Saturday, August 7, 2010

circling

on hold for now. Real life overtakes virtual life. Too many events going, but in short, the MFA writing has taken the lead, as well as various life changing events.

I'll be occasionally blogging on another blog, which, if you know us, should be easy to find.

Anyway, Hong Kong for now is the psuedo-home, until nyc reclaims us.

Friday, February 12, 2010

You say tomato, I say grapefruit

I say potato, you say solanum tubersum.

A more substantial, informative post with photos coming post-phuket vacation. But, three weeks of teaching down. Three weeks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

a quick note

It's been a little over a year since Anny died, and I just wanted to say to her, thank you for being a good student and a caring person. I still think of you all of the time, and I always will.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Once more, with feeling

Well, a few weeks into teaching and I'm starting to remember what it was like last year. Yes, that confused, fuzzy look staring back at me from all angles. Grading and powerpointing late into the night (currently working on 'marketing mix--pricing methods' a must read for all A-level Business Studies students!...in my class). Teaching Shakespeare and Mary Shelley to Korean and Hong Kong kids? Er...No, no. Can't resort to Leo and Claire Danes version. How to explain "her chastity was well-armed?" or "I'll chop off their head, or their maidenheads."

I'll have more photo fun time w/ my school and kids but since half of them are native speakers, I might have to be a bit more discreet, lest they find this rarely read blog (hi, my five readers!).

Anyway, times are a' busy here. Still honing sharpening my completely inappropriate submission materials to the MFA. Is using "motherf'er" in a personal essay about writing craft a good idea? Wha? No?

Well, at least in a week I'll be returning to Thailand! This time with cole in tow for our Chinese New Year vacation. Gong hei fat choy folks. Happy year of le tigre.




Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A race to catch up, and then lag behind again

"I don't like Thai food," I told cole.
Let's start there; it's as good as place as any to catch up to the last 2-3 months.
"What am I going to eat?" I continued on. And that wasn't the only problem with going to Bangkok for a month.

Actually hold on, before that let me quickly say that look here:


my dad visited us! That's him on the right. To his left is Aunt .... and Uncle ..... (I'm horrible, but the names don't really translate), then my grandmother on my mom's side, then Uncle Kenny (or Uncle #2), cole, and me--all out to dinner in Kowloon somewhere, though I remember the name of the restaurant was Sportful Garden.

Ok, back to where I was:

So after my dad's visit, I told cole:

"...and not only that, but doesn't Bangkok have the potential to be really awful?" for all the reasons that you're probably aware of. But there wasn't any other choice really. To have a chance of teaching in Hong Kong, I needed a CELTA, and the closest cheapest option was Thailand. I applied to the program, got in, booked a serviced apartment (more on that later), got a flight, and off I went.

These are the types of places I remember most. On the street, sweltering at a humid 90 even during the night, chilis and lemongrass simmering in curry, the most tender hainan chicken rice, grilled meats, perfectly fried eggs. 30 baht or so for a meal, less than a dollar. Alright, so I like Thai food now, just not pad thai.

This picture pretty much sums up my experience in Bangkok: Down-to-earth, friendly people (honestly, the friendliest of anywhere I've ever been), oppressive ridiculous heat, and in general much much more than I expected, in just about every way. But...

Two blocks to the right on this street food?--Patpong: ladyboys, pingpong shows (need I elaborate?), smartly dressed men handing me cards while addressing me in Japanese (because in Thailand, I look Japanese). Wandering through--groups of scumbag expats, and yes, there are many, and it can all be so much of a soul-sucking, anger-inducing wasteland that you have to just remind yourself that this isn't it, not really, and next time, remember to take the long way around to the ramen shop, because this is just the 0.1% that ruins Bangkok, and it's not that hard to avoid it. Yeah, the gogo bars aren't going anywhere, but at least if I pretend they don't exist, then Bangkok can stay amazing in my mind.

In the end though, 99% of my time was spent here:

Doesn't look like much, and the same holds true for the inside, but this was the Celta training center. I would get up around seven every morning, shower, get dressed, take the sky train two stops, from Surasak to Sala Daeng, grab an egg sandwich from a guy on the street (20 baht), and then start my lessons at school. Our lessons lasted all morning, then we had lesson-planning, lunch, and the afternoon was spent on teaching practice.

Here's me in action, teaching the different types of future tenses I think. Our students, a mix of refugees from Cambodia and Sri Lanka combined with Thai university students, were the best behaved bunch I've ever taught.

