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Finally

Here I was thinking that blogging would be oh-so-easy. Yeah. Right. Time, it seems, just seems to be flying by. I’m a third of the way through my time here in HK. Before you know it, I’ll be back in Brisbane. Mind you, seeing sunshine would be great. I know that it’ll be cold when we get back to Brisbane, but I MISS THE SUN! It’s been cloudy and miserable and rainy here for so long now. The sun comes out for about 5 minutes every few days. I don’t know how people live without the sun. I hate it. The lack of sun might explain my crankiness and melancholy.  Well, that and also the lack of enthusiasm here at work about my work.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being here. I’m being super productive, but Prof Lam is still not convinced about BNs in general, nor my model. Never mind. We’ve managed to get out a plan. And the plan (while different from the plan I had put down when I applied for this scholarship – which he agreed to!) works out better for me in the end. I’m still working on papers from projects back at home, plus refining my BN. So good all in all.

Man Mo Temple at Tai Po

Life in HK is great. Yesterday we moved into the 2 bedroom apartment next door. Oh my giddy aunt. The extra space is a welcome change! Dann and I have a room all to ourselves – with a closing door and all! (Minds out of the gutter, you lot). I have space to do my Insanity workouts. I’m kickstarting that again on Monday. I’m still doing yoga and trying to be healthy. Though I’ve had 10 days of non-yoga and lots of chocolate eating. I’m feeling this quite badly. Who knew not doing yoga for 10 days would lead to having your hips sieze up?!

Our bigger apartment! Look at all that floor space!

Daily school work.

I love the yoga place here. Bit expensive, but it’s awesome. Over 100 classes a week. Different levels and teachers. Heated and non-heated rooms. Towels and mats provided, as are shampoo, soap and conditioner. All I have to do is rock up with my yoga clothes. It’s awesome. The kicker is that the showers are those rain showers – so freaking awesome after 90 mins of heated yoga! I have noticed though, that that ladies are NOT shy in walking around starkers. Though mind you, if I had some of their figures, I would be walking around starkers for all to see as well! Another thing I’ve noticed is the choice of underwear colour most of them wear. Beige. Yep, beige underwear. I’m more of a black undergarments kind of person. Or white, or bright pink. Goes better with my complexion, or something like that. Not so much beige. I’ve only seen about 3 other people with non-beige underwear. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I found it odd.

Halo halo at Cinta J restaurant in Wan Chai.

 

Another odd thing about HK – the lack of brunch options that I like. I love brunch. So much. It’s the ultimate meal – a combination of breakfast and lunch. You can have sweet or savoury or a combination of both. You can have ice cream and cream and no-one says anything. But here, unless you want to go to a hotel restaurant and pay through the nose (relative to other meal prices), it’s hard to get eggs benedict. I miss the pre-made-full-of-preservatives-and-god-knows-what-else hollandaise they use at The Coffee Club. Shake your head in disgust, but I love that shit.  Perhaps if I’m lucky, Dann will cook me up some hollandaise sauce this weekend. It’s not pre-made-full-of-preservative hollandaise, but it’s pretty damn good. He has made me bacon and eggs on numerous occasions though. He’s a good hubby, that one!

Getting our chocolate and caffeine fix on Easter Sunday.

Getting our chocolate and caffeine fix on Easter Sunday.

 

He even found some salt and vinegar chips that I’d been searching for! I’ll keep him around. 🙂

Alright, so what have we been up to since the last post? Here’s a quick summary:

