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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MEGABOX NIGHTS

I have a monster reading schedule to follow for my Master’s of English program from the University of Hong Kong. It is not unusual for me to have several hundred pages of boring academic reading to do prior to my classes each week. Last year when the program began, I discovered very quickly that I can never finish my reading if I stay at home; there are simply too many things to distract me, namely the bed or my computer. However, if I sit outside somewhere, finishing all the reading and notes does not seem to be such a problem. I’ve found the perfect haven for my studying habit in a local shopping mall, aptly named MEGABOX.

This shopping mecca resembles a giant red box, pushed into the middle of two skyscraper towers. Visually it is quite stunning. Here’s a link with a picture on it. http://www.360cities.net/image/megabox I love this place, though I admit that my love for it comes from the fact that it is practically a graveyard on weekdays. Why is such a super-modern, hip chic boutique mall like this always empty? The problem is simple – location and the fact that locals are too lazy to walk. Developers made the mistake of building this place away from the subway line. The fact that it only takes ten minutes to walk to MEGABOX from the subway is irrelevant; the majority of the population feels that it just too far away. Why walk for ten minutes, when every single subway station has a shopping mall located above or below it? I consider this local way of thinking to be quite fortunate for me, since my home is right above the subway line and I can get to this place after only a couple songs on my I-Pod.

Once or twice a week I will go to MEGABOX and reside there between various establishments until all my weekly reading is done. I may go to MOS-BURGER (Japanese style hamburger place, YUMMY!) or get sushi, ramen noodles, pizza, Italian pasta, Thai food, or just go nuts at the Turkish goat milk handmade ice-cream place. There are literally dozens of different kinds of food shops here, pretty much anything you’re hungry for, MEGABOX can provide. Yes, there’s even a steak house that serves Australian Wagyu Beef cheeseburgers with big handmade potato wedge fries. I’ll read a few pages while consuming my snack, use my highlighter to doodle in the margins, then meander around the mall some more. I’ll go through the APPLE store, the bookstore, check the discount DVD rack, or drool over guitar and drum sets at the music shop. I’ll check the IMAX and movie theater to see if there’s anything I want to see (which relieves me of all that awful reading), all of this without hardly seeing a soul. I’m not joking. On weekdays, this place is like my personal playground. Only on the weekends does it maybe fill up to half capacity. But my favorite thing to do there at MEGABOX is visit one of the three (Yes, three! Located on levels one, five, and eight) Starbucks and with some icy chocolaty drink in hand, I’ll sit down in the stands around the largest ice rink in Hong Kong. Here’s a link to a panoramic picture of the ice rink.
http://www.360cities.net/image/megabox-ice-skating-rink

Tuesday night is Hockey Night, here at MEGABOX. Now to be honest, since I grew up in South Louisiana where there’s hardly ever anything that resembles ice, I’ve never been a great fan of ice hockey. However, that has changed over the past few months of weekly visiting this underused sports arena located inside this giant red box. The stands are usually empty, except for a few parents or folks associated in some way with the people on the ice.

I don’t know for sure, but since I’ve only ever seen two teams, perhaps they are the only organized ice hockey groups in the city. Every Tuesday night, they will each take half of the rink and practice for a few hours before playing a real game. Every once in a while, I will glance up from my engrossing textbook on Second Language Acquisition Learning or whatever to see these diminutive players slip, fall, miss the puck, let the stick fly out of their hands, and never, ever score a goal. I’m totally serious. In all these weeks of watching these same guys (and girls too!) play hockey, no puck has ever legally crossed the line into an opponent’s net. Now this is not because of the inherent skill of the goalies, this is because these amateur players are unable to push that little, hard piece of plastic in a straight line towards the net. Please don’t misunderstand my intentions, I hold these athletes in the highest regard. I honestly do admire them for being brave enough to get out there on the ice and in front of people (though not too many) and try their little hearts out. But I must confess, I have to put my fist in my mouth at times because I don’t want to laugh too hard at their antics. I know they are trying to be serious, but my dead grandmother can skate faster than 90% of these kids and all that slipping and falling reminds me of Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges. They are quite cute and endearing actually, but in any way close to resembling professionals they are not.

