Goodbye 27; Hello 28! Last year’s birthday blog

Hong Kong Diaries # 5

(pre birthday edition)

Feb 4th 2013 10:07pm

Well, I have 2 more hours to be 27 and I wish I could stay this age for at least a little while longer. Twenty-seven was a really big year for me. I made a move to communist China and have been here for a full year now. I can speak Chinese well enough to converse with the locals (and make fun of whitey’s as well). I got hired at a company that quickly promoted me to head teacher. I’ve seen Suzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Hong Kong. I saw not one but a handful of World Heritage sites in the stunningly beautiful (but slightly boring) Suzhou. I climbed and walked across the majestically breathtaking Great Wall of China. I ate at one of the best restaurants in all of China in a city of over 23 million people in Shanghai (where I spent my 27th birthday at the gorgeous JW Marriot). In Tokyo, I boldly went up to the most gorgeous Brazilian boy I have ever seen and gave him a balloon, which in turn sparked a mini romance that was very much needed (did I mention he was a super hot babe and totally cute?) I spent a week in Hong Kong for my birthday by myself, shopping and eating great food, taking in all the insanity that I’ve come to know and love in China, all the while rediscovering my love for writing about myself.

I also went to Europe for the first time in my life (England doesn’t count) where I saw Moscow, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Milan, St. Remo, Axe En Provence, Marseilles, Paris and Barcelona. I saw the Kremlin, Red Square and experienced a weird an unexplainable fear of beautifully dangerous Russian guys in Moscow. I smoked the best weed in the coolest “coffee shops” in Amsterdam and had a solo mushroom trip through the Van Gogh museum (which proved to be too much for my state of mind, so I escaped to Vondell Park where I proceeded to ride my rent-a-bike in circles around the pond for 4 hours before falling asleep in the grass.) I got into the hardest club to get into in all of Europe in Berlin, where I met and fell for my first authentic Italian lover, whom I spent an entire love drug infused night and day dancing with. I saw the Berlin wall (or whats left of it) and rode the fastest elevator in Europe up to panoramic view of Berlin. I listened to beautiful classical music played in the oldest church in Prague, and for dinner, sat by the water and watched an acrobatic musical show. I rode a horse and carriage through Vienna, ate cheese schnitzel (no meat for this girl) and watched The London Ballet company perform Alice in Wonderland projected onto a big screen on a church that very night, which proved to me that Vienna is indeed magic. I learned that Buda and Pest are two different cities that are joined by a huge bridge and stayed in one of the nicest apartments I’ve ever seen, and even went to the “best club in the world” (not sure who awarded it that but they clearly haven’t been out of Pest.)  I stared up at the stars on a hillside in St. Remo alongside my Italian lover. I ate the best pizza ever in Italy, while I got driven to Nice, France by my new found Italian loves. I went vintage shopping on the streets of Paris. I went to the Louve, I saw the Eiffel Tower and I climbed the Arc de Triomphe. I bought lavender oil from the best place to buy lavender anything, in Axe en Provence. I rode shot gun in a convertible through the hills of the south of France and star gazed on the boardwalk of Cannes. In Marseilles, fate brought me my Italian lover back completely by chance (I was eating mussels and he just so happened to drive up ride alongside where we were) I ate the most delicious tapas and swam (and tanned) topless in the beautiful Mediterranean sea in Barcelona. Not to mention, smoked tons of great weed from the dispensaries and met up with friends from Toronto (gotta love those cross world meet ups) and stayed up way too late out in the middle of no where, which in turn had me walking back to my friends house, sunglass-less and pissed off, but had a great time none the less. And those are just some highlights from my month in Europe. I have so much more to say.

I the saw more in one year that I bet most people have ever seen (or will ever see in their whole lives) and I’m not done. I’m not slowing down; I’m just getting started. I got bit by the travel bug early and I intend to keep scratching that itch until I’m too old to board a plane. 

I can see why people join the 27 club, mainly because 27 is going to be really hard to beat. How can I top this year? I feel I’ve accomplished more in this one year than I have in the 26 years leading up to it. How is that possible? I’m going to have to see the Pyramids in Egypt or jump out of a place in my 28th year to make it as cool as 27 has been.

So here’s to 28; it’s going to be the best year yet.

Happy Birthday to me!

 

xoxo 

gypsy lady 

Life Over at 25? How I Changed Mine

Hong Kong Diaries 4

Feb 3 2013 5:07pm

I finally booked my birthday hotel. Hyatt Regency a little north of where I am now.. its a bit out of the city center but I am not too concerned because I intend to stay inside the hotel, either in my soft, cozy king sized bed or relaxing by the pool/in the jacuzzi.  I can’t really afford it either but I am turning 28 and I will be damned if I spend my 28th birthday in a hostel room with an older Chinese woman that snores (this is my current reality, unfortunately). 

