Posts Tagged 'mong kok'

Birds, Cam3ls & Fleas

This week has been another corker in HK. We had a usual sort of week at work. I’ve started March workshops on Greek Myths and Switzerland, which the kids love. Also had a more boring vocabulary/grammar workshop to prepare the kids for their upcoming exams but nothing too difficult. We’re still having big preparations for our highlight event of the year – Spring Ball. We have spent around $3000 on food and drink for it (almost £300) on Friday, and went for a massive Dim Sum with Joanne (our mentor). Still trying to learn some of the dishes but I’m still at the stage of ‘That white thing with prawn in it’ or ‘That one that’s like sausage roll but with BBQ pork in it’.

 

On Friday night we headed to Sandy and Erin’s place for some drinks before Red Bar to meet a few others and LKF afterwards. Can’t remember everywhere we went to that night but the African Bar had a good vibe to it, even if the drinks were expensive. Getting in at nearly 5am showed it was a sick night though. Met a cool guy Fabian, Angela’s friend from Boracay. Obviously my alcohol-fuelled self thinks he speaks fluent German, but Fabian was a good sport with it.

 

On Saturday we took a very chilled day. Adrian and I ended up on one of our camera walks to wherever we ended up. We headed to the Bird Market in Mong Kok, had a drink from Pacific Coffee Company and found a new market on Fa Yuen Street that we hadn’t been to yet. The weather was gorgeous recently, hitting 27 degrees on Sunday. The shorts and flip flops are back out, jeans back in the suitcase for now. On Saturday night we headed to Jack’s Cam3l Bar at his flat. A great house party despite stopping feeling ridiculously hungover only a few hours previously.

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On Sunday then we had the Chatteris Flea Market in Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tony, Ka-Mun and I were pretty lucky to have the promotion job, walking around, giving out balloons and flyers to families and kids. Highlight definitely was Tony being swarmed by kids outside a playground, them all wanting balloons.

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A proper nice day, Jack W and Adrian playing tunes on the guitar, all my mates were there: pretty damn sweet. To top it off, Adrian and I headed to Cocky Bar on the 18th Floor of The One in TST to meet Maddie and Ellie for a few beers. Bloody fantastic views up there, and we caught it at the right time to see the sunset and the island begin lighting up. Reminded us so much of how lucky we are to be here, how fantastic this place is and how it’s gonna be a long time before we leave indefinitely. Mostly, it hit home how much Hong Kong is definitely our home now.

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A Westerner in Hong Kong at Chinese New Year

So, first time in Asia, first time in China, Chinese New Year comes around, beginning on 10th February 2013 to welcome in the Year of the Snake. Before February hit, the only thing this meant to me was ‘Great, a week off work!’. Festivities began way early in February with supermarkets selling boxes of chocolates and biscuits that are wrapped up in red and gold paper as gifts; and now the week is here are everyone’s in party mode!

But what is it like for a guy from the north-west of England in the middle of all the celebrations? Have to admit, the closest I got to Chinese culture before August 2012 was at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Manchester’s Chinatown. “You want soy sauce with that, mate?” doesn’t really scream lanterns, red envelopes and all other things Chinese though. This blog will show some of the things I’ve noticed about the holiday and how a Westerner’s, particularly British, eyes see it.

The first thing I realised was it was similar to a British or Western Christmas holiday in that the preparation is huge and incorporates very, very similar ideas. The mix of tradition with modernity is obvious with the old traditions of the elderly or married couples giving red envelopes with cash in, to young or single people; while the CNY Parade down Nathan Road saw tens of thousands of people brave the crowds, and whack out their Samsung Galaxy S3 phones to take a photo/upload/Facebook/tweet/Instagram/send to family.

At work, my colleagues went and spent hundreds of dollars on decorations – plants, flowers, red  transparent messages for the window, fake firecrackers, huge lanterns, candy bowls and gold containers that look like these. Having candy available just chilling on the table is very much like tins of biscuits or chestnuts or chocolate coins on a table during a Western Christmas.

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We even had to take part in a inter-campus greetings video with the Head of the department and colleagues. Suited up for the occasion. Like a very American ‘Holiday Photo’….

