Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas with the Family

Ryan came to Hong Kong for Christmas. It was my turn to go see him, but we decided he should come here. Mainland China isn’t the best place for Christmas. It’s just not an important holiday there. Hong Kong isn’t anything like home either, but it’s better than China.

Lily & Kevin were also feeling a little homesick during the holiday, so we decided to all spend the day together. All of our families are in the United States and Canada and going home to see them wasn’t going to happen this year. We are all the closest thing to family we have in Hong Kong, so it makes sense that we spend holidays together.

Since a one bedroom apartment is a little too small for 4 people – and since it was Christmas – we decided to splurge and go to a nice hotel. I don’t know whose idea it was originally. I think it was Kevin’s. Lily & Kevin talked about it and then brought it up to me. I told Ryan.

We went to the Auberge Discovery Bay on Siena Ave. It’s nowhere close to any MTR stops, but the hotel has shuttles to the airport, Disneyland and area attractions. This was more like a resort than a hotel. It looks a lot nicer than most Hong Kong hotels and has a full service spa, it’s on the beach and has several dining options besides the usual restaurant.

Lily & I had to work a lot around Christmas, so I suggested we go to a hotel close to Disneyland. That way we could all spend time together at a nice hotel and Lily & I could easily go to work when we had to. This one was very close. I’ve never gotten to work so quickly. Since it was at Discovery Bay, there was plenty for Ryan & Kevin to do. Discovery Bay is full of expats and vacationing foreigners, so they could hang out with other foreigners and talk about football and hamburgers – or whatever they talk about in bars. They probably talk about girls and their balls, but I prefer to think about it my way.

The hotel had plenty to eat & drink, a nice pool and the rooms had new TVs with more than enough channels and free internet. I don’t know why all hotels don’t have free internet. This was a great place for Ryan & Kevin to be lazy for a couple of days.

The Auberge Discovery Bay is an expensive hotel, but we got a Disneyland discount. That made it a lot cheaper, but that also meant we couldn’t book the best rooms. The more expensive rooms face the ocean and have great views of the bay. The discount rooms are in the back and face the mountain. They were still very nice rooms and the view wasn’t bad at all. The mountains on Lantau Island are pretty green. Our rooms were very large by Hong Kong standards and looked a lot nicer than most hotels here. It didn’t look anything like discount rooms. That’s the way any good hotel should be.

Since we weren’t in the city, we tried the hotel breakfast. If we’re in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island there’s no way we’re going to eat a hotel breakfast. There’s just too much food that’s a lot better in every direction. Here, we were away from the city and going out to get food took longer than just walking outside. The hotel’s not in the middle of nowhere, but it’s in an overpriced neighborhood where people who don’t like living in Hong Kong live. The breakfast was pretty good. It was still a hotel breakfast, but it wasn’t all microwaved food sitting under a heat lamp. It actually looked appetizing and some of it was made by chefs rather than short order cooks.

I don’t know if we’ll ever go to this hotel again, but I’m up for it.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cold Weather Warning

The Hong Kong Observatory issued a Cold Weather Warning. People are being told to take precautions and do what they can to keep warm. The daytime temperatures are around 15 degrees Celsius/59 Fahrenheit and just under 10C/50F degrees at night.

I’m from Minnesota. 50 degrees is autumn weather to me. It’s not winter – and it’s definitely no reason to be alarmed.

What I have to remember – and what other people who don’t understand why anyone would complain about such a warm winter have to remember – is that in this part of the world anything even close to freezing is considered very cold. In Minnesota we have heating systems in our homes, heavy coats, plenty of blankets and houses with lots of insulation to protect us from the cold. People don’t have heaters in Hong Kong. You can buy a little portable heater but it’s not the same. Hong Kong houses are designed to protect people from the humid summers. Everybody has air conditioning. I’ve never been to a house in Hong Kong with a heater. The insulation here is terrible. If I stand next to the living room window I can feel the wind from outside.

There’s also usually very little difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. In Minnesota it’s always colder at night. In Hong Kong it’s usually about the same, just not sunny. People from Hong Kong aren’t used to being warm in the day and getting chillier at night. Right now they’re just cold all the time – especially at night.

It’s easy for me to say this is a very mild winter, but that’s because I’m used to blizzards and plenty of snow every winter. For people who are used to 90% humidity 90% of the time, this is a very cold winter.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peter O’Toole

Peter O’Toole was one of my favorite actors when I was younger. I haven’t seen any of his latest movies.

His performances in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Lion in Winter” still blow me away – as much as “Night of the Generals” still creeps me out. I remember how surprised I was when I first saw “The Ruling Class”. I was pretty young and didn’t realize that a serious dramatic actor could do comedy. He did both very well.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hong Kong Smog

Hong Kong changed a lot after the British handover. Since then, Beijing has been exerting more and more influence on Hong Kong. The laws and rules are more Chinese than British. Cheaper Chinese paint and poisoned milk are more available than before. Now Beijing has increased their export of smog into Hong Kong.

Smog has always been a problem in Hong Kong. A trip up the Peak could get you great views of the harbor and Kowloon or great views of a giant sheet of dirt. It’s always been best to go up just after a typhoon. The air is much cleaner and everybody’s out shopping.

But it’s getting worse. When the wind comes in from the ocean, we get good days. When the wind comes in from the north, you can’t see your spring rolls in front of your face.


A fine day in Hong Kong

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.”

-- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

I just heard about Nelson Mandela’s death. He was 95 years old, so I don’t think anyone was surprised that he died. He was in and out of hospitals for a long time and I’m sure his family is happy that his suffering is finally over. The rest of us can only look back at what he did in awe.

South Africa before Nelson Mandela was about as divided as you could get. When Americans talk about politics, we like to say we’re a deeply divided country these days, but it’s nothing compared to the way South Africa used to be. Even the American South during segregation was fairer to black people than South Africa during apartheid. Black Americans were seen as less than equals. Black South Africans were seen as less than human. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be told I’m not a citizen of the country I was born in just because of my race.

Now all of the world leaders are making speeches and putting out statements about how great Nelson Mandela was. None of these people are fit to change his socks. Why doesn’t anyone elect people like him anymore? Was he such a rare person that we can’t have people like him today? Or have we settled to the point where we’ll elect whoever our TVs tell us to elect?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Lily, Kevin and I went out to Thanksgiving dinner together. They’re Canadian, so their Thanksgiving is in October, but it’s not nearly as important in Canada as it is in the United States. It’s one of our major holidays. To them, it’s just a day off. So they celebrate mine with me when they can. We’ve never celebrated theirs. They don’t even notice theirs until it’s come and gone.

We went to Otto e Mezzo. This is currently one of the trendy places for the fancy people to eat in Hong Kong. It’s an Italian restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. There are lots of Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, but most of them don’t have any stars. I think the main difference is that this one is owned & operated by a famous Italian chef.

That’s really the main reason I wanted to go there. Non-Asian food in Asia is usually more Asian than anything else. Hong Kong has lots of Italian, French, American and Indian restaurants, but most of them are nothing like what you’d find in those countries. Everyone puts a little of their own style in whatever food they make. Chinese food in the United States is more American than Chinese and American food in Hong Kong is more Chinese than American. Otto e Mezzo is genuinely Italian. The Michelin people even said so.

It’s also very expensive. That’s what you get with a 3 star restaurant owned by a famous chef. Since this was a special occasion, we didn’t mind the price. I’m willing to pay extra for Italian food that actually reminds me of Italy. Paisano’s Pizza is pretty good, but it’s nothing like Italy.

What I really don’t understand is why these hip fancy restaurants serve tiny little portions on huge plates. I get that the portions are so small because you have so many courses, but what’s with the jumbo plates? It just makes the food look even smaller. It also must be murder on the waitresses to carry a single olive on a plate that weighs more than the entire tree.

I hate to say it, but the food wasn’t all that great. It wasn’t terrible, but you expect more from 3 Michelin stars. I had better food at restaurants in Italy that the Michelin people will never know exist – for a fraction of the price. The wine was good and the bread was excellent, but we definitely paid for the stars and famous chef more than for the food.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My 23rd Birthday part 2

Ryan came to Hong Kong for my birthday. It was partly for my birthday and partly because we decided we need to see each other in person more often. From now on I’ll be going to Fuzhou more and he’ll be coming to Hong Kong more.

