sea and sky

Back in Taipei… sigh. I had a lovely weekend in Hong Kong catching up with Maria (who lives in the B’Jing) and Rosalie (who lives in Tel Aviv), with delicious meals and many bottles of wine. We ate lots of Spanish and Italian food (none of it vegan) and didn’t take a single picture, so in honour of our glory days and their persistent continuation, I am instead posting a horrendous photo from a fancy dress house party, Beijing circa early 2004. Prizes to anyone who can guess what we were supposed to be dressed up as…

These days Maria has more hair, I have less hair, and Rosalie has actual hair as opposed to red sparkly wool.
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(in case you were wondering… I did that to Rosalie’s hair. It’s a skill of mine. Call me for bookings.)

I am proud to say that I left Hong Kong with only ONE purchase — and one that I am really very pleased with. I have not been wearing perfume for over a year, since I ran out of For Her by Narciso Rodriguez; I wore it for the entire time I lived in Australia, and loved it, but now I have found something far more interesting and special to replace it. It’s called Sea and Sky, by Tokyomilk, and it smells amazing… according to the box, its notes are “clean coral, mineral salt, watercress and crushed citrus” — sounds like a salad but smells beautiful. It was my only splurge the entire week (outside of wining and dining, of which there was a fair bit) but I am very happy with it.

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I just realised I lie. I did buy a fluorescent yellow bikini top for a few dollars at Forever 21. It was part of a great plan I had that didn’t work out. So let’s pretend I only got the scent and I can feel pleased with myself.

On the flight home I read The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (who wrote The Poisonwood Bible, in case you thought the name sounded familiar). It was beautiful — I am really pleased with my choice, because I only had a few minutes to choose from a really limited selection at the airport, and I almost went for a shitty crime novel (which wouldn’t be like me at all…). It was the perfect read, with great characters and a nice balance of funny and heart-wrenching. I didn’t realise it was her first novel until I had already finished the book and was reading every word of print from cover to cover (praise to the author, bibliography, other books etc… when stuck on a plane I will do anything to get a reading fix). It seems really mature and well paced for a first book; if anything, I think I preferred it to the Poisonwood Bible. Definitely recommend!

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el pomposo

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Thursday night dinner with my Hong Kong family! We went to El Pomposo and had an amazing and delicious spread of tapas and goodies. This is the kind of situation where I make an exception and return to being an omnivore — meat and dairy are worth eating when they come in the form of European cheeses and cured meats… There wasn’t much left from our feeding frenzy by the time I got my camera out…
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I hate using flash, and personally don’t mind when my pictures are dark and fuzzy, it’s more atmospheric, right?
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Okay, maybe actually being able to see people is better… Here I am with Cici and her lovely, beautiful, kind and funny parents.
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And a big family pic, including Stephen (Cici’s uncle, with whom I am staying at the moment)! We’re missing little sister Kiki but Debbie stood in for her.
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I am really lucky to have such kind and welcoming friends here in Hong Kong. And what a fantastic dinner… almost made me miss the cheese and charcuterie orgies in France last summer!

wednesday kong

On Wednesday morning I caught up with Dawn, who I hadn’t seen since… summer 2005! All those years ago, Dawn had been scouting for some western talent to cast as extras in an SK2 advert. I seduced her with my teasing and pleading, and she in turn made sure that I was chosen (despite my casting pictures being some of the least attractive in history…). I recently saw the videos for the actual adverts and I have to say, the back of my head looks fantastic on screen – glad I wore all that make-up!

Our 2005 cast, minus Karen Mok and Stephanie Hsiao – Dawn is in the middle, with short hair and a stripy shirt.
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It was so great to catch up with Dawn – we have a lot in common and it makes me even more keen to move to Hong Kong so I can hang out with her more often. MTR Green is one of my favourite picture backgrounds!
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Cici and I then had lunch before hopping on a bus to Stanley. I finally, after all these years, have an Octopus card! On my very first trip to Hong Kong I asked Cici if I should get one, and because Cici is a lady of few words and occasional laziness, rather than line up for 20 minutes at the busy station where we were, she vaguely insinuated that it was a complicated and unnecessary affair. I maintained this belief for each of my subsequent visits, never presuming to burden ourselves with such a disagreeable task, or waste our precious time, and it was only on my last visit that I was enlightened… I saw a friend of a friend, in town for 2 nights only, brandishing her very own Octopus card, and enquired of her, with wide-eyed admiration, how she had managed to get hold of such a precious commodity…

