Saturday, May 26, 2007

What IS She Wearing?

Does anyone else living in Hong Kong, or any other Asian country, find it depressingly difficult to keep up to date with fashion? I mean sure, we have magazines and the internet heroically trying to provide us with some guidelines to follow, but sometimes I find it really hard to believe that people actually wear some of the items they advertise.

I find that when I'm in the UK, I just always find it so much easier to grasp. You're out on the streets and you see people sporting styles and trends you've seen in magazines and you can begin to understand how it works. In Hong Kong, we're just constantly lost! Our only role models, most of the time, are wearing big frilly lolita dresses with matching bonnets or fishnet stockings, ankle boots and "nautical" shirts in cyan and purple. And I'll be damned if that will ever be considered fashionable in Europe.

Of course, it can't be denied that there are some great advantages of living in a foreign country as far as clothes are concerned; we have access to stores and malls that people outside of Asia have never even heard of, meaning that we can return to our home countries the proud owners of clothes that people there have no chance of possessing - ergo, we don't look anything like the rest of the countries' clones, a refreshing thing in todays world. We've also all been given the chance to develop our very own sense of style - of course, this can be a bad thing as much as it can be good. We can own fantastic clothes that no one else has and, when asked, take great pleasure in throwing out lines like, "Oh, this old thing? I picked it up in China / Thailand / India / Zimbabwe, years ago." And it doesn't even have to be the truth because if there's one thing that everyone knows, it's that us Expat Brats get to travel the globe a whole lot more than the Home Dwellers.

So yes, I understand that in some ways, living in a non-European country can work to our advantage tremendously. But that just doesn't change the fact that we have a serious shortage of fashion icons to follow in Asia. A good example would be my sister. Lora lives in England and therefore has access to, and follows religiously, all of the latest high-street trends and fashions. I always think I'm doing a pretty good job of doing the same thing, with the help of UK's monthly Glamour magazine, until I talk to Lora. Comments such as, "You wore WHAT?!" and "That's not exactly been cool here for months now, but I guess where you are, it still is..." are common occurences in our conversations, as are questions from my end like "What the hell are brogues?!" and "Viscose dresses? Never heard of them."

So, what's a girl to do? We can say as much as we like that trends don't matter to us, that we're too cool and sophisticated to care and that we will never again be slaves to fashion, but none of it's true, is it? The fact is that we all want to look amazing, all the time, deny it as we may. Maybe we should all just throw in the labels and opt for matching caps and overalls. Hey, it worked for China, just half a short century ago, who's to say it won't catch on?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

You Got The Job!

I'm sitting on a bus on my way to Wan Chai, to meet with the editor of the Economist magazine. It's pretty exciting for me, Journalism being my absolute dream job. Not too many people get the opportunity to do what they love, day in and day out, for money – except perhaps the mafia, but that's never really taken my fancy. So I'm on my way to meet Tom Leander and, even though it's not, strictly speaking, an interview, it's got me thinking about them.

A good friend of mine was telling me today that he loves job interviews. He's been to a lot of them (that's not to say he makes a habit out of getting fired, I personally think he just has a short attention span), and he claims he has enjoyed most of them immensely. I don't really understand that concept at all. Job interviews, for me, have always come with matching anxiety attacks, and lists of things to worry about – what should I wear, how do I get there, am I wearing too much make up, does my hair look alright, does my voice sound okay?

Let me explain. The last interview I went to, at a children's language center in Admiralty, I had lost my voice the previous day and was only just getting it back. Ergo, my voice resembled that of a trailer trash Mom from Alabama – gravelly, hoarse and two octaves lower than it usually is. This is saying a lot, because I've always been acutely aware that my voice is quite deep for a girls' anyway.

And so this interview found me sitting, chugging peppermint tea from a bottle in between questions and trying to make my voice a little higher-pitched and smoother, which only resulted in me sounding like a cross between a Smurf and a hungry cat and, naturally, my interviewer noticed and asked if everything was okay. "Sure", I replied, and flashed him what I hoped was a winning smile. "Okay", he told me. "It's just that your voice sounds a little funny, and you're moving around a lot in your chair".

