dal niente

Month: September, 2008

Yesterday Was My Last Day Teaching for the Academy

And I had half finished a post about how important that day was for me

and it was great and all that and …

but then

this morning when I stepped out of the apartment into the beautiful morning sun with the keys to my scooter lassoing around my index finger

I found that it was gone.

I mean, I found nothing.

Nothing.

Someone stole it.

Every time a teacher finishes work for the Academy, they get a pair of really nice looking pens and a letter of recommendation from the employer. They were in the trunk of the scooter. Along with the new pair of riding gloves that I just bought a couple of weeks ago, after using my old gloves to the point where 3 of the fingers had holes the sizes of quarters in them. I really held back a long time before buying those gloves because although they only cost about 40$, I really wanted to use them as a reward to myself.

And the pens and the recommendation letter… well. Those just fall off trees right?

And the scooter– well, sure, I was going to sell for 300$ in just a few more days.

… If I’m wakling around my neighborhood and I spot my it, I swear I’m to fucking drop kick the fucker right off of my bike.

Insubstantial

  1. What??  Are you telling me that it’s better to stay at home and study books rather than go out and see the world?  It’s one thing if you’ve got to work lots of jobs– kudos to you– but don’t use apples as an answer to a question about oranges.  I’m not saying that everyone needs to travel the world– but don’t try to tell me that you’re better than us because we chose to go overseas while you stayed at home and toughed it out.   That’s just high horsing.  The question was about “disinterest” in the outside world– and you answered it with what seems like an indictment of the irresponsibility of college graduates who travel?
  2. So, I guess, being in Alaska and being surrounded by Russians and Canadians really just means that you’re great with the neighbors.  Sure.  Good God, not those Canadians!
  3. No second guessing Israel?  No talking with nations like Iran?  That’s a totally bullshit diplomatic policy.  Great, so she threw in the word Holocaust.  Whoopdee do.  We should ALWAYS second guess.  This is international politics.  Even best friends second guess eachother– it’s what makes them best friends.  They call bullshit on eachother when they fuck up, for the sake of their friends. 

At least my thought after seeing this on television– I don’t doubt that she’s hard working, she just doesn’t seem to have the kind minset for the job…

Abject Terror

… I set my good old trusty Timex to wake me up this morning.  Reason being is that today, I’m in Suwon, not in Anyang– because I’ll be staying with Z after my contract finishes (I have to move out of my Academy provided apartment about a day after my last day of teaching) he came up to Anyang to help me move a bunch of my stuff.   Hence, instead of waking up naturally to sunlight  at about 11 am, I set my wristwatch to wake me up at about 10am so that I’d have time to make the 1 hour commute back to Anyang.

I hate waking up to alarms.

This morning I was in a dream, and I think it was a pretty pleasant one when all of a sudden the beeping began.

Let’s just say that my Intelligence stats aren’t very high first thing in the morning.  I awoke to beeping and I’m not sure what was the more pressing ‘realization’– either the room was on fire, or there was a bomb strapped to my wrist.  Either way,  I awoke, flailing my arms, suffering from a case of abject terror.

I am now calming down but frigg.

Today

it’s 1:18 am in Seoul time as I write this.

Today is my last day teaching for the Academy.

My feelings are mixed.  I work on a campus that has over 20 teachers there… some of them I became really close friends with, others I couldn’t stand working with at times.  But there were students, and they will be missed.  There’s been a lot of experiences out here that were beyond imagination, in both good and bad ways.  Eitherhows, they were experiences, they made me tougher and softer all at once.

I’ll start work in about 12 hours so I need to get some sleep now, but the fact that it’s all coming to a close is kind of surreal.

I’ll have to think of something to say for my mandatory departure speech =_=

Citius, altius, fortius

In the last week I’ve really had the opportunity of finding out a lot about myself.  I’ve always said that Korea is like a magnifying glass, but now I should add that it’s also perhaps a magnet– it makes it easier to see what’s inside people because it brings it out.

