Wednesday, May 04, 2011


With only 22 days to go here in Hong Kong, I have begun the sorting, packing and throwing away that precedes a major move. One of my acquaintances one told me, "Every time you move, you hold your life in your hands." I understand what she means as I pick up every little piece of paper, scrutinize the handwriting on it, determine whether it holds something important, and then scrap it, or put it aside for "further processing".

This morning I handed my secretary a bag with 17 years of business cards in it. I was uncomfortable putting these cards in the trash, even though some of the organizations don't even exist anymore (I was IT Audit partner for Dean Witter when it was blown out of Tower 2 at the World Trade Center in 9/11 - 3 of my younger staff members survived - one because he went for a smoke break, and two because they were running a little later than usual for work that morning). I would estimate that I threw away over 2 pounds of cards from the greater New York area, from all over Japan, and from all over Asia.

I have never considered myself a particularly "neat" person (and several former girlfriends would tell you I'm a slob), but as I am aging, I am finding I need more order, and less clutter. It rattles my psyche if I cannot find things (which was one reason why having a live-in housekeeper was a challenge - she'd put things away and I would not know where!).

Perhaps it is the KIND of move I am making - from a nice apartment into storage for an undetermined amount of time. Maybe it parallels the fact that I think (??) my life in retirement will be simpler. Maybe the fact that my eyes don't see as well as they used to means that I want less stuff to have to see (or dust).

I've been passing on books - which I have never done. I've been putting things in the rubbish - instead of trying to find SOMEONE who wants this or that tchotchke. And lordy, I'm even considering gifting some of my yarn stash to my mother (shock!).

Those recent tornadoes from Alabama look like they have visited my apartment at the moment. The cats are totally freaking out. They never liked it when I got out my suitcase, and now there are things strewn from bow to stern. And every time I seal a well-organized box, I have a sense of accomplishment. Everytime I dump out another stack of paper that I once thought I'd "need" I rejoice.

I'm not longer a Fibber McGee...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

One is the Loneliest Number

Being a business woman in Asia still means I'm often the 1) only female in the room or 2) the only Caucasian in the room or 3) the tallest in the room (I'm 5'9").

Almost all of the above were slammed home last night when I flew from Hyderabad India to Mumbai, and my flight left 4 hours late. I had spent the weekend with good friends between a week of business in New Delhi and this week on the west coast of India.

It was one of those flights that you hear about when people complain about the dearth of information given by the airlines when things go wrong.

The Hyderabad airport is not large. But it does have two levels for loading passengers. The ground floor is for those passengers being transported by bus to the airplane, and the First Floor (ah - it's so hard for this American to get used to the European numbering scheme!) has the jetways.

I arrived at the airport way too early - more than 2 hours prior to my domestic flight - but traffic in India is always a crapshoot - and it's monsoon season at the moment. Roads can flood in the space of about 15 minutes, so one always leaves extra time. My flight was listed to leave from a bus gate, so I found a somewhat quiet chair and pulled out my book.

My flight was due to leave at 8:10 p.m. and due to begin boarding at 7:40. When 7:50 arrived, and no announcement had been made, I started getting antsy. At 8:10, we were told to proceed to the First Floor for boarding. When we arrived on the First Floor, we were told to wait.

At 8:10, they announced a 20 minute delay. At 8:30, they announced another 20 minute delay. Finally at 9:15, they announced that we'd be leaving at 11:25 p.m. At about 9:30, they asked all the people on the Mumbai flight to go outside of the secured area and proceed to a restaurant where we would be fed. It was at the restaurant that I noticed that I was the only Caucasian in the whole place. Luckily, I eat a mainly vegetarian diet, and I can tolerate Indian spices relatively well, so I thought the food was good! But I did start to notice the stares...

I've lived in Asia for a total of about 5 years now - a stint in Japan and now in Hong Kong. I've always stood out in the crowd (pun intended). And, I've learned how to "not see" the stares. But I guess my defenses were down last night since it was so late, and I felt the eyes. People in this particular country do seem to lack the sense that staring is impolite (how I hear my mother's voice in my head!). It doesn't really bother me - it's just that they are really curious - not that they are being deliberately rude.

