Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Thanks to the Panic, I now own a white T-shirt with black sans-serif lettering that says

my life in the 80's

which really doesn't apply to me, since in the 1980's I had no idea I would become involved in things China. This T-shirt came from a pile of band shirts; any idea what band?

If I recall correctly, at some point I said that, fashion-wise, Hong Kong women are stuck in the 1980s. I have changed my perspective slightly. The look that I associate with 1980s Hong Kong is simply the look that Hong Kong women have always worn: the reason I associate that look with that specific time period is that most of the Hong Kong movies I have seen are from back then. Still, I think there is a slight connection between American fashion and Hong Kong fashion from that period that has since faded.

Oh, and if I had a dollar for every guy I've seen wearing a pink shirt...

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I'll try to keep this short. I realized that I was unhappy with the decision to go to Taiwan, so I didn't move on it as quickly as I should have. The fellowship offer was withdrawn. At this point, I was/am in Hong Kong and I'm making plans (the visa comes back on Monday, and I have a train ticket for Tuesday in my pocket) to spend the next year working with an acquaintance at a comfortable job in Shanghai. I've got two boxes of stuff and a computer in a friend's basement in Ann Arbor, so I'll have to be back in Michigan at some point.

Questions/comments: micah@earthling.net

No wonder people are burning stuff on the street, it's Hungry Ghost Festival (another link) in Hong Kong. (found in my referers)

Mr Honda says:

I am me and
He is him:
Autumn eve.

I am he and
He is me:
Spring nightfall.

Dying is the only way
For you to float free:

James asked me to take him to PageOne to replace his stolen Hong Kong guidebook. I broke down, coughed up HKD 120, and started Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Again.

Richard writes about one of his policies:

When in a friendship with a member of the female gender, not only do I never ask if she's dating anyone, but they rarely ever tell me. I don't even ask new friends with whom I might feel a certain spark. The point is that I never ask the question, "hey, are you seeing anybody?". That's not because I'm afraid she'll say "yeah", because that way the pressure's off: I don't have to ask her out. I'm more afraid that she'll say "no", in that she's not dating someone, because I'm afraid that she'll ask as a follow-up "why do you ask?". I have no good answer to that other than a truthful one, and you know how that goes.

Richard seems to put a lot more thought into this part of his life than I do and that's why he's created a specific policy to deal with this; I haven't, but I recognize this feeling. Often when I travel I meet up with girls travelling alone and it's a weird dynamic after they happen to mention that they have a boyfriend back home. Doesn't it seem like I should be more comfortable? I would venture to say that it's a result of having either been seriously attached or Not Looking for the past, oh... 6 years. That's a while. And I still feel like I'm "in transition."

I have put some thought into policies recently, though. The way my last serious relationship went, it was like Chinese romantic Deng Xiaoping said: 摸石頭過河, "feeling the rocks to cross the river"; in the course of exploring a new way of relating to people, we both left a lot of things unsaid and ambiguous. I would like to think that I'm a little more experienced now, a little more willing to go to others for advice, and formulate some of my own policies. For example, I would consider DTR an important thing to do; if neither party is clear with the other on the current state of the relationship, unmet expectations and hurt feelings are bound to happen sooner or later.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Every night I have an Olympics party. Live coverage starts at midnight, so I roll into my room with snacks and drinks (last night: saltines and milk-flavored Fanta (it's like a carbonated Calpico Water)), flip on the TV, turn up the AC, and fall asleep to China vs Korea men's doubles gold-medal table tennis.

I decided that my time here would be more productive if I picked up a book. PageOne at the Harbour Center ("Every book starts at PageOne") was the closest bookstore to Tsim Sha Tsui (jian sha ju in pinyin) that I could find. They have a great selection of books on China and Hong Kong, but none of them were on my current to-read list. The popular fiction section carried a limited selection of Haruki Murakami (no "Norwegian Wood"?!). Most of the Murakami books I have either read too recently, or didn't look interesting. The only two books that dind't fall into those categories were Jay Rubin's commentary on translating Murakami's work, and The Elephant Vanishes, a collection of Murakami short stories. Unfortunately for Rubin, his dreamy and florid style of writing is a great fit for translating Japanese but awful for expository writing, so the Rubin book was out.

