Thursday, March 31, 2005

Day 2 in Hong Kong.

The day started with a knock on the door. This is when I met Michael. Michael was a very pleasant Hong Kong guy who apparently has a sister living in Connecticut and whom he is going to visit next week. Now if Michael was at my door to practice his English or to get directions on how to get from NYC to Philly through NJ, this might have been a very pleasant experience. However, Michael did not come alone. He brought with him a police officer and two fellow inspectors from the Licensing Bureau of the Home Affairs Department.

Michael and his friends had decided to wake up the people living in my flat in order to ask them several questions about the circumstances surrounding their presence in the flat. He had three pages worth of questions. It was like going through airport security after being awoken in your bedroom. In any case they took pictures of the room, of our passports, of the reservations, and took away our room keys as 'evidence'. After two hours of taking pictures they left. The owner of the hostel assures me that there is no illegal guest house activity going on, though who knows and who cares.... This was free entertainment, courtesy of the Hong Kong government.

Yesterday I went around looking for a reasonably priced (cheap) pair of glasses. I eventually found a place I liked and am having a pair made for $HK 488 which is like $65 or so. The eye exam was free. I was happily strolling back to my hostel after finding such a bargain when a heavily accented voice says 'glasses' and some woman hands me a piece of paper. Apparently if I go up two floors I can get a pair of frames with lens made for only $HK99-$HK300. Thats for thin lenses. I went up, looked around and they had a good selection... Doh.. So, if anybody needs eyeglasses made, HK is the place.

Anyways.. lets see. Yesterday in the evening I went to Central Hong Kong and walked around a bit. The buildings light up at night, and some even do light shows, which is a pretty cool little idea. I was thinking of going to a bar, but all the bars in the pub area of Central seem like preppy boring places where white middle aged guys in suits go to pick up much younger chinese girls or to toast their new business deal.

I am off to look for a travel agent and then take a ferry to the dingy part of town to look for some five dollar rolexes.

more pics have been uploaded.

cheers,
BR

So I am Hong Kong now. Of course there is rain. Like an idiot I decided to go up to the viewing point at Victoria Peak. Couldn't see more than 15 feet around.... Not a very productive journey.

Anyways about Hong Kong. Hong Kong is basically New York Chinatown. Only imagine Chinatown expanded and took over all of Manhattan. And imagine that Manhattan was actually in a sub-tropical climate. Ok, so I guess HK is unique. The cool thing is that unlike my expectations that I would somehow stand out because I am white in an Asian city, Hong Kong is like NY on this account as well. There are lots of other colors and everybody is running around so fast that they don't care what color you are. HK however is a lot more crowded. People are moving back and forth in waves. Its not as bad as New Delhi or the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem where you can hardly squeeze through a crowd and have to sorta maneuver as if you are swimming. Hong Kong is very, very clean.

Anyways, people are waiting to use the internet.

Some of the pics I have uploaded here:

http://www.picturetrail.com/berseken

BR

Monday, March 28, 2005

Its the night of the 28th to the 29th. I have to be in the airport in 10 hours for a 16 hour flight to Japan. I am going to enjoy that. There is no relaxation like getting on a plane and knowing with absolute certainty that for the next 16 hours there is nothing at all that you have to do, to remeber, to forget. No pressure, no pain, no fear. Just sit back and watch the movie or just watch the stewardesses running around.

The biggest choice you face is 'chicken' or 'beef', and frankly the choice is not relevant because regardless of what you pick it will pretty much taste the same. I don't know about other people, but I personally quite often enjoy the meal that I am eating on the plane. I really can not tell the difference between airplane food and the food served at many restaraunts, though it is possible that I simply haven't been going to the right restaraunts.

Once seated, the only challenge is to remember how relaxing the experience should be. Otherwise you might get swept up into stupid worries, like 'i pressed the button to get the stewardess 2 minutes ago and I still have not been served' or the torment of waiting for a drink you ordered; 'is she bringing it or did she forget?'. What else is there?

