Archive for September, 2012

NOEL

Everyone’s got that one singer or band that they just love to insane levels. Luckily I had the chance to see mine in Hong Kong – the swaggest singer in the swaggest city. On 25th September, I got to see Noel Gallagher at the KITEC in Kowloon Bay, which was about the size of Manchester Academy. Bit different to British gigs – he came on at 8pm and did 2 hours, whereas in Britain you’d have a few support bands and he wouldn’t finish until about 11pm. The crowd was mostly insane since Noel hadn’t performed in Hong Kong before. He whacked out all the great Oasis tracks, his own material and even a few adaptions – ‘Supersonic’ as acoustic and ‘Half the World Away’ as a proper upbeat rock song. Loved every minute of it; now seen the bloke 6 times and counting, and this was second time in 3 months – bit different to being on Ziggy’s shoulders, bag of wine in hand in a sodden Scottish field.

I was also lucky to get a second job working at Hong Kong Polytechnic University with the English Club there. They pay for us as native-English speakers to come on Thursday evenings for a hour and half at their Big Mouth Corner to speak English and take it in turns to lead a 45 minute workshop. Feels good to be meeting new people, helping with their English as well as earning a bit more moolar on the side. Will be interesting to see how their capabilities are different to students in the IVE where I work full-time.

The rest of the week will be full of celebrations in Hong Kong as it’s Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day – so for us Gweilos who have no idea what’s going on, its a 4-day weekend! Things are going to be pretty busy starting Thursday night so I’ll post next about how we celebrated the Festival. The plans we have already are pretty sick, so can’t wait for this weekend.

The 10,000 Buddha Monastery only has 9,999 Buddhas

Been another full-on week in HK. On Monday, Xantha invited me, Nat and Tony to her club in Jordan again. This time there was very few people there so we had the pool to ourselves. First time I used a diving board too and first time I failed using a diving board. But the sick-ass curry and using the Sauna afterwards made it a great night. I picked up a cough on Tuesday and had to wear a surgical mask for the first time too, looked like a right local, especially after seeing the Chinese students at Lancaster always wearing them. Makes sense really, preventing spreading germs, but does look like you’re dressing up for Halloween as a psycho doctor or something. I had another haggling experience this week when I bought the Spain football kit on Ladies Market for HK$60, such an unbelievable bargain because that’s like £4.70 at home and to say I got both shirt and shorts for that price is insane. Going to have to be careful I don’t inject all my wages into similar purchases in the future though or I’ll end up a skint teacher with lots of options of sportswear.

On Wednesday I had to deliver my first workshop to students on my own. After doing it in groups of 4 or 5 in orientation and a pair on Tuesday, this was my first experience on teaching on my own. It was on Job Interviews so a lot of people signed up as it’s something they really want help on; their interviews for jobs and possibly universities will be in English. Luckily I got 4s and 5s in the feedback forms (that they have to fill out after every session) which are the top two options, so pleased it went well. Holly and I also planned our monthly themes, big events and workshops for the year and have some great ideas.

Continuing to live for the weekend, Friday after school was ‘Flat Night’ so me, Adrian and Tony got some frozen Dim Sum and had that for tea with a few beers and great tunes. One vase of wine purchased for Red Bar, we had a great night out there and ending up in Lan Kwai Fong. On Saturday, despite it being hangover day, I played football at Chatteris FC’s first training match. I really enjoyed it despite not playing in ages and hopefully will get back to full match-fitness as soon as I’ve reversed the effects of a months’ worth of Dim Sum on the old midriff. It was so hot though – 33 degrees – so topless football was definitely a new experience. After footy, Rich organised another hike, this time to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery in Shatin. Really enjoying these opportunities to get out of the city for a bit. The monastery literally had a load of gold Buddhas on the pathway up the temples, where there are HUGE statues inside, water features, incense sticks burning and food offerings. Best food offering was a carton of VLT Lemon Tea, with the straw in it ready to drink. Sure Buddha will enjoy that refreshing, inexpensive gift.

10,000 Buddhas

There was also loads of monkeys in the trees next to us on the walk down, literally was about 3 metres from some of them. They were very curious, looking at us and moving closer to get a better view. We should be going on a Monkey Hike some time later in the year so will be looking forward to that. Saturday night was another class night out. Me and Tone on the gin and orange (another meeting of Gin Club on tour), pre-drinks with Nat, Soph and Andrew before heading to LKF and a club there. Such cheap nights out here too, loving it.

Ian Brown the turtle had been slow and quiet for a bit so on Sunday I got him a new tank, pebbles and a mate who we’ve called Shelly (pun very much intended). He’s started to look more livelier now which is great. All in all, another great week here, still very much loving life in the big HK.

Hong Kong Culture 2

There’s so much random bits of culture you see every now and then here that’s different to the UK. So here’s some more things I’ve noticed:

– The mood to China – I didn’t really know too much about what general Hong Kongers thought about being handed back to China before I arrived. I knew that the British rushed through a LOAD of democratic reforms through the legislature before handing the colony back, to ensure China didn’t just undo everything. When we arrived, there was lots of campaigning as there were elections on 9/9/2012 – 40 out of 70 positions in the legislature were up for grabs, which I thought was weird having 30 that were not (reminds us that Hong Kong is still just semi-autonomous and not totally democratic). There’s a photo from Yahoo below of some campaigning, it was literally everywhere.

