Monday, August 6, 2007

6 Aug 2007: Musings from Asia; Volume 2

Hong Kong Edition begins here:

We’re just having our first rain in Hong Kong since I arrived, and it is much appreciated. Heretofore hot, thick, and sticky…the rain is mercifully cleansing, cooling, renewing, and enlivening..and the thunder spookily exciting, reminiscent of childhood. As I write to you, I lie on my belly in my nook in the apartment, underneath the windowsill. The sun is peeking out for the first time today, shining right through the window, pouring its warmth on my legs. I look up and see the marshmallow-thick clouds purposefully floating onward (I wonder, are they perchance going to you back home?). In this way, I cling to the frugal and fleeting opportunities to physically connect with Mother Earth here in this concrete hub bub that is my now-home.

Nee How!

Hong Kong is crazy! It’s been a whopping change of scenery for this quiet(ish) yogi from California. I’ve been here for just over a week now, and feel pretty bombarded...yesterday was the first day I found some peace as some friends and I sailed away from Hong Kong Island, an hour and a half away to another island, covered in beautiful, alive greenery, rather than dotted with massive hunks of concrete and neon lights. It was, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. I sprawled out on the boat deck, reading a book on the teachings of the Dalai Lama, soaking in the sun's rays, listening and bobbing to the splash of the waves…riding the flow…

The flow I usually ride here is among busybee Hongkees along the Central Escalator that goes from Central’s financial district up to the residential Mid-Levels. Apparently it’s the world’s longest covered outdoor people-mover, though I had no idea that such a category of designation even existed (and doubt that any other people-mover poses a threat to its record achievement). I’m living with Julie, my best friend from childhood, in SoHo, which is a division of Central, which is Hong Kong’s business center. Apartments here are teeny tiny – though rents are astronomical – including ours: the front door opens right into the shower and the bedroom door can’t open fully because it hits the double-sized bed that we share. Buildings are so close together that I can easily see into my neighbors’ across the way and make clear eye contact with them. We have air/con and maid service, though, so it’s not so bad. It’s cozy, really: us trying to get comfortable on the couch together involves one of us sprawling out upside down, the other lying sideways, with both of us leaning our legs up against the wall. Yoga definitely comes in handy when you’re living in tight quarters…bending here and stretching there to make the best use of limited physical space, but also being able to mentally create some spaciousness.

I’ve been practicing at home with YogiChocolate downloads (though there isn’t quite enough space to fully unroll my mat, and Julie has to walk over, under, and around me as I practice smack in the middle of the apartment) and at Pure Yoga (which is kind of the Yoga Works of Asia). Yoga still has quite a ways to grow here…studio walls are completely mirrored for all classes, not just Bikram, which encourages people to keep looking at themselves, obsessing, being distracted, judging…but there seem to be quite a few quality teachers, so I am confident things will continue flowing in the right direction. Classes are exorbitantly priced, sometimes $30 (US) for one class (PS It has been painfully confusing trying to make the $ conversion. It's $7.8 HK to $1 US.), and there is no such thing as a donation-based studio. Apparently one was attempted at some point, but it immediately went belly-up; it couldn't even break even on the rent. It seems the simple, no-nonsense yoga studio doesn’t appeal to the people here. It’s a reminder how blessed we in Santa Monica/LA are not only to have Bryan Kest’s amazing donation-based studio, but also just in general, the countless opportunities to practice, to teach, to learn, to explore, (to be) yoga.

Hong Kong is at the start of a conscious evolution, though, and whether or not people are enticed because it’s become trendy to be a yogi or to be eco-friendly, it’s happening, and that’s a beautiful thing. Just around the corner from my building are two organic cafes, serving fresh fruit smoothies, fancy salads, and quite possibly my favorite menu item: organic coffees.

Friends, both new and old (I've reconnected with a few very dear friends from the olden days), have been incredibly hospitable, but I don’t think people smile at each other enough. You know that random smile from a stranger that could just make your day? Doesn’t much happen. I hope to positively effect a change in that regard during my stay. And service, for the most part, is not so good. Wait staff at restaurants seem annoyed when you ask them for something, and the legendary rudeness of Hong Kong taxi drivers is for real. I’ve been booted from taxis because the driver did not want to make what they considered too short of a trip. Oh, and mosquitoes suck here as much as they sucked in Thailand. I got bitten on the EYELID a few days ago, and it was completely swollen and nearly shut. It looked like an alien eye. I’m also recovering from an intense bout of the stomach flu, the worst of which is over. Everything’s at least slightly different from home, so I think my physical body is just trying to acclimate to being out here.

My energetic body is definitely trying to acclimate to being out here too. Hong Kong’s energy is intense and palpable: the city is always awake, the people are extremely hard-working and driven, the pedestrian crosswalk beeps are loud and incessant, the lights are always blazing or blinking or twinkling. Thank Buddha for my yoga practice, the proximity of the water, reflexology foot massages (which are actually fairly painful during and only relieving after, kind of like a tough yoga posture), and the constant, consistent flow of breath (I think my lungs may even find comfort and familiarity in the smogginess, which is quite like that of our good ole' LA air).

Ciao, my loves, til next time. And yes, I will try to post shorter posts form here on out. Peace.

PS I will try to post pictures, but I am not too good about taking my camera with me everywhere. In the meantime, here are some photos from my (and my friend Jackie's) Bon Voyage party in Venice. Cheers!

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