Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The resolution that can be cured by a pill

Actually, I have begun to suspect that the root of this problem was the pill. Since moving to Hong Kong I have been steadily piling on the pounds. First I attributed it to the fact that I was not exercising regularly but then I picked up with my rugby team and started running regularly. Then I decided that I was gaining weight because of the switch from home cooked meals to dining out... except that I don't dine out more than I did before. Hmmm...

Then there was the problem that I was gaining weight despite the changes I was making. I was not worried because I had never had a weight problem but then I had also never put on so much weight over such a stretch. I began to grow suspicious about the one constant since the weight gain began.

When I moved here I discovered that my tri-cyclen was not popular. Most birth control here is mono-cyclen. After talking it over with the doctor I decided to try a popular birth control pill here. Since then I have gained three to four pounds each month. I know this because we have weighed me each month. Finally, I asked her if my weight gain could be attributed to this pill, as there was no other constant in my habits. I am now on a new pill that doesn't have as high a level of progesterone. Now all I need to do is drop the weight. Piece of cake, I'm sure. Frankly, if this pill made my hormones such that I got fat, one would think that someone could give me a reversal but that just doesn't happen.

There were other problems that I had started to become suspicious about. I had figured that I didn't want any sexy time with SB because I was grumpy. And I was grumpy because I was getting fat. Perhaps that wasn't quite the problem, and the high levels of progesterone were more to blame.

I remember my friend L had started getting the birth control shot. She thought it was the best thing since sliced bread because she could get a shot and not have to worry about anything for six months. Five months later she told me that she had gained thirty pounds and was ill tempered all the time. I joked that the shot really had no value other than basing its success on the fact that women became so fat and ornery that no one would want to have sex with them. Now that I am having the same problem I can see why she didn't think I was funny.

SB has been very supportive of me changing pills. He has heard me moaning about my seemingly uncontrollable weight gain and general ambivalence for months. I think he shall be sad for the end of his respite from me chasing him around the flat and trying to get him in the sack. Well, maybe he will enjoy my return to normal for a few weeks. I certainly will be happy and grateful for the return to my old self. I may even attempt to be more understanding when he says that he's tired considering that I have spent the past three and a half months acting like Grendel's mother (the soft blob from John Gardner's wonderful retelling).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday dinner with Cousin Shirley

Cousin Shirley and Steve prepared a pan-Asian dinner for Christmas. I brought over the bûche de Noël and ice cream. Steve, the baking genius that he is, was baking macaroons throughout the evening that SB quickly swallowed in large batches despite his continued protestations that he does not like coconut. We had ox tail soup, a wonderful citrus-dressing with salad, avocado slices, and marinated carrot, and roasted potatoes that were followed up with Rogan Josh and spicy grilled drumsticks. SB and I both loved the Rogan Josh, which also contained the supposedly hated coconut milk. I feed SB coconut on a regular basis and am amused that he claims to dislike it so much but scarfs it down in large quantities in all sorts of food offerings.

It was a great un-traditional dinner with great company. We followed up the dinner with a weekend trek from Quarry Bay to Shek O (to be included in the next post).

SB watches Shoils stacking macaroons

aren't these individual teapots wonderful?

SB and his true love-- the thinkpad

Monday, December 29, 2008

How bright was my valley

SB and I went on a short and steep incline up the hills to the SE of our home, near the French Int'l School. We arrived at a covered reservoir and spent some time overlooking the city and our neighborhood. He pointed out to me Central Plaza in Wanchai, which has changing bands of light to indicate the time, as well as other brightly lit buildings. The visibility was not so great, as usual, due to smog and poor air quality. Once it became dark enough, though, we were able to make out the holiday lights on the harbor-front buildings and the white strings of lights of the ferry off in the distance.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Bah Humbug

SB started moping around like he did before Thanksgiving, down because he was not filled with the holiday spirit. Not this again, I thought. I gave him some room because this is his first Christmas without his beloved grandmother, and her birthday fell on December 25. But he also admitted some humbuggery because in his opinion Christmas is really the most fun only for children. His nephew is at the age that he is making lists for Santa and SB is filled with the bittersweet realization that in a few short years, the joy will be over (according to him).

Now, being the niece of who my uncle refers to as the "jolly Christmas elf," I come by my cheer through generations of quirky individuals who launch into the season with boundless joy and maybe a few too many eggnogs. I see a younger generation repeat of my grinchy and lovable uncle, and my jolly decorating elf of an aunt.