There are of course the wars for the armrest that one must win, the queue for the toilet that one must overcome, and the eternal quest to rearrange all the stuff left over from meals in such a way as to allow you to obtain the most relaxing position possible.

Oh, how I pray for an emergency seat. Oh Lord, please be so good as to give me an emergency seat tomorrow! I don't know what those people in business or first class receive, but frankly they are missing out. They have to sit up there with other people that have the exact same comforts as them. Other than the pleasure of getting to sit down first and to watch the coach people walk by while looking for their spot in the sardine can in the back, what do they get? Leather seats? More alcohol?

The people in the emergency seats in coach get to look back with pleasure at all the people in the back suffering from a lack of leg space and trying to maneuever their newspapers over their fold-out tables while waiting for the stewardess to pick up the remains of the dinner. Every time I have sat in the emergency seats I have regretted the fact that I actually have to leave the plane.

Anyways....

I got myself a Rio Karma 20gb for the trip. Loaded it up with a bunch of music and books and am ready to try it out. I just hope I will be able to find outlets for my Rio and my Camera... Hopefully I will also be able to post pics and delete them off the camera so that I don't run out of space. These electronics better not break. That would royally suck.

Oh yeah, today I did the following things:
- Got my books renewed at the library
- Bought a travel outlet adapter
- Bought a Rio Karma
- Packed
- Didn't find an electric shaver
- Confirmed my hostel reservation
- Read some more from the thorntree
- Shaved
- Uploaded my music stuff onto the Karma


Dmitry called me up and wished me well during my travels. Claimed positive jealousy. Demanded a little red book or some similar chinese souvenir.

Still packing, copying music, lectures to the Karma. 4 hours till departure from home. good night.

Oh and in case you (me) forget. The next five days is going to be rainy in Hong Kong. Brilliant choice of time to travel. Two weeks ago it was all sunshine. Bubba gets to a place and god punishes it with hail and storm.

BR

Sunday, March 27, 2005

28th is HERE!. I fly out tomorrow morning.. I am panicked...

That is me panicked. Its not a pretty picture..

I prefer to be relaxed.


This is me relaxed.

Now to get from point A to point B I must have several things that I am giving up inherently by undertaking this journey. I must know my surroundings, I must be comfortable in my surroundings and I must have stuff to do that I want to and to be able to stop doing them when I want to. When I am travelling I can not decide all of a sudden to stop travelling. (technically I can, but I ain't buying a ticket to come back early unless I am dying) I also do not really know my surroundings, if you consider the fact that I don't speak cantonese, mandarin and no noone in any part of HK/China.

There is a short-cut. It requires a lot of alcohol but after about 3 liters of beer or 400 ml of vodka I can be comfortable in pretty much any surroundings. However I don't like to drink alone so I will have to find people to drink with who will tolerate my fidgeting until after the alcohol requirement has been met and I can be comfortable.

OK.. anyways.. today, after I wake up I will need to do the following things:
pack, figure out how to shave my head while travelling, go to the library to give my china guides another 3 weeks before I have to return them, buy an ipod and transfer my music and lectures to it, get some passport photos for my china visa.

In any case, what did I do yesterday... Woke up at 3 as usual. Went to Dmitry's house and then to Blockbuster. I hate blockbuster btw. I left my card at home. Usually they would just let me use my driver's license, but this time they made a fuss. Apparently i fell out of their system for some reason and they refused to give me a movie. This is after I reregistered back in december for an account that also disappeared from their system. Bloody bastards. I am done with them. Only problem is that they monopolized the damn business. Five years ago there were 2 other video stores in the area, but both have since gone bankrupt. So basically I have decided that I will never take a movie out from blockbuster again. If in desperate need of a movie I will go to the library and get a movie there. In a few years the blockbuster business model will be obsolete anyways, with most people having digital cable with movies on demand. Many people just download movies off the net and never rent a movie. That might be illegal, but so should be driving your competition out of business and then jacking up the prices to $5/rental. If I find my membership card I will carry out a ritual burning ceremony while chanting to the gods of free movies.

