Satisfaction is.

I'm many things. Former E-4, Soon to be O-1 USMC. Avid Flatball player, Pianist, and 1L Juris Doctor Candidate.

Day 8 - Intro to Guangzhou

I walked into yet another Dim Sum joint with my new chaperones, my aunt (the wife of my grandmother’s sister’s son) and her two children, Syler (16) and Kate (25). I am starting to understand more of what is being said around me after a week of listening and attempting to speak Cantonese. It’s a shame that I’m going to be learning Mandarin and will have to put aside the limited gains I’ve made in the southern dialect. This dim sum restaurant didn’t appear much different than the other 4+ that I’ve been to this week, but was essentially different because it wasn’t in Hong Kong. I walked through the rows and rows of tables filled with smiling families and friends conversing and reaching over one another for the yummies on the table. My aunt instructed me to take a left at a specific juncture with a firm point, and I instantly recognized our table. In movies, there is often the cliché scene of two long lost relatives finding one another. These scenes show eyes that slowly rise to meet each other while emotional yet optimistic strings sing away in the background. Generous and vigorous hugging usually follows. I’ve gawked at these scenes for my entire life, and today realized that although they are sappy, they hold some grain of truth. As I turned and found our table, I saw Pau pau (my grandmother). However, I knew this couldn’t be Pau pau, because I knew that she was back in America calling to check up on me everyday. The beaming octogenarian that stood before me was her older sister, yet the resemblance was uncanny. I was astounded, and to only further the effect, she pointed and beckoned me loudly and laughed with Pau pau’s same chopped, coarse chuckle. Although the meeting held no more significance than the fact that it was the first time I was meeting my great aunt, meeting Kao Pau incited a sense of history and tradition in me, and I felt that I had somehow… returned. Shoot me for sounding corny.

      Earlier that day I gathered up all of my belongings into my backpack bid Hong Kong adieu. As the train left Hong Kong, I watched more of the country side revealed itself from under the blanket of urban sprawl. As I traveled further into China and away from the glitter of Hong Kong, I realized that Hong Kong was unique in many aspects and that it was not representative of all Chinese cities. I had harbored some hope that Guangzhou would be similar to Hong Kong in its glamour and aesthetic appeal. Guangzhou is not Hong Kong, but the difference is welcome as Guangzhou provides me with a “real” perspective that I’ve desired.

As I walked out of the Guangzhou train station, the difference was immediately apparent. The streets are dirtier, there is smog, the Internet is restricted, and coolest of all - a hammer and sickle came on the TV before the news. But despite these differences, I look forward to my stay in Guangzhou because, as I said before, the Chinese side of my family lived here, so I should be able to do the same. After Dim Sum, my aunt walked with me back to her apartment. As I rode the elevator to the top floor, I realized that I would be staying in another beautiful apartment with yet another awe-inspiring view of the city.

I guess I am just fortunate to have comfortably rich Chinese relatives. Additionally, I have found a new friend, the five-year-old daughter of the caretaker. She is a pretty little disaster…

who can’t keep her hands off of all of my electronics (in her defense, I did bring a lot of cool gadgets: my MacBook, Canon G9, FlipVideo, Ipod Nano, and Nook). She has already started referring to me as gau gau, or brother. Like most children her age, she has an undying source of energy stored somewhere in her two foot frame and never tires of climbing all over the furniture like a feral monkey. I put up with her antics because I see her as an asset. Since she is only 5, she speaks simply, and I can practice my Mandarin with her. However, I’ve already found that she is a malicious teacher, and laughs at all of my mispronunciations.

After the home-cooked dinner I took a walk around the local park, which is centered on a decently sized man-made lake. At the entrance of the park there is a large open concrete space that serves as a community gathering point every evening. As we turned a corner, the full scope of this gathering came into view and this was stunning. It was around 9pm at night and there must have been 400 people in this space either sitting and smoking, performing large choreographed dances, playing badminton without nets, singing karaoke with TV’s on the back of hand carts, or selling goods. For a city, I was again surprised by the community cohesion. I slept very easily knowing that I would get to play ultimate tomorrow. My goal is show America’s dominance in the sport, and throw lots of flick hucks. 

P.S.  - Good luck to everyone from St. Louis (You: I’ll destroy your life at slap cup. And don’t eat glass silly…) to New Jersey trying out for Club. I expect to hear deets soon!

Leaving for the Mainland. Time, and the impressive breadth of the PRC firewall will only tell how often I’ll be able to access this. I’ve downloaded some VPNs, and will try to see if I can circumvent the internet restrictions (even though i’m largely computer illiterate). Hong Kong has been the time of my life, and I think I’ll probably come back a few days early to spend some more time here. I’ll be in Guangzhou by noon. 

