Monday, November 10, 2008

Cold, Boat, Election, Grill, Cake, and Friends

It seems I am always starting off my posts with an apology about being so out of touch. Well, this is no exception. Sorry.

It’s finally “cold” here in Hong Kong. (apparently, anything below 70 degrees warrants a coat and scarf, but I didn’t get the memo. I was perfectly happy to be out and about in a polo shirt and jeans today!)

A while ago, before “winter” started, I had the great pleasure of attending a birthday celebration for a colleague’s girlfriend. Her parents came all the way from Korea (“all the way” is relative when it’s only 3 hours away) for a week’s stay and rented a party boat for a day. I had agreed to go hiking with someone else that day, but the weather was so perfect and the invitation was on such short notice, that I felt somewhat obligated to attend a great day of swimming, eating, and laughing with friends. It’s easier to justify a hike in colder weather than swimming. I'm glad I went.

The day was absolutely prefect. We left from the pier in Tsim Sha Tsui at around 10:00 AM. It was a little gray, but that only meant that the haze would burn off a little later in the day and leave us perfectly comfortable al day long. We were asked to provide our own snacks and drinks, while the actual lunch food was provided. And it was great.

Korean sushi, kim chi pancakes, burritos, and sandwiches.

From left: Evan, birthday girl's sister, father, birthday girl Hyomi, mother, and boyfriend Carlos.

Jai was the photographer for the day.

Just as happy as can be.

Pretty easy to relax on such a beautiful day.

Most of the people in the office/on the boat didn’t really know how to swim. I don’t think they were in any danger of drowning, but I'm sure it still took a lot of guts to jump in the water with everyone else. Fortunately there were enough floats and strong swimmers for everyone to stay safe and happy. Some of the guys even gave swimming a shot - without floats, which probably wasn’t the best idea, considering that the wind was constantly blowing us away from the anchored boat. There were a few frantic calls for a rope to grab on to, but we didn’t lose anyone.

Ish was on the ropes. Nothing to worry about!
Apparently it is customary to jump from the top deck of these party boats.
Who was I to argue?

It was a lesson in perspective, because although the top deck is only about 8 or 9 feet above the main deck, that one is probably close to 6 feet off the water.

It was a spectacular experience. There was music, dancing, singing, smiling, and swimming. All-in-all, it was a perfect day.
There were a total of 3 birthday cakes. Split amongst a handful of people, this meant that everyone had plenty of cake to keep them full and happy. The third one never even emerged from the fridge.
Thanks to Hyomi's sister for the glamor shot.

Against all odds, I received my absentee ballot in the mail a full 3 weeks prior to the election. I was thrilled to have received it, considering that any glitch in the system would have required a frantic application for a second one that would have meant a down to the wire wait for a new ballot. Considering I have never voted for anything before, this was strangely easy to do….Not too many questions, and the instructions were clear. In fact, the hardest part of the entire process came up when I had to mail it in the Hong Kong post. Who the heck knows what postage zone the US is in?

Casting my ballot was a highlight, but the election itself was the focus of my life for at least a few days. It was very strange watching the news for the last few weeks before the official election because the race for the white house never warranted more than about 20 seconds of reporting. “obama is ahead in the polls, but McCain is closing the gap. People around the world are watching. And now here’s Susan with tomorrow’s weather.” Fortunately my friend and colleague from the US has cable in his house, and thus I was able to watch CNN International. I went to watch the election coverage with him the night it began, and was amazed that even the commercial breaks were shortened in honor of the US election. In addition to the numbers and predictions, there were a number of really interesting stories about Obama's incredible support from around the world. While my girlfriend relayed important statistical information - like how far ahead Obama was and how many more states he needed to win - I relayed silly stories to her about how the rest of the world was completely infected with Obamania. I thought it was a nice trade. I got all the necessary numbers related to the campaign and she got a laugh. Here are some of the stories I suggested she check out. You should look into them too.

