Archive

Being Abroad


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One thing you come to appreciate when you move far away from home is people who try to keep in touch with you. With social media and email, it would seem a fairly easy task but even then, there’s a good level of intentionality that remains to be seen once someone isn’t just a phone call or meetup away.

I’ve been so blessed to have such supportive family and friends. They have done everything from send me sweet packages with Amurrrican goodies (DIY taco kits, large bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos — hallelujah Lord bless them) to shell out hard cold cash to visit me.

My cousin Jamie is one such person who has shown me so much love and support. Despite her own busy schedule, being an ambitious blogger, event hostess, and visionary designer, she always clears out her schedule to visit with me while I’m home and makes sure I don’t leave empty handed (or without major sideaches from laughing so damn hard). It makes me sad I can’t spend more time with her in person but on the up side, the distance does make our hearts grow fonder as we exchange ideas for new projects and keep in touch the new old fashioned way: lengthy emails and blog post updates! Jamie and her husband, Chris, have been working on some AMAZING projects, like Blog Party, which started out as a collective meetup for bloggers to connect in cool, creative spaces. Blog Party has grown tremendously into a *pretty* huge deal, with collabs featuring Brit + Co, Social Print Studio and more. Check out Blog Party if you’re interested in connecting with other cool people or hosting your own Blog Party!

I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile now but I wanted to give Jamie a tour of my neighborhood since there are so many spots that remind me of her. If you’re headed to Hong Kong in the near future, add this area to your list!

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The area I live in is called Star Street Precinct. In 1889, Hong Kong’s first power station started operating in Electric Street. The streets surrounding it were thus named according to the Three-Character Chinese classic verse of “Three luminaries – the sun, the moon and the stars”, the three major elements that generate electricity. Star Street, Sun Street and Moon Street are some of the oldest streets located in the area.

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Today the area has evolved into a funky commune of old and new, an interspersing of small cafes, independent galleries, and colorful furniture shops with upscale restaurants and distinctive retailers.

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I never thought I would live here — I looked at 18 flats before I found the one I live in now, and that story is for another blog post — but I’m fairly happy I do now, even if it’s a bit more expat-oriented than I might like to admit… (Let’s just say it’s doing nothing for my Cantonese language skills)

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This section of the neighborhood is actually a rare slice of serenity, even though it’s a stone’s throw from one of Hong Kong’s busiest streets (Queen’s Road East). From here the endless passing of rattling buses, trucks and taxis seems almost inaudible.

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Odd One Out always carries great pieces, like intricate laser cut artwork, humorous deadpan notecards, and other unique items that you can peruse while a super hip soundtrack plays in the background. I also enjoy this spot because of the owners, who are extremely friendly and engage every person who walks in. I should mention they make a solid long black as well!

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South China Morning Post, the largest English newspaper in Hong Kong, recently published this lovely piece on Star Street, which covers many spots I didn’t have a chance to photograph but made me appreciate this area even more. Hope you all wander through this area when you come for a visit! Jamesquas, HK awaits. 🙂

taco bell chalupa

Chili cheese dog from Weinerschnitzel. A #5 combo from Del Taco plus two chicken soft tacos with a Sprite. Beef Chalupa Supreme with a Baja Blast and cinnamon twists. A #2 from In N Out with grilled onions and either a 1/2 chocolate, 1/2 vanilla shake or a lemonade with Sprite and animal style fries (with ketchup and pepper) and yellow pepperchinis on the side. Wendy’s chicken nuggets (no less than 10 pieces, pls), a baked potato with bacon and sour cream, a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, plus fries and the largest sized Frosty they are legally capable of selling. Popeye’s chicken strips with the following Signature Sides: mac n’ cheese, cajun fries with ranch, green beans, red beans and rice and a Dr. Pepper or a Sweeet Tea. A Costco polish dog with mustard and Sprite mixed with Minute Maid Lemonade. A Chipotle barbacoa burrito with black beans, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro-lime rice and onions, with chips and guac and a Sprite. Four al pastor tacos with green sauce and extra radish from the King Taco off E. 3rd St., plus a large horchata. A 5 Guys chili cheese dog with onions and fries. A #6 combo from Weinerschnitzel or just any corn dog with mustard from anywhere.

I don’t always know what to catalogue but when I do, it’s my favorite fast food.

