Thursday, February 21, 2008

Meditationorama and the Single Life

Feb 6, I dropped Heza off at the HK Vipassana cntre, which wasn't quite a "centre" but a "temporary centre". That means that the place was pretty rough on the edges. The "buildings" were more like tarp shelters. While H filled in some forms i got a quick tour and realized i needed to get outta there before H saw what she was dealing with.

While she was on her 10 days course, meditating 10 hrs/day, i felt really tuned in to her experience and the course. i sat 1+ hrs each day, attempting to sit in alignment with the course schedule when possible. i often checked my watch to see if H was sitting or eating or sleeping. Consistently my heart would go out to H and her fellow meditators thinking, "God they're meditating again!" And i could barely handle my 1 hr/day. Also i knew for the 1st few days or so she would hate the hell out of it. H digs her creature comforts, and this place had little to offer.

In the meantime i was off solo, and was surprisingly not very social. i barely drank or partied the whole time. Partly 'cause i was trying to get healthy, but mostly 'cause i just didn't feel like it. I did enjoy doing my own thing, 'cause i did lots of stuff that wouldnn't fly if i was w/ Heza.

-i went to new places and wandered around w/ all my stuff, hoping to find a bed

-i spent 2 hrs looking for a veg restaurant i thought i saw somewhere

-i stayed in a couple dirt cheap low-end rooms

-i planned as little as possible.

So that was all good, though running around solo i was still wondering about what H was going through the whole time.

We met up on day 11, and when i saw her, i was surprised to see that... she looked a few years younger! Another woman had made the same observation, H told me. It was like she was more innocent or something.

Anyhow, after a miserable few days at the centre, she got on board, and worked really hard on her meditations and made good progress. i have so much admiration for her efforts. She says that she now has a better understanding of me and my minimalist aspirations. And it's clear that she now has a better understanding of herself and of her ego. Good stuff.

You can read it straight from the horses mouth at heza's blog post.

Kudos to her on her work. And i've bn inspired to kick my own sporadic sits into regularity again. i'm also planning to do a course or 2 in summer, in India. i too have ongoing ego-issues etc that i should deal with sooner or later.

People You're Killing Me!

I'm disturbed by people.
Not so much by you or your auntie, but by the billions and billions of us.

From my life in BJ and my visits to other cities, I've seen people everywhere. And ok, the Olympics cause lots of probs w/ booming real estate developments and constructions and w/ the insane amounts of energy and natural resources used to make them. But it's not just the Olympics in BJ and Vancouver. F'ing everywhere i go i see insane amounts of massive new developments. It's really disturbing me. I see insane numbers of beat up old cars. I see huge numbers of flashy new cars. i see massive amounts of garbage. i see (but can't see through) hazy skies.

Sometimes i see bikes, and that's good. But mostly i'm disturbed by my observations.

Also, i learned a lot about fish populations from A Short History of Nearly Everything, and about how quickly and how badly humanity has screwed up ocean ecosystems. ie, for every lb of shrimp harvested, 4 lbs of other aquatic life are destroyed. It really makes me want to redouble my efforts to not eat seafood.

And particularly from my visits to some seafood hotspots, i saw countless crazy exotic fish on display daily to be consumed daily. I saw the largest lobsters and other sea creatures i've seen in my life, and some of those things take years, even decades to reach that size. How the hell can we keep yanking them out of the sea on a daily basis? It boggles my mind.

i was really happy to be on holiday where i could make a pretty decent effort to exclude animals from my diet, but i'm just one tiny little skinny boy, amongst millions of people who want to eat prestigious, protein (and mercury) rich conscious life forms.

i really think that humanity is going to have one hell of a time turning itself around before we've done ourselves and much of the rest of the planet in.

On the plus side, after reading that book, i can put life on Earth into a broader perspective where animals always end up going extinct. Yes it may be 50x faster now than ever before, but in the end we are but a blip in the millenia which have and will pass before the planet itself reaches its inevitable conclusion. Unfortunately, that's the only solace i can glean these days.

