Monday, August 31, 2009

I chose the road to...Victoria Peak

How I’ve been spending my days so far… I wake up around 6:45-7:00am. For some crazy reason I can’t seem to sleep any later than that which is unfortunate because people around here don’t get going that early. I suppose that’s not entirely true everywhere in Hong Kong, but the shops in Jordan don’t start buzzing til 9:30 or 10:00am and that’s about the same time that the people I work with at the MFMW (Mission for Migrant Workers) get going as well. This is probably due to the fact that the Street Markets in Jordan are open til late into the night and the Mission workers also work late. So I wake up, usually freezing from my wonderful window air-conditioning unit, and I wash my face, brush my teeth, and head to my tiny kitchen for some form of instant coffee.

Either the kind you add hot water to, or cold coffee in a can (my personal favorite). People in Hong Kong generally eat EVERY meal out. I try to at least eat breakfast at home. In fact, whenever possible I try to eat at home, but it doesn’t happen much. I usually have fruit for breakfast. I managed to find a jar of peanut butter in the market yesterday, so this morning for breakfast I had an apple and peanut butter…yummy! After showering and getting ready for the day I pack my backpack and head into the busy streets of Kowloon. A few fun facts: Hong Kong has a population of approximately 7 million people that occupy an area of about 116 sq miles. That is about 6,000 people per square mile. Not much elbow room if you catch my drift. Definitely not a place for you if you’re shy. You WILL become a people person here :) So anyway, I leave my flat and head to the Mission which houses numerous things, but of most importance is the Bethune House, APMM(Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants), & MFMW (Mission for Migrant Workers). This is where I will work part of the time and it is conveniently in walking distance from where I live. It is where I have been going everyday to use their internet while I patiently await an internet card that I can use at home. This building is full of some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met in my life and they are mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia.

I know that I am living in Hong Kong, but so far I have not met any Chinese people. (I will, I just haven’t yet) All of my friends are Filipino and I love them dearly. They are hilarious and they have adopted me as one of their own. They like to feed me all too often. I try not to eat much when I’m away from them so that I am hungry when we are together. This way when they are shoving food at me I am able to eat and not turn it away. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I have to be honest and admit that at first I was afraid to eat it. It looks different and of course it made me a little nervous, but by Day 2 I said a little prayer and dug in. I try to only eat a little at time, but so far I’m doing okay. My stomach rebels at times, but no major trauma as of yet. And their food is truly delicious! My favorite so far is pork & rice and fish soup! Pictured here is Pork & Rice and Eggplant and was very good :)

Note- EVERY meal comes with rice. ALWAYS.

On Sunday I took the MTR (the Mass Transit Railway?!) to Central, also known as the other side of HK, or Hong Kong Island. It is where the main Mission headquarters is located inside of St. John’s Cathedral. It is one of the other locations where I will be working. After spending some time with my co-workers I was told that I MUST go to Victoria Peak.

So I took a Peak Tram (a box car thing on cables) that pulls you UP UP UP into the sky up above the huge tall buildings. It is a popular tourist attraction and has an indoor and outdoor shopping mall attached to it.
It was really amazing. I took pictures and oooh’d and aaaah’d. I’ll have to go back again because I hear it is really spectacular to see it at night. After hanging out at the Peak most of the afternoon I was getting weary and realized I should start heading home. In an attempt to keep myself hydrated I had been chugging bottled water all day and desperately searched for a bathroom before hopping back on the Tram. Here I was in this fancy tourist trap filled with over-priced EVERYTHING and what I found when I reached the bathroom nearly made me lose my lunch. A hole in the ground at the very bottom of the Peak Shopping Mall marked Women's Washroom. Longing for my little blue toilet in my tiny flat on Temple St.... needless to stay, I held it. I can imagine the women who use those toilets have amazing calves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I chose the road to....Po Fat

My first view of Hong Kong was from the plane and it was breath-taking. Unfortunately the cell phone pics don't do it justice. The view on the way down to Lantau Island was simply amazing. We flew over the most beautiful mountains I've ever seen in my life. I wish I'd had a video camera!

