Posts tagged with "Chinese culture"

(Mis) Understanding Art

Few peo­ple in my fam­i­ly seem to under­stand my art.

When they look at my pic­tures, they make com­ments about the qual­i­ty, or whether or not they’re smil­ing, or ask how much mon­ey I make. It’s nev­er about the mean­ing, or my intent, or what I’m try­ing to express. Only one of them saw what I was going for in com­pos­ing this pho­to of my grand­ma and aunt with the poster in the back­ground.

They also talk through my videos when watch­ing them, when every bit of pac­ing is impor­tant, miss­ing sig­nif­i­cant estab­lish­ing shots.

Maybe it’s the cul­ture. Very few Chinese kids are allowed to be artists, as it’s seen as too risky or imprac­ti­cal. My gen­er­a­tion of fam­i­ly seems to be full of accoun­tants, and engi­neers, pro­gram­mers, or any­thing else with secu­ri­ty. Even though piano or vio­lin lessons are com­mon (I can’t think of a sin­gle Chinese friend who did­n’t take piano lessons at one point), it’s more of a sta­tus sym­bol to be able say that you can afford the pri­vate lessons and instru­ment.

This is prob­a­bly why I feel like I don’t relate or can’t speak to most of my fam­i­ly. When they don’t under­stand my art, they don’t under­stand me.

Hong Kong: Nights

Tung Choi Street (or Ladies’ Market), as seen in my Hong Kong: Markets video as the area cov­ered with blue tarp, is for the ladies, and opened all day.

Temple Street, on the oth­er hand, only starts to come alive at night, and is also known as Men’s Street. There are no stalls out dur­ing the day. This is the street that one of my favourite Stephen Chow movies, God of Cookery, is based on, so it was awe­some to be able to see it in per­son.

Instead of hand­bags, clothes, and posters sold in Ladies’ Market, they sell cheap men-ori­ent­ed trin­kets like bat­ter­ies, lighters, base­ball caps, elec­tron­ics, cam­era gear, and sex toys. There’s also a sec­tion with rows of stalls for for­tune telling (at 2:12), offered in both Chinese and English lan­guages, and European (tarot) and Asian (face, palm read­ing) flavours.

Temple street is also known for it’s road­side din­ing, where you can order pots stuffed with meat or deep fried del­i­ca­cies. I was warned not to eat any­thing on tem­ple street though, as the stan­dards are too low now1. One might get away with an upset stom­ach at best, and end up with a trip to the hos­pi­tal at worst.

Since Temple Street is noto­ri­ous­ly shady, where there’s more open pros­ti­tu­tion, drug deal­ings, and oth­er unsavoury activ­i­ties, I lim­it­ed my film­ing on the off-chance that I may have cap­tured some­thing I should­n’t2. Can you spot the two hook­ers?

  1. Even my dad won’t eat there any­more, which is say­ing some­thing. []
  2. During the walk through the stalls, I was yelled at once by a ven­dor to put my cam­era away. []

