Sunday, May 26, 2013

50 Photos from Hong Kong

This is my fiftieth blog post. I’m always a bit uncomfortable with the somewhat self-centeredness of posting about my life all the time so I deeply appreciate those of you who actually read this and sometimes even learn something from it. It reaffirms that this isn’t just a long-winded monologue.

Anyway, for the big five-oh, I have decided to a Buzzfeed-esque post with mostly photos, with each one representing something significant about my time here. They are in no particular order, and many of them have already been posted here or on Facebook. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy fifty photos from Hong Kong, taken since post #1 nearly two years ago.

1. One of the very first photos I took in Hong Kong. From the balcony of my Clearwater Bay house.
2. A different view of that same house. Abundant vegetation. 
3. My room for the first eight months in Hong Kong. 
4. Hard at work, teaching one and two year olds how to march.
5. Possibly my favorite picture ever taken of me. Chinese New Year celebration at school.  
6. Informal class photos are better than the professional ones. I'd rather have confused faces than terrified ones!
7. Was hard to say goodbye to all the teachers and students at my first school.
8. First photo of Sharman and I as a couple. On Halloween 2011 in Ocean Park, shortly before a man in a ghoul costume scared the sh*t out of us.

9. One year anniversary on Lamma Island.
10. Parents visit to Hong Kong. 
11. Typhoon warning. Level 8 and strengthening! 
12. Outside the MTR station, the morning after level 10 typhoon Vicente.
13. Sure do love taking ferries.
14. And swimming in the ocean, sometimes even with high school friends. 
15. What can I say, I'm a beach boy.

16. Who also loves hiking to get to these beaches.
17. This is the best one I've found in HK, tucked beneath the rolling green hills of Sai Kung. It's called Long Ke.

18. I go to the beach to escape these crowds, like in Causeway Bay.
19. But climbing small mountains also does the trick. Thanks to trek leader Henry.
20. Che Kung Temple, the closest landmark to my current home in Tai Wai.
21. Tai Wai. There's actually room to stretch out your arms here!
22. A door-knocker that would make Scrooge shiver. The apartment shall be known as THE LION'S DEN.
23. Not quite as exciting as it sounds but, pleasant.
24. The view from atop Amah Rock. My building's in the very middle of this photo, just right of the one covered in green construction tarp.
25. Speaking of nice views of buildings, here's looking down from the Peak on Hong Kong Island.
26. And looking across at night, from Tsim Sha Tsui.
27. My favorite building on the HK side, Bank of China.
28. And on the Kowloon side, the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower
29. I guess the Big Buddha's a building too, as it has two levels and multiple rooms inside
30. I've had a lot of great coworkers.
31. At both schools I've worked for.
32. Glad many could join me for an excellent 24th birthday at Tequila Jack's Mexican restaurant. Possibly my favorite eatery in the city.
33. But I've branched out with food as well. Snake soup anyone?
34. Along with this blog, I've written tons in this journal. Now completely full.

35. My favorite place to sit and write, when the weather is tolerable. In the public park area, one floor down from my room.

36. If it's too hot to write downstairs, I can swim instead.

37. Just after summer's swim season comes autumn's peaceful bike rides.

38. But my favorite way to workout is swinging this racket as hard as I possibly can (sometimes). 
39. Between playing songs for kids and recording an album, my ukulele skills have increased a bit. 
40. As have my singing skills, from "Twinkle, Twinkle" at school to Beethoven's Ninth with the Hong Kong Bach Choir.
41. I guess my countless hours practicing Cantonese have given me some Chinese skills, though I can still hardly understand a word when watching a Hong Kong movie.

42. Or joining in on a Leung family dinner. My smiling and nodding has gotten great though. 
43. Speaking of Sharman's family, the best decoration in my flat is this, painted by her talented father.
44. A Mariners fan, helping out with basketball, makes it into an education magazine. 
45. These are the children I'm trying to prepare for the future. 
                        46. Many things have changed, many stay the same. I find myself at the cinema nearly every weekend.   Sometimes even at 10 am.

47. I also love when old friends come to visit. Here's Luke, one of seven high school classmates to find me here.

48. Public transit in Hong Kong is beyond incredible, and this little card is the key to the magic.
49. But much of my time in Hong Kong has been dreaming about going other places.

50. A few words of wisdom to neatly wrap this all up. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013


In February, I wrote that I’d finally found a favorite form of exercise here in hiking the SAR's gorgeous countryside. But I can now say that as much as I love hiking, it has been replaced by something new. Since joining my first proper game a month ago, I’ve become totally addicted to badminton.

At college, I took PE activity classes in pickleball, racquetball and bowling. I loved them all, and have now been able to translate some of my racket skills to badminton, a game I had casually played only a handful of times back home. In Asia, badminton seems to be the king of racket sports, followed by tennis, table tennis and to a lesser extent, squash. As you Americans out there know, badminton is a sport associated with front lawns and lemonade in the US, not lightning speed reflexes and carefully marked indoor courts as it is over here. I shifted perspectives after watching the China vs. Malaysia men’s singles gold medal match during the Olympics a year ago. When played well, the sport is like a kind of intricate dance, with wrist action almost more like fencing than tennis.

Since late April, I’ve picked up the basic rules, technique and strategies from a number of experienced players, kind enough to help out with the events that I join. This website, by the way, is designed for people of similar interests to be able to, you guessed it, meet up and participate in their activity of choice, in this case badminton. There’s even one in HK called the ‘Hipster Fellowship.’ I wonder what they do. Sit around and grow ironic facial hair together while admiring Instagrams of food?

Anyway, back to badminton, the sport is ideal for Hong Kong. It’s protected from the elements by being indoors, it’s in a smaller, compact space, and it requires nimble maneuvering instead of brute force. Not unlike navigating through the crowded MTR stations. I’ve got a long way to go before I master most of the important badminton shots, but I feel that I’m improving at the mental and physical aspects of the game, which may be the fastest ball sport invented. If you don’t believe me, watch this.

In addition to weather being a non-factor, a reason why badminton takes the cake over hiking is that it’s competitive. Overlooking incredible views and repetitively smacking a little plastic hemisphere with feathers attached are both great ways to relieve stress, but something about the stakes of winning or losing a game make badminton my top choice. I haven’t competed against people in a team sport since my intramural softball team lost out on the championship game my last year in college, and for ineffable reasons, it’s incredibly fun.  

This may be a fad or it may be a lifelong pastime for me; I don’t know. Regardless, this sport has made a rather uneventful month of May that much more eventful. Now if I ever hear someone mention they’d like to go get smashed, I’ll hesitate, and then be disappointed when I realize they probably aren’t talking about playing badminton.