Leaving for the Mainland. Time, and the impressive breadth of the PRC firewall will only tell how often I’ll be able to access this. I’ve downloaded some VPNs, and will try to see if I can circumvent the internet restrictions (even though i’m largely computer illiterate). Hong Kong has been the time of my life, and I think I’ll probably come back a few days early to spend some more time here. 

I’ll be in Guangzhou by noon.

 

Canadians. I don’t understand.

Canadians. I don’t understand.

Day 6 - Uneventful
There used to be a view of the entire harbor from this vantage point. No longer. The rain has crippled planned activities as my primary mode of transportation is on foot. I did manage to get out, pick up my speedily tailored suits from the Mong Kok commercial district, but in that short period got thoroughly soaked, and gouged several times by passing umbrellas.  I was therefore relegated to a day inside blazing through “War” by Sebastian Junger and watching pretty much every Machine Highlight reel in recent memory:
NYU Show  - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laaittQg7fU&feature=related
Regionals ‘11- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxL7yiKqXwo
Princeton Show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd4RJ0q-Dio
Wilmington 8’s - http://vimeo.com/11218304
Roll Call - http://vimeo.com/11219258
TCNJ Invite - http://vimeo.com/7933541
Sectionals ‘10 - http://vimeo.com/11220217
(I miss the production quality of Brian Li’s reels. In comparison, the shoddy reels I throw together are crap)
Being so high up in a residential tower makes me feel the electricity as it builds up before a lightening strike. I guess I forgot about how lightening likes to strike long metal poles when I went out of the roof, with my umbrella, and tried to take pictures. I very quickly realized the massive stupidity of that endeavor, and in an attempt to avoid qualifying for a Darwin Award, ran back inside. 
The biggest blow of the day came when I checked the Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association website and found that pick up and Junk practice had been cancelled due to rain. I was already all suited and taped up, ready to go out and confront the elements in order to chase some flatball. Who ever cancels ultimate due to rain anyway?? Slightly depressed, I put down my bag, spun a disc just to make sure I remembered what 175g of plastic felt like, and watched the crazy reality TV shows they have here. Ultimate is my addiction, and I’m in withdrawal. It hurts. 

Day 6 - Uneventful

There used to be a view of the entire harbor from this vantage point. No longer. The rain has crippled planned activities as my primary mode of transportation is on foot. I did manage to get out, pick up my speedily tailored suits from the Mong Kok commercial district, but in that short period got thoroughly soaked, and gouged several times by passing umbrellas.  I was therefore relegated to a day inside blazing through “War” by Sebastian Junger and watching pretty much every Machine Highlight reel in recent memory:

NYU Show  - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laaittQg7fU&feature=related

Regionals ‘11- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxL7yiKqXwo

Princeton Show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd4RJ0q-Dio

Wilmington 8’s - http://vimeo.com/11218304

Roll Call - http://vimeo.com/11219258

TCNJ Invite - http://vimeo.com/7933541

Sectionals ‘10 - http://vimeo.com/11220217

(I miss the production quality of Brian Li’s reels. In comparison, the shoddy reels I throw together are crap)

Being so high up in a residential tower makes me feel the electricity as it builds up before a lightening strike. I guess I forgot about how lightening likes to strike long metal poles when I went out of the roof, with my umbrella, and tried to take pictures. I very quickly realized the massive stupidity of that endeavor, and in an attempt to avoid qualifying for a Darwin Award, ran back inside. 

The biggest blow of the day came when I checked the Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association website and found that pick up and Junk practice had been cancelled due to rain. I was already all suited and taped up, ready to go out and confront the elements in order to chase some flatball. Who ever cancels ultimate due to rain anyway?? Slightly depressed, I put down my bag, spun a disc just to make sure I remembered what 175g of plastic felt like, and watched the crazy reality TV shows they have here. Ultimate is my addiction, and I’m in withdrawal. It hurts. 

Day 5 - All over the island

I woke up early after night filled with remarkably vivid dreams. I’m beginning to settle into a routine just as my time in Hong Kong is nearing its end. After waking up, I eat an apple, stretch, then go out and run hills, do a couple reps of stairs, and come back for some plyos on the topside patio. The weather in this city is unpredictable and temperamental. At 9 am, during my workout it was perfectly sunny. However within 30 minutes of finishing my warm down (about 11:15), I saw a huge storm from rapidly approaching Kowloon from across the harbor. I proceeded to rain for the next hour. Once it was done raining, the sky returned to its former calm. This cycle of rain/sunshine continued throughout the day. The one constant is the humidity.

