My Favorite City in Asia?

Hong Kong is Beautiful

I was walking through the underground system and asked a police officer, in English, which way I should go to see the Avenue of Stars, a riverfront walkway with views of Hong Kong Island.  He gave me a perfect answer with a smile and I was on my way.  From the moment I turned the corner and saw the cityscape I fell in love with this city.  From the Kowloon side looking toward Hong Kong Island, the city is built onto the side of a mountain.  The picture reminded me of SimCity, the computer game where you can build whatever city the mind can imagine.  Hong Kong is a SimCity.  The tall skyscrapers stretch from one’s periphery, blowing away anyone who walks into the vista without any preconceived expectations.  Another fun aspect of the city is its British influence, easily spotted in the form of double decker buses, pub streets, and of course the need to look right, rather than left, when crossing the street.  🙂

Hong Kong is Organized and Convenient

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent home to my parents, edited later to give more detail:

“I spent my first full day in Hong Kong today and absolutely love the city!  I did not have any problems finding the Harrison’s house and have a really nice living situation with nice bed on the floor and great bathroom.  The public transport can get me into the main part of the city in one hour.  The subway is longer and wider than any I have been in, thus more comfortable because it is a lot less crowded.  I am about the have dinner with the family now.  I walked around Kowloon today and did not even make it to Hong Kong Island yet.  There is so much to do.  I did not realize how big Hong Kong is.  Most people think of the high rises when they think of Hong Kong, but it is also composed of Kowloon, the New Territories, and the outer islands, which must be ten times the size of Hong Kong Island itself.  Also, Hong Kong Island is home areas other than the city, which include Repulse Bay and Stanley with the famous Stanley Market.  On the first day, I also spent the afternoon at the HK History museum, which was very interesting and gave me a great background to Hong Kong.  The city is so modern, and I already think it is better than Singapore.  :)”

Hong Kong has Great People

I stayed with the Harrison family, the father of which my father had met on a trip to Hong Kong and China.  They were absolutely wonderful and accepted me into their household with wonderful hospitality for one week and only after about one week’s confirmed notice.  Having a nice place to stay with a nice family was a great break from the seventeen friends with whom I lived back in Beijing.  Mike, Susie, Marie, Elizabeth, Isaac, Will, and Ginger (their shy and talented dog) were such a blessing, as well as Sai Fung, Mike’s good police officer friend and adventure running mate around the region.

I also met up with two friends with whom my father is connected by scholarship at the University of North Carolina, Jason Cox and Alex McMillan.  I met up with Jason after church at the YMCA on Sunday and he took me with some friends on his speed boat to Po Toi Island, which has one restaurant, Ming Kee, where we had some awesome seafood.  On the way to and from the marina club, I was able to see the famed Jumbo floating restaurant and tried to recreate a photo which my dad had taken in front of it 23 years earlier.  Jason and his friends were great, and I really enjoyed hanging out with them.  A few nights later, I met up with Alex and his wife for dinner and a drink.  I travelled over to Tai Po in the New Territories to meet up with them.  We had a wonderful dinner full of Hong Kong delights in the market building, a nice drink at a pub frequented by expats, and hung out on the rooftop of their new house in this New Territory.  Both of the these folks and their parties have such great stories, and like most long stays in Asia, they started out here during stays which they thought would be temporary.

One quick side story about how nice everyone is in Asia.  I got off the subway and had no idea how to get to the market where I was to meet Alex and his wife.  I asked one young lady, who ended up walking me to the market.  We had a great conversation and talked about what we were doing in Asia, our respective educations, our friends, and ended up departing have exchanged phone numbers and e-mail.  The girl, having graduated with a major in tourism, was now working for the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation, not World Wrestling Federation), and offered to show me or friends around Hong Kong on any return visit.  What a nice and spirited young person.  This would never happen with the same frequency in the United States, which leads me to the next question.  Why?  Is it because I am a unique stranger in a foreign land, Asians in Asia are nicer people, or a combination of these two things or many more?  I do not know, but I like it.  J  If it were because they are trying to take advantage of me, then they are in for a surprise as real friendships form.  I think it is because it is unique and fun to befriend someone different from you.  What may start as a novelty and initially for one’s own enjoyment turns into a pleasant experience for both parties involved.  Another why?  People who open up and are kind to each other right off the bat have so many interesting things to say, so many things interesting to learn about their similarities and differences, and in a world that only has six degrees of separation between people, so much in common.  How much fun!