At least SB likes Christmas music. I tried to get him into the spirit with my attempts at holding a tune. I fah lah lahhed my heart out. We went to mass (or whatever it's called for Anglicans). But he was still mopey.

Then on Christmas morning he went to buy eggs as I was baking my yearly bûche de Noël (yule log cake) and rolling out my little marzipan forest plants. He returned much later, carting a scrawny little plant. "Look what I found," he called out triumphantly, "a Christmas tree!" Actually, it looked like a Christmas tree top but we won't get bogged down on the details. It was very short and missing a large amount of it's lower branches. It also was missing a good chunk of one side. No worry, we would face that side to the wall. Anyway, our shoebox can't hold a bigger sized tree (top). I didn't ask but he revealed that he paid a small fortune for this sad, little, tree top ($320), which he was proud that he "bargained down" from $400. Just in case I didn't think it was a good deal, he added helpfully that we got the tree stand as well. Because I always wanted a tree stand. I suppose that I can use the stand to clamp onto him and turn the screws if he ever makes me angry.

He was so happy that I could only be happy as well. I was thankful that the humbugs were over. We even went out and got some lights. Most importantly, the tree smells fabulous, like a full sized Christmas tree!

I had a moment of worry when I began sneezing. Then I looked up and was relieved to see that SB was dusting the blinds. "Whew," I said, "I was afraid that I was allergic to the tree!"

"If that were the case I know which of the two of you would have to go," he replied, "I paid a fortune for that tree!" I know who is waking up with a tree stand clamped to his head.

A happy holiday to all!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Best wishes for the holidays! SB and I will celebrate my third, and his fourth holiday season in Hong Kong. We hope everyone is spending the holidays with people they love!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Siu Lam Barbecue by the Beach

Our women's team's original holiday plans to go to the Wetland Park were scrapped due to bird flu fears. We settled on a giant pig out, which seems to be a tradition with the ladies. This was my first experience with a Hong Kong style barbecue. A fun time was had by all and we consumed obscene amounts of protein while playing silly games.

Barbecue by the Beach is located just down the road from Seamen's Training Centre on Castle Peak Road. There are blue signs pointing to it along the road. You may reach it by 962 bus from Causeway Bay (or transfer from 1 to 962 at Pacific Place). There are also minibuses that run from the McDonalds at Causeway Bay Plaza II or Jordan Road.

The place was very large. You pay 78 HKD at the door, which gets you a BBQ setup with charcoal, honey basting sauce, and a plate setup. Then you can buy platters of meat to grill. There is also a bin of free bread which tasted great when grilled with the honey sauce, especially because I was needing a break from all the meat.

The ride on the 962 was about an hour long and enjoyable because I had not been to that area of Hong Kong before. I liked looking at the massive container terminal along the water. It is impressive to think of how much coordination and logistics go into moving such massive quantities of cargo.

One of my favorite things to see in Manhattan was the West shore, where one could find the relics of the unloading machines rusting away along the park land. Here, the machines and terminal are still very much in use, although I was sadly unable to see any actual unloading of goods.

Next, our bus came upon another engineering wonder. Sometimes I think that I like bridges more than I like buildings. Their form is their function and I enjoy the structure being expressed so clearly and beautifully.

I would definitely recommend the barbecue as an option for a casual get together of many friends. It is not exactly a private spot but it is convenient (other than the travel time) and you don't have to worry about gathering all the supplies or clean up. It was nice to leave at 9 pm and not have to worry about packing everything up in the dark.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chicken Marbella

This is one of the most well know recipes from The Silver Palate by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. It looks as decadent as it tastes, and the best part is that it is easy to put together. I place everything in one of those ziploc gallon sized bags and let it marinate. It also can be served warm or cold. Great. So I can prepare it ahead of time and even make it ahead of time if needed.

The recipe in the book serves 10. I only needed 1/3 of that for the goldfish and me.
  • 4 chickens, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
  • 1/2 cup dried oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander, finely chopped
In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers, and juice, and bay leaves (basically everything but the sugar and wine). Cover and let marinate, refrigerated overnight.

Preheat oven to 350

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives, capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauce boat.

