expat life

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Flower Market – Chinese New Year 2016

Wow, it has been a while since I have written anything. So much has happened and now I need to write about it. I believe my family and friends think I was abducted by aliens I have been so quiet! 🙂

Welcoming in the Year of the Monkey……

Buildings are swept and apparently smoked out as our smoke infested flat indicated, everything is cleaned and then decorated. Sweeping out the old to usher in the new. It is actually a lovely celebration with many

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Red packet from Nespresso…..

different facets. You will see tress with Red packets and often family members will get red packets or even teachers, we do enjoy those. My dearest Stella was a fount of knowledge as usual and was so sweet she even gave us a red packet! So the red packets are normally given from an older person to a younger person and can have anything in them, well money is the more common filling but not necessarily the only one. You can put messages and poems in them as well and then give them in these packets wishing you happiness and wealth for the coming year.

Courtesy of Jayden

Courtesy of Jayden

From my cute Jayden

From my cute Jayden

Mandarin Oranges,Plum Blossom branches/trees and orchids are big symbols of the CNY celebrations and have some auspicious meanings to the Chinese..When you see the photos of this time of the year you will see these a lot and they are not just for aesthetics.

In Chinese the word Tangerine has a similar sound to LUCK while orange is similar to WEALTH, along with the sounds the colours of the fruit can be seen to symbolise the colour of gold. Giving an orange or tangerine like wishing a  profusion of happiness and prosperity on the person or to usher in prosperity and luck.Potted plants, especially Mandarin trees are often found in the Lobby or doorways of many shopping centers and most buildings. We had a few in our center as well as a few in our apartment complex.

You will also see huge Peach/Plum Blossom trees in many shopping centers and banks, HSBC had a lovely tree up with red packets all over it (empty of course, I saw that excited gleam hehe).I can’t tell the difference between the trees but then up until writing this I thought they were Cherry blossoms. I should really learn more about the stunning trees here.If you are really interested in more detail have a look here CNY Flowers.

So anyone who has lived in Asia, well in and Hong Kong in particular, will know that Chinese New Year (CNY) is a big deal here. In China they seem to get almost a month off at the schools while in HK it depends on the school. It was a very empty month at my center with kids not turning up for lessons and chat rooms or classes down to one or two students. I cannot tell you how tiring that is!

We had a very busy 3 days off, yes you read that right 3 days only as opposed to our counterparts in some other language schools and normal schools. To be exact I had 2 days off as the one day fell on my usual monday off, the frustrations!  There was a ton to do, but we only did some of it due to the days the rest of it fell on. I went to the Flower Market at Victoria Park with S and L who recently moved to HK, we also watched the fireworks and saw the set up for the parade.

The Flower Market was insanity, thinking back to it my mind is still blown. I have never in my life seen so many Orchids in one place and the people, a never-ending stream. The MTR was running to all hours during February for all the markets  as they were open to all hours as well. I swear we must have spent a good 3 hours just walking up and then down 2 of the 4 corridors. I remember being overwhelmed and feeling slightly claustrophobic by the sheer number of human bodies that surrounded us.  I am glad that we got to go though as we walked off with 3 Orchids, a Plum Blossom branch, 2 tulips (S is Dutch so she had to) and then tiny cacti and on minuscule terrarium.It was an experience, I think next time if I am here I will try one of the other markets as well.

Try to imagine rows upon rows of orchids, different sizes and colours in one stall, then you leave that stall and you see more and more and more. then there were the rows and rows of Mandarin trees; in stall, after stall, after stall. Then long rows to walk up and down, with people who don’t follow very clear instructions and must force their way down the wrong way and a chill in the air as winter was still upon us. Walking for hours, struggling around people who stop in the way suddenly, shove you and elbow you out-of-the-way. All those people and that energy, it was incredible and insane.

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And rows and rows of Bamboo

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Simone VanHorick

People By Simone VHorick

Simone VanHorick

People By Simone VHorick

 

 

Halloween in Hong Kong

I LOVE Halloween! It’s been my favourite ‘holiday’ since I was a child. We don’t really celebrate All Hallows Eve back home, but every other year someone would have a dress up party.