Hong Kong has Great Things to Do

I spent many hours exploring the markets of Hong Kong, which are often organized around what they sell, with entire streets forming the aisles of a super city store.  If you want to buy fish for your aquarium, you go to the Goldfish Market.  If you are a lady looking for a good clothing deal, you go to the Ladies Market.  If you want Jade, go to the Jade Market.  I think you catch my drift.

Hong Kong puts on a laser light show every evening at 8:00 pm that incorporates many of the buildings and choreographed to music.  After that I travelled across the harbor on the famous Star Ferry, and made my way to the tram that would take me to the top of Victoria Peak, which boasts beautiful views of the city from above.  On the way I met three friends with whom I would spend the rest of the night, Ken, Mandy, and Sally.  After the peak, we visited the entertainment districts of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong.  We had a great time sipping on Sangria in one Soho bar and walked over to Lan Kwai Fong to see the Halloween Eve festivities.  It was crazy!  I cannot and do not want to imagine the place on Halloween night itself.  I heard it took three hours of waiting in line to get into the bar street, if one was lucky to even make it through police ensuring that the area did not become dangerously overcrowded.  I had a great time getting to know these three.  Our relationship sparked with a smile from Sally.  As a single traveler, you often find opportunities to talk with others and this was such an inviting smile that I started up a conversation.  The two girls were from the Chinese mainland and now worked and lived in Hong Kong.  Ken met Sally while studying abroad in Victoria, Canada.  He was actually on vacation and visiting from his home country of Thailand.  He lived and worked in Bangkok (If I end up writing a post on this, I met up with him when I returned to Thailand to meet up with my parents before returning home for Christmas.).

Other fun things I did in Hong Kong included mountain biking in the New Territories, visiting Stanley Market, hanging out with the Harrisons, and eating dim sum.  So, what was meant to be a short visa run turned into a week long getaway, and the discovery that Hong Kong is so much more than a big city, it is a country within a country.

Beyonce!

On Friday, October 23rd I went with an awesome group of nine others to have dinner at Hatsune and go see Beyonce in concert. Alan bought a VIP box suite in Wukesong stadium to watch the concert.  He had eight tickets and wanted to invite to guests from one of his restaurants to join him and his friends for the fun.  We found some awesome contestants for a raffle drawing who were able to answer some trivia questions about the restaurant.  We decided to let four customers come along and Kristen and I would go on two other tickets and be let up to the box by a friend who was the event organizer.  What a great time.  Following a delicious meal at Hatsune we travelled first by cars, then by subway to bypass traffic to the stadium.  It was absolutely packed outside and excitement was in the air.  The concert was first class and the box suite was out of this world.  Altogether the ten of us finished 9 bottles of champagne, after passing two to the box next door to us.

After Beyonce we went to Bling for the after-party and had more champagne and dancing.  It was a great time and I really enjoyed getting to know the winners of the contest, especially Regina Honorable, whom I had spoken with personally in the restaurant about the chance of winning Beyonce tickets.

I love this picture!  You can see Beyonce in the background.

At Bling.

Jin laoshi

Let me talk a little more about the superwoman that is Jin laoshi.  Why do I say superwoman?  She is super-excited about life, super curious, super nice, a super person that brings people together, a super conversationalist, and loves to do super things.

 

Jin is of Mongolian ethnicity from an area in China that is very near Mongolia itself.  She must have grown up with those around her thinking she was a genius.  She told me later that she thinks she let a lot of people down by just becoming a teacher.  She could not pass the tests to get into medical school, so went to school to become a teacher.  She is extremely intelligent and deep thinking.  At one point I met up with Jin laoshi, in a small coffee shop to discuss the possibility of making some English recordings to sell to companies who need instruction dialogues for their employees.  We talked about so many things, one of which was “the incident” in 1989.  She actually took part in the whole thing, and got very emotional talking about it!  Because of her ability to speak both Mandarin and Mongolian she was a key link in the communication between student movement leaders.

