Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feats of Strength

Contrary to wide-spread rumors, promoted primarily by my grandma, I have not been on such a bed of affliction that I could not even write a blog entry. I am humbled that people would assume it would take an abject illness to keep me from this, but in reality, I have just been exceptionally apathetic about it of late.

Fortunately for my devoted public, I am currently attempting to beat jet lag by staying up all night before my flight in the morning. I have nothing better to do.
This weblog is illustrated...

Some of us from Dramatic English went out for a "Christmas Buffet". It's apparently a popular thing to do. Here's my chromatic meal:
People were there, too:

l-r is Raymond (former DE employee and the most British person I've ever met in HK), Cloris, Joan, Kazumi, Vera, Logan, Angel. Tim's on the floor and I'm in the back with the new guy. When I asked Vera how to spell the new guy's English name, she said "h-e-m-a-n" and I said something about Castle Grayskull. As it turns out, his name is actually Henman. And he was almost epic.

This is typical to celebrate a birthday:

That's a giant lotus bun with fairly sophisticated pyrotechnics jabbed into it. I took this as the flames were dying out. Only in China.

Here's a shot from a show we did a few days ago. Those's why I love my job.

Just to alleviate any confusion, that's Tim in the picture, not me.

I'll be in the US between Dec 20 and Jan 1. I won't have a phone and will rarely have Internet access--so good luck finding me!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Pictoral Review

My Swedish friend doing a street show--that's a real knife in the air; and she's standing on two men from the audience:As I'm sure everyone is aware, Cantonese Opera Day was last week. The costumes and make-up are truly understated:I forced Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving with me. Since ovens are rare commodities, our meal was less traditional, featuring puppy chow and a cheeseball. I'd take these people over a turkey any day:Mona from the studio got married. It was extremely different from any wedding I've ever attended. I especially enjoyed the groom's sparkly jacket. Here's a picture of some Dramatic English people with the bride and groom. Notice how I'm awkwardly holding my gift--completely unaware that people don't give gifts at weddings here. And my faux-pas sphere continues to envelope me. And now for some photos for which you have all been waiting with bated breath. You will see what I actually do for work! (It's not all juggling and weddings). First, a picture of a recent audience. We usually perform to around 1,000 students per show:

On stage as the penguin, just realizing that I am on a game show called "You Just Killed Another Penguin." Not sure why it looks like I'm shouting; the Penguin is silent:

To demonstrate the problem of over-fishing, Eric and I are sadistic fishers/canners who scour the ocean and chop up anything that they catch in their net. We catch Tim every show... :Then we lighten things up with a kickline...?...I promise the show makes sense:A few days ago, we had a photo shoot for new publicity projects. I just kept thinking, "What would Tyra Banks tell me to do?" This first one is I as Smogman. We have a smoke machine in the show. Smogman shows how bad air pollution is: Eric and I are always happy to juxtapose the disturbing blood-stained aprons:The Penguin almost always has this ridiculously happy face:
We also did shots for the Shakespeare show...this is Tim as Demetrius and I as Hermia, resisting his advances a la "Midsummer": To be or not to be...:
fter a busy last few weeks, the TIE team has a bit of a break as our next show is Dec. 16. We're working on scripting a show about Internet piracy, fixing props that the kids break, and helping make new props for the student shows. For example, I spent an entire day cutting out and stuffing monkey ears and tails for "Jungle Book." All in a day's work...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

one if by land

I've had Longfellow's Paul Revere poem running through my head as of late because several US Marine Corps ships docked here in Hong Kong this weekend. I keep thinking "The Americans are coming! Hang up the lanterns--two if by sea!" My "brethren" as the Brits say, are easy to spot with their identical haircuts and assault packs. I even had the opportunity to assist 4 dashing Marines find a train. Service to my country--it's what I do.

In my 3 most recent days off, I binged and did 3 hikes. The first one was close to home on the Wilson Trail. I like to consider this my backyard:

It's a fairly winding path through these peaks, but fortunately, it is well-marked:

In China, I'm a giant:
The next day, I went to Shek O, the southeastern most part of Hong Kong Island. As per usual for a Monday by the coastline, I saw many brides:

The beach at Shek O is usually crowded, but since people think it's winter, it was nearly empty. When I went for a swim (South China Sea), there was only one other guy out there. I think he was only wearing a Speedo, so I kept a safe distance. I discovered that it's difficult to take photos at a beach without feeling a bit creepy:

In the Shek O village, I found another Tin Hau (Buddhist) Temple:

And this. Let's pause for a moment to admire its subtlety:

After I took the above photo, I walked by the monstrosity and saw many "No Photo" signs attached to it. If you don't want people to take pictures of your house, maybe you could try not painting it bright orange.

