What day is it?

I was at the meat case in the supermarket when an old lady started talking to me. She wasn’t speaking Cantonese exactly so I couldn’t understand her at first. Luckily, her Chinese was similar to Cantonese so I eventually figured out what she was saying:

Old lady: Young man, what is the date on this label?

Me: Oh, April 24.

Old lady: That’s today, isn’t it?

Me (checking phone and realizing what she was asking): Oh yes, that’s today! You’ll be fine as long as you eat this today!

Old lady: Thank you very much, thank you very much!

I’m a big fan of the near-expired meat as well. A lot of times the meat is still good and I can get a substantial discount. I hope the old lady had a good chicken meal!

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Killer Stairs
No end in sight!

It’s a beautiful day today. I started off the day climbing the “killer stairs” just a block away from my apartment, then spending time at the basketball court near the top of those stairs. Of course, I couldn’t leave until I went around the world and made 10 free throws in a row.

Basketball

Later on, the sun came out and burned off the rest of the overcast, revealing clear skies and low humidity. It feels more like California than Hong Kong. So awesome.

For lunch, I went to 蛇王良 (King of Snakes Leung) and had me some snake soup. It came with a little bowl of fried rice. I’d been craving snake soup ever since I walked past that place, and after having hot and sour soup yesterday (which is a little similar), I decided that today was the day. $58, and delicious. I’ll have to take JC there some time.

Snake Soup Set
Snake soup set, so good

After lunch, a leisurely stroll to the super and wet markets. Like I said on the Food Costs page, there are just so many choices. Within one block there are at least 3 supermarkets, not to mention countless smaller markets selling fruit, vegetables, meat, and seafood. I bought some items that looked fresh, came home, and started my oxtail soup.

Wet Market
What shall we have for dinner?

Later, after I look at some job ads, I’ll play some Civilization Revolution. It’s an old game, but I’ve been itching to play it. I’ll have to add it to the Games List.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re enjoying your day as well.

Random Sunday Thoughts

I’ve pictured it in my mind countless times. JC and I in our cozy little flat, in our little tiny living room, sitting together and watching TV after dinner. It is summer time and the weather is hot, humid, and miserable, but inside my Hong Kong home I have air conditioning. The next morning we’ll go to work and look forward to doing it all over again.

I posted the above back in September. Before that, the text had been in my notebook for months, something that I had thought about for a long time. When I used to be unhappy at work, I’d daydream about it.

In daydreaming about the watching TV part, it seems that I forgot to daydream about the going to work part. Yes, I knew (and know) that I’d have to find a job, but I never thought about what I would do.

So, what would I want to do? I want to read books, play video games, and drink Scotch. Know anyone who’s hiring for that role? Taking a look back at my history, I find that career has never been a high priority for me. I never planned a career path. Before my previous job, I didn’t work for three years. And now, it has almost been a year since I’ve been away from work. In total, since graduating from college, I have spent 5 out of 13 years not working.

My view of work now is that it is a necessary evil in order to survive in society. You give something to society, and you get something back, as it should be. The problem is when work consumes your life, as it does for many people. We already spend the majority of our waking hours at work; to make work an even bigger part of your life such that it consumes the majority of your thoughts, that’s too much. No, I don’t want to be like that. I have seen people spend countless hours at work and minimal time with their spouse, only for their spouse to contract a terminal disease and die. I have seen people give countless hours during the best years of their lives to work, only to come out with no family at the end. Now that I’m in Hong Kong, I see parents letting their domestic helper raise their child. Fuck that, man. That is not going to be me.

And so, therein lies the problem. It seems like every employer wants the perfect employee, one who is “passionate” and “enthusiastic” about work. Use whatever other buzzwords you see in job ads. What if that’s not me? I’m reasonably intelligent and I can and will do a good job, but I don’t want to make you my number one priority. Do you think I’d get hired if I flat out told someone that during an interview? In the job search space, I see a lot of people seeking and posing as perfection. Ask anyone who has any work experience at all and they’d tell you that there’s no such thing. So why is perfection expected during the job search?

In society, a lot of people are defined by their work. A lot of times, when people first meet, one of the first questions asked is “what do you do?” How do you answer this question? If I work at McDonald’s, do I say “I’m a food preparer at McDonald’s?” Or, how about dropping an ultra-elaborate job title without really explaining what it is that I do, like some posers do? I don’t see myself doing either of those. Actually, at my previous job, I always had a hard time answering that question.

Unlike my esteemed former colleagues, my work did not focus on one thing like financial planning or investment management. I had a title, but I would always be embarrassed to tell it to people. In my heart, I knew that I basically did a little bit of everything, and that I was an expert in none of those things. A jack of all trades, master of none. I would look at my colleagues with envy, because they were the true professionals, really good at what they do. They had an identity. I didn’t, and still don’t. I don’t know how I’m going to get a job like this.

I want to confess that it has been over a week since I’ve done anything related to finding a job. I just don’t know what I want to do (other than reading, playing games, and drinking Scotch), and so I’m not motivated to start. I know how to say the right things and what employers are looking for, and I know that if I played the game right I’d land a job quickly, but as I said those would not be my true feelings. I am growing pretty tired of saying the right things and telling people what they want to hear. I just want to be myself for a change.