Macau: don't have one (a cow)

Next i hit Macau.

Macau, like HK operates under the One Country Two Systems policy, so yes they're part of China, but really they get to do their own thing. Tie-Wan must be pissed.

Macau was under Portuguese rule only in 1999. It's got a population of 430 000 peeps, mostly chinese people. But the portuguese influence is still really obvious. Architecture, cathedrals, tiled streets, spoken and written portuguese all around.

i can't say i think much of colonialism, but my initial impression (and the way Macau sells itself) is that the people are pretty casual and happy to have a blended culture. Well, the abundance of food w/ dual cultural influence is all the proof we need!

Macau is also selling itself as China's Las Vegas. And they have a growing excess of luxury hotels and casinos to prove it.

i wandered some casinos and lobbies to take in the opulence, and considered gambling but largely found the mere idea to be bo-ring. This sort of development struck me as pretty awful. Um, before i get started lemme start a new post.


After 3 days and nights of living iso and antisocial, i was thinking that it could be a good night to actually like talk w/ someone. And then hours later i strolled onto an unmarked beach to hear the unmistakable sound of amplified beats. Yup, i'd stumbled upon a beach party, replete w/ dj tent, sound sys, light sys, and a small crowd of maybe 10 people. Hell, it was 5pm, and the party had been going for maybe 20 hrs already.

The scene was a once a month informal, unannounced party put on by some friends who lived on the island.

I talked w/ a few people which was good, though i certainly noticed the effort it could require.

I also scored in that i got to smoke some of those special mild cigarettes that i've been dreaming of since leaving BC. And it was a good reality check, since it wasn't quite the euphoric mellowness i'd recalled.

Moments of blissful living in the groovy moment, yes, but with weighty chunks of philosophical malcontentedness spliced in for sure. Smoke-induced conclusions: there's no reason for anything or anyone to change in order to make me happy- it's me who needs to change. Also, I have regrets and unhappiness, and yet my regrets and causes of unhappiness are truly not that bad, so i can hardly imagine how hard it must be for people w/ obvious reasons for regret or trauma or hatred.

Also, check this out:

i talked briefly w/ this 24 yr old Pakistani fellow who quickly let me know about the copious amounts of alcohol and Special Cigarettes he'd had in the last night, as well as the helping of Coke. He was on day 7 of hardcore partying for his wk off for spring fest. i wasn't exactly impressed.

But then he also told me about how he came to HK 6 yrs ago, w/ nothing, how he slept on the Star Ferries for 42 nights, how he ate food he found in the garbage and worked his ass off to where he now works for a trading company (trading what? Everything, he said, but lots of jrugs, and i doubt he meant pharmaceuticals).

And he was the sole bread winner for a family of 5 in Pakistan, where they now had 2 houses and a small store.

"Congratulations, man. that's awesome that you did it."
"It wasn't me. It was God," he replied.

And then practically the next thing out of his mouth was how he liked to get drunk and get into fights. Which didn't exactly surprise me, considering this guy's wild sort of energy. But it underlined the fact that people are people, and often complex.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Loving a Little Island Called...

At the last minute i decided to hit a small HK island instead of going to Macau as planned. You know, some pretty place where i could chill out and get healthy.

I took a short 30 min ferry to an island with my fingers crossed that i could find a place to crash there. It was quite lucky i did find a spot, considering that every other place i tried was closed for nyear, or full.

Anhow, this island was rad. It supported a population of 2500, many of whom live in very modest shacks. Also, a growing number of HK'ers who live there for cheaper rent and access to something we call Nature.

This place is a completely different vibe from HK. It incredibly has a mere 2 roadways, and (count 'em) ZERO cars. People get around via an extended sidewalk and stairway system which will take you over mountains from one town to another on the opposite side. Little villages are scattered throughout.