 

The third time I met up with Jin laoshi I was met by one of her students, Mika, who led me to laoshi’s apartment.  We talked, made a few recordings, and went out to this awesome Mongolian restaurant smack dab in the middle of tall apartment buildings. Mongolian yurts had been built to cater to small parties of Chinese diners.  Jin ordered some great dished for us and we had a feast! This is all before I went to a Chinese wedding later that night to eat more!!  After dinner, Jin helped me find a good wedding present, two dogs sitting under a tree with a small frame for a picture hanging from the branch.

In the Yurt with Jin laoshi and her student Mika

 

The fourth time I met up with Jin laoshi, it was to visit 798 art district.  At one point in the coffee shop she mentioned art in China and how she had a student many years ago who fell in love with an artist and she never found out whether they made it or not.  At the time they were living in one room that was cluttered and acted as the guy’s studio as well.  I explained that China actually has a pretty big art scene and many artists have made it big.  I would take her to 798.   Over the course of the week leading up to 798, I assembled quite an eclectic group to visit the galleries together!  We had Jin laoshi and her student, Echo, Annie and her croud of Stephen, Clara, and Jason, Cody and Alice, two friends of Kristen Lum, Vita and Ana from Indonesia, two girls I have met in the restaurant and hung out with in Beijing, and Brian, a guy I met the night before at the soft opening of a new bar, a friend of a friend of Kristen Lum.  798 is a really cool part of Beijing where an old factory, #798, has been turned into art studios and exhibits.  It is quite popular in Beijing now and has been expanded into surrounding factories.  I think everyone had a great time exploring the art and getting to know each other.

Dinner with the group after 798 minus Cody and Alice

 

That night I went over to Annie’s side of town to spend the night and go to church the next day.  I have attached one of my favorite pictures of Annie, Vita, Ana, and myself eating some street food.

 

The fifth time I met up with Jin laoshi, a guy she would have English conversation with met me at the metro and this time I showed him the way to her apartment, and we met Mika and Jin there.  We hung out some and made dumplings together, or jiao zi.  We started from scratch and made everything by hand!

Making the jiao zi

Chinese Weddings

Since being in China I have been invited to two Chinese style weddings and seen countless wedding photo shoots, both here and in some of the southeastern countries I have visited.

In China, the wedding ceremony has without a doubt evolved over the years, especially in the last century as the East and the West have begun to mix, but it certainly is a fun event in which to take part.  Now, most ceremonies include a little bit of both the East and the West.  For example, the bride may wear a white dress and carry a bouquet at a wedding party, but she may not walk down the aisle to meet her husband in a formal ceremony.  Of course, the wedding all depends of the couple and their family background, religious beliefs, personal tastes, etc, but there are a few things I think (anecdotally) that take place at every Chinese wedding.  Every Chinese wedding turns out to be a huge party, or celebration, where friends and family are served tons of food and lots of alcohol is consumed.  The size varies.  The first one I went to had 3 huge tables that could hold around 16 persons each.  The last one I went to had about 30 tables of 8 people each.  It was interesting, but the last ceremony I went to included the ceremony at the front of the room with the bride and groom.  While the bride walks down the aisle and the two share a drink and friends talk, everyone is eating and talking at the same time too.  Afterwards is something you do not see in the States very often.  The bride and groom go to every table to make a toast and drink an entire glass of beer or mixed drink each time.  With 30 tables, that is a lot of alcohol.  By the end of the party, everyone is having a great time and all are very happy for the couple that just got married.

I got to attend these ceremonies because those getting married were either one or both of the couple.  It has been great to see the family aspect of working in a restaurant in China.  Many of my other co-workers also attended or helped with the weddings.

A feast at each table!

China7 065.JPG  A feast at each table!



Ketchup

I am going to write as if I had just finished the day for each of these posts.  In reality, I am writing based on notes that I took after the different events occurred and on memories that I have now.  Currently, I am in Hong Kong, staying with the Harrison family, of which my dad met the father of the home, Mike, about two and a half years ago while biking through China with Fayetteville Christian School.  The Harrison’s have been so nice to let me stay with them, and like so many other places I have visited, many of which you have not heard about, some of which I may write about in this post, it has been such a blessing to have a nice place to sleep, relax, shower, and reenergize.  A post on Hong Kong, one of my favourite (shout out to the British there) cities in Asia, will come, but for now let’s take a look back on the past few crazy weeks.

China Turns Sixty

I woke up today to the sound of Macy’s Day Parade?  No, it is China’s National Day Parade and they are going all out because they are sixty and so many things have changed since fifty!  The parade was interesting.  While during the Olympics, China may have wanted to show the world how great it is, during the parade today, China was showing its people how great it is.  I was very intimidated by Chairman Hu’s greeting to the troops, even though I did not understand it, and the masses marching by, but was put to ease by the beautiful floats from each province that followed.  The parade was a weird mix of military might and a Thanksgiving Day parade.  The announcers must have studied the tapes of what it sounds like to announce a parade, because it was spot on.

China’s birthday was not only a parade for me.  I went to a huge feast with the sushi chefs and played pool with them afterward.  Then, after working dinner at Hatsune, went over to Alan’s hotel room (he was kicked out of his house for a few days for the National Day because his home was too close to all of the official action).  We had a great holiday birthday party and watched the evening’s festivities on TV and the fireworks could be seen reflecting of the buildings outside.  The party later moved to the bar downstairs and then to a night club.  I learned that I cannot keep up with Russians.  One of Alan’s good friends drove me in his Maserati with two Russian models to the night club.  Champagne and vodka were free flowing all night and I felt it the next day.

Like drinking, China is a place of highs and lows.  You can feel great one minute, and horrible the next.  For example, you may find out a government regulation prevents you from doing something that you want to do, but later find out that you can get around it by doing something even better.  I do not have any good examples now, but it is definitely a feeling that I get sometimes.  Oh, here is one.  I bought these really expensive (by Chinese standards) tickets for the China Open Finals.  They were around $285 USD each, but thinking this must be a great tournament like the U.S. Open and certainly something you do not get to go to everyday, I bought them.  It turns out that even though there are great players in the tournament (Roddick, Nadal, the Williams sisters, etc.), this event was empty!  I got the same ticket for Annie Hoyle and Clara Stam after negotiating outside the stadium the day of for $20.  That is like 90% off, or 1/14 of the original price!  Crazy!  That is both a low for me and a high for them!  J  But the highs and lows do not stop there, I got a piece of the action when the day before I scalped a VIP ticket for half the price, and the day of the finals, I got a VIP ticket free as someone was leaving the event.  China is crazy.

Zhong Qiu Jie or Mid-Autumn Festival

This is a huge thing in China.  Basically, not going into detail about its origins, which you can look up on Wikipedia and I would have pretty much copied and pasted anyway, this eight day holiday kicks off when the family gets together to have a meal and then go outside to look at the moon (the biggest of the year) and eat mooncakes and drink hot tea.  Besides the story behind looking at the moon, this is your basic harvest time festival and was a lot of fun to be a part of.

I joined the staff at Karaiya and Hatsune for their respective staff parties.  Each restaurant had quite a feast set up, and the food prepared by these friends, as always, was delicious!  Annie Hoyle joined me mid-way through and the staff had a great time getting to know her.  After some more beer drinking and dancing Annie and I left for her side of town, Weigongcun.

Eating a mooncake in Karaiya with Mandy!The guys going crazy over the feast in Hatsune!

China5 008.JPG: Eating a mooncake in Karaiya with Mandy!

China5 030.JPG: The guys going crazy over the feast in Hatsune!

