Friday, April 29, 2011

Apparently there's a wedding today.

Watching The Tudors recently reignited my interest in The Royals.

Actually, reignited sounds misleading... I was, admittedly, never really that interested in The Royals in the first place, and while I'm still not all that interested, I'm certainly more intrigued.

The vast history of the British monarchy has to be one of the greatest, most enduring real-life soap operas in history... the traditions, the wars, the throne-stealing, the wives, the mistresses, the murdered heirs.

And the romantic in me loves that Prince William is finally wedding his girl today, in Westminster Abbey, where, since William the Conquerer, every English sovereign has been crowned (apart from Edward V); where countless kings and queens are buried and where Diana's funeral was held in 1997.

I too feel emotional about the fact that Diana isn't here to sit in the front pew and watch her son wed his bride through misty eyes. And I wonder how proud she would be of her son, England's future King. Perhaps she will be there, somewhere where we can't see her. Safe. Quietly praying for an easier life for her new daughter-in-law.

So yes I shall be watching the Royal Wedding today with great interest and pride. For many people it may be utterly overblown and ridiculous, but I see it as our human heritage and centuries of tradition persevering before our eyes.

What do you think of the royal wedding? Will you be watching?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tiny, disgusting, smelly, fishy things.

As this very old post explains, in the end I started eating local food because I was literally starving to death.
Miraculously, I survived.

So now, meet my latest food addiction... these tiny, disgusting, smelly, fishy things.


In fact, I can't get enough of them. They are an extreme food. They do not look or smell appetizing. B won't even eat them.

But, they are considered a totally standard Asian food snack in these parts and I have recently become a proud fan.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Concrete jungle. Pfft. {and Easter}

Hello friends, I hope you had a wonderful and chocolate-drenched Easter.

I decided to capture ours in photos... well, some of the looong weekend, anyway.

Like most reputations that do the 'Chinese whispers' rounds, Hong Kong's notoriety as a vast jungle of concrete, fumes and cement is deeply undeserved.

Yes, it is a vertical city.
Yes, there are twelve gazillion high-rises.
Yes, most people live in apartments.
Yes, there is pollution.
Yes, the city's infrastructure is growing as fast as (insert witty phrase here of something that grows, like really fast).

But it isn't a concrete jungle. Although, a jungle, it very much is.

Allow me to prove it to you. On Sunday, some of our friends invited us on a junk boat. This is not nearly as rubbish as the name suggests. A junk boat in Hong Kong is basically any large-ish boat that groups of people hire for a day. It comes with staff to drive the boat around the surrounding islands and clean up after the guests, who party on the back of the boat and swim.

Sounds fun, yes? Yes.

Here is how our gloriously sunny Easter Sunday on board a junk boat went down:

On board by 10:30am... leaving the skyscrapers behind

Spotting tiny fishing villages on the way out

Our poor little Ted... who knew dogs get seasick? He puked and is looking decidedly green here

Pulling up at a remote little white sand beach... of which there are many

Ahh... swimming off the back of the boat (cue shark phobia)

Lunch on board

Poor Ted... seasick again. The second time he puked was on my dress. Just before that our schnauzer Otto peed on my feet. Gotta love parenting.

Boyfriend chilling out on the back at sunset

Our Otto chilling out on the back at sunset

Back where we started... great day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I love my friends.

It sounds like the most obvious statement of all time, doesn't it.
But is it?

While I was in Sydney, my dear friend (BFF, really - oh god I just spoke 'Gen Y') named Dan reminded me of the power of friendship love and how underrated it is as one of the greatest loves on earth.

Our discussion was about the love of a parent (neither of which we are yet) and how it surely must be the most resilient and enduring of all the loves.

But what comes next in line? My answer was two-fold: other family members and romantic loves. Although surely blood ties rule out over those of the fickle heart.

But Dan asked where friendship love fit into all of this? And not because he was casting out for a compliment, but because he considers it up there with the greats.

And it dawned on me. He's right. Friendship love is extraordinary. It's unlike any other love. It's integral to human happiness. It's benevolant. And it's rather unsung.

I have much the same feelings for my close friends as I do my family and lovers. Except I generally didn't grow up with their tantrums and don't want to sleep with them. Uh, that last bit admittedly has been a bit of a grey area in my younger years (who hasn't wondered with a gender-opposite friend could be something more else?)

I feel love for my friends.
I feel loyal to my friends.
I deeply care what my friends think of me.
I have warm and fuzzy feelings about my friends.
I get excited when I know I'm going to see them.
I want my friends to trust me; and I them.
I can feel jealous when my close friends find new close friends.
My friends have the ability to hurt my feelings and cause me pain and sorrow.
I miss my friends when I don't see them.