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It poured yesterday in Hong Kong. The electricity was knocked out of several buildings for hours and people scurried from one overhang to another, completely unprepared for the unexpected downpour. Thunder and lightening are no joke in Asia–the first time I witnessed these two weather forces in the Eastern hemisphere, I was on a boat in China, heading down the Yangtze River. Never before had I been so terrified of weather. The loud, thunderous crack of these electrical whips of light, streaking across the sky physically jolted me out of my seat, almost out of my skin.

Yesterday was no different. It was petrifying to hear the thunder crash down from above. Luckily the brief storm didn’t last long. I had to wonder if this was the beginning of our spring showers. And if so, the only other thing I fear more (or “loathe more” to be exact ) than thunder is the impending drastic, subtropical summer heat that will engulf me in a mere few months.

I was doing a massive clean of my aunt’s apartment in preparation for my good friend, Val, who is coming to visit me. She will be the first person who is traveling here for the sole purpose of visiting me! (After my mom, of course) I’m so touched and super excited for the packed itinerary we have planned.

I decided it’s time to crank up the peppy springtime jams because fairer weather is on its way and it’s always nice to have something fun to listen to while you sweep and scrub. 🙂 I made this mix via Spotify, and was going for a hearty amount of funk, mixed with some light-hearted rock. It’s time to get your frolic on!

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A few weeks ago I posted some writing I had done for TimeOut Hong Kong. I have since done some more writing (and yes, am working on even more). These are mostly music-related with some food for good measure. You can find links to them on my “professional” blog (ha) or click on the links below. For the full scope on all my writing for TimeOut, go grab a physical copy!

Shopping

Orsola de Castro

Probably one of the most important pieces I’ve gotten to do so far. I really enjoyed interviewing Orsola as she’s fantastically articulate and so knowledgable about her field. I felt empowered to become more eco-conscious and more creative in general about how I consume stuff.

Music

Crowd Lu

Probably one of the biggest names in Taiwanese pop, among the singer-songwriter variety. Crowd is gifted with an incredible voice and has worked hard to get where he’s at today: selling out large stadiums across Asia.

Macy Gray

Ms. Gray came to town for an intimate, one-night only performance. It was actually very interesting researching her life and career — she’s one helluva talent and I find her rather underrated.

Food

Xmas 2012 – Christmas Eating All In One Spot!

As an American, I didn’t know what mulled wine was nor did I realize a hamper was actually quite the opposite of a place where you put dirty clothes. Me and my improper English. 

Thanks for reading!

As Abe Lincoln once said, “Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” I hope he really said that but I got it off the Internet so who knows. Accuracy aside, I see the truth in that statement and while I’ve been here nearly three months, I feel like my days of hustling here in Hong Kong have only just begun.

I recently started writing for TimeOut Hong Kong, which has been a stretching experience in many ways. But I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve gotten out of this opportunity so far (see my last post), including learning more about this cool SAR and understanding its complex identity, not to mention shattering (or just expanding) all of my pre-conceived notions about its people, and its past, present and future. Sometimes life requires you to pay your dues and I’m pretty sure I’m doing exactly that right now. Check back here regularly as I’ll try to post links to all the writing I get to do here. For now, enjoy a slice of HK life — a little music, some arts and culture and a whole lot of food.

Music

Psychic Ills

I’m trying not to get too excited at the thought of all the music that I get to explore while here but I’m just really excited about it. Like unprofessionally, fan-girl status excited. Hopefully I will write about more music in the future!

Books

Joyeux anniversaire

Parenthèses Librairie, Hong Kong’s only French bookshop, recently counted 25 years of being here and I had the privilege of covering their joyful celebration. Who would have thought Hong Kong was home to so many Francophones and Francophiles?

Food

Hong Kong’s Best… Snake Soup

You know that joke about how if Adam and Eve were Chinese, they would have eaten the snake and not the apple? No? Okay, well there you go. I’ve yet to try snake soup but now that it’s getting a bit colder, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a steaming bowl of she geng.

Hong Kong’s Best… White Truffle Menus

The other day, my friend Mary was telling me that there is one restaurant for every 600-700 people here in Hong Kong. With a population of over 7 million, that is a lot of restaurants. This is truly a foodie’s paradise, especially when white truffle season rolls around…

Entertainment

Levels

I visited Hong Kong’s newest club and lived to tell about it. 😉

Thanks for reading!

The other day a colleague was putting together a Thanksgiving (or as I prefer to call it: “Indigenous Peoples Day”) collage and asked me to write down something I’m grateful for.