I was told to serve it with french bread to sop up the au jus but I decided to give my goldfish something heartier and more filling and went with mashed potatoes. He appreciated that. I should also mention that he detests olives but he loved the flavor of the marabella and simply moved the olives aside for me to eat. I guess it's like his loathing of tomatoes, but love of tomato sauces.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Peng Chau- another island hike

Actually, less of a hike and more of a walkabout. While SB was in Thailand watching one of his largest teammates get schooled by a small, Thai boxer, I sojourned to Peng Chau with Cousin Shirley. We met at Central Pier 6 at 9:20 am and boarded for a ferry ride to the tiny island.

It is a really, really small island and without the breathtaking views offered by some of the other places we have visited, but there is a lovely local community to mingle with. Peng Chau is a sleepy island village, where the locals take to the trails and spend lunch in the village center's restaurants and market, or sit in chairs under trees in the late afternoon. Almost every house and shop had a row of chairs along the facade, which was very welcoming and inviting. I admit that I spent a few minutes daydreaming about living in a place where the whole community moves to the porches in the waning part of the day. Certain parts of Ithaca, New York are like that but not every house on every block as in Peng Chau.

We descended from the hills close to lunch time and perused through the market until we came upon a small restaurant (shop 26). Shoils asked if I was hungry but I wasn't due to the suspiciously bad tasting char sui bo lao bao (pineapple bread with bbq pork stuffing) that I consumed at the ferry pier. I bit into it and noticed a particularly bad taste. I would have asked for a refund but I got the stink eye from the shopkeeper because I was seen frantically spitting out the food into the trash right in front of the shop. Not good for business. But selling spoilt food can't be too good for business either.

Anyway, we went a few more steps and Shoils made another polite comment before I realized that she was subtly telling me that she was ravenously hungry. We hightailed it back to the restaurant and she inquired if it was dim sum (yum cha), which it was. The place served dim sum old school style with carts or carried steamer trays laden with delicious treats. As far as I could count, there were six layers of steamer trays serving very large portions.

It was some of the best dim sum that I have had! We are fans of the Lee Theatre dim sum with its delicate and beautiful dishes, but this was entirely different. Shoils used the term, "robust," for the sizes. I know that it is hypocritical of me to disdain large wontons and rave about large dim sum, but the taste was exquisite. We had dumplings with meat and quail eggs on top that were phenomenal, along with ribs, char sui bao, and some strange wrap of noodle, bean curd skin, meat, and chicken that was very tasty and hung off the bowl. We were going to get the siu mai but we were stuffed to the gills. The ladies next to us ordered it and they were enormous, with crab roe spilling out over the top. Yum!

Our timing was perfect because a few minutes past noon, the placed filled up. There were customers ordering dishes to eat while standing in the street, and more than a few locals ran off with plates to their porch chairs.

After the meal we combed over the various beaches and I collected sea glass. The beaches had a lot of coral as well, that I want to collect but am not sure of the legality or other implications. Is collecting dead coral fragments allowed?

Friday, December 19, 2008

It all began with a meal

SB first wooed me by luring me home from my all nighters in the architecture studio with food. He is a carb addict and happily shared his various pasta dishes, cooked in an enormous skillet. I was almost smitten, but it was his thoughtful act of waiting until I dragged myself home at some ungodly hour in the morning to watch rugby with me that pushed me over.

Our relationship still remains very food-centric (and sports-centric). No, we don't go out to eat all the time and have dates, but there is usually consumption as part of our day to day banter. He likes that I surprise him and feed him exotic fruits; I delight in the sweets that he brings home sometimes. We both still enjoy a cup of coffee, or lai cha, together. All these tasty moments add up to a fufilling relationship, just as long as my waist does not grow with our love :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

where the wild things are

The things that I am most homesick for are my girlfriends. I have met a lot of wonderful women here but I have not found any to be bonded to like I am bonded to girls back in the States. Some Most of this is my fault. I have been overly bonded with SB so that I have had little time to seek out other friendships.

Girlfriends can be great, especially my girlfriends. They are mostly women who are very similar to me, who share my goals and fears and neurosis. We support each other, encourage one another, and are always willing to assemble for a glass or two (or three) of wine. I only had one girlfriend in high school and was fine with that when I used to think that most women were catty or silly. I still think that there are too many women whose mothers raise them to act like fools so as not to intimidate certain insecure potential male suitors but I have been lucky to discover that there are endless numbers of women (and men) who rise above.

