Avoiding stereotypes.

For almost 5 years I tried to avoid being the stereotypical expat wife and mother. It’s not easy living in Hong Kong and avoiding becoming the thing you most deplore. I had a helper, I was able to swan off at a moments notice to get my nails done, go for coffee/lunch/afternoon tea/cocktails… But I didn’t. Well, not always.
Hong Kong is shoppers paradise but I managed to never once shop in a designer shop or a fake designer shop for that matter. The markets don’t count.
I did the volunteer bit, I got involved in community things, over involved in school things. I largely failed at avoiding the stereotypical expat mum. It was just too exhausting to not conform.

Now I’m back in lovely Blighty I find I am again trying to avoid stereotypes. “Oh not again!”

I am sad to report that I have one of those enormous beasts of a car to take my precious ones to school in. I’m actually embarrassed to be seen driving it. Thank goodness it has tinted windows. I will go as far as standing next to a random, smaller car in the hopes that the parent I’m talking to will think its mine. Of course this means I have to wait for them to walk away. And of course the kids give it away.
“Mummy, come on, that’s not the BMW X5!” Why do kids always have to some damn precise about bloody everything!

I did manage to avoid a coffee morning (which I would have quite liked to go to) with the very cool excuse of climbing the scaffolding on my house to clean guttering and repaint woodwork. How many Mums do you know who climb scaffolding and clean guttering?
So I climbed the scaff, I cleaned guttering and I cleaned windows, I had a splendid view of my neighbours garden, I got lots of fresh air and really quite enjoyed myself.

Now, if I can just find somewhere else to park…..

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Things I’ll Miss About Hong Kong. Part 3. Random

I am running out of things to miss now. We all know this wasn’t my favourite place and there are dozens of things I won’t miss, but I’ve discussed them at length before.

So back to what I will miss.

My friends of course. Despite its transient nature I was able to make a few friends who still live there.
I’ll be honest though, its not hard to stay in touch and I’m sure we’ll still be a part of each others lives, just from a distance.
There are only few true friends, relationships sometimes built on the need for company, support and vodka that worked out well. I’ll miss those girls.
I am looking forward to getting home to my old friends whose lives I’ve been missing out on all this time. Back into the security of people who have known me so long, relationships built on trust and history.

Someone told me the other day how I would miss my helper. She meant miss the help not the person. I will miss my helper as a person. She was a hard working woman with pride, common sense , a sense of humour and great strength of character. I admire her and like her. So yes I will miss her.
Will I miss someone cleaning for me and cooking for me? Hell No!
I am very much looking forward to being the mistress of my house. The keeper of the keys. The stirrer of the pots. The homemaker.
I like to clean my own house. I have a nice house, I’m proud if it and I want to look after it. I like to potter. Sure, I’m not the tidiest person in the world and I get distracted by other projects. But it’s my mess, in my house and I’ll tidy it up when I’m good and ready. So ner.

I like cooking. I like cooking in a nice big, bright, clean kitchen.

I like shopping for my groceries. I like shopping in a supermarket where the checkout staff are nice, chatty and don’t bark things like “you want bag? 50¢!” ” you ga muni bac car!?” Which translates as “do you have a money back card white guilo trash?!”

Will I miss someone looking after my kids so I can swan off at a moments notice? No. I quite like my kids. They’re fun. I like doing stuff with them. They’re my kids.
We also have grandparents who like to spend time with them and haven’t been able to for a while. I also have great friends and neighbours who are like aunts and uncles. If I’m desperate to escape or need to do something and can’t take the kids, I know I can get some help. It’s called family and community.

After a few weeks of being on my own with two kids, two dogs and a six bedroom house, it’s possible I may crack a little and ask for help. I might decide a cleaner once a fortnight is good idea.

I may just decide to laugh, put my feet up with a glass of wine and worry about the mess in the morning.

Most of all, I’ll miss my husband who has to remain in Hong Kong for a while longer. My rock who stays behind to secure the family’s future while the kids and I go home to start it. He’s my hero.

Things I’ll Miss About Hong Kong. Part 2. Over indulging.

Over indulging. Ok, I might not so miss this as remember it as something fun we did too often.

Hong Kong is a very Foody place. My husband is a Foody. He loves good food, good wine and plenty of it. So we eat out quite often. We also have a helper who is a self taught awesome cook. And a wine collection that makes Robert Parker envious I’m sure.

At weekends we might eat out in Soho at our favourite Argentinian steak restaurant. La Pampas. Or one of the middle eastern places with belly dancers.
We might stay in Discovery Bay for Mexican at Carambas! Or 22°North or Mirch Masala.
There is always a choice and that choice is bad news for your waistline and your pocket.

For lunch we might have Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wans, or Peking Duck at the Summer Palace in the Shangri La. The boys love it here. They like the minced duck with lettuce leaves.

Hong Kong has a lot of hotels that serve Sunday Brunch. Sunday Brunch is the thing to do with a family or friends at the weekend. Every hotel is different in its approach except for one thing. The free flow champagne, that’s a given. Some might do a Saturday brunch with free flow sparkling wine, just to be different. Whatever the difference it’s always Eat As Much As You Can, Drink As Much As You Dare, Spend the rest if the day sleeping it off.

