Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Jenny from Mong Kok

I've just arrived a little early at work to write this entry. I love Chungking Mansions in the morning. Though it may be the most feared building in Hong Kong, several of the Chinese residents of Chungking think nothing of going downstairs in their pajamas every morning to pick up a newspaper.

I will spend the day today thinking up suitable ways to enact revenge on my colleague after he told one of the volunteers that I said she is stunningly beautiful and reminds me of J-Lo. It doesn't help matters that he starts humming the opening of 'Jenny from the block' whenever she comes in.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

It's been a record two weeks since I last posted anything. The last couple of weeks have felt something like being in the middle of a sandstorm. Work has been incredibly busy, not least because of even more media attention. After a particularly sympathetic article last week we had a flood of calls and emails from people wanting to give some kind of assistance. All very exciting but I'm about to collapse!

Apart from two work related newspaper appearances since I last blogged, I've also featured again on TV for something quite different. Nan was in Hong Kong last weekend on her way from London to Sydney and her visit coincided with the annual Cheung Chau Island Bun Festival.

We took the ferry to Cheung Chau and followed the crowd to the centre of the festivities.It was a stinking hot and humid day and the candle and incense smoke didn't help. We'd just arrived at the bun tower when I realised I was going to fry if I didn't find some shade. I turned around, looking for shelter, and found a camera and microphone several centimetres from my nose:

Reporter: This is the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, how do you feel?
Me: Great, it's very exciting (trying to look sincere)
Reporter: (gesturing at the smoke billowing temple) About the ritual, how do you feel?
Me: It's very intersting but I think I would appreciate it more if I understood more about the festival.
Reporter: (gesturing to the tower) About the bun tower, how do you feel?
Me: It very big, I have never seen anything like it before (except possibly, the actual size replica in the history museum)
Reporter: About the race, how do you feel?
Me: What race?
Reporter: Did you know that there will be a race to climb the top of the bun tower.
Me: No, that's amazing!
Reporter: Yes and how do you feel?
Me: Very excited, this festival is very special.

While at the festival I was also interviewed by a newspaper (the same Chinese one that I had featured in the previous week) but I don't know if it was printed. I know that the tv interview showed because my real estate agent saw it. 'What did I say?' I asked her. 'Something like, "good, good, great, exciting, wonderful"' she laughed. 'It must have been short' I said. 'No', she said, 'your interiew was longer than anyone elses'. Oh dear!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Ironic stuffs

Fourteen and a half hour work days may be normal for some people but this one seems particularly evil to me, having spent the last four and a half hours on petty administrative stuff which has very little to do with the reason I do this job and a lot to do with the excessive amount of bureaucracy in the organisation I work for.

The hilarious thing about the corporatisation of the charity world is that unpaid overtime will be the last thing to change!

Anyway, for some even more humorous irony, here are two things I spotted yesterday, the first in Mong Kok and the second in the supermarket:

'Mr Beef's Seafood Restaurant' and

'Mr Brown's Green Tea Drink'

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I've just finished reading 'Shantaram' by Gregory David Roberts. It's the autobiographical story of the decade that he spent in Bombay after fleeing a sentence for armed robbery in Australia.

While in India, Roberts learnt Hindi and Marathi and became involved in the Bombay underground. He also lived in a slum where he set up a free clinic before going to Afghanistan to smuggle weapons to locals fighting the Soviets.

His experiences are incredible and often horrific. At the same time, they felt very familiar and I could visualise many of the places from my own experience. It was strange to feel so much in common with someone so different to me.

Mostly, however, the book made me very impatient to go to India again! I was very depressed this week after getting my April pay slip and seeing that I have accumulated only 2.79 days of holiday allowance. Hmmm.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pank lagana

About a month ago, the weather here transitioned from winter to summer in the space of a week. The cold weather that had lasted much longer than usual is now a distant memory. Even after my twice daily cold showers, I begin to sweat before I've left the bathroom.

Through the cool weather I was addicted to Queen Latifa's version of "California dreamin'". When the heat started to build up I found a new theme song from an mp3 CD containing 156 A R Rahman songs. Since I bought the CD a month ago it has hardly left my discman.

At first I found the chorus a little strange, 'I want to turn on the fan and fly away'. As the weather heated up it made more sense and it seemed consistent with the whooshing air noise in the song. That was until I explained the song to a friend and got the following response.

"'Pank lagana' you idiot not 'panka lagana'. It means 'put on wings' not 'turn on the fan'".

Whoops! I guess I've never had to talk about wings before.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Work has been busy enough to keep me from blogging for a week. Among other things, there have been two more newspaper interviews (Chinese this time), prompting friends in another NGO to tease that I'm in this job for the fame. We have also had two days with volunteers from an American Christian group on a mission experience trip.

The American volunteers were 18-24 year olds from Colorado in the middle of a ten month training program in Christian ministry. They had originally been booked to stay in the YMCA but the organiser had put them in a guesthouse in Chungking after getting in touch with us. He knew the reputation of Chungking Mansions and wanted to give to give them the most challenging experience possible.

They picked an eventful week to stay in Chungking. An official celebration was held to mark the end of the management's first 'five year improvement plan' and the opening of the new shopping centre on the 2nd floor, called 'Chungking Express'. I'm presuming it's named after the film and not this blog, nevertheless, I'm looking forward to a increased amount of hits coming from internet searches!

There was a newspaper article a couple of days ago about the improvements in Chungking Mansions. The writer opened with something like this, 'Chungking Mansions is no longer the hell-hole it once was, haven for illegal immigrants and drug dealers. Over the last five years it has improved so much that even the clergy want to stay there!'.

That surprising statement was backed up with a quote from a well known guesthouse owner, 'The reputation of Chungking Mansions has improved so much that I even have 70 clergymen from America staying in my guesthouses this week. That just proves how much the reputation of Chungking has improved in the last few years.'

Hmmm, not quite!