Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Rob Gifford was NPR's correspondent in Beijing for 6 years, and before he left China to return to the UK, he took a 3,000-mile road trip along China's Route 312 -- a road that runs from Shanghai to China's western border with Kazakstan. The book is mainly an account of his trip, but also includes numerous anecdotal insights into the state of the country, collected by him during his stay in China.
This book made me feel much the same way as Rivertown (by Peter Hessler) -- another favorite China book. I learned a lot of new information, but also came across much that was familiar. And that which was familiar was so well put, giving words to some of the complex feelings I have had about China but never fully expressed. I think during my recent trip to Yangshuo, I realized that a lot of the emotions that I felt about living in China were left unresolved when I left and moved back to Hong Kong almost 5 years ago. I guess I've always had an intense love-hate relationship with the place, and it's been good to have to sort through some of that, and also somehow comforting to find others that express similar feelings (and do so more eloquently than I ever could!).
I am about to loan out my copy of China Road, so before I do, I felt compelled to go back through and find those parts that I really wanted to share. There are many other parts that would be worth adding here, and I could have spent hours re-reading sections and agonizing over what is really most blog-worthy, but here are a few excerpts that I found to be especially poignant. Please sit back and allow me to virtually read them aloud to you.
from Chapter 5: "A Single Spark Can Light a Prairie Fire"
"Pity the poor, long-suffering Chinese peasants. This was supposed to be their revolution. They form the majority of the Chinese population (some 750 million people), and they have suffered long and more deeply than anyone. They were promised so much. They were supposed to be liberated by this great experiment in social equality called Communism, but they have ended up back at the bottom of the pile. It is a betrayal of monumental proportions, considering the roots of the Communist revolution and its original aims, and a betrayal that could end up having monumental consequences for the Communist Party."
from Chapter 6: Silicon Valley
"There are nine cities in the US with more than one million inhabitants. In China there are forty-nine. You can be travelling across China and arrive in a city that is twice the size of Houston, and think, I've never heard of this place."
from Chapter 9: Power
"The tendency is to think of contemporary China in terms of the United States, because of their similarity of geographical size. Actually, to understand China today, the best comparison by far is Roman Europe two thousand years ago: lots of people with different languages and dialects, different customs, different artistic styles, even different cuisines, all with a shared heritage, but ultimately held together by force. It makes no more sense to say you're going out for a Chinese meal than to say you are going out for a European one."
from Chapter 23: A Road is Made
"It's impossible to be neutral about China. Some foreigners hate it from the moment they set foot here. Others love it so much they put down roots and never go home. I wonder if other countries divide people so intensely in their emotions. For myself, I have always tried to retain my own unity of opposites, attempting to keep love and hate in balance."
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Like all the cozies, it's reversible, and the other side is made of the same grey star fabric that the letters are made of. It's very masculine, and available for those days when he doesn't feel like walking around with a big pink heart on his coffee cup.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I'll post some photos of my room soon, including my precious sewing table. Right now there is fabric strewn all over the floor, so it cannot be photographed.
Friday, December 26, 2008
For my roommate, Rebekah.
For my friend, colleague and crafting buddy, Sal.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Keep adding pieces in this way. When you get to the fifth piece, insert the open corners of the first piece into the open corners of the fifth to close up the star. You can add a dab of glue to the open corners to keep them from flapping around.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
1. Natural beauty. Yangshuo is absolutely gorgeous. You could easily just spend a couple days admiring the unique beauty of the dramatic karst peaks. The area around Yangshuo has inspired Chinese painters for centuries, and it's the kind of etherial beauty that you would easily think was just imagined if you didn't know the place actually existed.
2. Many outdoor activities. I went biking twice, rafting, caving, and kayaking. These activities would have all been fun on their own, but the fact that we could do all of them in just a few days, and all with the spectacular mountains as a backdrop was just mind-blowing to me. I could easily go back and do more of these things. I think I could spend a few days just kayaking. And I originally hoped to go rock-climbing too, but that didn't pan out. Next time.
