Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday.

Leaving our mark on the Ponte Vechhio bridge in Florence.
To play along, click here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Someone's having a birthday today...

And that someone is... Me!
Am I allowed to out myself on my own birthday? I'm not fishing for birthday compliments, just casting it out there as it's all the news I have.

Today I turn 32, and so far I spent the day shopping, eating, drinking, dancing, romancing, reading, watching Julian McMahon on Nip/Tuck... studying.

Urgh. I was up at 6am to finish an assignment due this week, followed by the onset of some feverish symptoms and the hope that I can be in bed by 7pm tonight because I'm actually feeling quite sick.

Is this acceptable birthday behaviour?

At least I got to celebrate on the weekend... B and I are currently burning our way through the Harry Potter franchise like there's a fire on our heels... we watched two of the films this weekend (Are they all over 2.5 hours long? Doesn't JK Rowling know kids like us need to get to bed? Oh and when do they start getting good?)

Saturday was lovely though; on a beautiful morning we were up at 7am to go hiking before the Hong Kong heat set in at this gorgeous location:

... Except at 6:45am I received a text from the Hong Kong Observatory, which read: 

Very hot weather warning was issued at 6:45am.

6:45m and already stinking hot! Hong Kong, you cheeky little bugger, you. 7am not good enough for you, eh?

So despite our crack-of-dawn efforts on a Saturday morning (dogs - I hope you sacrifice a bone for us or something one day in return), within ten minutes were all sweating and gasping for air; little Otto eventually foaming at the mouth so we had to take him home before he, you know, DIED.

That night we hooked up with great friends and caught a ferry over to Lamma Island to share in some seafood shenanigans, before ferrying it back to a few bars for some dancing.

How did it all end? A 4am trip home and the hangover from hell on Sunday. The postscript reads I'm just a little too old to do that at the age of 32. But at least I gave it a go, right?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Big Bad.

Sorry, it's not really the cuddliest title is it, but then again, this is not really a warm n' fuzzy type of post. I guess I mean that as a bit of a warning.

When I talk about The Big Bad, I'm talking about something you find utterly terrifying. Your greatest fear. (Or at least one that lurks in your top five.)

I was thinking about fear recently... about Big Bads and how paralysing they are. I was working with a Chinese student this week; helping him with his communication skills. During an exercise I asked him to name all sorts of things that represent the best and worst things about Earth. I won't bore you with the finer details, but one of the categories was 'emotion'. He had to name an emotion that he thinks represents the best of our world, and one that represents the worst.

For the best, he chose happiness. A beautiful emotion. There is nothing quite as optimistic as happiness, for even love bears it's sadness, doesn't it. Happiness doesn't. It's just... happy. Wow, someone give that girl a degree. She's brilliant.

For the worst, he chose sadness. Happiness's nemesis. (I realise there are way too many 's' letters in that sentence. Rest assured: I'm working on it.)

His answer wasn't wrong; it was his, and it made perfect sense. Sadness isn't exactly a day at the beach and humans will do whatever they can to to steer clear of it; always have. Just ask the guy who invented cocaine.

But, as I read through his answers, I couldn't help but silently consider what my own might be. And I decided, for me, fear is worse than sadness. I find fear to be perhaps the most appalling and debilitating emotion of them all.

I know what fear is, and I know I'm not the only person who can say that. Too many of us can. I've lived in fear since I was seven years old. I think I was seven anyway, I pretty much try and block out the day week month year of my life when fear tattooed itself to me. I won't go into detail, and it's all really kind of private, but let's just say someone tried to get me. And he did - for a short time. And a lot changed in that short time. I changed completely. Sometimes I wonder if it was all meant to happen, however horrible... that if it hadn't, I just wouldn't be me.

After the event, it took years before I could walk down a street without an adult family member by my side. It took years before I could sleep over at a friend's house without waking up crying in the middle of the night. It took years before I would let my mum leave me in the car alone while she paid for petrol without me checking ten times over if all the doors were locked. I still can't walk down a street without looking over my shoulder. I know I never will, and sometimes I'm glad for it: it keeps me safe.