On Sunday, October 4, I went to church with Annie and Gary and we travelled in the afternoon with some other friends to Lama Temple to check it out and pray for the people there.  That night I went with Annie to have dinner with John and his wife Regina, whom I met earlier in the day.  They were meeting up with some Mongolian friends to play his guitar and their traditional stringed instrument, the morin khuur.  It was really fun listening and singing, and as Annie had to depart for a small group meeting, the person who would change my life in China as I know it walked in the door, Jin laoshi.  She is a free spirit, probably labeled genius as a child, now in a middle aged woman’s body with a very distinct Mongolian face that is beautiful, yet worn after many years and many experiences.  Later, I would discover that she took part in the incident in 1989, and she is such a fascinating woman.  I will without a doubt write a post on her later.  She has been very kind to me and I have already met up with her in a coffee shop with her, been over to her house twice (first to make a voice recording and second to make dumplings), and gone to Beijing’s 798 art district with her.  Other friends and some of her students have been around too during those times.  By the way, laoshi means teacher in Chinese.  Jin laoshi teaches English and may hook me up with some recording jobs to get my beautiful voice on tape for the masses to hear!

Annie and a whole bunch of her friends from Wheaton are studying Chinese for one year in Beijing.  While visiting Annie this weekend following the Zhong Qiu Jie festivities, I enjoyed the guys’ apartment on the 13th floor in the same building all to myself!  What a blessing, and a nice time to be alone and get some laundry down in a machine!

View from the guys’ apartment in Weigongcun

China5 045.JPG  View from the guys’ apartment in Weigongcun

I thought this is worth mentioning for memories sake.  The night before heading to Annie’s neck of the woods, I took care of more ambassadors before the staff parties, one from Kuwait and one from Peru.  I mention these people because they are easy to remember.  I have met all sorts of successful business men and movie stars, of whom I have never heard.  I will go talk to a group at a table and afterward one of the staff will say, “Do you know who you were talking to?  That was so and so!”  I also saw Jackie Chan’s son one night and maybe I can get Obama to stop in when he visits mid-November.  J

This week I also went hiking with Gary and his parents one day during their holiday.  We went north of Beijing near the Ming tombs and saw a cool dam and hiked thousands of steps up this mountain to see some pavilions.  It was so nice to meet Gary’s parents and we had a great time together.

Hiking with Gary and His Family

China5 113.JPG Hiking with Gary and His Family

Following the October 1st National Holiday parade, the floats have been on display in Tiananmen for the masses to come see.  I went with Johnny Ma, one of the bartenders of Hatsune, in the afternoon, during his day off, to go check out the floats.  We had a fun time walking around and taking pictures together and walked under Mao’s portrait to the toll gate for the Forbidden City.

Johnny with the MassesIn front of the Forbidden CityPatriotic haircut.

China5 196.JPG Johnny with the Masses

China5 210.JPG In front of the Forbidden City

China5 203.JPG Patriotic haircut.

China Open

I attended the China Open ATP Tennis Tournament for both the semi-finals and finals.  Alan and Hannah and Annie and Clara joined me for the finals between Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic.  Novak started out as the weaker player but his one year of experience as Alan and I discussed helped lead him to a 6-2, 7-6(4) victory over Cilic.  This event was a lot of fun, but empty!  I guess tennis is just not that popular in China yet.  But, I got to see big names for a pretty decent price.

Great seats!

China6 029.JPG Great seats!

If you have been looking for a reference to ketchup, sorry to keep you waiting, but now you and I are all caught up (almost :)).  Life is good!



Singapore Sling

September 24-29 I went to Singapore to get my visa renewed for another 30 days.  I chose Singapore because Alan was going to be there as well to watch Formula1 and invited me to join him for some of the festivities.  First, booking a ticket to Singapore and second, finding a ticket to the race.  Alan booked the ticket for me and I flew over with his wife Hannah as the seats on his flight were already fully booked.  Second, after a few attempts to get tickets through friends of friends, I ended up buying the last ticket at a great discount from a British company called bookF1.com.  I lucked out as my dad had called them in the dead of night in Britain and left a message to save the ticket for me.  My seat was so great that during the practice and qualifying rounds I was able to sit with Alan and Hannah, who were just two sections over in the pit grandstand.  Grand Prix was such an experience!  So much money is poured into the sport, it is no wonder that, if you follow the sport, many companies have pulled their sponsorships during these past troubled economic times.