It helped that I met a lot of these women while doing things that I was very interested in, i.e. university courses and sporting events. My girlfriends are very capable women who share my interest in either design, play, food, art, or nature. Some of us seem to have been part of a batch of clones with our shared love of cheese, broken down buildings, machine parts, Starn brothers, and fine smelling lumber (ponderosa pine is delicious!). I remember when my friend Kristen told me that her husband gave her a Leatherman and an Anthropologie skirt for her birthday and I was jealous. I quickly overcame the envy when SB presented me with a pleasingly smooth and substantially heavy ebony wood sculpture for my birthday along with a stunningly illustrated Indian cookbook. I think he tried to get me to cook for him but I was too busy rubbing my cheek against the sculpture. My girlfriends would understand.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quick(er) Dulce de Leche and Alfajores

One of the many perks of working for the Dean's office was the food. Quite a few international visitors would arrive bearing tasty gifts that the Dean kindly shared with his ravenous gaggle of assistants and staff. One day there was a box on the desk, labeled "Alfajores Havanna." Inside were chocolate or meringue coated cookies. I grabbed one and took a bite, to be met with the most decadent and rich explosion of flavor. I could not even finish the whole cookie because it was almost too sweet and rich, but then a few hours later I was craving another. I was not the only one who shared this experience because the large box was empty by the end of the week.

A year later when I visited Buenos Aires I discovered that alfajores were traditional cookies that sandwiched a delicious layer of caramelized dulce de leche. I bought a box of the Havanna brand alfajores to bring back to the office, and a jug of dulce de leche for myself. It went fast-- spread like nutella on crepes, drizzled over ice cream, even eaten alone in a heaping spoonful as I gave myself a pick me up before my dreaded spatial economics class. When the jug ran out I became almost inconsolable, especially when I found a recipe to make it which involved more effort than I had to offer as a grad student. Then an Argentinian classmate gave me her secret: there was a cheating way to make it that did not involved standing vigilantly over a pot of whole milk.

The recipe is simple!
Buy a can of condensed milk. Remove the paper label. Place the unopened can in a pot and fill with enough water to come 1 inch above the top of the can. Cook at a low boil for three hours, making sure to occasionally check on it, and keeping the water level around one inch over the can (I have heard that the can may explode if you let the water level dip to can level). Let sit until the can cools, about 40 minutes. And there you are: deliciousness in a can!



If you want to have the wonderful alfajores recipe to go with the dulce de leche:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F (176 C). Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and yolks and continue beating. Now add the vanilla and lemon zest. Sift together the remaining ingredients (cornstarch, flour, baking powder and salt) and add to the wet mixture. Drop small spoonfuls of the batter onto a buttered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the baking sheet. Sandwich the cookies with dulce de leche.

Dulce de Leche is delicious with just about anything that sounds good with caramel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the bright side

SB's Thailand tour should be great fun for him but for me as well since the time alone (hopefully not extended by any unforeseen circumstances) will give me opportunity to engage in all the bad habits that I usually suppress. SB's bad habits are typical of most men: he confuses chair backs for hangers, stockpiles newspaper and mail on all surfaces, scatters shoes all about, drops hockey and rugby gear in the center of the living areas, and accumulates mountainous piles of laundry until the disappearance of all underwear forces him to haul it down to the laundromat.

My bad habits are more quirky and sly. I do not advertise them in messy heaps throughout the flat. They are not so much bad habits as they are things I cannot do in SB's presence due to his intolerance, or things I cannot do as a member of a couple (and I am not talking about sleazy single person behavior).

Under things that are intolerable to SB, that I look forward to doing are:
- eating durian, or as SB calls it, stinkyfruit.
- eating animal parts that are not nondescript, round slabs
- eating stinky cheese
- playing any type of music that you could possibly dance to
- playing music by women who don't shave their armpits
- drinking red wine
- girly things that are not productive to SB (do not yield cookies, snacks, foot rubs)

Of course I realize that I cannot accomplish everything in those four days, unless I choose to dance while eating stinky cheese and swilling wine with my girlfriends. The other problem is that I actually do not have those girlfriends here.