3. Relaxing. Even if you weren't into doing any of the activities listed above, Yangshuo would still be a great place to go. It's one of those layed-back little back-packing towns that is full of fun little coffee shops and bars. I didn't get a chance to do this, but I think I could've happily spent a whole day in town ordering coffees and reading.
4. I love China. It hit me as we were flying that it'd been about a year since I'd been to China, which is quite a long time considering that it used to be home. The way I see it, I've had a love-hate relationship with China for a while -- almost as long as I can remember -- and in the past year or so, our relationship has been especially rocky. But during this trip, I felt like I really rediscovered my love for the country and its people. I really enjoyed chatting with the locals, getting in some much needed Mandarin practice. I use Mandarin occasionally here in HK, but it's usually English and broken Cantonese when I'm here. Everything from talking to my first taxi driver, to eating familiar dishes and desserts (caramelized apples and bananas -- yum!!) left me feeling so excited to be in China again.
I have some more stories from the trip, and photos too, of course. Will share those soon!
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
It's nice to be online again, but I have to say that going without internet at home for so long made me realize something: I was spending WAY TOO MUCH time on-line. After the initial settling in (which I should add, is still going on), I was floored by the great amount of free time that I seemed to have. Time to read, write letters, hang out with friends, play sports, go to sleep early. And I am sure that most, if not all, of this newly-found time was previously spent on FaceBook and Google Reader. We're talking hours wasted each week. It's a scary thought. Hopefully I have learned my lesson. Not to slam the internets, or say that I won't be using them at all. I still plan to blog and email, to use Skype, and even to be on FB from time to time. But there will be no more long sessions of Scramble and WordTwist, and definitely no more aimless clicking through FB.
So there you go. I've turned over the proverbial new leaf. Feel free to call me on it if you ever see me on FB for hours at a time. Tell me to read a book or go running. I will appreciate it, I promise.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Here's an earlier post about another time this happened to us...
I have a lot to blog about, but haven't had the time or the internet access to do so. I've been at the new apartment for almost 2 weeks and have been busily aquiring furniture and appliances. Most of the stuff I've found has been from Asiaxpat, which, I have to say, is a great place to look for deals. It's a site that allows you to place free ads for almost anything that you want to buy or sell. So far I've bought a chest of drawers, a sofa, an arm chair, some sofa cushions, a TV, DVD player, and will get a wardrobe sometime this weekend. As I said, there are a lot of deals, but boy, all the address-hunting and picking up has been exhausting. I'll be glad when I'm done... but I think I'll definitely keep tabs on what's available for a while. I have some interesting stories about my pick-ups that I hope to share soon. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
And I haven't forgotten that I promised a couple more UK posts... I need to make a "to do" list.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
In chronological order:
Scotland day trips
Wales (I plan to write a few blog entries about this part of the trip, since it was so special to see where my great-grandmother grew up, and to meet my distant cousins there! But for now, here are some of the photos. Aunt Sandi -- don't worry, I will send out a lot more!)
I plan to add one more album of some of my photos from London, and will add the link here once I do that.
A few days in London
Monday, July 14, 2008
My lovely Welsh relatives offered them to me often while I was in Wales, usually for tea. They're a little bit like scones, or American biscuits, but fried instead of baked. I liked them so much that I vowed that I would learn to make them when I got home. Lucky for me, they're really quite easy to make, and I already had a recipe in my handy Wycliffe International Cookbook.
The Welsh version.
Here's the Wycliffe recipe I used:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (I used butter)
1/4 cup raisins (I'm not usually a fan, but I like them in these cakes)
2-4 tablespoons milk, enough to hold batter together
I rolled them into about 1 inch balls, and then squished them flat. You should end up with something about 2 inches across and about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Flour both sides, and then cook in a pan or on a griddle, over low heat. Cook them until they're golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle them with a little sugar, and they're ready to eat!
Monday, June 30, 2008
- Tuesday: took a short bus-ride to Rosslyn to see the Rosslyn chapel (made famous by the Da Vinci Code). It was a bit tourist-trappy, but still lovely, and in really pretty spot of countryside.
