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Thursday, December 1, 2016

writing block, living block ...

definitely a loving block - I've been quiet because I've had nothing I felt worth sharing and still don't. I'm saddened by the world of late, and I'm not accustomed to feeling that way.

I'm hoping to recover soon. Writing helps, even when I have nothing to say

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Handling hectic Hong Kong . . .

The pace of life here in Hong Kong, for me at least, makes Beijing look almost rural. There's so much to see and do and always something going on but I feel as if I've done very little the past three months. I guess that's not truly the case.

After my first month looking after friends' apartment and gorgeous ginger cats, I found an apartment of my own that I love. Like many homes in HK, it's a tiny studio but is ideal for me. The building is only three years old so everything feels new and clean and it has great facilities - gym, pool, a reading room, relaxation area with several Bali-style loungers, massage chairs, barbecue terrace with two Webers, an outdoor area and 24-hour reception staff.

My apartment came with a new sofa bed (I got to choose the style and color) and has a reasonable amount of storage space, a great bathroom and a wonderful open kitchen area with lots of counter space and an oven. There's a small balcony (I need to get a chair to put out there) and a small view of the harbor (I'm watching ferries go by as I write this). I've been slowly buying everything I need for the place, picking up items most days as I head home from work. I make my own meals to take to work most days and am again baking sweet treats to take in for workmates or share with a friendly neighbor.

My neighborhood, Sai Ying Pun, has wonderful restaurants, markets and shops and almost everything one needs is withing walking distance. It has the feel of a village rather than a big-city 'hood and you see and acknowledge a lot of the same people around all the time. My apartment complex has a similar feel, with regulars in the gym and pool and several families with young children to liven up the place.

Work has been a slight case of being careful what you wish for - I wanted a challenge after not finding that in my last position and have definitely found it here. I've completed my probation period and feel I'm settling in well and work with some great people - always a huge plus. It's been more intense that I expected, which explains why I haven't done as much as I expected as yet. I often just want to stay in my quiet apartment in my free time for now.

Obviously, it's a busy city and I work in a hub of the mayhem at Causeway Bay, and have become to narrower, more crowded walkways than even in Beijing. There are also public spaces everywhere, however, allowing a respite from the bustle and a place to rest and recuperate before heading back into the fray. I also like the sports areas I see dotted throughout the city, which seem busy whatever the hour.

I've made time to take care of myself and find my own peace - something that seems more important in such a busy city. I start each day with meditation before breakfast, coffee and hitting the gym, and often follow that up by swimming laps then hanging out poolside with a book. I'm taking a yoga class at least once a week and trying to fit in one other practice session also. The meditation and yoga help me relax and be more tolerant, the workouts give me happy endorphins and it all together makes me a calmer, more chill person. 

I guess I've achieved a reasonable amount in the time I've been here and the weather is starting to be ideal for hiking so I hope to explore more of my new home in the next months. There's no hurry - I imagine I will be here for some time . . .

Saturday, August 20, 2016

two months in . . .

. . . it's been a busy, busy time getting settled in Hong Kong

Obviously, I've been learning my new job. Anywhere you go, even if the job description is the same, the systems, the corporate culture, the people and personalities will be very different. It's been a steep learning curve and I look forward to fully relaxing into it - not slacking off but feeling comfortable enough to not second guess my every choice. (Not the fault of anyone but myself - I'm the hardest taskmaster I have).

Then there's the city. and I've fallen in love with Hong Kong. I always liked it, but living here rocks. I was incredibly fortunate when I arrived that not only did I have a hotel room for a week, but I had friends from the Jeju community who were heading away for six weeks immediately after that. I got to spend that time in their apartment with two wonderful ginger cats and planned to look at where I wanted to live during that time. I fell for their neighborhood, and took an apartment here.

There are very, very many reasons I love my new home, but it's 0100 (I worked a late shift today) and I have so much to do tomorrow. Now that I'm settled in my own place, I plan to write more often.

BTW, there's a single bed available in my postage stamp of a home. I've been hosted so well by so many friends - it's my turn to repay the favor.

For now, some sleep is needed. Tomorrow's plan is the usual early gym visit (I love having my gym three floors below my bed), yoga with the mom of the ginger kittehs (she's amazing, but I'm going to an "all-levels" class" because I'm nowhere near her level), meeting my next house guest at the airport, meeting another friend for a sunset cruise on a luxurious junk, back to mine for refreshments and then out to dinner.

