Monday, June 28, 2010

Back to Work

It's Tuesday, and we're back to the daily grind.  Yesterday was long, but not too bad.  We discovered we have a four day weekend in August which conveniently falls on my birthday, so that's something to look forward to. Initially we thought we had no more breaks until our contract ends, and the next 9 weeks were looking pretty dismal.

We've been back in Seoul for a little over 2 days now, and once again my eyes are red and I cannot wear my contacts.  Had no trouble with them the week in Hong Kong, so I know it is Seoul's air.  I like Seoul, and will miss it, but I certainly will not miss the air quality.  Give me pollen rich Tennessee anyday.

We have booked our flights for Japan the first two weeks of September, and then will be returning to the states for a month in which we will celebrate a birthday and a wedding. Then it's to Tobago for a month, and we just bought our tickets for that yesterday.  So things are looking up.

A final word on Hong Kong - our early impressions of it being a great city, a lovely place to spend time, were all correct.  We've decided we'd like to live and work there next.  So we'll see how it all pans out.  And now it's time to get ready for work.  Until next time, keep dreaming.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hong Kong

Hello all,

Yes, we are in Hong Kong.  As I type this, it just started raining outside.  Which is not a good sign, as we had planned to go to Lantau Island today.  So we will see what comes of that.

On our first day we woke up after 3 hours of sleep to catch an airport limousine - and a good thing we left so early, too, because our terminal was quite far from check-in.  Like 40 minutes far.  But we made it, and eventually arrived in Hong Kong.  First impression: Hong Kong is not a well-planned city, at least not in the neighborhood we're lodging in, as it grew up in a time before such planning was high on the list of priorities.  But it is a very great city.  It's character is what I wish Seoul's were: quite convenient to English speaking tourists and mostly friendly; enough East to feel like you're not just in a big city, but that you're in a big Asian city, mixed with enough West so that you don't feel like a zoo animal on exhibit.  We don't get stared at here, and, aside from a Vietnamese restaurant last night, we're never treated with contempt or hostility or as though we are ignorant infants, as is so often the case in Seoul.  In short, I like Hong Kong.

Our first day we decided to take it easy, and just walked around our neighborhood. We are staying in the west part of town, across the street from the harbor.  It is a nice neighborhood, not as posh as the center, and lots of old Hong Kong character still.  Also a lot of shops selling shark fin. Literally, we saw dozens of shops in our short walk, selling hundreds of shark fins.  It's no surprise that Hong Kong residents consume half of the shark fins eaten in the world.

We had ox tongue and duck for lunch, then Indian food for dinner. 

Day two we rode the narrow, two story trams to Hong Kong park, where we took the funicular up to Victoria Peak.  The views are amazing, the ride was fun, and there are some good walks up on the peak.  Plus, you can see the homes of some billionaires up there.  You can also see a Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant, which is odd, but occupies the highest floor of the peak tower with views over the entire city.  We bought some souvenirs up there, and a painting for ourselves.  After descending, we went back to Hong Kong Park, which is a great city park. It has a huge aviary, a conservatory, lakes, a waterfall, and a tai chi garden where early in the morning people gather to do tai chi.  We did not go early in the morning, unfortunately.  But it was still lovely, and ranks amongst my favorite downtown city parks in the world.  For dinner we ate at the aforementioned Vietnamese restaurant, where we were mostly ignored and did not feel welcome.  But that didn't faze us, as we've been living in Seoul for 9 months and have gotten used to such things.

There is one other thing I'd like to share.  When looking across the harbor from Hong Kong to Kowloon (technically it is part of the Hong Kong special administrative region, yet is on the mainland) you can see the city spreading out, backed by some impressive mountains.  Those mountain swirl with low-lying clouds, and frame an impressive natural border with China.  It is kind of mysterious, for someone who has never been to China, to see that wall of green mountains rising behind the city, and to think how close we are to the Middle Kingdom.  The wanderlust starts kicking in when you look at those mountains, and the traveler part of the brain starts releasing endorphins and adrenaline in that old familiar urge.  China calls.

Today, as mentioned above, we want to go to Lantau Island.  The Star Ferry is on our list of things to do while in Hong Kong, as is the giant seated Buddha statue (interesting movie trivia: a replica of the statue is exploded in the Van Damme movie Knock Off).  Hopefully the skies will clear soon, and we'll have more interesting details to report.

Friday, June 11, 2010


It's Saturday, and the World Cup is finally here!

South Africa held off Mexico for a 1-1 draw, and France and Uruguay duked it out to a goalless draw as well.  So far my bracket for Group A is holding up well.  I don't want Mexico getting any wins, and I didn't want France to beat Uruguay, or the other way around.  I'm hoping for a France/Uruguay advance out of that group, leaving Mexico in the dust. 

Tonight are three great matches.  First up is South Korea v. Greece, which the Koreans should win handily but will still be great fun to watch since I'm in Korea.  Then the Argentinian match - I'm really excited to see how Maradona handles Messi and whether or not he blows it for the Argentines. Won't catch much, if any, of that match, however, because we're probably going to see our friend Jasper doing another Flirtphonic set in Hongdae.  Finally, the big match: USA v. England.  I've been excited about this matchup for months.  It begins at 3:30 a.m. in Korea, so that part is not exciting, but I'm staying up for it regardless.

In non-World Cup news, my worst student was kicked out of the academy; we had no classes Thursday and Friday, so I got a mammoth amount of writing done; and we leave in one week for Hong Kong. 

One more bit of information: my novella was accepted for publication.  You can see all 36,000 words in print in the Fall 2011 issue of Kaleidotrope.

To send you off into the weekend, here are two pictures from class: 

The first is one of my favorite students, Amy (her English name), because she's really smart and really, really cute - how many Koreans have dimples, after all?  Her schoolbag is hilarious, which is why I took the photo.  She was confused about why I was laughing.  Eventually, I drew a map of the US on the board, outlined Texas, and said basically that it means they hate everyone else and that everyone else hates them.  Which isn't what it means, but is still basically true.  Plus I'm the teacher and I can spread whatever mistruths I want to.

The second picture is from one of my other favorite students, Paul, who is terrible at English, reportedly a genius at math, and routinely stands on his chair to beat on the ceiling. He's an odd one, but I actually like him becase his misbehaving is funny. He likes to say things like "I am genius. I am handsome. I am rich-ee."  This picture is what he drew on the whiteboard between classes.  It's something like a very muscly Yoda with an attitude problem, I think.  This is even funnier because their Korean teacher came into the class just before me to yell at them for being loud, saw the board, and had no reaction to it at all.