So anyways we got a movie from blockbuster - 'from hell'. We went back to Mitka's house and along with Yuri watched the Simpsons and Arrested Development. Afterwards we tried to actually watch the movie (Dmitry rented it on his own account) but the cd was all scratched up and thus we were forced to drive back to blockbuster and get another copy. They can't even bother to have watchable movies for rent... Anyways, the movie was about London's Jack the Ripper and the detective that was looking for him. The detective - Johny Depp - apparently lost his wife at childbearth and became an opium and absynth fiend. His assistant, Hagar of Harry Potter fame, comes down to the opium shops and finds his boss whenever there is need of his uncanny detective skills. Depp gets conveniently timed visions that tell him that somebody has been killed. So anyways somebody is killing hookers from a specific group of hooker friends. The killer gives the audience the courtesy of killing the ugliest hookers first, saving Heather Graham, the hooker with a heart of gold, till the end. Quite predictably Depp falls for Graham's character and starts hunting down leads. In the end the killer turns out to be a deranged surgeon who was killing to protect the royal family from the transgressions of a wayward prince who fathered a child with one of the prostitutes and married her with the rest of the group of hookers present as witnesses. Now I like the movie until the end, but what bothers me is that they needlessly turned the surgeon/murdered into a lunatic driven by the scriptures of the Masonic Orders. He did not need to be insane, in fact his insanity deprives the movie of any thinking value. He could have just been a loyal servant of the queen acting under orders with the mutilations being just a cover for the completely rational murders of all the witnesses to the disgrace of a royal heir. In any case.. The movie is well filmed and might be worth a viewing... (6/10)

Anyways for now here is my tentative itinerary for my china trip.
fly into hong kong. spend 4 days in hong kong and get a visa to go to china. i am flying in at night so the fun starts right out of the airport. i will have to find my hostel at midnight in a foreign city and pray that the hostel has received the booking I made through a partner website.. Let the panic begin. Anyways day 1 I will go up to the Peak and wander through the streets of the city. On the same day I will have to submit my papers for the chinese visa and start going to travel agents to figure out the best way to see the rest of china. I will also take a trip to Lantau to visit the Big Buddha and maybe take a hike. If its hot enough I might even go to the beach to amaze the people of Hong Kong with my hairiness.
At present I want to see the following places outside of Hong kong:
1) Macau - ferryride from HK, but very different architecture and history. Mostly casinos now, but still interesting to see what remains of the portuguese.
2) Yangshuo - about 16 hours from HK by bus. A chill backpacker resort. Probably similar to Pushkar and the Goa backpacker beachtowns in mentality. Supposed to be really amazing scenery. So, I will drink beer, hike, meet interesting people (hopefully), ride a bycicle and take a ferryboat up to Guilin and come back. maybe.
3) Xian - the terracota soldiers and various other historical stuff. I will have to take a plane from Guillin to here.
4) Beijing/Great Wall - I was thinking of just doing a trip to HK/Macao and South China, but I can not go to China without going to the Great Wall. This will require a plane ride from Xian. Maybe I will be able to buy a cheap ticket over to Narita in Japan and skip flying back to Hong Kong. I have a stopover in Tokyo, so no real point doubling back to HK...