Upon my arrival I was met by a lovely woman by the name of Sol, who would soon become my saving grace/tour guide/grocery shopper/mother/you get the idea :) !!

Sol took me and my over-weight luggage onto a transit bus from Lantau to the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. I was overwhelmed with visual stimulation. SO MUCH TO SEE! The buildings here are so tall and so close together and if you aren't paying attention they can all begin to look the same.

After a jostling bus ride we found our destination, my soon-to-be new home in Jordan on Temple Street. As I desperately tried to keep up with Sol, whose little legs carried her awfully fast, I was nearly hit by a bus. Yes, that's right, only a few hours into the country and I almost met my maker. Thankfully it wasn't my time. Sol came rushing to my aid apologizing profusely for not realizing that she had led me onto an unforgiving street while the crossing light was still blinking red. As my heart rate began to settle, I had my first and only hint of doubt since arriving here in Hong Kong. It has now long since disappeared.

As the heat and humidity took its toll on our bodies we trekked on with my luggage as I began to regret every last book and shoe I packed in those God-forsaken bags. When I thought I couldn't walk any further Sol cheerfully announced, "We're here!!" And so I looked up to nearly collapse in laughter at the Po Fat Building, my new home.

I hope everyone finds the humor in this, I still laugh every time I go home.

Here is a video walk-thru of my little flat on Temple St in Jordan on the Kowloon side of HK.

So I made it to my flat and decided that even though I was delirious from lack of sleep and extreme jetlag I should go ahead and try to stay awake until bed time in Hong Kong to be on the correct schedule from day one if possible. Sol and I decided to go shopping for bed sheets, towels, and toilet paper to distract me and keep me awake. Just the basic necessities to get me through the night and into the next day. I found pillows and towels and then she helped me bargain for my bed sheets and find the right sizes because of course they don't say TWIN, FULL, QUEEN...they say numbers like 36 and 54 , & 60, ect. Needless to say my sleep deprived brain was so lost by the time I tried to figure out how much money I was spending in US dollars I surrendered my VISA card more than willingly and smiled at Sol and said let's go home.
On our walk home she insisted we pick up a few more things I would need such as fruits and bottled water. I do have running water in my flat but it is not safe to drink unless I boil it first so I must keep bottled water to drink. I am so grateful she was with me because I would have had no idea what to buy and I have already been through all of the water that we bought.

So back at the homestead I put the sheets on the bed, took a shower, and crawled in for my first night at home in my new bed, in my new flat, in my new world (for now), in Hong Kong.

The following days have been filled with exploration and adjustment. The jetlag sort of comes and goes. I get tired in the evenings but feel pretty vibrant in the mornings. My supervisor is out of the country at the moment so I have about a week on my own to become acclimated with the area and enjoy myself, which is exactly what I intend to do. I went to a Birthday Party Beach BBQ yesterday and had a lovely time. To get there we rode the Mass Transit system which is super impressive. It's so efficient and clean. I'll write more about it later. Enjoy the pictures.

Me & Rey at Deep Water Bay

Little Girl Swimming -Deep Water Bay

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I chose the a long layover in London

I had made every attempt possible to organize things in such a way that my last 48 hours in the US could be as peaceful and smooth a transition as possible. Ha. Ha. Ha. God mocks me.