But I just finished the childhood autobiography of CS Lewis, complicating the matter because it was so juicily full of thought-provoking material that I was compelled to browse through the Religion/Christianity section, where a book of CS Lewis essays grabbed my attention. Oh, what to do. Hong Kong is such an expensive place to buy things...

The decision was too hard. Both sides were evenly matched. I purchased the two books.

I've mentioned this before, but I'll reiterate that living in Hong Kong is particularly frustrating language-wise. Not only can I not be sure what language any one person speaks (only Cantonese? Cantonese and English? Mandarin?), but in addition, all the years that I have spent stockpiling characters has been rendered nearly useless! I can decipher the meaning of traditional characters decently, but when I read them out loud to a Cantonese speaker, the meaning is completely lost. Even a transaction as mundane as ordering something at a restaurant comes nerve-wrackingly close to completion, then falls apart at execution because I've been able to decipher the menus on the wall but I can't tell the waiter what I want without standing up and pointing. I've been relying a lot on the "I'll have what he's having" method. It produces above average results taste-wise, but the mental satisfaction is just not there.

Besides the two books, I bought some music. At the YMCA concert, I picked up Good Morning Gloria's goodmorningloria, and a business card for Panic, the record store for 89268 records. 89268 puts out CDs by local Hong Kong indie bands. Panic is a little one-room shop on the second floor of a Levi's shop on 西洋菜南街 (a hopping shopping street). They sell cheap T-shirts, magazines and CDs. The selection/saavy is not as great as Monitor Records', but I get the feeling that this is more of a community effort by some local kids without a profit motive. Anyhow, the store is very professional yet underground. I chatted up the girl at the register for a while in a mixture of broken English and bad Mandarin, and saw maybe half a dozen customers in ninety minutes. I ended up with an EP by inLove, another band that played at the YMCA, andthe Di Di Di LP by all-girl Beijing punk band Hang on the Box (挂在盒子上). Tonight there's a concert somewhere in Tsim Sha Tsui by a mainland band and local act OLIVER. The girl from Panic said she'd be there. I could get used to this scene.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

One of the things that impresses me about Hong Kong is the speed at which people walk. My normally blistering pace is pretty much the norm here.

The concert I went to last night was held on the 4th floor of the YMCA in Tsim Sha Tsui. The concert's name was "Girl Power"; the headliner was a Gothic rock band from Taiwan, and the rest of the bands were local indie bands, spanning genres from punk rock, to melodic pop, to jam bands. I picked up a CD by the group Good Morning Gloria, which charmed me with a soulful rendition of The Girl From Ipanema. The girl at the CD table invited me to visit their indie record store up in Mongkok, Panic records.

Today I finally got up early enough to do the hike on Lamma Island, and it's raining. I changed from a swimsuit into jeans, but I'm still doing the hike.

I'm eating better. I even packed myself a lunch for the hike: a bottle of water, a box of juice, an apple, a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips, some chocolate Maria cookies and a Snickers. I will purchase a sandwich from 7-11 on the way.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Yesterday I ate better, two meals instead of one. I walked to a cinema in Yaumatei (油麻地) and caught a late showing of Formula 17. It would have been nice to discuss it with somebody.

While I was waiting for the movie to start, I sat outside the theatre munching on a McDonalds apple pie and sipping a Kang Shifu 酸梅汤. A young man carrying a stack of papers started to walk back and forth in front of where I was sitting, each time a little closer and eventually making eye contact. I smiled at him, so he approached and said he was doing consumer attitude surveys, and asked if I spoke Cantonese. I told him I couldn't, so he said thanks and walked away. He asked a few more people around me, and they assented. I wonder if he was thinking "golly, the boss would be impressed if I one of my sample points was a Cantonese-speaking gwailo."

I found a concert to attend this Friday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I'm worrying myself because I've stopped eating regularly again. I've got that familiar ears-stuffed-with-cotton and stomach-growling feeling that I've become used to ignoring. And food in Hong Kong is expensive. Today I had nothing for breakfast, Croquette Curry Rice and ginger ale at the trendy underground food court a couple blocks from Mirador Mansion for lunch, and sunflower seeds for dinner. I was going to make it to the Temple Street night market after the sunflower seeds, but I got caught up in the net salon reading Lonely Planet Thorntree discussions. The noodle place two blocks over is open until 2 AM...

I've settled into Hong Kong for a few days, so the "travelling" part of my summer can be considered to be over. This marks an official resumption of my posting here.