Timeout

I’m coming off a rare four days in a row without work, and that’s simply because I took two days off last week due to illness. I slept so much that I feel like I could have turned into a zombie. And with two days left until Christmas, I feel like I should write a “here’s what I’ve been up to” blog – kind of like the last one, but using words to describe my life rather than pictures.

First of all, I want to say that I don’t get sick very easily. During the three years I’ve lived in Toronto by myself, I’ve never skipped a day of school due to being sick (but then again, I love school, and I’d rather endure through a sick day at school than skip a day). But seriously, Hong Kong food has been harsh on my stomach since the very beginning. I’ve seen the doctor here three times now, and every single time, they prescribe me medicine to regulate my stomach. Oh, and funny thing about doctors here – you don’t have to go to another pharmacy to pick up your prescription, but doctors may give you things that you can easily find over the counter, such as drugs for your cold symptoms, or mild pain relievers, or even cough drops. Interesting.

I slept about 70% of Thursday and Friday, waking up at completely random occasions and having no sense of time. For example, I would wake up at 4 in the morning and stay up until noon, and then go back to sleep. When I woke up at 5 PM to the sound of my alarm, I was completely confused as to why I would set an alarm when I didn’t have work… and then I realized it wasn’t 5 in the morning. Having no sense of time is such a weird feeling. It’s like when you’re on summer vacation and the day of the week doesn’t matter to you; you never know what day it is. That’s pretty much me for the past few days.

On Friday night, we had a dinner to celebrate the winter solstice – something that us Chinese like to do. Funny enough, a lot of people I talked to did not know that the day of the solstice means the shortest day of daylight in the year. So I asked them why they would celebrate a random day of winter if it did not have any special meaning, and of course, nobody knew. I guess I can’t completely blame them. They don’t have such huge differences in daylight times like we do in Canada. Right now, at around the winter solstice time, it gets dark a bit before 6 PM, whereas it might be something like 4 PM in Canada. On the other hand, we have long summer days that end at 10 (oh, how I miss those days!), while here it only lasts until 7 or 8. On average, the sunset time really doesn’t vary too much over the year, so they don’t really notice the solstices here.

Usually if I have a few free days to spare, I’d make sure they’re filled with lots of activities and events, but this weekend was actually quite relaxing for me. My friends were all busy, Christmas shopping had all been done last week, and I guess I just wasn’t healthy enough to go all the way to a nice scenic spot to write. (I haven’t done that in a while). I still went out, but it wasn’t the type where I literally have every minute of my life occupied. Unfortunately, I had to go through Mong Kok, and no matter what time of day it is, there will never be enough space for you to walk comfortably along the road. I don’t know if has anything to do with Christmas, but there seemed to be even more people than usual – if that’s even possible.

Meanwhile at home, I’ve been watching a lot of TV and catching up on some of the dramas that I haven’t had time for over the past month. TVB dramas are boring, so I was able to finish them all at 1.5x speed – it wastes less time. Now that ‘The Amazing Race’, ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘Suits’ are all off air, I actually have nothing to watch. Sherlock is back on January 1st, but it’s only going to last for two weeks before the long Season 4 wait begins again. Any good TV recommendations?

This isn’t recent news, but I want to share nonetheless because it’s an interesting side of Hong Kong. So anyway, I made Christmas cookies about two weeks ago. Just like how I do every year… except in Hong Kong, it’s a much harder task. Not every apartment is equipped with an oven, and even if they do have an oven, it’s usually one of those small portable ones. Kitchens are tiny, so you don’t have the luxury of spreading your bowls all over the counter. You literally have to clean as you go. Furthermore, nobody stocks baking ingredients at home. They stock cooking ingredients at home – oil, eggs, salt – but not every household will have flour, baking power/soda, or even sugar for your baked goods.

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Obviously I had to go buy all the ingredients before making my cookies, so I bought a large pack of each ingredient that would give me enough to use. After the fact, somebody asked, “Why did you buy so much?”, and I was completely confused… it was the smallest package that would provide enough materials for me! Little did I realize, they also sell baking ingredients by the measure – like literally, you can buy exactly however much you need as indicated in your recipe. People don’t have enough space to store their ingredients, and baking isn’t a common task either. In Vancouver, I’d bake on a quiet Saturday if I was in the mood without having to prepare for it in advance. Here, I had to set a date just for my baking, and make sure I had a place with an oven before I could start.

If you’re considering baking here in Hong Kong, also know that ingredients are sold by mass (as opposed to volume in North America). I guess it’s because their recipes go by mass as well? I admit that the mass convention is more accurate, because *nerd alert* “mass cannot be created or destroyed”, while volume can differ even you have the same ‘amount’ of something. But I’ve grown up with the volume convention all my life, so adapting to a mass is a bit different for me. It also means that everything I learned about measuring dry and liquid ingredients in high school is completely inapplicable here, because they don’t even use measuring cups and spoons. All they need is a scale.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan these days, and re-reading some of my old blog posts from my adventures there. When I left Japan, I was convinced I had enough of that place…. but after four months of Hong Kong, and seeing all the Facebook activity centered in Osaka, I find myself missing the city all over again. Every now and then, the thought that I spent three months in Japan still feels unreal – how did I ever survive that on my own, without knowing a single person there? It’s weird and amazing all at the same time.

I have never experienced such an un-Christmaslike Christmas before. My body is telling me that it can’t be two days before Christmas. It just doesn’t make sense. I haven’t even had my Thanksgiving turkey yet! What’s up with this?

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