Wednesday, December 27, 2006

First Day in HongKong

I checked into the hotel last night around midnight. As I got onto bus A11 from the airport, I felt like I was in Miami with the humid air, busy ports and bridges. Occasionally I hear people speak loudly in Cantonese on their cell phone. I understand none of it; they might as well speak Spanish. The funny thing is that I’ve been here for half-a-day now and I haven’t spoken a single word of Chinese. Maybe it is better that way, they don’t like Chinese from the mainland here.

The first thing I did after checking in was turning on my computer and sadly, I couldn’t find a wireless net work that worked more than 2 seconds at a time. Then I gave up and took a shower. After more than 20 hours on the airplane I was tired and hungry. I had two meals and a ham and cheese sandwich on the flight to Tokyo but I pretty much passed out on the way to Hong Kong and didn’t have the third meal on that flight. Besides, I think if I had any more airplane food I would literally be sick to my stomach.

So now we are onto priority #2: food! The hotel room is tiny; I have barely enough space on the floor to lay out my luggage. However, the good thing is that it’s located in Causeway Bay, the central part of Hong Kong Island. There are Starbucks and fashion stores right down the stairs and a 24-hour grocery chain called Wellcome (yes, that’s spelled with two l-s) across the street from me. Hong Kong is known for their noodles and roasted geese. It’s already well pass midnight but the noodles shops are still open and crowded inside. I decided to get a bowl of yellow noodles with beef broth, mushrooms and fried tofu. I had a hard time to read the menu in “un-simplified” Chinese so I reserved to the point-and-nod method of communication. It came to about 4 US dollars and the shop owner threw in a small container of hot oil in my takeout bag. I was happy. Then I made my first major mistake since I left Rochester (and I don’t mean the wrong turn I took on my way back to the hotel, and no, I haven’t gotten mugged yet, there are tons of people on the street after midnight, even long lines at the bus stop, don’t they have to sleep and go to work the next day???).

So what was the mistake? Arrogance. When I finally got back to my room, I took out the rather tiny and pitiful looking “hot sauce” (which smelled like sesame oil) and thought what the hell is this thing, don’t they have real hot sauce here? Of course I dumped the whole thing in and even used the tofu as a little sponge to soak up whatever was left in the container…and then…WOW!!! My mouth was on FIRE! Man, this is Hong Kong, not Sichuan or Hunan where they’re known for their killer spicy food! I was totally not expecting this! I have been too use to the mild crap we get in the US. So for the hour that followed I was completely in tears and had to blow my nose between every other bite and drink peach-flavored milk I got from Wellcome to cool down (it was the only cold drink I had) and the whole time I thought thank god I took the stuff back to my room, I would have been pretty embarrassed if this had happened at the restaurant. I’m the queen of spicy food! I can’t be defeated! I had to eat the whole damn thing just to prove a point. And that’s how I fell in love with this place. So here is a word of advice: if you ever travel to Hong Kong or any part of Asia, taste the “hot sauce” before you put it into your food!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Going Home

As I boarded the plane to Detroit, I smelled Indian food, immediately I thought: oh god, I have finally spent way too much time eating at the Thali of India. I quickly sniffed my sweater but I can only detect a faint scent of my perfume mixed with Misha’s cigarette. Then I saw there was an Indian family sitting in front of me, I felt a sense of relief and disappointment all at once. I sure hope I won’t be sitting behind the curry roll on my 13-hour long flight to Tokyo!

Few hours into my trip already and it still hasn’t clicked in my head that I’m going to China. This trips reminded me of the time when I first came to the States by myself more than 10 years ago. Back then I knew Chinese but didn’t speak English; now I learned English and have forgotten how to read or write Chinese. Hong Kong is not home, neither is ChangSha. I want to feel like returning home after a long journey, but now it seems more like a comfy bed is all I really care for.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

West4th NYC

Red told me to get off on West 4th to meet up with him for lunch. With no plans in mind, I got there few minutes early to look around. The sidewalk immediately outside of the subway tunnel was lined with piercing parlors and adult toy stores. I had to go in. Its never too early to start shopping for Christmas presents. People in general were very friendly and all the pipes are labeled for tobacco only. While I was wondering in one of the shops, a gregarious store attendent approached me with the usual greetings and told me to hold out my hand to feel the water based lubricant. It sounded pretty harmless and being a nice person I am, I extended my hand to him. Next thing I know he was demonstrating six different ways to use a vibrating robber tongue on my fingers while telling me to imagine the sensation else where. And then he proceeded to show the handcuffs and the gag ball on me, at that point I was waiting for another guy to show up and carry me to some unmarked van parked behind the store. Thankfully, he unlocked me and I walked out of the store still content with my bullet.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Why do we travel, asked Elisabeth Bishop, "Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to imagined places, not just stay at home?

I used to love airports, the idea of going some place new, or coming home after a long journey. Then there were the security check points, delays, lost luggage and screaming children (well, I guess theyve always been around). I started to hate the airport. After being delayed at OHare airport for over 10 hours while coming back to Rochester after Christmas break, the only positive thing was to realize the omnipresence of Eastman colleagues. While I waited, I ran into three other Eastman students in the same terminal. Now I got my laptop and ipod handy airports are bearable again. There's free wireless and even rocking chairs in the open atrium over looking the runways. I love rocking chairs. Im waiting to board Jetblue flight #43 to NYC and I'm happy to have my Eastman shirt on today.