And then I have to consider time for the things I cannot do as a couple, or at least as a couple that includes a man such as SB. When he is around I do not have time for myself, especially in our tiny flat. Not that I mind, because I do not, but now I have an opportunity to do all the old stuff I used to do. I can have alone time. Even when I had roommates I would wake up especially early on the weekends so that no one else was awake and enjoy making a cup of coffee in the stove top espresso maker. I would sit on the steps outside the house and drink my coffee while watching the sun rise. These days SB maintains a vise-like grip on me, usually with one leg thrown over me for good measure, so that the sun rises without me. Not that I object to his desire to cuddle...except when I am being suffocated.

Some single habits have easily dovetailed into couple habits due to willingness of the other party such as walkabouts throughout the city or long hikes. SB even managed to wake up earlier back when he was wooing me and told me that one of the things he most enjoyed was the coffee on the porch and watching as the neighborhood started buzzing with life. One thing that he never participated in, and I need to do alone, is cleaning time. He is a hopelessly disorganized pack rat who can never be inspired to change no matter how much he enjoys it when I sort him out. I actually look forward to being able to fold his clothing into perfect little right angles and put things away.

And I can do that while slurping red wine and nibbling stinky the music of my favorite female singer with hairy armpits.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

the pack mule and the glue horse

SB dropped off a massive pile of laundry and asked me to pick it up later in the day as he was dangerously low on clean clothing. The man at the laundromat protested when I came to pick it up because the bag was enormous and heavy. When I told SB about this he indignantly replied, "I know it was heavy; I had to carry it down there!" Sometimes I wonder why I am so interested in equality, especially when carrying thirty lbs of his shirts and pants up four flights of stairs.

He was able to pick up a game of ice hockey after weeks of being too busy with work. He scored two goals (very good for a defenseman) although my eagle eye immediately noticed that he was favoring a leg. Sure enough, he had pulled his hip flexor. I told him that he seemed to carry a lot of injuries and he denied it, but in the past four months he has had a pulled hammy (thrice), pulled back muscle, pulled ass, sore shoulder, sore ankle, and now this. I would say that either he is breaking down at an alarming rate or he needs to work on his stretching. I know that when he had a really bad hamstring pull he later admitted to me that he was so miserable and hot that he did not take the time to warm up.

After hockey we went to Lan Kwai Fong for drinks at the team bar, the Keg, and to say goodbye to Fei, who is returning to New York to finish her last semester at Hamilton College, and to say welcome back to B, who went home to Thailand to visit her family and got stuck there for an extra week. We also saw some angry hedge funders who were fired from their jobs last night and were chucking the Keg's complimentary peanuts at passing taxis and people. The manager decided not to bring down the law on them because he felt bad for them, although it certainly wasn't the taxi drivers' fault. At least several cabbies seemed to enjoy the free peanuts and rolled down their windows to catch some snacks.

I was picking up the pile of smelly equipment and clothing that was deposited in our living room and found a peanut. I will leave it on SB's pillow and see if he notices.

Monday, December 8, 2008

...and the party never ends

SB's team's Thailand adventure seems to be back on with the protesters and remaining government coming to a compromise and clearing out the airport. His team will be hosted by the Thai navy, and will be staying on the base and riding around in trucks. Being perpetually 14 years old at heart he is waaay too excited at the prospect of riding around in the bed of some canopied jalopy. I have been biting my tongue, but I am worried and am trying to find a way to express this to him without coming off as one of those people. I have a lot of concerns about him riding around in traffic, perched on the side of a truck.

My family moved to Bangkok in the late 1990s for a couple years because my father was asked to work on a resolution for the worst congestion in the world. The solution was partially successful. The implementation of mechanized traffic signals brought outrage to the local police, who supplemented their incomes through traffic bribes to keep certain lanes of traffic flowing at certain times for certain individuals (you can imagine what happens when a light at a busy intersection does not change for fifteen minutes). The police came out in full force when the traffic signals were unveiled, wading into traffic to interfere with the signals and cause as much confusion and congestion as possible. They claimed that the signals were a failure. In the typical style of the government, the police were rewarded for their behavior when the parliament agreed that the traffic signals were no good and resumed appointing police to manually operate the traffic signals and so these simple and relatively inexpensive efforts to solve some of the worst traffic congestion in the world were thwarted. My father still becomes apoplectic when he thinks about how much money was wasted, not to mention time and effort.

