Sunday, June 29, 2014

PMQ, I'm so Disappointed in You

After I raved about PMQ in this post, I showed up two days later to find this:

It is just so typical of Hong Kong to take a good thing (public space, grace, open areas to rest and relax) and ruin it.  I really hope these barriers are temporary for the Panda exhibit and will disappear soon, but they look pretty solidly buried and more like a permanent fixture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardening Update: Batches of Basil

Remember how worried I was about my little basil plants that I bought at the beginning of this year from the flower market?  They were spindly, tender little things that barely could stand upright and their roots were so thin that I worried I could not properly water them.

Well!  Now the three basil plants have absolutely skyrocketed and are bordering on out of control.

I went up to the rooftop this morning and ruthlessly plucked five or six inches off the top of the basil bush (it is no longer a plant).
I think I prefer this kind of basil (I think it is Thai) to the round leafed sweet basil that you more commonly see in the US.

Separately, jasmine have started popping up at local markets here, at only HK$10 a bunch!
I had previously been identifying them as lilies of the valley but that's not correct; these are jasmine buds.  The flowers smell so good that I cannot refuse.  The less good thing is that they have an incredibly short shelf life - lasting maybe only two or three days before the leaves start to wilt and the flower shrivel and turn brown.

Smelling them makes me crave a strong, fragrant cup of tea...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mosquito Destroyer and Dog Magnet

I apologize as I interrupt the humdrum slew of posts to boast about this guy:

You might have never guess it by looking at him, but he is a truly deadly force against evil mosquitos!

He nailed one by throwing a soccer ball at it, killed another one by jumping up off of our bed and smashing it with same soccer ball, and then, just last night, killed a mosquito as it was whizzing by my ear.  And he always gets the darn thing on the first hit.

Is that amazing or what?

This is a hit man I desperately need in my life.  Possibly because I am always the first target when it comes to these pesky bloodsuckers (must be that sweet, sweet blood) but also because well, hot damn, that's just an awesome skill  to possess, is it not?

It leaves me in awe.  As someone who could barely pick up the dodgeball in gym class, never mind having a hope of throwing it to hit anything, I cannot even begin to comprehend how he does this.

The gory aftermath of a swift death and well deserved victory:
 Mosquitoes: 0; Michael 3.  Three cheers!!!

Lest you think Michael is not so good with animals though, let me assure you that Tuffin loves Michael with heart wrenching adoration.  As I watch a TV show with lots of doors opening and closing while typing this post, Tuffin keeps raising his head hopefully and peering at our door, hoping that this time, finally, he will catch sight or smell of his beloved master.

 One of my favorite scenes - the man and his dog, taking a nap.  

BEP: A Follow Up Review

This review follows my previous review of BEP, the Vietnamese Kitchen that opened in Soho a few weeks ago. 

I think they have improved significantly since my previous review.  The restaurant was likely working through a few kinks from their soft opening.  Now I think they have really gotten the hang of things.  The kitchen churns out the dishes quickly and consistently.

 The place is pretty consistently full all nights of the week.

Their pork bun cha was fabulous.

The banh mi was vastly improved with just a thin coating of pate.  Michael's greedy fingers got in the way, so we have this rather scary looking picture...

I quite liked their vegetarian bun cha.

The beef salad (I always thought it was rather funny to have a salad consisting of… well, beef) was perfect - very flavorful with tons of fresh herbs and chopped peanuts.

The brussels sprouts with sausage were very flavorful.  Their prices are still relatively reasonable and I love their service.  The servers are attentive, responsive, and fast, even on a very busy Saturday night.

I also love that this restaurant is steps from our door.  I hope people continue to give BEP a chance. 

The only funny thing about the restaurant is that I think it is part of the same chain or family as Nha Trang, the other Vietnamese restaurant in Central on Wellington Street.  I would not be at all surprised if this were true - after all, practically all of the bars, movie theaters, supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants are owned by conglomerates.  Despite the new anti-trust and competition law that is coming to Hong Kong (soon), I doubt much will change.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our Apartment, A War Zone

So for the past month and a half, we have been the victims of a typical Hong Kong event - construction, ongoing construction, and more construction.  Our building is being renovated for upgrades to meet modern fire and electrical safety standards.  I suppose that is a good thing in the long run (exposed wires, electrical fires and creaky old windows are certainly not a good thing) but I wish they would hurry up and finish everything already.

 I am sick and tired of feeling like I am living in a war zone.

It is bad enough that we live off of Hollywood Road, a road plagued by incessant construction, scaffolding, jackhammering and pipe refinishing (despite all appearances that it does not require this heavy duty repair).  In the US, a street like Hollywood Road would be deemed to be in excellent shape and left alone.

Two nights ago, the reverberations from the construction work being done on the roof caused these extremely heavy tiles glued to the top inside of our cooking fan to come crashing down.  That was not so good.

We were promised a new tarp and shinier windows.  Those items have yet to be seen...

We also suspect that this invasive construction and revamping of the entire building is the reason that our rent was not increased this year...

Monday, June 16, 2014

On Taking the Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination (OLQE)

Well, the time of reckoning has come.  Now that I am five years qualified (counting from the date of being sworn in to the New York bar), the time has come for me to sit for the OLQE, or Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination in Hong Kong.  This is essentially the bar exam, all over again. 

My firm is in the process of converting from a registered foreign law firm to a local law firm, which is why we are all facing the music, from the partners on down to the last lowly associate.  If I pass this exam, I am eligible to become a Hong Kong qualified lawyer. 

