China Invasion

In exactly 24 hours, my American friend shall finally arrive.

We met at USF through a mutual friend a year ago, and since then have realized that we are sisters from another mister. We are both Haitian-American, have crazy senses of humors, have hilarious streaks of bad luck, and more. Not to mention she is teaching English in Korea right now, so we are both very interested in Asian culture. It will be her first time in China and I am so excited. It will be my first time being a tour guide, I made two lists of potential places to go, one for places in Beijing and one for Tianjin. It’s like watching a TV series over again with someone who’s never seen it; you know that you love it, but getting to show it to someone else brings back the spark and makes you appreciate it over again. I hope she loves China as much as I do, though touring around in the cold can get annoying, haha.

Out of Commission

I know, I know….my last blog update was SO long ago. But first let me explain and then you guys can judge. After Hong Kong I had a few lazy days, but only one or two before I started my job….*cough* I mean volunteer job with an English language camp. I am in China on a student visa, so working is not allowed, so of course I would NEVER do anything that I’m not allowed so I “volunteer” at a certain place. It was a five day winter camp, where the students are not allowed to speak Chinese (though of course, since they lived in dorm rooms, I don’t believe they actually did it) and had 6 hours of English class every day. In total I only taught 12 hours of classes that week, but in fact spent the whole day on site, because we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the students. Not to mention an English corner everyday and activities, like movies and games. Also, I’m the Queen of procrastination so I didn’t prepare class lessons until the night before or morning of. The students were adorable, there were a few crazies but eventually they even became endearing, haha. If I had not been volunteering I would have been paid 4,500 RMB, not bad and I did enjoy the experience. I’m really good friends with the fellow foreign teachers and I would have done nothing important at home anyways. The funniest realization I made that week was that that was the longest I went without drinking in a long time. At least in a few months, oh gosh, I’m on the road to alcoholism…not really but still. Then the morning after I got back, I stretched, happy to find myself in my own bed…and heard a resounding crash. It was the crash of my beloved laptop making close acquaintances with my floor, screen side down. It’s not a far drop at all, so I picked it up thinking that there would be no problem. BUT the screen stayed black while the computer itself turned on with no problem.

As you all may know, I’m pretty ok with breaking things (remember my camera?) and it wouldn’t have been a problem, but as usual, I am a very lucky girl. That morning happened to be Chinese New Year’s Eve, so NOTHING was open. Let alone the little computer repair shops around. And let me tell you, Chinese people are dramatic about the holiday; all of the restaurants, street vendors, and everything were shut, for an ENTIRE week. The only places open were McDonalds, KFC, various western fast food chains, and Wal-Mart. All places that could not help my poor, little computer. So I spent the last week completely internet free, I never realized how empty life can be without internet until it was gone, haha. To fill up my time, I spent a lot of time hanging out with friends; I watched two Chinese movies (one of which was really good, called The Great Magician), watched TV, cooked, and made many new friends in Helens. There was an awkward encounter with Xiaolong (we are on speaking terms now, and I don’t know why I liked him in the first place), Dictionary 1 was there one night (he spent the whole night trying to connect eyes with me), and a kiss with a funny Chinese guy who’s going to Africa to work for three years. Don’t ask about him, I’ve known him for a few weeks and one night decided that I wanted his black girl card? That’s the phrase I started using for being the first black girl they kiss, haha. I find it to be much more elegant than a man who collects V cards if you know what I mean. I almost considered making him into a Dictionary, but he’s leaving in under a month, and to be honest I’m still crazy in like with Brandon. We texted a few times during this break, but he’s back home and won’t be back in Tianjin for another few weeks. I promise from now on to be a good girl and wait for him to come back, at least give him a chance to bring me on that kind of date he mentioned….

In conclusion, Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year) was annoying because of all of those closed shops (and my computer woes), but the lack of crowds was a nice bonus. All of my Chinese friends mentioned how one should never go out during Spring Festival because of all of the people. When in actuality, since no one goes out there are no crowds; I had a seat on every bus this past week. I will be writing a special post on Spring Festival. Forgive me for the crazy, confusing condensed post right now, but this was the best way to get everyone up to speed! I promise to be better from now on ~

Things That I Noticed

Hong Kong was different from Mainland in many ways, so I’ve decided to make the list while everything is fresh in my mind:

It was so much cleaner….even the water at the harbor was clean and blue, I was pleasantly surprised. This is probably because of the strict law enforcement in Hong Kong. Literally, if you were seen dropping a cigarette butt on the street you were fined 1,500 HKD. Don’t even get me started on littering…

They enforce social etiquette… to the point where I know Americans would hate it. Very often I saw signs prohibiting spitting, farting, coughing without covering one’s mouth. They were hilariously specific.

