Friday, October 31, 2014

Hong Kong Wedding

I have heard that Hong Kong weddings are a fusion of East and West, but I feel like it's evolved into less of a fusion and more of a Hong Kong thing.  

I've been to a few weddings when I lived in China.  One was a purely village affair, where we all sat around round tables laughing about work, drinking bai jiu, and eating piles of dishes.  I can't remember much of the traditions, though, because I was just so happy that two of my friends, back then, had gotten married finally!

The merry feelings are definitely remembered, but the details are so foggy, which is why I wanted to jot down a few of my observations of a Hong Kong wedding that I had the honor of attending.

1.  The white wedding gown is a must at the ceremony, but the reception, for the bride, consists of a few outfit changes - from a traditional Chinese outfit in the morning to a gorgeous ball gown in the evening.

2.  Red satin pajamas are worn in the morning, as per tradition.  Some people say it is for good luck and it is also the wedding color for the bride.  My bride said that it was also a barrier between herself and the rental Chinese outfit that she wore in the morning.

3.  Beautifully embellished gowns are worn by the bride throughout the reception, each with its own unique hair and makeup.  And the mother-of-the-bride, I'm not sure if it is common with other wedding receptions, also did a few outfit changes throughout the evening.

4.  Besides the threads, one of the more Chinese traditions of setting off a towering string of firecrackers issued in the wedding festivities of the day.  Since we were in the village where the groom lived, a lot of the local villagers came out of their homes to see what all the racket was about!  This totally woke me up, for real, because we'd all been up since before the crack of dawn.

5.  Both the bride and the groom paid respects to the groom's ancestors by burning paper money, lighting incense, and bowing to an altar.  This tradition is called baisaan.

6.  At the reception, mah zhong tables are set up.  This is the place to be when you want to meet with people, play a few rounds of mah zhong, and kick back.  I think this was mostly for the older generation of guests because gambling is quite the pastime, I hear.

7.  The tea ceremony is held at the groom's home, where the bride pours tea for her in-laws.  It's a symbol of respect.  This was also held at the reception venue.

8.  Most weddings I have been to have a roundtable type of setting, where there is either a 12 course meal served or a buffet available.  I think the highlight of everyone's night was probably the buffet…the oysters and lobster tails especially.

This night was also quite the blur for me because so much happened.  The main event of this event was actually the program that was running on the stage.  There were speeches by the bride and groom's fathers, videos/slideshows of the couple were running at one point, a dance performance by the groom garnered cheers from the guests, a set of songs arranged by the bride's father made our eyes swell, photos with the couple were taken by the professional videography crew, etc.  There was so much that went on as well as the eating, drinking, and meeting of people.  It was a crazy time, in a good way!

I can't wait for another friend of mine to get married…because I know I will be in for a good time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pier Windows: Ghosts and Wanderers

Last night was the first time I had ever been to the Kwun Tong Ferry Pier.  The event of the evening was the opening of Pier Windows, which was an interactive art installation program.  The theme for the art installations at the ground floor of the pier was "A Site-Specific Intervention."

The visual arts installations were industrial, eerie, and pretty atmospheric.  My favorite was the blue room because of the creepiness!  There was something romantic about that room, though it was quite creepy, but, because the pier jetted out onto the water, the sounds of crashing waves and the cool breeze really hyped up the experience of wandering through the blue lighted space. 

The floor above the art installations was the space dedicated to the evenings performance:  Ghosts and Wanderers.

The performers, from the U.S., Hong Kong, and India, were given the theme of naamyam (which my friend said was one of the influences of the Cantonese Opera sound) and melded dance, singing, and acting (LIKE IT SAYS ABOVE!!) into a pretty unique performance.

The first third of the performance started with dancers along the side of the stage area, moving through that space and slowly making their way closer to the audience.  The idea of windows and being trapped  behind them, but going through them was so poetic.

I'm not much of a performing arts expert, but I did enjoy the movement of the dancers and how they focused on showing movement of their body.

The second third of the performance took us through a sort of turmoil, where the main actors wondered about being in Hong Kong or how we are India, American, or a Hong Konger.  And the question over not believing or believing in ghosts was highlighted.  It was a time of confusion, dilemma, and frustration for sure…with a lot of action happening on the main stage and the space beside it.

The final part of the performance was probably my favorite, where it was a showcasing of the different varieties of dance:  Classical India paired with classic ballet, for one.

I love when performers break through the 4th Wall and that was the experience of last night.  The audience became apart of the performers, who put windows in front of us…quite symbolic of being passive observers of the world.

Art Installation Info:
Open for viewing

October 29, 2014 (4 pm - 10 pm)
October 30, 2014 (4 pm - 10 pm)
October 31, 2014 (4 pm - 10 pm)

November 1, 2014 (10 am - 10 pm)
November 2, 2014 (10 am - 10 pm)

Performance information can be seen in detail here.