The OLQE consists of five heads, or subjects: Head I, Conveyancing, Head II, Civil and Criminal Procedure, Head III, Commerical and Company Law, Head IV, Accounts and Professional Conduct and Head V, Common Law.  Most foreign lawyers opt to take it five years after qualification in their home state because then they are eligible for exemption from Heads II, III and IV. An applicant admitted to practice in common law jurisdictions is automatically exempt from Head V.   To have to take four or all five heads while working a full time job is truly grueling and daunting, so the firm is willing to give us a respite until we are eligible to take only one. 

In order to be exempt from the other heads, I had to prepare a long application detailing my experience in the other subjects. A notary also had to come and witness all of my signatures.  I received my letter last week informing me that I have been granted exemption from sitting Heads II-V, which means I only have to take and pass the one exam, Head I, Conveyancing.   It's the best possible result, but it is still a bit grim as Conveyancing is the most archaic and complicated of the subjects.

I start taking bar prep classes in August and I can barely contain my joy.  The date of the exam this year is October 28.  Dun dun dun...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Welcoming Tuffin

We got Tuffin yesterday evening and have been trying to get acquainted with the little guy.  He is so cute!  He has such a compact body but he is also so, so sturdy.  He feels really solid, you know what I mean?

Poor guy, he was all freaked out when we first got him, probably completely confused by all the noise and traffic and dust of Central.

It was also really funny when we tried to get him to climb the stairs of our building up to our apartment with us - after one flight of stairs, he turned around and tried to go downstairs - clearly thinking, "what the heck are you trying to do to me, this is awful!"  After every landing he would turn around and look at us with reluctance, as if checking that we truly had to keep going up.

Later in the night, he seemed quite confounded with the mirror on our bathroom door and kept whining at it.  But we're thinking maybe it's because he really wanted to shower with Michael!

He really is food motivated - you can get him to do practically anything if you give him food.  This is the video his previous foster sent to us, to show you how he adores his food.  I thought it was just adorable.

He spent the better part of the night sniffing everything in sight, likely trying to get himself acquainted with his new surroundings.  Michael and I are thinking whether we should try to teach him some new commands (or maybe even some in Mandarin)!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Jaywalking Ticket

I had heard that the Hong Kong police force has so little to do that they have taken to standing on street corners and issuing tickets for jaywalking, but I had never seen it happen until today, when it happened to me! 

In my usual rush to get to work, I skipped across the busy intersection that I know so well (look right, cross a quarter of the way, check for trams in either direction, cross half way, look left for buses, continue across).   Well this time as soon as I made it across the street I was stopped and told I could not proceed. 
I could not believe this was happening.  I was so incensed I remarked nastily to the cops that apparently they had nothing better to do with their time than stand idly on street corners.  I also asked how many pedestrians they caught that day.  I do not think that helped my cause.  The cop in the shiny sunglasses responded with, "you can't cross against the light and you did so."

Gee, good answer.  Never mind that there were no buses or trams in the way because they were working on construction in the middle of the street...

They took down my ID number, my address and my phone number.  I am to expect a summons in the mail which will set forth the formal complaint (read: ticket).  When I asked them how much the ticket was for, they pretended not to understand what I was asking did not answer my question.

Hong Kong needs some more crime so the policemen can get busy doing other stuff!  Ugh.  What a terrible start to the day.  I am full of disgust!

Update: upon my commute home I did not jaywalk (might still have been smarting from the events that transpired earlier in the day) but I snapped this photo of ALL these other people crossing against the light at the same intersection!  Gah!  Obviously this is the only way to get anywhere around this godforsaken city.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PMQ - A New Space in Hong Kong

For a while now we have been seeing construction happening in and around PMQ on Bridges Street, Hollywood Street and Aberdeen Street.  Billed as "creativity at a new address," PMQ is a recently opened open air shopping mall that houses both local and international shops and restaurants.  It is huge!

It was formerly a school,the first public school in Hong Kong to provide western education.  Dr. Sun Yat Sen studied here in 1884.  (That's cool!)  The school was severely damaged during WWII, and was left vacant until it was refashioned as a dormitory for married junior police officers. It served as "Police Married Quarters" (that's what PMQ stands for) until 2000.  Since then, this huge space in some of the most expensive real estate of Hong Kong has been sitting vacant.  Pretty amazing.  This year, though, PMQ finally re-opened.  Judging by the foot traffic on the weekend, already it looks like it will be a significant addition to the public space of this compact city. 

We started our exploration of PMQ on Bridges Street, not really knowing what to expect. This is where we entered PMQ:

We wandered downstairs to NightMarket, where we could hear a lot of noise.  Turns out it was a whole festival of food and drinks.

And people selling stuff.

But the highlight was when we walked out the back and saw this:
Holy smokes!! We haven't seen grass in ages!  We immediately took off our shoes and made ourselves at home.
What a luxury!  Here Michael is basking in the sun and luxuriating in the grass.  The locals walking by looked at us a little funny.  It was amusing that every expatriate's instinct was to sit on the grass, and every local's instinct was to sit on a bench.
There are pretty flowers in the PMQ space.
We can't wait to come here and try Aberdeen Street Social (I think they were being quite cheeky when they named this restaurant...) which just opened a little over a week ago.  My friend said the food was a bit heavy, but the atmosphere looks fantastic.
I love how the restaurant is set up over two floors, and the upper level is surrounded in entirety by a glass balcony.  But overall, I am mostly still reeling over the patch of grass!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Night at the Races

We had our summer associate event at the horse races in Happy Valley this past week.  We had a few tables at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's guest box, which was nice but a little far from the finish line.  The best part about the box is probably the no-line no-crowd betting counter, though the balcony outside provides some nice views.  There was a pretty plentiful buffet and all you can drink beverages (but only wine and beer, no hard liquor), but I thought the food was only fair to middling.
Michael started the races with a bang and won on horse 4 in the second race, when he bet that the horse would place.  With 9:1 odds, that was a very exciting win!

I got such a kick out of the names of the horses being substituted in Race 6: