Oddities, Encounters, and Buddhist Dating Advice

I decided to compile a list of the strange experiences and sights I’ve encountered in the last few weeks. Oh, and some wisdom from my Buddhism Professor.

– A pack of meowing girls. Yes, that is correct. Upon returning from China, we were walking through the airport when a group of 5 or 6 girls walked towards us meowing in unison. It almost sounded like they had practiced it before, it was pretty impressive honestly (and a little scary).

– A man pushing a pink stroller with 3 tiny dogs inside, all wearing pink articles of dog clothing (is there a technical term for that?).

– According to my Buddhism teacher (who is a monk) the best way to get over a break up is to “write a poem or a song about your feelings, get it published, and then move on. Find someone else.” Is Taylor Swift actually an expert buddhist? Unclear. But next time someone asks, buddhism condones rebound dating.

– A solitary man eating his pizza next to me who made grunting and what I can only describe as “mooing sounds” and laughed to himself as he ate.

– An impromptu wedding photo shoot in the middle of a Soho alleyway

– Standing on a highway overpass and counting 41 Mercedes-Benz’s and 38 BMW’s go by in about 5 minutes. Plus several Porsche’s, a handful of Audi’s, Maserati’s, and Ferrari’s.

– Someone in a Giant Panda costume dancing around campus. He was a big hit with the girls

– Perks of abroad: when you do job interviews through video chat no one knows if you’re wearing pants or not.

– Seeing two men on tiny little bikes biking up a giant hill at midnight on a friday

There are more but they often slip my mind right after they happen. As I remember/experience more I will update. Sadly I don’t have photos of any of these events, most of them happened too quickly or I didn’t have my camera. I’ve posted some older photos from various activities, just to keep you interested.

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Sneakers and Smartphones

I spent a couple hours in Mong Kok yesterday, which is basically a huge shopping district across the bay on the peninsula. On Nathan street there is block after block of high end clothing companies, while beautiful european models gaze down on you from massive billboards, begging you to just try and look as good as them. There are so many watches, that even if you put on a new one every minute, you probably would die before you wore them all. If you wander over a block or two, you find the more “real” Mong Kok: Tung Choi street is lined with booth after booth, selling everything from wigs to board games to Beats headphones to handbags to children’s toys. One section is just groceries. Behind the booths are tons of restaurants and massage parlors and tons of camera stores. The cool thing is that it’s not full of tourists like you think; locals are all over, doing their shopping like it’s no big deal.

Further up Tung Choi I stumbled upon what I have now dubbed aquarium village (creative I know); literally every shop for almost 3 blocks is an aquarium or pet shop. My personal favorite was The Techno Aquarium, which I still maintain they should make into a bangin club.techno_aquarium

How they are all still in business I have no idea. On either side of Tung Choi are streets filled with more restaurants, pharmacies, camera shops, and shoe stores. I am now beginning to think that every Hong Kong resident owns 28 pairs of shoes, half of which must be adidas. Either that or they just buy them because they are bored. Literally every street has 2, if not more, adidas shoe shops. It’s not like they are empty either; every shop is buzzing (this was a Monday, mind you). Like aquarium village, I’m unsure how every one stays in business. Pure craziness.

After finally finding this tiny little film shop that will hopefully (fingers crossed) develop my 120 film, I grabbed lunch at a local joint. The number of restaurants in Hong Kong amazes me. On every street there are usually 3 different food stalls and 7 noodle restaurants, most of which serve pretty similar things. I usually just go for one that looks clean enough to eat at. While I was waiting for my food, I looked around at the groups of locals eating next to me. Literally every single person had some sort of smartphone or tablet (or something inbetween) in their hand. I counted at least three people with headphones in, watching something while their friends sat next to them! No one was offended either, because they were all busy playing games or texting or doing who knows what. I was the only one without some sort of device in my hand and was also the only one sitting alone, but I felt more present than anyone in the restaurant. Sometimes there would be sparse conversation, but the participants wouldn’t even look up at each other. I’ve always been kind of wary about smartphones and what they’re doing to society, but the way in which people here are pugged into their devices is plain scary.

When I left the restaurant, I suddenly became aware that everyone had a smartphone in their hand; at least 15 people nearly ran into me while they were looking down at their screens. Not only that, but on every corner there was a store selling the damn things, and every bus has an ad for the newest tablet-phone! In general, the culture of Hong Kong is extremely materialistic and possession obsessed. I’ll write more about that when I have gathered my thoughts a little better.

In the meantime, horse races tomorrow, and hopefully some photos! Stay tuned in.

Hong Kong

10 days ago I debarked a plane, bleary-eyed from spending 16 continuous hours trapped inside a metal tube that managed to be impressively large and sufficiently cramped at the same time. I had lost an entire day of my life, thanks to the mechanisms by which our earth rotates the sun. Yet that one lost day suddenly paled in comparison to the realization that I would spend the next 5 and a half months of my life in the place I had just arrived: Hong Kong.

Part of the reason it has taken me so long to sit down and write since I’ve arrived here is that for almost a year, the concept of studying abroad in HK was no more than a vague abstraction, a small speck on the horizon that I felt I would never actually get to. Perhaps that is why since moving into my dorm not a morning has gone by where I haven’t awoke with the sudden realization that this is indeed my current reality.

If I try really hard, sometimes I can convince myself I’m back in my room in Somerville, or even in a dorm room of a friend. But then I get out of bed and the view out my window (below) shatters any illusions that remain.

View from my WindowThis is not to say that I am unhappy. On the contrary, when I look out that window every morning, I cannot help but feel a smile creep onto my face as I shake my head in wonder. And I don’t think these feelings of awe will diminish any time in the near future.

Friends and family back home have asked me to describe Hong Kong. Well frankly, that is impossible. Even pictures, which I might even argue is my preferred medium of communicating the true nature of a place, cannot do HK justice. Sadly, this response does not please anyone, so I had to come up with something.

If you can imagine the tallest buildings in New York City, shoved them closer together on the side of a mountain that rises out of the ocean, and replaced the tidy grid of streets with raised highways and curving, circuitous roads filled with taxis, buses, mopeds, and 7 million people rushing around as fast as they can, you’re getting close. But you’re still missing the dull groan of traffic, the background ticking of the crosswalks that overlap each other to create syncopated city music, and the ever-present grinding of construction. Then there are are the medley of smells that will assault, if not overpower your nose. Many will make you stop and look around desperately for the source, trying to remember it for the next meal. Just as often you will cringe in horror as your eyes water and you swear you’ll never smell anything again.

Sometimes you turn a corner and there is a hill rising straight up into the sky with stairs so steep you don’t know why they even bothered. Random patches of overgrown vegetation and bamboo are common, and trees grow sideways between the buildings that threaten to block out the mountains. Mercedes, Ferraris, BMW’s and Porsches zoom around the minibuses. Old ladies walk tiny pomeranians and other floofy dogs down the crowded streets. On every corner someone is selling something they claim came from the ocean but you can’t figure out why anyone would want to put it anywhere near their mouth.

And even if you can imagine all that, you’re still not here.

There is much more for me to discuss, like elevator and escalator culture, the fact that people here might be more materialistic than in the U.S (at least some of them), struggling with chopsticks, and the memory-sucking blackhole that is LKF. Oh yeah and Hong Kong University, where I’m supposed to be studying for the semester…

Stay tuned.