The next step was to construct a superhighway. A large group of German contractors arrived with massive and impressive machinery to load giant slabs of highway onto their bearings. I enjoyed watching the construction unfold. What I also noticed was the alarmingly high number of traffic fatalities. Every day that I came to the site to poke around I passed accident scenes, some with the bodies still there, partially covered in newspaper. I found out that one of the Germans was sent home to recuperate after he began exhibiting signs of stress. One evening some coworkers had gone home with him and he pulled out some photo albums but instead of pictures of family, or work progress, he showed album after album of dead motorists that he had captured from the bird's eye view of the superhighway.

I felt that the locals seemed almost accepting of so many traffic deaths occurring each day in their city. I was not aware of any effort to make drivers more attuned of traffic safety. Regulations also seemed nonexistent, or at least easily overcome, such as the fact that chauffeurs were required to have licenses and our first driver could not even get the car in gear. His only driving experience, to my mind, was that once the car finally was beaten into submission and moving forward, all he had to do was simply aim and accelerate. It seemed like there was only one sure ending to this and I did not want to be in the two ton death machine when it happened. My father raised hell with the agency that supplied the driver (who according to the agency had five years of driving under his belt) and we got a new driver who was much better and did a great job right up until he stole the company car.

I want SB to have a great time but if it were up to me he would be safely fastened to the vehicle. Maybe I should find that German man and borrow his albums.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I used to love him a lot

When the time came for my high school reunion I was in Italy and unable to attend. I think I may have wanted to go but I guess I'll never know. At that time I did start wondering how certain people were doing and where they were. These people must have been thinking the same thing because slowly they have been re-emerging into my life through the ease of the Internet. I have been given a second chance to get to know various interesting people from my childhood. I have discovered that the wildly adventurous girl is a skydiver, the big brained girl works at Stanford, the punk rock boy finally found a perfect punk rock wife, and the overachievers are still competing with each other and overachieving. Their picture albums consist of pictures of only themselves, either in their doctor coats or of carefully contrived "random" photos showing off their physiques. I enjoy it all.

There were only two people left that I wondered about. The first of the two, Z, contacted me last month after almost six years of silence. I had last spoken to him after he came out to Texas to visit me, and my boyfriend at the time acted out so badly that it pretty much ended the friendship when I stupidly did not break up with cad. After one more year of jealousy and pettiness I realized my grave error and fixed that but sadly the damage had been done to the friendship with Z because he had moved and I had no way of finding him again. Until last month.

The last person on the list was a high school boyfriend who meant a great deal to me. B was a guy who I never imagined I would end up dating, much less having a real relationship with. He had a justly earned reputation as a player and was far too worldly for a naive girl but somehow it worked. He was unrestrained in just about every aspect of life; by the time I met him when I was 14 and he was 16 he was regularly attending raves, knew where he could buy liquor underage, and his parents were not at all worried about where he and his Integra were all night. I was an honor student with very strict parents who did not let me stay out very late at all, and probably for good reason. B quickly overcame this by boldly sneaking into my window in the evenings after he dropped me off at home, or spiriting me away to adventures that I never would have known about if it weren't for him. I went to concerts and night clubs, or to the beach for a bonfire while my parents slept, assuming that I was doing the same. I have silly memories of things between us, like once when he went to pee while talking to me and did so with the door open and me standing there scandalized. He was so comfortable with himself-- maybe too comfortable-- but he managed to build an easy rapport with me despite my prudishness and he probably didn't even realize he was doing it.

One thing that makes my memories of him golden is that he felt that I was special and let me know it often and sincerely. He had a reputation that was very much deserved and admitted to me that he cheated on almost every girlfriend he had. He never disrespected me though, and in the end my good will toward him is intact. Unfortunately because of his reputation no one believed that we had not slept together for the years that we were on and off and after we broke up it led to some misunderstandings with other guys (as a result I do harbor some ill will toward them).