So the clock keeps ticking, onwards past 10pm, and most of the lonely shop owners pull down the chain link door guards. If I haven’t finished my reading, I’ll just skip it all and go straight to the chapter summary, finish slurping down my frappacino while the hockey players all gather in the middle of the rink for the weekly scream-fest. I have no idea what the coach is saying, but the tone is never happy. I hope that none of these local teenagers give up the sport though, because they sure do liven up my life a huge bit every Tuesday evening. Like anyone else, I’m sure they will get better with more practice. I feel the same way towards this shopping establishment as well. This place has become my home away from home. Yes, there is a huge shopping mall literally underneath my apartment, full of glittering shops of every kind and shape, but it is always packed with people, every day of the week. Here in Hong Kong, what I value the most is the ability to have a quiet moment to myself without sharing elbow room with 8 million other noisy folks. MEGABOX provides that simple pleasure for me. I just hope that they can weather out this financial tsunami so that I may continue to have these thoroughly enjoyable MEGABOX nights for many years to come.
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Last edited by Moorea on Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:41 am; edited 2 times in total
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JUST ANOTHER SENTO STORY

Late in the summer of 1991, I was living Kasugai, a suburb of Nagoya, the capital of Aichi prefecture. There I was, sitting down on one of those tiny red plastic stools, my entire body lathered up from head to toe. That’s when I felt the earth moving. Ok, I’m going to die, buck naked in a Japanese sento, I thought. I began wondering if there were earthquake alarms in an old place like this. Suddenly a very deep voice boomed off the tiled walls of the bath house.

“Is this seat taken?” the voice said.

I turned and looked for the source of the question. All I could see was a pair of brown skinned knees the size of tree trunks. My eyes raised up and up, and up, and just kept going until way up there, towering over me was the largest human being I had ever laid eyes upon. He repeated the question.

I opened my mouth to reply, but soap dribbled in and I began choking. Though to be fair, I might have felt just a tiny bit of fear and awe with such a large creature standing, also buck naked, right next to me. I just motioned with my hand for him to sit. The ground shook a little more as he positioned himself over the stool, then plopped down on it like a ton of bricks. It was just amazing that such a cheap little plastic stool could withstand so much pressure.

He introduced himself as Fiamalu, from Hawaii. He seemed so happy to meet a fellow American. As he took a bar soap and turned his hands into bubble gloves, he asked a lot of questions about why I was in Japan, what food did I like, etc. He was quite friendly.

I was a bit surprised to hear that we were the same age, both barely past our second decade of existence. I tried not to stare as we both filled the matching red buckets of water and poured them over our heads to rinse the soap off of us. Now with our bodies clean and free of dirt and soap, he invited me to join him in one of the big hot tubs. I got in first and then water sloshed all over the sides as he climbed in opposite me. I averted my attention to the mosaic of Mount Fuji on the wall to avoid giggling as he took his tiny washcloth and wrapped it around his head like all the old men do. After exhaling a great sigh of pleasure, he continued talking.

In the next thirty minutes of slowly being cooked in the hot tub, this giant Samoan-American talked about sumo and what it meant to him. To be honest, he didn’t think much of the locals in his sumo stable. He thought most of them were just pure flabby fat, no muscle underneath at all. This rather surprisingly gentle guy explained some of the finer details of this ancient, traditional sport of Japan. He asked if I had ever seen the great Chiyonofuji wrestle before. I replied yes, I had sat in front of the TV back in May, along with practically everyone else in Japan, when one of the greatest masters of sumo, Chiyonofuji, lost unexpectedly to a relatively unknown eighteen year old wrestler named Takanohana. Yes, I was just as shocked as everyone else in the entire nation. Chiyonofuji was widely considered to be the most skilled sumo of all time. Chiyonofuji was not a fat man at all, but rather trim (for a sumo) at 120 kilograms - all pure muscle. We discussed and admired the skill that Chiyonofuji had possessed before his retirement. Fiamalu hoped that someday he could become as great as that wrestler.