The cliche 'lovers come and go but friends are forever' is really a load of poppycock, isn't it.
I mean, both can come and go. Both do come and go. And when friends go, it can hurt just as much.

Which is exactly my point.

Friendship love is up there with the greats.

But what makes it unique (to me anyway) is its humbleness. Friendship traditionally does not judge and demands little in return. It's joyous; free and untainted by the rules of family and marriage.
And a life without friends is a life less than that which was intended for us.

How lucky are we, to have so many great loves in our lives?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A perfect day.

On my day off I...

Woke up next to my sweet man, who incidentally freaked me out in the middle of the night when he held his face right over mine and stared at me while he was dreaming - holy cats that was scary!

Snoozed in with the dogs in my bed until the ghastly hours were passed and it was at least 8am

Pottered around catching up on meaningless things and clearing my office of total rubbish

Walked briskly around Victoria Park with my favourite tunes blaring in my abused ears

Picked out some fresh ingredients for a never-attempted-before feast out of my new cookbook

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm back.

Thank you B, for my fabulous welcome home flowers

I'm back, literally, in Hong Kong and on this blog.

I'm so sorry about my lack of posts these last few weeks, I was incredibly busy in Sydney and blogging is (unfortunately) a luxury in my life. Like all good things.

But yes I am back, which means Sydney is over.

Where in the world did those SEVEN weeks go? Is this an indication of how fast my life is passing my by? Is yours moving just as fast or is it just me hurtling towards old age?

If you are new to my blog, I live in Hong Kong and just finished a seven-week work stint in Australia back at my previous job.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I packed my bags, kissed my dogs farewell through pools of tears, attempted to kiss my boyfriend goodbye when the airport train doors closed on us, and hopped on a plane home. I had a lot of fear festering back then... that it would be too long, that the job would be too hard, that I would miss my new home, that I would become depressed.

The opposite was true. Thank you life, God, whomever makes these decisions. You didn't make it hard for me after all... you made it easy.

The job went great and felt like I'd never left, I was able to see my boys on webcam every night, I was sufficiently distracted by a busy workload and plenty of catch-ups with friends, and seeing my family every day for seven weeks straight made it a wonderfully happy time of which I was grateful for. I don't think it could have gone any better.

And then suddenly, after the fastest seven weeks in history, I was packing my bags, saying goodbye to my old colleagues for the second time, hugging my friends, kissing my family, and boarding a plane back to my new home.

I learned long ago that I am prone to fear, panic and anxiety, stemming I'm sure from a very frightening childhood experience. So of course these demons threatened me again as I returned home. What if I had been away too long? What if I missed Sydney too much this time? What if the bond between my boyfriend and I had been broken? Will our dogs even know who I am?

As I landed in Hong Kong choked by such fears, that feeling instantly washed over me again. I call it that feeling because I'm not really sure what it is... it's a mystery to me. All I know is it has a smell. The smell of Hong Kong. Not a bad smell; nor a pretty, perfumed smell, just a musky thick scent that smells unlike anything else. I like this smell. I like this city. I instantly feel more relaxed here, more happy. Like this is where I'm supposed to be. For a perpetual worrier and a girl forever plagued with doubt ("doubt" is such a horrible kill-joy isn't it), it is refreshing and healing for me to live in a place where I feel so little doubt.

That instant feeling of relaxation upon arriving was quickly stifled by the suspicious glares of the immigration officials when I tried to swipe myself in using my resident card. Apparently my visa expired while I was in Australia (oops) so I was whisked away into the 'naughty corner' in the immigration room and eventually let in as a visitor. Better sort that one out.

And, after a long trip home, the last thing left to do was go home and see my boys. Hello butterflies you pretty, pesky things.

In typical Natalie style (never a moment of pause) we actually had a group dinner booked in for that same evening and my plane had been delayed, so we were suddenly in a massive rush. I told B to stay at home rather than trek out to greet me, and when I arrived, he came down to meet me in the cab and brought our pups.

Something comes over me when I don't see B for a time and then see him again. I always fancy him, don't get me wrong, but I can literally lose my breath in situations like this. It's like seeing him for the first time again. I could not stop staring at him. He's so super cute. He seemed larger than life to me and I couldn't believe once again that he was mine. I threw my arms around his neck and didn't want to let him go.

As for the pups, I'm fairly sure they didn't know who I was.

But two out of three aint bad.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I used to date Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Hey Nat, didn't you once date Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Someone told me that.

Um, no.

It's not even remotely true. I've never even met the man. All I knew of him when I heard that was he wasn't my type, which made it all the more ridiculous.

It was a random insight into the life of a celebrity who hears nonsense about his or herself.

