Where I’m Calling From

This evening I took the titles of some of the books on my shelf to make a poem about Where I live, Hong Kong. See ig you can make the connections.

Where I’m Calling From 

Fragrant Harbour

The Lowland

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

To the White Sea

In Hot Water

In the Garden of Beasts

Money

Inherent Vice

Nemesis

Book of Longing

Outsourced

In One Person

Outspoken

The Gentlemen of the Road

Men at Arms

Be Cool

The Age of Innocence

Angle of Repose

Atonement

A Handful of Dust

The Quiet Dust

Quiet

A Chocolate Kind of Day

There is something about a bad day that creates an insatiable chocolate craving. Dark, white or milk, it instantly makes my day more bearable.  When I started to pay more attention to the ingredient list on the chocolate bar wrappers, I always felt a bit guilty.

Partially inverted sugar syrup? E746? What are these things? Why am I putting these mysterious ingredients into my body? There had to be an alternative to fulfilling my chocolate cravings.

A few years ago I stumbled across my favourite food blog.

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www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com

When I noticed the word chocolate in the title, I knew instantly it would become a favourite. Chocolate Covered Katie is the most creative food blogger I have found out there in the World Wide Web. Her recipes take a healthier approach to dessert and she makes me feel better about eating so much chocolate.

My go to recipe is her 3 ingredient chocolate bar recipe. It is such a simple and versatile recipe.

I whipped up a batch this evening in less than 5 minutes. I have used it so often that I no longer need to follow the recipe’s measurements, I simply use my own judgment. Sometimes I add a few extra goodies.

Tonight I decided to roast almonds in a pan with a bit of salt and sugar, stirring constantly until the salt and sugar melt into the almonds.

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As they cooled, I mixed a few scoops of cocoa powder, a generous amount of maple syrup and a few spoonfuls of melted coconut oil.

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I mixed the almonds into the chocolatey mixture and spread it out on a pan covered with parchment paper.

I threw it in the fridge for a couple of minutes and presto, the chocolate is ready to be eaten.

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Warning: It won’t last long, so don’t share.

I Wish for a World

I wish for a world where no plastic exists.

A place covered in trees

where people understand

that with all the trash

the junk

the waste

soon we can no longer exist.

I wish for a world where animals are equal.

A place with tables full

of vegetables

fruits

and even legumes

surrounded by people who realize

that with this planet there is no sequel.

I wish for a world where people talked face to face

A place for listening

eye contact

smiles

and hugs

not only words sent through space.

I wish for a world where we made each other smile

A place full of encouraging words,

helping hands

and loving friends

where everyone knows that they are worthwhile.

Thoughts from Pilot’s Monument

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Ice crashing then melting

dripping then freezing

creating the cricks and cracks

jagged and smooth

of the rocks

upon which I stand.

Moss and ferns

grasses and dandelions

popping up

here and there

fighting for the water

that is hiding deep beneath the rocks.

The smoke billows in from the burning trees afar

creating a haze that surrounds the crooked haunted house

that is no longer crooked

and possibly haunt-free.

As they straightened the walls,

the ghosts had no more crooks or crannies to hide.

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* Some thoughts as I sat listening, observing and reflecting on top of Pilot’s Monument in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.*

Garbage Garden

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Typically, I have a black thumb.  At our last apartment, I vowed to change my ways. I was adamant that our balcony would become a lush paradise. I dreamed of our own little secret garden, fifty one stories above the world.

I dragged Jeezy to the garden centre and asked the clerk for a plant that was difficult to kill. He pointed me to the Osmanthus plants and in broken English he said “Uhhhh, very easy, very hard to kill.” Apparently he underestimated my ability to kill things. I was given simple instructions, paid and had it delivered to my home. Two weeks later it was dry as a bone. Dead. That was the end of paradise.

We recently moved to an apartment across town. Just outside the door we have a strange planter box, the size of a small balcony. It was full of dry, clay-like soil, weeds and the skeleton of a bush that flourished long ago. I planned on keeping it that way.

Not long after we were settled into our new flat, Jeezy suggested that we put the top of our pineapple in the planter box. It didn’t matter to me, I had no intention of going near that planter box. To my surprise, it didn’t die.