My first date of the day was with my mother’s high school friend Martin. My mother had informed me that he was a successful businessman prior to my visit, but I did not anticipate the true degree of his “success” until I met with the guy. I was waiting in the lobby of his building, the China Resources Building in Central, and he came out of one of the gilded elevators talking passionately into his cell phone. He gave me a curt nod, and shook my hand while still on the phone. He motioned to follow him, and we walked out of the lobby. We didn’t talk for at least a block, at which point he ended his call and apologized for the rude behavior. He explained that this was a very busy week as he was spearheading a project to buy a number of multi-million dollar gold mines in South Africa on behalf of his company. I tried to contain my surprise, and just nodded to show my understanding. We walked into yet another dim sum restaurant, and the maitre d’ knew him on sight and immediately seated us at a table. Martin explained that this table had history as he had met with my mother and other fellow classmates ~3years prior.  From then on out we had a very interesting conversation. This man had strong opinions on topics ranging from the Chinese national culture to American music. He enlightened me on how the Chinese national culture has changed, for better or worse, over the past century and made qualified accolades of Mao’s contributions to the China’s current successes. We then talked about how Martin was going to try to single handedly reform the Chinese populations ethics. One common theme from many of my conversations with people here is that Mainland China is a place of corruption and widespread counterfeiting, and that the population accepts this as the norm. Martin explained that this had to change if China was ever going to gain international primacy. From here, the conversation strayed to the growing Buddhist and Daoist movements in China and how the Communist party was adapting to modernity by sacrificing many of its core values. I eventually found out that on top of being a highly successful businessman, Martin was also a writer, and was in the process of publishing 2 books on Buddhism in Modern China. I left that lunch completely in awe, and feeling insecure about my own humble accomplishments and future aspirations.

After that lunch, I had about 4 hour to burn before having to meet with more family friends on the other side of the city, so I took advantage of free museum admission and quickly toured the Hong Kong museums of Art, Space and History. Not much to comment, but I will say that I enjoyed gaining a better understanding of Chinese culture and the historic foundation upon which the Chinese collective memory is built.

I had arranged to meet another family friend, Stephanie, at the Tiu Keng Leng Station. It seems that I’ve been able to schedule meetings at MTR stations on every line of the Hong Kong Metro System. I surprisingly didn’t get lost, and had a very easy time finding her in the vast recesses of the underground railway station. She showed me her apartment, which by Hong Kong standards was very big, about 1000 square feet. They also informed me that the company that controlled the MTR lines turned a huge profit by also building and owning a number of residential towers directly over the MTR stations. This struck me as ingenious, but also dangerous as this one private company controlled a monopoly on the city’s transportation system. I have to do more research on the actual situation before speaking further on the topic. Eventually Stephanie’s family took me on a bus to Sai Kung, the original indigenous fishing village on Hong Kong Island, and I’ll let pictures show you the rest of the night. Magical. 

Sai Kung Marina.

The town of Sai Kung

Getting a preview of what would soon end up on our plates

Some kind of crustacean that probably swam with the dinos… 

Day 4: No Rest…Ever

I’ll make up for yesterday’s excess of text with more pictures today. Yeah, that is a cop-out excuse because I don’t feel like writing a lot. 

I went exploring again. Here’s what I saw:

Set 1: I took the Star Ferry across the harbour and took some shots of the three tallest buildings in Hong Kong.

IFC #1

ICC

Central Plaza Building

 

Set 2: I eat about 5 meals a day. Here’s what I ate.

1. An apple, buttered bread, and water for breakfast (didn’t warrant a picture)

2. Got some Japanese for lunch. I ordered a lot of conch, squid, eel, and octopus for some reason.

 

3. I guess this was a tea time snack. But then again, I don’t call a slab of pork a snack…

4. Got back to my apartment and found yet another great meal prepared:

5. The night is still young, so i’m sure there is another meal in store…

Set 3: And then there are all of the random pictures I took while wandering through the mid-level district of Hong Kong. As you can probably tell already, I got carried away with the color isolation feature on my camera today.

 

Two more random shots of SoHo/Hollywood Ave:

 

My workout this morning consisted of 5 reps on a humongous stair case. During the box jumps, my body control gave out and I started flailing and grunting at every rep. People started to stare. Fuck ‘em. I forgot to count the stairs, will get on that tomorrow. 