Here, I realized I had two options. I could tell him the truth, or I could tell him that this liquid I was practically inhaling was actually a mix of very strong spirits and I was off my face wasted. The truth, I thought. My mother would be so proud.

"I'm really sorry, Mr. Woo. I hope I haven't been behaving too oddly, but I lost my voice yesterday and I've been drinking herbal tea in an effort to try and help myself out, only I've drunk far too much of it and now I'm wondering if it would be okay to use your bathroom". My winning smile earlier must have hit the mark, because he laughed, showed me where the bathroom was and called me two days later to request another interview, this time with his manager.

That wasn't my worst interview, though, not by a long shot. My worst interview was, without a doubt, with an education center in Sha Tin. At the outset, it took me over thirty minutes, 4 phone calls and a couple of harassed-looking customer services people to find the center which was supposed to be located "right near the bank in the mall". I eventually found it two levels above the bank, hidden so far out of sight that I wondered how they ever got any business. My seventeen-year-old self walked into the center, waited a few minutes for the boss to finish his phone call, and was then led into what I had assumed to be a cupboard, where the interview was conducted. And so I found myself sitting in a 50 square foot, windowless room, in a piano bench with a large balding man who had bad breath and who spat when he talked. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to pretend that a) he was hilarious, and b) that I understood his English, and I got the job. I put up with bad pay, inconvenient hours and my boss asking me to lie about my age whilst making highly inappropriate comments during our monthly meetings in "The Cell", as I started to call it, and then I was out.

I have experienced other, less exciting, job interviews, including one where I was told, "We would love for you to come and work for us, but you need to cut your hair". What, I asked. "Long hair is not permitted here", I was told. Looking around, I realized that every single employee had identical boyish haircuts. I'm sorry, I thought. I didn't realize I was applying for a position in a state prison.

At another interview, I was asked if I could teach the violin until the English tutor left two months later. Nowhere on my contract did it even imply that I played violin, but obviously there was a need for me to make it clear, so I informed them, "I don't play". To which they appeared generally shocked and bewildered, as if they had never met anyone who didn't play the violin before.

I've been to my fair share of job interviews at nineteen years old, and whilst not all of them have been terrible, there have been more than enough odd, obscure ones to make up for it, in my opinion. And while they're not the worst things that could happen to a person – after all, you could get stabbed to death by the mafia – I definitely wouldn't put them on my list of Fun Things To Do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Internet Love

So I have a new tip for everybody that I think, I hope, will help you in some way in your lifetime. I am here to tell you that it is possible to meet a nice guy in a bar. It is possible to meet a nice guy at a party. It is possible to meet a nice guy in a car park, a dentist’s office, maybe even an ER waiting room – but never, never ever be deceived into thinking that you’ve met a good, decent, date-able guy online.

I am a member of, just because once upon a time people actually did that and I never got around to closing down my account. Every once in a while, I get a message or a friend request or a photo comment from some guy thinking he’s It, telling me how hot he thinks I am and how badly do I want it (the answer is almost always not at all, ever, even if you were the last breathing creature on earth)?

Okay now, I’ll be the first to admit, there are plenty of cool people to be met over the internet, as sleazy as it does sound. I’ve met, or gotten to know quite a lot of people over the net and I don’t regret it or discourage it at all. What I do not recommend is accepting a friend request on the basis that he looks good in his photos and then giving him your msn instantly so that you can get to know each other. That’s never a good idea. Have you seen those t-shirts that say “You Looked Hotter on MySpace”? If only I had been more on the ball, I would have thought of those first. Unfortunately for me, I found all this out the hard way – and, regretfully, it took more than once to teach me my lesson.

The first time this happened, it was with a guy who I actually met first in a bar - so, strictly speaking, I didn’t meet him over the internet. Still, I had only met him once and he added me on myspace and I accepted, on the grounds that his profile picture was very flattering; and let’s just say that when I had met him out, my vision had been slightly distorted. So I accepted his friend request and we started messaging each other about 15 trillion times a day, and after a week or so we agreed to meet up and go party together.