So, Friday I arrived to Singapore around 5:30 am with Hannah.  She checked in and I went to meet my host for couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is this great project that allows people to travel on a shoestring and meet really cool people along the way.  I was really lucky and stayed close to the heart of town with a girl named Lisa from Indonesia who has lived in Singapore many years now working for Cisco Systems.  She had an extra room in her apartment and accepted me as a guest for the long weekend.  This arrangement turned out to work very well and despite being scared that I would hardly see her and give the impression I was solely using her for the free place to stay, we actually got to hang out a lot, going to a night club complex one night and church the next day.

To continue, Alan, Hannah, Vince (Alan’s partner in Shanghai), and I met up to watch some F1 and then we moved on to a restaurant called IndoChine to have the best dinner of my time in Singapore, complete with papaya salad, oysters, and champagne. During this time I was able to get to know Alan and Hannah, as well as Vince a lot better.  Vince is a really great guy and brother in Christ.  I may visit him in Shanghai sometime while I am in China.  Later Friday night we went to this great club called The Pump Room, in a boardwalk area called Clarke Quay, where a band was performing songs from the seventies and eighties.  It was absolutely packed and the line went out the door for at least thirty feet, but no need to fear, Alan is here.  I watched him work his magic, or in his terms, “Do business.”  He moseyed up to the front and as if inquiring about the club, made a deal to enter and stand in the VIP area next to the band with two bottles of Dom Pérignon.  What a great start to a once in a lifetime weekend…at least so far. J

I woke up Saturday morning and departed the apartment to meet Alan at Sentosa Island Golf Course.  This is Singapore’s premier golfing destination, and it was absolutely beautiful.  Though I grew up next to a golf course for many years, I never really played.  I was always into tennis, and in many ways, still am.  But, I have enjoyed golf here in China as well.  Alan has taken me a couple of times and I am getting a little bit better each occasion.  Golfing in China is such a luxury.  From the time you arrive to the course and park your car, I do not think you ever touch the golf bag.  You have your own personal caddy who helps you find the ball you hit into the rough, choose the club for the distance they tell you that you are from the green, and clean the ball on the green and sit it perfectly on the grass for that Tiger Woods-esque putt you will make, after they tell you where to aim.  J  So, the golfing was amazing.

Alan teeing off

Alan teeing off.

After golf we headed back to Alan’s hotel and cleaned up for dinner at a nice Japanese restaurant.  Alan likes to try out these places and compare them to his own venues.  After dinner we went to the race track, which ran literally right next to the building we were dining in, to watch the qualifying rounds.  What a rush!  We were sitting on the second row as cars flew by at hundreds of miles per hour.  Without a doubt, you have to wear ear plugs to comfortably enjoy this event.  One other cool thing about the weekends festivities were the additional entertainment provided for guests, including Ozomotley   (a band I really enjoyed listening to), Carl Cox, the Backstreet Boys, and other street bands and performers.  Later in the evening I went out with Lisa to Saint James Power Station, a huge complex with over 9 venues in one huge building.  We had a great time bar hopping and checking out all of the unique venues.

I woke up on Sunday and decided to join Lisa for church, which is held in the conference room of a nice hotel on Orchard Road.  It was nice to visit this community and see their passion for Christ.  It was a very charismatic place and there were lots of happy people, which made me really happy.  So, on to the big event!  Alan met me in the Pan Pacific lobby and after racing around a little to get his luggage situated for his departure that night, went over to the track.  I walked over with Vince, and enjoyed the conversation and dinner he bought me at one of the food stands.  The beginning of the race sounded just like Mario Kart on Nintendo, with the beeping and red and green lights going off for the cars to start.  It was great.  We met up midway through the sixty one laps and Alan handed me a nice glass of champagne to enjoy the race with.  It was classic, champagne at a Grand Prix race.  After the race, Alan and Hannah headed for the airport, and having decided to change my air ticket back one day to explore Singapore more, I went over to watch the Backstreet Boys!  It was a cool to see them perform and here some of the songs I could recognize from middle school years.