I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a loner, but now I’ve come to question this.  This is a major thing for me because now I’m finding that I do enjoy hanging out with groups of people– I just had to get over a certain barrier that told me, prudishly, that perhaps I was too good for company.  Isn’t that what being a loner is?  Isolation, because you consider yourself so different?  Yeaaah.

I mean in some sense, every individual is special– and I say this without intending to inflate my own tires– but in the end, it’s funny how I’ve always said it was necessary to bring it back to the world yet I never really bothered except in certain ways.


I played broomball on tuesday night.  It’s a little something that I started out here in Korea a few months in back when winter came in– I bought about 10 brooms with plastic bristles, and invited a bunch of my coworkers to just play in the basement garage.  It was good because it was the first thing that I did to really try to connect with my coworkers.  Unfortunately, we managed to get 3 weeks worth of games in before the event just fell apart due to winter Intensives, and it never really got back on it’s feet.

We did manage, months later, now, to get it back on, and it’s fun.  It’s nice to do sports after work– you get tired and sweaty, but at the end of the day you can just trudge over to whatever place is still selling food, you take a hot shower at home and then flop into bed.


As I write this, I’m handling the last essay corrections and report card writeups that I’ll be doing for this company.  It’s been a busy last month, and next week I’ve got to get packing with all sorts of stuff; I’ll have to put my life into bags and boxes, get stamps to send it all back home.  It’ll be interesting to see how much I’ve been living on. I’m going to miss this place, really.  It’s cornered me in a lot of bad situations, but it’s really all added up to me being a better person, without a doubt.  When I started this line of work, I thought I knew a lot of things– yet how different my perspective of the world is a year later.

 

I will be Superiority

Part of a student’s essay:

 
Like Gail Denvers, I want to become the best of my school. So I will study very hard.

I want to become the best of my school. Because another classes have smart students. I want to press this (these )students. And my friend was challenged to me. I will win from this (beat this )challenge and I will see my friend’s despairing face. When I am Tthe best of my school, I am superiority   and I be praised and I will get a presents. I want to become the best of my school for this (these )reasons.

Konversations with Kaz

Kaz says:
11:23
Kaz says:
i got 15 minutes
Kaz says:
then i gotta bounce
Kaz says:
enlighten me
Jinryu says:
nice
Jinryu says:
hmm
Jinryu says:
from wednesday to friday
Jinryu says:
it’s been crazy outings
Jinryu says:
wednesday was my birthday
Jinryu says:
i didn’t let anyone know
Jinryu says:
but somehow something called facebook informed everyone
Kaz says:
well duh
Jinryu says:
so what was supposed to be 4 dudes at a dinner turned out to be a day of cake, with 25 people after work eating 딿갈비
Jinryu says:
complete with birthday presents
Kaz says:
spicy chicken goodness!
Jinryu says:
i spent so much time toasting and talking and giving speechs and stuff that i was still hungry after 3 hours
Kaz says:
hahaha
Kaz says:
less talking more eating
Kaz says:
how many speeches can one man give?
Jinryu says:
i invited my former CT, Ellie, to eat dinner on friday
Kaz says:
then you made out with her
Jinryu says:
i told some of the other teachers that E was coming down (she quit a few months ago)
Jinryu says:
and then it was another event with like… 20 people, instantly
Kaz says:
hahah
Jinryu says:
apparently they thought it was K’s b-day (part 2)
Kaz says:
a little awkward with the making out i suppose
Jinryu says:
but no making out.
Jinryu says:
friday night some stuff started getting a bit tipsy and after the meals, we went to a bar
Jinryu says:
two of my friends started playfighting but they were kicking shit up
Jinryu says:
so I had to break it up with the help of a friend
Kaz says:
what the heck?
Jinryu says:
awkward position to be in because nobody really wants to get hurt and nobody wants to hurt anyone but whatever
Kaz says:
were they arguing over who loved Jin more?
Jinryu says:
it happens on occasion
Jinryu says:
i have  a picture of myself actually
Jinryu says:
one sec
Kaz says:
ok
Jinryu sends:
 

