Sorry I've taken longer than usual to write my latest entry but there's been so much going on I haven't had the time (or energy) to write lately. Where to begin???
Well, I found my "plus one" in Hong Kong. No, it's not what you are thinking -HER name is Long-Long (we call her Long for short - LOL) and she is quickly becoming my BFF here. She's originally from Dirty Jersey but she lived in Charlotte for 5 years before moving to HK six months ago. We both work for BAC (we will soon be on the same COO team), are the same age, and know some of the same people from our pasts. CRAZY!!!! Our friends have started calling us "StephandLong" because we are always together...and as soon as she's back from two weeks in the States we will be neighbors! Yep, that's right - I found an adorable, renovated 1-bdrm apartment in mid-levels on Mosque Steet (a great location in the middle of everything) and we are going to live on the 20th and 15th floors of the same building!!! I am moving Monday afternoon and LL moves October 1. It's an older Chinese building with one unit per floor. It doesn't have amenities like some of the newer buildings (no gym or pool) but it's almost 700-square feet, has 1.5 bathrooms and a full-sized refrigerator/freezer. I know most of you are thinking so what Steph - 700-sq. ft. is tiny, what's the big deal about a full-sized fridge and 1.5 bathrooms isn't that important.....but when you've gotten used to showering in a peanut, sleeping in a teacup and eating out of a a jewelry box because everything (including the people) are so small you come to love full-sized anything! I will post some pictures of the flat as soon as I figure out how to download them from my work computer.
What else has been going on? I went to dinner at a Moroccan restaurant with 14 people two weekends ago. It was mostly Americans but we had a sprinkling of Brits, Aussies and Chinese in the group to mix it up. I don't think I will ever get sick of how multicultural this place is! We had a good dinner with incredible wine that Jay selected (a fellow Italian-American from Jersey who I've been teasing constantly about the show Jersey Shore). He's a great guy who might as well run for mayor of HK because he knows EVERYONE. We wrapped up the evening with sheesha (hookah as we know it in the States). There were two flavors, apple and grape --- and they were delish. I don't normally smoke but I love flavored nicotine. It's like healthy smoking (well, not exactly but close enough)!
That same weekend Long, Devin, Julie and I (aka the American Dream Team) went to the Peak so Devin could finally see the city from above. It was another clear afternoon so the views were spectacular. We laughed at how we looked like tourists with our SLR cameras and American clothes but we didn't care because we knew we weren't leaving in a few weeks like most of the people there....we actually LIVE in this magnificent place! To celebrate having the guts to leave our comfortable lives back in the States and live a million miles away from family and friends, we decided to go for the gold (or rather the suction) and got fish pedicures! It's the only one in HK and is an experience none of us will ever forget (even if we tried). Devin might be one of the coolest guys EVER for going to a pedicure salon with three girls...he earned his badge of honor for putting up with me and Julie who screamed, laughed, kicked and cursed almost the entire 20 minutes we had our feet submerged with the fishies. From the way we were acting (mostly me but Julie was also a willing participant in this behavior) you would've thought the 1-inch black guppies were Great Whites who hadn't had a proper meal in weeks. We were terrified!
But let me back up and set the stage. We entered the salon and immediately thought maybe we shouldn't do it because the place was empty. But after a few minutes of talking each other into it, we decided to go for it. Our strategy was simple - we would put our feet in the water at the same time and hold them in place for 20 minutes for the fish to, um, eat our feet. And that's what we did...until Julie and I looked at each other, shrieked in Long and Devin's ears and yanked our feet out almost as quickly as we had put them in the warm water bath. It was one of the strangest feelings I've ever experienced. It wasn't painful but it wasn't pleasant. The best way to explain it, as strange as it sounds, is like when a baby "gums" your finger but on your feet instead. Your immediate reaction is to pull away but it's kind of like wet paint - you shouldn't touch it but you can't help youself. I was by far the biggest pansy (not one of my proudest moments) but I eventually got the guts to leave my feet in for longer than a few seconds. What happened next is hard to describe but let me try to paint a clear picture. Tamra, Elly, Gretchen, Sandy, Tara, Alex, my sister and my mom are all going to lose it when they read this part: if there were let's say 100 fish in the water, 9o of them swam over to my feet for a proper meal! It was so humiliating to know my feet were a steak dinner when three other people's feet combined were merely a McDonald's burger. Devin told me to NEVER bring a date for a fish pedicure because the fish would be eating my feet instead of the man's....and that wasn't cool! We took a zillion pictures (all blurry, of course because we couldn't stop laughing) and much to my demise Long took a short video -
Last weekend was another adventure. Devin, Julie, Long, some work friends and I met up at our friend Rickesh's bar in LKF called Otto Lounge to celebrate Julie's birthday. It's a very cool, chill lounge similar to what you would find in NYC and not HK. They played 90s hip hop most of the night and we drank the most incredible french and lychee martinis...a little too incredible for my head the next morning :) I left early to go home and mentally prepare for the next day....my first junk trip with my dear friend Ashley!