Since I live with 2 roommates in a tiny closet apartment – and since it was my birthday – we decided to get a hotel room this time. He was only in town for 2 nights, so a hotel wasn’t going to break the bank. There are about a million hotels in Hong Kong and we might try out a new one each time he comes over. People are always asking me about hotels in Hong Kong, but since I live here I never really go to any of them. Maybe now I’ll have better recommendations.

This time we stayed at the Kowloon Hotel at Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s a reasonably priced business hotel across the street from the Peninsula – which is far more expensive. This is a great location in the southern tip of Kowloon within easy walking distance to the Harbour, Promenade and a bunch of tourist stuff. There’s shopping and plenty of tourist restaurants all over the place.

We don’t care about any of that. We picked it because it’s cheap enough and was available at the last minute. It also has 2 MTR entrances right outside the front lobby door – exits L3 & L4. You can walk from the hotel to the MTR without getting wet.

The hotel itself is nothing special. It’s old & drab, but they’ve updated most of the rooms with new TVs and bathrooms. The rooms are small, but so are most hotel rooms in Hong Kong – unless you’re willing to pay a lot more. The staff’s English is hit & miss and they seemed pretty bored to be there when we checked in. Maybe it’s not the most exciting job in the world, but you should never let your guests know that.

There are lots of shiny gold decorations in the lobby that Chinese people love. We never looked at the restaurant, so I can’t say anything about that – except that if you’re in Hong Kong there’s no reason to eat in your hotel. The city is full of food 24H.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, November 22, 1963

People keep asking when America started going downhill. Republicans say it was as soon as Obama came into office – or Clinton or Carter. Democrats say it was Bush – or Reagan or Nixon. They all want to blame all of our problems on the supposed mistakes of whoever was in the White House that they didn’t like.

I don’t think it’s the temporary policies of temporary presidents that hurt us. I think it was the very permanent damage on the nation’s soul that came with the assassination of a very youthful president. Like him or hate him, Kennedy was young and could have easily been president for another 5 years. There’s no way to know what would have happened in those 5 years if he’d lived. The 1960s were a very turbulent decade for the United States and a lot of it might have been very different without the assassination.

It doesn’t really matter if Kennedy was murdered by a vast conspiracy or some lone nutjob. His murder shocked the country out of white picket fences and into the real world. Before the assassination, people wore suits and hats whenever they left the house. After the assassination, they all started dressing like slobs. People used to trust the government and believe pretty much anything they were told. Now no one trusts the government – though a lot of people still believe anything they’re told. Wars used to be about principle and doing the right thing. Now they’re about money and corporate investment. Worst of all, movie musicals used to be good. Now they’re Auto-Tune and CGI. Can you imagine Judy Garland singing with Auto-Tune or Gene Kelly needing computer graphics to dance?

The world would not be a perfect place if Kennedy had lived. But maybe without the shock of seeing a young leader so publicly executed, it would have taken us longer to become as cynical and bitter as we are today. Maybe we could have even avoided that whole disco phase.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

My 23rd Birthday



Tomorrow is my birthday and I’m doing something very special. I don’t want to jinx it so I’ll talk about it later.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Three Auditions part 2

The TV audition was first. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went. I was surprised by how professional it was. TV shows in Hong Kong are all pretty wacky & madcap. I’d pictured the people behind the scenes wearing baseball caps and throwing darts at the wall. They actually seemed like they knew what they were doing.

Everybody was pretty vague about what they wanted from me. I don’t know if that was because they don’t want too many people talking about this show before it even goes into production or if it was because this was only a first audition. As far as I can tell it’s all Chinese people and I’m up for the part of the foreigner who appears occasionally for some reason.

I went in and did my thing. Now it’s up to them to call my agent and let me know where we go from here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan



Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines on Friday. It’s supposed to be one of the largest typhoons ever. They said Usagi was going to be the largest typhoon of the year. Haiyan is a little bigger and, unlike Usagi, is actually causing damage.

Usagi was supposed to slam into Hong Kong. It didn’t. It veered north and hit a less populated area of China. Haiyan went straight into the middle of the Philippines. It’s killed about 200 people so far and left about a million homeless. They’re saying as many as 10,000 are dead, but that’s not even close to confirmed. One of the areas it hit had an earthquake 2 weeks earlier.

People talk about typhoons in Hong Kong, but they rarely hit us directly. It’s the Philippines that gets hit several times every year. They protect us from whatever the Pacific Ocean throws at us.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Three Auditions

I got an agent earlier this year. Since then he hasn’t really gotten me any work. He got me a few auditions – most of them went nowhere. One of them eventually led to a part that got cancelled.

I can’t really blame him for the lack of work. Since he’s been my agent, I’ve been pretty busy with my real job, I’ve taken a lot of vacation time and I was sidelined by two different injuries. He’s trying to get me work, but there’s nothing he can do if I’m out of town or out of commission.

Now he’s got three different auditions lined up for me. Two are movies and one is a TV series. All are in Chinese. One of the movies wants someone who can speak English. I can do that. The other movie is a speaking part in Chinese, but they specifically want a foreigner who doesn’t speak Chinese very well. I can do that, too. I don’t know anything about the series. I don’t even know if I want to do a series. It’s not the lead or anything close, but it still sounds like it would take longer than a few days on a movie set.

At this point I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about it. I’ll go to all the auditions and see what happens. If I don’t get any of the parts, life will go on. If I do, I’ll deal with it then.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween 2013

This year’s Halloween party was at the house of one of Lily’s friends. I don’t know her very well, but her house is just barely big enough to host a party like this. As is almost always the case on Halloween, there were too many people in too small a space.

In honor of the World Series, Lily & I dressed as the Minnesota Twins. I know the Twins weren’t in the Series, but they have better uniforms than Boston or St. Louis and there were 2 of us. Kevin came straight from work, so he was dressed as a corporate peon. Even when he’s dressed like all the other businesspeople, he still looks like he’s in costume. They all wear the same Chinese suit while he dresses like a Canadian.

For the first time in my entire life I didn’t hear the Oingo Boingo song “Dead Man’s Party” at a Halloween party. It’s funny because Danny Elfman is more respected now than ever. Who knew when that band first came out that he’d become one of the top film composers?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fuzhou Trip part 3

The trip was great – mostly – and the hotel was very nice. We got a really good hotel because it was either that or a really cheap hotel – or stay at his apartment with all his roommates. The hotel made it very different from my first trip to China. Privacy is a wonderful and rare thing on this side of the world.

China is always a strange place to go to. Even though I live in Hong Kong, I still think of China as a different country. They’re technically the same, but they’re very different in a lot of ways. It’s like living in New York and visiting Kansas – except you need a visa and the money is different.

For this trip, we spent a lot less time sightseeing. Ryan showed me all the main attractions in Fuzhou the first time. This trip was about spending time with each other.

We got in a big fight – mostly because we never really see each other anymore. When Ryan moved to China, I thought it would be for a few months and then he’d come back to Hong Kong. That was 15 months ago. He’s obviously not coming back anytime soon. He makes more money there and, even though he doesn’t really like living in China, he likes it better than Hong Kong. I could never do my job in China so moving to him is out.

Since he left, we’ve taken a couple of vacations together and I’ve gone to Fuzhou and he’s come to Hong Kong, but we usually go months without seeing each other in person. We talk on the phone and Skype all the time, but it’s not the same. So we decided we need to make more of an effort. We’re not old enough to have a long distance relationship without physical contact for months at a time. We’re in our prime. We need to touch and be touched.

Ryan just might be the only foreigner in China who doesn’t have a thing for Chinese girls, but if 2 months ever turns into 6 months, there’s no way he’s going to be able to hold out. He’s at that age where a car commercial can give him an erection. I’m not much better. Car commercials don’t do it for me, but I want some action just as much as he does. The difference is that it would be easier for me to cheat on him than for him to cheat on me. I have more options. That and the lack of sex scares the hockey sticks out of him.

