wouldn't have gone there anyway?  I'm really at a loss here.

PS - While we're on the topic, I'm also really over the way Brits pronounce "massage".  They stress the first syllable, so it comes out "MEH-soj".  I know they don't mean anything by it, but it sounds so pretentious.

PSS - Speaking of pretentious, this whole posting comes off as very "poor little tai tai can't get a good massage", doesn't it?!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cirque du Construction

Another example of the zany, insanely dangerous art of construction over here.  Have a looksy at the following pictures I snapped of a harness-less (!) construction worker setting up scaffolding. (Click on an individual picture to see it bigger.)

This shit wouldn't even fly on a Real World/Road Rules Challenge!

Sex & Chopsticks

In the last 24 hours, I learned something shocking and hysterical new about two Asian cultures, both of which I've visited.

Saw what might be one of the funniest headlines ever in our newspaper:

(Mom/Dad/Grandma/Mama B - please stop reading now.)

Then, last night we're out to dinner with friends (two American couples who've been living in Asia for 7+ years) and they make a joke about a certain infamous Singapore law (and not the one outlawing chewing gum).  Apparently there's an actual, bonafide law that if a woman is performing oral sex on a man, the act must be completed by having sex....and cannot be completed any other way.  If the act is finalized in the mouth, the woman can be thrown in jail!!!

Of course this begs all kinds of questions like - who would know, how does one go about proving how a bj ends, why on earth did this become a law in the first place.  But the thing that really kills me is that 1) it's not really within a woman's control how these things end up (if you catch my drift) and 2) the idea that some man who can't control himself could then call the cops and get you locked up for something you had no control over is CRAZY!!!!

I used to daydream about living in Singapore (instead of HK) because it's so Americanized.  Between this and chewing gum law, I'm not so hot on the idea anymore.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Helper Sunday Helper

A few pictures capturing what Sunday looks like in Hong Kong.  It's the helpers day off, so they grab their cardboard boxes, playing cards and food and head into town to meet up with their friends.  It's a lovely weekly ritual, although sometimes the sheer number of helpers you pass in a 2-block stint can be mind-blowing.

The following pictures capture about 5% of all the helpers enjoying their day off in HK.

This picture cracks me up because it reminds me of the time V and I watched as a group of Filipinas attempted to build a cheer-leading pyramid...on concrete...with no safety people or harnesses in place.  It was like waiting for a house of cards to fall.  Here's another group of helpers practicing some dance routine they made up.

It's not all fun and games.  I've seen helpers giving other helpers full-on hair cuts - smock and all!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cultural Divide #269

I've found yet another cultural divide.  And the only upside is that it has nothing to do with penises.

Allow me to set the scene:

Saturday night we're at a private party - a friend rented out a small restaurant (the entire place was smaller than most of your living rooms) and packed it with friends who ate dinner and danced to live music performed by a band.  They gave us an excellent show filled with crowd pleasers like "Sweet Home Alabama" and Katy Perry's "Hot and Cold".  It was a truly awesome atmosphere - like back in your 20's at an apartment party with the music cranked up and people dancing their asses off!

So far, so good - right?

Well, V and I were two of only 3 Americans in the bunch.  The rest were 99% Brits with the occasional Aussie and European mixed in.  (As you may have guessed from my karaoke post, music is the great spotlight under which cultural differences are magnified.  The karaoke crowd went wild over Spice Girls songs I'd never heard of in my life.  Meanwhile, the list of 3,000 songs included only two from Prince!)

When the band started playing "Mony, Mony" I assumed  the dirty lyrics that I've sang since middle school were universal.  Everyone's whipped up in a frenzy, dancing around like maniacs and when the time comes, I scream at the top of my lungs, "Hey, hey what - get laid, get f*cked."  Since we're all basically in a living room, everyone kind of stares at me while still dancing.  My friends in the band - also British and who witness me shouting something, invite me up to say them in the mic.

I should have read that first reaction from the crowd and demurred, but instead - feeling the high of "Mony, Mony" I run up and re-scream the dirty refrain into the microphone.  Now, instead of mildly confused looks, I have an entire crowd of people who've essentially stopped dancing and cocked their heads trying to understand what I'm saying (much like our pug does when we talk to him).  Can you say BUZZ KILL??

The gracious (British) host of the event ran over and tried to jump in and sing the lyrics with me (bless her heart!), but instead she sang "Hey, hey what - get married, get f*cked."  :)

Where were my fellow American compatriots, you ask.  V was mysteriously in the bathroom and the other American in the group never left her seat in the back of the room.  She sure as heck wasn't going to share my humiliation!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Duck Tongue - It's What's For Dinner

Spotted this at our supermarket today.

Anybody have a recipe that calls for 20 duck tongues??

In all seriousness, there's something sad about seeing this many little tiny duck tongues in one package.