Over the following few months, this guy and I got rather too attached, and I found myself spending way too much time with him. Then one night, we were out partying and I discovered my at-the-time boyfriends little secret - a daughter. Consequently, I then proceeded to get utterly inebriated and ended up sleeping at this guys’ house on account of he had to carry me home. I feel that it’s integral to let you all know that nothing, absolutely nothing happened that hadn’t already happened between us, and he’d seen me fairly wasted plenty of times before, and we spent the next day together watching movies and just hanging out and everything was fine. However, after that, he pretty much never spoke to me again. We went out for dinner once, my intention being to try and fathom what had gone wrong, but he shut up like a clam and wouldn’t say a word. So, end of friendship.

My most recent, and probably my favorite so far, internet encounter happened when a guy living in the States sent me a friend request. What the heck, I figured; we’ll probably never meet anyway. So I went ahead and approved his request. Little did I know that after a couple of months of silence, and with me on the verge of deleting him on account of him being a seemingly pointless contact, this guy would message me requesting a meeting. “I’ve just moved to Hong Kong from NYC, you look cute, hit me up sometime and we can chat”. Without really thinking about it, I messaged him back with my MSN address and we started talking.

Now, I realize that this could possibly all be making me sound a bit desperate and weird, talking to random people I meet on the net, so I want to take a moment to assure you all that I am neither desperate nor weird, but I do enjoy meeting random people from faraway places so that I can hear more about the world. Then again, maybe that does make me a little weird, but no matter.

So, Internet Man (who, for the sake of his privacy, will remain nameless) and I started talking, and I found out some pretty cool things about him and vice versa (even if I do say so myself), and then he started talking about taking me out some time. I’ll admit that for a while, I contemplated accepting, but decided to back out at the last minute on account of two things.
It worried me a little that someone could want to take me out on a date without ever having met me in person. For all he knew, I was a lesbian ex-convict waiting to rape and murder him. Come to think of it, for all I knew, he was the rapist and the ex-convict (although less likely a lesbian), so we won’t even go there. When I voiced my concerns to one of my best friends, Adriel, he wisely advised me not to go if I had any qualms about it.

When I asked Internet Man to send me a real photo of him – after all, everyone knows you only put grainy and / or distant shots of yourself up on sites like hi5, because grainy and distant makes Darth Vader look like sex on legs - and then forwarded his picture to my wonderfully yet brutally honest friend Leonard, his response was: “Dear God, where did you pick up that fug?” I’m not gonna lie, that probably made my decision easier and faster to make than the lesbian thing.

I didn’t stand Internet Man up, or anything. I merely told him that I needed more time to consider it, to which he replied, “You’re having second thoughts? Why?! I’ll give you the best sex you ever had”, which only confirmed my misgivings about him and led me to vow never to answer a random hi5 message ever again.

So, ladies and gentlemen, there’s the truth of it. If anyone has actually met a truly date-able person online that didn’t turn out to be a sex-starved maniac or worse, please let me know, I would love to hear about them. I have heard of people meeting their wives and girlfriends and so on, on sites like myspace and facebook, I just don’t know how much I believe them. The way I see it, based on my own experiences, it’s just not going to happen.

I guess it’s time to delete that hi5 account now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Human Beings: The Most Complex Creatures on the Planet?

Isn’t it funny what we, as human beings, do to amuse ourselves and entertain ourselves as this thing we call Life happens? I mean, I know people say it all the time, but we must be really complex beings.

Just look at us – we’re not happy just to live and breathe and blink and swallow and do all the other remarkable things our bodies can do. We’re not happy just to be. No, we have to have education and careers, spouses and children, hobbies, interests, talents and skills, friends, enemies, pets, clubs, music, sport… I could go on forever. I could, but I won’t. And it’s got to the point now where it’s not enough for us to have different things to occupy us; now we’re training animals and hunting down human “freaks” to perform for us.