Dried and dressed in giant sized summer yukata (resembles a kimono, but for common, everyday wear), I watched Fiamalu walk away, the portable earthquake fading as he turned a corner. Glancing down at the small piece of paper in my hands, I was quite excited about tomorrow.

At 8am the next day, I parked my mountain bike outside the Buddhist temple that the paper had directed me to. It wasn’t hard to find the practice dojo for the wrestlers. All I had to do was follow the violent shakings of the earth and the occasional loud grunts. The dojo’s sliding paper walls were all pushed open, allowing the hot summer wind to blow through the even hotter interior. Fiamalu had said the day before that some sumo chose to just eat to bulk up, whereas others pumped iron. I quickly understood what he meant by all the unbelievably jiggly piggly, very soft bodies inside. That’s not to say that all of them were blubbery like that. There were some who were working out with the free weights in a corner. My mathematical skills were not sufficient enough for me to count how much weight they were casually bench pressing. Fiamalu himself was on the leg press machine, using just one leg to push the entire block of weights (about 300 pounds), up and down like he was lifting no more than a bucket of chicken wings. He grinned at me as my jaw slackened.

Over the next few hours, I was privileged to watch this rare sight – an authentic, famous sumo stable in private practice. The earth shook like thunder as Fiamalu threw his flabby opponents around like rag dolls. It was a morning like no other. Before I took my leave, he gave me a present. It was an A5 sized piece of paper, plastered onto gold colored cardboard. A huge handprint, all in red ink, was on the middle of the paper. A name was scribbled in elaborate Chinese calligraphy on the side. I couldn’t read it of course. Fiamalu looked at me and answered my question with a little bit of pride in his voice.

“That’s my new professional name. I just earned it. It says ‘Musashimaru’”.

We shook hands and I departed, never to meet again. But I soon began to see him on TV. Within a few more months, Musashimaru was a household name. In 1999, eight years after we first met, he attained the rank of Yokozuna, the highest rank in the sumo world. He was the second foreigner to achieve this honor.
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My Newspaper

I’m constantly amazed by the world. Just when I start to feel complacent and a bit bored with my life, something pops up to add just a bit of spice. I get this pick-me-up every morning when I read the local newspaper, The South China Morning Post, which is the only international English newspaper here in Hong Kong. The Post is really a neat paper, filled with obscure articles, photographs, and little-known facts from all sorts of places.

There’s the international section, which yesterday featured pictures of those poor Royhinga (sp?) boat people being marched at gunpoint back onto their boat on a lovely Thailand beach, where the Thai soldiers then towrd the boat out into the sea and let them go adrift (the refugees’ boat is not powered). And today there are pictures of Chinese soldiers patrolling the streets of Lhasa, where the central government in Beijing is afraid of riots because now it is the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising by the native Tibetans to oust the Chinese. Though most often the news these days is terrible and lamentable, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to expand my horizons and know what’s going on in the less famous parts of the world.

There’s a few pages reserved to China news that is always filled with pictures and stories of farmers rioting over this, policeman being put into jail for that, the central government accusing the West over stuff, university students complaining of something, and/or some local official has been executed for embezzlement (I like their judicial system…bullets are cheap is their philosophy). Today there’s all kinds of hoopla in this section over the American Navy boat allegedly being inside China’s territorial waters and allegedly spying on the Chinese Navy’s new submarine base on Hainan Island (lovely place, went there a few years ago…looks just like an undeveloped Hawaii). Really interesting stuff!