Last year at this time, I had just made the move from Canada back to Asia after living in Montreal with quite the hot French artist named Alex. As I quickly found out, I am still too immature and selfish to be living with someone else harmoniously, too bad for poor dear Alex. I even tried to live on my own in Montreal, which in turn fixed the relationship for the most part but I was still quite unhappy in Montreal, or Canada really. I found it was just too hard to make ends meet in North America.

I was working at a family run daycare making $15 an hour, loving the job but not loving the money (or lack thereof)  and it was taking a toll on me. I was smoking weed a lot and in turn, eating a bunch of junk which made me gain 10 pounds, and to this day, I still have. Damn you, marijuana! Damn you!

As I lay in my newly moved into room, in a beautiful second story apartment with exposed brick, I was still somehow dissatisfied. Yes, I had a great new apartment but I couldn’t afford to put anything in it. Yes, I lived near a very popular fun part of the city, but I couldn’t afford a drink at any of the bars, let alone a night out. Yes, I had a job but I could hardly afford to make it to work everyday on the subway.

My point is; I was unhappy. I was unhappy with my job, I was unhappy with my lack of funds, I was unhappy with the fact that I couldn’t be the person I promised I would be to Alex. Basically, I was unhappy with myself. I was disappointed in myself.  Safe to say, this was not the first time I felt dissatisfied with my life,  so I thought back to the last time I had felt that way and what I did to cure myself of this feeling. And what you ask was that cure? In one simple word; Asia. 

When I was 25, I moved to Thailand to take my TESOL course and teach abroad. I was in the midst of doing nothing with my life but partying and working at a club, putting all my money up my nose and into my liver. I had just got kicked out of my house because of a “disagreement” with my old roommate and I had just enough money from my tax return to put up first and last rent for an apartment. As I began looking for a place to live with another friend of mine (who actually has a baby now, of course),  it was becoming painfully clear that finding a decent 2 bedroom apartment downtown TO for under $1500 was nearly impossible (no crack den for this diva, thank you very much). The odds were against us but we decided to keep looking (and looking) for a place anyway. After 2 weeks of going out everyday, we had still turned up with nothing. That’s when my friend uttered the worst 4 words  anyone can hear from their potential roomie; “I’m moving back home.” Fucking awesome. “What about me?!” I thought to my super selfish self, “what do I now?!” I had 5 more days left in my current war-torn abode and even less hope for the future than I did just weeks before. No roommate. No room place to live. A job that I worked at 3 days a week (if I was lucky) and absolutely nothing to look forward to; I was starting to think my life was over at 25. One day while smoking a self-pity joint, I went to the computer to check my email (just in case there was a million dollar check waiting to be cashed) I came across an email that changed my life.

Years before all this, I must have signed up with this travel website because, low and behold, when I checked my email that day, there was an email titled  “Teach in Thailand!” from GoAbroad.com.  Now, my father has taught me to be skeptical of everything and anything so I read through it with quite the “come-on-now-this-can’t-be-real” kind of attitude, but the more I read, the more excited I got. The email was basically telling me all I needed was $800 for the TESOL course and $500 for the month stay in the apartment, plus airfare and I could be in sunny Thailand in a matter of weeks! Could it be this easy? Could I escape this nightmare I was currently calling my life? I had to find out right away.

I sent out an email asking what I needed to be accepted into the program and within hours, I got an email back telling me all I needed was proficient knowledge of the English language (check!) and the $1,300 for the room and course (check again! thank you Canadian government tax return). The only thing standing in my way was a one way ticket to Thailand. The next email I wrote was to my parents who were in Jamaica celebrating their wedding anniversary.

(Feb 4th 2012 1:05pm)

(Now let me fill you in on a little background about my parents; they are amazing. I think they may be the most supportive, caring, reach-for-the-stars, traveling-partners-in-crime a gypsy girl like me could ever ask for. We traveled a lot when my brother and I were young and I suppose it stuck with me. So I am pretty sure it came as no surprise to my parents when they got an email from me telling (not exactly asking) them that I was moving to Thailand to teach. Perhaps most parents would have a million questions and would be quite nervous about their baby girl traveling solo to Asia but my wonderful parents were nothing but their amazingly supportive selves.)