I last saw B the year after I graduated high school, when I came back for Spring Break. He was still the same charming, self assured, warm man that I remembered. When I asked him about our relationship he told me that he was driven to be a better boyfriend with me because he had felt that I was too good for him and this feeling was exacerbated by the fact that I trusted him. I was very lucky to have had him as my first "serious" boyfriend because the experience bolstered my confidence. I wish I could gift the experience of B to other teenage girls who have to go through growing pains and self esteem issues. So thank you, B.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Those with whom I have shared a space

I have had my share of interesting roommates. I have been blessed with some of the most awesome housemates who enriched my life and I have had the biggest of disasters. Among the best have been a twin-like classmate who inspired me to wake up and trudge to school in blowing cold ice with her and our shared pursuit of academic perfection, my fascinating undergrad roommate who demonstrated great strength less from on a rugby pitch than through her determination to move on and thrive following a terrible tragedy, and another housemate whose creativity (as well as his moodiness) seemed limitless and fascinating. Among the duds were the sublettor with the crack horse (okay, the horse was not on drugs but became known as such when she got carted off to jail for yet another drug violation and left behind the horse) and a spoiled kid, also a sublettor, who gambled his rent away and then snuck out one weekend while I was in Boston and left me with the bills. At least he spent the end of his summer in fear of me reporting him to Cornell for having another student take his final exam for him.

The moral of that story is to pick them wisely, although my first year at Cornell was spent with a random mix of nine of us who did not know each other other than being graduate students, and it turned out well. I am still friends with five of the nine, two of them very closely. I would still be friends with all but one of the nine if we had not lost touch.

I think one of the worst problems across the board with living together is passive aggressiveness. I know I have been guilty of posting a few such notices on the refrigerator asking roommates not to eat my food. In my defense, in a house of nine roommates I just was not certain of who was the culprit. Other times I just did not want to have the confrontation due to embarrassment.. for the other party. When spoilt boy clogged up the toilet and left it there to overflow and for me to find and have to clean, I did not know what else to do than post a note asking the culprit to either fix it or call someone for help next time. Only after I discovered that he was using up rolls of toilet paper to wipe the fog off the mirror after his showers and then clogging the toilet with them did I directly confront him.

He was the epitome of badness. He threw his cigarette butts all over the front lawn, threw trash out the window of his large SUV, never made use of the recycle bin despite it being a violation of city ordinance, left his lights, television, and computer on when he was out, and left his window open to try to disguise the fact that he was smoking in his room in the winter which led to a heat bill that was over 1000 USD. Yeah, I can say that I hated him. I still do. Plants and animals were disappearing with each breath he took.

Other bad roommates were more amusing than bad. I had a few in the nine person house that fell under the category of bad food roommates. They are identified through their abuse of kitchen items. One abuser claimed to "share" with me. Early in our living arrangement, while at the grocery store, he noticed that we bought similar items and suggested that we could share. Unfortunately this became quickly one sided because I regularly bought groceries that he could "share" in. I decided that it was not worth becoming confrontational about so we continued our communist food policy until he ate everything. The other person in the house was even weirder. She had gained a lot of weight in her first month in the States and was depressed about it so she began to fast as a way to lose weight. I started noticing that more of my food was missing than could be attributed to my communist roommate's sharing policy; most of the food went missing overnight. I began to suspect that this woman was coming home late at night, starving from fasting all day, and would attack the refrigerator like a rabid animal. My suspicions were confirmed when other roommates began complaining that food was missing, or attacked in some weird frenzy, such as a pint of ice cream with fork scrapings, or corners gnawed out of pizzas.

I think this behavior must have been partially psychological because of the Cake Incident of 2005. I used to occasionally make desserts that were offered to the household to partake in. It was a known policy that my dessert was communal. One time after I had baked a guava cake, one of the other roommates told me that she thought someone was eating my cake. I corrected her, that it was for everyone, but she insisted that I look at the cake. Strangely it did not look like anyone had eaten it other than the two slices that were cut out right after I baked it. Then I noticed that the cake was strangely lumpy. As my other roommate turned the cake around I could see that the cake looked like someone had dug a tunnel into the side of it. Over the next few days we would inspect the cake and to our amusement, someone was indeed excavating it. First the insides were tunneled out and then the cake started losing height. Eventually the culprit ate what was remaining of the shell of the cake. It was strange that someone would be sneaky about eating it when it was offered to everyone.

One day I opened an e-mail from yet another roommate, lambasting an anonymous other roommate for continuously eating food that did not belong to him/her, and stating that she knew who the guilty party was. Immediately following her e-mail were two more e-mails from the two food culprits denying culpability. As far as I know, they both were guilty on several occasions. As annoying as it was at the time, I can laugh about it now.