On the track post race

On the track post race.

I reserved Monday to do as many touristy things as possible, and I had a large list to accomplish thanks to Matthew Mlot.  He had sent me a list of things to do earlier in the summer when I thought I would visit Singapore from Thailand.  The list also included things I must eat, many of which I found, but some that I did not, which gives me a reason to go back to Singapore.  J  So here is the run down.  First, I took the MRT (subway) out a ways from the center of the city and climbed Bukit Timah, Singapore’s last remaining primary rainforest and tallest point in the country.  I climbed all 164 meters of it and enjoyed some wildlife along the way, including huge lizards and singing birds.  Next up was the zoo!  I enjoyed a Chicken Rice lunch there and walked around for a few hours, of course taking a look at every exhibit.  I say that because, looking back on it, I find it kind of funny that I made a point to try to see everything.  I took the map and looked at it throughout my time to make sure I did not miss anything.  This happens when I go to Disney World as well and could see a little of my dad’s drive in me to run ahead and see everything.

At the summit of Bukit Timah

At the summit of Bukit Timah.

Great sign from the zoo, which reminded me of a video I had seen on one of those RealTV shows

Great sign from the zoo, which reminded me of a video I had seen on one of those RealTV shows.

I went back to the apartment to shower up and pack up for my flight back to Beijing.  From the apartment, Lisa and I headed for the Raffles Hotel to try out the famous Singapore Sling, a fruity drink invented there at the turn of the 20th century and somehow made famous around the world.  It was delicious, of course, and definitely a touristy moment!  I took looks of pictures with Lisa, my Sling, and me.

Singapore Slings!

Singapore Slings!

After this I quickly moved Lisa and myself over to the New Asia bar on the 73rd floor of the Swissotel Hotel.  It was a fantastic view complimented by our delicious chicken barbeque pizza and bottle of champagne.  What a combination and what a great ending to an amazing four days.  I finished with a toast to our new friendship and thanked Lisa again for letting me stay with her.  We both went down under the building to the MRT subway and parted ways, she to home, and me to the airport via the train.  I will close with a picture of Singapore’s amazing skyline, taken during the Backstreet Boys concert.

Uniquely Singapore

Uniquely Singapore

Post Long Overdue (i.e. You get three for the price of one)

There is so much to learn about China!

Among many other things China has allowed me to do, one is read.  I have enjoyed reading my Bible, The Bourne IdentityMade It: in China, the Triumph of John and Betty Stam and many others.  I am bouncing around, but just finished a large part of the bookOutliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  As I am learning many of the successful people in the book have been in the right place at the right time, not to mention other factors such as being raised in the right way.  (This reminds me of the lectures given by Gerald Unks in his class at UNC entitled “Education in America”).  It is sad to say, but I believe the U.S. is no longer the right place to be if you really want have a great chance at becoming an “outlier.”  I am sure it can be done, but a point that Malcolm Gladwell proves well, and many successful entrepreneurs would agree, the larger the opportunity, and the lesser the amount of risk, the greater the possibility of reward.  China is the new place to be.  This idea leads me to want to read the book China’s Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society by John and Doris Naisbitt, the author’s of a supposedly good book called Megatrends that came out in 1982, and made a lot of correct predictions based on common sense and trends.

China is such a fascinating place.  As an American, you come to the country thinking patriotically that your country is the best, and in many ways it still is, today.  China is such an irony, but it works so well.  The entire system behind life here is different.  I like to say and have seen it written before that, in the U.S., you do something until someone tells you to stop, and in China, you do nothing until someone tells you can start.  But despite this mentality, and I think it is changing some with the liberalization of the market, things can feel the same here as they do at home.  You can go out for a beer, enjoy a movie, and chat with friends at the coffee shop.  If you want to pretend you are in America, you can, as my drama teacher Ken Strong taught us at UNC, “Suspend your disbelief.”  I was talking on the phone with my dad last night about the big life decisions that I can make.  I am so excited to be back home, with friends and family, and will enjoy my time with them more than ever, and even grin and bear the times that may annoy me, just because I realize how great life with them is.  But, at the same time I am feeling called to something bigger and better.  Is that China?  This night, I was talking with a couple at the restaurant that I have gotten to know over the past month.  The gentleman, who first ventured to China from Texas in 1993, let me know that China is a slippery slope.  He mentioned the patriotic attitude he had when he first arrived, and still has today, and the intimidation of being in such a different kind of place (especially back then), but said he has stayed not because of the government and life here, but because of the people.  When you get down to it, he said the people of China are worth staying for.  They are so very hospitable and kind.  Is it because I am an American?  I do not know entirely, but their spirit nonetheless is great.  As the American poem “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus goes, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  The Chinese here are yearning to be free and have such a great spirit.  The opportunity for business and faith in Christ in China is huge!