Obsessed with disinfecting…. Not a bad habit (I wouldn’t complain), but it was funny, literally in public bathrooms they would have signs like, “Door knob disinfected 28 times a day”, “Bathroom cleaned every 2 hours”, etc.

I didn’t have to squat at a single toilet…. I know this may seem strange, but going an entire week with only “Western” toilets was a novel experience.

Traffic is on the wrong side…. or at least that’s how it felt to me. Everyone walked on the left hand side, probably because they drive on the right side? I mean, in America we drive on the left, but when walking we all walk on the right, why is that?

I was never sure if I should speak English or Mandarin with people…. As we all know the language of Hong Kong is Cantonese, but thankfully they all speak Cantonese along with English or Mandarin (sometimes even both). Before asking a question I would first ask, “English or Mandarin?” haha.

I had to censor myself…it has to do with a lot of them speaking English, living in Mainland for the past few months I’ve become spoiled, I could say something totally outrageous or a bit TOO honest to my friends in fast English and no one would understand. Not the case in Hong Kong, I can’t even remember what I said one time (knowing me it was crazy) and an old man beside me started responding in English to my comment. I ran away as fast as possible in embarrassment.

No English errors on signs

People are more patient…..or so it seems since they actually line up, and drive carefully, no nonsensical honking for them. Also, in the subway people would let people get out before walking on (there was never the stupid standoff seen in MAinland, where people can’t get on or off because they lack patience) I would sometimes forget myself and find myself cutting and remember I was in Hong Kong and get to the back haha.

People were less friendly…at least in comparison with Norther Chinese people. Also, if you stop someone on the street to ask for directions people get suspicious and don’t like stopping. (With a big city like Hong Kong I guess there are too many con artists)

The subway system is amazing….Each station was like a shopping mall, there would be pastries, clothing stores, 7-Elevens (of course). Not to mention cool advertisements for movies and whatnot.

Living there is expensive! It made me appreciate Tianjin more when I got back the other day. Cabs start at 8 RMB (rather than the Hong Kong ones which start at 20), not to mention McDonald’s is cheap there (the cheapest meal I found in Hong Kong cost about 30 while in Tianjin that’s the most expensive). Regardless, Hong Kong had both good and bad, and I’m glad to be back to my dysfunctional home~

I’m On A Boat!

I’m on a boat mother******, don’t you ever forget!

Sorry, one of my many crazy moments, though I must say that I literally am on a boat at this very moment, haha. We have been riding boats non-stop since the day before yesterday, or so it seems. Two days ago, we woke up early and took a walk to the Avenue of Stars for more last minute photos, we ran into a lot of Chinese couples taking their wedding photos. It was so sweet and I loved seeing how happy they were, even if a little jealous, haha. (I don’t know why, I just turned 21 so it’s not like I want to get married even in the next five years, just human nature I guess right?) We then made our way to the Museum of Art. It was wonderful in many ways and strange in others, typical of an art museum I guess. The top floor was a special exhibition by a Chinese artist who loved using dots and stripes; his artistic style was definitely minimalistic. Some of his paintings had me thinking, “Does a few brush strokes and dots really equal art??” while others were amazingly done. Another of my favorite exhibitions was a comparison between Chinese painters and Western painters during the 17 to 1800s. Many of them showed how Chinese painters would try to imitate certain techniques and styles of artists, failing sometimes and succeeding others. I also noticed that Chinese painters had a real problem with painting perspective then, there would be up to five vanishing points in one painting sometimes.

After that, we took a 5 minute walk to the Space Museum. It was considerably smaller than the art one but I loved it because there were many detailed descriptions of how different ancient societies (Egyptians, Chinese, African, etc) viewed the sky. They would use myths about Gods and spiritual beings to describe the creation of Earth and natural phenomena, like eclipses and meteor showers. As a child, I had a huge book of Greek mythology that I read over and over again, so I got very nostalgic, it’s all so interesting. Also, they had areas describing science fiction in novels and movies, how it all started from curiosity of what was “out there” (aka aliens). Of course, there was also boring stuff, like the first rocket, what space programs do for us, satellites, walking on the moon, blah blah blah, haha.

