Thursday, August 16, 2007

0708241900 - Life in the Big Noodle.

I wanted to write my blog on my own computer.

Hugo and I went exploring our new neighbourhood. He went swimming in Stanley Bay which connects the the South China Sea. He braved the treacherous seas and went swimming all the way out to the marker buoy. Then, buoyed by his success, he swam out to the pontoon where he talked to the locals.

I don't need a car. The buses leave every 10 minutes and cost about two dollars AU for a trip into the city. The trains are long and leave so often that there is no timetable. There will be a train within the next five minutes regardless of what line or the time of day.
This is what it is like catching a train -

Hong Kong never stops - I mentioned that it was like the showbag pavilion at the Ekka - it is like that all the time. Shop keepers don't seem to understand that they scare westerners away - they come out of their shops if I show the slightest bit of interest in their wares. They will speak very fast and demonstrate everything. Haggling is nonsense - I don't do it and others have found that it does not work for them either. The shop keepers simply say "fixed price". There is a false rumor that people can bargain and start haggling at about half the advertised price - it doesn't work. I have found that the local shopkeepers will give me 15% off just for speaking the language. The guy at the computer shop gave me a wireless keyboard for free.

The kids are getting used to school, everyday Rachel Ruby has a story on how she has had to explain an Australian word to her American friends. "A popper? Whats a popper?" Australians hear a new strange phrase from our allies in the coalition in the war against terror and we generally think about for a few seconds and then incorporate the new phrase into our language. Australians instinctively know how to "up-size" an order and how to "increase our bandwidth" when having a conversation with an American.
Hugo is learning to speak Mandarin and can introduce himself. We tend to practice our language skills on the doorman. He is a friendly bloke, but he is realising that I can't understand what he saying. The conversations are getting shorter. Speaking the language has not been a real problem because the good people of Hong Kong speak English better than I can speak Cantonese. The kids say that I should be a Chinese comedian because when I speak to the locals they start laughing.
Things that are the same:
The weather is like Cairns or Rockhampton.
Taxis drive like they are coming second at Mount Panorama.

Things that are different:
Every night in Hong Kong is bin night.
The cyclones are called hurricanes - but they look the same.
The city smells like fried batter.
There are always crowds of people in the city. Day or night.
High rise buildings have the same dimensions as a credit card.
Traffic, as congested as it is, travels at forty kilometers an hour, I am getting used to it and now 45 km/h seems fast.
There are trams, double decker trams.
A bill or a letter is always printed on both sides - in English and Cantonese.
The shops are full - there is a great hardware shop in Stanley that is like a blokes shed. There is almost enough room to turn around.
The shopping trolleys are small - which is just as well because I have to carry it all home. They do deliver, but I am too polite to ask them to carry my shopping to the end of the street.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

0708132030 Online in Hong Kong.

Online in Hong Kong.

Rachel Ruby was saying that she is looking forward to meeting friends at school and at church – all my friends are in computer games. I miss them terribly and I look forward to installing the guys from the police force in SWAT4 and my army buddies in Black Hawk Down.

I wanted to update my blog on my new computer. The search for a new computer took a few days because of the bewildering range of options and so many from which to choose. I found a nice package for about half the price I would pay in Australia and at about half of what I expected to pay in Hong Kong.

My personal policy for computers is to stay about two years behind – the hardware is cheaper and games are available in the bargain bins, and I wanted to use XP.

As I have found in other languages, recent inventions of the last 100 years or so have the same names – accept in Germany where they simply describe the thing. In Cantonese the Chinese have a similar philosophy to the Germans and as a result a computer is called an “electric brain”.

I was determined to learn as much of the local language that I needed to carry out the transaction of buying a new computer – I managed to get what I wanted and patiently waited for delivery. Everything in Hong Kong gets delivered. Two days later the computer arrived and I was like a kid at Christmas.
Unpacked, a quick glance at the instructions as a formality, all the wires connected, I hit the power switch and was welcomed by a whirr of fans and a glow of light emitting diodes. Current flowed into the Intel Core Duo and then powered one of two high definition video outputs on the massive nVidia card.

“Give my creation life!” I said as if I was Dr. Frankenstein.

Windows XP media centre started up according to plan except something didn’t look right – the start button said “开始” Apparently, the good people at the computer shop were so impressed with my Cantonese that they sold me a Chinese computer.

Things that are the same:
The water is the same but it takes more of it to make my hair squeaky clean.
All the roads are like driving up to O’Reiley’s Plateau.
Pauls UHT milk. It is made at South Brisbane.
Australian steak, but it does cost more.

Things that are different:
The electrical plugs are different but the power that comes out is the same.
There are no water restrictions – a construction worker was hosing the building site just to make it look better.
Hong Kong is over the SARS outbreak, but Brisbane is having a Flu epidemic.
The hardware stores are packed with stuff as if it is a blokes backyard shed.
Buses are double-decker.
The supermarket shelves are devoid of “Heinz All Day Breakfast”


Friday, August 3, 2007

Arrive in Hong Kong.

Where to start?

The flight over was good. We sat at the back of plane - close to all the ammenities and I could see if the engines were on fire. Old saying - "A plane never reverses into a mountain." I saw the western edge of Cape York drift by at 800km/h and be replaced by the blue waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. After a few hours Rachel Ruby kept asking "Are we past the Phillipines yet?"

The temperature in Hong Kong let us know we are in a different country. The extra polite Chinese people that took us from the airport to the hotel were wearing suits when it was 40°C. They have fairly relaxed seatbelt laws in Hong Kong - only the first five people have to wear them.

Hong Kong on a Saturday night - it was like the showbag pavillion at the Ekka. Crowds of people for miles.
We ventured out for a few blocks to find some traditional Hong Kong food but there were so many resturaunts, eateries and cafes that we could not decide. The fragrant aromas of the kerbside eateries introduced themselves at strategic moments untill finally at 11pm we went to McDonalds.

The next day we met with the relocation consultant and she showed us where to get our Hong Kong residency cards - I was wondering if the good people in the ruling communist party wanted to know about my army service. It was a tense moment for me when the officials took my passport as part of the proceedure. It had crossed my mind that they might keep it and take me inside for a quick chat about why I wanted to be in the Special Administrative Region of the peoples republic of China and perhaps give a polite beating. We, and about 1000 other people that day were treated like royalty.

Learning the language. I can only speak a few words - and I can only reply if they ask the right questions.

Things that are the same:
People - two arms, two legs etc.
Cars - most of the cars are taxis. No one drives in Hong Kong - there is too much traffic.
Bottled water.

Things that are different:
Chinese food.
The sounds that people make when they talk.
There are no houses - the urban landscape goes from jungle to high-rise at the property border.
The factories are in high-rise buildings - we went to furniture factories on the 23rd floor.
IKEA is open untill 11pm.
The supermarkets are the same as convenience stores - the prices are more but we actually pay less.
The toy shops sell guns. (8mm Air pistol replicas)
When its hot, the men dont roll up their sleeves - they roll up their shirts so that their tummies show.
The shop keepers yell out to get our attention - if I don't haggle they give me 15% off anyway.
The roads are for people - if a car wants to use it, then the swarms of people simply part and let a car through while the people fill the space left in its wake.
They drive on the same side of the road but they walk on the opposite side of the footpath. As a result, I keep bumping into people.
Local calls are free and there is phone coverage everywhere - even in tunnels - even on a video call.
The internet does not slow down at the end of the month.