Jinryu sends:
 

Jinryu says:
So anyway, friday ends at about… 6am
Jinryu says:
I sleep for about 6 hours
Jinryu says:
go into work at 1:06pm
Jinryu says:
i start teaching at about 3 but because I’m usually there at one
Kaz says:
6am???
Jinryu says:
i get calls left and right because the skeleton crew I work with on saturdays, they were all out with me the night before
Kaz says:
koreans love birthdays
Jinryu says:
and they were worried since I was 5 minutes over my normal earliness, that i was mad hung over
Jinryu says:
which wasn’t the case, i was feeling just fine
Kaz says:
hahah
Kaz says:
you’re a man of routine I see
Jinryu says:
i get to work where i’m working with E, R, and Alex
Jinryu says:
Alex looks like a bag of shit and is totally hung over
Jinryu says:
anyway
Jinryu says:
teaching done, I go out with R and Alex
Jinryu says:
Alex is totally trashed but after dinner he’s been requested to join his buddies … for more drinking
Jinryu says:
and Koreans can’t refuse when their best buddies are in town
Jinryu says:
so he leaves
Jinryu says:
and R and I have the chance to get some coffee alone
Jinryu says:
you know, a long time ago, I posted up a story about a guy who was eating galbi and there was a Korean woman sitting next to him
Jinryu says:
and he was just imagining things in his head, based on what little he knew about her
Jinryu says:
well, that story was about a time that R and I were at a table full of teachers, eating galbi
Jinryu says:
in the year that I’ve worked here, i never had the opportunity to really sit down and talk with her about anything but work
Jinryu says:
but then, I had suddenly managed to miraculously get a coffee with her
Jinryu says:
and it was really
Jinryu says:
really great
 
  Transfer of “P1140238.JPG” is complete.
 
  Transfer of “P1140237.JPG” is complete.
 
