Saturday, March 31, 2007


I continue to associate with impressive authors even after returning from Hong Kong. Most recently, Janet Wong came to town and Elaine and I went out to dinner with her.

The other thing that continues, however, is my complete lack of directional sense. I foresee this inadequacy plaguing me for the rest of my life. And, somehow, this gets even worse (Robert asks, "Is that that possible?") when I am put in charge. Because even though we went to a restaurant ten minutes from my house, we got lost and I had to stop and ask directions. Yes, I've only lived here for about seven years.

So while Janet impressed us with her talent and wit, I impressed with my ability to get lost. But we did finally get to the restaurant and had a lovely time. Janet had visited the Hong Kong International School a couple months before me, and it was fun to compare notes. We also ate a lot of food. This is a picture of our dessert: bread pudding and gourmet baked Alaska. All I can say is YUM!

I think Elaine and Janet ordered especially large amounts of food as they were afraid it might be their last meal. I still had to direct them home.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

for your reading pleasure

I've been receiving quite a few nice comments about my travel blog to Hong Kong, so for your reading convenience I've put all my Hong Kong travels in one blog: Grace Goes to Hong Kong (with apologies to Curious George). You'll notice on the right I've listed it under a title heading of "grace blogs." That is because my aspiration is to create many travel blogs, cataloguing all my foreign adventures. The only snag to this grandiose plan is that I have to really travel to do this...anyone want to send me someplace exotic? I am open for invitations!

Monday, March 26, 2007

missing mangosteens

I've been back from Hong Kong for over a week yet I still crave the food I had there. It was really neat to taste things that I can't get here in the States. Some things, like certain fruits, are not allowed to be imported (because of the fruit flies) such as wax apples(left) and mangosteens.

Mangosteens are these interesting fruits with a deep, dark purple (almost black) peel. The peel is hard and thick and when you hold a mangosteen in your hand it feels like a you are holding a stone.

But underneath the thick skin-- almost in direct contrast-- is the whitest, softest fruit. It is the sweetest fruit I've ever tasted, with just a hint of tartness.

This fruit is in sections, like an orange. But there's a trick to the mangosteen. If you flip it over, you'll see a flower shaped pattern on the bottom. As many "petals" are on the flower is how many sections of fruit is in the mangosteen. And they're all delicious.

The other fruit that I've eaten before but never really seen, and especially not in abundance was the dragonfruit. This fruit is also a lesson in contrasts, as the outside is brilliant fuchsia and green, while the inside is white with black specks.

The dragonfruit has a subtle sweetness and the texture of watermelon. I love its appearance. I really want to illustrate a book about why the dragonfruit is called a dragonfruit. I haven't found too much about that, maybe I'll just make a story up!

I also miss the pomelo soup! I had the most amazing bowl of this dessert soup, made from pomelo,mango and coconut milk when I was at dim sum at a restaurant called Metropol(I'm not sure about the spelling). It was my first taste of it and it was so fresh and light and yummy! I'm told that this soup is what the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin, has in her vase. She's very popular.

Other hard-to-find delicacies include Sesame Ice cream:

And long-life peach cakes. But I confess, I did not actually try a peach cake. I was too full from eating everything else.

Friday, March 23, 2007

blue dress

There were a couple of things I didn't get to post about while I was in Hong Kong, so here are the dregs...

Women in Hong Kong are very stylish. Every woman I saw looked so polished and put together. There were no dragging too-long pantlegs, too-tight waistbands or oversized shirts. Everything perfectly fitting and flattering.

And the reason for this is that people here get their clothes regularly tailor-made. Comparably affordable, if the whole suit, dress and outfit is not made from scratch; clothes are at the very least impeccably altered. Men also have flawlessly fitting clothes, the only people who look disheveled are the tourists.

My two week stay was just enough time to upgrade me from messy tourist to potentially well-groomed ex-pat. But I had to work fast. Amy, almost immediately upon my arrival, brought me to a tailor where we discussed and designed until the blue dress was finally decided on.