You can see why I've not written much lately . . .

Friday, July 22, 2016

preconceptions . . .

. . . are often misconceptions

I thought I grew up poor, but I grew up with a mother who would fight to get anything her children needed, and taught us to do the same. My Mom taught me to work hard and smile often, but also to not accept anything less than what I deserved

I thank her for that

my mum gave me all the riches in the world

Friday, July 15, 2016

Unique in our own dysfunction . . .

. . . the more I am welcomed into other people's lives and their families, into other countries and places I thought I would never be, the more I realize every family, every friendship, every workplace and every group is dysfunctional in some way. Because each of us is, in our own way.

So, yes, I'm weird and so are my friends, but I suspect everyone might be also, and that is fine within limits to the weirdness and dysfunctionality.

This weekend, as my sisters (who are braver than me) prepare to join our father's latest and last family and farewell the old bastard in traditional Tongan style. I realize that, yes, we are weird, but all families are. We are a little damaged, but everyone is. Some more than others.

Our first response of hearing of our Da's death was to contact each other, to ask "how are you feeling, are you ok?" Even those of us who don't really understand each other and don't communicate often did that and, for me, the instinct was also to check on the new family. I had consciously avoided them - why would I want to know the replacements in my father's life?

It was one of the current family who informed me, and he was gentle and respectful. My sisters, who know him well, say he is wonderful. I'd like to get to know the family. There's no need for me to be jealous any more - maybe I can just meet these half-siblings and tell stories and learn what we have in common. And what we don't - that's what family is.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

me Da . . .

My father died last night, and friends advised me to share stories to work through the grief, but most of my stories of my father aren't fit for sharing.

It is probably appropriate that I got the news from a half-sibling, who has become a good friend and family member to my sisters but who I have avoided getting to know. I didn't want to see my bad dad become somebody else's good dad - it was easier to have that void in my life if I pretended he wasn't capable of being a good dad.

I'm sad that it took our father's death for me to talk to my brother. I won't go to the funeral. I didn't go to my mother's either. I would like to visit my Dad's latest family (he was a one-man United Nations, children everywhere) and get to know them, but not right now.

For now, I'm going to look at this picture, and remember him carrying me on his shoulders as he strode down the beach.

He made me, literally. He also made me who I am, for better or worse. I look at this photo and can't help but smile - I got some of the adventurer genes from him (from my amazing Mum also, she was brave enough to marry him!). He gave me my love of the sea, he gave me the gift of storytelling, he gave me life and the desire to live it well.

Edward Patrick Joseph Barrett - farewell. I wish you following winds

Friday, July 1, 2016

Welcome to the SAR . . .

It's just over a week since I moved to Hong Kong and this evening I finished my first week at my new job. Which I am really enjoying and, best of all, is where I'm learning new skills each day. I've always believed a day is wasted if you don't learn anything from it and my colleagues here, who are all incredibly friendly and friendly, have much they can teach me.

As for Hong Kong itself, as I expected from previous visits, I'm loving it so far. I haven't seen much of it yet as I've been concentrating on the job and learning the area around my workplace, which has a lot to offer. The hotel I stayed in for the first week was literally five minutes walk from work so I explored the area in ever-widening circles for that week. I had stayed in both Causeway Bay, where the office is, and neighbouring Happy Valley on previous trips and it hasn't changed that much in the 10 or 12 years between. (Note I have gone back to British English spellings, that's what I use at the new job so it's best to make a clean change.) It's a different style of exploring when it is where I will spend five days a week though and I've found great markets, fabulous food options and a wonderful public pool that I overlooked from my hotel room and never seemed crowded.

Yesterday I moved further out to stay in my friends' apartment with their kittehs for six weeks while they enjoy Mongolia and Italy. They took me around the neighborhood last weekend to show me their favorite places and I'm again exploring each evening as I go out to gather (purchase) food items. It's great to have a kitchen again after a week in a hotel but I'm very glad I spent so long living on small yachts. I'm accustomed to cooking in a confined space and at least this postage stamp kitchen isn't being violently thrown around by stormy waters as I prepare food.