  • We went to the HK Railway museum in Tai Po. It was small, but good. It’s free and relatively easy to get to. A good outing for the morning.
  • Tai Po Markets – we wandered around here since we were in the neighbourhood. Fruit, veg, seafood, and meat. Very clean (not like the market in the Philippines). Daniel was intrigued by it all, but not impressed by some of the smells. We also went to a set of market that were in a building. The first floor was wet markets, the second floor was fruit and veg and clothes, and the third floor was an eatery. We had lunch here at the Vietnamese eatery. Very good, and very cheap.
  • Dann and Daniel went to Victoria Park. I think we’ll go back together soon as it’s a HUGE park. Dann originally went over to HK Island to go to IKEA. Yep – he willingly went there all by himself. Only to get Daniel a set of train tracks though. Daniel had been spending too much time playing on the iPad and watching telly, so Dann figured that if he had the train tracks like he does at home, he’d play with those. He was right – Daniel plays with them for hours every day.
  • We caught the Star Ferry HK Island on Easter Saturday and went to HK Park. The super long tube slide was winner for Daniel. He must have gone on that thing 20 times!
  • We’ve had to buy some school books for Daniel. He’s powered through the worksheets that Miss Nora from child care had put together. It seems he can’t get enough of numbers, letters, and writing. It’s freaking awesome.
  • Eating, eating, eating. OMG. So many different foods to try and eat. There’s a heap of Korean restaurants near our place. Then there’s the endless choices of dim sum, any number of asian cuisines, and street food. So good. We’ve also found some Filipino restaurants. One near Temple St, near us. Another one at Wan Chai. Both are a bit pricey, compared to other food choices around. But delicious and fills our cravings for Pinoy food!
  • Dann has had some business shirts made. $50 each for a hand made, tailored shirt is pretty freaking good. We also ordered a suit for him. The guys at the shop threw in a free shirt (worth $450HKD) and cuff links (worth $300HKD), so almost $100AUD of free stuff.

Maths + Chocolate. What could be better?!

Anyway, that’s long enough for now. I should do some work. Though it is Friday, and it’s cloudy and raining so motivation is a bit low at the moment.

Getting fitted for new business shirts.

Getting fitted for new business shirts.

Oh, one more thing. Very exciting. Ma’am (Dann’s mum) is coming to visit us in HK next week! So freaking excited! Daniel can’t wait to show her around.

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Things that a near-4 year old says

Daniel has been coming up with some quite amusing things lately.

He's cute. And cheeky.

He’s cute. And cheeky.

  • Every night since coming to HK (with the exception of the first night, and I think that’s only because he was so knackered) has been struggle to get him to sleep. Funny thing is that every time we say ‘Good night, Daniel’, he has to say ‘Sweet dreams’. To which we say ‘You too’ and his response is ‘I will’. If, at any point, we deviate from this set of responses, he’ll start again with ‘Sweet dreams’ and will say it again and again until we say ‘You too’ and he can then say ‘I will’. Cute, but also frustrating. But more cute than frustrating.
  • He’s getting sneaky, this boy. He’ll swear black and blue that he’s not thirsty/hungry. Then we’ll walk past a 7-11 or a supermarket or a restaurant. He’ll suddenly stop walking, tug my arm and say ‘Mum. Actually, I’m a little bit hungry.’ When we suggest something decent to eat/drink, he’ll go ‘Actually, how about an ice cream/chocolate?’
  • On morning he asked what we were doing for the day. I said we had to go and get Dann’s mobile phone sim car then get Daniel a pair of shoes. He said this was a good idea. 5 mins later, he comes up and says ‘Mum! I’ve got an idea. It’s a good one. How about we get my shoes first. Then we can fix Dad’s sim card. Pleeeeaaaase, mum?’
  • He had to go to the toilet while we were the park. The toilet I took him to was a squat toilet. So he did his pee. Then I did one (TMI, I know). He looks at me and goes (in a really loud voice): ‘Wow Mum. I didn’t know your pee comes from your butt! Mine comes from my penis.’
  • Sitting on the couch one morning, he says ‘Mum, I need to do some exercise. My belly is getting big’ (he pats his stomach).
  • Patting his Dad’s stomach, ‘Dad, you need to do exercise, you’re getting a big belly.’
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Progress

Hurray! Dann and Daniel arrived last Sunday and it’s awesome to have them around. I couldn’t sleep at all on Saturday night due to the excitement of it all. This showed when we all arrived home from the airport and crashed for 3 hours!

The ride on the Airport Express to pick up my boys!

The ride on the Airport Express to pick up my boys!

