Hong Kong

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A week in Hong Kong

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Back in January, I had to run through the Denver airport like the Home Alone family to catch a flight. I made it onto the plane in the nick of time, and as I settled into the middle seat, I realized that I was completely out of breath.

I’ve lost my Colorado lungs. I had already said goodbye to my Colorado house, Colorado friends, Colorado hikes, Colorado weather — but my Colorado lungs? That’s a low blow, Minnesota. Luckily you’re the state that brought us the Bundt pan, so we’re even.

I have not, however, lost my Colorado hiking haunches. Oh hell no. My general thigh-rump area is as sturdy (read: un-dainty) as ever, meaning that when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to get out into the jungle coated mountains to explore the trails. I mean, these glutes have got to be good for something — and in a world built to favor girls with skinny thighs, I take a lot of solace in the fact that I can out-hike them. It’s my only power.

So imagine my surprise when, there on the trails of Hong Kong, I finally met my hiking match, and an unusual suspect at that. When it comes to hoofing it, I now know my primary competition to be… the old Chinese man.

There he was, in his seventies, slight of frame, wearing nylon khaki pants and a little daypack — hauling ass up those hills. “Surely I can keep up,” I thought, and made it my personal aim to stay in step with him for the 1,800’ elevation gain of The Peak and beyond. But just like the time I tried to race a Segway up a hill on my bike (you’ve now heard the entire story, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds), I labored in vain. I couldn’t keep up. The old Chinese man is the most hale and hearty person in the world.

Some might think “old and fit” to be a contradiction — but my way-too-short week in Hong Kong exposed me to all sorts of contradictions. Hong Kong-tradictions? (I’ll stop.)

Truly, Hong Kong is a mix of east and west, rich and poor, city and jungle, poodles and porcupines, glitz and grit. It’s fake Louis Vuitton and real Louis Vuitton. It’s skyscrapers surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It’s cosmopolitan and outdoorsy, Maseratis and taxis, people toasting champagne on rooftop decks and people living in rural fishing villages. I ate dim sum and curry and noodles, but also McDonalds and Starbucks. You can find Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. There are tensions that I don’t fully understand, political rumblings with the potential to be seismic shifts, and just like anywhere, situations that need prayer and action and attention.

I soaked every single bit of it in. I explored and adventured and rested and basked in the presence of my dear friends like it was the world’s greatest gift, because it was. And I can’t wait to go back.

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The best seat in the sky

Friday, February 19th, 2016

It is exactly 24 hours from my door to Alia’s, and 16 of those were spent on a 777 from Chicago to Hong Kong. I had never been on such a long flight before, nor in such a gigantic bird. (That’s an industry term, you know — pilots call them “birds.” Wait. Do they?)

On a massive airplane with nine economy seats across, lumped in threes, an aisle between each set, I’ve decided that the best option is to sit in an aisle seat of the middle set. Here’s the logic:

  1. No matter what, the middle seat is the worst.
  2. On a regular domestic flight, I opt for the window. But if you choose the window on a flight around the world, you’re forced to watch the ground below, which on a global journey is really just ocean, inducing panic attacks and visions of Tom Hanks as the only survivor in a life raft in Castaway, which is by far the scariest movie of all time. Also, if you need to get up for the bathroom, you have to step over two people.
  3. The aisle seat on the right or left set of seats is okay, but if either of your two row mates needs to get up, you’re standing every time.
  4. But the aisle seat on the MIDDLE set… you can stand up whenever you want. You don’t have to look out the window hyperventilating. And if the person in the middle seat needs to get up, there’s only a 50% chance they’ll choose to go your direction.

Voila — the best seat in the sky. That is, unless you can afford to fly first class. By the time I boarded, those ballers already had free drinks!

Speaking of free drinks, you do eventually get those in economy, too. Time does not exist whilst in international flight zones, so when the alcohol tray comes through at 2pm, 3pm, 8pm, 12am, and 2am, just say yes, man. You paid good money for those free drinks.

Here’s another perk about such a long flight: the movies. The movies! I’m so glad I never paid to see The Martian in the theater, because after spending more money I’ve ever spent on a flight, I got to watch it for free! I also watched The Intern and Infinitely Polar Bear; in other words, it was the day you want every Monday morning when you actually have to go to work. I guess that someone’s gotta bring home the bacon and all… but what good is bacon if it isn’t paying for Netflix?

One thing I was ill advised about: there are no power outlets in economy. I was counting on an endless power supply for my laptop so I could write my memoirs. Alas, this blog is what I wound up with.

I am learning to accept my writing style for what it is. It’s difficult not to compare when reading other people’s words, blogs, and books, especially when I love someone else’s writing. Some of my friends have made a genuine living out of writing, and occasionally I think, “I wish someone would pay me to just be myself” — you know, as if all they have to do is write whatever they want that morning, and then get paid millions and millions of dollars for it. (I do know better, writer friends, you work hard. I’m just jealous.)

Anyway, everyone has a natural “voice,” and mine just so happens to be riddled with capital letters and parentheses and dumb jokes and a tiny bit of cynicism but also a genuine love for stringing words together and telling stories. I like to think that I write like I talk, but the truth is that I write better than I talk. Which is probably why I love to write.

I hope that you’re doing what you love, even if you don’t get paid for it, and even if you don’t do it as well as other people, at least in your opinion. One’s own opinion isn’t always the best judge, anyway. Judge Judy is the only judge for me.

Okay, back to this ultra mega flight. I was worried that they wouldn’t feed us and I would arrive in Asia an emaciated shell (as if). I am very afraid of being hungry, so I packed Larabars, an open-face turkey sandwich, an apple, and a baggie of almonds — and while it all went to good nutritious use, it was largely unnecessary. Here are the things we were offered on the flight: sundried tomato bruschetta crackers, sweet wafery cookies, manicotti, green tea sorbet, wasabi rice snack mix, and scrambled eggs. I didn’t partake in everything because with the exception of Ritz Crackers, mass-produced foods generally taste like sadness — but I’m serious, the crew was through over and over again with something new.

If you’ve made it this far, you know I’m just a wide-eyed country bumpkin on a major international adventure — par for the course for many of you, but out of the norm for me. I know that this week will be full of amazing experiences, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. And just to give you an idea of the length of the journey, here was our progress two and a half hours into the flight:

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The whole rest of the world to go. I can’t wait.