Monthly Archives: July 2010

Transcontinental jetsetting.

So flying to HK from San Francisco clocks in around 14 hours and is not for the feint of heart. By the end of our stay here on the other edge of the earth (and given both our love of our families and the number of weddings we’ll likely be heading back home for) I hope to nail the essentials of jetsetting both in style and in comfort. We’ve taken close to a half dozen of these epic voyages in the last six months and here’s what I’ve got so far–I’ll be back with more additions to this list:

1. Arcona Pads. Wash your face, without actually washing it. These little guys are awesome because they do a great job of getting all that inevitable sweat that comes with shlepping all those bags and / or rushing at some point to get through security or to the gate or what have you. No towel or water required and the raspberry scent (my favorite) is so relaxing. These things do wonders for my breakout prone skin.

2. The Kindle. Okay, yes, obvi. But you have no idea how much I love my Kindle and to think that I once thought I would never ever get past my love of “holding an actual book, oh and the smell of the musty pages, and the beauty of the typeface,” but yea, I’m a convert now. In my opinion, despite the fact that my techie husband also (lucky for me) got us an iPad, this is still the no. 1 travel device. [Note: the iPad does not work for reading on the beach or by the pool–not only is it hard to read with the glare, but it overheats easily and shuts down.] It has literally cutdown my packing load by 20+ pounds (and those weight limits are no joke traveling internationally). Downloading a few new titles is also the perfect activity while waiting in the gate area. (And, stay tuned for some forthcoming book reports on the Far East–I’ve been reading up on Asia to get ready for this.)

3. Forever New Travel Packs. You’re supposed to use this fine detergent for your lingerie and delicates, but they’re also super handy for having to do a little wash in your hotel (and saving you from paying $15 to get the Mr.’s boxers washed). They also do double duty as stain remover.

4. Skinceuticals B5 Hydrating Masque. So more on the skin troubles… after you’ve had you’ve settled in and had your breakfast, sneak into the bathroom and wash your face and put this on. I leave it on for the entire flight–it’s not obvious in that wrteched plane light and it really protects your face and prevents massive drying out.

5. Cashmere socks or slippers. Any will do really, but I am obsessed with these. I wish they weren’t $300! Maybe I will have to learn how to make them or try to convince my Mom or MIL to make them for me–I think they’re beyond my ability, see no. 7.

6. Platypus. This is a new one for me and was a sweet going away gift from my friend Tam. It’s awesome because you can fill it up (for free) post-security and after you’ve downed it, it doesn’t take up room post-plane. Also, I’ve learned not to be shy with the flight attendants–go right ahead and ask them to fill that entire bottle right up when they ask you what you want to drink. You really should be drinking gallons–planes have very low humidity (looking forward to Airbus’s new Dreamliner!)

7. Knitting. I knit this blanket for Morgan on our last set of travels and have already started my second. I’ve read that knitting is used in anxiety disorder treatment and I can definitely say it makes me less anxious. It’s perfect for taxying to and from the gates–that wretchedly drawn out waiting period. And it’s also great for when you’re too exhausted to read.

8. Earplugs. This really, truly helps me with my fear of flying. Regardless of how many flights I’ve taken, I’m still a scared / nervous flyer and so often I swear ‘that sound was just not right’ or that ‘something is direly wrong’ and it’s just better when you can’t hear as much.

9. Ambien and/or a drink. The most important thing you can do when flying is to sleep. In closing, two facts you might not have known about why transcontinental flights take so much out of you:

–Planes are not pressurized to sealevel, where you are likely coming from. An aircraft planning to cruise at 40,000 ft (12,000 m) is programmed to rise gradually from take-off to around 8,000 ft (2,400 m) in cabin pressure altitude, and to then reduce gently to match the ambient air pressure of the destination. So if you spend 12 hours on top of say Tahoe or Park City when you’re not used to the elevation it will tucker you out.

–There are actually limits on how often flight attendants and captains are allowed to fly over the North Pole because of the high exposure to ozone–I’m not sure about the exact rules, but I know that it is related to the growing hole above the pole.

What else am I forgetting?!

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Maid’s “rooms”.

Uh, wait, people live in that closet? Seriously? In that 3×4 foot box without windows?

It seems quite unethical to me that people let people live like that here, but apparently these ladies often support their entire family back home on what they make here. In fact, they’d give anything to have these jobs.

Literally every single apartment we’ve seen (and we’ve seen close to 40) has a maid’s room because apparently there is a law here in Hong Kong that domestic help must live with their family hence the little closet and tiny 2 square feet combo shower/toilet room.

Now the Mr. assumes that we’d never actually go for one of these helpers–even though they do only cost about $200 a month. I’m going to reserve judgment as everyone here seems to have one… the paper yesterday said there are over a quarter of a million domestic helpers living here, or over 3% of the total population. My main reluctance is that I want to be able to say exactly what I am feeling (i.e. have a fight with the Mr. if need be) and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a maid overhearing all of that. Also, I’m so excited about what we could do with this extra room… a post to come about that is forthcoming!