But my favorite section is the local section about Hong Kong. There’s always something to make me laugh or want to cry. Here’s a sampling of the articles on just ONE page in today’s paper (Wednesday, March 11, 2009). “Gillian Chung ‘ready to get back into showbiz’” is the first title. Gillian Chung is one of the girls who was literally exposed last year in Hong Kong’s biggest scandal story. A local showbiz icon, Edison Chen, brought his computer to a repair shop to be fixed. The repairman notices hundreds and hundreds of digital photographs of Edison Chen in an amazing variety of compromising situations with about a dozen of Hong Kong’s most famous young female pop music, film, and TV stars. That repairman steals the pictures and sells them off to local gossip magazines, which caused a huge uproar around the city and caused much embarrassment for those girls who were dumb enough (sorry, but the truth hurts) to let that dorky Edison photograph EVERYTHING, and I do mean everything. This Gillian Chung was half of one of HK’s most famous singing duos, called TWINS (I never cared for their music personally, too teeny-bopperish for my taste). Her career was pretty much destroyed overnight cause now everyone knows that she’s certainly NOT the “girl-next-door” anymore. This first article announces that she’s out of hiding and ready to come back to the world of Canto-pop music. Oh yeah, I’m so excited to have her ubiquitous image and annoying music playing everywhere in my life again.

The second article in the local section of the paper talks about an extremely wealthy businessman, aged 37, who took a chopper (one of those big fat knives) and killed his mother. Not only did he kill his mother, he chopped her 150 times with that knife. Of course this is a gruesome and tragic article (right next to the fluffy Gillian Chung’s comeback article!), but what is fascinating is how the local forensic scientists actually counted that the man chopped his mom one hundred and fifty times. How did they know that it was exactly one hundred and fifty times? I’m glad I don’t have that job. And here’s the reason why he did it – he believed his mother was a Japanese spy sent to pry business secrets from him. So far, doctors don’t think he’s mentally insane. Hmmm, not sure if I agree with that assessment. He sure sounds like a candidate for the psycho ward if you ask me.

The third article in the local section is about a married Hong Kong man who beat up and robbed a prostitute, then asked her for her phone number. He choked her around the neck and punched her in the face until she gave him HK$900 (this was after he procured her services, of course). The next day he felt guilty so he called her and apologized. He called back several times over the next few days to say he was sorry. Finally the woman decided to go to the police and so the next time he called, she asked to meet him. He came and the police nabbed him. And what was his reason for beating and robbing the prostitute? He claimed that he did it because he had just had a nasty argument with his mainlander wife because he didn’t have enough money to buy his wife and son a nice Christmas dinner. Yep, that’s it folks, what a great excuse! Well, the local magistrate believed it and he’s getting a reduced sentence of only 40 months because the judge thinks he properly displayed remorse at his hearing (I guess squeezing out some tears was as easy as squeezing that woman’s neck). Fascinating, huh? Just wait, this one page gets even better!

The next article may be a little on the boring side when compared to the others, but it is important to the locals. Some politician has finally come up with a proposal to cut access to a road that goes through some park because some careless truck driver ran over a kid on a bicycle there on that road a year ago. Now all trucks will have to go around on the by-pass to prevent any further tragic incidents. Ok, that’s good news for the neighborhood! (Actually, this is the only bit of “intelligent” and truly useful news I’ve found in here today!).

Now the last article is probably my favorite. The title reads, “Police veteran caught wearing fishnet stockings and little else”. How’s that for an attention grabber, eh? This article explains how an off-duty officer, aged 49, gets his jollies by going to a certain park in the dead of night and traipsing about with nothing but fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes on. A passing motorist just so happened to notice something strange and called the police. The senior constable was arrested for indecent exposure and will undergo psychological counseling soon. However, at this stage in the investigation, the “cross-dressing officer” has not been suspended and has returned to normal duty. A spokesman for the police force explained that the constable was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that “we suspect that he is addicted to cross-dressing.” Oh really? I would have never thought of that! The spokesman further stated that they believe he has been doing this out of the thrill and excitement of dressing like a woman in a public place. Well, I don’t know about you folks, but I feel safer with this guy on the force!