Weeks later, we had a few left over spring onions from the wet market, roots attached. I decided to throw them in the garden. They flourished. Months later, the left over cilantro was planted. The seeds of a pepper, the sprig of spinach that didn’t make it into dinner, it all went into the soil. One dreary morning, I noticed a little bud on that dry bush. The buds turned into leaves and as I passed the garden, I smelled a familiar scent. Upon closer inspection, that bush was in fact an Osmanthus plant. I may have killed one but I reincarnated another.

Between Jeezy and I, we have remembered to water the kitchen scraps most days and our garbage garden is growing into a beautiful garden. In fact, we spotted a little bee buzzing around the flowers of the spring onions. Perhaps my thumb is changing colour.

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The Blocked Path

It is 3:30pm

Friday

20 degrees in March

on Tai Po Kau trail

two women walk

side by side

reflecting

on the week passed

stopped

in their tracks

as he stands

brown

well worn garments

hang from his small

yet strong build

giving the appearance

of one not interested

in a disturbance

stretching

on a boulder

a few paces

ahead

blocking their path

he stares silently

on guard

throwing daggers

with his stare

the women

now

one behind the other

stare back

talking quietly

planning their escape

she claps

he jumps

down from

that rock

sauntering

with indignation

towards them

screams escape

he passes

standing

directly behind

he howls

the women

rush

on wards

away

from the ear-splitting

insults

thrown towards them

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Lessons learned on the trail

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 Rather than head home for Christmas this year, I filled my bags with hiking gear and headed off to the Annapurna Range in Nepal. Years of dreaming, was finally becoming a reality. It took us 11 days to complete the trek and everyday we learned something new.

Day 1: There is such a thing as too many layers.

Every morning we woke up feeling cold and we would think “Lots of layers today.” Actually, no! Once you start moving and the sun peeks out from behind the mountains, it gets hot. And you know what? It isn’t very easy to take off long underwear in a dirty squatty potty.

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Day 2: When you learn a lesson, follow the lesson.

Wear less layers!

Day 3: If you read that you should sanitize the water and your Nepalese guide tells you there is no need, you should probably still purify your water.

Giardia is pretty common in the mountain water here. You quickly realize why.  Each day you try to avoid stepping in the thousands of horse, mule, donkey, sheep and goat poop patties. Our guide assured us that the twenty minute boiled watered for sale is perfectly acceptable. Our rumbling tummies seemed to disagree though.

Day 4: Put the clothes you want to wear the next day in your sleeping bag before falling asleep.

This was the best trick of the trip. Waking up in a room that was ten degrees Celsius, and getting colder each day. It was hard enough to get out of bed and remove your pyjamas, exposing your naked skin to the icy air, only to put on freezing cold clothes for the day. If your clothes had been in your sleeping bag all night, they were a toasty treat to put on in the morning.

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Day 5: Take the longest route to reach your destination

We were greeted by many Namastes along the trail, from both locals and fellow trekkers. There were two main routes to reach Annapurna Basecamp, one longer than the other. We noticed a common trend. The hikers that were sick or struggling to reach base camp took the shortest route possible, rushing to the top. Those who took their time and took the longer route seemed to make it without many problems along the way

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Day 6: When in doubt eat.

When you force your body to walk for six to seven hours each day for eleven days straight, you need to treat it well. In the Nepalese trails, there are many teahouses along the way, where you can pay a small price for an amazing meal. If you are feeling a bit peckish and you see a teahouse, we learned to stop and eat because you weren’t always sure how long it would be until you found another one. Although we had a few snacks hidden away in our bags, there is a limit to how many cliff bars you can eat.

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Day 7: When the guide doesn’t tell you anything about the terrain the next day, assume the worst.

Our guide, Ram was excellent at briefing us for the next day. He went over our suggested wake up time, told us about the terrain, the altitude, the amount of water we would need  and every other little detail we might want to know. However, on the evening of Day 6 he left out some information. It wasn’t until half way through Day 7 we realized, he left that out for a reason. The only way to describe Day 7 was ‘up, up and more up.’

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Day 8 Choose your hiking partner carefully

As we neared the top we met many people trekking by themselves. After striking up a conversation we realized that they didn’t start out alone, but there hiking partner was experiencing altitude sickness, so they left them 2 days ago and continued on. Altitude sickness can go from bad to worse very quickly, I would be very upset if my friend decided to leave me alone on the mountainside if I was that sick. It is also important to have someone who is able to focus on the positives and ignore the aches and pains that you are experiencing on the trail.

