Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ninepin Islands

The only times that these islands are accessible are unfortunately in the sweltering summer months because otherwise the waves make landing a boat to be quite tricky.  The closest islands to the Ninepin group as you travel east are the Philippines so there is no buffer from the ocean waves.

If you love rocks like I do then you must visit this natural area within the realm of Hong Kong Geopark.  The terrain features hexagonal columsn of rhyolite that are estimated to be 140 million years old, igneous rocks. Due to the heavy tides that batter the islands, the rocks are eroded into sea caves and arches.

We were lucky to have Shoils take over with planning the trip because we needed a local to help us out.  We went with the eco-tourism group, HK Traveler.  Their website is Chinese only and difficult to navigate for English speakers so it is perhaps a better idea to e-mail and ask about the Ninepin tours if you don't have a Chinese speaker at hand.

Aside from the sweltering heat, this is by far the best island visit I have taken in HK.  Just remember to bring plenty of water.  And the tour isn't set up for individual recreation time but the leader was fine when SB asked to go off on his own to swim around in the water during one of the lectures in Chinese.

From the times that he spoke English, the tour leader proved to be very informed about the islands.  It was enjoyable to listen to him. Ltd 旅行家
Address: Suite A, Hennessy Plaza, 164-166 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong (MTR Wanchai A4 exit)
Tel: 2836 5878 Email:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Women's Rugby World Cup

I have three laptops running.  One is connected to our new television live streaming the free matches at, one is showing the live blogging from a friend watching the USA matches (they are not being shown) and one I use to chat with my equally excited friends. 

I admit it; I have lost my damn mind.  I don't care.  I have waited for a long time to see women playing world class rugby, representing their countries in a bona fide stadium and acknowledged as the athletes that they are.  Fellow Texas Aggie Stacey Bridges is 18 years old and making her world cup debut for USA.  New Zealand's Anna Richards is 44.  Wales' Non Evans made history by competing in two different sports at the Commonwealth Games, judo and weightlifting, and won two silver medals in judo.  One of the South African ladies' mother played in the previous world cup (Portia Jonga I think?)

These women, unlike their male counterparts, do not make a living playing rugby.  Ruth McKay (NZ) is a head shepherd, Phaidra Knight (USA) is an attorney and sports trainer, and Evans peddles pharmaceuticals.

When Ireland sang their anthem preceding the match against England, I admit to shedding a tear.  I sat alone in the flat and was overcome with so many emotions.  I was prevented from crying for Australia because they were tone deaf and I ended up giggling over their enthusiastic bellowing.  Maybe some anthems are easier to sing than others.  By the time you hit the rockets' red glare in the Star Spangled Banner all hope is lost of ever bringing your shriek under control.  So I end this post with a homage to the Irish lasses who made me recall that for many, many, many years we have been struggling to promote sports and sportsmanship among women and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel truly does shine brightly- as bright as the smiles on the faces of the women who were honored to play in the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup.

Hearts of steel
And heads unbowing
Vowing never to be broken
We will fight, until
We can fight no more
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We'll answer Ireland's call

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On being alone

Reposted from YouTube.

Here where there are so many people, it seems strange that so many of us are afraid to be alone when I think we should sometimes want to be alone so that we can hear their own thoughts and find our own pace.  The conversations I have over lunch with my coworkers often drift to fears of being single, of not finding someone as though we really only are halves of people.  As much as I enjoy the story of the Androgyne from Plato's Symposium I do not actually believe that I am incomplete as my own entity.

I immensely enjoy that SB and I can sometimes be a homogeneous blob of a couple together but it mostly works because we are so alike and our blobbiness is from the combined similarity and not because one of us is absorbing the other.  We also stand alone quite well most of the time.  Occasionally he shows me that he does need me and I have become better at needing him without feeling like I have lost something in doing so.

I enjoyed the years that I was single.  I think that my ability to be happy alone is one of the traits that draws SB to me.  I was not simply content being alone, but truly enjoyed myself.  I liked going on walks alone.  I enjoyed making my own schedule and doing my own things when I was in my mid twenties.  I had spent my early twenties slowly disappearing into a relationship where both of us were too immature to realize the damage we were doing to each other and to ourselves with our insecurities and my mid twenties were a revival of sorts.  Then in my late twenties a handsome stranger crept out to have coffee with me and we sat silently on the porch, watching the neighborhood wake up.  Then I was no longer alone.

I always find time for solitude; SB does the same.  At different parts of a hike we will wander away from each other to make our own explorations.  At home SB will occasionally hear me say that I am having "alone time" which means a few hours of wandering about in the streets.  He does the same.

If you can't spend time with yourself, then what does that say about yourself?

Something to talk about

This article about Lour Gehrig really hit home with me:

It was in the men's health area but it applies to women also.  The article really resonated with me.  I felt sad, disturbed...I don't know...scared.  If Gehrig did not have ALS but was actually killed slowly and painfully by his brain and nervous system degenerating from injury, was it a blessing that he never knew?  Gehrig was a Columbia man and quite smart as well as a gifted athlete.  How would you react knowing that your resilience was in fact your undoing?

SB and I have had a few conversations about his own noggin.  It began when his mother visited us in 2008.  She was concerned that he was playing rugby again and made a comment about his concussions.  He became annoyed and changed the subject but I cornered him later that week and asked what the exchange was all about.  According to SB his mother mistakenly believed that every knock he had suffered as a child playing ice hockey was a concussion.  He was irritated because he thought himself to be a responsible guy and would not still be playing contact sports if he had suffered serious multiple concussions.

But as I came to find out, we all have differing views on not only what constitutes a concussion but how many are acceptable risk.  I accept a couple big concussions or maybe three smaller ones as acceptable risk but this may be because I have had two small concussions so I want to put myself in the safe category.