So you see, dear friends, this is why I enjoy opening up The South China Morning Post every morning. No where else in the world can I learn in just ten minutes that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela wants to supply China with oil for next 50 years, the Dali Lama says that Tibet has become a hell on Earth, a local businessman needed to whack his mother one-hundred and fifty times with a knife and is pronounced not crazy, sex scandal artists are coming back into the limelight, PETA advises pet owners to not give derogatory names to pets so as to improve the pets’ self image (that cracks me up), a local scientist claims that electronic cigarettes are better for your health than real ones (oh really?), a local politician threw a banana (instead of a shoe) at our government leader, some Indians are a bit testy over the way their country is portrayed in that Slumdog Millionaire movie, Dakota Fanning has landed a part in the new Twilight movie, Shaquille O’Neal did not flop, Terrel Owens is leaving the Cowboys for Buffalo, the results of the 31st International Badminton tournament held in Harbin, China, and last, but not least, one local police constable enjoys taking midnight strolls minus clothing except fishnet stockings and high heels. Wow, the world is indeed a fascinating place! I can’t wait to see what’s in tomorrow’s newspaper!
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Farsider



Joined: 10 Aug 2005
Posts: 913

PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shocked

You met Musashimaru?

Wow, I'm in shock. I remember when that guy made #1 (I was actually surprised that a foreigner could ever reach that rank)
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, summer of 1991, he was in Nagoya for their tournament. He was only 21 years old at that time, same as me. His career was just starting to take off. Before his technique became better, he won his early matches by sheer strength. As he showed me at their practice, so many of his competitors were just huge piles of walking blubber. He was fit and not overweight at all. By the end of his career, he was still strong of course, but he'd learned how to properly throw people, etc by then. It was great to see him become a yokozuna.


He didn't speak much Japanese at that time, yet, so I think he was excited to talk to someone else. Not so many foreigners in that area back then.
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hawks of Hong Kong


On the western side of the Kowloon peninsula, the school where I work has a clear view of part of Victoria Harbor. On clearer days, I enjoy looking out over the heavy traffic of boats, cruise ships, passenger ferries, and other utility craft out on the water. If the sky is exceptionally clear, you can even see Lantau Island, which is a beautiful scene, especially in the afternoon when the sun sets directly behind the mountains on the island. When I first arrived at this school four years ago, I was surprised and very pleased to find a number of hawks floating up and down the salty air currents. For years now I’ve stood at the seventh floor balcony, looking over the sky to count how many hawks I can see on that particular day. The most I’ve seen is six at one time. There is something quite tranquil and relaxing to watch them, just hovering between the earth and sky. However I’ve always been curious about how these hawks have survived in this location. There are only a handful of pitiful trees around here. Huge construction is going on all over this side of the peninsula as well. Where do these birds sleep? And most importantly, what do they eat? I’ve always wondered about this. There most certainly is not any small wildlife living around here. Do they go over the harbor and scoop up fish? That was my most likely theory, at least until this morning. While passing by the balcony, I saw a hawk swoop by, only about fifty yards away from me. Then I realized how and why the hawks of west Kowloon, Hong Kong have survived, despite all the construction and lack of anything natural around here. Wriggling in the bird’s claws was a huge, fat, juicy rat. Maybe I should call ANIMAL PLANET and get them to come check this out!
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Amaunator



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 2074
Location: Belgium ... innocuous but intrepid!

PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hah, wonderful once more Very Happy.

There were some tiny spelling things in the previous one and a 'loose construction' somewhere, but overall I'm really loving these snapshots... Just sitting back, kicking off my boots and relaxing as I read Smile.

Also, I'd wager that the city accomodated nesting places atop high buildings for the hawks. The same happens over here with the owls and hawks that fly over these lands Wink. In fact, my mother works at an AGFA GEVAERT factory where they installed these artificial nesting places for hawks on their own accord, which is really an exception...
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