But these are the obvious disfigurements of fear. The more complicated ones live inside. And they manifest in far more obscure ways... being unable to make otherwise innocuous decisions because of anxiety, constantly performing microsurgery on your own choices looking for mistakes, wondering when the perfect sphere you spent years sculpting might turn pear-shaped, considering if the man who popped over to fix the plumbing might be a serial killer. This is what living in fear is.

I do want to include a disclaimer here... I'm not an unhappy person, I'm not a frazzled ball of worry, and I do live my life with joy. Most days are more than fine. And sometimes I feel glad for fear: maybe it's endurance has pushed me further in life than chase innocence would have. For fear challenges me every day to become brave braver.

So.. what's your Big Bad? Or am I the only one looking over my shoulder?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday.

My favourite photo from my travels in Peru.

To play along, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ni he sheh me? Wo bu he.

No, I'm not drunk (right now, anyway), nor have I had my wisdom teeth out, nor have I lost my marbles (now really... Do any of you adults really own any marbles to lose?)

What I am doing is FINALLY learning Mandarin; the mother tongue that hails from the mother land of China... The language I should have started learning when I moved to Hong Kong in, I dunno... 2009.

Of course, Hong Kongers don't speak Mandarin. They speak Cantonese, which is nothing like Mandarin (they can't understand each other at all). This is admittedly bothersome for me, as it means I can't practice my Mandarin with daily street folk here. And I'm pretty sure it's easier to make a marriage work than it is to become fluent in a language you can't speak every day.

So then, why didn't we decide to learn Cantonese given we live in Hong Kong? Glad you asked.
Well, there are two reasons:

- China is the future of the world. There, I said it. I'm not trying to upset any Americans or Europeans here (Australians, let's not delude, we were never in with a chance) but if you are keeping up with what's happening economically, China is where it's at. So, professionally, Mandarin is about to make the world go round in a serious way.

- There are only four tones in Mandarin. There are NINE in Cantonese. Do you know what I mean by tones? It means the exact same word can be said four different ways and mean completely different things. The tonal differences are also very subtle. The first is high and flat, the second rises at the end, the third dips down and up, and the fourth falls down and is very blunt. 

This booby trap baited me when I proudly said "goodbye" to my teacher in Mandarin, and she looked at me like I'd said "emu folds spike on." She had no idea what I was saying, even though I'd said the right words for "goodbye". I hadn't done that down and blunt thing.

I also discovered the words for "what" and "water" are very similar... so, instead of saying to B, "what is your name?", I asked him, "your water is called?" Which is really rather zen, isn't it.

Oh yes, this is gonna be fun. Well, imagine nine of those darn tones and you have a language that will send a shiver up any linguist's spine: Cantonese.

But, there's hope for our Mandarin... I'm told more and more Hong Kong Chinese are now learning Mandarin, and many retail and restaurant staff already know how to speak it. And let's face it... I have been spotted in the odd Hong Kong retail store (shhh) and if you're wondering whether I love a feed, just take one look at my hips. They don't mince words. Or tones.

So, here's a bit of what I learned in lesson one:

Ni jiao shen me? Wo jiao Natalie. Ni you shui ma? Mei you. Ni he sheh me? Wo bu he.

It may look like alphabet soup, but the one thing that surprised me about Mandarin was how beautiful it is... it may lack the smokin' hot sex appeal of French or the blazing richness of Spanish, but Mandarin is musical. Speaking is like singing. And if you don't hit the right note, the message falls flat. I can live with that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (even though it's Thursday.)

Creepy message on our neighbour's door this week. Apparently a warning from Chinese debt collectors. Yikes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Snakes for sale... anyone?

Making friends in Thailand earlier this year
I have seriously hot dreams about my boyfriend waking me up on a Saturday morning, passing me a freshly brewed coffee and my laptop, running his hands through his bed-hair and saying... Honey, would you like to go shopping today?

Well, I can't quite believe I'm saying this... on Saturday that actually happened.

Open-mouthed, I was tossing up whether to leap out bed for joy or telephone the front page of the New York Times, when he continued to speak (oh why do they have to do that?)

I mean snake shopping. Do you want to go snake shopping today?

I KNEW that first perfect sentence had a dodgy sequel.