A couple days after the “surprise I’m moving to Thailand!” email, I got one back from mum and dad. Now, knowing my parents as well as I do, I knew they would be supportive and quite interested in my choice to move overseas, but I didn’t know to which extent. I opened the email and what did I see? “GREAT IDEA, MY GIRL! GO FOR IT!” and that’s all I needed to hear.

A week later, they returned from Jamaica and I in turn took the Go Bus from Toronto to Mississauga to discuss my future plans in more detail with my darling parents over a glass of wine (or 4). As I sat perched on the kitchen counter (as I always have), I explained all the details about what needed to be done before I could move to the lady boy capital of the world. We sat with the laptop and looked at the website that was offering the course, while I sipped on Pinot Grigrio and dreamt of the beach, one thing came up: I needed to put down 600$ to hold my space. As soon as my dad saw it, he jumped up and got his trusty Mastercard and put down my down payment on a new life. Just like that, no thinking.

He told me “I wouldn’t want you to miss out on such a great experience” and because of him, I didn’t. And it changed my life.

xo

gypsy girl extraordinaire

North America, you’re doing it wrong; Night Markets.

Hong Kong Diaries 3

Feb 2 2013 10:07pm

 

God I love night markets. They’re the best part of Asia by far. The rest of the world is really missing out by not participating in such a joyous event. People selling all sorts of things and not to mention, the sights you can see at the same time.

You have live crabs literally fighting for their lives right along side fake Uggs. You have people selling the cutest (and the sickest) puppies right beside fake iPhones and they’re sistering Hello Kitty cases. You have remote control helicopters along side “designer” Gucci hand bags. Basically, you have the whole world at your fingertips. But remember, you must first pay the price of the night market: foregoing all the comforts of personal space (which I have come to realize doesn’t exist in Asia at all). But once you get past the crowds, you’re in a magical land where arguing over the price of a super spy-like telescope is not only acceptable, but expected and encouraged. 

It all comes back to my favourite thing about summer; hot, sticky nights. There’s something about being able to walk around in shorts and a tank top after the sun sets that makes me feel oh so content and comfortable. Add shopping and eating to that feeling and you’ve got yourself  a perfect night.

I, myself, love doing things at night that are usually reserved for the day time. Clothing shopping is at the top of that list. It’s a magical feeling being able to roam the streets until 12am, picking and choosing, bargaining and laughing with your friends. Some of my best wardrobe pieces came from having a few drinks and taking to Siam Square in Bangkok to haggle with the lot of em. Sure, I am sweating buckets and I want to turn around and slap the guy who keeps “accidentally” touching my ass, but hey, if that’s the price a girl’s gotta pay for some night time fun (sans the awkward morning convo) then I’ll pay it.  

Happy Haggling!

xoxo

gypsy girl extraordinaire 

Gypsy Life: am I missing out or are they?

Hong Kong Diaries 2

Feb 2 2013 7:15pm

 

Why must very everything in Hong Kong cost so much? I would consider moving here if eating out and going out wasn’t comparable to being in London.

Why is it that all the desirable places to live are expensive? It’s not fair. Of course that’s the way the world works but come on. It’s like when the airlines increase the flight ticket prices around peak times. Why do that? How is that fair? They know there will be lots of people flying, lots of money to be made.. Why not give discounts at those peak times? I am sure they would make even more money and people would be quite happy with that. Why must everything revolve around money?

I say this but I want more and more of it. It’s never enough. I think I make good money but in the end, no matter what I do, its not enough to get by.

I want so much for my life yet I feel as if I don’t know how to get it. Maybe I am not trying hard enough but that’s not entirely my fault. My generation has been told we can do and be anything, been babied all our lives and here I am, just shy of turning 28 and I just got $200 deposited into my account from my daddy because of an emergency visa trip, which should and could have been avoided.

What is wrong with me? Why don’t I feel like an adult? I feel as if I am still this 16 year old girl, just with tits and love handles. When is it supposed to feel right? At what age do I start identifying with other adults around me? Because as of right now, I definitely don’t have anything in common with all my “adult” friends on Facebook who have babies and are married.  What makes someone an adult anyway? Because if it’s just age, I am fucked. I don’t know when I am supposed to start feeling like an adult. Was it at 18 when I was getting drunk and passing out in bathrooms at the local university’s watering hole? Or was it 19 when I was legally allowed to get wasted and pass out in said bathrooms? Or was it at 20 when I moved back into my parents house, smoked weed and worked at a shitty restaurant as a disenfranchised waitress?  Or was it at 21 when I tried illicit drugs for my first time at a club that had the best and most secluded bathrooms? Or was it at 25 when I moved to Thailand to live by the beach to escape the said illicit drug use that I had gotten way too familiar with?