So we decided to make more of an effort and see each other more often. It doesn’t have to be a vacation or a week in Hong Kong or Fuzhou. Even just a day or two is better than nothing. Flights between our cities are short and not very expensive. He can come here without a visa and I have a multiple entry visa. I just need to get a new one before it expires. Getting a visa to China is actually a lot easier than people think.

We haven’t decided when we’ll see each other again, but it’s definitely his turn to come here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fuzhou Trip part 2

I’m leaving Monday for Fuzhou. Coincidentally, it’s the same flight that I took the first time. It’s also almost exactly one year since the first time. That one was in the beginning of November and this one is the end of October. We didn’t plan any of that. That’s just the way it worked out. The typhoons and work determined the timing more than anything else and I keep picking this flight because it’s the cheapest one.

Since the flight gets in just before midnight – which is probably why it’s the cheapest – I’ll just stay at Ryan’s house Monday night. He doesn’t want to pay for a full day at the hotel if we’re only going to be there late at night. I don’t think it makes any difference, but his way is cheaper and we’re not made of money. He also says it’s easier to go to his place from the airport after midnight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fuzhou Trip

I’m all set to go see Ryan in Fuzhou on Monday. We’re both working this weekend, so Monday was the soonest typhoon-free day we could get.

Ryan suggested we stay at a hotel this time. Last time I went to Fuzhou, I stayed at his apartment. I don’t mind getting a hotel since he lives with too many roommates. It will be nice to have some privacy.

I don’t know why, but there weren’t a lot of hotel options. Maybe there’s a Chinese holiday that they don’t celebrate in Hong Kong. Nothing’s going on here, but something is taking up all the hotels in Fuzhou. Or maybe there just aren’t that many.

Our options were higher end 4 & 5 star hotels – like the Ramada, Sheraton and Westin – or cheaper dive hotels – Days Inn, Howard Johnson. There was even a Super 8. I had no idea they were in China.

We decided to aim high because why not. I live in a tiny Hong Kong apartment with 2 other people and he lives in a tiny Chinese house with 4 other people – and the occasional visiting girlfriend. A few days in a decent hotel will be a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Typhoon Fitow



Ryan & I have been talking about seeing each other in China. He says it’s my turn to go to him since he came here a couple of months ago. Before that he came to Hong Kong for the cruise – but we also went to China on the cruise, so on that trip he came to me and I came to him.

He’s right about it being my turn. He took time off work and came to Hong Kong. Now I should go to Fuzhou.

Then there was Typhoon Usagi. It was supposed to be the biggest storm of the year and they said it was going to hit Hong Kong directly. Obviously that wasn’t going to be a good time to go to the airport. Usagi turned out to not be so big and it didn’t hit Hong Kong.

So we waited for that storm to come & go. I could always go to Fuzhou afterward.

Then there was Typhoon Fitow. It never posed a threat to Hong Kong, but it was headed straight for Fuzhou. It ended up hitting north of Fuzhou, but it still delayed flights and caused all the usual transportation problems.

Now there’s Typhoon Danas. It’s headed toward us, but it’s supposed to turn right and go to Japan. Sometimes these typhoons go where they’re supposed to go and sometimes they don’t. I don’t want to book a flight to Fuzhou only to have it cancelled because of some typhoon that didn’t do as it was told.

After Danas, who knows. It’s still typhoon season, so you never know when another one will show up. We usually have a few days’ warning, but it also takes a few days to book a flight. If I book something tomorrow, there could easily be another typhoon by the time I’m supposed to leave. If I wait, there probably will be another typhoon sooner or later.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Life On the Amazon

When you have a book on Amazon, it needs to fit into a set category. If it’s a mystery, it goes in fiction/mystery/whatever sub-category works best. If it’s your personal memoir about your time spent in prison, it goes in non-fiction/memoirs/crime. If it’s yet another zombie story – like we need more of those – it goes in fiction/horror/zombies.

When I wrote Hailey’s Bali Diary, I had no idea which category it would fit into. None of them really works, so it's in travel/Bali. It’s not really a travel book and it’s surrounded by Lonely Planet and Frommer’s, but I still haven’t seen any category that suits it better.

Nudist Cruise was in travel/cruises. That made the most sense since it’s about what happens on a cruise. It seemed to be the right move because it sold very well in that category. It hovered around #5 for several months. Sometimes it would go higher or lower, but it stayed in the top 10 for a long time. I think that’s pretty good, especially since almost everything else in the top 10 in that category is from travel publishers that sell millions of books.

Then Amazon moved it to literature & fiction/erotica and sales plummeted. I have no idea why they moved it. There’s really nothing erotic about the book. It’s mostly about not being a nudist on a ship full of nudists. Any nudist will tell you there’s nothing erotic about nudism. Maybe Amazon considers nudism erotic, but I don’t think so. There are lots of nudist books that aren’t in the erotica category.

The funniest part is that erotica isn’t on their list of categories. No one can put anything there even if they want to. Somewhere along the line, Amazon decides what is and isn’t erotica and puts it in. In this case, they messed up. The worst part is, there’s nothing I can do to fix it. Everything at Amazon is automated and it’s very difficult to actually speak to a person. They respond to e-mails with computer-generated form letters that don’t do anyone any good.

It all seems pretty stupid to me. Not only am I losing money because of their mistake, but they are as well. They make money on every single thing they sell. While it was in the travel section, it was selling and they were making money. Now that they moved it, it’s dead and they’re getting nothing. Their piece of the pie was never going to make them millions of dollars - not from anything I write - but I don’t see why they’d want to throw away even a little bit of money, especially in this economy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hobbling Around Town

I like my job, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break. The problem is that I couldn’t really take advantage of the days off I had. I wasn’t as mobile as I like to be and Hong Kong isn’t a great place to get around if you’re on crutches. It was an interesting experience, but I got a little tired of how much people here have absolutely no consideration for anyone with any handicap. Trying to go anywhere on crutches was a challenge, but I’m sure it would be a million times harder in a wheelchair.

There aren’t as many elevators in Hong Kong as there should be. This is not a level place where all the streets are flat. There are hills and sometimes you have to go up a flight of stairs to get to the next street. People in wheelchairs might know all the ways to get around – which probably include going very far out of their way to find some kind of ramp – but I’m used to just walking in as straight a line as possible.

The MTR definitely needs more elevators. The biggest stations have one or two and they always seem to be full of people who could easily take the stairs and escalators. The smallest stations don’t have any elevators at all. Some don’t even have escalators. I asked a Chinese person how handicapped people get around and he said they can take a taxi. His cavalier attitude really disappointed me.

There are a lot of great things about Chinese people, but compassion for their fellow man doesn’t seem to be one of them. I’ve been here a while and I think I’ve gotten used to the blatant racism. Hong Kong is 95% Chinese, so anyone who looks different is going to be treated differently. The price gouging is easier to deal with if you can haggle in Chinese.

What I’m still having trouble adjusting to is how selfish so many people are. Where I come from you hold the door open for other people when you’re going through. It has nothing to do with gender or age. It’s just common courtesy. I would be amazed if I ever saw anyone hold the door open for anyone else in Hong Kong.

I see smokers blowing their filth in people’s faces all the time. I realize smokers all over the world are a special group who are allowed to poison whoever they want, but they’re even more inconsiderate here than they are in Europe.

The worst thing for me has always been the MTR. It’s the best way to get around, but it’s full of the most selfish people I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Some of these people would run over their own grandmothers to be the first on the train. For some reason, everyone has to be first. There’s plenty of time to get on and the doors don’t close on people and cut them in half – if you’re in the doorway, it automatically opens – but every day I see a million people who all have to be first at all costs.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen healthy young people just sit there while an old person or a pregnant woman stands next to them. There are special seats designated for pregnant women, handicapped and the elderly, but I’ve never seen anyone ever give up any of those seats for someone else. The MTR is usually pretty crowded. Rush hour is between 6am and 2am. Actually sitting down on a train is rare, so I guess the people who have a seat would rather die than give it to someone who needs it more.

It doesn’t really bother me that no one ever gave up a seat for me while I was on crutches. I was otherwise healthy and only mildly incapacitated. It really bothers me when I see an old lady who can barely stand up having to stand on the train just because the healthy people around her don’t care about anyone but themselves.