During the Shek O hike, the Hong Kong government warned me:

Indeed, I was ware of Big Wave the entire time I was in Shek O.

Finally, Hike 3. Karen heard about an abandoned Hakka fishing village in far north Hong Kong. Hakka means "guest people." Hakka were/are nomadic people. They still exist and live in many different places and countries, but speak a common dialect. For some unknown reason, a group of Hakka suddenly uprooted from a village near Tai Po and left everything behind. Here we are, mid-hike, in high spirits:

After only a few minor detours, we found the village, guarded only by a scary dog:

When Karen said "abandoned fishing village," I assumed she meant it was abandoned hundreds of years ago. Nay. These people probably left during the Reagan administration, though I doubt there is a connection. I saw the expected fishing gear, but also photo albums, cans of food in the refrigerator, clothes, cookware...even an old Playboy-ish magazine in one house. It was all absolutely and amazingly bizarre.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Am A Sexy Telegram

I meant to say "I am a sexy penguin"...but apparently penguin is "kay-ooooh" and I said "kay-looooh" or "telegram".

We had two shows today, Peguin in the morning and Shakespeare in the afternoon--each on completely opposite sides of Hong Kong--a $350 cab ride away (paid for by the company, of course...and that's about 45USD) I'm incredibly popular with Cantonese high school students. Actually, at the museum show earlier this week, about 8 girls (not from our group) cornered me to ask where I was from, why I was wearing a toga, and tell me that I'm "ho leng".

But back to today, my first brush with celebritydom. The school where we performed Shakespeare was particularly special because it was the first time the school had hosted a show, and for many of the 1,000 students in the audience, it was their first time to ever see a live performance. We arrived at the 2nd school around lunch time and ate at the cafeteria. I would say it brought back fond memories of my youth, but I sat surrounded by Cantonese kids in brown uniforms at a plastic picnic table next to the outdoor pink basketball court and ate glutinous rice in a lotus leaf. None of that really sparked any recollections of JHS. From the moment we arrived, we were treated like celebrities. Girls giggled and talked amongst themselves, presumably about Tim; everyone said hello and waved enormously. For some reason, they had about 10 students backstage before and during the performance, so we befriended them, explained the phrase "break a leg" and gave them autographs. My Chinese name has two characters, but I can write only the 2nd one. So, I just write that one and tell the member of my adoring public which one to write in front of it.

I can't seem to accurately paint this picture--it was too surreal. Like a Wallace Stevens poem wrapped in a Dali painting. But with more cheering.

I've managed to find some photos from the Greek show. I must thank my ever-concerned sister for PGifying this first one. Apparently, I forgot to mention that I was wearing fake man-muscles...things got out of hand, lawsuits were filed...Devon saved the day with graphic fruit:

With Tim, javelins, and discuses...disci? dad?: Entrance to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum: :With Vera, our amazing production coordinator for all of our shows.
I found this giant rubber tree on Victoria Peak:
Johnson, our accountant, has moved back to Australia. I will miss him very much, but I know we'll be in contact because he still receives the utility bill for my apartment. Here we are at the penultimate supper, not to be confused with the last supper:

For anyone keeping track (probably just my mum): back row l-r is Johnson, Logan (sales team), myself (awesome), Greg (juggler), Kazumi (roommate), sitting l-r is Vera (PC extraordinaire), Maggie (former DE employee), Angel (does anything and everything at DE), Joan (empress of HR), and Cloris (sales team).

I experienced my first HK bowling at this 2-lane alley in Vera's friend's apartment building. Nothing very "Big Lebowski" happened, but a good time was had by all...despite the hour-long commute (aiyah!)

And now for another name caption. Front row l-r: Eric (new actor), Joan, Meg (teacher for DE), Angel, Vera. Back row: Chris (juggler, polyglot, and ho yao yeng), myself (still awesome), and Cara, our bowling benefactor.

