Saturday, October 29, 2011

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K

It's all I can think about whenever I see one of the many circle Ks in Hong Kong. It's funny Circle K and 7-11 are everywhere.

So Friday I went out with some of the guys from work, Brits and Americans. Just like home. There's a bar in the mall below our office that's really the only place close to go to. It's covered in Americana. Pictures of Gerald Ford and maps of the US, and it's Chicago themed so they have lots of Chicago sports team stuff.
Anyway, I ended up following some of the guys to get dinner and go to a party for an Architect friend of theirs in the western area of Hong Kong Island. We went to this little restaurant. The food was great. I don't even know what we ordered because they ordered for everyone and we just shared. But we had two different types of dumplings and some spicy tofu dish and some noodles and pork and everything was really good. Of course the drinks were a bit sketchy:

Cans of Tsing Tao and paper cups. Style.
After dinner we did hit up this party. Lots of westerners, all in the industry, engineers and architects. Good people, fun conversation, and the place was nice, out on a balcony. But so far I'm not enthralled with the western areas. Very loud and busy. Big party scene. I could hang out there for a while, but I think I'm right to be looking in Kowloon for a place to live.

I saw a great place today. It was plenty big for me. And it was in a really nice clean modern building, good security, quiet neighborhood. The building has a gym, a pool, a clubhouse, really nice. The only draw back is that there's like a 3 minute bus ride to the supermarket/restaurants/MTR but I could live with that. And the price is right in my wheelhouse and I think the agent can help talk it down a bit too. I want to see a few more areas. Can't just jump on the first nice place. But I would probably really like it there. I don't need to be right in the heart of the nightlife. I was never into that NYC.

Okay so I've mentioned that our office here is right above a mall. Walking from the MTR station to the office tower I've seen this too many times:
Yep. They've got Nic Cage's face selling watches over here. That seems like the opposite of a good endorsement, but what do I know.

Tomorrow meeting up with an old friend who used to live in NYC and now I think I'm going to go for an evening swim.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back to work

Hey friends,

So I started work on Monday which means that there's been less time for adventure, but I have been continuing to try the local food. I found out that this office is also moving and that the area will have a much bigger selection of lunch options than the food court at the mall where we are now.

My favorite part about the office has to be the tea ladies. They have ladies that come around and bring you fresh tea and refill your cup a couple of times during the day. They're sweet older ladies and it's super convenient.

I never thought about this, but it makes sense in hindsight. Locals over hear can't instantly tell the difference between a Brit and an American. Most people assume I'm from London. Sure our accents are completely different to us, but it makes sense that to someone who speaks English as a second language, it's not obvious. Little things like this aren't surprising, but I never would have thought about them if I didn't come over here.

Oh yeah, this is another thing I noticed, everyone over here takes almost exactly the same lunch hour. In New York, lunch hour was kind of a floating thing. Not that any one person took lunch for 2 hours, but the first "lunchers" would start around noon and some people didn't eat lunch till after one pm. but around here it's like Ol' Faithful: 12:30 everyone goes and gets lunch or takes their lunch out. Groups all sit together and the tables around the office and then an hour later everyone's back at work. I don't know how this many people can coordinate lunch times this well. It used to be a struggle to get 10 people to be ready for lunch at the same in New York.

I'm starting to look for apartments. I think maybe apartment hunting for the first time in a foreign country where I don't speak the first language is a little daunting. I had it too good in New York. If I can pull this off, I know I'll be set.

So far my favorite thing is the smell of the MTR station in the morning. (In general, the subway system is much cleaner than NYC.) But the station near the hotel has all these little pastry shops in it and every morning it just smells like heaven with powdered sugar on top. This is something NYC has to get in on. Pastry shops > trash/hobo pee.

Alright I'm done rambling.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The weekender: beach, supermarkets, and cellphone service

First some beach shots from basically right outside the hotel. I hit up the beach on Friday; the water was a bit dirty, but thanks to years swimming in the water off Jersey, dirty water doesn't faze me as much as it probably should. There were some old men out in the water too and they seemed fine; I guess this made me feel better about going in. It's probably busier on the weekend. (Note, I wrote that Friday night, it's not true, it was just as empty on the weekend) But it was nice to take a 3 minute walk and end up on small local beach.

I found a supermarket for the first time. Nothing like the supermarkets back home. But there was so much good fresh food; I bought some marinated meats among other things. Delicious. I love the food here so far. They had a bunch of meat available by the pound. They had little plastic baskets with paper bags wrapped around them. You pick the meat you want and put it in the basket and then just take the bag with you. What's not clear is that you have to get the guy at the meat counter to weigh your bags before you check out. I guess I could have figured that one out. Fun fact: I couldn't find a small package of rice. They only sold it in sacks the size of pillows. It would take me a month of eating rice every day to finish that much. And where would I keep it? Come to think of it where does anyone keep that much rice around here?

So Saturday I found some shops on Hong Kong Island, a little more like New York City. I tried this chain of Japanese fast food places that's everywhere here: Yoshinoya. Eh. I also found an English language book store, but the choice of books was somewhat random. I guess I'll HAVE to check back in there from time to time. Twist my arm.

