Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's Official....I Am A Hongkie!

Hello again!

It's Saturday night here in Hong Kong and I just got home from another great day. I went apartment hunting for a few hours this morning (no luck yet so keep your fingers crossed) followed by pool time in Discovery Bay with Monica, the best pedicure EVER with Michelle and dinner at a Portugese restaurant. I decided I was too tired to go out because tomorrow will be filled by a long walk on Bowen Road followed by brunch and free-flow champagne with Eren, Cheryl and Naomi at The Pawn in Wan add insult to injury, I was out until 4AM last night (yes, you read that correctly) so I can barely keep my eyes open. This place parties more than ANYWHERE I've ever been - NYC, London, Buenos Aires or even Sydney. It is absolutely ridiculous!!!

Last night's evening started with a work dinner at The China Club, a local Hong Kong institution and one of the most exclusive restaurants, hosted by my coach and mentor Vanessa( We noshed on Peking Duck (they make it into little pancakes with spring onions and sweet sauce - I loved it), sweet & sour pork, dan dan noodles and the infamous century egg which I tried but didn't like too much ( I have gotten so adventerous with my palate lately that I am just asking to get sick (I am crossing all my fingers and toes as I write this). The crazy thing is that I haven't had any stomach issues that a lot of expats complain about....yet.

Once dinner was over (have I mentioned how much I adore my new team?) I met up with my new friend Sumaya (Sumi) and a bunch of her girlfriends for a night out on the town. It was like being at the United Nations and I couldn't have been happier - we had representation from France, Germany, Slovakia, Malaysia, Canada, Pakistan and the good ol' USA. We danced to 80's music in the street at Lan Kwai Fong and took jello shots off the back of our hands (yes, just like we did in college). At 3:45AM I decided it was time to take myself home so I hiked up the side of the mountain in heels to my apartment in mid-levels (the escalators stop running shortly running after midnight) which took about 20 minutes by stairs. I finally got home and it looked like I had just gone swimming because I was dripping from head to toe with sweat. I would call it perspiration but that would be a bold-faced lie. As much as I like it here, it is NOT GOOD for hair, skin, or high heels because of the humidity and hills everywhere.

A few other key things to share so my mom and the BFFs don't worry - I went out for dinner and drinks with a girl I met in Dubai in 2007 along with her friend Tanya from Russia Wednesday night after work. We had a great time and Ash is definitely going to be a great friend here. I also met a girl named Kelly through a colleague who lives in London. We met for drinks at Sevva, a bar with one of the best views of the Kowloon side, and I think we are going to start hiking together (and drinking together). It's so easy to meet people here and although there are 8 million people on the island it feels like a smaller community.

This week was also monumental because a VERY exciting thing happened yesterday....I officially became a Hongkie! Yep, that's right - I finally got my HK ID card so now the communist government can track my every move...literally. It felt similar to when I turned 16 and got my driver's license (on the FIRST try which is more than Jess can say!) I have to say my ID picture isn't too bad, either :)

As for the locals, here is an interesting observation. Many men and women of the older generations burp and dare I say "fart" in public with absolutely no regard for anyone around them. I was in a taxi the other day and the driver kept burping...with his mouth open. I couldn't figure it out at first - did he forget I was in the backseat? Did he suffer from serious indigestion? Was he just being rude? I asked someone in my office who explained that it's quite common....who then proceeded to tell me about the woman who sits behind him and burps/farts all day. He actually keeps count of how many "infractions" there are each day!!! I completely lost it when he told me and I am cracking up again just thinking about it (have I mentioned how much I like my colleagues)?

I've got to sign off and get some zzzzzzz's. I hope everyone is doing well and please keep the emails/skype/FB updates coming. It helps me feel close to home!

Elle - good luck on the house closing this week!

Love and miss,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Welcome to Hong Kong!

Hello everyone!

Sorry it's taken over two weeks to start this blog. It's been a whirlwind! I arrived safe and sound in Hong Kong the evening of July 10, 2010 at 6:38PM to start my new adventure after a very emotional 22-hour flight from CLT via JFK. The good news is that I flew business class on Cathay Pacific from JFK and the seats converted into completely flat beds. Amazing! I also heard the food is delish but I didn't have much appetite. Instead, I listened to David Grey and 80s music on my iPod most of the time.