But I did feel the isolation keenly last night.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Some bunny loves you...

I participate in an email list for GLBT knitters. It's a wonderful group from at least 8 different countries that I know of: US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong (me!), Australia, England, Wales and Sweden. We swap patterns, ask for help, tell our tales of joy and/or woe, knit love blankets for each other when crises hit, etc.

Recently one of our members decided to knit an elephant (you heard me correctly) for his significant other. It was really rather cute, I'll admit. And somehow in his story about this elephant, a pattern for an adorable bunny rabbit came to light. Ah, but one had to PAY for this pattern...and I decided I was bold enough to try to create a rabbit WITHOUT paying for the pattern.

Creating a bunny rabbit is very much like knitting a sock or a glove (one of my favorite knitting projects - it's small enough to keep in your briefcase and you can whip it out on the airplane). You start with something called a "provisional cast on" - which are big fancy words for: cast-on- something-that-doesn't-commit-you-to-knitting-in-only-one-direction. For example, when you start a sock, you cast on from the top of the sock - and your start is concrete. But for my bunny rabbit - I cast on at what would be the rabbit's midsection - and I needed to knit DOWN to knit the legs, and then knit UP to create the torso, arms and head.

Legs, arms and ears are merely like fingers on a glove. Easy.

So, dear reader, I did a provisional cast on with abandon, and just experimented my way through my first bunny rabbit. She (she turned into a she, as I made the torso too long - I took a tuck in her torso, which make a natural skirt - so she's a she) taught me lots of things, including things to repeat and things to change. She also asked for a dress - which she got. Her name is Bunny Girl.

Shortly after Bunny Girl was born came Bunny Boy. I celebrated a rather momentous birthday this year, and my young nephews, knowing that I liked to knit, gave me 4 skeins of sock yarn for my birthday. Oh dear...two of the skeins were of striping yarn containing colors that should NEVER be combined; the most egregious of the combinations included true blue, scarlet, lime green, Pepto-Bismol pink, and white. I'm sorry, but I just could not knit socks with this - so Bunny Boy was born.

Bunny Boy was given to one of my most special friends, but there was enough to do a SECOND rabbit from this skein - which became a birthday present to the nephew who had picked out the colors. This second rabbit was christened "Yarno" by this nephew.

Rabbit #4 was a surprise. In August of this year, I paid a visit to my 91 year-old Great Aunt - one of two great-aunts I have left. Aunt Waneta was a knitter, but at 91, her poor eyes will not let her knit anymore (and I wonder how many years I have left at 50 sometimes!!!). She gave me some rather unusual yarn - a slubby boucle mixture of electric yellow and orange. Now - these are not my colors, I'll admit (though the electric blue in the same yarn that she gave me IS), so "Tinkerbelle" was born.

And now, I've finished #5 (the last in this CURRENT series) with another bit of sock yarn that Nephew the Youngest (also known as "The Monster") gave me. It was actually a nice color combo, and made a stupendous rabbit. I do not think The Monster has named his rabbit yet.

For those of you who loved the book "The Velveteen Rabbit", you'll understand when I mention that it was one of my mother's favorite childhood books, and you'll also understand why she is hinting MIGHTILY for a bunny for HER Christmas present.

I'm sure there are more bunnies waiting to be knitted. Perhaps some bunny loves YOU....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An "Unpleasant Fragrance"

One of my friends here in Hong Kong tells a story of coming home to her former hi-rise HK apartment one day to a horrendous odor in the kitchen. She went to the (on-site) building management to report that there was a bad smell in her kitchen. Well, I guess to the English-as-a-foreign-language set, the word "smell" is always a verb. Therefore, she could NOT make them understand.

Whereupon she dragged the guy up to her apartment and demonstrated...."Ah!", the man said after he finally realized what she was trying to say, "an unpleasant fragrance!"