Joseph Zhou, one of the cooks at Karaiya, and Me, just after Kristen’s birthday party

Joseph Zhou, one of the cooks at Karaiya, and Me, just after Kristen’s birthday party

Eating a Delicious Meal with some of the Guys

Eating a Delicious Meal with some of the Guys

Now, for a few housekeeping things.  In other words, some notes from my trip so far so I do not forget all the awesome experiences I have had. Not too much thought here.  Well, maybe some.  Let’s see what comes out!

On the night of Friday, September 18, I got in to the apartment late, just in time to watch hundreds of tanks pass by on their way to Tian’anmen to practice for the country’s sixtieth year anniversary celebrations.  After that I went out with some of the staff I ran into on the street to go to Karaoke!  This was not my first time and was disappointed with the English selection, but had a great time with this group.  The hospitality of these friends is amazing.  They will not let me pay for anything, and this includes dinners that they cook in the apartment, so I have resorted to buying stuff without asking them like, chip snacks at karaoke and moon cakes for the apartment.

On Saturday, September 19, I got a call from of the friends I have met at the restaurant.  He works for the Spanish Embassy and told me he would like to have 25-30 at the restaurant that night!  I got up out of bed and got to working and eventually arranged everything for him and cleared a good section of the restaurant for his reservation.  This was a very demanding bunch and I learned a lot, and it the end was very happy with the outcome.  In the group were three ambassadors, from Spain, Portugal, and Malta!

I woke up the next day and went to church.  I met Gary there and had a nice service, but enjoyed the part afterward most!  Annie, Gary, a new friend, Sunshine, and I picked up some food and went for a picnic in Haidian Park.  It was great!  We sat down in the grass, shared a good meal, and read through the first two chapters of Romans together.  It was such a great time and very special to be sharing the gospel, what it means to me, and the things that I struggle with.  Romans is such a great book, and it reminded me of my small group leading days with Matt Mlot two years ago.  I went with Annie afterwards to her apartment and met her apartment mates and spent the night two flights down in the guys apartment who are also studying here.  The next day, Monday, I went to class with Annie and with my base in Chinese did well, and we had a killer dialogue about going swimming.

Haidian Park!

Haidian Park!

As the time approaches to go to Singapore, I went golfing with Alan today, Wednesday, September 23.  We took off from his place in the morning in his BMW Z8, limited edition, of which 1000 were made (only 5 are in all of China).  Driving with Alan is like driving in a video game.  All the cars around you are going about half the speed of your car, and you just wind in and out of the traffic.  It is amazingly fun.  He has had his engine tuned and installed racing brakes so it has the feeling of a racecar.  At one point we were cruising down the highway at a cool 140 mph, and the car did not even feel close to being topped out.  For the first time out on the course in a long time, I did alright.  Playing definitely makes me want to get more into the game.  Back at home, I joined the staff for a dinner including two fish they had caught in the pond at the park.  What!  Yes, it’s true.  We ate fish from a city park, and besides having lots of bones, they tasted pretty good!

Post on Singapore Singtel Formula 1 Grand Prix to come.  This was an amazing weekend, unforgettable on so many accounts…Entire Portuguese chickens on the airplane, free room and new friend, Dom Perion, amazing scenery, Backstreet Boys, the zoo, and more! A simple visa run turned into an all-out adventure of a life time!

Front row seats!

Front row seats!