Leading up to the flight, many people were clamoring to see me off so I decided to have a send off soirée of wine and cheese and the Alien quadrilogy marathon, courtesy of Jared. This only lasted two movies. I was of course rushing to pack and finished around two in the morning, mainly because of not knowing how to pack up my bicycle. The bike is equipped with S&S couplers at the top and down tubes:
These allow the bike to be taken apart and fit into the airline limit of 62 linear inches. My roll aboard duffle was my other check-in and my backpack and messenger bag. The weekend was spent at a church retreat so I was exhausted from being a group leader, on top of packing, but I left the USA spiritually fulfilled. Before I left, I listened to the Commendatore scene from Mozart's Don Giovanni while having breakfast at the airport. The opera embodies themes of fate, the supernatural, morality and life's pleasures. In the scene the Commendatore, killed by Don Giovanni, comes back to life from a statue to accept the taunting invitation to dine with him ("Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m'invitasti"). I first heard about this scene when my dad mentioned it to me for a Halloween Concert piece. It only setup my theme of food the rest of my trip.
My flight to Hong Kong was on enormous blur. I couldn't sleep for more than an hour at a time, but the in flight experience was great! If you ever fly to Asia, fly Asiana. Their service is the best I've seen. Since I was on my way to Korea, it was only natural to try the onboard cuisine. I had tea of course, which suspiciously tasted like Lipton, and Makgeolli, the traditional rice wine that's sweet & fruity though not as strong as sake. We were served two meals, grilled beef tenderloin steak with burgundy sauce and pasta with mixed seafood, both including a hot cloth before and desert after. We even ate with metal silverware!
I was able to watch just about 4 movies on my 12 hour flight to Incheon. As I browsed the available movies on my personal screen, I came upon a Alfred Hitchcock movie which my piano colleague Jeremy only recommended to me a couple days ago, Rear Window. It's refreshing watching a quality movie, when actors had decent talent and the plot development developed maturely, without the flash of special effects. Then Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 50/50, and Cowboys and Aliens all of which were good movies of which the last one I fell asleep to.
To be without a phone since is refreshing in a new environment. I was able to take in surroundings and be in the present moment without being distracted with technology. The people out there with Apple products have an advantage of staying in touch with me because of iMessage and FaceTime from my iPad. As I was buying my ferry ticket, I was shuffling around my boarding pass, luggage, and passport for identification, and after I had ordered an americano from a Starbucks, I found my passport nowhere to be seen. I spent 15 minutes looking for my passport and eventually found it in the till in the Starbucks; I must have dropped it or left it at the counter when ordering my coffee. Once that whole ordeal was taken care of, I ended up missing my ferry and had to buy a new one with a small fee. I guess it's all part of the adventure which, so far has been far more interesting than I expected. Buying a ticket in itself was a lot more trouble than I thought, all because of me, first buying a ticket to Macau and not Taipa, then missing the ferry and going back to ticketing to exchange my ticket.
I stayed with my cousin once removed and her family, who lives in Hong Kong. They took me to a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop after dropping off my stuff. Though nothing special, the company I was with, coupled with having soup, noodles and wontons (all embodying my ideal comfort food) was the best meal I had yet. They lived in the 31st floor of a residential district there. It was amazing going past high rises after high rises, imagining the density of people commuting and traveling around this Canton region. On a side note, Cantonese has 13 different tones, compared to Mandarin's 4-6 and my cousin said that there is no Cantonese dictionary because the language changes every year.
Losing a day was interesting. I essentially didn't get to celebrate Marsi Gras, or, in the liturgical calendar Fat Tuesday. Considering my environment for the next four months, I'm giving up meat for Lent. I've wanted to do this for a while but 1) wasn't in the ideal area in land-locked Ellensburg to have an active seafood diet and 2) it's expensive. But hey, I'm in a different country and it would not be unreasonable to allow myself to be a pescatarian until Easter. The seafood is cheaper than beef and pork here! I read there's a huge procession every first Saturday of Lent in the Portugese area of Macau. Hopefully I can make it.
A couple insights I've had so far, in no particular order:
1) I read an article in the Seattle Times talking about Abraham Lincoln and his relationship with God. God has a divine plan and, as humans with free will, can choose to be in line or out of line with it. In light of fundamentalists and extremists, the people who claim their actions are in line with God's will leaves no room for compromise, whether it is subjectively right or wrong. In Lincoln's time, he said that slavery was wrong but did not deny if God agreed with him. I'm conservative at heart, but it goes to show the ignorance of some public figures, especially for the upcoming U.S. elections, that their way is God's way and the only way. And that separating, not alienating, church and state, under Lincoln's terms, is valid to that extent.
2) The Apple craze in China is in full swing. The most interesting was my cousin's husband who was fascinated with my 5 year old, plastic first-generation white MacBook, circa 2007, which they said still has a high resale value. They are upper middle class and said that Hong Kong people are addicted to owning the latest and greatest. It made me realize some things I have taken for granted- a college education, a laptop, and the ability to travel, among others. My niece is also the cutest thing:
3) I'm ok at doing simple math, musically simple math. The simple conversion rate of 7-8 HKD to 1 USD seems a lot more difficult to my mind than I thought it was. On the plus side, I am able to us my taxi wallet for it's intended purpose- to ride taxis, and utilizing the double currency slots which felt useless when I first got it in the 7th grade.
Until next time.