1. every other step

2. every step

3. every other step

4. box jump (took foooooooorrrrreeeeevvvvvveeeeer)

5. every step

Then I also ran 3 miles on the incredibly hilly roads here. The only thing that got me through the oppressive humidity and bastardly dehydration was the  Sucka Free CJ blasting in my ears.

That was my day! Oh, and then I HAD to take this picture:

 



 

Truth Himself

—The Best of Me

Truth Himself: The Best of Me

Day 3 - Being a Tourist

I made the biggest mistake ever and forgot to bring out my camera yesterday. I spent the day walking around the bustling streets of Hong Kong appreciating the sights, smells, and sounds but kicking myself for missing opportunities to capture snapshots of the city’s interior. I started the day walking to the Mong Kok district (known primarily as location for cheap electronics and clothing) with the intent to buy a pair of tailored suits. I have heard from a number of my well-traveled friends that tailored suits are incredibly cheap in China as compared to the US, so I thought that in preparation for my legal studies, I should complement my wardrobe with something professional. I don’t think I can continue dressing in basketball pinnies and sweat pants (as I did all the time at Rutgers) in law school…but I hope I’m wrong. In any case, I found a cheap tailor that my hosts had recommended, struggled to haggle down the price, and eventually settled on a deal that includes two suits for $1300 HKD. I’m convinced, until someone convinces me otherwise, that it was a great deal. I mean the two women selling the suit told me it was a great deal, so that must be true right?!?


I eventually wandered out of the busiest parts of Mong Kok. This was difficult in itself as I had to stop myself from darting into every Nike or Addidas store and buying out their selection of vibrant merch. They have some prints that I’ve never seen in the states and subsequently make me weak in the knees. I had decided to dedicate this day to wandering the streets, and I couldn’t have been more pleased that my wanderings led me to the Yuen Po Bird Market. This place was magical. Although I had no immediate desire to buy a songbird, the market provided me at least an hour of entertainment. While walking through the narrow gauntlet of vendors, the songs of caged birds overwhelmed the usual hubbub of city noise and suddenly the urban setting seemed almost tropical. There were stacks of small mundane brown birds that weakly chirped and gnawed at their plastic prisons. These seemed to be common fare and therefore the lowest rung of the ornithological (I only know this word because of my jazz band days, thanks Charlie parker) hierarchy. Above these peons there hung ornately detailed cages that held colorful, well-ruffled birds that sang pleasant and protracted tones. The prices on these cages were outrageous. Finally, there were the kings of Yuen Po, the monster parrots that strutted on exposed metal bars and mimicked the human tones surrounding them. The parrots of Yuen Po were the size of middling dogs. I steered clear, in my opinion they’re pretty much Velociraptors. There has to be some of that hunter/killer instinct left in the recesses of their brains, and I didn’t want to lose a finger finding out. I just ogled their brilliant colors and heckled them in an attempt to incite some response… from a very safe distance.

I ended my day visiting my cousin on the other side of town. He lives with his wife and daughter in a very unique community. Hong Kong is a crowded place. I’ve said this before. A result of the tremendous population density is that a majority of the urban population lives in residential towers. In my cousin’s case, he lived in a newly developed set of towers. What I found interesting about his living situation was that the development provided the same amenities a small town would – with a large community center on the first floor complete with public swimming pool, gymnasium, auditorium, and child care. Therefore, it seemed to me that each tower stood as its own “town” as I define the term. I ate with my cousin’s family. Two Filipino servants prepared the meal. Having never had servants wait on me before (besides my mom :P), this felt alien, but I accepted as part of the culture. Although the tower communities were interesting and the meal was delicious, the highlight of the evening was Amelia – the cutest and most inquisitive 4-year old I’ve ever met. We played legos, practiced piano, and she asked questions about America. I also learned that her parents made her take classes in every conceivable subject; piano, music theory, lego construction, gymnastics, ice skating, and of course academics. American youth is doomed if they have to compete with a generation of Hong Kong children like Amelia. What’s scary is that according to her parents, Amelia is well below average. But, then again, that was probably an example of classic Asian parental modesty.

Paper Tigers

What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?

Day 2 - It only gets better

            I woke up to the frantic beat of a torrential downpour against my room’s windows. I got up and looked out across the skyline but saw little more than the immediately adjacent apartment buildings. The passing typhoon obscured the rest of the city in a watery haze. I walked out of my room to a quiet apartment, munched on an apple while finishing off my first book of the trip. Eventually the rest of the family woke up, and started preparing to go out for Sunday morning Dim Sum. They still marvel at how early I wake up (even though it’s only about 9am) and that I haven’t felt any of the effect of jet lag. In any case, we eventually piled into the family Toyota Previa and drove through what appeared to be a deserted Hong Kong. I was relieved that there were not many drivers on the road because after seeing the chaos that is Hong Kong traffic on a dry sunny day, I expected death and destruction on a day with poor visibility and slick roads.