I've had some problems of my own lately. All of the traditionally "wet" rooms in my apartment (the bathrooms and the laundry room) have vents in a side wall at floor level. And recently, a MOST unpleasant fragrance was emanating from them and, quite frankly, blowing me away.

I tried pouring Clorox down my drains - it would work for about 12 hours, and then the smell was back. I knew I wasn't the only one to have problems, as at certain times, I smelled the distinct odor of a strong mouthwash - so I know someone else was trying to kill the stench, too. was not until my "unpleasant fragrance" friend mentioned above was talking to me about SARS (2003 crisis here in HK) that I finally got my answer.

Long story short...SARS spread in a large apartment complex on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong THROUGH THE DRAINS. Most drains in your house that deal with waste water - toilets, sinks, laundry, tubs- have a U-shaped trap system installed in the drain piping. The idea is that this "trap" contains water - and that the water prevents any gaseous backup (the unpleasant fragrance) from coming into your home.

One of the keys to the fact that the SARS big spread through the drains was that the germ migrated on steamy water through the pipes of the apartment building - AND THE TRAPS WERE DRY!

The article went on to say that most people used to clean their bathroom/kitchen/laundry floors by sluicing water around - and it would automatically drain through the drains I described above. But these days, most people MOP their floors - less water, and, quite frankly, we haven't sluiced floors outside of a commercial kitchen or abbatoir in the US for many years. We're out of practice. Our sink/tub/toilet traps tend to stay wet - but not the floor drains.

So...the next time I smelled an "unpleasant fragrance", I hurried to empty a liter bottle of water down the "drain". Haven't had a problem since.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Culture Shock

Ah, my heart is broken...but I've learned that pride DOES "goeth before a fall"...

Last week I had an appointment (sales call) at the Hong Kong equivalent of our US College Board (the agency who administers and scores college entrance exams). I went with one of my colleagues (a woman). This woman is of Chinese descent, was born and escaped from Viet Nam during the time of the "boat people", and was raised in Perth. How's that for multi-cultural!

On the way back from the meeting, we were walking through one of the areas of Hong Kong that seems to be from a century ago - open air stalls (reminds me of New York street fair for those of you who know of what I speak), lots of price negotiations, crowded and lively.

We passed by a booth that had lovely lacey crocheted "over-things" - and by this, I mean things under which you would HAVE to wear another garment, or risk being arrested for lewdness. With my current experiment into knitting lace, plus my years of crochet under my belt, I turned to my colleague (with some amount of pride in my voice) and said, "I can make things like this!"

She turned to me and said, "But why, when you can buy them?"

I looked at her aghast, and blurted out, "But that's not the POINT!!!" But realized, in Hong Kong, I was fighting a losing battle....

Culture shock...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

There's something about her face....

Well...MY face that is. I don't know what it is that people see, but I seem to be the chosen one when it comes to helping lost It happened today in Hong Kong, my new home. I had just gotten a hair cut, and was still reveling in the head massage that comes as part of the process, and was heading down the Mid-levels escalators. Let me amend was the part of the day where the escalators go UP - so I was walking down the stairs beside the escalators. I was just about to get to the end of my run, when I caught the eye of a nice Caucasian man - who made eye contact, made a quick decision, and then approached me.

Maybe it IS me - because, of course, I like to look at people!

Anyway, he asked for directions in a very Aussie accent, and, miracle of miracles, I actually knew where he wanted to go. I've only lived in this city for 3 months, and I've been on business trips a good half of that time, but I *did* know his destination.

In my prior home, New York City, I was also stopped all the time. Perhaps my mostly silver hair and blue eyes make me look benign. I usually do have a gentle expression on my face, but I bustle like a New Yorker, I fear. Outta my way - coming through!

I used to love to give directions in New York. I loved proving that New Yorkers were NOT always rude, and that they COULD be understood (I'm originally from Alabama - and while I don't sound Southern, I sure as HECK don't sound like a New Yorker). Since I've lived in Japan, I also seem to attract the Japanese tourists, too. They are always BLOWN AWAY when I reply to them in Japanese - even broken Japanese!

So what is it about her face?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Susan in Hong Kong