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Growing up I had a best friend Marieke, she re-immigrated to Namibia at the wee little age of 8. Thankfully she brought the air of Halloween with her and organised a few parties over the years. Her parents were pretty awesome about having a group of random kiddies spooking up their house and yard.

So of course growing I always loved the spooky and the supernatural. After moving to South Africa I was super excited to get to do more for Halloween, unfortunately this did not actually happen. Some clubs have parties for, but in general it is just an excuse for some girls to dress skankier than usual and everyone thinks an alice-band of bunny ears makes a costume. 

You can imagine that the idea of moving to HK and hopefully having somewhere that enjoys Halloween even a little more than Africa does, was extremely exciting. I was both disappointed and not disappointed. 

Hong Kong definitely enjoys dressing up and all the fun decorations for Halloween. But its not always very easy to find parties. We had20151012_151828 decided that what ever we did it would entail getting all
dressed up.We saw the shops start putting up deco and then start selling deco. It was really fun to watch the stores slowly get ready for the final week of hectic shopping before Halloween. I found two small shops selling lots of awesome stuff, my sister Lu would have loved the stores! Every time I was shopping all I thought of was buying the stuff for her but then practicality set in 20151012_152347and I remembered how difficult it is to get stuff home. Thankfully!

A few malls also had some Halloween fun, we tried to go to a ‘Horror Tunnel’ and stood in line for about 2 hours but then decided it was too long.

Also it had large play spiders which were like creatures from my worst nightmares, so I must admit to being glad that we didnt have to walk through and under them.

IMG-20151021-WA0002 S and I went shopping and found this cool shop near us th20151019_214252at sold ton20151019_214300s and tons of costumes.  I really do mean tons. They also sold fake blood,teeth, masks, capes,wings etc. Basically anything you could want for a great costume. We may have spent more money there than what we had intended, oooops!

 

All Hallows Eve:

I had to work today, which really sucked but I must say seeing the kids get dressed up for the past few days was pretty fun. I got home around half six and decided to chill, then chill some more and oops a little more, hehe…. We helped A with her outfit and then I finally decided what was going to wear.

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MT IMG-20151101-WA0010had a party at Red bar, well I say party loosely. We pretty much had to supply our own booze and food and well everything. S and I decided to go because Emma had asked me to so I wanted to see her in her
costume and we wanted to support our new roomie A. So off we went through Mong kok, apparently causing quite a stir as very few people had dressed up on our side. by the time we hit the MTR and got to about TST there were a few other costumed people about. Finding Red Bar was a mission! We then only stayed for like 20 minutes before boredom took hold. We walked really fast for the MTR because we wanted to make to Wan Chai before the trains stopped.
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Wan Chai was great! Unfortunately the guys got drunk and gross and so we didn’t stay too late. We ended up leaving at about 3am where we found our roomie needing to get home. Luckily for her friends we were headed home so we found a green bus that went to Mong Kok and S was on stop duty while I was on waking A duty.

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Mid-autumn Festival

 

A few weeks ago we had the Mid-Autumn festival which promised to be a wonderful event. We read up on other blogs and checked out the HK tourism site and everything pointed to it being an unmissable experience. Of course this meant that S and I had to go, we had already missed one or two events that we had wanted to go to so we thought we would make sure to go to this.

The warm up to the festival included lots and lots and lots of Mooncake adverts, as well as some eating. 🙂 My Center Owner bought some and gave us each one on the day as we were working the Saturday. Also the Lantern displays were up for a few weeks before hand at TST and in the New territories somewhere as well.

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The official ceremony was on the Sunday night but one could go and look at the lantern displays from the 23 -28th of September(before the festival)they were open every night from 6:30pm to 11:00 pm.

At the same time there was going to be a fire dragon dance at Tai Hang that I wanted to go to. Luckily though instead of having to choose between the two the village extended the fire dragon dance to join the mid-autumn festival at Victoria park for that one evening.

We left semi early because there was supposed to be a lot to see and do at the festival grounds and we did not want to miss a thing. Off we trekked in excited anticipation and grabbed the MTR. We took the red line to central and then grabbed the exit my gps told us to. In the end we just had to follow all the people and the lights but when we first got out of the exit we were not sure which way to go and so we used our innate South African sense of direction, clued in by the lights, to go towards the arena.