Anyway… it took me all of 30 seconds to buy this baby yesterday.
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Cici and me on the bus, rejoicing in our Octopii:
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Stanley Beach felt like a bizarre combination of my hometowns Melbourne and Cahors – lots of Australian-style cafes and pubs, and French-style cute shops. Cici and I found our “mini-me” selves here…
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It’s a beautiful place, although nothing was remotely affordable to us, given our Asian salaries. We wanted to visit the “Correctional Facilities Museum” as it sounded suitably stark and entertaining, but it was closed… bank holiday, crap! Still, beautiful views. Yet another score for Hong Kong. I’m a woman of simple tastes I guess – give me steep mountains and hills, reaching into crystal-clear waters, and I’m sold.

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Mui Wo

As most people in Hong Kong had a half- or whole holiday this Tuesday, Cici planned a barbecue in Mui Wo on Lantau Island. So after meeting for lunch in Central, then wandering the streets looking for a decent AND affordable coffee (thanks Wagyu), we finally headed for the Pier to catch a ferry to the island just before 4pm.

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I know many vegetarian treats to bring to barbecues, courtesy of my four years in Australia. Unfortunately the mountain of veggies that I purchased weren’t really… ideal for a Hong Kong-style barbecue, where you spear slices or balls of meat and fish onto giant toasting forks. The idea is, everyone has their own fork and eats piece by piece, sitting round the fire and chatting. It’s really sociable and fun, but I was happy to let fellow vegetarian Christina take over the prepping, and to retreat to the beach with a gallon of Martini Rosso and ginger beer.
Bye guys, see you later…
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SHARKS!?
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Debbie thinks the water is too dirty to swim…
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By the time I came back, Jamela and Christina had constructed aluminium packages of veggies and we were ready to go.
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Night fell and Cher got cheeky…
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Several more people turned up, including a French guy from… Cahors! We both were suitably impressed but none of the Honky kids cared. At least we got to talk French whilst they all chattered away in Canto.

Of course despite all good intentions we ended up running in a frenetic panic to catch the last ferry from Mui Wo back to Hong Kong at 11:30. We made it with minutes to spare but running in my sandals has left my right tibia feeling like its stress fracture has spread the length from my ankle to my knee… I slammed ice on it as soon as I got home but I am really frustrated, as I have been resting it for over three months now (give or take a few sneaky runs in January before the diagnosis). I get that I cannot go running anymore, but not being able to dash for the bus or carry my suitcase upstairs without limping for days afterwards is really impractical.

love

Every time I come back to Hong Kong, the vague affection for this city which I carry around year in, year out, explodes into something bordering on obsessive love. Due to budgetary restrictions I hadn’t been here since my 27th birthday, nearly 2 years ago, and the light in my heart may never go out but it had dwindled somewhat. Now that I am back, especially after 9 months in Taiwan (my god, has it really been that long?), Hong Kong’s glory is all the more spectacular. Love! I even revel in the noise of the traffic and a/c units humming outside my window. The traffic in Hong Kong sounds different from anywhere else I have lived.

Of course, it helps that Hong Kong is synonymous with Supermates…

I was second-guessing my decision to move to Hong Kong after Taiwan, but I think it was mainly due to the fear of taking on a dreary office job in order to earn a living. I’m glad I get to stay on in Taiwan for a few more months, as the work I am doing brings me closer every day to finding what it is I want to do. Eleven years ago, my philosophy teacher (an otherwise hateful man, who made the compulsory 8 hours a week of philosophy lessons a chore…) presented us with a text on Existentialism by Kierkegaard which resonated ever so strongly in my rebellious teenaged heart. I always remember it in French, as that is the language in which I copied it out, word for word, in blanco onto my L’Etudiant diary, in order to memorise it with a passion which my teachers probably felt could have been diverted into more sanctified topics, especially the bit about “Et quel profit aurais-je de me bourrer à fond des systèmes des philosophes et de pouvoir, au besoin, les passer en revue, d’en pouvoir montrer les inconséquences dans chaque problème?”. However, for clarity’s sake, I will provide the most famous extract in English here (not in Tip-Ex):

What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.

