Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Alive! Post OLQE

Wow, I have really neglected this blog lately.  It was because the OLQE took over my life last week.  The fear of failure combined with the devious questions combined with the sheer pressure of trying to study and work at the same time really turned me into a bit of a jaw-clenching nightmare-having neurotic beast.

The test happened on Tuesday morning, in the subterranean depths of a rather sketchy Holiday Inn on the Golden Mile in TST, Hong Kong, right next to the Chungking Mansions.  It was a bit surreal to be sitting down for an exam in a ballroom, with glitzy crystal chandeliers and pink tablecloths everywhere.  The test site had a huge clock counting down at the front of the room, which was a bit terror-inducing.  I shared a table with another girl who was pretty good about keeping to her side of the table.  We were not at all friendly and did not exchange names or hellos.  Oops.

I guess at this point in our lives we are veterans, if not skilled, at taking standard examinations.  I have sat through the PSATs, the SATs, AP exams, numerous and plentiful standardized multiple choice exams, tests in essay question format, the LSATs, the New York bar exam... but I don't think the stress ever really goes away, at least not for me. 

The day after the exam I had a long and realistic dream about answering every question wrong on the test...always a good sign.  I am really hoping that now that the exam is over I can sleep better and that my left jaw muscle can finally relax.  The pain was slowly easing into my ear and I was beginning to hear clicking sounds...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Impromptu Trip to Shanghai

I was asked (told) on Friday morning whether I had time to go on a client development trip to Shanghai on Monday of this week.  I was a bit nervous about going because I knew the trip would require a lot of time and I was worried about my studying time for the OLQE.  But I kind of figured that studying and procrastinating take up all available time allotted to it, so I would go.

I do like Shanghai.  Unfortunately this time I barely had any time to see or do anything.

I kicked off my trip with a pit stop at the noodle bar in Cathay's Cabin lounge at the airport:
 Their spicy dandan noodles are not very spicy but very creamy and full of peanut flavor.
 Their char siu bao and liu sa bao are actually pretty good.
 My dish of lamb chops on Dragonair was actually surprisingly tasty, one of my better Cathay meals of late.
 I was whisked directly to my hotel, the Ritz Carlton in Pudong.  The hotel was very nice.  It had the typical Chinese set up where the lobby was on the 52nd floor and the hotel rooms were below.  I find the set up a little annoying because every time you want to go down you have to go up first.  I stayed on the 40th floor.
 My door was a glittery shiny thing.
 I had a very nice view of the bund.

 With the Pearl Tower right next door, out the side of my window:
 My room was very luxurious, with a bathtub that looked a bit like a throne:
 This was a very spacious bathroom:

 A nice sitting area I didn't really use:
 A bed that I found strangely uncomfortable:
 The bund in the morning:

The trip overall was pretty tiring, with my not seeing very much except the airports, the hotel room, the Shanghai office, the interior of a few cars, and the offices of the client we were visiting.  I did have one very interesting conversation with my first driver who drove me to my hotel from Pudong Airport, but that post will come when I have a bit more time to parse my thoughts.

Back to studying...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dinner at Olive

Recently Michael and I went to dinner at Olive in Soho, which bills itself as a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant.  I had pretty low expectations because it is a Dining Concepts restaurant, but I now think it is actually pretty good.  At least the restaurant is trying to do something slightly different and push the boundaries a little.  It's by no means a cheap or budget option, but then again I'm starting to think that there is just no bargain to be had in Hong Kong.

We started with the deep fried haloumi cheese and "watercress salad."  As you can see, frisee is what they meant by watercress, and garnish is what they meant by salad.  Pretty ridiculous.  But the cheese was delicious.
 Can never have enough of fried cheese.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fried haloumi, especially after generous squirts of the lemon wedge.
 Michael's entrée was duck breast on top of a bed of creamy risotto.  He said the risotto was perfect (I concur), but the duck was disappointingly tough. 
 My entree was pretty amazing, simply because it was so unusual and unlike anything I had tried before.  Michael sampled some and pronounced it to taste "like Christmas."  That is a pretty accurate and succinct way to capture the flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon punctuated by bright bursts of pomegranate.  The dish consisted of pieces of chicken with bits of chestnut, kale and chickpeas, cooked to a meltingly tender point, in an "envelope" of bread, siting in a broth and topped with a generous clump of cold sour cream.
 Dessert: I decided to splurge and ordered a milk pudding with a lot of candy floss.  This candy floss was very innovative and unusual, but the downside was that those razor sharp bits actually hurt to swallow! 

