Monday, October 31, 2011

A Little of This, A Little of That

Hello again!

Things are going great here in the place also known as adult Disney. We celebrated Long and Tory's birthdays a few weekends ago with 25 of their closest friends and partied late into the evening...well, some of us partied later than others. Long went home at midnight because she drank a little too much snake wine that our friends Charlie & Quin brought from the dark dwellings of Kowloon. No, I am not kidding. It is Vietnamese rice wine complete with a dead snake in the bottle. It makes tequila with a worm look like apple juice. 

Me w/ the birthday brunettes - Tory & Long
snake wine - ewww!

I must share, in full disclosure, that the party almost didn't happen thanks to a moronic move on my part. I was trying to cancel a brunch we were supposed to attend the next morning because I knew it would be a late night and we wouldn't be up in time to catch the ferry, and I cancelled the birthday bash by accident. I immediately starting receiving texts and emails from people asking if everything was okay. It took a few minutes to realize what I had done but once it sunk in I FREAKED. I mean totally lost it. My palms got sweaty, my face was completely flushed and I felt sick to my stomach. A logical person would simply reply to everyone on the email chain and explain the error (which I eventually did) but for about 10 minutes I sat in complete panic mode with Long and Blair. I hadn't even had a single drop of alcohol but once I realized what I had done I asked for a very tall, very strong beverage with lots of alcohol. More to numb the embarrassment I knew I was about to endure when we got to the bar. Phew. At least everything turned out okay.

Two weekends ago was an impromptu trip to Phuket with my good friend Cate (aka Kate/KT/Pig Pen) who I haven't spent much QT with since our amazing, wonderful trip to Africa and Dubai with Sandy back in 2007. She moved to London, married an awesome guy and is pretty much running JP Morgan so that doesn't leave her much free time. We spent three amazingly fun days together riding elephants, sitting on the beach soaking up the beautiful Thai sun, eating  carb-infused Thai food, and reminiscing about life the past 4 years. It's a great feeling to know that regardless of life's twists and turns, some friendships can stand the test of time and end up being stronger than ever. Thanks for a great weekend KT --- already looking forward to London/Croatia 2012 with Linus! 

"The Twins"
sunset at Raiwai Beach - Phuket, Thailand
This past weekend I went to my first housewarming party HK style. It was more like a 'flatwarming' party since no one lives in actual free-standing houses here, but it was fun nonetheless. At least until the police showed up and told us we had to quiet down or the hosts would get fined a good chunk of Chinese change. It's crazy to think how drastically different my life is from a year and a half ago - I used to have people over to grill out on my patio in the backyard, I could run down the hallway from the kitchen to my bedroom, and I would stress over whether or not the house was clean. Now I have someone clean my apartment, another person to cook me dinner, I can barely fit a couch and chair in my living room and a hallway is a distant memory. But I wouldn't change it for the world and would do it all over again if asked. 

From This - view in Charlotte
To This - view in Hong Kong

We celebrated Halloween Saturday night. I know everyone back in the states thinks Halloween is a big deal. I did too. But there's no place quite like Hong Kong at Halloween. I don't know if it's because there are so many emotional challenged people living here who can't relate to other people under normal circumstances, or if it's because there are more chemically-dependent people, but it is absolutely INSANE. We were dead set against going out but since my friend Carolina was visiting from NYC I felt the pressure to show her a good time. So we dressed up as pirates and went to a bar party. It ended up being a fantastic time --- people watching was some of the best I've ever seen, the music was great (cheesy 80s so I was in heaven), and the local Chinese thought enough of our pirate costumes to keep stopping us to take our picture. Weird but kinda cool. 

LKF @ 10pm - just getting going
Me & Carolina!
Me & Norma - "the zookeepers"
Well there you have it. The latest and greatest in my Asia Adventures. Thanks to all my friends from near and far. And to the BFFs - it's gonna be great! You guys make my world go round...

I shamelessly stole this from a friend's FB Wall
I also want to give a special shout out to one of the best couples around. My parents are celebrating their 47th year of wedded bliss this Halloween. They are as much in love today as they were when they stood at the altar in UVA chapel all those years ago. I love you guys!!!

One of the happiest couples around. Ever.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's About Time

It feels like years since I wrote anything in my blog and in fact, it has been almost six months since my last entry. It's amazing to think back to the June gloom of this year and realize all is right in my world again. All I can say is thank goodness for family, close friends, the most amazing boss and colleagues. If it looks like a dog, acts like a dog and barks like a dog --- chances are it's a dog. Lesson learned!!!