Then we took a 10 mintue boat across the harbor to Hong Kong Island, getting from Kowloon to Hong Kong Isalnd (where Central is) is very convenient by boat, it’s 10 HKD cheaper than the subway across and a better view. Then we took a boat cruise, which seemed pretty redundant after taking a boat, I mean who takes a boat to the boat cruise? But we had no choice, I didn’t want to let the tickets my friend gave to me as a gift go to waste.

The next day (yesterday), was our last day touring in Hong Kong….there were even more boats! We checked out of our room and left our luggage at the hostel to continue sightseeing. We took a boat to Central again and then took another boat to one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, LanTao. It cost 26 HKD and took about 25 minutes, I had my computer and a downloaded book to keep me entertained. Then it was a 30 minute bus ride to the most famous sight on the island, The Big Buddha. I’m sure that doesn’t need any further description, haha….it’s a very big Buddha statue on top of a hill. In fact it’s one of the biggest Buddhas on Earth, which is why we had to see it. The scenery was nice, and on the way down we had a famous LanTau dessert, Tofu Flower (豆腐花). We took a subway back to Kowloon (which turned out to be cheaper, just 16 HKD…live and learn) and found an Outlet Mall. We couldn’t resist and spent an hour shopping. I am so proud of myself, I only bought a cute pair of shorts from Mango for 75 HKD.

Then we hurried over to Apple, picked up our bags, and walked to the Macau ferry. It only took one hour and we were practically in a new country again. I say this because having to go through customs twice and fill out departure/arrival cards (to me) equals a new country. On the overall basis Macau was nice, definitely not as Vegas-y as I expected though. There were a lot of casinos and most of those buildings were lit up in the casino manner, very pretty, also, our hotel was awesome, it was 21 stories and there was a pool, gym, and casino. The only negative was how cold the room got at night, THAT was annoying. Anyways we went out for dinner and found the biggest Casino in Macau to waste away our money. We both gave each other 200 HKD limits. The feeling as we first walked in could only be described by intimidated…it was huge, gold and lights everywhere, and hundreds of different gambling tables and games. We don’t even know how to play poker correctly, let alone everything else, I saw Russian Roulette, Sic Bo, Craps, and many more. To loosen up we went to a machine, it cost 30 HKD for one try, we had no idea what winning was (there are so many pictures and we had no idea which combo meant winning or losing) but were confident that w would be able to tell by the music…I lost of course. Haha, then Nastya and I quickly decided to learn Russian Roulette, what better to do with a Russian companion? It’s actually a fun game, we stood by a table and asked the dealers questions until we understood. But we were still reluctant to throw down serious cash. Then back to slot machines, and Nastya lost, then it was my turn and guess what? I won 150 HKD, I felt bad since it was literally the machine Nastya used, but I was just luckier. As was proven throughout the night. We played small stakes Russian Roultette and I won many more times than Nastya, she actually ran out of her 200 HKD pretty early while by the end of the night (1:30am) I still had my original 200. I didn’t end up winning anything, but not losing money feels good too right? What I learned from that trip is I DEFINTELY think gambling’s a waste of time, and want to go to Vegas when I get back to America…for the entertainment and shows (that was what Macau was lacking).

Going to Macau!

Yeah, baby!

Macau is the Las Vegas of China, it’s a specialized zone, just like Taiwan and Hong Kong, therefore we have to go through customs again and get a stamp in our passports. Also, gambling is totally legal. This is going to be my first time gambling and I am ready, I am going in expecting to lose, so I’m just going for the good times, not to get rich, haha.  Tomorrow, we are taking an hour ferry from Hong Kong to Macau, will spend the night there, and take a boat straight to the airport Wednesday afternoon to fly back to Beijing. Let’s hope for a fun time 🙂

Temple Cruising, Camera Bruising

I must begin this post by stating the internet is driving me crazy! It goes on and off at will, and mind you I am still trying to upload my Face book pictures while I can. Gosh, fate just doesn’t want me to finish. Anyways, back to my life as a tourist.