The Chinese have a reputation for being polite. In some ways they are. They’ll never say bad things about you to your face. In other ways, they’re not even close.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mean People

Why are people so hateful to each other? I guess I can understand people who know each other and have a reason to hate each other hating each other. Maybe something happened between them that they just can’t get over. What I don’t get is total strangers screaming their hate at someone they don’t even know.

The woman who does http://housewifedownunder.wordpress.com just announced her retirement from blogging. I’m not her biggest fan – I don’t even know her name – but I’ve been reading her blog occasionally for over a year. She has great stories to tell about being an expat in Australia. If you’re thinking about moving to Australia, check it out.

She’s done with blogging because she got tired of all the hate people send her online. When you have a blog – or any kind of website where people can comment – you will get negative comments. Sometimes it’s constructive criticism, but only rarely. Usually it’s just people who want to make everyone else as miserable as they are.

In her announcement post, she defends her decision to not post the ugliest comments. I don’t think she has to explain that at all. It’s her blog. She doesn’t have to post any comments at all if she doesn’t want to. People have gotten so used to being able to say whatever they want to say that they’ve forgotten that not everything in the world is an open forum for any and all opinions.

I used to keep comments on my blog open to everyone no matter what crazy thing they wanted to say. The only comments I ever deleted were blatant spam. If you want to increase your manhood, you don’t need to read about it here. Just check your e-mail.

Then I started moderating comments. Someone got really angry about something I said. I don’t even remember what it was about. I just remember thinking that I should probably do something about it as soon as the death threats started. I never took any of it seriously – most of the angry people online are all talk anyway – but there was just too much negativity to ignore. I don’t need all comments on my blog to be sunshine & rainbows, but I think there’s already enough hate in the world. There’s no reason to post more here.

Blogs are easy enough to deal with. You can moderate comments, block certain people or turn off comments entirely. What’s harder are other social media sites where you have no control. If you interact with people online, you will be subject to hate. It’s inevitable. They say movie stars should never read their own press. Reading too many negative reviews can get to you eventually. Online, we’re all movie stars in a way. People can and will feel free to say to us whatever pops into their heads. For whatever reason, a lot of people are more free with their negative comments than they are with saying something positive.

I wrote a couple of books. I’ll probably write more in the future. I know having a few books available in a few places isn’t anything like having a New York Times bestseller, but I enjoyed writing them and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t continue doing it. When you write a book – whether it sells or not – you have to expect a few bad reviews. Nothing in the history of the world has ever been written that everybody likes. I realize that the things I write about are not everyone’s cup of tea. I realize that my writing style is too simple for some people. The funny thing is that when you look at the Amazon reviews of anything by Shakespeare, people complain that the style is too complicated. Someone is going to complain no matter what.

What bothers me is that the people who sit online and preach their hatred all over the web can go to places like Amazon and share their hate there. If someone is bullying you on a website, you can stop going to that website. If someone wants to bully you on Amazon, they can actually affect your income. At least for the people who rely on their sales there. It would be nice if the people who tell us personally that they like what we write posted their positive opinions on Amazon, but just like any other website, the negative people are louder than the positive people.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining about negative reviews. I’m not. I've never actually read a review of any of my books. What I’m really complaining about is how the negative people share their opinions more than the positive people. I think most people in this world are generally positive, but they’re a silent majority. The angry people are the minority, but they share their opinions a lot more.

It’s reached the point where you have to have very thick skin to be online. No matter where you are online, people are going to share their hate with you. Some people will join in the hate just to fit in. Hopefully, most people just ignore the hate. Too many people hate everything and everyone. If you’re sensitive to what total strangers say about you, you’ll just have to stay offline. If you’re a sullen teenager just looking for any excuse to kill yourself, you should really throw your computer away. The internet is like a loaded gun in your mother’s dresser.

There used to be a time when unhinged people were confined to their basements. Only the walls and their imaginary friends heard their ranting & raving. Now the internet lets everyone connect with the rest of the world. You don’t have to have all your marbles to talk to people or give your opinion online.

You can even write a book review with absolutely no ability to form a coherent sentence.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Typhoon Usagi



When Typhoon Usagi started making its way toward Hong Kong, the authorities issued their storm warnings and told everyone to batten down the hatches. They told us this was the largest storm of the year and it was coming straight for us. Government offices and some businesses closed their doors. Schools told students to stay home. Airlines announced canceled flights.

Then the typhoon hit the Philippines and Taiwan. Those islands took a lot out of it and changed its course from Hong Kong to Guangdong. We got some rain, but no direct impact.

Usagi killed a few people, mostly in the Philippines and China. That’s also where most of the damage was. Not coincidentally, places with stronger buildings and better infrastructure, like Hong Kong and Taiwan, suffered far less damage.

In Hong Kong, there was a lot of warning but very little action. For people in Northern Philippines and Southern China, it was the largest storm of the year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 5

The nearest hospital to the big house is actually pretty close. It’s a medium size hospital with all the modern facilities you want in a hospital. Hong Kong is pretty advanced when it comes to health care. It’s also incredibly inexpensive – especially compared to the United States.

We went to the ER and in about 10 minutes a doctor was looking at my ankle. They took me to get x-rays and 20 minutes later I was talking to the same doctor again while looking at the x-rays on a computer monitor. The doctor said nothing was broken, but I tore a medial ligament. It should be completely healed in a couple of weeks, but they gave me an ankle brace and told me to walk on crutches for about a week. They also gave me a bunch of drugs.

Any time you go to a hospital in Hong Kong, they give you a bunch of drugs. They gave me a pill to help prevent swelling, a pill for pain and a pill to counteract the side effects of mixing the pills for swelling and pain. There are a lot of things about health care in Hong Kong that are better than the United States, but I’m not crazy about their practice of throwing drugs at everything.

So I never took the pain medication. It was never as painful as when it first happened anyway. That’s when I could have used those pills. Since I’m not taking the pain pills, there’s no reason to take the side effect pills. Of the three medications they gave me, I’m only taking the one for swelling.

I also have an ice pack that feels very nice on hot & humid summer afternoons. I’m thinking about keeping it and using it all over my body and the hottest days.

Since it’s really hard to dance on crutches, I’m taking some time off work.

If this happened in the United States, I would be getting a hospital bill for at least a few hundred dollars. They would charge for going into the ER, seeing a nurse, seeing a doctor, getting x-rays, being taken back & forth in a wheelchair to get x-rays, the gloves everyone wears, the disposable cap on that thing they stick in your ear to take your temperature, and those plastic sheets they put on the ER tables. Then I would have to go somewhere else and pay a few hundred dollars for the prescriptions and go somewhere to get crutches and an ice pack.

In Hong Kong I walked away – or hobbled away – from the hospital about US$10 poorer. I didn’t have to go anywhere to get the medications, ice pack and crutches because they gave everything to me right there in the hospital. Everything that happened in the ER was included in the regular hospital fee and I paid a few more dollars for the drugs. That was it.

How much does an x-ray in the U.S. cost? It’s right there on your bill. How much does it cost in Hong Kong? No one knows. It’s included.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 4

While Kevin & I were waiting in the big house for the taxi to take me to the hospital, Kevin went into my room and got me some clothes. I wasn’t in any position to complain, but he really didn’t put any thought into it. He came back with jeans and a button down blouse. He didn’t bring any underwear, but he brought me socks. If I could put on socks we wouldn’t have been in this situation. I was having a hard time pulling jeans on over my throbbing ankle, so Kevin went back into my room and brought out a skirt – still no underwear, though.

When the taxi showed up, Kevin carried me outside while I tried to keep us dry under an umbrella. Try is the key word here. We both got pretty wet anyway – especially while he was trying to put me in the taxi. The taxi driver even got out in the rain to help, but there are only so many ways you can carry someone into a small car. He got wet for nothing – although I do appreciate the effort. We gave him a nice tip when we got to the hospital. Since you don’t tip taxi drivers in Hong Kong, he was very grateful.