Patricia, the tailor, then had me back in a couple days later for a fitting. It was neat to see the dress in the rough stage, with hundreds of white temporary stitches.

Then a week later, just before I left, the dress was done (that's Patricia standing next to me). I heart it, even though I'm not sure when I'm going to wear it. I'm going to have to get Robert to take me out somewhere. Or maybe I'll save it for my next trip to Hong Kong.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gai See: What I Saw

I posted this on the bluerosegirls blog, but since it continues my Hong Kong journey, I thought I'd post it here too.

When I was in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of seeing Roseanne Thong's new book, Gai See: What You See in Chinatown. Now while the title of the book says, What You See in Chinatown, it is fairly obvious that the book is about the Hong Kong open air wet markets. The "Chinatown" addition to the title was done by marketing, so that it would it appeal to the greater public.

Which I think underestimates the children's book audience. This book is a real treat; and, even more, it truly captures what a Hong Kong open air market feels like. It's rare that one can test the authenticity of a book, but I was able to do so and it passed with flying colors. Take this excerpt, for example:
Mangoes, starfruit,
colors bright
glisten in the morning light.

Dragon fruit
with scarlet scales,
lychees filling woven pails

Doesn't it just match this exactly?

And then there's images like this:

The book so exactly matches my experiences in Hong Kong that I can't imagine any child not finding delight in it. The only thing that was not included was the fascinating aspects of the fish market, where live fish jumped in the air.

Roseanne told me that she did have passages dedicated to that but they were edited out, probably in fear that that it would seem barbaric. Which it is a bit, to our western sensibilities, but is also a significant part of the culture of a Hong Kong wet market. Of course, the book is not about a wet market, it's about "Chinatown," so I suppose the deletion has validation.

Regardless, this book is just plain great. I'll never look at it without remembering what I saw in Hong Kong; I hope you all take a look at it and see what I saw too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

safely home

So after an 18 hour flight, I have finally arrived back home. And, more importantly, with all my Hong Kong goodies in tact. That includes the 8 egg tarts I smuggled out for Robert. I packed them in my bird cage which protected them quite nicely. Not smushed at all, though not as freshly delicious as they were in Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, I am having a hard time getting back into this time zone. I keep falling asleep around 6 pm and waking up at about 2 am, then napping at odd times of the day and have not yet been able to break the cycle. I also find myself very hungry at strange hours. Robert thinks it's just an excuse to eat all the egg tarts, which I first served to him inside of the bird cage like this. I thought it was gourmet plating, myself.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

coming to an end

My Hong Kong adventure is winding down and the end is within sight. I leave tommorrow after a whirl-wind last day of presentations, possible interview, workshop and dinner (my plane leaves at 1 AM!). I have more things to share and might post more later, but this will probably be my last post actually in Hong Kong. It's been a wonderful time. I've made new friends, taken over 700 photos, gained weight and have a whole extra bag of stuff to bring back. All the signs of a grand adventure.


Yesterday was my last day of school presentations at HKIS. So I decided to mark the occasion by cataloguing my commute from the hotel to the school. For the past week, I've gotten up in the morning and caught a taxi like this:

Once I get a cab, I hand the driver this piece of paper, which is the address of the school in Chinese. Most drivers don't speak English, so the written address is essential.

Then I am driven through the congested city,

pass the cemetary,

and into the countryside towards Repulse Bay.

On the way, this building always strikes me. It was recently renovated, the whole pastel part was just added. The hole is built to ensure good feng shui. Apparently when a building is against the mountain a hole allows the dragon to still come out. Poetic, isn't it? However, I also heard a story that the developer saw something like this in Disneyland and just copied it for his own building. I hope that the motivation for the hole is the former, not the latter. Then I can forgive that awful peach color.

Finally, I drive pass Repulse Bay,

and up the mountain,

where I reach the Hong Kong International School. For the past 6 days, arriving there has given me a strange sense of homecoming. I'm rather sad that I won't be doing the commute again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

fine things

Today I rode the famous Star Ferry to Kowloon. This ferry is a mere $1.7 HK--which is an incredible deal. Unfortunately, I didn't get to take advantage of this deal because I thought it said $17. and dropped two $10. coins in the slot before I realized my error. I really kicked myself on that as I am running low on HK cash.