SB has had more than two. He admits to having had at least one significant concussion.  He thinks that he may have had a couple as a child when his mother observed him playing ice hockey.  Then there was one that he suffered two years ago playing rugby.  And that is all he talked about.  That leaves a gap from the age of 14 when he left his mother for boarding school to 34 when I met him that he has not accounted for any concussions.  During this time he continued to play contact ice hockey for five more years, played varsity lacrosse for his university, and began rugby in his early twenties.  I imagine there may have been at least one more concussion that we are not counting.

Thinking back to my own concussions I remember being concerned at my blurred vision and inability to process my thoughts.  I am even more concerned that this would have had any lasting effect especially since I am so conceited about being a smarty pants.

I have noticed quirks with SB that have befuddled me more than they have concerned me.  I won't get too much into them because they are personal but they are not related to his ability to rationalize and theorize.  I had discussed his quirks with his sister long before any concussion talk ever existed and it seems that he has always had these quirks but a small part of me wonders if he had them before his big concussion as a child.  A part of me fears what is going on inside my nervous system and I hope that it looks normal in there because I am never going to be as stoic or humble or compassionate as Lou Gehrig was when he became unlucky.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I believe in tall tales

I made a friend last night, a Samoan kiwi who had spent the last 12 years playing professional rugby in Europe.  I immediately took to him as he had a jovial nature, wide smile and ability to spin tall, tall tales.

I suspect that his true story would make for quality entertainment but instead of blowing his own horn for our entertainment, he mixed fact with pure theater.  At some point in the evening he was explaining how he inherited his quick reflexes from his father, the great, white, black man who was John Travolta's backup dancer when a young lady in our group spoke up to express her disbelief in the story (did that mean that she had accepted the previous 30 minutes of storytime because one of the tales involved Nixon).

As she grumbled to me about her incredulity I explained to her that sometimes you must choose to believe because only then can you be carried away to that wonderful place where unicorns, sugar plum fairies and great, white, black backup dancers exist.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The big fish conducts and anthrolpological study on her small pond

This weekend I was having street-side lunch in Mongkok and was entertained by the goings on in the stores and booths around me.  I watched several instances when a person would begin to peruse a clothing rack and very quickly another person would join the rack and begin earnestly going through the clothing items just ahead of the original peruser.  It was funny to watch the shoppers jockey for position at the rack even though the other racks were available.  It didn't seem to matter which rack was being sorted through as this happened on all of the three racks near to the front of the store at different times.

If reminded me of when I used to feed the turtles at the gardens as a child.  I would drop some worms into the water and watch the turtles swarm.  Then I would drop more worms at another location but the turtles were too busy trying to get the first batch of worms to notice.  Eventually another turtle would notice the other section of worms and dart over to begin another frenzy but sometimes it took a few minutes and other times the worms would still be floating around in the water when I became disinterested and wandered off to try and catch the long legged insects that hovered by the water edge.

From my small sample size, it occurs to me that closely crowded animals are wired to compete for resources that they perceive to be attractive based on others' desire for them.  If someone wants a certain something, then it must be worth having and you mustn't miss out.

My friend S backed up my observations when she shared with me one of her stories from being a teacher.  Last year the second grade teachers arranged for a mock archeological dig at a beach.  They planned the trip to occur in the winter during the school week when the beach was mostly deserted.  The teachers roped off a large portion of the beach and hid "artifacts" for the students to dig up.  A group of beachgoers arrived soon after and walked over to the "dig."  S thought that they were just curious onlookers but then they walked over the rope and set up their picnic in the middle of everything.  There was nothing she could do, as it was a public beach.  It appeared to her that these other people had decided that clearly the best part of the beach would be the part that was occupied by others so naturally parking themselves in the center of the action would guarantee the most prime spot.

Maybe growing up in almost the opposite of density has wired me differently.  I am not a fan of herding and I don't know what it would take for me to compete for a resource.  I would not survive Survivor.  I would not be part of those turtles who climb on top of each other to fight over the worms that the others want.  I go out of my way in the opposite direction to push for more personal space.  I will scoot away from others who sit next to me. 

If I were to turn the lens backward upon myself I would see a neurotically territorial animal with an exaggerated view of the extent of necessary personal space.  I probably resemble a small dog to the density dwellers as I tend to subconsciously annex the space around me, urinating on every fire hydrant within the city block.

A few weeks ago my boss decided to place a couple of file boxes for our project on my desk.  It made sense to him because his office was cluttered and my desk is remarkably empty.  Well, I spend time every week clearing off my desk and electronically filing everything to avoid paper clutter and it was a horrible shock to discover that the space I had so meticulously cleared off was now full of boxes.  Just because the space is empty does not mean that I am not using it.  I subconsciously stake out that territory!  So I have carefully and methodically reorganized shelves in our storage cabinets and moved each box one by one out of my bay.  That's right. My space, every empty square millimeter.  Maybe I should raise my leg over it next time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

my me(h)morable meal

SB and I were invited to Shoil's husband's birthday dinner at ToTT at the Excelsior.  The restaurant's ambience was lovely and I enjoyed the soothing color scheme of brown and copper with blue lighting.  The food was presented beautifully and my glass of house Shiraz was enjoyable.  No one else was drinking so I can't tell you too much about the wine list but the food was meh.  We shared four appetizers and four desserts along with our entrees and I was most impressed by how beautifully everything was presented. 

The dinner guests were another story.  Shoils and hubby have invited us to several dinners, always with different other friends who are always engaging and interesting.  Shoils could be a professional hostess.  She is a perfect facilitator as I have mentioned before, and we are always delighted to be included in her invitations because it seems as though all of her friends share a certain warmness that goes well with wit and humor.  Egged on by Shoils, we all end up having a memorable evening.