First, Obama Japan, where a musical group called Anyone Brothers Band (or something like that) sang a song about Obama - the man, obama - the city, and the similarities between the names. Truly strange, and perfectly Japanese in that unfortunate cliche sort of way.

Then there was a story about sand arts in India.

And finally, an enormous tribute to the man the world loves in Barcelona Spain.

In progress at first...

and presumably completed.

It just isn’t a big deal to people here. It is at once strange and not strange at all. It is a bit weird considering that the HK dollar is tied directly to the US dollar, no matter what the market is doing at home. At the same time, Hong Kong’s economy seems strong and stable enough to stand on its own. But on the first hand, most of the products that my company produces are meant to be sold in the US. Who knows? All I can really say is that my coworkers were remarkably nonchalant about the whole thing. Thank goodness for the internet. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to watch the very moment that the winner was announced – considering that this was my first election, and definitely my first one from Hong Kong. Between and, there was not much work being done by the Americans in the office on election “night”. (more like election day in HK being 12 hours off)

Recently, my friend and colleague officially felt settled enough in his apartment (more like a whole house…) to open it up for a house-warming party. The theme was International Kitchen. I made kebabs of marinated beef, chicken, and roasted vegetables – peppers, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes.

No need to grill! I had at least one whole kebab before the plate even left the kitchen.

The marinade, which was likely a little bit too complicated, got rave reviews. Maybe people weren't expecting so much flavor to come at the hands of an American. It consisted of red wine, olive oil, chili oil, ginger beer, raspberry jam, garlic, green onions, soy sauce, and - of course - Worcestershire sauce. Yup. After re-reading that, it was definitely too complicated.

They smelled sooooooo good on the grill. It also helped that each item on the grill had it own distinct, intoxicating perfume. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Korean BBQ pork, my kebabs, American style hot wings, Fish Balls. Mmmmm.

Nasty meat hands - a smal price to pay for a great evening of full stomachs and pleased guests. The only sharp knife at the house was passed around a number of times during the course of the evening.

I just want a taste!!!

I think my favorite part about kebabs (aside from the ridiculous ease with which they are prepared and cooked, and the handy handle they come with) is the incredibly vibrant colors that jump off the grill. My friend from the office helped put the kebabs together. He's very methodical. Can you tell? The last few are all identical!

I ate extremely well, with kim chi pancakes, bbq pork, guacamole, beans, adobo chicken, and hot dogs on the menu. It was a great night. And it helped that the weather is finally cooling off around here. I actually got a few chills. It was a grat night for everyone. People showed off their skills in a number of areas. There were a number of great cooks. A few were clearly champion drinkers.

Some (myself included) were incredible eaters (but it was soooo good).

There was a marathon of dancing...

Thanks to the fact that my boss was the DJ for the night!

My friend, the host had the misfortune of booking his flight to Hong Kong for a date only a few days before his birthday. So when he arrived, he had to find an apartment, recover from jetlag, and adjust to Hong Kong, instead of thinking of his birthday. He wasn’t comfortable enough with the people from the office to make a big deal about it when it happened, so he and I went out to a really cheap birthday dinner and pretty much forgot about it…until last night.

I asked one of my friends from work to pick up a birthday cake for him and stash it away for later in the night. It was a perfect little plan, because he never saw it coming, but he deserved and wanted it so much. He seemed very happy at the end of the evening.

There was drinking and dancing and all the expected frivolities of a weekend night. Everyone was overstuffed, but quite happy.

Finally, a friend of my best friend’s mother is coming to visit Hong Kong in a couple of weeks. Interestingly, she’s staying at the same hotel that my parents and girlfriend are planning to stay when they come to visit. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to grab a bit of dinner. I hope she’s aware of the intern budget I’m trying to stick to...

Hopefully it won't be so long before another post. It is exhausting to have to rack my brain for all the news in the last few weeks. In other news is up and running. The content is all there, but I need to work out the pretty stuff. I hope you get a chance to look at it and comment on it. I've put a lot of work into it.

Love you all back home!

Good luck with the house mom & dad!


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