            I met up with my uncle Kevin, and he took me on the Hong Kong Metro from the Kowloon side of the harbor to Central Hong Kong. From there he acted as an impromptu tour guide and pointed out all of the sights as we took a double-decker bus from HK Central to the Aberdeen Marina. On the bus ride I got a full history from a Hong Kong native, with information on topics ranging from the fung shui of skyscrapers to the bar scene where Seal Team 6 celebrated the successful completion of their recent mission in Pakistan.  Kevin was impressively knowledgeable of all things Hong Kong.

           

Aberdeen was, and still is, a fishing town. SO, while there are massive residential development projects sprouting up all around its banks, there are still hundreds of individually owned fishing boats floating in the harbor. This provided a pleasant juxtaposition of a simple, age-old economy functioning as it has for centuries with no regard for the radically transforming backdrop. I met my great uncle and aunt (my maternal grandmother’s brother), and they endeavored to show me some real Chinese dim sum, made from the fish snared in that very harbor. The restaurant was exactly what I said I despised in my last post – covered in gaudy dragons and faux décor.

But in this case, it was just badass. The restaurant was actually a boat in the middle of the harbor, and to get out there we had to ride on little dinghies through the harbor. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Once there, the staff made every effort to create a sense of luxury. By this point I was just hungry and wanted some food. I expressed my growing hunger, and without further ado, 10+ plates appeared. I ate everything and then reclined on the cheesy throne at the head of the restaurant. Om nom nom nom.

Following my gluttonous stint at the awesome floating restaurant, Kevin whisked me back to Hong Kong so that I could get to Tai Hung Tung Park in time for pick-up. I had to explain that; No, pickup is not an ordeal that runs on a strict schedule, and that I could probably get away with being 5-50 minutes late. We rode the Metro again and showed up two blocks from the park. I resent that I’ve had guides and chaperones escort me around Hong Kong. They only mean the best, but I’d much prefer to get lost and in all kinds of trouble as 1) it’s more fun, and 2) it lets me see more of the city. Once Kevin saw me to the park, we said our good byes and I was finally left on my own. I walked to the recreation fields and immediately scanned the horizon for flying discs. There were none so I whipped mine out because I knew it would attract any like-minded athletes. A park security guard saw my disc and brusquely informed me that there was no fey deep. Of course, because my grasp on the language isn’t very strong at this point I just accepted it and resolved to just pa bao because apparently that was allowed. Here is my workout:

~2 mile warm up

3x with 1 min rest (cheated on rest :P)

30 yrd suicide

10 burpees

30 yrd suicide

5x 320 with 1 min rest (cheated on rest again… I’m out of shape, give me a break)

I should note that I didn’t have any water left by this point because my family has scared me away from drinking tap water, and I don’t know where else to get it because god knows I’m not paying for water.

            After the workout, I started decleating when some guys approached me. I could tell they were ultimate players. It is comforting knowing that ultimate players look the same all around the world. They started speaking Cantonese to me, and I replied with (a phrase that I’ve learned very well already) Ngo m sik teng or “I don’t speak”. With a collection of pointing and gesturing I eventually understood that we were allowed to throw on little portion of the fields because everything else had been declared water logged by the recent typhoon. I proceeded to throw with the two guys, Don and Tim, for the next hour and a half. They weren’t very good, but I didn’t mind because their lack of skill gave me lots of opportunities to layout…which I did… gratuitously. I got my first turf burn in China, and then proceeded to keep laying out on it, letting all kinds of dirt and stagnant water into my blood stream. Eventually, we got kicked off the fields because I couldn’t keep throwing dinky passes in the small, allotted space. Tim was a natural receiver, and he needed to be run, so I naturally practiced my flick huck and sent him all over the field and very much outside of our designated area. After I decleated for real, I hit the streets of Hong Kong covered in mud sweat and blood. I relished catching people on the street staring. I took some time getting my bearings, and successfully rode the Metro back to my host family’s apartment, found the location of tomorrow’s workout,

 

struggled to convince the doorman that I was a legitimate guest (I wouldn’t have admitted me either), and finally showered.

I’m now writing this with what is probably one of the most majestic skylines in the world as my backdrop. 

I am quickly learning to love Hong Kong.