In addition, there were massive protests by people involved in education recently too – the Government was debating making the subject of “Moral and National Education” compulsory in all HK schools, with teachers, students, parents and members of the public rightly coming out against such types of pro-Communist ‘brainwashing’ from Beijing. Teachers were wearing all black in school and meeting every night outside the Government buildings in Admiralty on the island every night for a week. Friday saw tens of thousands protest there, while the issue was debated, to see the Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, come out on Saturday (the day before the big election I mentioned) and say it would only be an option and not compulsory. Proper appeasement to Beijing while safeguarding HK-ers rights, very diplomatic. This really shows how fragile the democratic side is and how well-guarded freedom is to the people here.

– ATM Machines – People here must seriously think going to an ATM is like going to the Arcade. They spend ages checking every single option for their various accounts and cards. ATMs are everywhere too and they have the different types for depositing, withdrawing, updating passports, paying bills etc. Makes sense in a place where money and transactions are so huge and important to the city. But seriously, they love messing around with their money.

– The Markets – Call it Chinese efficiency, but the organisation of markets is really impressive. If you need wallpaper, there’s a whole street for everything related to wallpaper. Same with wholesale clothes (the area we live in between Sham Shui Po and Prince Edward), pets (Goldfish Market), flowers (Flower Market) and shoes. Makes it convenient to shop around and find the best price though. Owners will also try and make you the best offers so you choose their products rather than their neighbours’, which is pretty sweet too. Here’s the Goldfish Market:

– The concept of Breakfast – they don’t have one. The majority of offers and adverts for breakfasts are noodle/rice related. Cereal is more expensive in the supermarkets. It’s as if they appreciate you need food in the morning, but that it’s just like any other meal of the day. Don’t really want beef satay noodles as soon as I wake up. On that note, going for a full English Breakfast once, I had such a struggle asking for Ketchup. The waitress just didn’t get why I’d want tomato sauce on my bacon, egg and saus. Probably the biggest culture shock I’ve had since getting here. Oh and they serve baked beans cold…

– Urban Parks – the parks here are so much better than home. Some of the parks at home are really not maintained well and are very plainly set out. Here, each one is unique and really is a work of art. They have architects and landscapers design each one with the limited space they have. Obviously the different climate here allows them to have water features, different plants and funky walkways etc. And they’re full of pensioners or people on work breaks sat around. Here’s a picture of one near our house that’s not necessarily a special one but gives a good idea of what they’re like:

Peak, Dancing on the Bar and the Summer of Love

On Tuesday, Nat and I went up Victoria Peak on the Peak Tram. So touristy but has to be done while we’re here. The Peak Tram is a great relic of the British colonial times, it could be somewhere in any British seaside town like Llanduno or Blackpool. It’s major tourist selling-point is how it climbs Victoria Peak at angles higher than 45 degrees at some points – it does feel like you’re on a roller coaster sometimes. The top has been commercialized a lot too (definitely got an ice cream from the highest McDonalds in Hong Kong…) but the sights were just immense. Really cannot describe it, but if anyone reading this gets the chance, go at night time. So many lights make up Hong Kong, they must rack up a huge bill because it’s just insane.

We also did this futuristic post office thing where basically they had a whole grid of post boxes with dates on and you could post a letter to arrive on a specific day – me and Nat posted birthday cards to each other which was pretty mint to think it’ll sit there until the end of November.

Thursday was pretty good too – Flintoff, Nat and I took Xantha to Mr Wong’s (the all you can eat/drink place for $50) and safe to say she was impressed. It was full of gweilos as per, and we took some beers back to our place so she could see Ian Brown the turtle. It’s nights like this that are much more fun that ‘quiet nights in’ at home. Friday was the usual MASSIVE night out – this week was Red Bar (so much love that that place) followed by Carnegies. Xanth will be proud to know I finally was drunk enough to dance on the bar, and at one point all the Chatteris people were on it, an empty area where we were all dancing on the floor. Got to love the things like this when Hong Kong basically sticks two fingers up at Health and Safety…

Saturday was another of the best days I’ve had here. Rich organised a group of us to go on the 3 Waterfalls Hike in Tai Po. The place was so far out in the sticks that Anne even got a text saying ‘Welcome to China’. After a long journey and walk we got to the waterfalls which were so cool to jump into. Really weird thinking 5 weeks ago I was just chilling at home and now I was standing in a clear lagoon, looking a bit like the Idiot Abroad in my Primark swimming shorts…


After the hike we had Heather and Daisy’s birthday party at Aaron, Molly, Jade and Jayde’s place in Yau Ma Tei. It was definitely up there with the best house parties. The theme was ‘Summer of Love’ so everyone put a big shift in in terms of fancy dress. There was incense sticks, glow sticks and some of the best tunes of the 60s and 70s. Some creepy ‘mincing around’ dancing thrown in too. With various visits from the security (which is becoming a habit with us), it was still up there with the best. To end the week, another chippy tea was definitely on the cards – its definitely the small things at home which become much more important out here.