Jinryu says:
she asked me to call her whenever I was in seoul after my contract was up and we’d do things together on the weekend
Kaz says:
nice
Jinryu says:
catch movies, get some coffee, whatever and I said hell yes
Kaz says:
so which one of these is R?
Kaz says:
and which one was the fighter?
Kaz says:
what was so great about her?
Kaz says:
did she share your love of Tae Kwon Doe?
Kaz says:
does she have crazy ambitious goals?
Jinryu says:
Rim is far right
Kaz says:
does she speak perfect english?
Jinryu says:
she speaks perfect english almost
Kaz says:
is she crazy?
Jinryu says:
she laughs at my jokes
Jinryu says:
she’s been to canada for a few years
Jinryu says:
and her brain is balanced
Kaz says:
i’m going through your checklist of things you look for in a girl
Jinryu says:
she’s got a nice smile
Jinryu says:
she doesn’t overdress
Kaz says:
says the man in a leather jacket
Jinryu says:
doesn’t do the heels thing too much
Jinryu says:
hey dude, that leather jacket has me surrounded by the largest percentage of Korean staffers ever recorded in picture taking history at our branch
Jinryu says:
that’s the wonder of Japanese pleather
Jinryu says:
so I’m having coffee with R and you know me… stupidly hoplessly eyes wide open for any little hint of anything
Jinryu says:
and I don’t know what this is, I don’t know what she wants
Jinryu says:
perhaps just to be friends
Jinryu says:
but anyway
Jinryu says:
you know me
Jinryu says:
any moment someone smiles at me for whatever reason and bam
Jinryu says:
i’m easy like that
Kaz says:
only because I know me
Jinryu says:
but unfortunately
Jinryu says:
coffee gets cut off
Jinryu says:
i get a text message from my man Trevor and Nick (former teacher grandmaster) who are coming to the Beomgye strip for dinner and drinks, and Nick’s leaving the area tomorrow
Jinryu says:
then I get a message from Tyrone who’s also going to be in the area in like 15 minutes
Jinryu says:
and then another message from Young Joo, Sam and Yenni who are also rolling in
Jinryu says:
and a call from DC
Kaz says:
bwahahah
Jinryu says:
and I’m like
Jinryu says:
what the fuck
Jinryu says:
EVERYONE always bails on plans
Kaz says:
cock block in FULL effect
Jinryu says:
why is it that the one day when I’m where I should be, all my plans B through H just work?
Kaz says:
hahaha
Kaz says:
maybe Chili was right
Kaz says:
act like you don’t want it
Jinryu says:
dinner with R was plan A
Kaz says:
and it will come
Kaz says:
want it too much
Kaz says:
it ain’t gonna come
Jinryu says:
i’ve been trying to get dinner with R for months
Kaz says:
so…. did you stall them?
Kaz says:
be like …um…  I’m tired
Kaz says:
raincheck all plans B through H
Kaz says:
and then stay in with R
Jinryu says:
I did as much as I could but then DC showed up in the coffee shop we were at and was like HEY DUDE!! You said you were having coffee so I just went around to your favorite places!
Kaz says:
hahahah
Jinryu says:
sooooooooooo
Kaz says:
stop posting your whereabouts on Xanga so much!
Kaz says:
stealth mode remember?
Kaz says:
soooooooooooooo…
Jinryu says:
so R and I split up and she sends me a message later saying she had a lot of fun and that we should do more things together before I have to leave
Jinryu says:
with DC I meet up with Trevor and Nick
Jinryu says:
T and N head to the bar, DC and I promise to meet up later
Jinryu says:
DC and I meet up with the conglomerated group of Koreans, plus Tyrone
Jinryu says:
we hang out for a bit, then I bail for the bar to spend some time with T and N and DC comes with me
Jinryu says:
and that’s it
Jinryu says:
oh, i forgot to mention that the night before, after the bar, the reason I was up till 6 was because of noraebang-ing
Jinryu says:
and then mcdonalds, to help those with the headaches
Kaz says:
hahah
Jinryu says:
Today is sunday, still pretty busy but less interesting.
Kaz says:
i need a flow chart
Kaz says:
to follow your dang weeek
Jinryu says:
it’s been a great week
Jinryu says:
hasn’t even been that expensive, honestly
Kaz says:
the only thing I followed was that you fell for a girl 6 days before you have to leave
Jinryu says:
i’ve spent maybe… a hundredfifty bucks in the last 4 days
Jinryu says:
she mayhaps has no clue
Jinryu says:
but like i said
Jinryu says:
that’s my problem right
Jinryu says:
or our problem as it may be
Kaz says:
it’s all good
Kaz says:
see her a few more times
Jinryu says:
there’s nothing to lose
Kaz says:
don’t declare your undying devotion yet though
Jinryu says:
worse case scenario i get to know her better and from working with her for several months (she was also a former CT for a long stretch) she’s a great person so far
Kaz says:
is there a best case scenario
Kaz says:
?
Jinryu says:
There is always a best case scenario
Jinryu says:
and we always aim for higher than that because the future is bigger than my imagination
Kaz says:
okay
Kaz says:
so fill in that blank for me
Jinryu says:
which blank?
Kaz says:
what the best case scenario is
Jinryu says:
best case scenario
Jinryu says:
i fall hopelessly in love and then I have a reason to come back to Korea
Kaz says:
hahahah
Jinryu says:
the lack thereof being the only reason why I find I want to go back home
Kaz says:
i’m hoping you mean you BOTH fall hopelessly in love
Jinryu says:
well yes
Jinryu says:
that would probably help
Kaz says:
hey man, to each his own
Jinryu says:
I’ve got 6 teaching days, plus one weekend, plus 13 vacation days to make it happen
Kaz says:
i probably wouldn’t need the reciprocated feelings as a reason actually
Kaz says:
you were always one who loved a challenge
Kaz says:
and deadlines for that matter
Jinryu says:
hah
Jinryu says:
you know i never looked at the way i handle relationships in terms of my procrastination
Jinryu says:
but I always did say
Jinryu says:
the fires burn hotter when hell is on the horizon
Jinryu says:
but yeah… 6 days left
Jinryu says:
it’s started to settle in that I might not see everyone for a long time
Jinryu says:
and despite all the teachers who I really don’t like
Jinryu says:
there’s a lot of people here who I will really miss
Kaz says:
oh and fyi, when you come back I’m calling the favours you owe me
Jinryu says:
hah
Jinryu says:
what can i do for you sir?
Kaz says:
i have essays to hand in to Harvard, Stanford and Columbia
Kaz says:
you need to give me the harshest criticism you’ve got
Kaz says:
in a sense
Kaz says:
part of me is hoping R will stomp on your heart
Kaz says:
just so that you will tear me a new one
Kaz says:
but that’s the only reason
Kaz says:
for every other reason i hope you make it work with her
Jinryu says:
hah