Daniel was apparently behaved on both flights – they flew Brisbane to Singapore then Singapore to HK. Though apparently he woke up 3 hours out of Singapore and refused to go back to sleep (even though it was about 2am). Poor Dann. Though all Daniel wanted to do was watch TV shows. It’s kind of good that he can enjoy the onboard entertainment these days!

First evening in HK for Dann and Daniel - checking out the Symphony of lights at TST Boulevard.

First evening in HK for Dann and Daniel – checking out the Symphony of lights at TST Boulevard.

So the first week with them here consisted of showing them the lay of the land: where good restaurants are (of which there are plenty!), where the good playgrounds are located (there are no bad ones that I’ve found), the nearest supermarket (about 4 doors down) and getting them oriented with the place. Of course, there was the obligatory trip to the mobile phone shop to get Dann connected to the interweb. Pretty much everything that took me about 10 days to figure out, they got the crash course in a day and a half, and every afternoon after I finished up at uni for the day.

School work everyday for Daniel!

School work everyday for Daniel!

For the most part, we’ve settled into a routine. Dann and Daniel walk me to Uni (it’s awesome living 10 mins walk away instead of the usual >1 hour drive commute from Ipswich to Brisbane) and we have a morning coffee before I go to work. Then they both go for a longer walk either to a playground to run around, or to visit a local site or something. Last week they went to the Hong Kong Science Museum. Daniel absolutely loved it, which was awesome. He raved about it for days and days and wants to go back again and again. At a cost of $25 HKD for Dann, or around $3.50 AUD (Daniel is free) it’s pretty good value for money!

Afternoons at Kowloon Park!

Afternoons at Kowloon Park!

After this, they usually head off to have morning tea in town or in the apartment where they then do Daniel’s school work for the day. We were initially worried about the stuff that Daniel would miss at pre-school by being here in HK, but because his pre-school is awesome (I love them and cannot rave about them enough), his teachers put together a heap of worksheets that he can do while he is here. We also have a book that Daniel draws in and sticks all the paper souvenir things he has (ticket butts etc) so that he can take these home to remember his time in HK.  In order to keep him and his friends at pre-school connected, I’ve been sending them photos of the things he’s been doing and also a short newsletter-type thing that tells his friends back in Australia all the things he’s been doing in HK.

Playground time.

Playground time.

Following school work time is lunch, then nap. Dann’s been taking this time, as well as the afternoon time after naps when Daniel plays with his toys/on the iPad/watches telly, to do the documentation that he needs to write for the new BMath degree at QUT.  He finally finished this yesterday (it was due today), but he had to work through last weekend to finish it. So he’s more relaxed today, and next weekend we can all do something together!

The time after I finish up at Uni are usually spent together at the park. We’re quite frequent visitors of the playground at Kowloon Park these days, as well as the other playgrounds around TST! It’s really, really nice to have them both with me here.

Last weekend (while Dann was finishing the BMath documentation), Daniel and I went to the Hong Kong Space Museum and Middle Road playground. This was a great way to spend a Saturday. On Sunday, we made our way to Noah’s Ark in the New Territories. Again, it was a nice day out for Daniel and me.

Cooking up dinner in our little apartment.

Cooking up dinner in our little apartment.

Work-wise, I’m still thinking of way in which I can incorporate Dr Tam’s work into my wayfinding BN. It’s hard as her data is more on levels of service stuff, but I have a couple of ideas which will hopefully pan out. I’m meeting with her and Prof Lam again on Wed morning.  In the meantime, I’ve been surprisingly productive doing other things.

I’ve finished all I can do on a paper that the Complex Systems team I’m in are working on. It’s on visualisation of BN model results and is shaping up to be a really nice paper.  I’ve also started on my BN methods paper, which is a good thing. I have a fairly solid idea of where this paper is headed (finally), so it’s nice to be able to make some progress on it – even if this progress is just putting my references in BibDesk and summarising the relevant papers to which I’ll be referring!