There are a few reasons for the writing hiatus but most importantly it's because I've been enjoying life here in Asia and haven't been home much to sit down and get my thoughts together. There have been some pretty late nights  (or early mornings depending on how you choose to see it) and fun memories that will last a lifetime. One of my favorites is the night we went to an African bar and Long lost her shoe. She didn't even realize it until the next day and still can't remember where she left it! Another funny thing happened while I was at dinner with my UK friends. We usually end up spending a portion of the night talking about cultural differences so let's just say "hoody-free" is the way forward! I am so thankful for Kath, James, Helen and Susan. Like I said, some very late nights and lots of stories...

There have been lots of trips too. 

A trip to Guilin, China with Long, Devin and Sky where we sailed down the Li River and saw a dismembered hand in the water (ewwwww). We also rode a go-kart contraption through a mountain and climbed waterfalls wearing hard helmets and traditional Chinese sandals. We looked HOT. NOT.

There was an overnight "girls only" jaunt to Macau with Kelly, Eren and Darcy where we planned to gamble away our paychecks and shake our tail feathers. We ended up pretty much eating our way through Macau instead but I wouldn't have it any other way. I owe those girls for putting the smile back on my face. I am also proud to report that my stomach contents stayed where they belonged on the ferry ride to and from Macau...I think my sea-sickness is finally subsiding.

There were a couple of days in Shanghai with Darcy to see the FINA world swimming championships and meet an Olympic medalist (I heart Mike and Serbia). Darcy got major brownie points for even going on the trip because she didn't know much about the sport of swimming -but after getting to see up close and personal why I always say male swimmers (and rugby players) have the best bodies she became an instant fan. Did I mention I heart Mike and Serbia???

Then there was the incredible weekend in Korea with my Seoul Sisters Tory (aka Helen Keller because the girl cannot see a darn thing without her contacts) and Darcy where we toured the DMZ with four incredible US special forces guys and got a personal tour of Seoul city from our friend CY. It became one of my favorite places in Asia because the men are tall, they love Americans and they have Dunkin' Donuts!!!! We ate our way through Seoul too - bibimbap, Korean BBQ, chicken ginseng soup and shaved ice with fruit. Seoul has soul.

Most recently there was the killer holiday to the Greek islands with one of the BFFs and my partner in crime, AT. She flew from NYC and I flew from Hong Kong to "meet in the middle" and relax for 10 days. Athens, Rhodes and Santorini were all incredible but Santorini stole my heart. The scenery is breathtaking and views from the Caldera never get old. The whitewashed buildings and azure seas are a perfect contrast to one another and the food is delish. I've never eaten so poorly in my life and felt so good about it! The people are friendly and warm and they work to live not live to work. You would never know their country is facing bankruptcy from the way they celebrate life everyday. It's the simple things in life that matter most and spending time there was a great reminder of that. It was truly magical.

Things at work are going great. I couldn't ask for a better group of women to work alongside everyday. They work incredibly hard and do what it takes to get the job done well. Thanks Joycey, Lynda, Miranda, and "P" for making work so much fun and for including me in the Chinese mafia! I am also learning a TON about the Cantonese culture and even picked up a few more Canto words (which makes them laugh because my pronunciation is awful). 

My boss is a ROCK STAR. She's an incredible manager with the funniest sense of humor (she's Irish so it's in her blood to be funny). There's not a week that goes by where I don't want to write down one of her expressions - "crazier than a box of frogs" was last week's and this week was "nice Tim dim Tim" used to describe someone stupid. She is a direct, candid, no BS kind of person which I admire and she cares about the people on her team. Thanks M for being you!!!

I promised myself to keep this short and not bore everyone with a play by play of what I've been doing the last six months but did want to share some of what's been going on since people ask why I stopped blogging. I am back and better than ever!

More to come soon.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

There's Nothing Like a Visit From Mom

It seems like time goes by so much faster here. I can't figure out why but I swear it's true. It already feels like months ago that my adorable mom and her friend "B" came to visit before embarking on their 2-week China excursion. Does anyone else think it's a little weird that my mom and her friend saw mainland China before I did yet I am the one living in Hong Kong?!

Thank goodness I created a detailed excel spreadsheet with itineraries for each day (LP would be so proud) to keep the Pats busy while I was at work. They saw the Peak, Man Mo temple, and the botanical gardens and visited a nunnery, the markets and the tea house museum to name a few. 

Tidewater ladies consider yourselves warned - they are bringing instructions on how to hold a proper tea ceremony which means you will all get roped into participating :)

I also made sure they ate well since I wasn't sure what they would be eating in China. We had DTF (Taiwanese dumplings) with the ADT and dim sum for lunch with V and Longo. Both Pats did really well using chopsticks and my mom even ate chicken feet...and liked them! We also had fish and chips at one of my favorite Belgian restaurants and my mom got a little tipsy off ONE beer and ONE espresso martini. Like mother like daughter!!!