Top of our recommendations are:
Nicholinis at The Conrad
The Kitchen at the W Hotel in Kowloon.

The W serves brunch 12-3 then you can up to the 76th floor, to the pool for more cocktails, DJ and swim. Sounds dangerous to me!

I might miss these, but my waistline won’t!

Things I’ll miss about Hong Kong. Part 1 shopping

I know, I know. I said goodbye before but I haven’t actually left Hong Kong yet and I do have a number of things I’d like to add.

This post was going to be a brief list of the things I might miss about Hong Kong. However, while thinking of them I remembered some other stuff that was quite amusing, so I have decided to split it into parts.

Part 1 is about shopping.

I’m not actually a big shopper but shopping in Hong Kong can be fun. Fun when it’s not challenging or you’re in a hurry or you need a swim suit in March.

It’s not the buying stuff I will miss. It’s the finding stuff, or discovering stuff. Bargaining or not bargaining depending own everyone mood.

So this is me recalling some of the funnier shopping moments I experienced in Hong Kong.

Like the time a young woman in the Jade market spent 10 minutes explaining to me how to tell real Jade from fake. I was genuinely interested and paid attention.
The lesson concluded with her trying to sell me a jade bracelet. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted a jade bracelet and this one was going to set me back $500hk. So I declined.
The price began to drop swiftly. The more I shook my head the cheaper the bracelet became. I began to doubt everything she had just taught me and became sure that this bracelet was itself a fake. Shocking!
The price came down to $120hk. I was tempted to buy it as an example of fake jade but decided I really didn’t care enough as I was unlikely to want real jade anymore than fake. So I walked away.

Another fine example of my bargaining prowess came in the famous Ladies Market in Mon Kok.
My son was 3 and loved Lightning McQueen. I spotted a pair of denim shorts with McQueen on. The stall owner pounced as I picked them up to check the size. “70 dollar” she barked at me. The sizing was unclear and I didn’t think $70hk was that cheap. I made my excuses and started walk away. Within 3 steps the price fell to $20hk!
The size just right. They lasted for ages and even got passed down to his little brother AND a younger cousin after that. Best £2 I ever spent.

Not all vendors are that keen to sell. Some just do not like to play the haggling game. They know their price, you pay it or piss off.

I will miss Sham Shui Po. I always enjoy a day there. Even if I come back empty handed, which is rare.
I love to wander on the Aplui street side and look at the electrical and hardware things. Then browse thought the streets of button and beads and ribbons and bits of jooje, dreaming up what I could possibly sew them to.
I’ve bought remnants of leather that I am going to cut into squares and use as coasters. I’ve bought entire reels of ribbon for $10hk which will do very nicely at Christmas time for wrapping presents.
Then I cross over to Fuk Wah street for my favourite bag shop. And the warehouse shops that sell original designs in a variety of colours. They are all one offs, not fakes, not copies. Some are hideous but with a bit of patience I found a couple of gorgeous little dresses for $50hk.
At Christmas time Fuk Wing street, also know as toy street, sells every kind of Christmas decoration you can think of. On entering the street it looks like the Christmas fairy got drunk and threw up. It’s just a pow of colour and lights and baubles and tinsel and Santas and elves and reindeer and shit I can’t even name because I don’t recognise it.
Halloween is similar, but scary.
Between festival seasons its just great to but cheap knock off toys. I just bough all 4 Ninja Turtles Classic Collection for $400hk. On Amazon they sell for about £12 – £15 each.
My son loves Lego Ninjago. They have fake Lego mini figures by the dozen. They look like the real thing, have all the rights names, just not by Lego. $10hk each. So my son has nearly the whole collection. He comes with me sometimes and is sure to secure a bargain with those big brown eyes.

So I’ll miss my shopping trips, but save some money I guess.

Oscar

The many faces of Oscar

The Cherub.
He lays asleep, perfect little up turned nose and perfect little pout, his eyelashes long and dark just brushing his ruddy pink and full cheeks one of which rests upon his folded little hands. His hair curls on his forehead, around his ears and down the back of his slightly sweaty neck. Baby fat still shows around his wrists and elbows. He snuggles and nuzzles and is a delight to behold.
He is an image of heavenly peacefulness, purity and sweetness.

What a great disguise!

The Story Teller.
Awake and full of life, he is a bundle of curious and creative wiggles and bounces. Every object has a life and a story of its own. Spiders grow in size. They become super beings imparting super powers. Mystery puddles were left by aliens from the planet Blue.
I can’t always tell when he’s lying, please don’t tell him that. His stories sound so plausible sometimes that I find myself falling in to traps. Like the time he convinced me that the teacher brought her dog to school. His description of the dog was so real and so detailed, right down to the colour of his collar. How could it not be true?