Hong Kong, simple edition



From an 11-year old student’s essay:
“Third, I will jump over clouds. And I will lay on cloud. But maybe it feels very wet. Somehow I want realize (understand if )the clouds are all soft or it is wet. If the cluds (clouds )are soft, that will be my playground.”


There are times that I wish I had 12 fingers because then I could speak about dozens and have some easy way to talk about them, because nobody thinks in terms of dozens. I can’t say a couple of handfuls– plus 20%.   A lot of things do come in dozens, and the problem is that they’re usually food related, and nobody really thinks of food as that important.  Nobody says he’s got a dozen-guage shotgun. Nobody says JC had a dozen apostles.  But we say a dozen eggs and a dozen doughnuts, as if the world of bakers is exclusive to their trade and our consumption of their produce.

In the last dozen days, I’ve had the opportunity to go to two really cool places.  Well, perhaps three.  A couple of short weeks ago, I went to Hong Kong, and just last night I got back from Tokyo.  I’ve been saying for a long time that I would post about this all but really, the experience is muchly similar to the way it was when I first set foot in Asia over a year ago, when I started bouncing between Taiwan, Philipines, Singapore and Thailand.

 I don’t particularly enjoy seeing temples and museums, really.  I mean, they’re nice and all that, and occasionally I’ll find one so huge and well archietected that I’ll be genuinely impressed.  But seeing all that doesn’t really interest me.  If I were to go to a temple or a museum, I’d be more interested in finding out in how this related to people.  I don’t really care about taking pictures shaking monks’ hands or anything like that.

When I go on a vacation, the inevitable problem thus is that it’s hard to find things to do or things to see that genuinely interest me.  What I want isn’t necessarily have a good time– what I want is to be able to ‘live’ in a place, and do things the way the locals do.  I don’t want any special treatment– and, being Chinese, my Asian features give me a lot of ability to do that so long as nobody tries to engage me in conversation.


There’s a lot of talk about “culture shock” among the vagrant communities, especially ESL teachers.  The basic idea is like cannonballing into ice cold water from air that’s pretty warm.  You experience a shock because of the sudden shift of everything around you, and it’s not the kind of situation you can backpedal out of easily.  I’ve been in Korea for a while now and there are a lot of things that are similar between the Asian countries, but that doesn’t make me immune to noticing tons of differences between them.  Try as I might to keep in control, sometimes the experiences are just so immersive that it’s inevitable that you freeze up every now at then– but that’s a compliment to those cultures that are so different that they work even though they do so out of any previous frame of mind that you’ve ever had.

When I got to Hong Kong, one of the first things that threw me off were the right sided drivers.  Throw in the the busses and trams are two floors tall; I could never really figure out how those bastards could drive so fast and yet never tip over.  The trams were the cheapest to ride, not being air conditioned, and could take us from our hotel all the way to the heart of Hong Kong for the equivalent of about 40 cents Canadian at the time of this posting.  Better still, we had these things called “Octopus Cards,” which serve the same purpose as “PassMo” in Japan and “T-Money” in Korea, which is basically a rechargable credit card for publig transports and stores.  I wish that Montreal had caught on to this system years ago as they have all over Asia– it’s just so much easier to tap an RFID equipped card (or just slam your wallet down) onto the sense panel and to be on your way than it ever was to slide those sometimes demagnetized plastic cards we used back in Montreal.