Also there's just enough tourist industry to support a couple organic/veg food joints which coulda been plucked out of Robert's Creek.

It hardly had a mention in Lonely Planet (a good sign), but (as seems to be the trend EVERYWHERE) the place is inevitably and sadly developing more and more. Actually i'm shocked that the place is still mellow, 'cause i'd expect the real estate monster to devour this place.

On that note: next time you're in HK, i'll quietly recommend a spot for you to visit.

Chinese New Year's Eve

After dropping off Heza to battle her way through her first Vipassana meditation course, i was off to live life as a solo adventurer. It was New Year's eve, so i felt that downing some ibuprofen to handle my ongoing fever chills was a good idea so i could hit a club.

i wandered around, but it was only 11:00, so things seemed kinda quiet in the clubby part of town. i wandered by one place where a few guys were hanging out by the door. "oh, i was just wondering what kind of music is happening tonight."
"What are you after?"
"Um...." (long pause as a i racked my brain) "electro rock, maybe?"
"Yeah, the dj could go there tonight."
i paused to look around a bit.
"Say, i guess it's all... boys in there?"
"Oh yeah, it's all boys," the door guy laughed. "Honey, you're after straight bars, walk that way," he said pointing east. "Or hey if you want to come in, we'll let you in for free."
"Uh, ok sure i'll check it out. I'll try not to be too slutty."

So this gay club turned out to quite the packed little joint.

After feeling conspicuous hovering by the dance floor where an older guy who creeped me out a bit was also hovering, i met a handful of nice boys and we shot the breeze about people getting eaten by escaped zoo creatures; how "chinkees are no fun" and don't count down to New Year (as quoted by the chinese dude); the HK mix (40% locals in the club, was the estimate, which impressed me); Facebook; and how complicated Facebook c can be when you're still partly in the closet (or still married even).

The bangin' remix of Diamond's are a Girls Best Friend had me feelin' pretty happy. But by the time i got to dancing they were onto the cheezy gay trance, and i didn't stay much longer.

Enter Hong Kong

HK is a city.
HK is a very big city.
Hk is a very compact and concentrated city.
HK is a very tall and narrow city.
HK is a city which was under British rule in 1997.
HK has a lot of expats.
But it also has lots of locals.
The mix seems... very good!
HK is so very civilized compared to BJ.
People stand on one side of the escalator.
So very civilized!
People wait for the pedestrian light.
But i have no preference for that.
The cabbies are still a bit crazy.
HK has real newspapers and real news.
(or more real, if you want to be literal)
HK is very modern.
But not totally.
And i like it that way.
I like HK.
Heza also likes it.
Though it sure pointed out some of BJ's shortcomings.
BJ is not HK.
BJ is BJ.
HK is HK.
And that's ok.
I like.

Yeah Sanya Sun

First off, H and i flew 4 hrs to the island province of Hainan, to the resorty town of Sanya, aka the Hawaii of China. We stepped off the plane and stepped into a steamy hot dark night that stunk of salty fish.

Sadly that was pbly the most heat we were to get in our wk there. We only got one sunny hot day, which we exploited laying around on the sun. i was hammering through Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is a really cool super readable book about everything from quarks to the dinosaurs.

Then i oddly came down w/ a fever, and thought i was freezing to death while strolling on the beach. "Jesus, noone else is wearing shorts! It's too bloody cold!" It was a nice time to chill out and shiver and sweat in bed while my gf drank beer beside me.

When i wasn't bedridden we saw some local sights and the time seemed to slip through the hourglass faster than it should've.

Back in BJ!

A'ight, yesterday H and i swung through a hazy sky sure to disgust Olympic athletes and coaches, to descend upon the ancient city of BJ. We were on the road for 24 days, and it feels a-ok to be back, though Heza is more tentative to make any judgment on that.

I will post some adventures momentarily, but first: please chk out my Flickr page, as i think i've got some of my best pix since crossing the Pacific.