I've confessed on this blog before, that we are not first-time snake parents. Before moving to Hong Kong, B and I owned a slithery, slimy thing called Reggie. An Australian Stimsons Python. I'd like to say I hated him, was scared of him, couldn't stand the sight of him, but the truth is, I fell a little bit in love with Reggie. What can I say? He had the X-Factor. Can't deny it when it's there. But, when it came time to leave him behind for the bright lights of Hong Kong, I can't say I really cared all that much.

But I can tell B has missed  his "living work of art" that does things like... sit under a rock. Eat frozen mice. Sit under a rock. Did I mention sitting under a rock? So, when he asked me if we could go shopping for a Bull Python on the weekend, I took one look at his  wanting eyes, and just... couldn't say no.

We'd heard about a reptile store over in Mong Kok, which is a very local Chinese area, and literally, the most densely populated place on earth. Just ask the Guinness Book of World Records guy. Translation? Unless crowds give you a happy, you do not go to Mong Kok unless you really have to.

A typical street stall in Mong Kok
After wading through a Mong Kok-mosh pit of people (except without the cool rock music and Jack Daniels) we finally found the stinky reptile shop. Is it any surprise we had to walk up these beguiling stairs to get inside?

These steps scream "snake pit"
I got in trouble for taking photos inside the shop (really, dude, are you worried I'm gonna like BLOG about your reptile store??) but I did snap a few pics of the babies... aren't they, uh, cute?

B set his eyes on this guy below; the Piebald Python, also known as "the rockstar snake". Bit hard to see here, but they're genetic mutations; part pigmented, part completely colour-free. They also cost about as much as a pair of high-end designer shoes. And they're just about as cuddly.

But, before we seriously discussed wether we were up for filling our freezer with frozen rats and scaring visitors all over again, I asked to see a full-size Ball Python. You know, just to see how big my new child would get. So reptile-guy pulled out this uber-expensive albino guy.

Reggie would only grow to that size in his wildest dreams.

Our little Reggie
Given that we have a tiny dog and hopefully will have real, human babies one day, I asked the reptile dude if a full-size Ball Python could ever attack one of those if it got out of its cage.

"Hmm..." he frowned. "Cannot guarantee. Cannot. Better keep cage locked."

Oh, you mean, if for some reason we had a brain fart or perhaps a glass too many of wine, and one didn't quite click the lock right, the snake could potentially strangle Ted or our newborn baby?

Well colour me happy and sign us up.

I marched B right out of the shop and bought him a rolling pin for our kitchen instead. Sorry B, sorry Piebald, sorry reptile guy. Rolling pins are just so much sweeter.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday.

So Hong Kong: Fashionista meets dancing dragons.
Click here to play along.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The dim sum diaries (part one).

Which genius invented dim sum?

Is he or she still around? Can I send them some flowers? A thank you card? Perhaps some money for their grandchildren? An emu? 

I think there's nothing more fun and tasty to nibble on than little packets of tightly-wrapped steamed dumplings; each one a mini-present to open with your tongue.

Oh yikes, I should really think about work in the erotic novel genre, shouldn't I.

My absolute favourite place to eat in Hong Kong is Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao... a mouthful of a name, and a mouthful of an experience. Boom tish.

It's actually a chain of restaurants across Asia, and thus totally un-unique (I'm making up words again), but that doesn't detract from the fact that it's a piece of heaven with every bite. And locals know it... there's always a queue to get in, managed by a ticketing system at the door - sort of like waiting at the post office. 

Their speciality is these Shanghainese-style dumplings that are filled with hot soupy water which bursts into your mouth. They're just... gah.

Every Sunday boyfriend takes me to Crystal Jade is a good Sunday. I had a seriously good Sunday. You?

Crystal Jade's to-die-for fresh watermelon juice

Double-boiled chicken soup... food for the soul

The extra-spesh Shanghainese-style dumplings... (gah again)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Breakfast with Audrey.

I'm a bit snowed under again peeps, although I have much I want to blog about!

But I wanted to kick off the week with some of my favourite pics of the deliciously graceful Audrey Hepburn.

Just to remind us that, even on manic Mondays, there's always... Audrey.

I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it.
- Audrey Hepburn

I hear ya sista.

Related Posts with Thumbnails