I leave you with that...I have a busy end to this week with two more shows tomorrow, rehearsals Friday and Saturday, and I need to choreograph the song "Luck be Lady" for a group of 6 boys...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Macbeth Mullet

It wasn't until I was sitting on my couch teaching a little (ssyou ssyou) Cantonese to my new Swedish juggler friend that I realized how long I had neglected my public from such pertinent updates.
Her name is Moa, which is confusing because "moa" means "no" in Canto. So, when I first met her and asked her name, I thought she was telling me "no," as in she wasn't going to tell it to me. We managed to get past that and past the ancient feud between our peoples (the Swedes and Norwegians).
As for work, we have about 5 or 6 shows this week, including the "premiere" of the Shakespeare show and (at long last) the final Greek mythology show. Shakespeare is going surprisingly well. It's sort of like Complete Works Abridged. We introduce R&J, Midsummer, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Macbeth is kind of a metal star, complete with a muscle shirt and mullet wig. I play Lady Macbeth and get to wear a hot pink mullet wig. Don't act like you're not jealous. I'm also Hamlet, which is convenient as madness seems to come fairly naturally to me. Tim taught me some swordfighting and we get to have a seriously intense battle as Hamlet and Laertes. Man (our boss) won't let us use real swords. We just wanted to make everything accurate and realistic...always thinking of the kids.
Last week, I saw Billy Joel. To speak the truth, I really heard him more than saw him. Hence, the lack of photos. I took some poor-quality video which I may try to post on here later. Fantastic concert, including a stirring rendition of "Highway to Hell" as performed by his roadie of 30 years, Chainsaw. No one guessed we'd hear an AC/DC song on Billy Joel night.
At musical rehearsal for the high school kids:
"Stop flirting with my butt."
Mom, I think I understand why you like HS kids so much. I've somehow stepped into a mentor/counselor/wise old sage role for some of them. They come to me for help with preparation for speech competitions, juggling, boy problems. Boy problems are my favorite. It's the ultimate in acting. I act like I know what I'm talking about. One girl lives completely in her imagination. A real-life Don Quixote. I think she's fantastic, but not surprisingly, her peers don't appreciate her.
I seem to be rambling; I have too many things floating around in my head to be at all concise. Perhaps I shall leave you for the moment and return when I have pictures...and a puffy shirt.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Foreign Policy

Aberdeen is the 3rd largest city in South Dakota. It is also a settlement in the southern part of Hong Kong Island. I visited the latter last week. Behold, a view of the harbour:Like anyone would, the first thing I did in Aberdeen was ride around the harbor in a sampan with an elderly lady. She thought it would be funny if I wore her hat and drove the sampan, despite my insisting that I was not qualified (to drive, not to wear the hat--which I find quite smashing):

Aberdeen is known for its "Jumbo Floating Restaurant." The name really says it all, but the pictures say it with more...gaudiness:
Aberdeen is also where an ancient people, the Hoklo, live: Over 5,000 Hoklo live on boats in Aberdeen's harbour, despite the Chinese government's efforts to move everyone onto land. They've been doing it for 2,000 years, so why stop now? Interesting HK fact: if everyone went outside of the buildings at the same time, there wouldn't be room to stand. Meaning the area of Hong Kong is smaller than the area of its people. One of my favorite things to do is just walk around and explore. Inevitably, I end up in a place where I'm not really supposed to be. In Aberdeen, I ended up at some sort of fisherman gathering.

I also took myself on a self-guided colonial tour of Hong Kong. Dad, this is for you. Few colonial structures remain, but I did manage to find some gems. The first: Battery Path:

Impressive, I know. This was built by the Brits so they could more easily roll their canons and other heavy artillery up the hill. At the top is the old French Mission which is now some sort of Chinese judicial building:

Right across the garden is St. John's cathedral, the oldest ecclesiastical building in Hong Kong:

I went inside and listened to a piano recital. It's a bizarre place--it attempts to be a cathedral, but the inside looks more like a 50s diner with pews. But check out what St. Paul's has going on:

That's right, it's Paul's 2,000th birthday! Time to party.

And finally, my favorite colonial-era building:This is half FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club, whatever that is. I correspond with foreigners, but that apparently does not qualify me for membership) and half Fringe Club--a venue for theatre, art, and music.

That afternoon, I hiked Victoria Peak, but the API (air pollution index) was so high, none of those pictures turned out.

WARNING: Some people (easily nauseated, prone to seizures, or leftist) may find the following photos disturbing. Proceed with caution.

I went out on Halloween as Sarah Palin. It was the most frightening thing I could think of:

I made a sash that said who I was on the front and "McCain = Maverick" on the back. Much like what happened with the Penguin, the reaction was unexpected and overwhelming. I've never been so popular. Strangers, perfect strangers, approached me for photo opportunities. Here I am with my Taiwanese fan club on the train:

Some constituents on the street:

I actually know these people. Katy, as Amy Winehouse, and Henry as (young) Michael Jackson, are both teachers with DE:

Some people, fooled by my dramatic interpretation, thought I really was Sarah Palin. Parents sent their children to me. People chanted "Obama!" to me on several occasions. Some asked if I could see Russia. And I wasn't sure if anyone would even know who I was...