Junk Boats and Chippy Tea

So after our first whole week in our school, there was never a better time to get hammered on a boat somewhere in the South China Sea. Saturday was by far the best day I’d had here. Waking up early, catching the bus to Sai Kung and jumping on two Junk Boats that took us out to sea was an epic morning. The boats anchored in a bay surrounded by islands and pulled out banana-boats and let us go wakeboarding while we jumped into the sea off the boat. I cannot even describe how fun the whole day was – 6 hours doing this, drinking beer, sunbathing, listening to Adrian and Jack play guitar on one boat while raving to some banging tunes on the other, it was truly epic. It’s hard to describe how great it was so here’s a few pictures…
Junk BoatJunk Boat 2

As if that weren’t enough, a post-party at Sandie and Erin’s topped off the day. Sunday was a bit of a sunburnt, hungover mission but still good too. Especially in the evening, when we went for Fish and Chips on the island. This was the best idea ever, and although pretty expensive by Hong Kong standards (probably on par with British prices), having beer-battered haddock, chips, mushy peas and tartar sauce with a Westons Cider was beautiful!! If I ever get homesick in the future, that’s the place to go to. The background music even played Wonderwall.

On Monday, we finally got internet in the flat! After 3 weeks of sporadic connections, I should be easier to contact with home now. My Skype add is matthew_haslam if you want it, best times to call are from 12pm-5pm UK time as that’s 7pm-12am here. Or do like Sam Kallen and talk to me while I’m at work in the Staff Room and you come home after a night out drunk…

Never eat chicken feet…

Sunday this week was hangover cure day from Sophie’s birthday party (which was mega) and so called for the beach again. This time it was a really hot day, we went swimming in the sea at Repulse Bay, and even out to a jetty where we jumped in the sea. Saw a crab on one of the buoys too but no sharks due to the massive shark nets they have – so no Jaws related stories will be on this blog I’m afraid.

 

We started work properly on Monday where we got our desks, computers and initial tasks of making notice boards about our backgrounds. It’ll be a while until we’re properly up and running the CILL, but this day, Joanne took me and Holly for Dim Sum, where we tried chicken feet for the first time. Could not think of a worse food to be honest, it was bony, with little meat and felt so weird picking up a genuine foot. Check out this photo below, and avoid it….

Chicken Feet at Dim Sum

Buddha, MTR bants, Work and Beach

This last week as flown by but a lot has happened. At the weekend we went to Lantau Island to see the Giant Buddha – the biggest statue of Buddha in the world. We had to get 3 MTR lines and a Cable Car there, but was well worth it. The place is a bit commercialised (they had a Subway and a Pizza Hut…) but so impressive. The thing was huge and had statues resembling the different Chinese years giving offerings to it. The views from the Cable Cars were impressive on their own, and you could see how busy the airport was from up there too.

Now we’ve finished orientation, seen our schools and met our Teachers in Charge who liaise with us and Chatteris about our progress and lessons through the year. I’m with an American CNET called Holly from Virginia and we’re at IVE Kwun Tong (about 25 minutes on the MTR from my place). Our TIC is called Joanne and we have desks in the staff room and a huge room called the Centre for Independent Language Learning (CILL) that is currently being refurbished so we are the first ones to use the massive space for English-based activities. By the end of September we should have desks in there, a sofa/movie area, big notice boards, a smaller room at the side for workshops and loads of resources. It’s right near the canteen (WIN) and the basketball court, so I said I’ll go out and chat English with the students during breaks/lunch while playing some basketball too. It feels like we’re proper teachers now and I honestly cannot wait to get started properly on Tuesday. 

CILL in September

So much happens here in a day it’s hard to recall everything. Apart from being seriously busy with settling in and making our flats habitable, we usually end up in a bar every night. Saying that, a few trips to Ikea later and our flat is properly our home now. Using the Asia-Expats website, we found some insanely great deals on furniture around Hong Kong. We met up with a few people to buy them – the best was meeting a guy called Leo about 40 minutes away from our place and had to cart an office chair, ottoman couch, computer desk, moon chair and revolving chair on the MTR to so many annoyed looks from the locals. Was great fun though, especially as it allowed us to be guaranteed a seat on the way back…

 MTR bants

One of the best nights I’ve had since being here happened on Friday 31st August. What started as taking a few beers to the beach at Repulse Bay turned into a mega night. The beach itself was stunning and it was a great night just being there. Then seriously huge rain started to fall and we were getting soaked despite sheltering in a beach hut. Logic says go home and dry off; we say go out in Wan Chai. We met everyone in a bar called Wanch were there was a live music set and all our mates in the middle of the bar, pretty merry from too many diet cokes and screaming the songs. The set list went Killers, Kooks, ACDC, Stereophonics etc, literally everyone was going for it, loving the live music. Safe to say this will probably be a weekly thing, only hopefully without shorts and flip flops like this time.