I'm incredibly fortunate my friends planned to travel just as I was moving here, allowing me the time to decide where I really want to live, but I must say I'm tempted by their neighborhood. I've barely looked elsewhere yet, however, and intend to spend my weekends doing just that for the next month. I really look forward to getting my own place and setting it up but am enjoying my time here with the feline overlords as well.

I'm also blessed to not only have my own network of friends here but to have been put in touch with friends of friends to help me settle in my new home. I'm having lunch with one such on Sunday and look forward to learning more about Hong Kong from a long time resident.

The adventure is back on track . . .

Thursday, June 23, 2016

the new home . . .

after three years in China and far too many years in Korea, I'm suffering severe culture shock on my arrival in Hong Kong. Pedestrians wait for the light to turn green before they cross (at the pedestrian crossings, even!). Taxis obey traffic signals also. People are polite and helpful. 

First thoughts on flying in, which coincided with sunset - I love the mountains and the water. I probably didn't sleep enough the past week (packing out after too long) so I keep seeing Blade Runner and Mission Impossible in the silhouettes. There seem to be three 7-11s on every block, and taxis are very expensive. The MTR can be confusing when you're tired but after wandering a while, I found my way back to the hotel. No more taxis! 

The view from my window is a mountain, lush and green. I have kittehs to look after and friends to catch up with. AND a mountain of paperwork to fill in. it only seems easy until you arrive. Then the bureaucracy kicks in.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Zaijian ...

It's time to say goodbye to mainland China.

It has been an eventful three years and I have made many friends and learned many lessons, but I look forward to more freedom, at work and play.

I don't regret coming here - even the most difficult times come with lessons and learning, and I need and welcome both. I will miss the friends I have made, but I'll take them with me, and try to remember fondly those who didn't make it to friend status but still enriched my time in China.

Wherever I end up living in Hong Kong, I plan to have space for friends to visit. This is an open invitation to those I care for. (Tom, please don't lock me out again.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

life is a beach ...

... the really sucky thing about getting old is that people die, and you forgot to tell them how much they meant to you while they were alive ...

I misspent my late teen years roadying for touring cover bands in New Zealand and tending bars before I was of age to drink in one. Both brought me into contact with Peter Martin, the rough-and-tumble bouncer at the Lady Hamilton who looked after the bands (if he liked them) and the female staff. A former band friend let us know today that Pete had died. I'm sad, but mostly because we lost touch and I never thanked him enough. I'm also happy at the memories his many friends are sharing.

My favorite moments - waking in Hamilton Hospital after a car accident and Pete was there (and unka Phil - love you too buddy) grinning at me. Missing teeth from the life he led but still looking out for one of his girls.

Then there was the time I was working the ground floor bar and he tossed a tosser off the second floor. Landed in front of the bar but didn't want a drink anymore (it was a different time, but I think the guy had disrespected one of our waitresses and laid hands on her - deserved to be tossed).

So, to all the Lady H alumni - Tim and Donna, LA Dreams, most of all Phil Walsh and Murray - thank you for the memories.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Leaving the mainland . . .

Having decided a few months back that it was time to move on from China Daily after three years, I was offered and accepted a job with CCTV. The visa requirements have become much more onerous in those three years, however, and I was told to expect it to take at least five months. Add all the costs associated , including not working for a couple of months while I waited. Censorship has also gotten more noticeably silly of late.

Then, out of the blue, a recruiter approached me asking if I'd be interested in relocating to Hong Kong. A series of rapid turnaround stages later (about two weeks in total) and I was offered a Senior Sub Editor position with South China Morning Post, where a couple of former colleagues also work. I'm very happy with the offer, and even better, it will take only about six weeks to process with none of Beijing's arbitrary conditions. I finish here in just over seven weeks so the timing is ideal!

I've not lived in Hong Kong, having only visited, but love the beaches, markets, hiking opportunities and, best of all for me, sailing opportunities. I have quite a few friends already there who I look forward to catching up with and expect to see many others when they visit.

Now to find a rich yacht owner who needs a live-aboard caretaker . . . 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mustang Sally . . .

I love words, love to bury my head in their hellacious awesomeness and inhale deeply . . .

I work in an industry where I am blessed with colleagues who feel similarly, but also cursed with copy writers who have never heard a cliche they don't want to buy a drink and take home.

Yesterday, I got to play with two 8-year-olds and try to help them love words also. We started with "Where The Wild things Are," moved on to them creating their own wild things and describing them to me. Ended up throwing/bouncing a Swiss Ball to each other while going through the alphabet with animal names (no, Giraffe can't be both "g" and "j").