Me, Mom & "B" with V and Longo @ Maxim's for dim sum

Mom & Me @ Frite's w/ the ADT and Kevy!
The Pat's split their sleeps between my flat and a hotel. I have to admit I was a little concerned at first since my place is a whopping 700 sq. ft. and I am used to being on my own but it was a welcomed change and I was sad to see them go. It kind of reminded me of living in a dorm again except we were going to bed at the time I used to leave to go out! It's amazing how much my life has changed in "10 couple" years. I had a great college experience and wouldn't change anything about it but I am glad it's in my past...I feel bad for the many people living in HK who are still trying to be 24. Pathetic!

The "Pats" in their bed in my living room

Another highlight of A&Bs trip was the traditional English Sunday lunch we had at Andy & Petrina's. P and her amazing mother Kate cooked a roast that was bigger than me plus stuffing, creamy potatoes, and green beans. We also ate a ridiculous amount of crackers and cheese and took down the yummy cakes for dessert. Did I mention the 47 bottles of wine we consumed? It was a lovely afternoon that was almost evently split between Americans and Brits which made for some interesting conversations!

"A and B" w/ Mommy Kate having English Lunch

The Girls at Andy & Petrina's for English lunch
(Julie, Coops, Petrina, Me, Longo)

"Pat squared," "the Pats" or "A and B" as they were affectionately called had a wonderful time in HK and loved meeting my 'family' out here - the ADT, the UK Connection, V, Frikkie and Kev. They also managed to do more in a week than most people do in a month and had really good attitudes considering the sun didn't shine until the last day (anyone who knows my mom knows she is a sun goddess so I thought she might spontaneously combust). We did manage to see the laser light show following afternoon tea at the Intercontinental w/ Frikkie - it was a great way to spend their last night in Hongkers.

It was sad to see the Pat's leave but it wasn't an overly emotional goodbye since I will see them in two months. I hope the rest of their trip was spectacular and I can't wait to hear the stories from Shanghai, Xian and Beijing. They better be taking loads of pictures!

I always knew my mom was a cool lady but the fact that she trooped over to Asia for nearly three weeks at nearly 70 years old to visit me and experience China, and probably most importantly - that she left my dad at home to fend for himself (I use that term loosely - he went to Florida with the 'guys' and has been eating at friend's houses almost every night...although he did manage to do the laundry and was quite proud of himself) makes her even more incredible.

Mom, I am so proud to be your daughter. You inspire me everyday and I love you more than words can describe. I can't wait to see you again in April!

Bones - I can't believe it will be almost a year by the time I see you. Life just isn't the same without you around to give me a hard time and to love me only the way a father can. You drive me mad but I wouldn't have it any other way. GO DUKE!

Hugs to Michelle, Abbie and the know who you are

It's time for me to sign off because I am going to a 10-hour Thai cooking class with Eren and Longo today (yes, you read that correctly). If OMM is going to work I need to learn how to cook without making people ill. Here's to hoping I don't cut off one of my digits!

Steph (aka the babysitter)

PS - 10 more sleeps until bliss. I can hardly stand it!  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Do You Believe in Love at First Sight?

A very close friend of mine sent me this quote recently and I thought it would be a great way to start this blog entry.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." - Lao Tzu

I don't know who Lao is and I'm sure he was a brilliant man but Julie's translation of the quote means "brave up, bitch" which I think summarizes it perfectly. Jules, thanks for being an inspiration to me everyday. I am so glad my little ray of sunshine is back from the States! It just isn't the same when you're not around.

Since we recently celebrated Valentine's Day, the holiday many single women across the globe dread (I've confirmed this based on an extensive scientific study...I asked them) I wanted to share a story I heard recently that hopefully gives singletons all over the world hope for the certainly opened my eyes and gave me the courage to believe love at first sight really does exist!
Let me preface by stating this is a true story but names have been changed to protect the innocent (aka the guilty).

The Story:
I went to the Philippines with some friends back in October (please read Boracaylicious entry for more deets). We had a great time relaxing on the beach, drinking the day away and enjoying good meals every night before hitting the bars. What I didn't know was that one girl on the trip met a guy she ended up pashing (aka kissing) the first night - she had so much fun with this international man of mystery she agreed to meet up with him again the following night. DISCLAIMER - if my mom and dad (or any of their friends) are reading this, let it be known that your wonderful, conservative, responsible daughter (that would be me, not Michelle) would never consider doing such a thing! Or at least not be dumb enough to write about it in my own blog :)

Back to the story. Chanel and this guy exchanged contact info after their romantic weekend and kept in touch after returning to their respective lives in different US cities. After two months of phone calls and constant emails they started dating and have been together ever since. He is moving to be closer to her and there's even talk about a possible engagement!