Although I do think I know how the rumour started... I did once have a very short and uninteresting liaison with another famous actor when I was working as an entertainment reporter. It even made the newspapers - not a fun feeling.

But no, not Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Although, I must say, now that I'm totally addicted to The Tudors I am suddenly thinking I was on crack when I had decided he wasn't cute. He's definitely cute.

But no, we never dated, and besides, I am truly, madly and deeply for another. My B.

What's the strangest rumour you've ever heard about yourself?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

So far away... and yet I'm home.

Meeting Mrs Kypo.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Re-post: A girl who lives within my heart.

This is Joanna Jones, or 'Joey' to me.

She's an awesome girl; we met in Sydney nearly ten years ago. I was on a blind date with a flaming-red-haired bass player, a magnetic man who would naturally go on to break my heart (as all bass players do, every now and again).

For our blind date he had invited me to his gig and I had foolishly accepted, surrendering him the upper hand from the word go - he must have known his rendition of Play That Funky Music would send me a little lolly-eyed. And oh it did.

The only other person who stuck out that night was Joey. She was the singer in his band, originally British but living in Australia with her family. Joey was a wild, funny, bright-eyed, spark plug of a girl - and an amazing singer. Bass player had had too much to drink on our blind date so Joey drove me home, and somehow we had become lifelong friends before we'd even reached my house.

It was one of those effortless, instant soul connections... amplified when bass player broke up with me, and Joey nursed me through my crushed heart. She really helped me through a hard, hard time.

When Joey needed a place to live we soon became flatmates, and soon after that, workmates. Joey needed a job to support her singing career, and I had become jaded about the pretentious world of television and wanted out. We decided to become nursing assistants at our local nursing home, specifically, in the dementia ward. It was possibly my life's most rewarding year - working with some of the lovliest, sweetest, people I have ever met - who are now long gone. Joey and I would chat and laugh about our weekend plans and latest boyfriends, while doing the most perilous of tasks. There was toileting, cleaning, showering, and tending to people who died on our shifts. We look back on those times and still can't believe we did it. And I secretly miss it. It was an honourable job.

Soon after, Joey's family were given terrible news... after four years in Australia, their visa had expired and they were required to leave the country. Even though they were a working, tax-paying family of five, Australia wouldn't have them on a permanent basis, and after a series of long-winded appeals - and almost begging at times - they were deported. It was a heartbreaking time - not just for them - but for me. I was losing my closest friend, and I took it hard. Joey and I stayed in close contact over the next couple of years and our friendship wasn't broken. We visited each other, bought calling cards and spoke regularly. Joey always planned to move back to Australia as soon as she had finished her studies, which would have qualified her to do so. An incredibly ambitious girl, she was always working, studying to become a music teacher, and was in a new band in with her sister. Jo worked so hard on her dreams, and with her talent, I was sure she would be rewarded in the end.

The last time we spoke was on Facebook, about two days before April 1st, 2009. I wished Joey luck for her weekend in Venice, a belated Valentine's Day break with her new boyfriend. She had just completed her studies and had finally become a music teacher. Joey never even made it to the airport. While turning into the carpark at the airport, she was caught in a horrific accident and killed instantly. Everybody else in the crash survived. It was B who broke the news, and I remember believing it was some kind of dark April Fools Day joke. It had to be. When I logged into Facebook and saw so many messages of grief, I knew it was real. It was impossible to contemplate. I couldn't imagine never seeing Joey again.

What got me most of all, what kept me awake in tears every night as B stroked my back, was the sheer cruelty of this tragedy. That a 28-year-old girl, who had her whole life ahead of her, that had so much to live for - marriage, children, her music - was all taken from her. She was a sweet, caring soul, who loved animals. She never did anything to harm anybody.

A couple of weeks before this, my boyfriend had been offered the big move to Hong Kong. While I was genuinely considering coming along because I wanted to be with him (plus a chance to explore the world and shake myself up a bit) I had a really good job as an entertainment reporter in Australia that I'd worked incredibly hard to get, and I had been having nightmares about leaving it. I wasn't sure I could.

Joey's premature and tragic death was the one thing that convinced me that there was more to life than interviewing Angelina Jolie. I decided to accept an opportunity that she will never have and see the world. I'm so sorry I never got to tell her as I had been saving it - she would have been so excited!

I don't believe Joey will ever truly be gone... as all lost loved ones do, she lives within the hearts of people who loved her - and as she was... carefree, youthful, healthy, and full of hope. While memories preserve life, the impact of one person's kindness can echo in the world for an eternity. I truly believe that. I miss her. And if I really listen hard, I can hear her singing with the angels.

Wow this has been a really long post! If you have made it this far, thanks so much for reading it.
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