I woke up feeling pretty good besides having a minor headache but by the time Ashley, Allison and I arrived at the ferry pier I was already feeling a little queasy. I popped a motion sickness pill and hoped for the best (BTW - I've never been seasick in my life). But after getting on the boat and having to wait 10 minutes for a few more people to arrive while docked in Hong Kong Harbor (one of the roughest in the world) I was feeling downright BAD. So I popped another pill and figured this trip would be an excellent way to get over my phobia of puking. Well, the 2-hour trip to the island we visited was probably the worst two hours of my life. I sat in the corner of the boat curled up and unable to speak. Thank goodness for Tijiana - she kept talking to me and getting me soda water to sip because my mouth was so dry. I LOVE YOU!
I never did get sick but two other people on the boat did for me. Awesome. As soon as we docked I jumped off the boat into the warm waters and realized my body was in shock. I was freezing, my body was shaking and my teeth were chattering (it was 92 degrees). Even more awesome. So I took off with a few other people and swam 2500 yards to shore to get warm and spend time on dry (and not moving) land. We stayed on the beach until we had to swim back to leave. And of course, the way home was incredible - not even a twinge of seasickness for nearly 2 hours. I don't understand how that happens but I wasn't complaining! I did find out later that it was unbelievably choppy on the water that day so I feel a little better about being sick but let's just say I am not signing up for another junk anytime soon. I will gladly swim in the dirty HK water but there's no way I will be on a boat in the open ocean again for a long time. I think it's 80% mind over matter but getting older isn't helping. I grew up boating in Long Island Sound, used to go deep sea fishing and have trolled for fish in the Outer Banks without ever taking meds or feeling bad. What happened??? I've decided to blame my dad for this new fear since he gets seasick (I love you Bones)! I was supposed to go out that night but was wiped out and slept most of the remaining daylight hours, woke up to eat dinner, watched a movie in Chinese and went to bed by 11PM.
Sunday fundays are becoming a regular occurrence around here. Last Sunday I went on my first hike with Jay and his friend Jane who should be called St. Jay and St. Jane after what I put them through. Let me explain what a "hike" means in HK terms. It's not a slight incline on a perfectly manicured footpath with restrooms and water fountains abound - it's like being in the friggin' outback! The "trails" are mostly steps after steps after steps on what seems like a 75 degree constant incline (is that steep? I don't even know but it sounds good) and it's more humid than hell itself. I struggled my way up to the top (we had to stop 3 times so I could make sure my heart didn't beat out of my chest) and some guy actually asked if I was okay. How embarrassing ---but I can't wait to do it again!
After struggling on the trail, I met Ann (ABL) for brunch to catch up since she was in the US for two weeks. Ashley joined us for coffee and we decided to get foot and neck massages aftrwards. The best part? The place we found is about 200 yards from my new apartment and it's CHEAP. I ended the weekend by having dins with Ashley at one of our fav neighborhood joints. We noshed on tapas and cheap white wine before heading home to start the work week. Have I mentioned how much I love living here?
However, as much as I love it and as busy as I've been meeting people, exploring and trying new things, this week was the first I felt pangs of homesickness. It was a long week for a few reasons (everything is fine so nobody freak out), but I could've used some familiar faces or friendly messages from the people I love and care about back home. It's been somewhat eye-opening to realize that for some friendships being so far way means "out of sight out of mind" and for others it doesn't seem to make a bit of difference. Speaking of which, I want to thank the BFFS for being such incredible, loving and supportive friends. I know it's been harder to figure out how and when to chat but thoughts of you are constantly in my mind. I love you girls! I also want to give a 'shout out' to a dear friend of mine. We worked together briefly back in '02-'03 but our friendship has survived distance and the test of time. She just had a beautiful baby boy less than a week ago and while she was literally about to go into labor she read my blog, wrote down my address and sent me the funniest care package - 4 enormous jars of peanut butter, one tube of grape jelly and two boxes of 100-calorie packs (that I've already taken down)! Shannon - you are an amazing friend and wife and I know you will make a terrific mother. Congrats!!
Well, it's taken me almost two hours to write this blog entry so I need to get up from the couch and get ready for dinner with Monica, Michael, Michelle and Danny at an Australian restaurant called Wooloomooloo's in Wanchai tonight. I am preparing for Angelo and Mikey's visit to HK in a few weeks...this place won't be the same after those two crazy Ozzies come to town. And Shanghai doesn't stand a chance against me, Long, Angelo and Mike ---- watch out!
I hope everyone is doing well. Much love to my family and big hugs and kisses to my adorable niece Abbie. I miss singing in the car with you :)
Below are pictures from the fish pedicure and junk trip. Enjoy!