This block is where I lived, holed away from the traffic and noise of the city. You can't see here, but this path gets even narrower, and in the morning, an endless procession of moterbikes, cars, wild dogs, and pedestrians all fight for space.
This is where I stayed, not the best of rooms. Take a thin sheet and put in on the floor, then lie down on it, and you begin to get an idea of what this bed was like. Add in the run-down chic of the place, complete with its very own cockroach-in-the-fridge (hi little guy!), and well...I probably should have just spent another hundred bucks to live in relative luxury. Still, it was fine. I liked how it was hidden behind a maze of elusive corridors, which at night, you would almost have to navigate by feel. In the mornings the same three shirtless men drinking their morning beers would hang out in front of the only convenience store in the neighborhood and say hello to me. Every now and then, I would buy a grilled drumstick from the stand next to my apartment, and it would be better than any barbecued chicken I've ever had. So yeah, it could have been worse.
A drink stand near the ferry to the Royal Palace.
Grilled banana? Plantain? Nicely tart. 5 baht.
I only had time to see one site the entire time I stayed, and that was the Royal Palace.
Sometimes, not often, a place so far surpasses my expectations that I become almost dumbfounded with how incredible it is. The Great Wall, Hiroshima, Meijima Island, the hike over the Tai Tam Reservoir in Hong Kong, a short walk from 3rd ave to A along 10th street in nyc. Add the Royal Palace to that list. The sheer opulence of the place is almost too much to take in at once; no really, the gold and jewels literally blind you.






In the end, I would say that Bangkok was worth going to. I met a nice bunch of people (the above seafood dinner was in Bangkok Chinatown, I didn't eat anything that day because I was too sick...tragic), actually learned quite a bit about teaching, and realized that Bangkok and Thailand isn't at all like what I thought it would be. The first thing I said to cole though, when I got back to Hong Kong was, "I will never leave you again for that long. Never."
Because really....
Never again.
Almost immediately after I returned, cole's dad came in for a visit, since he was on a whirlwind China tour for work anyway.
Standing on our balcony overlooking Aberdeen Harbor.

Cole's students were running a holiday fundraiser. Here's dad playing the game.
Standing on the Kowloon side looking over to the Hong Kong Island side.

Finally we went home for Christmas. On the day we arrived, New York had its first snow storm of the season. We landed just before it hit, but then my dad, who was picking us up, got stuck in traffic for over an hour. He eventually showed up, and we made a quick visit to my family in Queens.
By the time we were ready to leave, I hadn't slept for about 20 hours, and it was time for me to drive from Queens, NY to bergen county, NJ. In a snow storm. Oh, and did I mention that I hadn't driven for over half a year?
We made it home safely. Christmas was wonderful. Being home, as usual, was strange but comforting and then strange again. Sometimes I wonder about when we come home for good, if we'll only feel right either in the city (meaning new york), or in Flushing, Queens--the closest facsimile to Hong Kong outside of Hong Kong.
But regardless of the odd sense of straddling two or three cultures (American? Minority not minority? Hong Konger? Ex-pat?), seeing our families eases away possible identity issues.

And then, we're back in Hong Kong again, back to our little corner of Aberdeen. Thanks to cole's sister, Amy, and her parents, I now sport a kindle. Despite my old school publishing tendencies (real books will never die!!), I'm finding that I carry around the thing everywhere. Reading food and travel writing has never been so convenient. It'll take awhile though, for me to make that leap to reading fiction electronically.

So what else? Ah yes. The whole professional-life-you-mean-I'm-supposed-to-be-doing-something-with-my-life? thing has gotten a nice kick in the ass, in the form of a real teaching gig at an international school. That's right, teaching actual English classes, not esl. Who knew? They even gave me an A-level class (like AP in the US but not really)--Business Studies.

And soon I'll be a grad student at Hong Kong University to study for my education degree. (oops, check that, didn't make the cut. Not native enough perhaps?? still waiting on the mfa --ed, aka d-ah, feb 12,2010).

And after that I'll maybe/probably start my MFA (masters in fine arts in creative writing) at the City University of Hong Kong, the inaugural class.

So much stuff, and things. Two words I remember my high school English teacher hating, ni hao Senor Dunn.

Ok, that's it. No promises on future posts. I'll try.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

British Sea Power and er...um...those other guys

October 10th, in Grappa's Cellar, an Italian restaurant of all places, we finally got to see our first show, meaning concert, in Hong Kong. It didn't start off so hot, since we were made to wait two and half hours before the um..."openers" took the stage. So yeah, these guys, who looked like they were sixteen years old and sounded like they've been playing guitar for maybe two weeks, and just learned how to program a crappy two-beat drum machine track, yes they get to open for British Sea Power. Alright, where's my guitar? Those chords, I still remember them. Can't be that hard to be a Hong Kong rock star right? 1, 4, 5 progression? check. power chords. yep. tight jeans/silly outfit?....hmmm alright, not quite there yet.

Anyway, this duo was by far the worst act I have ever paid money to see. Words cannot express, so this video must do:


video

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for British Sea Power. Honestly, before this, I wasn't their greatest admirer in the world, but I had all their albums, and liked most of their songs.

As for band availability in Hong Kong (slim pickings in general), I knew this was about as good as it was going to get, so despite the ridiculous ticket price (really? almost $50? that's like going to see Billy Joel at MSG in 1997 or something [I'm looking at you cole], or what I imagine the ticket price for a reunion Pixies tour to be, or even a 90s era Dave Matthews [I'm looking at...me?the shame]).Anyway, the place was full of brits w/ a strange mix of locals and misc foreigners. Still, the vibe was decent, and by the end of the night, after multiple stage dives and encores by the band, I was a much bigger fan of British Sea Power.




A short clip:



video