I enjoyed those days for the most part, and definitely learned how to live with others and chill out as a result. I would never choose to live in such a large household again but it is with a bit of sadness that I realize that I most likely will never have another roommate now that I am living with my favorite roommate. Not that I would have it any other way, because I choose SB over all others, but I am acknowledging that the era of the roommates is over. With it I am also closing the door on mismatched kitchenware, counters crammed with separate toiletries, and passive aggressive notes. I will also miss how fun it was to sit with a few of them, drinking beer and swapping stories, or gathering to play in the basement band. I will miss the field trips to the grocery store with all of us crammed into my car, or when we ganged up on the people who were illegally using our parking spot and encased their car in ice. I will also miss how so many people turned any event into practically a party, from swimming in the gorges to music hour in the basement. It is much more quiet with just SB even though he has a large dose of personality. I wonder how our adventures will change now that it is just the two of us.

Winter theme

I thought I liked the autumn pictures of the Adirondacks but these winter pictures may be even better. I had so much fun stomping around Blue Mountain and walking on the (partially) frozen lake.


I didn't get any pictures of our Thanksgiving dinner, but these are the leftovers. Can you guess which plate is SB's (hint: look for marked lack of veggies)? Sometimes I think that he will be the first case of scurvy here in over 200 years.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tung Lung Chau

SB and I went for a long overdue hike with Cousin Shirley on Sunday after our belated Thanksgiving pig-out. We caught a ferry from the typhoon harbour in Sai Wan Ho (operated by Lam Kei Kai To 林記街渡). The round trip fare for the three of us was 84 HKD, which made it a very reasonably priced day. The ferry stop was only noticeable by the poster in front of the stairs where it disembarked from. SB had previously sublet a flat in the Grand Promenade right next door and never knew this existed so we're grateful that Cousin Shoils is so on top of this stuff.

Tung Lung Chau is located off the peninsula of Clear Water Bay, sadly within view of that golf course. I am sure that the view must be marvelous from the green but from where we were it was an eyesore. Luckily the island is small enough (2.42 km²) that you can quickly hike to the other side where all you see is beautiful ocean and seemingly unspoilt vegetation.

One of the sites of interest is Tung Lung Fort, constructed 300 years ago during the Qing Dynasty. It was supposedly built to defend against pirates. The recent preservation efforts have been well carried out. The other major site is that of a prehistoric stone carving measuring 1.8 m by 2.40 m. It is the largest ancient in situ rock carving in Hong Kong, and depicts the image of a dragon in its complicated patterns.

There is a campground that is situated very close to the cliffs on one side of the island. These cliffs made the island an ideal site for rock climbing with all the natural walls. There is a website that gives a decent amount of info for interested rock climbers.


Our trio simply wanted a nice place to hike for a few hours and get away from it all. We thought from 9:30 am to 3 pm would be enough, and it would have been if all we did was hike up and down the various cliffs and shores. But being curious souls, we were compelled to scale the cliffs (not the ones that required equipment; we're not that silly), search around tidal pools, and inspect an official looking fenced off area. SB scaled down to the rocks by the water at one point and poked around down there while Shoils and I peered over from a higher perch. He disappeared from sight for longer than my liking and them came back up soaking wet. He had decided to creep along a rock ledge and did not regard the wetness of the ledge above him as he should have. Then a large wave hit him but luckily he managed to hold onto the ledge and not get swept out and dashed against the rocks. He is a strong swimmer and would have known to swim away from the rocks but still, I was not pleased with his risk.

His punishment was that he was soggy for the rest of the hike. We continued into the center and up a hill before veering off to a beach and listening to the musical sound of waves ebbing and flowing over sea polished rocks. Then it was almost time to leave and we had to race to the pier. The ride back to civilization is 30 minutes, just long enough to relax at the front of the boat and enjoy the waves. We finished up with some dan tats and coffee at the Princess Bakery.

pebble symphony with the waves

Shoils making a path for us

SB climbs down below

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Seasons of Fantasy

I was going through Times Square in Causeway Bay the other night and had some time to look around at the magical "Indigo Child" exhibition by Carrie Chau. The illustrator's imagination came to life throughout most of the outdoor space and atrium, combining whimsical characters with vibrant colors and settings that evoked a mixture of nostalgia and fantasy. My inner child escaped for a moment in time and played throughout the various installations while I strolled by.