Today (Sunday) was really successful. I found the office. I really liked the area around the office. Kowloon Tong was nice, kind of quiet, a pretty park, clean. This was in the area outside the office:

Now I had heard that it was above a mall, I didn't realize that it was a HUGE, western style mall with all the expensive American and British chains. I wouldn't shop at these places in the States. Most of them anyway. I didn't want to spend too much time there (trying to explore the city and the culture). But I did venture into a music/video store. I loved two things about this.

A)They didn't have a rap/r&b section it was all just called "Urban". China, don't co-opt our racial PC hangups. No one's fooled when something's called "urban" in the States, and no one's fooled over here.
B)They sorted the movies by actor (I know Dad will get a kick out that). I guess if it works... but for instance, Pulp Fiction, one of my favorite movies, was listed as a John Travolta film. That's misleading to me. I think some movies are defined by the writer/director (Tarrantino films, Kevin Smith movies) some by the actor in them (Nick Cage movies, Jet Li movies) and some not at all (Fight Club, The Kings Speech). I think I can understand how this makes sense in Hong Kong though. If someone in Hong Kong is looking for a movie, they're going to think of the actors in it, not its niche in American pop culture.

The best thing about today though was that I found not one but two REAL honest to goodness supermarkets. With some local foods but with most of the day to day stuff that I need. The larger fancier one was in the lower level of the mall below the office. But this made my day. I felt so much more comfortable. So much worry about how I was going to get by completely disappeared. I've never been so happy to find a supermarket. They still only sold rice in apocalypse sizes, but I'm going to guess that Uncle Ben's size boxes are just laughable around here.

I now have a local cell phone number, e-mail me or something if you want it for whatever reason. I'm going to see if I can afford to keep my US number on a super cheap minimal minutes/no data plan just so I can hold on the number. I'll let people know about that one.

And I'll wrap up this long post with a little silliness. Some of you may remember my hip hop alter-ego, Cap'n Funky Fresh. Well like all great hip hop stars, The Cap'n needs to re-invent himself at this point in his career. Funky Fresh is retired and he will now be known exclusively as:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

First Adventure

So here I am. Day two in Hong Kong. Yesterday's adventure was one for ethernet cable. I hadn't thought about not having wifi and that I'd need to find a store before I even had the internet to e-mail my family and loved ones to tell them that I made it.

So with no store for this kind of thing nearby, I set off on foot.
I figured since it was nice and warm out, that I'd simply walk along the bay toward the city. I walked for half an hour along a walkway that probably didn't see a lot of westerners. I passed a lot of little houses and "villas" along the water. They looked like they could be very lovely places, but they were old and from what I could see, a bit run down. I reached an area that was mostly industrial/construction before I finally reached an MTR station. I thought that since I'd made it that far, I might as well hop on the train and see if I couldn't find a neighborhood that was more commercial.

I took an educated guess based on where the downtown parts of the city are supposed to be. I came up in an area that was something between Times Square and Canal Street. There a ton of people and the guys on the sidewalk were hounding me. These guys are relentless. It took all of my ability as a New Yorker to ignore them. Lots of stores with big neon signs, as I said, it looked like Times Square, but the types of stores were more like Canal Street. For the most part. There were a few bigger stores, but since I was only looking for an ethernet cable, they were of no help. After fighting through the hoards of tourists, shoppers, and relentless shills, I found a little electronics store. I bought two more power adapters and the precious cable.

Next mission was dinner. I didn't find anything in this area that I wanted to eat. I mean I'm sure the McDonald's here is great and all, but I thought I ought to save some experiences for later. I also found an "Irish pub" but again, I didn't come to Hong Kong to eat at a rip off of an Irish pub. Hotel food it would be.

Today's lesson: the shuttle from the hotel is much easier for getting to the area around the MTR station and completely free. And there's so much to explore in that area. I found some little food shops and had some pork buns and some pastries. And it was all so cheap.

Might get cell phone service set up today, and if I hit up the beach today, I'll make sure to write about it.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How I got here

For at least two years, more if I'm not deluding myself, I have been somewhat directionless. I was treading water. My career was comfortable though not soaring.

In early summer 2011, my office asked if I was interested in a position overseas. Hong Kong. At the time this seemed like just the opportunity I needed to re-energize myself and reinvigorate my life. So I said yes and waited, cautious and curious. When I started actually speaking with one of the Directors in Hong Kong, I was still a little uncertain if I really wanted this or if I was just telling myself I did. Did I actually desire to go to Asia to live and work or did I have nothing in New York to give me an excuse not to keep the process going? I definitely thought about job security in New York during the early decision making steps of the process. Soon the transfer had so much momentum, I couldn't stop it. I was headed on a two year long adventure whether I liked it or not.

All of my friends and family were incredibly excited. Everyone at work told me how great a city Hong Kong is, how much fun I would have. No matter what, some doubt lingered. I couldn't make it make sense in the deepest part of me. I felt silly telling people. Could they tell what I was really thinking? I love the New York life, I wasn't unhappy with my job or my apartment, or my friends, I was just a little stuck. I only needed...

What happened, not two weeks before I left New York, may be the subject of a different post or it may be left to sing sweet songs in her memory and mine. But as it turned out, the one thing missing from my life was right underneath my nose. I have no regrets, but I don't yet know how to come to terms with the fact that I came so close to having it all in the Greatest City in the World.

Here I am. A kid from a Jersey, a transplanted Brooklynite in Hong Kong. I'm definitely going to have to give this city my all. Let's do this!