Wedding Games

I thought it might be nice to share some Hong Kong traditions on this blog, a wedding tradition specifically.

One Hong Kong wedding tradition is for the bride's sisters (bridesmaids) to organize a series of challenges for the groom.  The groom and his brothers (groomsmen) have to complete all challenges before the groom can win the honor of the bride's hand in marriage.  As the challenges roll out, the bride waits in a separate room for her husband-to-be to prove himself.

These challenges are a riot!  They could be used for any social event, but I thought I would share them as a little template for anyone who was planning some Hong Kong Wedding Games.

1.  The Ice Bucket Challenge

-Bucket of Ice
-Jelly Cups

-Fill the ice bucket with cold water
-Pour in some shampoo or bubble bath to make the water slippery and foamy
-Drop a few jelly cups into the mixture
-Set the bucket on the floor with a chair for the groom (or his brothers) to sit on
-Remove the groom's shoe and have him stick his foot into the ice water

Object of the Challenge:
-The groom or one of his brothers have a minute to get all of the jelly cups out of the bucket using just his bare foot
-Once the jelly cups are out, the groomsmen have to eat the jelly snacks in a minute

2.  The Makeup Challenge

-Red lipstick (or anything that stands out)
-Blue eyeshadow (or anything that stands out)
-Fuchsia blush (or anything that stands out)

-Have the makeup accessible 
-Pair the groom and groomsmen up

Object of the Challenge:
-The groom and his groomsmen must apply eye shadow, lipstick, and blush to each other in a minute

3.  The Blow Suck Challenge

-Plastic cards (or Poker Cards)

-Have the cards in a pile
-The groomsmen should stand in a line

Object of the Challenge:
-The groom and his brothers have a minute to transfer all the cards from one end of their line to the other
-They can only use their mouths, sucking the cards to pick them up (one-by-one) and blowing the cards to send them off to the next brother

**I remember doing this in high school!**

4.  The Posing Challenge

-Pictures of yoga poses
-Pictures of funny faces

-Print out individual poses/facial expresses onto pieces of paper
-Have the groom and his brothers pick out which pose they would like to attempt

Object of the Challenge:
-The groom and his brothers have a minute to configure their bodies into the various yoga poses
-If they select faces, they all have a minute to contort their faces to match the pictures

5.  The Declaration Challenge

-A written "document" that lists things that the bride wants her groom to promise to her

**For example-->My friend is a lover of coffee.  She requested that her husband-to-be prepare coffee for her every morning.**

-Print out the document
-Have the groom read it out as his brothers and the bride's sisters witness this declaration

Object of the Challenge:
-After the groom reads the declaration, he should sign it and present it to his wife-to-be

The challenges aren't hardcore challenges to win over the bride, but they are fun.  They also made for great clips in the reception's "Wedding Day" video!

I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in this tradition!  I learned a lot…and, hopefully, taught someone out there something new too!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Village Luncheon

When I think of Hong Kong, even after living here for so many years, I pretty much think of the crowded, congested life that everyone complains about.  It's such a colorful city…colorful in a good and bad way.  Sometimes it is difficult to escape the bad if you have to face crowds and congestion daily.

I was privileged to escape for a weekend and go through a little City Cleanse (One part rest, Two parts relaxation, and lots of water!)

I always forget that there are a lot of villages that are content to keeping the low-key life.  My favorite village(s) of the day:  Mui Wo's sleepy villages!

1.  I love the bridge:  There is a bridge to LITERALLY show the separation between life and dream.  Being an outsider of this village area, crossing the bridge is so symbolic.  It's like crossing into a world that is void of everything Hong Kong.

2.  I love the wildlife:  Life, on this particular day, was so serene.  The weather was too hot for the buffalo to be out, but the wild birds were plentiful!

3.  I love the silence:  The village was so silent that I could hear the lone bicycle paddling its way through one of the pathways…but couldn't locate the rider! 

4.  I love the view:  Look at the open air!  Look at the greenery!

5.  I love discovering things:  I actually didn't know there was an ancient village structure just hanging out on the side of the village.  I'm not sure if it was like a town hall.  It was a functional space, though, because people were celebrating on the ground floor.

6.  I love knowing villagers:  The highlight of Mui Wo is knowing people who live there.  This was actually why I was in the village…celebrating the marriage of two great friends.  I was so honored to have been invited to the family luncheon.  

Rest, relaxation, amazing people, and great food…another bunch of happy memories added to my life experience.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Accro Coffee

Current read:  "The Night Circus."

A minute walk off of Long Ping MTR Station, Exit B, there is a little neighborhood cafe called Accro Coffee.  The thing that drew me into this cafe was the huge sign that boasted World Siphonist Champion.  Though I am not a coffee connoisseur, I do like my coffee.

I've been here a lot recently because I have been trying to escape the sound of drills (the perks of living in Hong Kong…lots of buildings being constructed…and lots of apartments undergoing renovations).  