Under the circumstances it doesn’t really matter, but since I was going commando, I think the taxi driver might have got even more of a tip than I intended. He was enough of a gentleman not to let on if he got a free show.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 3

After what seemed like hours lying broken and naked on the floor in the rain – but was more likely less than one – I scooted myself over to my cell phone and called Kevin. He works closer to the big house than anyone I know and it’s easy for him to leave work early – especially since his boss was out of town. It was his house I needed someone to rescue me in.

First I had to get to my phone. It was on a deck table, protected by a big sun umbrella. You’re supposed to close the umbrellas at night and when it rains, but I’m glad we forgot to do it. Otherwise, I would have kept my phone inside the house and I would have had to drag myself kicking & screaming inside.

When I got to my phone I told Kevin what happened. He thought I was joking at first. I convinced him with the tone of my voice that I was serious. I might have even scared him a little, but you do what you have to do in these situations.

He got to the house pretty quickly and found me sitting up against the deck table. I tried to get myself up off the ground and actually sit at the table, but I was too exhausted by then. Lying broken on the floor naked in the rain takes a lot out of you.

He picked me up and quickly carried me into the house. He had a towel wrapped around me before I knew it. We briefly talked about calling an ambulance, but then decided it would be faster to take a taxi. It wasn’t really an emergency and I wouldn’t want someone to die because an ambulance was busy with me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 2

I was lying on the pool deck naked in the rain. My ankle was throbbing in pain and no one else was home. After I stopped crying and imagining my entire career flushed down the toilet, I thought about how to get myself from the rainy pool deck into the dry house. Standing up was out of the question. My foot felt like a heavy weight strapped to my body.

Standing up would have been extremely difficult. Walking into the house would have been impossible. I was maybe 20 feet from the door, but it might as well have been 20 miles. I decided to wait a while and see if the pain subsided enough so that I could get into the house.

After a while I got pretty tired of lying on the floor in the rain. Being naked in the rain is great for the first few minutes. The rain feels refreshing on your skin. It’s like taking an outdoor shower. I love outdoor showers. Lying helpless on the floor in the rain is less exciting. The constant rain plummeting onto your body gets pretty annoying after a while.

The way I saw it, I had 3 choices. I could crawl to the door and drag myself inside. Crawling naked on the deck floor didn’t seem like a great idea. I would have gotten enough cuts, scratches and scrapes all over my body that I would’ve forgotten about my ankle. In a life or death situation I would have done it, but this was a bum ankle.

My second choice was to call an ambulance. That quickly seemed like the worst choice. They had no way to get inside the house. They would have had to break down a door. Not to mention the mess they would have made going from the front door out to the pool deck and then bringing me back out the front door. I was just a guest in this house. I wasn’t prepared to cause so much damage. I’m also not sure how Chinese paramedics react to finding naked white girls in the rain. I don’t need those pictures on someone’s Facebook page.

My third choice was to call someone else. Anyone without a key would have to break their way in. Only Lily & Kevin had their own keys.

Lily was at work. It would have taken her at least an hour to get to me – probably longer. She would have to find an excuse to leave work early first. They really don’t like it when we leave early. Your best friend is lying naked in the rain on the pool deck isn’t the best excuse, but it just might be one they’ve never heard before.

I knew who I had to call.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 1

I went to the hospital again. This was the 4th or 5th time I’ve gone to a Hong Kong hospital. I broke some bones in my hand when an MTR train derailed a few months ago. I had a pretty bad cold last year, so I went to the hospital. People go to doctors all the time for colds around here. I’m not used to that since it would be too expensive where I’m from, but here I have pretty good insurance at work and hospitals don’t cost nearly as much as they do at home. My first Hong Kong hospital visit was for some weird rash I had on my hand – the same hand I broke on the train by the way. I never found out what caused the rash, but it went away right after I took the medication they gave me.

None of those were my fault. The cold was a simple cold that got out of control. I don’t know what the rash was, but if I did anything to cause it, it never came back. The train was definitely not my fault. I wouldn’t know how to derail a train even if I wanted to.

This time was entirely my fault. It was raining – as it does all summer – and I went out to the pool deck at the big house. I like being in the rain as long as I’m not in a hurry to go somewhere. I was at the house and wasn’t going anywhere, so the rain wasn’t a problem at all. The bad thing about being out in the rain is that your clothes get wet. Wet clothes just don’t feel right, but wet skin is totally natural.

There was no one else at the house, so I took my clothes off and went out in the rain. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The pool deck is completely private from any of the neighbors. It faces the ocean, so only the fish & seagulls can see you.

There’s a wide open area around the pool – plenty of room to move around. I dance a lot and I’ve danced on that deck plenty of times. Only this was the first time I did it naked in the rain.

The thing about rain is that it makes the ground slippery. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I fell down, but I was. I started crying like a baby. Not because I was in pain – I was. It hurt like hockey sticks, but I was more upset than anything else. I twisted my ankle and at that point I had no idea how bad it was. It felt pretty bad, but I couldn’t tell if I sprained it, broke it or what. As a dancer, an ankle injury can be the worst thing in the world.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Highlights part 4

Another great thing about the big house is the kitchen. My apartment has a typical Hong Kong kitchen. It’s a sink and a very small counter up against a wall. There’s barely enough room for the toaster oven or rice cooker – and never both at the same time.

The big house has a western style kitchen with a real oven. It’s great. I can actually bake things like cookies and brownies. Have you ever tried to make brownies in a toaster oven? It doesn’t work.

It’s not that I’m a great baker – I’m not even close – but even mediocre homemade cookies are always better than boughten. Plus you get that fresh baked cookie smell in the house.

There’s also the issue of living with roommates. In the Hong Kong kitchen there’s barely enough space in the kitchen for more than one person at a time. If I’m in there making something, no one else can make anything at the same time. In the big house, you can fit a whole football team in that kitchen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Highlights part 3

Not only is there plenty of room for everyone at the big house, but there’s also a very nice pool. That’s a great luxury to have in a place as hot & humid as Hong Kong. Of course, Hong Kong has public pools, but they’re pretty disgusting. Once you’ve seen someone stand at the edge of the pool and urinate into the water, you don’t feel like going back there again. You also can’t swim naked in public pools. I can – and very much do – swim naked at the big house.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, once you swim naked, you don’t want to go back to wearing a bathing suit.

The big house also has a hot tub, which is always a good thing. A long soak in a hot tub is just what the doctor ordered after a long day. If you can’t have a pool, a hot tub’s the next best thing. Even better is having both.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Highlights part 2

Another great thing about staying in the big house is that it’s a lot bigger than my tiny apartment. I love Lily & Kevin to death, but 3 people in a 1 bedroom apartment is just too crowded. The big house has more than enough bedrooms and our own private bathroom for each of us. I can’t exaggerate how nice it is to have my own bathroom.

The living room of the big house is bigger than my entire apartment. Each of the private bathrooms is bigger than my apartment’s bathroom – and one is huge.

Each bedroom has more closet space than my entire apartment – which doesn’t say much. Hong Kong apartments aren’t known for their spacious closets.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Highlights part 1

The best part for me was having Ryan back in town. We hadn’t seen each other since the cruise and that was all the way back in June. Seeing him in Hong Kong is a lot easier. There’s none of the stress of travel and we don’t spend too much time seeing the sights like we do on a trip. He’s seen as much of Hong Kong as he wants to see, so that meant more time for us in that wonderful house. That meant loads & loads of steamy hot sex.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cyber Bullies

I don’t like bullies. I mostly feel sorry for them. Can you imagine how pathetic your life would have to be if you felt the only way you could express yourself was to pick on people weaker than you?

Bullies in real life are mostly cowards. The best way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them. They feed off of fear and if you’re not afraid of them, they don’t know what to do.

Cyber bullies are a little different. Because they’re anonymous – or at least think they’re anonymous – standing up to them doesn’t really work. Schoolyard bullies want to hit people who won’t fight back. Cyber bullies want people to talk to them. If no one talked to them, they’d be invisible. The worst thing you can do to them is ignore them.

What I don’t understand is teenagers killing themselves over cyber bullies. I know teenagers love to be martyrs – everyone is out to get them, no one understands them, life is so hard on test days. When I was a teenager, people talked about suicide all the time – but it was just talk. Most of us knew that suicide was the stupidest way to solve a temporary problem.