Anyway. I’ll end this post on some dot points that I’m too tired to elaborate upon (I really haven’t been sleeping well at all and it’s all starting to catch up with me):

  • While I love having Dann and Daniel here, I still think that this whole thing has been quite selfish on my part. Uprooting everyone and so forth. I know it’s a great experience for as all, and as Dann says ‘It’s what academics do’, I still feel guilty about it. Particularly when Daniel gets upset and says ‘I miss home’. That gets me every time.

    My little boy. I love him so.

  • I still have no freaking idea about what I’m doing. Apparently this is a common feeling among academics who aren’t completely up their own arses. Or so I’ve been told. I’ve been feeling this way since I started this degree and it hasn’t stopped. I doubt it will.
  • Looking beyond PhD completion, I have no idea where I’m headed. I like academia, but I’ve also seen the bad side of it too (in work and personal lives of others). I guess that’s the same everywhere though.  The question is: Can I survive in the real world, and would the real world even want me?! For the first time in years, I actually have nothing in place after I submit my thesis in a few months’ time. I’m at the point of trying to balance my time doing my work and applying for post-doc jobs etc.

That’s it for now. More to come once I get some much needed sleep. Though I’m beginning to think that’s not going to happen until after I hand in this thesis.

Le sigh, le sigh.

Afternoons spent together at Kowloon Park!

Afternoons spent together at Kowloon Park!

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Counting down

Less than a week until my boys are here! So, what have I been up to the last few days?

Well, Saturday was spent on Canton Rd and the surrounding streets. I got my shopping mojo back. I was quite restrained though – no major (read: expensive) purchases. Just a warmer jacket and some sensible (boring) long sleeve shirts. I didn’t realise that Canton Rd was designer central. Phew – what an experience it is walking around Harbor City! I spotted a pair of Louboutins which were just beautiful. Stupidly expensive, and most probably impossible to walk in without looking like a drunk giraffe, but on my they were lovely!

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Hello, lover.

At the other end of the scale (and more within my budget and ability to walk), I found the cutest pair of pink and white Hello Kitty high-top Reeboks.  Although the temptation to buy these was high, I resisted. God knows how.

I’ve managed to sort out the pre-paid phone/data thing. I ended up going with one2free and their Power Pre-paid. $88HKD for 1Gb for 30 days isn’t too bad. Turns out PCCW and Smartone were not the cheapest option. So with all that sorted, I think I’m all set up here. I just move into the 1 bedder next week and it’ll all good. I did, however have to do a mad, panicked run to the Apple store as I couldn’t get my sim card slot to open on my phone. After a (small) freakout about it, the Geniuses at Apple were able to un-stuck it and it’s all ok. Well, except for the 3 dead pixels that are now in the middle of my screen. I shouldn’t complain though – I really didn’t want to fork out money for a new phone, so 3 dead pixels is a small price to pay for a working phone.

On the way to the Apple store, I came across crowds of Filipino women (some men) just sitting around the edges of walk ways, in parks, in restaurants all around Central. I could not get over how many of them there were.  It was just unreal. They were set up with cardboard boxes as their shelter, but they seemed happy sitting, talking and eating. Upon asking one of them what was going on, she said that it was their ‘holiday’ or day off. It happens every Sunday. I’m assuming it helps negate some of the loneliness and homesickness that the migrant domestic workers no doubt feel.

I can’t possibly describe what I saw or how I felt about it. If I had to describe what I felt, think I mainly just felt sad. I know that the overseas filipino worker (OFW) is not new, and the ‘phenomenon’ for lack of a better word has been around for years. I mean, at Manila airport, there are dedicated lines for OFWs coming in and out of the country. These women and men leave their families behind, sometimes for years at at time, so that they can send money back home to let those left behind have a better life. I know this, members of my own family have done and are doing the same thing.