When it's boiling hot outside, I can take refuge in Accro's air-conditioned space.  When I'm tired from a long day of work, I can sip a cup of Joe and let my mind wander.  When I want to get away from the Yuen Long crowds, I can sit in solitude at one of Accro's tables.  When I want to finish a book that I have been mulling over for weeks, I can read the hell out of that book at Accro because of the chilled vibe.

I've only indulged in the coffee here, which is pretty good.  I believe they serve snacks and, definitely, cakes as well.  Though this place is probably most proud of their siphoning of coffee, I think the ambience is the draw for me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amazing Finds: Knit and Crochet

Wednesday, recently, has become such a 50/50 day for me.  It's halfway through the work week, but with halfway more to go.  And, 

(1)  now that the weather is feeling a bit cooler during the evenings, 
(2)  the sun rises a tad bit later in the mornings, 
(3)  and I need coffee more than every to keep me going through the day, 

I just need a second to take a breath, gather my thoughts, and find my bearings.  

Today, I am back to blogging about the Pottinger Street steps and something that totally refreshed my spirits on this 50/50 Wednesday.

Whilst walking up the steps, I stumbled over something quite amazing.  I came face-to-face with some crocheted rails!

At first, I stopped and looked around.  I thought it was an art installation, but there were no signs attached.  It was a true blue mystery as to how yarn got all over the rails.

It's completely baffling and amazing how the yarn bandit sprung in the night.

I had a Flash Mob moment.  And, aren't Flash "mobs" are all the rage!  I mean, Hong Kong has had it's fair share of Flash Mobs:

1.  The Michael Jackson ones that commemorated his passing

2.  The Pandas that mobbed us all over the summer

3.  The Cathay Pacific a few Christmases ago

4.  The occasional Freeze Mobs for Anti-Shark Fins

5.  The International Pillow Fight

I felt like, myself and the few people around me, were so lucky to have caught sight of the rails covered in yarn.  It's like a mini secret that made us all smile.

I think that the yarn bandits struck several times before in Hong Kong.  I do remember reading somewhere in the South China Morning Post about Mong Kok being covered for a bit of time in yarn.  And I remember that the sculpture outside of Langham place was covered in yarn a few years ago.  That was a special treat to find on my lunch break!

But, the Pottinger Street steps are more "local."  I mean, not a lot of tourists walk to the top of the steps…I may be wrong.  So, I felt like I was one of the select few who were privy to this amazing find.

Not only were the colors so vibrant that it motivated me to push through Hump Day, but the faces of the cute crocheted animals that were holding onto the rail ends for dear life made me laugh.  And everyone needs that…am I right?

I wonder how long these will be up…

Monday, October 20, 2014

Amazing Finds: Kam Sheung Road

Last weekend, we headed out to Kam Sheung Road to see if the Halloween decorations were on the shelves at The Red Brick House.  I wanted to share some amazing finds because EVERY visit to the Kam Tin area is laced with amazing NEW FINDS.

1.  I don't know if I mentioned this before, but the jiao zi at The Red Brick House is my absolute favorite.  We were sitting at one of the tables and I noticed a note taped to it.  My husband translated it as:  

To all visitors:  
To be hygienic, please do not put your pets on the table.  

We appreciate your cooperation.  
Thank you.

Little touches like this make me love visiting this place.  Reminds me of Seattle's quirkiness!

2.  There is an amazing curios shop at The Red Brick House.  It's where I get a lot of my seasonal decorations.  Not only are the Halloween Decorations out in full regalia, but the shelves have been stocked with quite a bit of OWL-y things.  It's a nice addition to the Halloween theme...and not so obvious.

3.  I found this ancient television with a pretty recent Disney-inspired casing.  I didn't know they made televisions like this anymore.

4.  In Beijing, I used to see retro-Made-in-China toys all the time.  They were always at the local tourist shops on Nan Luo Gu Xiang.  Spotting them in the window of one of the toy shops was a surprise.  These make really great gifts for adults (hand raised!) who love to decorate their homes with retro wind-up things.

5.  This is old news, but the leather shop moved locations.  Now it's at the entry way of the Red Brick House.

6.  Whenever I walk around the area, I always check out the village houses.  MY DREAM in life is to own my own home.  And there is one for rent...brand new...which makes me drool.

7.  The second most amazing thing about Kam Sheng Road is the flea market at the MTR exit.  It's only open on the weekends, but they always have amazing things to look at.

8.  Lastly, I wanted to share our amazing purchased finds.  We got

(1) a Nick Vujicic buoy that says, "Get back up when life knocks you down,"
(2) a set of drawers for my desk,
(3) an egg timer for those times when you need it,
(4) and an old copy of a Time's 100 New Scientific Discoveries.

Places like this, make me happy to be living so far up here in the New Territories.  It's always an adventure in discovering things.