I also asked them to name my motorcycle, which has been sadly nameless, despite them calling their wild things the most boring white folk names of Lisa and Tom. (Sorry Lisa and Tom, I don't mean you!)

They called her Sally, which I also thought a little dull, but I can't get "Mustang Sally" out of the soundtrack of my mind today.

"All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride . . . "

Friday, March 11, 2016

the long goodbye . . .

the crocheted blanket will suffice, for now . . .

the cat I don't have is leaving me . . .

It's a fractured and furry story, as most are, but I took in a feline house guest for a few months, which extended. In that time, he went from being the house guest to the overseer, as cats are wont to do.

He hated me at first, howling for his Mom and wondering why my apartment was so much smaller than what he was accustomed to. His Mom was part of a knitting group I joined to learn to crochet (another story, another time), and I invited the group over often to help him feel at home.

He and I have come to an agreement where he is allowed to roam the halls and run the stairways most days (his fat furry butt needs the exercise) so long as he comes home when I call or whistle.

He's currently sleeping beside my computer and I have to keep moving his head off the Ctrl key.

He was to leave in October.

It's now March.

His Mom is coming to fetch him later this month, so I'm overdosing on his feline asshattery (he is a cat, after all). Many of my colleagues will miss him, as will my WeChat friends who love his every photo (he's extremely photogenic and has a reasonable staff writer). My asthma will not miss him, but he is such a character that even knowing I am allergic to his furry awesomeness doesn't stop me from burying my face in it.

"bring me Leia"

I'll miss you, Fur Beast . . .

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Good Morning, Beijing . . .

Now that the sun is rising earlier, I do so also and often stroll through my neighborhood before getting ready for work, fetching fresh fruit for my breakfast, fresh produce for later use or simply enjoying the sights as the community prepares for the day.

There is a middle school behind my work complex and my apartment looks over its assembly ground / basketball  courts and across the road to a kindergarten opposite. Across the road from our side gate is an elementary school, so the streets are filled with students each morning.

The kindergarten and elementary school students are dropped off by their parents or grandparents -  some in cars; many on electric motorbikes, scooters or seated in child seats on the back of cycles; many being accompanied on foot, often with the child on a kick scooter that the adult will then lead home.

The chaos outside the gates, as cars stop wherever they can to see their charges safely to school, is added to by the presence of a community sanitation center beside the elementary school. Local garbage drop-offs, like those from our complex, are made using small (and usually heavily laden) carts pulled by three-wheeled motorcycles and these and the large sanitation trucks taking the gathered garbage elsewhere add to the mayhem.

A little further up the street is a line of restaurants, small supermarkets, a local market and real estate agents (these are everywhere in Beijing!). At one small storefront, women sell a Chinese version of a breakfast sandwich - a bun with either chicken or sausage, lettuce and a tomato. Other vendors sell dumplings and one man is always present, selling fried pastries from a hot vat of oil set up outside one of the restaurants. I like to watch as he rolls his dough flat, before twisting it and dropping it into the hot oil. There are dumplings for sale behind him, but I have only ever seen the pastry seller busy in this spot, not the restaurant doorway behind.

The shops are on the way from the closest subway stop and main bus routes to the middle school, so the streets are filled in the mornings with older students making their own way to school. Like anywhere else, they tend to roam in groups, laughing and talking among themselves and oblivious to anyone coming their way. They are regular customers at the food vendors, as are many of the parents and grandparents doing the school run - sometimes getting food for themselves or their charges as they rush them to school, sometimes picking up takeout in a more leisurely manner as they head home or to whatever they plan until it is time to return at the end of the school day.

Beside the middle school, in the parking space between two apartment blocks, is a temporary farmers'-style market, only there until 1 pm each day and offering the best and freshest of whatever is in season. At this time of year, there is much to choose from and I often find myself getting carried away and having to make and freeze soups or stews so as to use up all the goodness I have bought.

The neighborhood is equally busy in the evenings, with the addition of folding camp chairs and wooden-box tables turning the streets into al fresco dining areas and the ubiquitous groups of men playing Go or other games. The evenings have their own excitement that I also enjoy, but it is the promise of what the day may bring that most draws me to the morning scenes.