I went to sleep pretty late last night, but woke up at 8am anyways to get ready for our big day of touring. Nastya was tired so I used the bathroom first, but after I finished she didn’t get up for a while still. This is typical so I didn’t think much about it other than not wanting to be late for our meeting with Sun Tong, but I tried not to be a bitch about waking her up. Good thing I wasn’t too, because she told me later that she felt too sick to go out for the day. No need to worry, it’s just a common cold, coughing and stuffy nose, but it definitely is easier to get tired when sick, and resting is better than pushing one’s self and getting sicker. I offered to run down to the drug store and get her more medicine but she said she just needed sleep. So off I went on my own!

I stopped by the ever-famous 7-Eleven on my way to the subway, and picked up chips & a sandwich. I first intended to eat them there, but a creepy African man affirmatively helped me change that plan, I practically bolted for the subway and just ate them later, haha. I made it to Sham Tin station to meet with Sun Tong by 10am, thank goodness because I hate being late…strange for a Haitian right? We walked around and found our way to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery, it was a climb! It was a surprisingly hot day, it felt like summer time…but I’m assuming it’s a very mild version of their summer so I am grateful. It was sunny and a great day to hike around temples, because all of the trees and plants looked beautiful without bugs to ruin it, haha. Starting at the very base of the mountain were two lanes of gold statues of monks, each looked different from the other, some holding dog/lion puppies, some shy, some aggressive, bored, indifferent. I took pictures of the funniest ones in my opinion, so when I get back to my room (I left the plug for my camera and computer in Tianjin) I will upload them~

Next, we took the subway to another famous temple, I only remember the Mandarin name…Cantonese names are hard; it was called Che Gong Temple. It was nice, but comparatively small, the most interesting part about it was the wall of red papers hanging down. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was the “examination list”, History lesson! *puts on glasses* : Back in ancient China, there was a very difficult, long annual examination one would take to become an official, which would mean all of the money, whores, and power you could dream of. The only problem was passing it, there are many stories of famous authors who took this test every year but never passed, for example Pu Songling. If you passed, then your name would be posted on a board in red paper. So the Chinese people here make donations to the temple and write down their son/daughters name, it’s a good luck on your test kind of thing. I made my friend Sun Tong do one for her boyfriend, coincidentally he was taking Grad School tests today, haha.

We took a lunch break and continued onto NanLian Garden, it’s a free park in the middle of a busy area, and surprisingly so peaceful and pretty. It almost made me become a nature lover and want to go camping on my spare time…almost. I was finally able to buy a few souvenirs, I am in such a dilemma. I am trying to buy souvenirs for six Chinese friends. Chinese people are the worst people to buy souvenirs for in China. When I give gifts to my American friends, they will love anything in a red color with characters on it, but these people know Chinese, haha. Also, Hong Kong doesn’t have any particular special thing that can be a souvenir, like a type of food, or something like the Eiffel tower that I can buy key chains of….Gosh, life is hard. Then we went to another one, it was nice but, um, I forget the name…they begin to blur after a bit. Also, funny story, at this last one, I broke my camera….yeah, I broke it. It happened in slow motion for me, we were sitting on the second floor balcony, and I felt something slide from my lap, between the railing posts, I look over and it is my precious camera. I didn’t scream or anything, haha. I looked over and felt happy that at least it didn’t fall into the lake, it actually landed on the bridge, so it was a close call. I am a glass half full kind of gal. At least this way I can still get all of the pretty photos, even if my camera’s a goner, haha.

Afterwards, I treated Sun Tong to some milk shake, and my other friend Justin called and met up with us. It was really funny, because his English is amazing, but Mandarin so-so, while Tong’s English is okay, but not perfect either. We were switching between the two languages so much, that even I had trouble keeping up, haha. Luckily, they both really liked each other, while walking around, Justin decided to take us to his favorite KTV in Hong Kong’s Time Square (yes, they have one too…copy cats~). The way they do it is different from Mainland China, you pay a fixed rate by person, rather than by hour…and it was expensive! It came out to 235 HKD per person, PLUS a required 10% tip (I had to pay this tip charge on the milkshakes too, a reason why I like China more than America, no tips!). A perk though, was that on the bottom floor we had access to an amazing buffet, there were cakes, fruit, hotpot, seafood, chicken, rice, flan, chocolate drip machine, sushi…I mean there was everything. The KTV room had its own bathroom too, but that was where the good ended, because they didn’t have that many American songs. My friend explained that American songs are expensive and because Hong Kong does things legally they are behind Mainland. I wouldn’t mind, because I sing Chinese songs too, but there was no option to write in the Chinese characters or search songs by name, actually you couldn’t even search the singer by name either. You could only select Male, Female, or Group, and from there, the country…the artists weren’t even put in ABC order, oh gosh! Regardless, we had fun and sang until my voice sounded like a man. I was so glad to spend that time with them and I will miss them a lot. But they could always come to Mainland to see me right?

