A little update from Asia

Trip Start Mar 06, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Hong Kong  ,
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Hong Kong: We were almost set back because Aaron left his passport at home....oops! But, as he was about to jump in a taxi to retrieve it, he happened to find it in the back pocket of a pair of corduroys pants he put in the suitcase as a last minute addition. A giant stroke of luck!

The most touted sporting event in Asia, the Hong Kong 7's Rugby Tournament. We flew to Hong Kong, along with the rest of the population in Aisa for an event I would liken to the San Francisco Bay To Breakers combined with Mardis Gras combined with college fraternity parties combined with Halloween. In other words, it was complete chaos, madness, and a massive drinking event. We met up with "mates" from Australia and stayed in a friend's apartment in Midlevels (an area in HK). The apartment (on the 18th floor with spanning views of Hong Kong and Kowloon)was beautiful and serene...and just outside the apartment windows was absolute mayhem. We geared up in our costumes by 10am and made our way to the stadium, like cattle being corralled. Beer was tossed around, Pims was imbibed, and the crowd's roar was louder than those at a Raider's game. Apres-game involves going to Lau Kwai Fong, the Bourbon Street of Hong Kong. The streets were packed and music was being pumped through. Everyone was screaming along to "Sweet Caroline" and running in and out of bars with a drunken swagger. Our favorite bar, Insomnia, had a fabulous Fillipino cover band, covering every genre. Their sets ranged from Lynard Skynard to Outkast to Poison to Brit.

An interesting point: As we arrived in Hong Kong, we were forced to walk through a giant body thermometer, testing for SARS and bird flu...ikes!

Aside from the rugby tournament, we walked the crowded streets of Hong Kong (you can really understand why Asians typically don't wear shoes in their homes...you walk in feces, spit, etc.) Aaron and I have also adopted this in our home and have a nice wooden shoe stand to place your shoes in when you enter. Asian way, Hawaiian way...there is something to it. There are live markets everywhere, where one is at liberty to buy horse hooves, live fish, etc. MacDonalds all serve hamburgers with rice paddies rather than buns. It's interesting to see how businesses have to adapt to different cultures and preferences.

Return to Singapore, which was a nice escape from the smog and bustling streets of Hong Kong. Back to the Garden Country, with lush greenery in the middle of the city. Orderly and clean streets.

As Aaron set off to Australia for work, I entertained our first house-guest, Katie Bryan-Jones (a family friend of the Katz's.) With Aaron away, it was nice to have someone to run around and explore Singapore with. We hit the "must-dos" by day and came to the understanding that Singapore really comes alive at night. We met up with a friend that Aaron and I had met in Hong Kong (during the craziness) and he proceeded to guide us through the night life...ending up at the Ministry of Sound until 4am. What?!!

Katie was here in time to experience tropical rainstorms at their finest. Torrential downpours accompanied by deafening thunder, followed by sunshine and 85 degree heat. At least the rain cools things off. They've been occurring every afternoon, and the thunder is cracking loudly as I write this. I think my body is finally acclimated to the heat; I'm no longer sweating profusly all day and all night.

With a friend from college stopping through Singapore, Aaron and I were able to tap into the local culture a bit more. Clarine is Indonesian, but she has family friends (family for all intents and purposes) in Singapore. We were subsequently invited to her friend, Ping's "debut party," a Chinese tradition where a new mother debuts her one-month old baby after secluding herself for a month (although I don't think Ping actually secluded herself). Traditionally, the mother wouldn't shower for a month either. At any rate, we were honored to be part of it. About 150 people coming through the house, home-cooked, traditional Chinese delicacies, along with Australian Angus beef and carmalized onions (a nice change from Asian food). I befriended a Singaporean woman by the name of Helen, and she and I have gone on to form a nice friendship - hiking, tours of the "other face" of Singapore, markets, and introductions to the local cuisine. The food in this region is different from the rest of the world, because it is a unique fusion of the different cultures here: Malay, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese.

This morning, Helen and I went for a 2-hour hike in the Bukit Timah nature reserve (rainforest,) followed by a tour of the HDB housing (government subsidized housing in which 85% of the local population lives - you will not find a single homeless person in Singapore,) and each compound has a local wet market (produce/meat/fish/poultry) and hawker stands (different food booths.) We dined on Fried Carrot Cake, a misnomer, as it is actually white turnips mixed with egg, and Chwee Kueh, which is rice dumpling with sauteed turnip. We were served fresh soya milk/local coffee. Despite my reluctance to try the dishes, they were actually pretty good, and definitely NOT healthy. For both of us to eat cost a whopping $4.00. Groceries at the market (a lot of groceries, including fresh prawns, cost $10.00.) I will not be going to the over-priced supermarkets anymore.

It is so easy to stick to what you know here; to befriend only Australians, Americans, or the Brits. You truly see only one face of Singapore this way...the first-world perspective. It was interesting to see the way the rest of the local population actually lives. However, the antithesis to how the local people live is the way this family who hosted the debut party lives - also local, but in the upper echelon - ...lavishly, to say the least. We pulled up to a Balinese-style villa, with a Bentley and Porshe parked in the driveway. We walked in and were blown away by the sheer size...all open-wall, overlooking a pool, with 3 completly different wings. It's customary for the extended family to all live together, and children don't move out until they are married (or in college.) However, similar to Israel, all men are required to serve in the army for two years prior to going to college. It seems to me, that every culture except ours does that. This was also my experience in South America. My favorite part of the house was the big-screen TV with 10,000 karaoke songs...10,000!

Aaron and I also experienced an interesting Passover in Singapore. I created a separate entry for that. Feel free to read if you want some insight into Passovers in Singapore.

Still searching for a job and have had some interesting interviews and have made some interesting contacts. Fingers crossed. Miss everyone dearly.

Photo Album from the Hong Kong 7's. If you're so inclined, cut and paste the following link:

Love, Johonna
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