Teenage bullies used to be limited to your own neighborhood. Now you can meet bullies from all over the world. The big difference to me – and where I really get lost in all this suicide over cyber bullies – is that bullies at school can be very hard to avoid. Bullies online are very easy to avoid. If someone at school is harassing you and the adults don’t care, you’re pretty much on your own. If someone online is harassing you, just ignore them. How do you get to a point where you think suicide is a solution but you never considered not going to that site anymore?

People shouldn’t have to stay away from certain websites just because of troublemakers, but if going to that site is really make your life so miserable, why keep going? Who is forcing these children to go to these websites?

Now some people want to outlaw some sites and send the owners to jail. Isn’t that like arresting the producers of a TV show because someone didn’t like it and killed themselves? Who is responsible when they don’t change the channel? Or better yet, turn off the TV and go outside once in a while.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation part 2

What made this year at the big house different from other years is how much all of our lives have changed since last year. When we first went to the house, Ryan lived in Hong Kong and we lived together. Lily & Kevin lived together in their own apartment. Now Ryan lives in China and Lily & Kevin live in my apartment. We went from 2 couples living in 2 different apartments to one couple living apart and the other couple living with me. Living with 2 other people in such a small apartment has definitely changed my relationship with them – for the better I hope.

I didn’t really know Kevin all that well before he moved in. I knew him mostly from how Lily talked about him and all the times I saw them together. We’d never spent any time together just the 2 of us. Now he’s one of my best friends.

Lily was already a close friend, but since we started living together, we’re even closer than ever. She’s not just my best friend in Hong Kong – she’s the best friend I’ve ever had anywhere in the world.

Unfortunately, Ryan & I don’t see each other nearly as much as we did when we lived together. We’ve been lucky enough to take a few trips together – which you can read about if you buy my books Hailey’s Bali Diary, Nudist Cruise [/plug]. I’ve also gone to Fuzhou a couple of times and he’s come to Hong Kong.

I think if we could all live at the Clear Water Bay house all year then it wouldn’t be hard to convince Ryan to move back to Hong Kong.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation part 1

It wasn’t really a vacation. I still went to work. It only seemed like it was a vacation while we were all at the Clear Water Bay house. Kevin’s boss goes away every summer and lets him look after the house. Lily & I also move in since there’s plenty of room. What made it even better was that Ryan was in town while his band had a short term engagement in Hong Kong.

We all stayed in the house the entire time Ryan was here. Now he’s back in Fuzhou. Lily & Kevin are still in the house full time and I’m staying there part time. At first I thought it wasn’t right to stay there without Ryan, but now I’m agreeing with Lily & Kevin. There’s really no reason not to stay there – other than it’s faster to get to work from my apartment – so I’m going to move back in. Summer isn’t over yet and there’s no reason I should act like it is just because Ryan went back to Fuzhou.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Cruise Ship

Taking pictures on the ship was discouraged, so these are official publicity shots. Most of these areas – except the casino – are featured in the book.

These pictures are probably a lot more interesting if you’ve read the book, so you should just buy it.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.



The main lobby/shopping mall
This area was very crowded at the beginning of the cruise
And practically empty for the rest of it



We had more meals in the main restaurant
Than anywhere else on the ship
I thought we would eat at more of the other restaurants
We tried them, but always came back to this one



Some of the main pool area
We spent a lot of time here
The exercise pools are in the opposite direction



The ship had a few theaters
But this was the main one
It really was this red



This was a nice little quiet room most of the time
A good place to get away from the hustle & bustle
Except during the big bridge tournament
And when all the older people were out on the town



The Chinese restaurant looked like
Any banquet style Chinese restaurant
And nothing like the typical restaurant
That a billion Chinese people eat at every day
The food was pretty good
But Ryan never ate there



The ship was big enough for them
To give everyone a map when we checked in
But they still had directories
And maps all over the place



We spent almost no time in the casino
I don’t think I even mention it in the book
We looked at it and went on our way



The library was comfortable and almost always empty
And had a better variety of books than I expected



You really don’t get a sense of how big this boat is
Unless you see it in person
It’s hard to believe you’re on a boat
When you go up & down the elevators



This is just a publicity shot
But one of the shows had traditional dancers
Including some very good Thai dancers

Monday, July 15, 2013

Typhoon Soulik

Typhoon season started off with a bang this year. The first reports were that a super typhoon was coming toward Hong Kong. Then came the good news that it would slam into Taiwan before hitting Hong Kong. Good news for us, at least. Not so good for Taiwan.

Then the typhoon turned north and they said it wouldn’t hit Hong Kong at all – but it was still going to slam straight into Taiwan.

After it tore through Taiwan, it went straight for Fuzhou. Ryan said he saw people preparing like never before – which doesn’t really make much sense since the storm lost most of its power after it went through Taiwan. It hit near Fuzhou, but it was a lot weaker by then.

Hong Kong got a lot of rain, but it’s been raining off & on for about a year anyway.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Xiamen part 2


The highest peak on Gulangyu
Even from the bottom you can see all the people
struggling to be the first to the top



Nanputuo Temple



Hubin North Rd
Just north of Bailuzhou Park
This was close to the American grocery store
What’s exceptional is how few cars there are on this road



The temple at the base of the mountain on Gulangyu

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Online Publishing

Nudist Cruise has been out for a week and it already went to #22 in one of its categories. I can’t believe it.

I’m not one of those people who obsessively checks all the stats every day, but I do look in on them from time to time to see what’s going on.
Hailey’s Bali Diary
went up to #4 for about a minute, but that was after it had already been out for a while. A friend told me the new book will sell faster because there is nudity on the cover, but Amazon has lots of books with a lot more nudity. Some of the covers are more graphic than I thought they’d allow.

I’m not doing this to make money. If you want to make a lot of money, don’t write books. For every millionaire superstar author, there are millions of people you and I have never heard about. Just because J.K. Rowling hit the big time with her wizard story doesn't mean everyone else will. In fact, I guarantee that almost no one will have as much success.

I don’t mind the fact that I’ll never be an international bestseller. I’m not even a writer. This isn’t what I do. What I write isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – just like those vampire books aren’t for everybody either. I just think it would be better if the people who would want to read it had some way to know that it exists. Amazon would make a lot more money if they promoted more than just the top seller. It’s like movie theaters that only show the same 5 movies as all the other theaters and then complain that people don’t go out to see movies anymore. Hundreds of movies are made every year, but you’d never know it if you only looked at your local theater.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bangkok part 2


The Grand Palace
Definitely not closed that day



On the Skytrain
Less crowded than usual



Lumphini Park
A great place for a morning jog or tai chi



Some of the many Buddhas at Wat Pho
Everyone goes to see the big famous Buddha
But there are plenty of other Buddhas all over the place

4th of July 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hailey’s Nudist Diary


Nudist Cruise


I have another book out. Feel free to buy several copies. It’s not actually called “Hailey’s Nudist Diary”. The first one was Hailey’s Bali Diary because of the blog title. Both of those titles make sense. This blog is almost like my Hong Kong diary. At least that’s the way it started out. The first book is told almost in a diary form – almost.

The new book is a little different. There’s nothing diary about it. I didn’t want to put my name in the title. It just wouldn’t sound right.

Nudist Cruise isn’t the greatest title either, but at least you know what you get. It's about the cruise we took. I've mentioned it on this blog, but the book goes into far more detail.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shanghai


The old side of Shanghai
This was right in front of the boat



The new side of Shanghai
This was right across the river from the boat



Pudong



The Bund

Monday, July 1, 2013

Xiamen part 1


Nanputuo Temple



Nanputuo Temple



Yungdangnei Lake
Bailuzhou Park



One of the old mansions on Gulangyu



Gulangyu is a mix of old buildings and new surveillance

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bangkok part 1


The view from the Banyon Tree Hotel facing north



Wat Pho



One of the floating markets



The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cruise part 9

I’ve been typing about the cruise like crazy. I think it might be good therapy for my hand. When I force myself to move it around a lot, it just doesn’t feel right. While typing about the cruise, I’m not forcing anything. I’m trying to keep up. I just can’t type fast enough to say everything I want to say. Not because of my hand, but because I’m not a good enough typist. My hand should be pretty strong by the time I’m finished.