Later in the trip, because streets are reversed, Zanshin would cross from a tram island to the sidewalk looking in the wrong direction and almost get smeared by a tram that made no effort to slow down.  I think in general that’s one thing that is significantly different between North America and Asia– and you’re free to disagree– it’s that in North America there’s this idea that you’re ‘owed something’ while in Asia there is ‘don’t be stupid.’

If we look at the way scaffolding builders in Hong Kong climb up a dozen floors lashing bamboo together with no safety harnesses or helmets or the way people in Seoul handle circular saws with rubber slippers on, we wonder– why is it that everyone in America is decked out with safety goggles, hard hats, and construction boots?  While it is true that all that gear does reduce injuries, a lot of it has to do with the social or government interventions that tell everyone to do it.  As Zanshin puts it, one person drops a hammer on his toe and the next declaration is “Boots for all!” because otherwise, construction workers, indignant, would feel that their safety is owed by their employers.

Out here in Asia the jobs are much simpler.  Here is your primary objective.  Here is your secondary objective.  Make it happen, and you will be paid.  If you don’t like it, walk away.

It explains a lot of why in Asia, people work so much overtime without pay.  The first thought that a North American person has when this occurs when working overseas is that “I’m owed something!” but in Asia, this seldom is considered.  But in the same way the way the cities themselves are developed out here have this strange dialectic between practicality and fashion.


Like most metropolitain areas I suppose, there’s a contrast between the richest palces and the poorest, even though the districts’ borders are invisible and even though the differences might be the mere crossing of a narrow street.


Going to Hong Kong was interesting because it was the first time that I’d ever been immersed in a Cantonese environment where there was really no way out for me.  Even when I’m with my grandparents back home, I could always ask my dad or my aunts or uncles whenever there were some words I didn’t understand.  If not immediately, then over the next day or two, and then I could understand.  But being in HK was different– nobody to rely on.  Zanshin didn’t speak much Canto, beyond food items.  It was nice to be forced to work.

The peculiar thing is that this shouldn’t be a new sensation– I mean, I was in Korea normally, wasn’t I?  That’s one thing I’ve really learned, and constantly forgotten and relearned– something about comfort levels.  Even though Korean is not one of my really functional languages, and even though Korea isn’t ‘really’ my home in the sense that the majority of this country’s secrets are still completely outside of my grasp, repetition and practice gets your feet dug in.  And so whereas being in Korea is a foreign experience, it is nonetheless one that I have become comfortable with– so I found with some surprise throughout my travels to the neighboring Asian countries that it felt good to “come home to Korea” even though in it’s early stages, I was terrified of this place.


Of all things, the way that Cantonese is spoken in HK was what I felt was most different.  From what I’ve guessed, the Cantonese that people spoke in Montreal was a bit archaic– because people moved to Canada from Hong Kong and then started adopting English or French as second and third languages, the brand of Cantonese in Montreal is fused with the local jargon.  Yet, on the flipside, there’s a lot more slang in the streets of HK that doesn’t exist in Montreal.  I guess that this is the show that the the times are changing; once you cut off a branch and plant it somewhere else, they don’t always grow the same way if the conditions aren’t the same.  It’s almost as if the Canto spoken in Montreal and even Toronto was like a  time capsule of Cantonese, containing a DNA sample of HK’s language and culture from a decade ago.

Listening to Cantonese in Montreal was like listening to a living stage, reenacting expressions through the new young actors that HK had left behind mostly for the old.

