Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Most Overdue Blog Post of All Time

So it’s been literally 2 months since I’ve posted anything from Hong Kong, so go figure my next “Hong Kong” blog post is being posted from Holland. A brief summation of the last two months:

The highlight of April was a 5 day trip to South Korea early on in the month. Basically, Madlien and I were hanging out one day when we realized we only had class like one day that week (due to more public holidays provided by HKU, shocking), so we decided to bolt to South Korea for the week. Overall, definitely one of the best decisions I made in Hong Kong, as Seoul turned out to be my favorite city in Asia other than HK. It was quite similar to Tokyo, only everything was literally 1/4-1/3 of the price. We spent most of our time in Seoul, though we were able to take a day trip to the DMZ at the border, which was quite eerie. The street food was absolutely wonderful in Seoul, and, as stated earlier, quite cheap. Among the best things were bulgogi, which is sort of a bun filled with seasoned pork, and a variety of cinnamon flavored bun things. Anyway, another highlight of Seoul was hanging out with a couple of kids that Michael had met in his time in Holland, Won (Michael’s roommate in Holland), and Rany. They were both originally from Seoul, and they showed us around the city for a couple of nights, which was very cool, as it always is to get a local’s perspective. Other highlights included some awesome hikes which got us great views of Seoul, a visit to the 2002 World Cup Stadium, and a trip to the North Seoul Observation Tower, which stands hundreds of meters above the city of 20 million people. The view from the tower was particularly spectacular, as we did it at dusk, so we were able to see as Seoul transformed from a daytime city to a constellation of neon lights once the sun set. We also got to see a Korean professional baseball game (the two best teams in Korea were playing a Friday night game… and the tickets were roughly $6… nice country, eh?). Anyway, the game lasted 12 innings before ending in a tie. Yes, that is correct. After 12 innings, the two teams marched out onto the field, shook hands, and that was it. Certainly a bit unexpected, a bit 2002 all-star game esque, if you will, but eh, who are we to judge. If nothing else, their fans were INFINITELY more passionate than USA baseball fans. I really can’t stress that enough, every single player had their own really loud cheer from the fans, and they were on their feet screaming literally the whole time. Incredible stuff.

Anyway, so after Korea we sort of mulled around Hong Kong for about 3 weeks before deciding to go to Indonesia. That trip involved Elliott, Paris, Mirjola, and I. We were there for 10 days, and it was a pretty good trip. Highlights included visiting what is arguably now my least favorite city on the planet, Jakarta, which was just absolute filth. Tons of traffic, air pollution, nothing to see, etc. Terrible place. From there we took a 10 hr train to Yogyakarta, which was much more interesting, as it was smaller, cleaner, more Indonesian, if you will, and had 2 beautiful temples within a 30 minute drive, both of which we saw. After that we headed to Gunung Bromo, in east-central Java. This was a volcano located several thousand meters up, and we woke up to see the sun rise over it, which was absolutely breathtaking. This did, however, cause a massive body shock, as the night before we were in 100 degree heat, and that high up in the mountains the temperature got down to about 35-40 degrees. Later that day (after we left Gunung Bromo), again we were exposed to 100+ degree heat. Fun times. Anyway, from there we went to Bali and stayed with Paris’ dad’s friend Walter, who is a German architect living in Bali. He had an absolutely amazing piece of property with a few huts that we stayed in, it was quite incredible. After Bali, we had a long, long ride back to Jakarta, which was basically a 10 hour bus followed by a 12 hour train. Rough would be an understatement, but my God was it cheap.

Anyway, so that’s about all about Indonesia. After returning I had some exams, then before I knew it it was the last week in Hong Kong, and I was finished with exams. Consequently, every night involved someone’s goodbye party, so the week itself was quite taxing. Leaving Hong Kong turned out to be on of the most difficult experiences of my life. The people I met there will absolutely forever influence me in whatever I do, and I learned infinitely more from them and from Hong Kong itself than any classroom could ever teach me. Below is the list of the 10 things I am most grateful for having learned or done in Hong Kong, in no particular order:

Learning to play cricket (and batted an 8!), thanks to Sai

Exemplified the patience of Job by not tearing strips off my roommate for wreaking of mold and bad cheese

Broke into the 4 Seasons roof pool, etc... (will not elaborate)

See a clear sunrise over the most beautiful skyline in the world

Nearly get stabbed for standing up for what I believe in

Kung foo fighting in slow motion in the streets of Lan Kwai Fong

Have gin and cigars in a castle

Wear a stolen bathrobe to LKF with Elliott and Benno

Dance like a fool while not wearing shoes... in a club

Learn that there are no laws in Asia (as Rafa can surely back me up on)

There are countless more things, and on any given day this list could look totally different, as there really were that many great times this semester. I really, truly can say that this was the best 5 months of my life, and I will miss each and every one of you all dearly. As I've said to many people before leaving, "this probably isn't goodbye, its just a hiatus". Anyway, that's enough of that or I'll start crying... so-

Back to the beginning of this post, I’m currently posting this from Holland. For those who don’t know, I’ll be interning in The Hague, Holland, for the next 12 weeks or so. The trip here was a bit rough, 7.5 hr flight from Hong Kong to Dubai followed by a 7 hr flight to Amsterdam. Given that its now Tuesday, and I haven’t slept more than 3 hours in a night since like Friday, I’m starting to drag pretty badly, and will likely go to bed very shortly (its 9:41pm local time right now), especially given that I have to report to work at 8:00 tomorrow morning. While in Holland I’ll be staying with the Sprague family. Mr. Sprague is an ISU alumni and the VP of SES World Skies, the company I’m working for. Mrs. Sprague, as it turns out, is childhood friends with someone who lives literally 2 doors down from me. If that’s not a small world, I don’t know what is. I’ve also found out in my short time here that she is a wonderful cook (shrimp curry was quite nice tonight), and that I really have missed the Midwestern accent since leaving for HK. I also met Hunter, their son, who is a freshman at TCU. He is also interning at SES this summer, so we’ll be seeing a fair bit of each other presumably. Their daughter, Sierra, is just graduating High School next week before heading off on a trip to Spain. If only we American HS kids got to do such things after graduation. So far I’ve enjoyed my 5 hours or so in The Hague. A few brief observations: despite the fact that its 9:46pm here, its still really, really bright outside. Literally, like as bright as it would be in Chicago at like 4:30-5:00pm. Really quite strange. Also, much slower than Hong Kong, and there aren’t skyscrapers, or at least, not of the magnitude of Hong Kong. I briefly went by the office today, and it seems very nice. Most of the people I’m working with seem very nice, and I’m really looking forward to it. In the meantime, its been about 4 days since I’ve had proper sleep, so I’ll be doing that now. For those still reading at this point, thanks for the dedication, apologies for taking literally 2 months to post anything. More to come in the coming weeks…

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