My Valentine's Day was nowhere near that exciting since there weren't many attractive, single, straight men at the JJ concert (although for any single straight or gay man who might read this it's a brilliant way to meet a significant other) but regardless I had an awesome time at the show with Long and Traci. We knew almost all of the songs (she sang 35 of her #1 hits) and we found ourselves saying "I haven't heard this song in almost 20 years." The bit I am struggling with is when the hell did I get old enough to say I remember anything from 20 years ago??? Time flies when you're having fun!

Here are a few pics from that night. Does the venue remind anyone else of a high school gym? I love HK but it's definitely not known for it's music venues...I also recorded a video with my camera but decided not to add it since you can hear me singing...and I couldn't handle the abuse I would receive from Julie, Long, DAC and Kevin if I posted it.

 Waiting for the show to start
 Traci, Me, Longo

I also included a picture of me and my dad away from home on Valentine's Day. His name is Chow. He's the night doorman in my building and I heart him. He is soooo nice and looks after me and Longo much like our dads would if they lived here. The best part? He laughs uncotrollably whenever I try to speak Cantonese and Mandarin but keeps encouraging me to practice...
Me & My Valentine, Chow

Another installation of the blog is coming soon. My mom and "B" have been here for a week so there will be some funny stories and pics to share.

And since this is my Valentine's Day entry, I want to give a shout out to someone very special to me. We are going to have so much fun next month and I can't wait to show you my city!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choi - To Cebu Or Not To Cebu

Hello again...I have to share that I am writing this blog entry while getting a foot massage from James and drinking a cup of warm, herbal tea on a Monday night. I heart him although he just told me that my pancreas isn't working properly. What does it do anyway?!

I just returned home from a wonderful trip to Cebu, Philippines with Long and our friend Paul in observance of the Chinese Lunar New Year. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel ( and it was well worth the money minus the wet dog smell in our room. And to think we almost didn't go because a cyclone was headed for Cebu...thank goodness it didn't make an appearance and we had clear blue skies the entire time.

 Our Hangout Spot

 The Grounds

 Banana Hammock Haven

 Me & Paul in the Philippine Sea

 The Typical Asian Pose

There were a few funny experiences on this trip that I wanted to capture, starting with foot massages by blind men that Longo made us get in the Manila airport. We had time between our flights and wanted to do something to help us relax and get into holiday mode so in typical Long fashion, she suggested a foot massage. We probably should've realized something wasn't quite right when the footies were cheaper than usual (even by Manila standards) but it wasn't until we sat down and Long took a good look at our therapists that she turned to me and whispered "I think they're blind - at least I know mine is" - instinctively I looked over and noticed his eyes were rapidly darting back and forth and it sent me into a bit of a tailspin. I couldn't help but feel a little panicked about our situation but after a few minutes of being completely paraletic I did what I usually do...I started talking. As it turned out, my therapist went to school to learn foot reflexology, spoke nearly perfect English, was married and owned his own reflexology studio. He was only at the airport to help a friend who was short on staff that day. It was truly remarkable and the experience was one that will go down in history but Longo is no longer allowed to select foot massage locales. 

Something ironic happened while we were in transit on our way home. Longo and I were both tanned from sitting by the pool and on the beach for four days and we are both vertically challenged with long, dark hair (hers is darker and longer) but that's where the similarities end. She looks Asian and I look, well, depending on where I am and who I am with I get everything from Egyptian to Argentine to Greek but never would I pass for Asian. As we walked by a police officer he asked very seriously if we were sisters?! We both laughed uncontrollaby and said no, just really good friends (BFFs!) but as we sat on the shuttle bus we decided that from now on we will tell strangers we are sisters and that I am adopted. My new name is Stephanie Wu! I always said I wouldn't give up Angelini but Wu is a cool last name and the Chinese symbol for Wu is a little man waving. That makes perfect sense because Longo might be the nicest person I've ever met in my entire life...seriously.

A ridiculous thing we did demonstrates that Long and I are brilliant masterminds...we got smart and selected a vegetarian meal and a low-sodium meal when we booked our flights solely for the purpose of getting our food first! We are usually chewing our arms off by the time we get fed since we're considered part of stowage (no status on Asian airlines yet) and in this example were sitting in row 84 of a 747 (aka the 'big bitch' as we affectionately called her). What a difference it made. We were chowing down on our food while everyone else sat green with jealousy...even if they were something similar to hot pockets! Thanks to ABL for sharing that little tidbit of information with us. We miss you!!!