Yet, as I walked through the poorer parts of Hong Kong, or when I walked into the dim sum places, it was surreal how much it looked like Chinatowns back home.  From the design and layout of the restaurants to the chairs themselves, walking into a Chinese dim sum joint was like teleporting to South Shore for a quick meal.  The waiters and waitresses had their hair slicked back and were wearing those black pants and vests, if not a paler shade of black, and there was purpose and urgency in every step.  People washed their cups a bit with their tea before eating, dishwashers’ kung fu be damned– it not out of mistrust, then out of tradition.



The trams, oh the trams!

The world is colorful, but one of the things that actually allowed me to appreciate this is black and white photography.  You take a picture in black and white and sometimes, you’ll find that what you saw as good in color isn’t really all that great in black and white.  The reason being is that many colors translate to a similar intensity in a greyscale, and b/w is more characterized by the constrasts.

The nights of Hong Kong seeemd like the kind of place just made for black and white– harsh, shielded white flourescents throwing down their hums on tram islands in the middle of otherwise warm oranges from high and far apart street lamps.  Neons, everywhere, buzzing and casting exaggerated engravings in the joints of store garage doors.  The creases in cheap looking paint that is in a frozen drool at the bottom of the tram’s metal window frames.  And lets not forget the people, with the wrinkles, or the shines, of their skin or the muscles, sometimes 60 years old, working in the sun.  All of it, the shapes, they just give lots of opportunity for the shadows.


I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a thing for transportation.  While I was in the Philipines, I think that one of the most memorable parts was riding in the “tricycles,” those motoroized three wheeled motorocycles with a passenger cart in the back.  In Hong Kong, the experience was defined by the trams.  You get to meet every kind of person on the tram who is ‘living’ in HK– I mean, from the young to the old, and you overheard them talking about the things in their lives.  The trams are noisy and they aren’t air conditioned– the whole metal behemoth rings whenever it hits a fault in the tracks, and it jolts straight up from the metal wheels to the top of your skull on the second floor.  There’s screeches resounding off the buildings as the whole contraption, awesome in it’s terrible yet archaic industrial tenacity, uses it’s hydraulics to scrape itself to a skidding stop at every light.


On a side note, I’m listening to Raine Maida’s “Hunters’ Lullaby” cd, and man– what a piece of shit!  What the frig happened to OLP??


While in HK, our basic mission was to eat.  And eat.  And eat.

Eating in a country is one way to get the feeling that you’ve been living there.  You have to eat what the locals are eating.  You have to get the stuff that’s from the neighborhood, not the stuff that’s imported.  It sounds like it goes without saying, but many foreigners, especially North Americans, will tend to stick to North American food joints– not just out of comfort, although this is largely true as well– but also because of a direct disdain for trying what seems to be strange.

Granted in HK it was more of a ‘return to home’ than anything, but to pat ourselves on the backs, Z and I did do some ‘mystery menu’ moments where we just chose stuff off a list, and didn’t know what we were doing, since we couldn’t read Chinese.  Live dangerously, and eat those lessons wherever you can, right?

The first day that I was in HK I was wretchedly sick.  Our trip begand the Saturday just after Intensives, and on Friday I felt so sick from lack of sleep, poor nutrition and taekwondo (which I never skipped) that about three quarters of the way through my day, I was leaning on tables because I was having difficulty standing.  When I got to Hong Kong, I cycled between restaurants and washrooms several times a day.  By sunday I think I was mostly ‘cleaned out’ and was able to start eating like I normally would– and I got back some of that fire of a gastronomic enthusiast when it became apparent really how many different flavors there were here.

Since so many people protested the slaying of Hello Kitty (custard edition) these pictures have been posted in reverse order so that it looks like I’m putting his head back on.  For those of you over 13 though, the truth is, she was delicious.

One of the big differences between Chinese restaurants and Korean ones is that a single Chinese restaurant tends to host several different kinds of dishes.  Not just kinds of meats– but different styles of cooking.  In Korea, on the other hand, you usually have a set ‘type’ to the restaurant in which you can only obtain dishes of a certain family.  So when you go to HK, you can get craploads of different kinds of food on the same table, which isn’t normally possible in Korea.