Plans are always subject to change, and this is no exception. The best case scenario is that I meet some cool people in HK who have roughly the same schedule as me and explore the country with them. The worst case scenario is that I will take a tour of all these places with a tour company. In all these cases I get to see China, and experience something that most Western people never will..

cheers,
the B

Its the 27th. Well, its 3:41 am of march 27. Since my last entry more than a day has passed. Now for the sake of my memory I will try to put down the events of the past two days on paper. Nothing extraordinary happened. In case anybody is reading, stop, this is not for you, its for me. This is just so that I can remember what I did today and not have another period of 3 months of slumber punctured by seconds of clarity. These seconds have actually quite often been while looking at old-style clocks which actually have a second clock. There is something about these mechanical clocks that make them different from digital clocks. Each second is represented by visible movement and it registers more than the simple counting up of digitals... An arrow actually moves around the dial, making a sound every wasted second and you see seconds ticking away. tick, tack. This is were I can go into super depressed mode and carry on. However I have a remedy for the depression caused upon me by mechanical clocks, and its rather simple. What I do when I see the clock's second arrow continue moving and ticking is I simply remove the batteries and make it stop. I stop time.

Anyways. Lets see if I can figure out what I did yesterday on the 25th and today on the 26th. For that matter the 24th might as well be recounted as well. The 24th was a thursday before good friday, whatever that is. Now, this has little effect on me except for the fact that my friends were not working the next day. I lounged around for most of the day. I probably read stuff out of the guidebook on china, browsed through other people's posts on the thorntree and I might have even gone down to check out the prices for mp3 players in a store. Oh yeah, I went to the library. As I was standing in line, a Chinese guy of about 40 who was checking out a book on starting a small business noticed that I had books on China. When I told him that I was going he was clearly amused. He told me that he had been in the US for 13 years and he had gone back for the first time three years ago. He said that he could not find his own house. He laughed again knowlingly and suggested that if I didn't know anybody on the ground that it would be better for me if I took a tour from Hong Kong to the mainland. He gave me his card in case of emergencies. It was a nice gesture, but I think I might have lost the card already. I sometimes wonder whether such acts of charity are genuine and whether if I actually call upon him he would actually help me out. If I was less shy and less hesitant about asking for help I would sometimes test the kindness of strangers. The truth is though that I don't think that I will be needing his help, though I might take his suggestion the tour. Otherwise it might actually be more expensive to buy my own plane tickets from Hong Kong to Xian and from there to Beijing and back to Hong Kong. With a travel agency my freedom might be limited but I would be free of the burden of that same freedom and responsibility. I might even meet some nice people along the way, though I am afraid that they will be my grandparent's age or some nice newlywed couples who just make me even more uncomfortable of being by myself. If I am by myself i might actually take charge and do a couple of things that I can later look back and see as overcoming against my lazy nature. If I go with a group I will not feel that even were I to do more of the same things. Any fool can follow a group off a cliff, jumping by yourself is an achievement. (ehhh, Confucius didnt say that. but i'll keep it).

Anyways back to the 24th. I came back home and at about 7:30pm called up Dmitry. He said he was still at work and when he came home and rested he would call me back. OK. So I waited. Then I got a phone call from my friend Eugene who at 10 informed me that Dmitry was still asleep. This couldn't be allowed to proceed. So we interfered with Dmitry's sleep by showing up at his bedroom, turning on the light and gently nodding him out of bed. This accomplished we proceeded to Hobot's house where we started playing with his last birthday present from us, which he hadn't yet opened. The present looks like a set of radio controlled toy tanks. Once Hobot started playing he was unpleasantly surprised to find out that there was a fire button on the controller and that the objective was for one tank to hit the other with an infrared beam firing from its cannon. When this happened the person controlling the hit tank experienced a minor electric shock. This is mildly unpleasant for somebody who expects to be shocked. Somebody who is surprised by the shock would probably feel a more negative reaction. So anyways, me and Hobot went on to play this little tank game while Eugene and Dmitry stood by and laughed at our pain. We set up a little arena in the livingroom out of pillows and whatever else was lying around and proceeded to play this game without lights. A hit was announced by somebody beginning to curse. After a few games this ceased to be fun and turned into torture. It was time to stop. We went down to Wawa - home of the two foot sub (only in America) - and met up with Dmitry's brother Yuri. We proceeded to go play pool at the pool hall until it closed. I don't remember what we did next. we probably went down to Yuri&Hobot's house, though I don't remember anything we did between leaving the pool hall and leaving Hobot's house... I was dropped off back at my house where I read some more about China and tried to plan my trip a bit. I probably also played a bit of Rome: Total War...