The whole festival took up a large amount of space as it was spread out nicely so we weren’t crushed by hoarders of people. When we entered we saw a booth selling all sorts of lighted headbands and bracelets.There were also first aid booths, drinks, food, jewellery and other random booths that you could buy stuff at. These were all along the length of the park on the one side while the lantern displays were in the middle of the park.

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They had other booths as well along the opposite side of the park. Here we found them craft items such as amazingly crafted art on olive pips and they showed the making of the Chinese opera head pieces. They also had a bunch of selfie style stations in to put your face through and they had a large area where you could line up, get dressed in traditional wear and have photographs taken.

We walked around and took photographs of the lanterns, looked at the booths and watched one or two performances. Taking photo’s of the Lanterns was a mission though, the people walked in front of us as we were trying to take photo’s. they stand right in front of the displays so that no one else is able to take pics and then they spend like 15minutes blocking the view. It was really frustrating even trying to just look at the displays because of this. However we did get some good shots and got to see everything. The organization was pretty good as well, they had volunteers walking around that would take photo’s for people and help them out.

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As to I t being unmissable, I suppose that is a matter of opinion. I enjoyed looking at the displays, they were phenomenal and if we hadn’t been waiting for the fire dragon dance we probably would have just left shortly after we saw everything. Unfortunately we really wanted to see the fire dragon dance. The dragon was awesome but it really was not worth the log wait. By the time it started it was after 11pm. They had about 30 minutes of speeches and then they did a dedication of sorts for the dragon, then there was another 15 minutes or so of watching Scottish folk dancing ( no Chinese dancing)with bagpipes, before the dragon finally made an appearance. It looked amazing but I could have left after a few minutes. We couldn’t see much as everyone was standing and shoving. We stuck it out to almost the end and finally managed to get closer to the front and see the dragon properly.

I will definitely not go out of my way to take part in the festival again, but I really did enjoy seeing some of the crafts on display as well as the lanterns.

 

 

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Monkey Mountain

Well I have been a little lazy after setting up the blog and took a hiatus from writing for a bit. And so at long last I am writing about Monkey Mountain, eish.

S and I decided to fit in as much sightseeing stuff as we could in the two days off we had together. This is day 2, after a somewhat long day at the harbor the day before. Im still trying to remember why we thought this would a be a good idea so soon after 6 hours on our feet lol.

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Doctor visit

A good rule of thumb when moving to Hong Kong is that within the first month most people get sick and need to take sick leave. In my training group several of the new teachers did just that. Some of us stuck it out, but almost everyone got sick to some varying degree. The good thing about Hong Kong is that you can find Doctors all over the place.

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HK Disney

 

Once you have taken the appropriate amount of photo’s with your friends and the must have ‘Selfie’, it’s time to head into the park. Where you will find a smaller version of Florida. Now remember we are in Hong Kong so things will be very different. There is no animal kingdom nor Epcot. But there are different and smaller versions of these.

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MTR map

MTR

 

I love the MTR, it’s absolutely fabulous, I can get to pretty much anywhere with the train. There are buses that arrive and depart on time and taxi’s that are not over priced and safe to drive in. But more on them later.

Now Namibia, my beloved country, and South Africa are very similar in many ways. Neither country has a very good public transport system. There are buses, mini buses and taxi’s. Buses are often running late or stuck on strike, but invariably at some stage they will be late. Taxi’s are not always the greatest in SA or in Nam, actually they can be rather scary to drive in.

To be honest I have never been in a taxi back home, they are not the safest and I’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family able to give me a lift or loan me a car. In SA we have one high-speed train, The Gautrain, now its lovely and all that but it is super expensive and is only in Gauteng with stations between JHB and PTA. The commuter ‘rush’ has nothing on the rush here in Hong Kong. But then, nor does the Gautrain.

The MTR has several payment options; a one-way ticket, an Octopus card and some of the banks even seem to have a special Octopus card. The Octopus card seems to save about HKD 1-3 every trip compared to the one way ticket. Now as I said in an earlier post it was the first thing I bought on arrival in Hong Kong. Best  purchase ever!