The doctors wanted me to squeeze a ball, but I think typing is better therapy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cruise part 8

This cruise book is turning out longer than I expected. I thought it would be a short little e-book like Hailey’s Bali Diary – buy your copy today. That’s about 90 Kindle pages – more or less. Page numbers are relative on a Kindle.

I’m probably at about page 50 – more or less – and it’s not even close to finished. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cruise part 7

Someone told me that taking a cruise is really the worst way to travel. I don’t know about that. It’s not a great way to experience a different city. You only spend about 8 or 10 hours in each city, so you’re never going to learn very much about the people and their culture. Most passengers on cruises just go to the main tourist sites and do a lot of shopping. I agree that’s not any kind of meaningful travel.

Our cruise started in Shanghai, stopped in Xiamen, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh and ended in Bangkok. I went straight from Shanghai Airport to the ship, so I didn’t see any of Shanghai. We were in Xiamen for 9 hours, so obviously I didn’t learn everything there is to know about Xiamen. In fact, I still don’t really know anything about it. I know it’s crowded & dirty and it gets pretty hot in June. We were in Hong Kong for 10 hours, but I live there, so that wasn’t the highlight of the trip for me. We were in Ho Chi Minh for 8 hours, but I didn’t get off the ship, so I learned almost nothing about it.

We spent the most time in Bangkok because that’s where the cruise ended. After the cruise, we stayed there for another 2 days. That’s not a long time, but it’s better than 8 hours. So I know a lot more about Bangkok than any of the other cities, but obviously I’m no expert.

If you want to know everything there is to know about wherever you’re going, don’t take a cruise. Then again, a 2 week vacation in a western hotel isn’t going to tell you everything there is to know about the place either. I’ve met a lot of people who went somewhere for a week or 2 and think they’re experts. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for over 2 years and I’m not even close to being an expert.

Seeing other places isn’t the main point of a cruise. When you fly somewhere, the destination is the journey. When you take a cruise, the journey is the destination. Or something like that. The main point of a cruise is what you see & do on the ship. The stops in exotic cities are a bonus.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cruise part 6

I came home from the cruise Monday night. It was amazing. There’s nothing else to say.

Actually, there’s a lot more to say about it. I’ve already started to write about the trip. I think I might end up with another short e-book like I did with Bali – or maybe not. It’s too soon to say how it will turn out.

I highly recommend taking a cruise if you ever get the chance. It’s not the best way to see places, but it’s a great way to have a relaxing vacation. It’s like being in a really nice hotel that always has great views and all the food you can eat. The people who work on cruise ships are a lot more attentive than people who work in hotels. People who go on cruises want to be pampered and cruise crews do a pretty good job.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cruise part 5

I’m going to Shanghai tomorrow. I already looked up information about Bangkok back when we were thinking about going there a few months ago. I won’t be in Shanghai very long since that’s where the cruise leaves from. I could go there early, but Ryan won’t be there until the ship docks a few hours before it leaves. I’d rather spend more time in Bangkok with him than more time in Shanghai by myself.

I don’t know anything about Xiamen. I should probably look up something.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cruise part 4

Ryan should be in Xiamen by now. Maybe he can tell me something about it before I go there on Tuesday.

As it turns out, you can get Vietnam visas online. You fill out the forms online and then when you get there they either stamp your passport and let you in or they don’t. That works out for me since I need my passport. This way, I’ll always have it – but I won’t know if I can go into Vietnam until we get there. I don’t even know if I want to since Ryan won’t have a visa.

Somehow I found a nice hotel in Bangkok at the last minute. Now we just need our plane tickets from Bangkok to Hong Kong.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cruise part 3

Ryan is now on the cruise ship. He flew into Hong Kong today, but I was at work so I couldn’t pick him up at the airport and take him to the ship. While he’s cruising to Xiamen and Shanghai, I’ll be booking our flights back home and trying to find a hotel in Bangkok at the last minute. It’s June, so that won’t be easy.

The Vietnam part of the cruise is turning out to be an issue. We already have visas for China and Americans don’t need any for Thailand, but there isn’t enough time to get any for Vietnam. Even if there might be enough time, I wouldn’t be comfortable giving the embassy my passport since I’ll need it to go on the cruise. Ryan’s already on the ship, so it’s too late for him no matter what. Even if I could get a visa, there’s no way he can. We’ll just have to stay on the ship while it’s there.

Getting to everywhere isn’t easy either. You’d think going on a cruise would take care of transportation since you’re on a ship that goes everywhere, but we need plane tickets to get there & back. Ryan already flew from Fuzhou to Hong Kong. We’re both flying back to Hong Kong after the cruise and he’s flying back to Fuzhou. I’m flying from Hong Kong to Shanghai and getting on the ship. Then back to Hong Kong with Ryan after. Getting us both on all the same flights isn’t easy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cruise part 2

Ryan & I have been talking about nothing but this cruise non-stop. Most people take months to book a cruise. We’re doing it in a week. We don’t have any advance notice because Ryan’s filling in for a friend, so he’ll get paid to be on the ship. I won’t. I’ll be a regular paying passenger.

Ryan was going to come to Hong Kong a few days before the cruise so we could spend some time together, but now he’s not. He’s already taking a lot of days off work – 10 days for the cruise and we’re spending an extra 2 days in Bangkok at the end of the cruise. Now he’s just going to fly into Hong Kong right before he has to go to the ship. That means we won’t see each other at all since I’m working a lot right now since I’m also taking time off work to go on the cruise. I also took a lot of time off after the accident.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cruise part 1

It’s been a full 3 months since our last vacation, so Ryan & I are going on a cruise. A friend of his works on a cruise ship and needs to take some time off for personal reasons. Ryan’s going to sub for him and I’m going along for the ride. It’s a cruise, why not?

The cruise goes from Shanghai – Xiamen – Hong Kong – Ho Chi Minh – Bangkok. None of those places would be my first choice – especially Hong Kong – but we almost went to Bangkok when we went to Bali, so I guess Bangkok’s getting another chance.

I’ll be on a regular 7 day cruise. Ryan will be on the ship for 10 days since he’s starting in the middle of the previous cruise. So I’ll get on the ship in Shanghai and he’ll get on in Hong Kong. That part is convenient since he can fly to Hong Kong early and we can spend some time together before the cruise. We haven’t seen each other since Bali, so it will be nice to get naked on dry land before we go on a giant boat.

We have about a million things to do and about a week to do them all.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Back to Work

I went back to work for the first time since the accident. Everyone was happy to see me and they even gave me a welcome back cake. It was very sweet. The gesture, not the cake. Chinese cakes aren’t all that sweet.

Someone – not at work – asked me why I had to take any time off at all. You can dance with a broken hand, right? Well, no. Not really. Your feet support all your weight, of course, but your hands are very important in dancing – unless you’re doing one of those Irish step dances.

They also have this funny rule that maybe Snow White shouldn’t be wandering around with a cast on.

Monday, May 27, 2013

My First Train Crash

On Friday, May 17 an MTR light rail train crashed. It was the worst derailment in MTR history. 77 people were injured – including a baby. Fortunately, no one was killed. Unfortunately, I was on that train.

I had a rare Friday off from work, so I wanted to go out to the New Territories and look around. I don’t get out there as much as I’d like to. There’s really a lot more to Hong Kong than the giant skyscrapers. There is a lot of nature & scenery, but you have to get out of the city to find it.

While I was minding my own business on a small train on a small line, it seemed like the train was moving too fast. It’s above ground, so you can see everything go by. It’s hard to judge speeds on the underground trains because you can’t see anything except black tunnels. On this train, we could tell that it was going too fast. I wasn’t the only passenger who thought so.

Then it made a turn and all hell broke loose. The front car slowed down for the turn – although I guess it didn’t slow down enough. The back car didn’t slow down at all and there was a lot of noise – metal crashing into metal, screaming, glass shattering.