For the most part, they spoke excellent English in Hong Kong so the fact that I am Chinese-illiterate didn’t really matter.  I ran into a few interesting situations when the new billinguallism of HK came out– I would be speaking my dirty Canto (mixed with hints of inevitable Toysan and Fujian) and sometimes, they would just respond in Mandarin without skipping a beat.  It was fun, actually– it reminded me of that stereo lingualism we had back in Quebec where one person would just speak English and the other would respond in French or vice versa, without intending even the slightest disrespect.  It’s just the assumed comfort.  It was a fun game, because Mandarin makes almost no sense to me, and I was mostly just guessing based on body language and the 1 out of 10 words that sounded similar to Canto.


HK in general was just about seeing something bigger than the Montreal Chinatown, or the Toronto ones, or the New York one– to see the sort of ‘original Chinatown,’ because really, that’s what it is. And everywhere that I go in North America now, whenever I hear Canto, I’ll understand it a bit more– not in terms of the words, but indeed, in terms of the mentalities that made up that person or that person’s lineage that led to the thoughts to produce those words.


 

While in HK, Zan bought a Wii and I really REALLY considered getting
a PS3 after seeing some of the gameplay trailers for Metal Gear Solid
4.  I managed to resist, but the Wii did happen, and as a result there
were a few sleepless nights as we ran through a playtrhough of Umbrella
Chronicles.   We took a side trip to Macau but all I did there was play the new Street Fighter IV game.  So sue me– I’m a prior coin-opper, and I’ve been crying ever since Capcom said they were retiring the SF series.  Though it turns out they were lying, I forgive them though.

There’s always a price to keep going.  In some cases, it was a quarter.  But for other things, you really can only practice getting good at something by sacrificing a lot more, by dedicating a lot more.  The question is how far are you willing to go to try new stuff, how many coins are you willing to risk to go to the next level I suppose.


Hong Kong was like confronting all my insecurities about Chinese culture.  I’ve had issues with it ever since I was a kid because in my youth, I never really identified with being Chinese very much– it was more of a reason to get picked on in school than it was a reason to be proud.  There certainly wasn’t any sense of historic attachement for me, since I never learned anything about Chinese history until I got to univ.

The experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be– on the contrary, it was really awesome.  Belonging or not ceased being an issue a long time ago– this was underlined when I got to Korea.  It simply doesn’t matter unless you let it.  Yet somewhere in the back of my head, HK seemed like some sort of old school rite of passage that I never really wanted to handle, yet I felt I should… having done it, it turned out to be no big deal.  It wasn’t menacing in the slightest.  It was where my dad’s half of the family came from, but there was no baggage– there was nobody there to say “I knew your father, and your father’s father– let us see if you have been taught well.”  I suppose I’ve always watched too many dramas though!

HK was what it was, and that was, HK.  Always was, perhaps always will be– and it was nice, to walk in, and meet it and shake hands with it, and just talk with it, listen to it.

Break it up

So, while at Atlanta bar tonight, two friends of mine who were perhaps a bit tipsy started getting out of hand and started rolling on the ground.  It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that in their flailing, they could have started messing up some of the furnishings to the bar.  I went in and started working to break it up, and Adam eventually started to help because YiSoo hesitated too much…

I don’t really like being in positions like that, because nobody’s really right but everybody’s kinda wrong from the perspective of the establishment’s owners…

What do you do when two people you know are duking it out, even if it’s just playing, and then things get out of hand?

Oops

I’m working on some big post but in the meantime, word has spread across the oceans of the big financial crisis in the USA.

Not that this doesn’t affect Canada, nor that Canada couldn’t potentially be in the same boat, but we always did wonder how it was possible to run a country on more than a few dollars worth of imaginary money and the assumption that buy buy buy sell sell sell would keep everything running in a perfect circle.  Looks like we have our answer.