Pretty, right?  The dessert was not my favorite in terms of taste or texture but I very much liked the appearance of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Living In A Police State, Continued

My last post was posted too soon, as that very night there were intense fights between the police and the protestors, with 43 protestors arrested.  A youtube video, purportedly showing police officers beating up an activist in a darkened underground, was also leaked to great outrage.

I am really not sure what all of this means for the Hong Kong people.

Certain streets remain vigilantly guarded and "held" by the protestors.


The protests do not have much impact on my every day.  It's hard not to notice the increased police presence.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Living in a Police State

You may have seen reports on the news about the Hong Kong police trying to dismantle the barricades and various roadblocks that had been raised seemingly overnight all over Central and Admiralty when the protests first began.

While I haven't witnessed any chainsaws or fisticuffs, I have noticed (and indeed it would be impossible not to notice) the dramatic increase in the number of police all around Admiralty. 

Yesterday on my way to grab some lunch I was disconcerted to suddenly see a horde of police swarm the park in front of my work building.  Conspicuous in their blue uniforms and berets (what is that about??), some of the policemen also had big rolled up banners strapped to their back. It was not clear to me what they were trying to do, though it seemed they were getting into some kind of formation.

Ambulances with their lights flashing and sirens blaring zoom periodically around my work building, but they never seem to be carrying any passengers and I have not yet figured out their purpose.

Yesterday we were encouraged to leave work early, given the possible deterioration of the situation.  It seemed a little alarmist to me but I guess better safe than sorry.  On my way home, the police vans made a rather imposing caravan.  More vans were zooming toward Admiralty as I progressed home in the opposite direction.

I never see the police actually doing anything, however.  They just seem to be standing around, diligently following the set number of paces they have been instructed to take, and waiting and watching.  And waiting and watching.  Which I guess is creepy enough as it is.

As I was running on the treadmill at the gym today and observing lines of policemen and women standing in the middle of the street in perfect lines under the beating sun, it occurred to me that they must be really bored.  Their job is probably 99% waiting and standing around, and 1% actual action.

I went to look at the street after my workout - the barricades are still there.  Most of the barricades erected around my office are also still there.  It'd be putting it mildly to say that I really don't understand what's going on right now.

The air is permeated with a sense of anticipation and watchfulness.  I think it's fair to say that everyone wants to know what is going to happen next. 
"I love [a] free Hong Kong" or "I love freedom in Hong Kong"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hen Party - Drinks at Seasons and Dinner at Chez Moi

I went to a really lovely hen party (for some reason I like that term so much more than bachelorette party) this weekend for a very good friend in Hong Kong.  It was really well organized and I think she had a really good turnout - eighteen girls!

The theme of the party was blanc en blanc, so everyone had to show up in white with gold jewelry.
 The first stop was Seasons on top of Lee Garden Two in Causeway Bay. They have a really nice rooftop and the food (judging by the passed hors d'oeuvres) seemed promising.
  There was a polaroid camera to snap pictures, feather boas and metallic bead necklaces for draping, and some gold and silver masks and tiaras for wearing.  Everyone took pictures with the bride to be and wrote a little message in the book for the bride/couple.  My friend wore a very classy white A line sheath and an organza veil along with a silvery "bachelorette" banner.
Afterwards we went to dinner at Chez Moi, a private kitchen in Causeway Bay on Yiu Wah Street.  This might be my favorite street in Causeway Bay.  I thought the food was really great.

They put us in a private room with a beautiful wall of wine cases and fresh flowers and actually managed to do a fantastic job getting the entire party through their four course meal.

I opted for the Australian scallop, the pea shoot soup with crab, the ribeye with potato gratin and the apple pecan chocolate pie.  In between the soup and the steak they served a small palate cleanser, a mango sorbet.

The soup was probably my favorite dish of the meal.

But it would be very closely followed by my steak, which was just cooked so perfectly.  It was meltingly tender and I ate the whole thing despite being stuffed.

My only complaint was that the dessert was billed to me as an apple pie, and no one mentioned pecan or chocolate.  How is it an apple pie if you have huge chunks of pecan and the whole thing is actually made up of chocolate?

The dinner was really lovely, and I got to meet a few new girl friends as well as catch up with some old ones.  We played a few typical games as well, such as making the bride to be guess at what items are from which person's handbag, as well as making her guess her fiancé's answers to certain questions.

My friend is about to get married in Vegas in two weeks, and I could not be more thrilled for her.  I am so sad that I can't go, because I'm sure it's going to be just the best time ever!!