Saturday 31 January 2009

Kung Hei Fat Choi (again)

The Chinese New Year fireworks were, as you might expect, quite spectacular. Or at least, the first five minutes were, so I assume the rest were - it got somewhat smoky fairly quickly, so we couldn't see it all even though we had a stunning view of the harbour, kindly provided by Sisyphus and Bauble (and Benny). This video really doesn't capture the massive booms echoing up the hillside, but should give you a sense of the scale of the operation. For a longer (and frankly better) video, try this one on YouTube. It's pretty long...the last 2 mins are good!

Paying respects

Chinese New Year is a time to visit the graves of relatives, so we went over to the cemetary this morning, armed with a large bunch of yellow chrysanths (very festive, very bright, very Chinese) to cheer up Ross's great-gradfather's grave.

Thursday 22 January 2009

cough cough

This story is something of a worry, particularly today - the air pollution index is 112, or "very high". Here's what we can expect:

People with existing heart or respiratory illnesses may notice mild aggravation of their health conditions. Generally healthy individuals may also notice some discomfort.

Kowloon is hardly visible from HK island through the haze.

Year of the Golden Ox

Here's a personality summary of everyone who will be born between Monday 26th January 2009 and 14 February 2010:

Positive Traits
Responsible, dependable, honest, caring, honourable, intelligent, industrious, practical
Negative Traits
Petty, inflexible, possessive, dogmatic, gullible, stubborn, critical, intolerant, materialistic

Just realised that means that CNY will be on Valentine's Day next year. The year that has just passed was the year of the Rat; this means that Romilly and Astrid will be big fans of pork, peas and cabbage!

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Well, that' s a bit early actually. Lunar New Year approaches, bringing with it the cultural minefield that is lai see. These innocuous-looking red packets are destined to be my downfall in the world of Chinese etiquette. However, I have extensively consulted both gweilo and Chinese colleagues, and come to a few conclusions. I'll give you the vague outline; if you want to read an amusing take on the whole situation, I suggest you mosey on over to Batgung, an awesome site kept up to date by two expats, Mr Tall and Mr Balding.

1. Married people are expected to give to unmarried people. Fair? I'll let you be the judge.
2. You are expected to give to any "subordinates" at work - I don't have any, so that bit's easy for me.
3. You have 15 days after CNY (which is Monday 26th Jan this year) to present the red packets.
4. Here’s the hard part – the packets have to be stuffed with money. How much to give? How to distinguish the red packets you’ve filled with $50 notes from the ones you’ve filled with $10 notes? New notes (the done thing) or used notes (the environmentally-friendly thing)? As I said, minefield.
5. Another issue is the recipient list – lots of people at the office, which really requires you to know whether all your colleagues are married. Not only colleagues, but other staff at the office. So that’s the super-friendly bin dude, the desk-cleaning lady, the aggressively smily loo-cleaning lady, and the surly vacuuming lady. And not only them, but also colleagues’ children, who will pay a lovely visit at some point. I’m ok with this bit, because people quite often bring their kids into the office, and everyone knows them already. Also lots of non-office service people – the (3) doormen at our building, our cleaner, the building cleaner, lift repair men, post man….

It’s tricky. Everyone’s getting reeeeally friendly this time of year, the doormen leap up to snatch the door open for you, and the bin dude has learnt to say “You’re welcome” in English. Actually, he almost certainly knew that before, just didn’t try it out on me.

It’s also a pretty austere time. While I’m not pretending that HK is as gloomy as the UK sounds, people are still tightening belts, or whatever the phrase is. So, it could turn out to be an expensive fortnight. Oh, and Ross and I both have to give packets to all the service people individually, we can’t give as a couple. Having said that, the service here makes life pretty luxurious so I am perfectly happy to hand over a few packets in return for the (almost universally) courteous and excellent service we get all over the place.

Sunday 18 January 2009


All our HK photos are on Flickr, here....

China Town given answers

Have a look at this BBC story about a public well-being survey. Cheating huh?!

Saturday 17 January 2009

Great Grandaddy

Between Christmas and New Year I had a few days where I was still on holiday but Sarah wasn't. I therefore took the opportunity to pop round to the other side of the valley and try one last time to find Granny's father's grave. I bumped into a historian there who was documenting people in the graveyard who came from Devon - quite a task! He was very helpful though, explained where I could look people up to find graves.

Suddenly everything was a lot more simple - a 10 minute wait while Norman Pope was looked up, and then I was armed with a map detailing the location to within 10 metres or so.

And so here it is, a very handsome grave stone of a fallen cross. The stone is quite difficult to read after 90 years of lichen, but here's proof it's the right one:
It's a lovely spot, although there is the noise of a road nearby (a Hong Kong hazard it's pretty hard to avoid on the island).

Monday 12 January 2009

Chi Lin Nunnery and Kowloon Walled City

We headed over to Kowloon-side the other day to visit Chi Lin Nunnery, near Diamond Hill MTR. It's an incredibly peaceful place - as you step inside the huge wooden walls of the first courtyard, the traffic sounds start to fall away. Once you move further into the complex, you could almost forget you're in Kowloon. There's also a very peaceful garden on the other side of the road (just don't try to go in the out gate, or proceed in the wrong direction)