I was fortunate enough to be adopted by my aunt and uncle and allowed to have a better life in Australia – the opportunities I’ve had there are more than I could have possibly had, should I not have been adopted. I am eternally grateful to them for that. But nevertheless, the feeling (and pressure) to send back whatever money you can to the Philippines to help relatives is so ingrained in Filipinos that I don’t think there’s ever a way to get away from it. Even as a child of 7 years old, I knew that one of the reasons I was adopted was so that I could help my family back in the Philippines when I got old enough to earn money. And I did just that. I was lucky enough to have a husband who understands this. We’ve been sending money back monthly for years. That is, until I recently found out that the money wasn’t being used for what it was meant to (school fees, school uniforms, house repayments, college fees etc). While I know most families aren’t like that, I am a bit disillusioned about the whole thing. Firstly, I really barely know my family back home. They are strangers to me. Harsh, but it’s true. As I was growing up, my siblings never contacted me. Mama did occasionally. It’s only in the last couple of years, that I’ve got to know them to some extent. Secondly, they seem to rely on that money now. I think they’ve fallen into the ‘It’s ok, if we need something, we’ll just tell Ate and she’ll send money to us’. And instead of looking for a solution for themselves, they just text, or call, or send an FB message. I guess that’s partially my fault for letting it be that way for years. Anyway, the rest of this saga is for another time, another post.

So, a good article about maids in HK can be found here. Part 2 is here.

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Heat, Yoga, Transport & Beer

I had grand plans of waking up at the decent hour of 7.45am so that I could do a Hot Yoga class at 9am.

Looking out from my seat on the Star Ferry.

Looking out from my seat on the Star Ferry.

Damned body woke up at 5.30am and wouldn’t go back to sleep.  Regardless, I made it to yoga. And let me tell you, it was  awesome. I’ve never done yoga in a heated room before, so that was challenging. The asanas themselves weren’t that hard though, so that was good.  The place I went to is located in the Peninsula Hotel, and had some spectacular views looking over to Hong Kong.

Cruise ship docked at the TST ferry terminal.

Cruise ship docked at the TST ferry terminal.

More exploration was on the cards for today, so once I’d recovered from yoga, I made my way down Nathan Rd to the ferry terminal to catch the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island. That in itself was so ridiculously easy to do. It’s one of the things I’m loving about HK – getting around either by walking or using public transport is oh so easy.  The ferry ride was short, sweet, and cheap ($2.50 hkd), and I ended up wandering into the IFC Mall. Phew. Talk about expensive. I did have lunch in the mall though at ‘Asian Twist’. The laksa was pretty good. As it turned out, I should have waited out for a bit longer to have lunch as there was a Jollibee just down the road.  For the uninitiated, Jollibee is a Filipino fast food chain. Their main dish, ‘Chicken Joy’, is oh so yummy. Brings back childhood memories. The spaghetti is also a favourite of mine.

Museum of Art

Museum of Art

A walk around Central was what I expected Hong Kong to be. Crowded with lots of shops. I am  finding though, that even with the crowding, I’m rarely getting bumped into as I walk around. At M&S and H&M on Queen’s Rd, I looked and looked to see what I could buy, but nothing really caught my fancy. For some reason, I’m not really feeling the shopping mood. Who knows why. Our bank balance (and luggage limit!) is thanking me though.

Andy Warhol, we meet again.

Andy Warhol, we meet again.

Just to do something different, I caught the MTR back to TST. Again, so ridiculously easy to do. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Museum of Art (they’ve got an Andy Warhol exhibit on at the moment) and again walking along the TST Boulevard.

After I while, I settled in with a pint of Hoegaarden (this turned into 2 pints after I mistakenly nodded to the waiter that I wanted a second pint) and watched tourists walk along the boulevard.  A quick dash to the loo was on the cards (do you know how much you need to pee after downing 2 pints of beer?!) after a while and then a (slightly) drunk walk back home.

A dinner of delicious dim sum rounded off a nice, touristy day. I miss my boys though.

Looking happy, but feeling sad. I miss my boys.

Looking happy, but feeling sad. I miss my boys.

Once good thing about being by myself here is that I can up and go and wander about as I please. One bad thing is that I don’t have my boys. And I miss them. A lot. I’m filling the days with stuff (until I start at HK PolyU) so that I’m not missing them as much. But that only lasts for a little while.