- Wednesday: I bought a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass, and used my first of three valid days to go to Edinburgh castle. Very interesting, and in a beautiful spot overlooking the city.
- Thursday: took the train and a bus to St. Andrews. I used my pass to go to the castle there and the cathedral ruins. The cathedral used to be the largest in Scotland, and is in a breath-taking spot, right on the water. Since falling into ruins, it has been used as a cemetery (for some few hundred years...!). And of course, I saw the golf course, too.
- Friday: spent the day in Glasgow. Walked around the city, which has quite a different feel from Edinburgh... more urban and edgy. I explored the city for most of the day, and then met Jon and some of his friends for the Radiohead concert in the evening (!!). We had an interesting time getting back to Edinburgh on the train (since there were so many Edinburgh-ers at the concert)-- the initial crowdedness of it reminded me of rush hour in Hong Kong, or worse. Thankfully, ScotRail spontaneously added another train to help deal with the crowds, so we ended up not so squished for the 50-minute train ride back.
- Saturday: took the train to Stirling, with the aim of using my pass once more. Stirling Castle was very grand and had some lovely gardens. The town itself was very quaint as well. On the train ride there, I noticed some beautiful ruins at a stop called Linlithgow and realized that that was a Historic Scotland spot as well. So on my way back to Edinburgh, I "broke journey" (which I was happy to find was perfectly legal) and stopped at the Linlithgow Palace. It was gorgeous. Set right on a loch, and though only the skeleton of the original building still stands, you can get a feel for what a sight it must have been in its prime.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
There's so much more I could say about today, but as you can imagine, at this point I'm barely coherant. It's 11:15 pm here in Scotland, and the sun just went down. Seriously. That's probably part of the reason why I'm able to still be awake right now -- the ridiculous amount of summer daylight. But in HK time it's 6:15 am and I've pulled an all-nighter. Jon has been a very gracious host, and is offering me his room while I'm here. Not sure I should take him up on it the whole time I'm here though... we'll see. I can't wait to see more of this amazing city tomorrow. It's spectacularly beautiful, but still quite quaint for a capital city. Another cool thing is that it seems to be the perfect size to explore on foot! I'll try to post a few photos soon!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Here are some highlights from today... a day of last-minute errands.
I was out around lunchtime, so decided to enjoy one more cheap meal while I still can. Eat Together comes through again -- $22!
Then I happened to pass by a Hui Lau Shan (a.k.a. The Mango Drink Place), and decided to enjoy one more delicious mango treat before I go. I don't think I'll be eating much mango while I'm in the UK. Haggis and blood pudding -- yes -- but probably not much mango.
While waiting for my drink to be made, I noticed these mango-themed cautionary signs on the wall. How did I miss these before?
And then I got home and back to my packing. It seems a little bit strange to be packing a lot of my winter clothes for a summer holiday, but that's what I've done. The highs and lows that I'll be experiencing, especially in Scotland, are reminiscent of a HK winter. I'm only taking my backpack with me, which should be interesting, as it's as light as I've ever traveled.
Here's one of the little bird buttons that I put on my pack a few years ago. I still like them, which is a good thing, because the backs are completely rusted, making them irremovable (I'm quite sure that's the first time I've used that word...). That's all I have for now. I'll try to update my blog from time to time while traveling. Stay tuned! :)
The deadline for the first round of voting is fast approaching, so don't delay!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I'm having a good day. It started with my brother arriving home from college early this morning -- the "ultimate birthday present," as he puts it. Then I joined some good friends on worship team at church this morning, had a joint Father's day/birthday lunch with the family, and finally came home for what else -- cozy-making. I hadn't planned to sew today, but then just felt compelled. I had a friend in mind to make a cozy for, and suddenly had the realization that she might not be crazy about appliqué. Yes. You read that correctly. I've accepted that appliqué might not be for everyone...
So here's the plain cozy that came about after that realization... and I've got to say that I really like it! Part of the draw for me is the pearly snaps. Sal and I bought them the other day at Sham Shui Po, and I realized while hammering them in yesterday that they pearly part shatters easily. But I've found a way to put them in with minimum breakage, and really like the way they look.