The Wildling Child.
He has suddenly lost the ability to use words, has lost his language and can only grunt and whine and even growl. He laughs like a crazy possessed thing and does exactly the opposite of everything I ask with deliberate and cruel joy.
He runs, he throws, he hits and howls. And when I try to hold him he pulls and pulls and suddenly flops to the ground refusing to stand.
He becomes deaf to every warning, every plea. He demands and stomps and wails and screeches going red in the face with such rage.
All without warning and little provocation.

The Little Brother.
He often stands in the shadow of his older brother who he idolises and despises in the same moment. At once aspiring and frustrated. He admires his brothers skills but is frustrated at his own lack. He does not understand that he too will be that fast, that strong, that smart in just another year. He wants to play with his brother and be with his brother but on his terms and by his rules. He is lucky to have such a tolerant sibling who loves him and is patient and adores him just as much.

The Rebel
He is my tiny rebel without a cause. He strives to be different from the rest. He’s the child with the crossed Velcro straps on his shoes, the Spider-Man with blue hair at the Halloween party. Dances to his own beat, sings his version of the song but still as sweetly.
He’s the boy who will dress smartly for dinner one day but turn up naked the next.
His creativity knows no bounds and bears no restrictions. He can colour within the lines but he will not be oppressed by these boundaries.

How To Talk To Someone Suffering From Depression or anxiety.

Having suffered from depression myself, I consider myself something of an expert on this. So indulge me.

1.The first rule of How To Talk to Someone Suffering From Depression is NOT to talk.

Listen. And make sure you are listening. They may have something important to reveal, they may not. The point is, you need to make them think that it’s important to you, not boring.
If they think you are bored or not listening. They won’t talk to you again, they may not talk to anyone again and so get worse.

2. Don’t try to fix the problem. This person is depressed, not stupid. They don’t NEED a solution. They NEED to feel better. Chances are they will still be depressed when the problem is fixed. That’s how depression works.

3. Don’t tell them to “snap out of it”, “cheer up”, “look on the bright side”, “think how lucky they are” or “think positive thoughts”.
That’s the last thing they need to hear.
This will make them feel worse, like a failure, like an idiot and most of all they will feel like they will never feel happy again.
And do you know how patronising it sounds? Very, so seriously, don’t.

They know how lucky they are, depression doesn’t develop just because something sad happened. And it doesn’t go away when something happy happens, not overnight anyway.

The problem is, they can see how lucky they are, they can see there is a bright side but the lack of the right chemical to the brain is stopping them from feeling good or happy. This is frustrating and makes the person feel worse.

They feel sad,
You tell them they have no reason to feel sad,
This makes them feel frustrated then even more sad.
And it goes on like this in a nasty vicious little circle.

Then what happens is they stop telling you when they feel sad,
they pretend everything is ok when it’s really not, just to get your patronising butt off their back.

It’s when they stop communicating that bad things can happen.

As for positive thinking, not possible, they’re depressed remember. Duh!

Why not try telling them positive fun things from your day, try to make them laugh.
Take some focus away from what is bothering them for a while. Don’t disregard it totally, just offer some distraction.
They might feel jealous or resentful at how happy everyone else is, but exposure to a little joy is a good way of getting those good chemicals sparking up a bit.

4. Let them know its ok to express how they feel, what ever they feel and that they won’t feel this way forever. Every time someone says this I little ray of hope shines and the will to push on another day can be found.

There is no right or wrong to how a person feels regardless of mental health. Even if you don’t suffer from depression, we all have our bad days. No one can dictate how something makes you feel.

5. Most importantly. Don’t judge. In order for this person make a recovery they need to feel secure. If they think that you will laugh at them, or hate them they won’t tell you a thing. And remember, it’s when they stop communicating that bad things can happen.

Paranoia is a big part of depression. We always think someone is talking about us, saying negative things, judging us and ridiculing us. That’s a tough place to be, because who do you turn to?

6. Once your friend is feeling better and they will, remember how they were (in case they relapse) but enjoy how they are now. Don’t remind them just support them as they heal. They won’t forget how you helped them, they just might not want to talk about it for a while.

I hope this was insightful. I doubt you enjoyed it, but that’s not why I wrote it.

I wrote this to raise awareness, spread the word, spread the love. Help me out.

Eppure si muove. And yet it moves

“Eppure si muove”. “And yet, it moves.” These are allegedly the words spoken by Galileo Galilei in 1633, when he was tortured and forced to recant his theory that the Earth orbits the sun.

Despite the torture, despite what anyone thinks, the Earth still moves.

Despite whatever tortures we go through, despite the wars, despite anything life may choose to throw at us, the Earth still moves. Life continues, it carries us along with it and no matter what, we are a part of this great Earth and we too must continue.

Galileo is also thought to have said “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

Well doesn’t that sound like a mother?

We may not feel this way often. We may feel more like a fizzled out sparkler on bonfire night and less like a blazing sun. Depression will do that to you.
But even at our worst we are the Sun and we are ripening our little grapes and it is the best thing in the universe to do.
Next time the dark clouds or demons inside are torturing you and forcing you to give up, remember “Eppure si muove” And yet it moves, and so can I.

This rather great man also said “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”

Sunlight is vitamin D, so therefore wine must be full of it so I’m off for a glass of vitamin D.