Hong Kong Food Diary: Week 2

Soft shelled crab

Thumbnail: Banana cream pie
Thumbnail: Fried white Chinese carrot cake
Thumbnail: Banana pancake
Thumbnail: Barbecue spare ribs
Thumbnail: Stewed Chinese cabbage and spare ribs
Thumbnail: Cauliflower with pork
Thumbnail: Stir fried Chinese broccoli with garlic
Thumbnail: Chiu Chow Congee
Thumbnail: cloud ears, tofu, Chinese mushrooms, and glass noodles
Thumbnail: Canoe congee with calamari
Thumbnail: Deep fried banana
Thumbnail: Deep fried fish
Thumbnail: Fish balls and pork rice noodles
Thumbnail: Iced Horlicks
Thumbnail: steamed fish with black bean sauce and minced pork
Thumbnail: French toast
Thumbnail: Fried eggs with preserved pickles
Thumbnail: fried noodles with bean sprouts and bbq pork
Thumbnail: Fruit bowl
Thumbnail: Green tea tiramisu
Thumbnail: Ham and mozzarella sandwich
Thumbnail: Honey and lemon tea
Thumbnail: King fried noodles
Thumbnail: Minced beef roast congee
Thumbnail: Mixed Chinese vegetables
Thumbnail: Fried noodles with bean sprouts
Thumbnail: Noodles with shrimp
Thumbnail: Oil fried ghosts
Thumbnail: Oil ghosts in flat noodles
Thumbnail: omelette with Chinese onion and bean sprouts
Thumbnail: Paninin
Thumbnail: Pho
Thumbnail: Pho garnish
Thumbnail: Pigs blood congee
Thumbnail: Plain big flat noodles with peanut and sweet sauce
Thumbnail: Pork chop, wings, and fries
Thumbnail: Pork and preserved egg congee
Thumbnail: Pork jerky
Thumbnail: pork knuckles, ginger and eggs in black Chinese vinegar
Thumbnail: Stewed preserved Chinese cabbage with spare ribs
Thumbnail: Sea salted chicken
Thumbnail: Bean sprout shrimp omelette
Thumbnail: Small pizza
Thumbnail: Smoked fish patty
Thumbnail: Soups and noodles
Thumbnail: spare ribs with black bean and red pepper
Thumbnail: Steamed fish
Thumbnail: Stir fried chicken with string beans
Thumbnail: Stir fried glass noodles with shrimp
Thumbnail: Fried tofu with Chinese onions
Thumbnail: Chinese vegetables with fatty pork
Thumbnail: Vietnamese coffee
Thumbnail: Vietnamese sandwich
Thumbnail: Vietnamese spring rolls
Thumbnail: Winter melon and pork bone soup

My cousin brought over some Japanese apples that cost $90 HKD ($15 CAD) for a pair. They were light green and quite large, but they did­n’t taste that unique. My uncle believes the cost comes from the way the apples are grown: all the branch­es but one are cut from the apple tree, so all the nutri­ents go into one apple.

I’m so glad my fam­i­ly knows how to eat; I get to par­take in all the amaz­ing food they buy or cook. Even snacks — cook­ies, can­dy, ice cream, and drinks — are of a par­tic­u­lar qual­i­ty. I’m won­der­ing how much weight I’ve gained so far.

Other weeks in my Hong Kong Food Diary

Sum Sum eating dessert

Comfort In Each Other

I’ve been get­ting to know one of my aunts.

Aside from annu­al hol­i­day par­ties where the fam­i­lies would gath­er, we nev­er spoke. But then again, I nev­er spoke with any of the “grown-ups“1, as they offered lit­tle of inter­est to some­one my age.

We’ve become sound­ing boards for each oth­er. She tells me about how she’s approach­ing my grand­moth­er’s treat­ments — the types of ther­a­py, the med­ica­tions, deci­sions on when to go to see the doc­tor — and I tell her about my rela­tion­ships with my mom and dad.

I find it quite amaz­ing that she’s so aware of the influ­ence of Chinese cul­ture in her life. She seems to be adapt­ing to the gen­er­a­tion gap and cul­ture dif­fer­ences, or per­haps keep­ing them in mind, when it comes to treat­ing her own Canadian-born daugh­ter, which is far beyond what my par­ents were capa­ble of. Until I real­ly start­ed talk­ing with her, I believed that all Chinese par­ents were the same; too blind or too stub­born to under­stand how to raise first-gen­er­a­tion Canadian chil­dren.

It amazes me how strong she is. She’s the one who makes sure my grand­moth­er eats, drinks, takes her pills, sleeps, and walks. The one who cleans up after grand­ma when she has to go, but can’t make it to the bath­room in time. She dropped every­thing — her hus­band, her daugh­ter, her real estate prac­tice — to be here indef­i­nite­ly, and has tak­en charge of all my grand­moth­er’s care.