On Friday, the 25th the plumbers came to install the bathtub in the bathroom my parents are rennovating. As I had gone to sleep at about 6, I only slept for about 2 hours until they showed up at 8:30am. That afternoon was a blur. I mostly stayed in the room with the dog and took some Chinese lessons. The dog keeps barking if you lock him in a room, so I just stayed with him. Later in the day he accidentally got out of the room, and instead of the expected barking at the plumbers simply went to my parent's room and lay down on the floor. When the plumbers left at 2:30, I went to sleep until about 6. At 6 I did something, though I dont remember what. Later on I got a call from Dmitry inviting me to go to Laser Tag. I passed on the opportunity because I wish to have my legs fresh for Hong Kong. Everytime I play my leg muscles bother me for several days afterwards. They went and I did some more reading and I think I may have watched some crappy movie. I then met up with them at Bennigans. There I was subjected to an explanation of what larp is. Apparently larp is the acronym for live action role playing. This is the geekiest, most nerdiest thing that I have ever heard of. Its absolutely amazing. People dress up, meet up at a predesignated point and act out their role-playing games. Some come as vampires, some as werewolves, but apparently some volunteer to come as fairies. Now I am as judgemental as the next guy, but any straight man who can dress up as a fairy without being intoxicated within half an inch of his life needs to reassess his sexuality. After a brief discussion of tact between brothers that went awry, we went down to the other Boris' house, purportedly to watch some movie. Instead Eugene and Dmitry laughed at some stuff on the internet, while I smoked some flavored tobacco through a pipe and discussed the duplicity of the US government with Boris. Then I just took a nap. I got home at about 3 and continued to play some game or something...

That brings us to the 26th. Obviously i woke up at 3pm. The next 6 hours is a blur. At about 10 Dmitry came by and informed me of Dasha's wedding plans. He is going to design their wedding invitations. I probably will not make it up to Boston for the wedding. Eugene showed up a bit later. We drank some tea and then went down to Dmitry's house to watch a movie called 'The Yes Men' about a bunch of guys that basically spoof the WTO and present what they believe it stands for taken to the extreme. They run a website gatt.org which people mistake for the WTO's website and send them invites to conventions. They show up and make ludicrous presentations in a completely serious manner. Nobody notices. At one they showed up with a costume they claimed as being a new prototype for a 'management leisure suit' whereby it has a giant inflatable ehh appendage out front on which is a monitor where a manager could watch what his workers are doing while carrying on with his leisure activities. It gets a bit stranger than that.. Its worth a viewing even if the politics are not to your liking. Anyways, we then watched Groundhog Day. Its a cool movie. And here we are. I got dropped off at my house and came to my computer to record what has happened to me recently...

Lets see if I can remember anything else interesting. No, I think thats about it... Maybe I can continue this and keep writing about what happens to me. That way maybe I will not feel that time is disappearing from me. This isn't to be remembered, this isn't to be revered. Great men do keep diaries and we enjoy reading these because we want to be like great men. There are however millions of other diaries that just get lost and destroyed because their owners weren't great. In any case this isn't a diary. I know myself, and I do not have the ability to continue any activity for a significant amount of time. This is probably my last entry as a diary. (i just made an excuse for myself in case this really is a last entry). Now lets do a test and pretend that this was the last entry in a diary because I will die tomorrow. A nuke goes off or something. What do I wish to say? To realize? To recognize and to record? I have good friends. I have good parents. I have a good sister. I have a good mind. I am a good person. I live in a good free country. I have a good life. Its mine to do with as I wish. I just don't know what I wish to do with it. Does anyone? Anyways, today I am content. May my friends, family and I be happy tomorrow.