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The week before CNY, there was a huge Flower Market in Mong Kok and one in Victoria Park selling flowers, plants, decorations, gifts, promotional freebies and food. Definitely the Eastern version of German Christmas Markets – a most see for everyone visiting during this holiday.

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There were also mandarin trees being sold everywhere – a lot on the street, outside the shops, which is really like Christmas trees being sold on streets and petrol stations in Britain.

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On Friday night, there were Chinese New Year messages on all private business, informing people of when they reopen, and goodwill messages. They even had handmade red postboxes on the doors. Reminds me of wreaths or door decorations at Christmas also.

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On Sunday night there was also a huge parade in Tsim Sha Tsui down Nathan Road. It had a similar ‘Carnival’ atmosphere – everyone celebrating, bands and acts from all over the world including accordion players, pipe bands, African drummers, ballet dancers and roller-skaters.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wouldn’t be complete of course without the Lion Dancing – a very special thing to witness – lots of skill in that!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clearly, it really struck me how similar all these traditions are similar to Western Christmas. Families get together for big meals, gifts are given and received, there’s a huge happy mood that’s different to rest of the year, there’s songs and music and people greeting each other in ways they wouldn’t during the year. Makes me think that society likes (almost needs?) these goodwill routines, traditions and annual repetitions to rejuvenate our ‘happy mood’ and ‘feelgood’ nature towards others. 

So as a Westerner in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, although it’s a pretty new concept for me, and I’m very impartial to the traditions and what is going on. But gotta say, it’s pretty cool to see the similarities to Christmas – meaning this is probably more like the Eastern ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ (thanks, Andy Williams).

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

The UntouchableLad

The past couple weeks have been pretty eventful. Work’s been slowly getting busier with kids getting back into the swing of things after post-Christmas exams. We had a big English Ambassador Day Camp at Ma On Shan on Saturday 2nd February – bit out in the sticks but since everywhere is so well-connected it was only about half a hour away from our gaff.

These kids are those with high level English, love to get involved and leave with photos, phone numbers and Facebook requests with/for all us gweilo PCs. I led one of the activities with Nicole where they had to work as a team to make shapes and act out scenarios while being creative. They had drama performances, we played footy at lunch, other team-building and English speaking games etc, so was a great day. Here’s a video from Chatteris, and a photo of me, my colleague Holly and 4 of our students from KT who came to the Day Camp.

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On Sunday I spent the day with Nat, at the Museum of Costal Defence. Sounds like the worst possible thing to do at any time, never mind on a Sunday afternoon, but was pretty interesting. The guns and cannons there were mint. Boys and Toys. And it was funny to see the usual Hong Kong thing of having a hundred security guards stationed every couple of yards, in case it all kicks off. You’d think you were at a Millwall home game or at an Athens austerity measures protest with the amount of ‘security’. Having so many people doing the job that 2 or 3 could easily do is weird, but I suppose it gives some people employment and looks impressive on the front (how things look and presentation being another big HK feature).

 

On Tuesday Nat and I went to see Cloud Atlas at the cinema, which was pretty good. And got to check out the Olympic City shopping mall place where it is – reminded me a lot of Trafford Centre but smaller. In fact you could probably believe you were at the Trafford Centre with H&M, Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop all next to each other there. Anyway, the film was decent and cheaper than other cinemas at only $65 a ticket.

 

On Wednesday Adrian and I went to Happy Valley, and met up with a few of the other CNETs there and saw Steph C for her birthday. I bet around $160 in total and got a winner and a 3rd place. My fav, The UntouchableLad didn’t live up to his name though and only came in 4th. Odds were so low on the ones I won on, I got hilariously pathetic $9 profit from one and $4 on the other (we’re talking 80p and 30p). But like my Granddad, I was appreciating the game and fun of it, not there to make millions. Although millions would have been nice….

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One last thing, it’s getting hotter and more humid here already. There’s been a few days the jacket’s come off – the EAT Day Camp particularly. Not the sweltering paradise I arrived to in August but when I see the snow and ice at home, it is one good thing to enjoy here. Gloves and scarf were a bad investment.