Thursday, 29 August 2013

Someone drew a picture of me!

Posted this in a "post photo, get your picture drawn" thread...
Facial expression does not correlate with the love I have for this dress.

Got this picture! It's awesome, AND by some magical coincidence, the background is also one of my favourite shades of purple.
How is this so amazing?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Dragon100 Forum Part 1: Hello Hong Kong!

I was selected earlier in the year to be one of this year's New Zealand delegates to the Dragon100 Forum on "Chinese Culture: Continuity and Innovation" which was held in Hong Kong and Taiwan. To be honest, I applied without the expectation of being selected so it was an awesome surprise when I got the confirmation email!

Day 1: Introductions and setting the scene

I touched down in Hong Kong at the very respectable hour of 7:30am for the Dragon100 forum and immediately experienced a 15-20 degree rise in temperature and 80% rise in humidity compared to New Zealand. I’d had a good sleep and terrible breakfast on the plane, so was ready for whatever the day ahead held.
Not exactly large, friendly letters on the cover, but a good travelling t-shirt
Outside the airport, to demonstrate the weather I arrived to!

We were met at the airport by volunteer staff members, transported to the hostel for formalities and check in, and then told we were free to do as we chose until the introduction portion of the evening. My first priority was to take a shower, then get food – luckily, Y-Loft (the hostel) was located immediately by an MTR station and thus a mall. I was lucky enough to find a group going out for dim sum, shopping, and exploration around Causeway Bay. Not much was bought, but I had good fun wandering around and looking at the shops.

First priority: food! This one is a pineapple bun 
Char siu bun, egg tart, custard/fruit plait. All are recommended!

Second lunch/early dinner of dim sum

Sneaky shot of a cat-themed store

As a side note, I would definitely recommend Y-Loft as a place to stay if you don't mind being half an hour out of town and at the end of the MTR line. The rooms are clean and well-presented, there's wi-fi everywhere, and it's a generally nice environment. There aren't really many power points free to charge your electronics (you'll have to unplug the lamps) and apparently the hostel block is not as nice, but the common areas are modern and there's even a small gym (which has 2 treadmills, a bike, a bench, and some mats. No weights, oddly enough, and supposedly only open from 8am-10pm but no-one minded that I went outside those times)
Beds - the messy one is of course mine
Bathroom - with not-wide-enough shower curtain
TV and desk.
This was a design feature I particularly liked - despite being 13 floors up, it felt like we were in a smaller building as there was a central courtyard built in, and all the rooms in the block had a small balcony.
Our balcony!
But actually this is how high up we were....

Day 2: Happy Birthday, happy birthday

Our second day was focussed specifically on the 10th anniversary of the Dragon100 forum and celebrations pertaining to the same, including a ceremony, afternoon workshops, and of course a celebration dinner.
Everyone dressed up in their business best!
For me, the highlight of the morning was actually the keynote lecture around the topic of the forum, “Chinese Culture; continuity and innovation”. Despite one of the delegates saying afterwards that the lecture was not so informative because “everyone knows this”, I learnt a lot both in terms of basic facts and with respect to the more current conflicts between "older" traditions and values held today.
Keynote speaker
On that note, since it did make me think a bit about assumed common knowledge, I think it’s easy to be complacent about things that “everyone should know” when you assume that everyone comes from a similar context as yourself - particularly in a forum such as this where all the participants are of Chinese descent. However, in the same way that I don’t necessarily expect everyone to know what I consider basic information about health despite everyone needing good health to stay alive, I don’t feel that it's expected of me to have learnt about the history of China and Chinese culture. This is particularly true given that my upbringing and schooling has been entirely in New Zealand where it isn't really part of the curriculum. I can tell you a whole lot about the history of New Zealand though! Of course, lack of knowledge doesn't mean lack of interest (especially when it’s pretty much handed to me in a nice gift wrapped hour) and actually, given how well-presented the information was I am more inclined to find out more now.
Different types of teas

During the afternoon workshops, my topics of choice were tea ceremony and qipao. Despite the workshop on tea ceremonies being entirely in Mandarin and me requiring translation of 95% of what was being said, I enjoyed learning about the different tea types and the rituals involved. The second workshop, on qipao, was also partially in Cantonese and Mandarin, and there were more than a few blank nodding and agreeing faces between me, some of the other non-Chinese speaking delegates, and the non-Cantonese speakers. As someone who is a hobbyist with respect to sewing, this workshop was pretty much captivating – we covered the history of qipao pattern drafting, construction techniques, tools, material choice, and got to see some amazing hand sewing as well as the instructor hand-sewing a basic qipao for a delegate within an hour and a half.

Apparently this garment is around 300 years old
Chinese tailor's chalk, ruler, and traditional width fabric

One of the points raised during the qipao workshop was the lack of a national dress in China, and the desire to preserve the older style of qipao rather than the more modern, British-influenced garment as being more "true" to tradition (the newer style typically uses western tailoring with darts and a zip; the older style has neither). This lead to several interesting discussions about the place of qipao in modern society and the different approaches to clothing and fashion - probably enough discussion for a separate blog post that is likely to go off into geeky tangents about sewing, in fact. So I will talk about the rest of the night instead.

Dinner was of course a fancy and formal affair as would be expected due to the nature of the celebrations, with performances from local dance groups and also the local Hong Kong delegates. And the food. Wow. Food. Pictures speak for themselves, I think.

There was a teeny seahorse in my soup!

Rice with fish roe in it, amazingly tasty

Sweet soup and pastry
 A group of us headed out to go clubbing in LKF afterwards (can't remember what it stands for; too lazy to look it up) and spent a couple of hours dancing in 7 Heaven. The music, atmosphere and company were great, but I'm used to clubs being non-smoking areas and I really hate the smell of cigarettes, so that irked me a little. Not enough to stop me having fun, of course.

On the right is the club we went to...
People on the street - way busier than New Zealand is usually!

I have over 300 photos and a whole lot to say about my trip since I didn't lose my camera/phone this time - so stay tuned for further updates and discussions.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

You should read this.

One of my friends has started a series of blog posts about her JRA, which can be found here.

Having had the privilege of knowing her for a number of years and talking to her a fair amount about her arthritis and the associated frustrations that come with it (side note: not everyone is your patient, but having friends who take meds that require a special authority number means that you will invariably talk to them about why they're on it) I'm incredibly impressed that she's started writing about her own journey and made the effort to share with others. 

I'm usually skeptical about "promoting awareness", mainly because that goal is used indiscriminately of the actual issue at hand and possible solution(s) to the issue(s) we are "promoting awareness" about, but given that she's had to deal with crap like being flat out told she was lying about having arthritis and pain for pity/attention, I think awareness is the right goal in this case. Plus, there are conditions that are far easier to lie about that don't involve having to take methotrexate or prednisone.