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Day 9 Have something to look forward to on the way down.

Hiking up is challenging but hiking back down is really tough too. The constant down, takes a toll on your knees and toes. We focused on the hot springs that awaited us. It had been nine days since I showered and I dreamed of the hot springs as each step drew me closer.

Day 10 Have headphones and music available.

Our guide was great but after 10 days with him, I was ready to say goodbye. I think spending that much time with anyone can be difficult. My hiking partner came prepared with music and headphones. She was able to put on her headphones and have some peace on the trails. I on the other hand, was forced to continue conversing.

Day 11 Don’t forget to look back.

On the last day we found ourselves rushing down, two steps at a time. I paused for a moment and looked back, the view took my breath away. It was incredible to look back and think. I was there, way up there just yesterday. I accomplished that!

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Time

Minute

  by minute

   time ticks on

  never stopping

  or pausing it moves

   seemingly quicker each day

      one moment racing to the next

     fast-forwarding through the challenges

     wishing for the evenings, the weekends, the holidays,

  the summer, the cooler days, the drier months, hurrying always

  forcing the sand through the neck of the fragile hourglass of time until

….

until what? What are we racing for? Why is life a competition?

Why are we rushing through our daily routines?

With blinders on we forget to notice

appreciate and enjoy

each moment

each day

until

the

end

Stuck

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There I am

standing

at the check-in counter

alone

tears running down

my distraught

sun-burnt

face.

There she is standing tall

at five feet 2 inches

reminding me

with her unsympathetic smile

that my overpriced

return ticket

was scheduled

not for today

in

two short hours

but

thirty one days

away from today

seven hundred and forty four hours

to be exact.

There she is pulling out a scrap of paper

torn around the edges

she scribbles

a number

and directs me

to the end of the hall

A lonely phone

sits

bathed in salt

from the mistaken

travelers

who have come before.

There I am pushing the numbers

from the paper

hoping to buy

one

more

return

plane journey

home

the sound

of the fax machine

screeches in my ear

I realize the trick

I look back to the counter

She is gone

the paper ploy

with the false number

perfect

for her disappearance act.

So there I am

looking around

at the under developed

Yangon airport

like a mouse

caught

in the

rusty spring

of a

trap.

Stuck.

Screen Zombies

What is it with children and their attraction to screens?  Let’s perform an experiment. Children are invited into a room with a computer screen in one corner and the remainder of the room is filled with colourful candy. What do you they engage with first?

I can almost guarantee that they would first walk directly to the screen and immediately commence the zombie stare. They would likely begin to eat the candy but only after a few seconds of zombie stares. Have children developed a magnetic field that draws them unknowingly towards screens? I just don’t get it.

Today we went on a field trip to explore how Hong Kong has changed as the population has increased.  We began our adventure at a lookout point in the mountains and we observed the valley below us. We used our observation skills to describe what we saw and compared it to pictures of the same place at various points in history. It was fascinating. Afterwards, we headed to an old village in the area and talked to a man that had lived in the enclosed village for 40 years.  He shared his perspective on how things had transformed around him over the years. Our last stop was at the Heritage Museum. It had been such a perfect day, filled with wonder, connections and enthusiasm from the children.  We walked into the first exhibit of the museum and it we were greeted by colourful photographs, maps, hands on materials to use and there were even 3-D models of the area we had been investigating all morning. Two children were very excited to think that out of all the places in Hong Kong, the area we had just spent our morning was represented in the 3-D models. I shared in their excitement. Unfortunately, the excitement stopped there. The others immediately rushed over to the only screen in the room, an outdated computer with a clunky ball for a mouse. The children did not seem particularly interested in the pointless activity that was displayed on the computer, to them it was a screen and they could not avert their eyes. Their surroundings faded into the background and they all began arguing over having a turn on the computer. What made that pixilated screen so special? As I watched this happen, I was worried.

Even after ‘closing’ that area of the exhibit, the students could not switch their brains to anything else but that screen. We were all standing in a circle around the models, yet their eyes were glued on the distance screen hoping that they would catch a glimpse of movement. The wonder, connections and enthusiasm ended abruptly. It was over.

I understand that technology is a wonderful tool but when six year olds can’t function because there is a piece of technology in the room, there is a problem. A serious problem.

I don’t know how this generation is going to turn out, but I am worried.

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The old village