Since my first trip on the MTR on Orientation day I have used the train almost daily. I use it to go to my centre in the New Territories every day, I actually have to switch lines every day. I’ve now been on it when it is super busy and when it is super quiet.

My lovely ex-colleague and friend Nontobeko was chatting to me on skype and I was telling her about the MTR. Something she reminded me of is that we have all seen movies shot in Asia showing masses of people jammed into the trains and on the streets. I never really thought of it but I realise that like her I always thought that they over dramatised it to make it look bigger. I have to say though that since then I have literally been in a train several times where we were jammed into a car like sardines. The movies give the right image, there are people jammed on top of each other.

The trains run smoothly and usually within 2-3 mins of each other, yet for some reason you will see people literally running to the train and almost getting squashed by the doors just to be on the train leaving that very minute.

Now ignoring all of that horrible imagery of sardines, the MTR is really quiet marvellous. The system is vast, it reaches all the way to the HK/China border and goes to the Island. The lines are colour coded and you can always tell which station you are at as the trains will always tell you. The stations are also colour coded and during busy times you will see marshals making sure that no one gets too close to the train.

For more information on the Octopus card go here:

http://www.octopus.com.hk/home/en/index.html

 

 

 

Taxis’

 

We had our first Taxi ride last night. Well technically I guess it was this morning, after all we danced the night away at LKF.

If you are wondering there are tax’s everywhere, in LKF at any rate. Finding taxi’s in other areas may not be nearly as easy. So be prepared for some patience and learning the different buses!

Grabbing a taxi was relatively easy actually. Giving directions was a little trickier, I gave the address that we needed but my very drunk roomie A kept trying to give the exact address which was no use to the driver. So the poor guy was getting super confused with me trying to get her to keep quiet and S laughing at the whole situation, while trying to tell him the street address. To be fair at this stage I was confused as to what exactly I had told him so gave him the MTR station instead. As we got closer I remembered the street name we needed and I gave that to the driver.

The total fare from LKF to Mong Kok was about HKD 110 split 3 ways which was not too bad.

The driver spoke broken English, drove fast but I didn’t feel like I was going to die, which was a bonus 🙂 I will probably use a taxi again, but with friends as it was pricey if you just pay for yourself.

Something to note, try give them the street names and area. This seems to help a lot and tell them to take the cheapest route. Often that involves going through the tunnel so they will add on the tunnel charge to the end total on the metre.

For more info on the Taxi’s have a look here:
http://www.discoverhongkong.com/us/plan-your-trip/traveller-info/transport/getting-around/taxi.jsp

 

 

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Lan Kwai Fong

 

 

So I’ve been in Hong Kong just over a week now and I am seeing so much that I had never seen before.

Last night we went out to the Party central for foreigners and I guess locals alike. We took the MTR from Mong Kok, took the red line to central and walked the short distance to the bars. My Roomies (S and A) and I were going to meet a friend, Dani, from the centre where S and I are training.

We got all dressed up, listening to some awesome music and having a drink or two. We did the usual thing that us girls love to do when making an effort. Tried on different outfits and did our hair. Well I’m not 100% sure why we bothered with our hair! The humidity just ruins ones hair in minutes so there really was no point. S straitened her pink and blonde hair so nicely, A blow dried hers and I just left mine to curl nicely. Within the 5 minute walk to the MTR Ss’ hair had already started to crink and we were already getting all gross and hot from the temperature.

The MTR was at the quietest I’ve seen it yet. There were like 5 of us in our car and the wind from the train was lovely! That’s the great thing, when on the train they have air ducts which let in the lovely cold air so we could cool down before getting to LKF.

There is a lovely hill to climb up with bars and restaurants on all sides. The strangest thing though happens to be the 7 elevens. Now back home you can’t drink on the street and buying alcohol after a certain time doesn’t really happen unless you get to a Shabeen.

In Hong Kong and LKF in particular it seems that drinking in the street is the way to go! Buy cheap drink at the 7Eleven, drink in the street and go dance in the bars. There we go all sorted for a cheap night out, except that we met Dani at a bar and grabbed a drink there first. Ouch my pocket! 