Since “family”, “health”, “friends” and “Grandma”, had already been chosen by others, the word “opportunity” came to mind. This year has been filled with so many opportunities worth seizing, both large and small. It’s amazing how drastically can life change — and has changed — within the past 11 months, not just for me but for many others around me as well. These changes are the result of opportunities we chose to pursue at some point or another. I think about how this was near the age when my dad and his siblings left Hong Kong for the US because in a strange way, they were seeking opportunities I’m now searching for here. I guess no matter what era, it’s always rather exciting to be in your twenties.

I hope you can find opportunities (and things in general!) to be grateful for. I’ve found it’s usually the simplest ones that deserve the most recognition. Onward!

I came across this video tonight and in five minutes, it somehow clarified the significance of my last two months of living in a new country thus far.

This post has a little bit to do with politics and a lot to do with indifference in the face of ambiguity.

Also, verbosity has always been a real strong suit of mine. Just a friendly FYI.

I expected to come to Hong Kong and have a few things fall in to place rather quickly:

1. A job. Obviously.

2. “Self actualization” in the form of living in an entirely new place and learning one, if not two, new languages. Plus all the other challenges of living in a country that is relatively foreign to me.

3. A career path (which to me is different than a job) that would define things for me for the next few years.

4. A husband.

I’m kidding about the last one. I really am. I’ve probably cursed myself and will find none of the above except a lover. Which actually MAYormaynotbeawesome……………………………………………….beep bloop bleep.

In all seriousness, at this point, it’s been roughly nine weeks since I started living here, give or take a trip home and family members visiting (which I don’t think count toward time living here). And I have not found any of the above (alright, save for a some pretty substantial moments of self-actualization). In fact, I’ve never, ever, ever, EVER, EVER been so confused in my entire existence. And I have even fewer friends than I did before so in the game of life, I am losing badly.

But it is hard to be a twenty something these days. It really is. Even my aunt, who is 80 and now retired, told me so when she came to visit. So it must be true because she is exceedingly wise. I make this point not just because I agree with her though. I truly believe that as my generation grows older, things only become more polarized. Our pursuits have become more difficult to define as we seek to figure ourselves out in the midst of so much freedom of expression — which, in of itself, is an entirely different topic that I’m not fully prepared to talk about right now. But I know there is a reason why I constantly long to be older and retired, like my cool aunt. It’s because I want everything to be laid out before me, to be neatly detailed and easy to follow. I’d really like an instruction manual on how to live the remaining sixty years of my life. It could even be as shoddy as an IKEA instruction manual at this point. That would be fine, even desirable at this point in time.

But it’s funny I want that considering this daring move I just made comes nowhere near a guidebook or instruction manual. When I truly consider what it would look like to live an exciting, single lady life, jet-setting around the world, carrying out my ambitious dreams of living in Hong Kong, it actually looks rather close to what I’ve been going through. But there is no way I would have known any of that back when I was sitting in my room in the Bay Area, booking my ticket. And looking back, there’s no feasible reason why I thought coming here would clarify anything.

But obviously in the midst of chaos and confusion, there is clarity.

I consider myself a mildly creative twentysomething with a strong interest in pursuing media. It’s absolutely the pinnacle of worst combinations for stability or providing parents with comforting thoughts of security and a life of domesticity for their (eldest!! scary!) daughter, but it’s the perfect storm for confusion and mini mid-life identity crises and good misadventures you hope you can tell your future kids when you find a partner who can provide the stability you’re not capable of creating for yourself.

When I first got here, I met a bunch of young Asian Canadians and Asian Americans who work for CNN as producers and writers. Two things happened: first, I thought I could get chummy with them and land a job. And second, I thought it was really plausible to get a job. At CNN. By merely knowing (actually merely meeting for ten to fifteen minutes) some people who work for Turner Broadcasting — a gigantic multinational company.

It never works that way, at least in my life. I will never forget the conversation I had with them after a panel on censorship in Hong Kong media. They asked me who I have worked for in the past (this was after expressing mild surprise that I had moved here without a job lined up or without an MA in journalism) obviously expecting me to throw out a few major networks. I told them I was working for a non-profit media organization based in SF (I remember one even laughed at the idea of an Asian American media non-profit, as if such a thing could exist), and skirted around the glaring detail that I have never worked for anything remotely “major”. They asked what type of writing I was interested in and after hearing them casually rattle off dates of historic wars, names of important political icons and prestigious universities from which they obtained their MA’s in journalism, I said rather weakly, “Oh you know, lifestyle writing. Like music, arts and culture. Film. Fashion. Really love.. shirts. And stuff.” So they immediately summed me up and told me the type of publication I should establish repertoire with. And the reactionary fireball in me resented that.

