It's funny how things that would have been totally newsworthy to post about when we got here become sort of routine. I guess that's a good thing - we've been taking advantage of our time here and go out exploring pretty much every weekend.
This weekend was no exception as we did Victoria Peak again on Saturday (as Doug alluded to in his last post) and then hit Stanley on Sunday. Stanley Market is supposed to be THE market to go to (tour buses frequently stop here), but I wasn't all that impressed. I guess there's only so many times you can see cheap tchocktes and designer knock-offs. Much more interesting to me was our tour of St. Stephen's College (which is actually a primary and secondary school - that's just what they call them here). St. Stephen's was the site of one of the last battles when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong at the start of WWII and was the site of an internment camp (one of our guides said it was the only one in Hong Kong, but I can't verify if that was true). The college has recently created a heritage site that details this history which we thought was well done. Of course, it helped that a guide told the boys that someone found a spent bullet outside the bungalow/museum a few weeks ago; the boys spent close to a half hour searching in the grass, which allowed us to peruse the exhibits at our leisure. But, even the boys were interested when I pointed out the pictures showing what life was like in the camp. One bowl of a rice/stew mix served as the daily ration for 5 adults! Given how much Quin complains about being hungry all the time, I can't imagine how he would have made it. So, spectular views (either urban or natural) and historical sites are seem to be part of the routine now, and I'm definitely going to miss that!
Quin and Berkley on the Stanley waterfront
Now, without further ado, some random observations from this weekend:
- I’ve been learning Putonghua via Rosetta Stone since this summer. While I do pretty well on the program, I haven’t been entirely convinced that I’m actually learning to speak or understand the language outside of the context of the software. However, when we were on the Peak this weekend, a group of mainland tourists were blocking the path, taking a picture. I determined they were from the mainland because they used “yi, er, san” (or one, two, three in Putonghua) to take the picture. Then, as they milled about, I pulled out a “qing wen” (excuse me) to get by. Not much, but enough to make me feel a bit proud.
- Doug wrote previously about attire here, but I think it’s worth making special mention of the fact that the young men here are seriously into fashion in a way that I have not seen in the U.S. Many of them sport hairstyles that probably take longer than mine to do, carry man bags, coordinate shoes with outfits, etc. While there are some young men into fashion in the U.S., it’s not even close to the extent it is here. Doug thinks it’s due to the fact we’re in an urban area, but really, we’re on the outskirts of the urban center here. Probably about the equivalent of where we were when we went to Loyola, and the boys were definitely not as into fashion there are they are here.
- Speaking of fashion, it was very clear to me that we’re becoming more and more like the natives here. The other day, when temperatures first dropped below 70, Doug announced it was “cold” – I had to remind him that at home, we’d consider the 60s warm in December. On Saturday, it was in the low 60s here, so we were all wearing long pants and long sleeves along with sweatshirts on top. Now, we’re not quite as bad as true native Hong Kongers, who were wearing puffy jackets and scarves, but we clearly didn’t fit in with many of the tourists who were wearing shorts and short sleeves.
- However, I’m glad it doesn’t typically get much below the 60s as we have no central heat. Yep – that’s right – only space heaters. They do a fine job providing heat, but they make me really nervous. Now that we’re starting to have to run them at night, I’m thinking it’s time to go out and buy a smoke detector as those don’t come in the apartment either. Seems like a worthwhile investment.
- One of the things I appreciate here in Hong Kong is the drinking culture. There do not seem to be any open container laws, so you can pretty much walk around with a drink anywhere, like when Doug and our neighbor Dave enjoyed beers while the kids played on the playground. But it’s particularly fun down in Central where you can get a drink at a bar and then go hang out in the area underneath the mid-level escalators or even out in the streets which get taken over by revelers at night. We’ve hit the area early a few times with the boys, and it’s been great for all of us. We get them a Ben and Jerry’s and ourselves a good beer (ahh – IPAs), then we all just hang out and chill. Good times.