That first Saturday evening was a very lonely night. In fact I don't think I've EVER felt so alone in all my life. I had trouble communicating with the locals (who call themselves Hong Kongese so I was close when I said Hong Konganese Joyce!). The funny thing is they THINK they speak good English but many of them don't. And they talk really fast so sometimes you honestly don't know if they are speaking English, Chinese or Greek. Once I got to my corporate apartment my frustration increased because I couldn't figure out how to use my computer, make a phone call or turn on the hot water in the shower (they have metal boxes in the shower and kitchen that you need to turn on and set the temp -- which by the way is in Celsius! - why does the USA have to be difficult and not use the metric system?) which certainly didn't help matters or my mood so I went to bed. BUT, I woke up Sunday morning (4:15am) and called my friend, mentor and guardian angel Eren at 7:45am to come save me. She and her hubby Jack scooped me up and spent the entire day babysitting me. They showed me where to get groceries, how to ride the Escalators (the longest set of escalators in the world that literally people take down the side of the mountain in the AM and up the mountain in the PM) and out to Causeway Bay where they live. I also got to see IKEA (yeah!!!) and a public outdoor swimming pool where I plan to start swimming again...or at least that's what I told myself.

After my HK tour Eren and I met her friend Cheryl and got hour-long foot massages for $25USD. It was incredible and it's one of only a few "bargains" in Hong Kong - the others being public transportation, medicine and water. Nobody drinks the water here but I've been using it to brush my teeth and so far so good. To that extent, guess what I ate last week...chicken feet and jellyfish! I liked them both but the chicken feet don't have much meat so I am not sure why people put forth all the effort! Next up is durian fruit (it smells like dirty socks - they won't even let you open the fruit in a restaurant or store b/c it's so pungent). I don't think I am going to like it but as they say "when in Rome." The locals are having a great time with me because I try everything, including trying to speak their language. OMG - it's so difficult to form their sounds!!!

Everything else is very expensive here - it's the 4th most expensive city in the world behind Moscow, Tokyo and somewhere in Norway. For you shopping lovers (LP, Danna, Jess) it would be heaven --- Prada, Tod's, Tom Ford, Missoni, Gucci, YSL, DVF, and the list goes on an on. I just politely smile as I walk by and wonder A) what people do to be able to shop there and B) if they make sizes large enough to fit my birthing hips and ta-tas. Speaking of which, Asian women are thin and beautiful. It's incredibly annoying and using Elly's term in Spanish I feel like a "monstradante" - I know I butchered that word, sorry Elle! I also noticed their complexions are entirely too perfect - they don't age at all! I plan on getting one of them to let me in on the secret to their fountain of youth because it works....stay tuned.

Have I mentioned how much I like my job so far? It's incredibly I-N-T-E-N-S-E an I've never felt so dumb in my life. Everyone on my floor has educational pedigrees that make Condaleeza Rice look like she went to community college. We are talking Stanford, Cambridge, Brown, Dartmouth, UPenn and....wait for it......NC State! I guess they needed someone from a public, non-Ivy university to help their diversity metrics :) My boss is cool - she's Irish with a wicked and witty sense of humor. She's also one of the smartest people I've ever met in my professional life. I am learning so much from her already and I am just scratching the surface. I can't wait to learn more about this complex, challenging and sometimes crazy investment banking business! Did I mention my boss is also a shoe whore? We are talking CLs out the wazoo! It's a shoe fashion show everyday in the office so I need to quickly step up my game...

I've met a lot of people since my arrival (mostly Brits and a few Aussies) and I've made a few friends along the way, mostly from work. The bank sometimes makes me nuts but the people who work there are generally pretty friggin' awesome. I should give a shout out to Eren, Jack, Cheryl, Ann, Monica, Michelle, Ali, Harris, Eunice, Vanessa and Verity. These people have been exceptionally inclusive and welcomed me with open arms. And because there's very much a feeling of "we're all in this together" friendships are formed much faster. I feel like I hit the trifecta again - great job, great boss, and probably the most important --- a great team. I feel so lucky.

I am going to do a better job of writing posts more regularly (more for myself than for the readers!) because I want to capture my thoughts and experiences while living here more accurately. I would love for you to read my posts but I understand that my life probably isn't that exciting to anyone else...

Just in case you are wondering if I am lonely --- I have a little "buddy" named Cleo. He's a chameleon or salamander and he lives on my living room wall. I don't know what he eats or what he does all day but he's here when I get home from work and we hang out until I go to bed :)

Below is all my contact info. I still don't have a mobile (I kind of like it) but I am getting one this week and will include the number in my next update.
Work Phone:
852 2161 7462


Love and miss my family, friends, JG and my BFFS (you know who you are!)


PS - below is a picture of Cleo, my buddy :)