Touring Around

Walking around, Nastya really wanted to eat bakery food, so we walked in search of one. I personally didn’t care what I ate, so I grabbed a chicken &celery sandwich from 7-Eleven and was good to go. By the way, 7-Elevens are so freaking popular in Hong Kong, there are more 7-Elevens than McDonalds…it’s hilarious. Anyways, we still walked around in search of the ever allusive bakery, when we took a staircase to cross the road and stumbled upon a shopping mall. There was Calvin Klein, Gucci, and more, twas heaven. What’s even better is that the Christmas/ New Year’s season is sale season here; I can’t wait to come back here when I’m rich. It will be soo awesome.

Since sale priced brand names are still out of our college budgets, we moved on and walked to the Arts Museum we saw across the street. The building itself was interesting and artistic, so I fully anticipated the exhibits within…BUT it was closed for redecorating. So we walked around the back and found that we were on the famous Avenue of Stars, on the floor was stars with signatures and hand prints of famous Chinese actors and actresses. It borders the coast, and the other Hong Kong Island, Central, could clearly be seen, a great photo taking place. We walked, found a Starbucks, and then made our way over to the Museum of History (I told you all that our hostel’s location was awesome, all of this in walking distance).

I usually don’t like history museums, I find them to be boring and dry. Just a bunch of old pottery and clothing in glass, but the Hong Kong one pleasantly surprised me. It has three floors, the first started before human activity, with fossils and dinosaur bones, and then moved through the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages. The English descriptions of the items had no grammatical errors and made perfect sense…a novel idea in China. Also, they were interesting, pointing out how those people lived there lives, and things like burial traditions. The second half of the 1st floor had many replicas of Chinese traditional weddings, ceremonies, and festivals. These things were so funny and interactive that we spent an hour and a half of this floor. The museum closes at 6pm, so we ran out of time, but didn’t regret it, haha.

Then we met up with my friend Justin. I met him in America last year, but he was born and semi-raised in Hong Kong. He is a great partier and a funny person, so I was excited to go out and get dinner with him. He took us to a seafood restarant that was technically outside. The appetizer came out, it was semi-raw cockles, and by semi-raw, I mean they were boiled but not completely dead so I had to go savage and kill my own food…I screamed as I poked into the shells, those poor babies, but they were suffering and someone was going to eat them anyways, right?

The next day, we met up with my Japanese friend Koki. He is a Japanese Diplomat learning Chinese in Nankai in my class, he actually just started working so he’s not even old, just 24, so I think he is impressive. Also, he is hilarious, I am so glad that he is in Hong Kong traveling at the same time as me. So we both don’t have cell phones, Mainland phones don’t work in Hong Kong, so when I go out I have to plan the day out, complete with times and places, with everyone beforehand. It’s a hassle but there’s no other way right now. So I told him I wanted Mexican food, and we planned to meet in front of a place in Central called El Taco Loco at 1pm. Of course, the place was so hard to find, so we ended up arriving at 1:30, but it was okay, we ate and talked for almost 2 hours, we had nacho appetizers and quesadilla and enchilada entrees. I was so happy. Being an American, going so long without Mexican food is almost a cardinal sin; I shall never go so long again. Then we went to a huge mall to watch the new Hollywood movie, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was soooooo good. I was jumping and waiting in suspense the entire time, if you haven’t seen it yet, I fully recommend you do. I will probably go see it again too, haha.

It ended later than expected, and we were almost late to meet my friend Sun Tong at the pier to take a cruise on the Victoria Harbor and watch the 8pm light show. So we ran around, took the subway, and rode a taxi the rest of the way. The unfortunate part was, I told Sun Tong to wait for me at the main entrance of the Convention Center right beside the pier, but I didn’t anticipate how big the Center was. We walked to so many entrances and still couldn’t find her, eventually we gave up and had no way to call her, it was a sucky situation. Regardless, we grabbed a bite to eat, and then went to Hong Kong’s beer street. Which I will write a post about later. I am tired and need to be well rested for our full day of touring.

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