I continue to struggle between being who I am and being a socially accepted person. Take this blog, for example. I’ve limited myself to posting mostly positive things, trying to come off as someone who has nothing bad to say about anything, when nothing could be further from the truth. I have opinions on many things, but because I don’t want to be labelled a “hater”, I mostly keep my thoughts to myself and those closest to me. Recently, in another post, I said that I had written something “whiny” and didn’t want to post it. I worry that I have or will become a caricature of myself, a person who is so polite and PC that he ends up being and saying nothing, having no substance.

Just the other day, I started ranting about people who smoke, and then stopped short of what I really wanted to say because I was afraid of what the consequences might be. It just seems like no one should truly speak their mind these days lest they be labelled a bigot, a racist, a sexist, a foot-in-mouth-ist, or whatever other -ist is en vogue at the moment. Well, with this post comes (hopefully) a new chapter for me and this website. As you’ve seen, I’ve been quite candid with my thoughts, and they’re not just the positive or popular ones. I’m going to be braver and try to say the things I truly feel, regardless of how they might be taken. I want to see the value in me, not what I think people want out of me.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things, he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels

When all is said and done, I want to be able to say that I did it my way.

AOL is not America Online

We received our first electric bill today, and of course one of the first things I want to do is to sign up for electronic billing. When I get to the website to do this, I see a strange link to “Logon your existing AOL account and opt for receiving e-bills” and wonder why HK Electric would be so backwards as to use AOL accounts for their e-billing service.

Well, shit, turns out I’m the one who’s backwards. AOL stands for Account-On-Line, not America Online!

Can’t take it anymore…

I just enjoyed a delicious beef brisket and tendon noodle early dinner and washed it down with an iced milk tea. I’m walking out of the restaurant feeling warm and happy when the man walking in front of me exhales a cloud of cigarette smoke. I swerve to avoid it but this cloud is so huge that it engulfs me. There is nothing I can do other than to hold my breath and keep walking.

This has happened to us many times in Hong Kong. When the sidewalk gets so crowded that it’s like bumper cars, it becomes an obstacle course when you’re unlucky enough to be walking with a bunch of smokers. Of course, with so many people, it is difficult to avoid and, to be fair, I would like to emphasize that someone blowing smoke in your face is not unique to Hong Kong. Tokyo was pretty bad. Smoking was actually allowed in our hotel’s lobby and everywhere else. Paris was pretty bad, too. Even in progressive San Francisco, despite laws and taxes, it can get pretty bad at times (yes, I’m calling out that group of people that starts with the letter “h”).

Life isn’t fair and we all have our vices, that’s fine. I understand that people sometimes need an outlet. My biggest problem with certain smokers is the sense of entitlement and inconsiderateness. When I drink Scotch and get drunk and act like a fool, I do so in my own home, responsibly, without affecting anyone else (don’t ask JC, though). When smokers blow out their smoke, they are affecting and possibly (probably) harming others. Do you see me walking up to you and spitting my Laphroaig in your face after I’ve had a hard day at work and need to unwind with my vice? I don’t think so. In the middle of the workday, do I walk back into the office smelling of alcohol? I don’t think so. So why is it okay to blow smoke without any thought of containing it, or walk into a smoke-free environment smelling like an ashtray?

I guess the answer is similar to the question about Tootsie Pops… we may never know. (Actually, I have a few theories, but I don’t want to waste any more mental energy on this subject.)

More on that last morning…

Coffee and Chowder
Coffee and Chowder

I posted about our last morning in our previous apartment, not knowing that it would be indeed the very last. Here’s more on that last morning…

I remember waking up that morning and not being able to fall asleep again. Maybe I knew it would be our last morning there. I put on some clothes and my puffy jacket and walked out into the cold.

It was particularly cold and foggy that morning. It was already the middle of May, but that’s how the weather is in the Bay Area. It was around 5 AM and the streets were empty. Just me, and my thoughts walking to Starbucks, thinking of the past few years living in that neighborhood. So many memories. JC and I doing our own moving, pushing our furniture across the street in the middle of the night. Going to work everyday and coming home to our own place, happy together. Walking to Chinatown to enjoy VH. Moving in together for the first time. Getting married.

When I saw the photo above in my slideshow, I clicked on it to enlarge it. Looking at the cup of Starbucks, for a split second I can smell and taste it, and I’m in Starbucks on that morning ordering it, and then pouring half-and-half into it before heading back home to make clam chowder. I had bought that can of clam chowder on a whim from Safeway. It was on sale for 99 cents. On the last morning in the place we had called home for two-plus years, my breakfast was Starbucks and clam chowder.

From Utah to California

Somewhere in Utah
Somewhere in Utah

We captured the photo above on November 9, 2012 while on our way to Richfield, Utah from Rock Springs, Wyoming. We were on a lonely highway and just pulled off to the side of the road to take it. Up until that point we hadn’t encountered too much cold, but in Utah that all changed. We even experienced a blizzard in Provo. I don’t remember if this photo was from before or after Provo, but I like how it’s almost monochromatic. The gate and fence add to the bleakness and coldness of the scene.

Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Coast Highway

Next up, we have a photo of the Pacific Ocean, taken four days later while heading home on the Pacific Coast Highway. It was the last day of our 2-week long road trip, and it was also the last day of our nearly 3-month adventure around the globe. We drove many hours on the PCH with the Pacific Ocean as our constant companion, reminding us that the Earth is so big, and we are so small.