Granted, there are some people who can sit for hours and be entertained by absolutely nothing. I, among many others, watch Oprah Winfrey every day religiously, for example. Another fine example would a good friend of mine who, as multifaceted as he is, comes up with startlingly absurd games such as the one he plays with his friend involving two entirely unrelated words and Wikipedia.

“So...we'll both be sitting in front of our computers on and one person says one really random word and the other says a completely unrelated one - take ‘salmon’ and ‘communism’ for example - and the aim of the game is to start off at ‘salmon’ on Wikipedia and click on the blue words on each page that link you to another page, and find your way to ‘communism’.”

You get my point.

I just think it’s fascinating how creatures as wondrously made as we are can be so simple-minded. Take it in likeness to a graphical calculator. These calculators have the ability to do outrageously difficult sums, plot charts and solve simultaneous equations faster and more accurately than Albert Einstein probably could, yet they can still be, and are, used to work out things like how many 5’s go into 15. Of course, this may be down to how remarkably uneducated humans can behave, but you get the idea.

I have a new flatmate (which makes him sound much like a new pet, only I would never call my rabbit Jamie and this one happens to be a male person), and it amazes me what mundane conversations and tasks can keep us both occupied for hours at times. Today, for example, we sat and talked about the price of ice cream for about ten minutes – it doesn’t sound a long time, but you give it a try, and you’ll see. About a week ago, I watched as Jamie sat and stared at a picture of, and talked about, the new iPod for at least twenty minutes. We sit and stare at a particular lightbulb for hours, arguing over who’s job it should be to buy a new one and who will install it (for safety’s sake, anything electrical should be Jamie’s responsibility, every time), or who’s turn it is to go grocery shopping, or Spaghetti Junction aka the corner of the room where all our wires coagulate.

Anyway, it’s time for me to go and do something productive. I can’t decide which one sounds more exciting, to be honest - hitting a tennis ball against a wall, or rearranging my sock drawer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sex, Drugs and Thai Green Curry

Recently, I have been in incredibly good spirits. This might not seem like such a big deal to those of you who don’t know me so well, or haven’t been around me a lot lately, but believe me, it’s a huge deal.

I am currently working as an English teacher, and all week long I am around small screaming children who, it is true, are sometimes really sweet and they make me smile a lot, but sometimes they get under my skin like you wouldn’t believe.

I have a boss who I don’t get along with at all. In fact, “don’t get along with" is a huge improvement on the truth of the matter.

Until just a short while ago, I was feeling sad, angry, depressed, irate and unmotivated. But the thing is, work-wise, there’s not a whole lot that’s changed. I still teach screaming children, and I still want to stick an unsterilized needle into my boss’s eye. So why do I suddenly feel surprisingly light hearted?

One cause, I believe, is the drugs that are being pumped through my air conditioning and my water supply. All the time I am sitting in my apartment watching a movie, or writing articles for myspace, or doing whatever else it is that seems to make time pass so quickly, I am actually inhaling drugs, in the form of smoke, that my neighbors or possibly Janakan has been feeding through my air con vent.

You think I’m joking. I’m actually incredibly serious. If you ask Jackie, who helped me to move into my apartment in December last year, she will confirm that we found quite a lot of atypical paraphernalia scattered around the apartment, some of which puzzled us enormously – basket upon basket of fishing wire, hundreds of Hello Kitty fridge magnets and several little plastic action figures littering the window sills were the least of my worries. It was when I started unearthing things like sterilized glasses in the freezer containing long-frozen powder and plastic hospital gloves, a chiller drawer packed with various suspicious-looking herbs and other such concoctions, and metal trays that looked like they belonged in a meth lab that I started to really worry. Not to mention the mini-shrine in the kitchen and the little slips of paper which I later discovered to be the Chinese form of exorcism.

So you see, suspecting that my apartment is being supplied with “smoke satiated drugs”, as Janakan sagaciously put it, might not be as far from the truth as some of you may have previously believed.

Of course, it could be something a lot more customary that has put the smile back onto my face. Meeting with people my age group on Wednesday evenings, spending Sunday afternoons playing Mafia and other such entertaining games, and being around more good-looking and intelligent people than I’ve been around in a while could all be playing a huge part in my existing state of bliss. It could also be that my beautiful and charming friend has offered to come around tomorrow and cook Thai green curry, one of my favorite dishes in the world; needless to say, I’m exceedingly excited to sample his cooking.