All in all it was a fantastic, low-key trip. We literally did nothing for four days except pamper ourselves, nosh on lovely food, and exercise (no laughing). We did have to survive amid the Hong Kong families with multiple children and their helpers, along with the Asian men in their teeny tiny banana hammocks (Kev - is this what you rock on holiday?) but we did our best to steer clear of both groups whenever possible. To balance that out, we hung out with a hot Aussie named Nathan who owns a firearms business with his father. Another example of why all good things lead to Australia!!!

I've learned that CNY is not only a time to start over but a time to wish each other 'good fortune' and for that reason it's customary to give red pockets with money to service providers, people who work for you, and single people (yay for the singletons)! It's a really fun custom and people are very gracious and appreciative of the gesture. There are other customs many people follow, such as cutting your hair, buying new clothes, and getting healthy. What's not to love about a culture that gives you money, encourages you to spend money on a new wardrobe, and pamper yourself on spa treatments? I love this place!!


PS - I am SO excited for my mom's visit next week. T minus 7 days and counting!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy New Year...A Little Late

Happy New Year!

It's been more than two months since I blogged about anything and at this point I would be here for the next few days trying to remember everything that happened. Instead I am going to show you some of what I've been up to through pictures because as the saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words."

But before you scroll down to the pictures I wanted to share some of the highlights of the past few months:

1) Thanksigiving ADT style at DTF with three token Brits (we even made them go around the table and say what they were thankful for - they didn't like the idea but ended up in tears like all of the Americans).

2) Traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Eren and Jack's pad with turkey and all the fixin's. This might not sound very exciting but I can assure you it was for us because you can't get true American Thanksgiving things easily in HK. Eren even made a pumpkin pie just for me because it's something my mom and I eat together every year. It was quite the multicultural group too - Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, and true Manhattanites were all represented. Fun times!

3) My first birthday abroad which was spent with great girlfriends and lots of feather boas but ended early because of an awful shot bought by Andy (Petrina's hubby) that nearly killed me. I had to go home at 11pm and was in bed by midnight. Payback is a beeeatch Andy!!!

4) A great Christmas/NYE trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Bali with the ADT plus LP (one of the BFFs from Charlotte who made the long-haul flight over to visit!) and a cameo appearance by the one and only "Angelo the Aussie" for the Bali portion of the trip. Too bad he was sick with "Bali belly" on NYE and was at home asleep before midnight :)

5) Making new friends in Kath, Keeley, Helen and Susan. I love these UK girlies from London and Scotland even if I don't understand what they say sometimes! These are the girls who took me on my first bike ride around the New Territories and who hiked the Maclehose Trail (section 1) with me a few weekends ago. We are supposed to go hiking and camping on the beach in a few weeks - not sure it will really happen but it should be interesting! I am concerned about the bathroom situation (lack thereof or worse yet a Chinese toilet) but I've been told by Helen that she will teach me how to do it without peeing on my shoes. WHAT?!

And now a few of my favorite pictures.

This is intended for someone who is far away but on my mind. And since this person isn't on FB because he thinks it's used to build stalker profiles I had to include some pics for his viewing pleasure. You know who you consider my "to do" list done!

My birthday "HK style" at the Peak Lookout w/ (from L to R): Jules, Longo, Susan, Petrina, Me, LP and Coops!

 Me and Kath on our Bike trip in New Territories
 Maclehose Trail Hike Section 1
 The very scary (and quite common on hikes and at beaches) Chinest Toilet!!!
 Me and Longo in a Tuk-Tuk in Hanoi, Vietnam
 The biggest beer I will ever drink in my life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
 Balinese food
 NYE at Ku De Ta in Bali during a torrential rainstorm. Happy New Year!
 An interesting "rock hard" structure in the caves at Halong Bay, Vietnam
 Cambodia Temple
 Dinner for someone in Cambodia - now do you understand why I don't eat pork???
 Buddha in Cambodia
 Angkor Wat at sunrise - breathtakingly beautiful

Halong Bay, Vietnam
One of my favorite pics from the trip

I have to admit that although I am having the time of my life out here I am a little homesick so I went ahead and booked my flight back to the US for a visit in late April/early May. I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I will be in NY/NC/SC and get to be home for my sister's birthday, T-Bone's birthday, and Julie's birthday. How fun!

To the BFFs - we are having a girls night somewhere...maybe the Grove Park Inn or the beach. Deets to come soon in a separate email.

Signing off to get some zzzzzs.