Anyone who knows me knows of my loathing for religion, so we will quietly overlook the whole “God” thing, because it’s obviously just a symbol of something broader and difficult to put into words. I suppose it could be called “the Universe” maybe… Anyway, I digress. I feel that I am moving gently towards whatever it is that I am meant to be doing, towards finding a truth which is true for me. And now, amongst all that reflection, I am late, as I am meeting Cici at Central in 40min, exit F for FUN!

good to be me

Yesterday I received a quick’n’rough edit of our Taiwan film which we are sending to the client in advance of the final cut, and I spend the morning writing the subtitles in Chinese and English for all my live chattering, which was surprisingly rewarding, as I had only made one mistake!
It isn’t ALL me making silly faces, promise

Just MOSTLY me making silly faces…

Then once I had sent my translation spreadsheet off to Alberto, I started on my work for David. There were a few issues with synching the progress we had done, so in the end we decided to meet face to face at the office. 40 minutes later, we were off to Apple to purchase the promised MacBook Air (on which I am currently writing this — it is a DREAM MACHINE). We had to spend several hours waiting for the people at Apple to set up the laptop, and talked so much about — well, everything, philosophy and psychology and productivity, which are all key aspects of this project. I am really lucky to be getting paid to do this.

Additionally, I may have a free place to stay in Koh Samui when I go to Thailand this June. How awesome is that? Told you I am lucky. I just cannot bring myself to worry about anything anymore, because everything comes together so much better than I could ever plan…

Today the China Hash is in Neihu, which I think won’t be too strenuous, but I am not sure I can walk the Hash today as I have so much to do before I leave for Hong Kong tomorrow. Will have to get on with things instead of blabbing on my blog now…

up to date

I have not been updating very assiduously, have I… Quick run-down of the past week:

On Sunday I walked the China Hash, which wasn’t much of a walk and more of a “push your way through jungle scrub up and down mountains” experience. It was fun but my knees did not like it. I did remember to ice them straight afterwards though, so the fall-out was not too bad.

Maria behind me looks shocked and horrified — when Relax appeared on the horizon to snap this picture, she thought he was some kind of investigator/agent. She’s lived on the Mainland too long!

On Monday Maria and Alberto left, and I bought my tickets to Hong Kong. Cici and I have been planning our Supermates break with enthusiasm! It’s been 7 months since we last saw each other, and despite talking online every single god-given day, nothing beats sitting together not talking at all.

Tuesday as planned I blasted my room and re-organized my office space. David (aka my new “boss”) is getting a MacBook Air for me to work on, which I have to say I’m pretty excited about. In the interim, I have been trying to restrain the French part of me that is obsessed with stationary and desk organisation…

Wednesday meant lunch with my beloved Catherine, and somehow after lunch, shoe shopping happened. Shoe shopping used to be an addiction of mine; I owned at least 60 pairs when I decided to sell everything a year ago. Since then I have purchased just one pair of Adidas sneakers in London and one pair of leather boots in Florence, which demonstrates the incredible restraint I have developed. However it was time for a pair of summer shoes that were suitable for the heat here and which would provide decent support for my poor knees.

I have been doing a little yoga every morning in order to stretch my hamstrings, which seem to tighten more and more every day. Other than that I am not really exercising though… still, I’m feeling happy overall. Spring in Taipei is like the perfect continental summer in Europe — plenty of sunshine and birdsong, warm breezes, gentle mornings and fun evenings. Once the summer gets here it will be like a furnace, if a furnace is ever damp and sweaty, so I am relishing these perfect days. There’s something about the air, the light, the smell of Taipei at this time of year that I absolutely love (as long as you aren’t anywhere near a stinky tofu stand or the drains of course…).

I leave you with a couple of pictures from the Taiwan tour last week. The quality of my pictures should be drastically improving now, as I asked Alberto to check my camera and turns out I had it stuck on a weird setting:

5:20 sunrise in Chiayi

Lions in Taroko Gorge