Now, if any of you read Janakan’s space, you’ll know that he suspects that my present delight at life is to do with the possibility of me falling in love, or enjoying “threesomes with inanimate objects such as (my) bed and mattress*”. I neither confirm nor deny either of these allegations, but I do encourage you to post a comment and let me know what your opinions are on why Hayley has been feeling on top of the world lately.

*"JAN i was cleaning my apartment today and i ended up sandwiched between my mattress and my actual bed. i was trying to move it around and i took the mattress off and propped it against the wall and then i bent over to lift my bed so i could sweep underneath, and i must have nudged the mattress behind me or something with my foot because it cascaded down on top of me and i was squashed. including the time i just lied there laughing, it took me about 6 minutes to get out. do you realise how much money i could earn if i had caught that on video??"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Great Search: Hong Kong's Most Eligible Bachelor

Hey everybody! Okay, so they say there are plenty of fish in the sea, but as my good and very intelligent friend Stephanie Manson pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago, the ocean tends to be very, very polluted and nobody ever mentions THAT to you, do they. So here it is - a record of my findings as I have attempted to seek out HK's most eligible bachelor.

I feel I should explain a little what this is all about. Basically, it's just me being sick to death of meeting guys who make you think they're fabulous and then revealing a month or two down the line that they're really not. Since summer 2006 this has happened to me… 4 times. Each male has either turned out to be emotionally unavailable, harboring rather deeply disturbing skeletons in their closets, or a chauvinistic moron. Since I seem to have such bad luck with the male species, I've decided to make light of it and turn it about into a bit of a laugh for everybody to enjoy. Plus, this way everybody can read it and I don't have to repeat my in-depth and sometimes startlingly mundane stories four or five times a day in order for my friends to keep up to date on my current relationship (or lack of) status.

Everybody these days seems to go about meeting new guys by going partying, drinking, clubbing, and picking lots of guys up, hooking up with them, giving them your number and then never hearing from them again. I've tried and tested that method and I came to the conclusion that it SUCKS, it doesn't work, so I moved onto other methods. If I was looking for a one-night stand with a member of the HK rugby team, a bar or club might be an excellent setting to do it in. Similarly, if my search was called the, I don't know, say, "Search for HK's SEEMINGLY Most Eligible Bachelor Who Actually Already Has Children To Another Woman", this might be a good way to go about it. But who wants that? SO.

First of all, I logged onto and, just for laughs, ran a search for single men in Hong Kong between the ages of 19 and 25, looking to date women. It came up with hundreds of options. 479 to be exact. And so, faithful that I am, I went through each and every one, looking for one that might be somewhat dateable – to no avail, evidently, because I'm still single and have no dates set up between now and forever. There were short men, tall men, fat men, skinny men and muscular men. Chinese men, Korean men, Japanese, Black and Caucasian. Butchers, bakers, candle-stick makers, literally crowds of men. I also came across a couple of 13 year old girls that had put that they were 23 year old males looking for women to date, I assume just for gags, otherwise they have some serious complexes they need to see a therapist about, sharp-ish. But my soulmate, people, is still nowhere to be found. Oh well, better luck next time.

I came across a new website shortly after that, a link that a long-lost friend had sent me – Worth a try, thought I, so I filled in all the necessary information, plus answering some additional questions that I did wonder about – my bra size, for one. I submitted my form, uploaded a picture, and waited. Within three minutes I had received two invitations to join a married couple and a lesbian couple for sex, and only then did I realize I had not joined the clean – the website I had somehow been redirected to was Links to various porn sites are still popping up sporadically all over my screen. Conundrum!

Needless to say, I ended my search there for the day. Call me weak, I just felt I couldn't deal with any more penis appearing on my screen. So, I will continue my search if and when I get some time and I will keep you all posted, mostly because it's a therapeutical outlet for me if I'm honest :).