All of these rights of passage seem to have made me who I am now, but somehow I still feel as if I should be asking for child’s ticket when going to the movies (not as if I can afford to go out to a movie anyway but that’s besides the point)

Even though I don’t identify with any of my “adult” Facebook friends, I feel as if I lived 10 lives in their life times. Yeah, I don’t have a ring on my finger or a baby on my arm but instead I traded in a stretched vagina for an open mind and thicker passport. So, who’s to say who is more adult? The people who have only seen the world through sunwingvactions.com via all inclusive trips to Cuba where they stay on the resort in fear of the locals.. or me, who chooses to live in a city of 20 million people just to get out of being mundane.

I suppose that was my biggest fear growing up; becoming boring. I was voted “most interesting” in the 10th grade year book and at the time, I felt as if it was the most important award to win (“most beautiful award” was banned because apparently, high school girls are impressionable and easily hurt, who knew). To be honest, I still feel that way. Being beautiful is one thing, but being the most interesting girl in the 10th grade? The best. Who could ask for a better award while in high school? But that award has proved to be something to live up to, in some ways. If I was that interesting in high school, I better damn well keep up that title and keep living this gypsy life I’ve set out for myself.

But, as I live this super interesting life, I can’t help but ask myself; am I missing out? Am I missing out on the marriage? The babies? The comforts of knowing where you’ll be in 5 years? Maybe it will all come at the right time but I wanted to be a young, hot, cool mum that all my sons friends wanted to have a Mrs. Robinson experience with but that dream is slowly creeping to an end. The way I see it is, even if I were to meet the Mr. Right sometime this year, it would still take some time to get used to caring about someone else (I’m pretty selfish) not to mention, takes time to get to know each other as well. So add 2 years to that relationship. I’ll be 30 by that time, and then the wedding, add another year on top of that for engagement time. Then I’m 31. Then when does a baby come into play? Shortly after that? I’ll be 32 before anything even happens with a baby. Making me 42 when my baby is 10. How old was Mrs. Robinson again?

I mean, that’s not the be all and end all of it but it wouldn’t hurt to be a MILF.

The big question is, am I missing out or are they?

yours always,

gypsy girl extraordinaire

Beijing vs Toronto; 9 things I miss about home.

Hong Kong Diaries 1

Feb 1 2012 3:02pm

Everything seems so easy when you’re on vacation. No work, no communting half way across the city on a over-crowded subway (there is no rushour in Beijing- it’s always me pushed up against some older Chinese woman who apparently isn’t exactly sure what toothpaste is) no, none of that, just sunshine and relaxation. Why cant life just be one long vacation? I guess that’s why they call it vacation and not life. I don’t want to be another person working till I die at a job I hate, making a bunch of assholes money while I struggle to make ends meet. All my life all I’ve heard is  “you have so much potential. Why don’t you live up to your potential?” but what is that potential exactly? Can someone just tell me already? I’d like to know what this magical thing they call “potential” is because I am starting to think it’s just a nice way a teacher can tell you you’re an idiot.

What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Because living in Beijing, working at Best Learning just isn’t making me feel at all fulfilled. I want more. I want, much, much more. I want to travel the world, write about it and get paid to do just that. I want a boat and I want a husband who has the same ideas about life as I do.

I want sunshine, fresh air, nature, like minded people.. as I describe that, it sounds as if I want my long lost lover, Canada back, which in part is true. I miss Canada for many reasons and here are a few:

 

1) Less Spit Per Capita

I will never get used to how much spit is produced on a daily basis living in China. Yes, the air quality is bad and we are all continually stuffed up but must every single Beijinger hork huge loogies on the street?! I have to walk here! And my new fake light brown Uggs have quite the aversion to green flem. It’s like walking on mine field, playing hop-scotch to avoid the little green monsters.

2) Air. Fresh, clean air.

I guess I took breathing for granted all those years living in Canada. I never knew that was a thing, never would have guessed clean air would be a commodity sold in cans on the street of Beijing in 2013. While seeing people with masks on reminds me a post-apocalyptic movie, looking outside your window to see that you in fact cannot see anything, makes it much, much worse. I’m still in denial and refuse the face masks, knowing full well my body would thank me for it. Call me old fashioned but if I deny things are happening, they stop happening, right? Besides, wearing a mask won’t make the air pollution go away and it will ruin my lipstick.

3) Sex.

Not only does the language barrier make it difficult to make a connection to people but even if you can make it past that, the whole living-with-my-family-until-I’m 40 isn’t the biggest turn on. Also, I know most Caucasian men really dig the petite Asian girls but petite Asian men? Not the same. I need a man, not a BFF who carries my purse and tells me how cute I am. I want a man who can pick me up and throw me around. I want a man who has more hair on his body than I do. I want a man, period.