In Kowloon, Amy and I went to the Jade Market, an indoor marketplace with hundreds and hundreds of stalls selling jade, jewelry and other fine things.

I was, ironically, explicited instructed NOT to buy any jade at the Jade Market. Jade has too many variables such color consistency and purity that determine its value--all of them very difficult to judge to an untrained eye. Any attempt to buy "some nice jade" would undoubtably be taken advantage of by the ruthless bargaining vendors.

So instead, I stuck to the lesser value objects, such as the vegetable ivory carvings. These hand-carved figurines are made from a Tagua nut; it has a similiar appearance to ivory and no elephants were de-tusked.

With my wallet empty and my hands full of Tagua nut souvenirs, we went to the Pennisula, the "Grand Old Lady of Kowloon" hotel, for the high tea served in their opulent lobby.

It was very British, complete with delicate cucumber sandwiches and scones. I felt very aristocratic, nibbling on my crust-less triangles of bread and sipping tea poured from real silver teapots. Suddenly, my chagrin of losing $18. from the Star Ferry seemed so bourgeois.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

dining directions

I can’t believe I have been here in Hong Kong for over a week. Well, actually, I do because I am starting to get a feel for the city—something that, for me, takes time.

But just a start. Last evening I was left to my own navigational devices, leading Linda Sue Park and Gail Carson Levine to what was promised to be the best Chinese food in Hong Kong (I know, I keep such impressive company when I am in Hong Kong! That all fades away when I return to the US and my most frequent visitor is the UPS man). They had just arrived a couple days before, so I felt that I (being the most senior Hong Kong visitor) should steer the way.

Unfortunately, while you can take the girl out of the US, you still can’t take the direction dysfunction out of the girl. My mystical “I’ll find my way using the force” didn’t work here in Hong Kong any better than it does in the States, so we were wandering up and down the street for a bit. No one recognized the street address, and try pronouncing D’agulier Street to a Cantonese person. They had no idea what I was saying.

But we did eventually find the Ning Po restaurant (more thanks to Linda Sue and Gail’s cell phone then me) which was highly, highly praised from one of the foodie teachers, who also included a list of the best dishes to get.

And it may just be the best Chinese food in Hong Kong. It was incredibly delicious—the dou miao (Chinese greens) was the hands down favorite which we almost fought over. If you are ever in Hong Kong, this restaurant is extremely recommended. Just don’t ask me how to find it.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Within walking distance of the school, there is Tin Hau Temple--another temple devoted to the Goddess of the Sea (I suppose an island depending mainly on the fishing industry figured they couldn't have enough of those)--which I saw today for the first time.

It is rather large, almost as if bits and pieces have been added over time--a pavilion here, a walkway there, a statue somewhere there. It is actually pretty disorganized and slightly shabby. The smoky, mysterious atmosphere that I have seen in the other temples is nowhere in sight. The statues and colors are, in fact, rather garish.

And I loved it. I had no expectations of this place, it wasn't in any of my guidebooks or lists. But there was an intangible charm to it that is hard to describe. The unplanned design, the bright colors, the new cartoon-styled statues next to ancient stone carvings gave the whole temple an unpretentious air. It made you feel not in awe, but welcomed. It felt like people had loved it and still did.

Adding to its appeal, was this longevity bridge. According to the plaque, crossing the bridge adds three days to your life. It was a very well-worn bridge.

My camera was running out of batteries, so I didn't take as many pictures of it as I wanted. I'm going to have to go back. I've been searching on this trip for inspiration for a new book and I think I may have just found the perfect setting. The colors, the bridge--it's as if they were waiting for me to place them in a book. I can feel images wanting to be painted. Maybe the reason I crossed the ocean was to see this place, answering the call of the Goddess of the Sea.