I realize they were just trying to help me by pointing me in the right direction but I don’t know anyone that likes to be boxed in. I love breaking news and in-depth stories. Soledad O’Brien is one of my idols. But I also love clothing. I find politics fascinating (I was at a panel on censorship, wasn’t I?!?). Yet I also feel very emotionally attached to the album releases of my favorite rappers.

What the hell am I suppose to do?

The Internet has made it seem possible for me to be a reporter for CNN, a Pitchfork music critic, a blogger for WWD and a casual foodie (honestly, never really cared much for food writing) all at once. I have valid interest in all of those things but I cannot possibly pursue all of them well. And herein lies not only my dilemma as a career path but my pursuit for the job I ultimately want to obtain.

In the days of my aunt’s adulthood, she was a social worker. She went into this job because it meant employment by the government (read: decent pay and job security) and it had some external good — it helped others. Who knows if she was a clothes horse or hip hop head or a Yelp Elite reviewer. She just needed a job that could provide some semblance of an income.

That objective, to some extent, no longer exists in this day and age. Today I met with a blogger my age who for the past three years, has maintained a blog on how to make your own clothing. She recently published a book with selections from her blog and is launching her website into a full fledged DIY portal. What that means exactly I’m not sure but I know two things: it will make her money and it wasn’t a job that existed 80 years ago.

So you see, being an author, blogger and fashionista are possible, thanks to the Internet.

I went away from my meeting with this blogger as I did from that meeting with those young CNN producers: utterly and deeply discouraged. I have always been worried that my lack of discipline in one of my interests would lead to a lack of focus in any of them — and now here we are. Focus is the whip I must unwillingly crack upon the back of discipline.

It’s true and it’s necessary. I might as well call it maturity. I’ve been confronted with it time and time again. The worst part is not knowing how to get there.

I don’t need anyone to tell me I have “some really great skills” or “they know I’ll eventually find something”. Even if I had a job, I would still be lost. The job would just be a distraction from the fact that I am uncertain about which of my interests to pursue.

Which is why this video was so meaningful.

Here you have our re-elected president of the United States, reminiscing about his work as a community organizer, not knowing at all what he was doing. If you have read his autobiography, you know what he means. He takes it a step further and relates to his audience — his canvassers, his campaigners, his speech writers, his marketing gurus, his social media consultants. And tells them they are far more talented and capable than he. This is the president of the US saying all of this.

When I found this video, I didn’t know it would impact me this much. I hit play and quickly after that, grabbed a pencil to jot down these words: “I had a vague inkling about making a difference but I didn’t know how.”

I found my eyes welling up because I loved so much that he said that. I loved even more that he didn’t know how. There is something deeper than charity or campaigning or strategy. It’s a humbling sense of altruism and of deep seated conviction to seek change (his original campaign slogan, if you recall). I appreciate that even though he had no idea how to mobilize people to change their drug and crime-ridden neighborhood, he did it anyway and would take what he could get to see change. He gets the struggle, he understands the meaning of “hustle” and he shows no ego about where he has gotten because of it.

I do spend a lot of time being worried that I don’t have a job. I have a cousin who is a year older than me, starting a doctoral program at Yale and a cousin almost a year younger than me, working at Apple having just left Pottery Barn (the former is happily married and the latter is happily engaged) (Please know I am exceedingly happy for both!). As a single, female 26-year old currently lacking a job, I have reason to be worried by my family’s standards and inherently, by mine as well. But I also get that not knowing is part of all of this. And what exactly is “this”? I think it’s merely not being indifferent to making a difference.

I face a lot of ambiguity and I know for certain many of my peers and closest friends do. Some are moving out of their chosen professions to better fill a role as a spouse and actually become employee of their spouse, no less. Others are trying to start their own business or ascertain their own career path.

The road for all of us in this wacky, GIF-ridden, unpredictable digital age is different and it is certainly unclear. But like my president, if we attach our lives to finding greater good for all and not being indifferent in attaining a greater good, even in the face of unknowable periods of ambiguity, then I believe in time we find what we were destined to do. Despite my worries and the dissatisfaction I seem to have with idle time, I will look back on this moment in my life and remember how it cleansed my vision and helped me to understand the larger picture.

And most of all, I’m glad I’m not indifferent — I’m quite the opposite, actually — and I know that despite my job title, in the sum of my 26 years, this is the one and only thing I have going for me.