4) Parks.

My favourite thing about summer time in Toronto was going to Trinity Bell Woods with all my friends to smoke joints and drink beers in the grass and watch the sun set (or rise) and I really miss that. I went to a park once in Beijing and there were signs warning people to not sit, walk or lie on the grass. How am I supposed to become a famous writer if I can’t pull out my laptop and sit on the grass in a park looking pensive? I’m sure Hemmingway wouldn’t have become the famous writer he was if he too was told to “stay off the grass.”

5) Weekends.

This is a big one. Don’t get me wrong, Beijing has weekends but with this particular job I have (and pretty much the only job I can get while attending University) I don’t get to enjoy them at all. In fact, right now, I hate the weekend.  I work 8-6 both days of the weekends and I dread it every Friday night. How am I supposed to network and meet hot boys with no weekend parties to attend? Sunday nights just don’t have that party like feel, mainly because most of the city has to be up at 6am the next day to get on a crammed subway and fall asleep standing up.

6) Cooking.

Not that cooking is illegal here (you’d be surprised at what is) but when it costs less to just get fried rice and tofu, why bother? It really ruins your motivation to cook up a nice meal. Not to mention, there’s no ovens in Beijing (or China) so say goodbye to all your casseroles, lasagnas, mac and cheeses,  roasted veggies and shepherds pies. I never thought I’d have strong feelings towards baked goods but I do now. I miss you, cookies!

7) Brunch.

(this may fall into the “weekend”category but I think brunch deserves it’s own voice)

One of my favourite things to do on the weekend by far was to meet all my girlfriends for  brunch. After a night of drinking and dancing with your friends, the best cure for it is a couple of mimosas, poached eggs and a couple of pieces of buttery toast. As everyone knows, brunch is not just for eating. It’s all about getting the scoop on last nights events (who made out with who, who wiped out in front of which bar, who went home with who, who’s ex tried to make who jealous with that skank at Wrong bar, who wound up on who’s couch fully clothed at 9am, that kind of thing) and I really miss that. I love a good poached egg but what really makes my heart sing after a night out is the girl-talk about who’s eggs might be fertilized and who’s brain feels like scrambled eggs (mine for sure).

8) Dryers.

My whole life I have been obsessed with the smell of clean laundry. When I was young and would go to my friends houses to play, I would always establish which smell went with which person. If I liked the smell, I would quickly peak into the laundry room of said friend to catch a glimpse of which detergent their mum’s were using (I believe I was the only 10 year old that pleaded for Downy for Christmas). To this day, I search high and low at foreign supermarkets in China for the good stuff (real Downy fabric softener) just to make sure I always smell like clean linen. I even went and  bought perfume that smells like it. “Hi, I’m Stephanie and I’m a clean-linen-smell-aholic.” Anyway,  I love the feeling of a warm, soft towel fresh from the dryer but unfortunately for the laundry-addict in me, China is sans-dryer. So my dreams of warm, soft towels and clothes are replaced with harsh realities of stiff, coarse towels that scratch more than soothe. Oh woe is me.

9) No Fake Booze

Before coming to China, I had never heard of “fake alcohol” other than the moonshine from the prohibition age but all too soon I learned the hard way. Any good Beijinger will tell you to avoid the 10kuai Mojito-man in Sanlitun because of the hangover you will endure for the next 24-48 hours after consuming said “mojito”. Why you ask would a little mojito make you oh so sick? That’s because he (and so many other penny pinching others) uses a man made alcohol, special to China. According to Park Street Imports, a leading alcoholic beverage importer, distributer and solutions provider, “It’s generally made from one of three bases: ethylene glycol, which is essentially antifreeze, attacks the kidneys and heart and is potentially fatal; methanol, which attacks the retinal nerve and can result in blindness; and isopropyl alcohol, more commonly known as rubbing alcohol.” While drinking it, you have no idea what you’re consuming but the next day you definitely know. Whether it be the crying fits asking this to be your last day on Earth, the constant vomiting, the feeling of not being able to get off the couch or bed or the heart breaking head pain, you know what’s happened and you vow to never take those 10kaui shots again. While in Canada, there’s like, regulations on poisoning people so it happens like, way less often.

This list I’ve complied is only just scratching the surface of the differences between my homeland and now what I call my homeland, so I’m sure there will be round two.

Oh and just in case you thought I was exaggerating about how bad the pollution gets in Beijing, here it is on a bad air day;

Image

thanks for reading

yours truly,

gypsy girl extraordinaire