Sunday afternoon in the midst of many goodbyes both my brother, whom I was living with and my boyfriend, tested positive for the Flu. I ended up spending my last Sunday in the US running around Montgomery trying to say my final good-byes to my best friends and my parents, before going to play nurse to a flu patient all night. Sweats, chills, taking temperature, giving Tylenol, fluids, repeat. No sleep. Not exactly how I envisioned spending my final moments with my loved ones, but what can I say, I was born to take care of people and NOTHING pleases me more.
After a restless night of up and down, I drug myself out of bed Monday morning and began my last few errands before departing for Atlanta. My best friend Amy had volunteered for the task of driving me the 2 ½ hours to the airport. I’m not sure she had any idea what she was getting herself into. When she arrived at my brother’s house to pick me up I procrastinated at least an hour more until finally we just had to leave. I said good-bye to my brother Sam, my boxer “Lexi”, and my boyfriend Ryan and we were bound for the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport.
I had decided to have Amy take me to Atlanta earlier in the day in case of bad traffic or weather, even though my flight was not to leave until 9:15pm. She dropped me off at the airport around 2pm and I went to check my bags a good 7 hours early. I had friends to see in Atlanta and I figured a change of scenery would do me some good from the emotional rollercoaster of a weekend I’d had. After checking my bags I hopped on the MARTA train and headed for midtown. When I sat down on the train I think it was the first time I had truly taken a breath in days. I just sat there taking it all in. People watching in peace.

Happy to be alive on a transit in Atlanta, Georgia.

My friend Keith picked me up from the MARTA station and let me relax on his couch for a couple of hours and do nothing, which was exactly what I needed before heading back to the airport to catch my plane to London.
So far there have been numerous special things that have happened to me on this journey. First on the list of special gifts happened when I was boarding my plane to London. They called my name over the intercom and I was initially concerned, but they informed me that they were upgrading me to World Traveler Plus seating free of charge! Whoohoo!!! I LOVE British Airways already! I had extra leg room and perks that I was not use to having. It was a really nice way to start off this incredibly lengthy trek.
Second on my list of special gifts was my angel. Her name was Shuran and it was her birthday. She sat next to me on my flight to London. She was from Georgia and she was tall, dark, and beautiful and was on her way to Germany to celebrate her birthday. She was wearing a tiara and we clicked instantly, both being southern girls and all. I call her my angel because she rescued me in a sense. My layover in London ended up being nearly 10 hours and I had already not slept for more than an hour at a time for the past two days. When we arrived in London she took me as her guest to the British Airways Executive Galleries Lounge, where I was able to stay for my entire layover and lay down on plush couches and nap and snack on over-priced food and drinks all day for free.

I still didn’t really get much sleep, but I was very comfortable and I wasn’t lying in an airplane terminal on cold tile floor. God is good. Thanks Shuran!!
So I left the London Heathrow Airport at 6:30pm bound for Hong Kong and that is where I sit now. I am on a plane typing a Word Document and will be posting this to my blog. My sleep schedule is so messed up. I am 8 hours into the flight. I slept for about 5 hours earlier which is the most I’ve slept consecutively in 3 days. It is about 9:00pm back home in Montgomery, so that makes it about 10:00am in Hong Kong. Everyone on this plane is sleeping except me and the lights are out and the window shades are closed. They will be serving breakfast soon, but we will arrive in Hong Kong around 1:00pm, in about 3 hours. Wow, this is CONFUSING!!

British Airways Lounge: where I waited out a 10 hour layover!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

18 days and counting...

Time has flown by since graduation and I find myself with only 18 days left until I depart for Southeast Asia. I will fly from Atlanta to London on August 24th. From London I will fly to Hong Kong, arriving on Wednesday August 26th. I am overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation.

For those of you that know me well, I am not exactly a light packer. I have been working on this huge character defect of mine and am hoping that when it comes time to leave I'll be able to board my plane with only two suitcases and a backpack to survive with in HK for a whole year.
(please keep your fingers crossed!)
The problem I'm finding is that I am a first time yasc placement in Hong Kong and there is no one to tell me what they have done (ie, packed) in the past or what to expect. I don't really have any clue what the suitable and/or appropriate attire is for HK and I'm sort of flying blind in a sense. The climate is tropical for most of the year, but I am certain that shorts and flip flops are not the typical garb of the fast paced, money-driven citizens of Hong Kong.
So anyway, please wish me luck with my packing adventure.

Ready or not...