One of the other evidences of the fact that everyone has a maid is the distance from the kitchen (which is often tiny and is usually stuffed into the back of the apt, right next to the maid’s room) to the dining room table–which is usually the entire length of the apt. I guess the idea is for the maid to be back in the steaming kitchen while you’re up front enjoying her hard work, as well as the breeze and the view. Another piece of evidence is that not only are the kitchens tiny, but even modern kitchens with other very modern appliances often don’t have dishwashers.

Some of the apartment’s have outfitted their maid’s rooms rather nicely, like this:


I thought the forgotten little angel in the corner was quite sweet–it really made me wonder about the family and the maid who used to live here.

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Maid's "rooms".

Uh, wait, people live in that closet? Seriously? In that 3×4 foot box without windows?

It seems quite unethical to me that people let people live like that here, but apparently these ladies often support their entire family back home on what they make here. In fact, they’d give anything to have these jobs.

Literally every single apartment we’ve seen (and we’ve seen close to 40) has a maid’s room because apparently there is a law here in Hong Kong that domestic help must live with their family hence the little closet and tiny 2 square feet combo shower/toilet room.

Now the Mr. assumes that we’d never actually go for one of these helpers–even though they do only cost about $200 a month. I’m going to reserve judgment as everyone here seems to have one… the paper yesterday said there are over a quarter of a million domestic helpers living here, or over 3% of the total population. My main reluctance is that I want to be able to say exactly what I am feeling (i.e. have a fight with the Mr. if need be) and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a maid overhearing all of that. Also, I’m so excited about what we could do with this extra room… a post to come about that is forthcoming!

One of the other evidences of the fact that everyone has a maid is the distance from the kitchen (which is often tiny and is usually stuffed into the back of the apt, right next to the maid’s room) to the dining room table–which is usually the entire length of the apt. I guess the idea is for the maid to be back in the steaming kitchen while you’re up front enjoying her hard work, as well as the breeze and the view. Another piece of evidence is that not only are the kitchens tiny, but even modern kitchens with other very modern appliances often don’t have dishwashers.

Some of the apartment’s have outfitted their maid’s rooms rather nicely, like this:


I thought the forgotten little angel in the corner was quite sweet–it really made me wonder about the family and the maid who used to live here.

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Househunt.

So how does one find a place to live on the other side of the world? Well let’s start with this qualifier, one does not go househunting in Hong Kong. Rather, you go look at apartments in 60 story buildings. When we asked our realtor to see some smaller buildings, she took us to twenty story buildings. After living in a two-story apartment in San Fran with just two apartments I really didn’t think I could pull the trigger on one of these huge multiplexes. But, the crazy thing is after you’ve stepped foot into 2o apartments a couple of thousand feet in the air, you almost stop noticing after awhile. The human being really does have an adaptable spirit!

The scariest apartments we’ve seen so far were called Bel-Air. It was kind of like Vegas meets Chinese Eutopia meets Pleasantville.

It’s pretty much impossible to convey how massive this complex is with a tiny tiny blog photo, but here are a few attempts:

The little houses at the edge of the sea literally rent for half a million a year, but apparently people here love them. They’re most popular with locals, according to some forums I’ve been reading. I think it’s hard for us westerners to think of being stacked this high and close together as luxurious, regardless of the gilded fixtures.

The holes in the buildings are so the dragons can get to the mountain. No joke.

The infinity pool is pretty sick, but it’s really the club house that is nuts.

Note the arcade for the kids, the white table cloths, the indoor infinity pools, the real art everywhere, and of course all of the roman statues.

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Hello Victoria Harbour!

Hello Victoria Harbour–we’re not in Kansas anymore.

The sweet view from our hotel room.

The last thing I ever thought I’d be doing is starting a blog about being a housewife, much less one set in Hong Kong, but as it turns out that’s just what’s going to keep me busy for at least the next couple of months. The Mr’s company offered him an opportunity he couldn’t resist and so here we are. To be honest, starting a blog kind of makes me want to throw up, not because I don’t like reading blogs but because I feel like it’s so two years ago, but even if no one reads this I’m sure the discipline of writing daily will improve my writing. And, after all the reason we’re here is that Asia, whether we like it or not, is a big part of all of our futures. So all those caveats aside, until I find my next big thing, you can check in here to find out about our Asian adventures and domestic travails.

Before we get started, a little (don’t worry–just a little) about me. I spent the better half of my childhood in Silicon Valley, headed to Indiana for undergrad at Notre Dame, and then came right back to the Bay Area to work at San Francisco magazine writing and editing (check out some of my pieces here). After five years there, I followed my card obsession to Minted, an online stationery start-up. I’m still working for them part-time from Hong Kong (check out some recent blog posts here), albeit remotely and from home, hence the housewife status. I also love to cook and entertain (my friends back home call me ‘Martha on Crack’) and so I’m excited to see what influence being in Asia will have on my cooking, entertaining, and decorating activities.

Follow me on twitter.

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