The train left the tracks and hit a power line. It didn’t flip over, but it was like a car impact. Everybody fell to the ground or up against the windows. More than half of the passengers were injured. Most of them were minor. I broke a few bones in my right hand when I tried not to fall down.

Fortunately, it was a smaller train in the New Territories – where there isn’t as much traffic. Being above ground was also a very good thing. Everyone simply walked or crawled or was carried out of the train – paying special attention to downed power lines. If it had been in a tunnel, it would have been much more difficult to get everyone out.

Everyone just sat near the train and waited. I don’t know if people were in shock, but it was quieter than I would have expected. Then the firefighters & paramedics showed up and it got loud & hectic again. It didn’t take long for the news cameras and onlookers to show up. Pretty soon there were at least 10 times more people than were on the train. I saw more firefighter uniforms than passengers.

A few paramedics asked me if I was ok. They didn’t speak much English and my Chinese doesn’t include emergency medical terms. It was obvious the way I was holding my hand that it was injured, and when one of the paramedics grabbed at it, I let out a scream that pretty much told them all they needed to know. They put me in an ambulance after all of the unconscious and bleeding passengers were gone. The doctors at the hospital all spoke English, so it got easier for me once I was there.

When they showed me the x-rays of my hand, I was just happy it wasn’t my foot. I like having hands and I use them a lot, but I need my feet for my career. If it was a foot instead of my hand, my dancing days would probably be over.

My hand is a lot better than it was, but I’m still mostly typing this with my left hand. Since it’s gotten better than it was, the doctors assume it will get better than it is. I’m very thankful to be in a place that has excellent healthcare at very low prices. Hong Kong has very well trained doctors and my insurance pays for almost everything.

The government is thinking about fining the MTR HK$15 million. Now they’re talking about a big lawsuit against the MTR. I don’t know any details, but I’m sure if it happens, the passengers won’t see any money.

I don’t want their money anyway. I just want them to figure out what happened, fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We were all pretty lucky this time. Next time, it could be a lot worse.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Neighbor part 4

In the daytime you can pretty much see my neighbor’s entire room, except where it turns a corner. I’m sure he can see all of mine in the daytime.

At night I can’t see him when his lights are off unless he’s standing right in front of the window. If the lights are on he has to be standing under the light or between the light and the window. If he’s standing behind the light you can kind of tell someone’s there, but you can’t really see anything. I assume it’s the same for me. The apartments are different, but light is light.

I walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom with only a towel wrapped around me since I had just taken a shower. His lights were on so I could see him, but mine were off. I didn’t know if he could see me or not so I waited in the back of the room and watched him. He wasn’t looking at me – he was going about his business, so I went about mine. I could have easily put some clothes on, but not knowing whether he could see more or not was pretty interesting. I’m sure he couldn’t, but you never know.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Carrying On

I had an audition almost a month ago and they just told me I didn’t get the part. I’m a little disappointed, but not really surprised. Of all the acting auditions I’ve been on, I only got the part twice – one fell through and the other one my part was cut. Still, I had a great experience filming a real movie.

I know I’m supposed to be depressed when I don’t get a part, but I actually think I’m really lucky. I have a great job where I get to sing & dance every day. I want to get into acting, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m still performing. That’s what it’s all about anyway.

Most auditions don’t lead to jobs anyway. I’ve been on a million dancing auditions that I didn’t get. That never stopped me from trying. Now I’m dancing for a living. It doesn’t matter how many of them say no – as long as a few good ones say yes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Expat Books part 3

From Taiwan to Texas

I have to say, I liked reading this book. Since it was a blog, it reads like a blog and the very short chapters get a little distracting after a few dozen. But maybe this is a brilliant marketing strategy. Most people have very short attention spans these days. Today’s readers get impatient with 50-page chapters. Maybe chapters that last one page will be more popular.

From Taiwan to Texas is easy to read. I mean that as a compliment. I just read a similar English-teacher-in-a-strange-land book that was the most pretentious thing I’ve ever seen. The author of that book didn’t seem to realize that EFL teachers are a dime a dozen. We’re all supposed to be impressed that he just did what thousands of others have already done. The author of Taiwan to Texas isn’t trying to impress us. He’s just telling us his story in a candid and relaxed style that should appeal to those of us who love to read all day as well as those who can only read a page at a time.

My main gripe with this book is that it’s a sequel. The author tells us in the introduction that we don’t have to read that one to understand this one. That’s true. The stories are easy to follow without knowing what happened in the first book. But now that I’ve read this one, I have to go and read the first one.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Expat Books part 2

Cuban Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana

This is about a woman who moves to Cuba because of her husband’s job. Most expat books are told from the point of view of the expat. They wanted to go, they went, and now they’re talking about it. This book is from the point of view of a wife who didn’t really want to go in the first place.

This one was interesting for different reasons. It’s easy to assume that the author is a spoiled American who wants her new home to be like everything she had back in the United States, but the more you read it, the more you see she’s just a mother trying to make the best of the situation for her children.

She talks a lot about buying groceries and sending her children to school. That would be pretty boring if she was an expat in Paris, but in Cuba, just doing routine things becomes an adventure.

My main complaint with this book is that the author goes too far in trying to avoid politics. If you’re an American living in Cuba, there will be a serious political adjustment. If I’m reading about your grocery shopping, I want to read about how you adjusted to life in a communist country.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Expat Books

I’ve been reading a lot about expats recently. It’s funny, when I first became one, I wasn’t really interested in joining expat groups and meeting up with other expats. I just wanted to jump into my new surroundings and not worry so much about how different it was from home. After a while, I started talking to other expats and now I’m reading books about them and by them.

When I published my own book at Amazon, I downloaded their app so I could read it. Since then, I’ve been downloading lots of other books. If you want to know which ones I recommend, here they are:

Letters To Friends

I really enjoyed reading this book. Maybe because I’m an expat myself. Or maybe it’s because it’s so well written that something as ordinary as personal correspondence can become a compelling story. I feel like I know her and her family like they’re old friends. It’s intelligently written without trying to remind you how intelligent it is all the time. I found that refreshing. We need more authors who are clever without always telling us how clever they are.

The author invites us into her personal life and shares her hopes and fears. She tells us funny and touching stories about her family that everyone can relate to and gives us her take on that age old story about looking for love. I felt like a voyeur while reading it, but I just couldn’t stop. She talks about how hard it is to balance tradition and modern life and gives a lot of insight into her religion that I found fascinating. I’m surprised at how little I knew about a culture that’s so well known.

There’s a little bit about politics that I didn’t care about, but I thought it was interesting how I assumed she must be a republican because of one issue then she had to be a democrat because of another. I don’t think her views fit in the American system. That’s not an insult at all. We Americans have some messed up politics. The author’s obviously not American.

That’s another thing I really liked – the proper English. I’ve been reading Jane Austen and I love the way she doesn’t sound American.

This isn’t really an expat book. She casually mentions what so many others wrote their entire books about and then she moves on to more important parts of life. I really hope this author writes a book someday that tells us more about her travels – especially China. Her insights into Chinese culture are really interesting. It looks like she’s led an interesting life and I’d like to hear more about it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

No Comment

People are weird.

For 2 1/2 years my blog was wide open to anyone and everyone. Anybody could read it and leave a comment without having to type in a secret code or wait for me to approve anything. Now because of just 2 people that’s all changed.

I seem to have offended some people when I said bad things about terrorists. A very angry comment was left on my blog. They were even more offended that I deleted a hateful comment from my blog. Then came a flood of pure hate & hostility. I’ve never said anything to these people. I’ve never done anything to fuel their anger – except for saying that terrorists are bad people and deleting all of the hate speech and bullying comments. During this string of hate, one of them said “get a life”, which I thought was kind of funny. I almost didn’t delete that one, but it’s not as funny without the context of all that hateful ranting & raving.

I don’t know what set them off. It can’t just be because I don’t like terrorists. I sincerely hope they get whatever help they need. But I’m not a doctor. I can’t help anybody. I also reserve the right to delete any and all comments as I see fit. This is my blog. No one is forced to read it.

I’ll never delete a comment just because I disagree with an opinion. But I will always delete hate speech, threats of violence and bullying.