I'm about to meet friends for Indian food and [fingers crossed] karaoke (I haven't told anyone else about this, but that's where I'd like to see the evening end up...), so all in all, today is turning out to be the best birthday ever.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I'm in the middle of making a few new cozies (surprise, surprise!). One of them is a very special Father's Day cozy for my dad. Stay tuned for photos...
I finished cleaning up my classroom today, and officially checked out for the summer! That being said, I will be returning mid-July for a couple weeks of summer school.
I mentioned that I'll be going to the UK soon. I'll spend a little over 3 weeks there -- visiting friends in Scotland and England, and then meeting some of my distant cousins in Wales! I'm ecstatic!
The cat-child is doing well, and amazingly enough, seems to be getting furrier!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The thread (and some other goodies) were bought in Sham Shui Po (where else?). Here's a little shop cat in a place where I bought some twine. She was cute. And as you can see, she had a lot to say.
In other news, today was our last school day! I'm going in tomorrow to sort through a few things, and after that, the summer holidays will officially begin! I haven't mentioned this in my blog yet, but I'll be going to the UK for a few weeks this summer. I fly to London a week from today!! But more on that later...
Monday, June 09, 2008
1. A sparrow taking a dust bath in a dried up mud puddle (yay, the rain stopped!).
2. A man with tattoos all over his bare chest and arms riding a bike with training wheels.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Here's my latest appliquéd cozy: shooting stars. It's one of my favorites so far.
Another view, so that you can see the reverse side. It's weird how different the colors look with no flash (above) and with flash (below). I need to figure out a consistent angle and formula for photographing these little guys.
Star on stars.
...which needs to be unsnapped to get the full effect.
More posts to come. My camera is full of photos of stuff I've been meaning to blog about... stay tuned!
Friday, May 23, 2008
MT doesn't usually show much affection for Templeton. In fact, he often hisses at him for no apparent reason. But I found the two of them sitting together in the window when I got home today. There was even a prolonged grooming session. I hope they've reconciled.
I'm usually one who raves about HK public transportation. It's efficient and convenient, and then of course, it makes environmental sense. But then there are times like this past Monday for instance, when all of these attributes are but a distant memory. On Monday I waited for 45 minutes for my bus. Forty-five minutes! I didn't get in line at the bus stop expecting to wait that long. It's usually just a five to ten minute wait. I made no I-will-wait-for-45-minutes-and-no-longer decisions, but somehow managed to put in that much time. At the 15 minute mark, I found myself slightly irritated. We approached 30 minutes, and slowly but surely, my annoyance tuned into fascination. How long could this bus possibly take? And then with each extra minute that I waited, the more certain I became that 1. the bus was just around the corner, and 2. if I left and attempted to take some other conveyance, I would look up just in time to see the bus speed by.
But the longer-than-usual wait did allow me some time for some bus stop photography. I snapped the photo above just minutes before the bus actually came. I like the way everything but the bus stop sign is blurry. And no, that effect was not intentional.
And here's a picture I'd been wanting to take for a long time. It's from the "stop and think" campaign (i.e. stop and think before you get a pet because they're a big responsibility, and they shouldn't be abandoned just because their cuteness has worn off). Whoever had the idea for the time-out-signaling cats and dogs was a genius.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Salome as Olivia (great ears! ;) -- next year I'll crochet you a coffee-cozy snout!), with three of her girls. I really think she should have won a prize for this -- what a great costume!
One of two first-graders who claimed to be George Washington.
Me as Ella Sarah, with a fellow pajama-wearer. I happened to already own sheep pajamas (though, as quite a few kids pointed out to me, "they're not exactly the same as Ella's"), and my mom and I made the stuffed cat the night before.
Encyclopedia Brown solving a mystery. What a nerd!
Encyclopedia Brown, a musketeer (with wig and beard!), Olivia, The Paper Bag Princess, Ella Sarah, and Miss Frizzle (complete with orange hair and specially-made dress!)
Woohoo! I'm already thinking about what I want to be next year...