The drinks are so incredibly expensive, HKD140 for 1 single vodka and coke with a vodka jelly shot. We had a great time there and then decided it was time to go explore. We walked up the hill some more and bobbed into several other bars to see what the vibe was. Now my friend Dani is hilarious, she got it in her head that A needed to meet a man and made that her mission for the night.

So after exploring the bars in the main street Dani and Han decided to take us to a different bar/club. We went up like 4 flights of steps to Solas, an awesome place. Lovely dance floor, no drinking on the dance floor allowed, keep the bags off the floor and staff mopping up any spills constantly.

The drinks here were absolutely insane, shots of tequila are about HKD 40 or so and long drinks over HKD 100.The music here was better that the other places, mostly after Han went and asked for a song. The Dj changed the music and it got pretty good. Everyone started dancing and we had a great spot for our bags.

The Hong Kong Rugby team was in Solas that night, yeah I know you can’t imagine it either. The guys were mostly foreigners though, very fun guys I must say. They were drinking and dancing and having a blast with us, unfortunately Dani picked up a puppy who was really into her. It was cute, but seeing as she was sort of in a relationship the poor guy w1888980_10152790017680248_1359110052602282398_oasn’t getting anywhere. We seemed to keep bumping into him as we were walking through the different bars and dancing. It was hilarious though, Dani kept trying to be the wing woman to A, but she wasn’t picking the best guys nor saying the best things. Needless to say A wasn’t actually interested and they were both gloriously tipsy while S and I were incredibly sober.

While in Solas A and Dani kept going off to the bar and disappearing for ages on end while we just kept dancing. After about 2 hours then went down those flights of stairs again to another bar and walked around the street for a bit looking for a new place to dance. We had no luck so Dani and A ran up the stairs again and then decided nope Solas was no longer appealing and off we all went down the stairs again. This time we found a great bar to dance in and cooled down a little.

To be honest while LKF is fun I really don’t see what the big hoopla is. Everyone was talking about it as if it was the greatest party place ever. The bars are small and hot and expensive and while the music is good at times the Dj’s really don’t know how to keep a crowd going. Yes we had a good night and I will most probably go again but next time I shall 7Eleven it for sure! However we did dance the night away even though we all had flu, which meant that by the time we wanted to go home we needed a ride. So all in all a good night out. 🙂

I shall write a post about the ‘ride’ we got home and how we have found taxis’ in general tomorrow. 🙂

For more info on what to find here:
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/hongkong/island/lan-kwai-fong.htm

 

 

 

Flats in Hong Kong

 

For many foreigners moving to certain areas in Asia can be a huge shock. I’m not talking about culture or food, we have after all experienced some of the foods in our home countries. Im thinking mostly about accommodation.

I did my research and so I knew to expect small rooms and apartments and I had lived in Res where we had small rooms. I was also used to not having my own home or space and had lived in a relatively small complex flat before I went to study, so for me the shock did not even register. However, everyone I have spoken to since moving here has said the same thing, they were shocked.

There are millions of people living on small piece of land, so the building go up and the sizes stay relatively slim. When moving to Hong Kong do not expect big rooms, yes sometimes you find them and generally they are more expensive. Living in a place by yourself is unlikely to happen on a budget and expect to pay about HKD 5000 for a small room in a small apartment.

Now our apartment is not tiny and I do have the medium sized room, yay me! We can fit a double bed in the room with standing room between the bed and the cupboard. The cupboard doors open with a cm of IMG_1216space to spare. S’s room is the bigger rooms, it has a double or a queen size bed in it with room around the bed.its just big enough for her to do some yoga in it, although she cannot lie on the floor and stretch her arms out next to her.A’s room is tiny, it can fit a single bed in it with the same amount of space between her bed and cupboard door to that of mine. 

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Our lounge is relatively big, in comparison.The bathroom is small and just fits a shower,sink and toilette. As you walk into the kitchen the door for the bathroom is on the left.While the kitchen is also small at least we have one and can do some basic cooking on it.

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