I tried to tell her that I admired her for every­thing she’s doing, but she would­n’t let me con­tin­ue. She’s hav­ing a hard time keep­ing it togeth­er, and is afraid that grand­ma may see her cry­ing and real­ize how seri­ous her sick­ness is. I wish I could give her some relief, a hug even, or just 15 min­utes to let it all out. I guess there will be plen­ty of time for that soon enough.

For now, we have each oth­er.

  1. The par­ties were a chance for adults to sing and talk, so the kids did their own thing. []

A Day in the Hong Kong Life

Crossing the street

Thumbnail: Dad with sum sum
Thumbnail: Chinese entranceway shrine
Thumbnail: Grandma at tea
Thumbnail: Indoor skating rink
Thumbnail: Skater
Thumbnail: Kid on motorcycle
Thumbnail: Hong Kong mall
Thumbnail: Row of Mercedes
Thumbnail: Open kitchen
Thumbnail: Grandma with aunt

Grandma has been han­dling the chemo well. We’re try­ing to slow the growth of the major tumor so that there are no block­ages. She’s not sup­posed to eat meat, but we want her to enjoy life (along with the fact that we’re glad she’s eat­ing at all because she has no appetite) so we let her.

Most days are unplanned, just see­ing how she’s feel­ing before we decide to do any­thing.

I’m begin­ning to sleep a lit­tle bet­ter now. For the first week and a half, I’d still wake up in the mid­dle of the night, unable to fall asleep again even though I’d be com­plete­ly exhaust­ed from jet lag and walk­ing around all day. I’m not sure if I’m just get­ting used to the day/night pat­tern, or the fact that I’m taper­ing off one of my col­i­tis med­ica­tions which has sleep­less­ness as one of the side effects.

So the cur­rent sched­ule is:

  • Wake up around 7:30
  • Eat break­fast
  • Watch TV with grand­ma
  • Fall asleep on the couch — The win­dows are left open all the time and the air is rel­a­tive­ly cool in the morn­ing, so i’ll just let myself suc­cumb to the breeze and drowsi­ness. Normally I need to be lying down, wear­ing a sleep mask, but not in this case. These naps are awe­some.
  • Eat lunch
  • An activ­i­ty with grand­ma if she’s feel­ing up to it — this can be a walk to the park, get­ting her hair done and her feet mas­saged, or a walk to a restau­rant
  • Afternoon tea — Snacks can be sweet, salty, or both
  • A chance to write, work on pic­tures, or edit videos because grand­ma takes a nap
  • Have din­ner
  • Hang out with guests/family
  • Watch TV — There are two shows that seem to be big right now that my fam­i­ly enjoys watch­ing; an under­cov­er cop tele­vi­sion dra­ma, and a Chinese fan­ta­sy called “Big Winter Melon”. I’m real­ly get­ting into the for­mer because it’s well writ­ten with lots of inten­si­ty (although the direct­ing style is so out-dat­ed by Hollywood stan­dards). The lat­ter is anoth­er story…I’ve tried watch­ing a few episodes and still can’t fig­ure out what’s going on, or even if it’s a com­e­dy or dra­ma.
  • Shower (a nice way to cool off before going to bed)
  • Some more writ­ing while every­one is asleep.

It’s been an end­less cycle of peo­ple com­ing through the house, whether it’s fam­i­ly or friends, din­ner or tea, a chat or a vis­it. Spending time with them leaves me some­what lack­adaisi­cal. I don’t want to be anti-social and get up to do some­thing else, but I’m rarely involved in any of the con­ver­sa­tions, and the top­ics are often vapid.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to hang out with my Uncle Joe much because I’m try­ing spend as much time with grand­ma as pos­si­ble, but next week should offer a bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty. I hope to do more explor­ing then.

It’s cer­tain­ly a bit­ter­sweet exis­tence here. Being in Hong Kong again fills me with won­der, but see­ing my poor grand­moth­er going through so much breaks my heart.