Archive of ‘travel’ category

pop goes the world: one family, many cultures

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 15 July 2010, Thursday

One Family, Many Cultures

Baguio City – It is lovely this time of the year in the City of Pines, Luzon’s “Summer Capital”. I am here with my two daughters, ages 18 and 12, and my two sisters, whose ages I will not disclose for fear of reprisal.

One sister, Aileen, has been based in Dubai for the last 16 years. The other, Tiffany, was born in Manila but moved to California’s Bay Area when she was four. This is her first visit to the land of her birth in 15 years.

Aileen and I finished our education in local schools and did not get to travel abroad until after college. While we bear the mind-broadening effects of education and travel, still we are Pinoy to the core, thoroughly acculturated with Philippine values and norms, and aware of its traditions and rituals, in particular those of the urban area we grew up in – Manila.

Aileen is more traditionally Filipino than I am in her observance of rules and rituals that I prefer to ignore. She believes one should not sleep in, even on weekends. She insists that everyone must take at least one bath a day, no matter how cold it is, nor sleep right after a shower with wet hair. She tells Tiffany not to wash her hands in cold water as she might get pasma and asks her why she eats with only a fork and not a spoon too.

My mother and stepfather imbued Tiffany with traditional Filipino values – respect for elders, the importance of family, the significance of a good education. They have The Filipino Channel at home; Tiffany watched P-Noy’s inauguration before stepping on her Manila-bound Philippine Airlines flight. She watches Mom cook dried fish and eat egg with bagoong from a jar. Uncle Joe has instructed her to bring back Hizon’s ensaymada, the kind with grated queso de bola on top.

Not having grown up in Pilipinas, she cannot speak Tagalog nor Ilonggo though she can understand a sentence or two here and there in both languages. She is clueless about the Filipino way of doing things and wonders why motorists here weave dangerously in and out of their lanes, who Kris Aquino is and why she seems to have such a big impact on Philippine society, and what pasma is and why she should care.

My daughters, who grew up exposed to American culture on TV and the internet and in books, straddle the divide between cultures. They are at ease with their Tita Tiffy’s American twang and respect Tita Aya’s strict insistence on routine.

They are the true multiculturalists in the family, who understand the nuances of both mindsets and may at times act as ‘interpreters’, having the learning advantages of mass media, education, and travel in addition to meeting and interacting with people who are from or have been exposed to other cultures.

Alex, the elder, studies at De La Salle University, where she counts Koreans, Japanese, Indians, and Italians among her classmates and professors; online, she has Australian and American friends. Her best friend, Penelope moved to Singapore recently and chats with her often about her experiences and life in general there. Erika has classmates who grew up in Indonesia, Japan, and the US.

Their fondness for Japanese anime and Korean pop music has inspired them to study those languages. Now they speak and read a little in both, as well as being aware of the various differences in societal mindsets stemming from the country’s particular culture.

The kids cosplay (costume + roleplay) their favorite characters from “Hetalia”, a Japanese anime.

With the overseas foreign worker phenomenon growing even more as Filipinos seek economic opportunities unavailable at home, there is an expanded awareness of foreign cultures that did not exist 15 years ago to the current extent.

Now Aileen, having spent the past two decades in Dubai, can tell the difference between nationals of different Western, Asian, and Arabic-speaking countries from their accents and dress. She can easily switch between British and American speech codes, saying, “Has the lorry delivered the telly to your flat yet? No? Bloody hell! ” and in the next breath “Yeah, the old TV in your apartment sucks like a Hoover. I know, right?”

Yet the norms and values that guide her behavior are Filipino. She works beyond office hours to finish a task. Before she makes a decision, she assesses its possible effects on her family, which is her priority. She keeps snacks in her desk because God forbid that she or anyone else in her sphere go hungry.

My sister at Versailles – “a transformative experience,” she says.

When Aileen and I were growing up, we received knowledge about other cultures primarily from mass media. The younger generations have the added advantages of advances in communication technology, the shared narratives of the experiences of family and friends who work and live abroad, and friendships with people from other countries in the flesh and online to create the “mental model”, as theorist Peter Senge calls it, that is the lens through which they look at the world – a multicultural lens.

Here in Baguio City, the weather is cooler than in Manila and Tiffany is grateful for the respite from the lowlands’ humidity. Aileen says it must be much like that in San Francisco, and wouldn’t she like to live here instead? Tiffany smiles, because it’s not just the climate that will induce her to stay. Would she be able to adjust? How long will it take her to learn the language and norms so that she can fit into this society better?

My daughters shrug and say, “What’s the problem?” For them, there is none. Their knowledge of different cultures and ability to compare and analyze them gives them a broader picture of the world, making them global citizens while remaining Filipino at the core.

I dig my spoon into a jar of sweet sticky Good Shepherd ube jam and marvel how the confluence of cultures resulted in these four women, my family. I wonder where the coming years will take us.

One thing I am sure of – we are Filipino, and we carry that identity embedded in our heart and soul. ***

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do you know where your towel is?

Should you decide to take a vacation off-planet, or be sent by the office to some distant galaxy to peddle your wares, it is essential to have a handbook that will help you negotiate the intricacies of interstellar travel. I highly recommend Douglas Adams‘ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

From the publishing corporations of Ursa Minor, the only book you’ll ever need. Image from here.

Mr. Adams died in 2001, and fans all over this planet and elsewhere in the universe and other parallel dimensions remember his life and works each year on May 25, “Towel Day“.  Users of this guidebook and readers of the author’s other works carry with them a towel and have their pictures taken with it.

Why a towel, you ask? Ah. Obviously you do not have a copy of HHGTTG yet. I strongly advise you to get one. Not only does it contain information about must-see scenic spots all over known space, it also gives the answer to the ultimate question on life, the universe, and everything. However, it does not provide the question.  Oh, yes, towels. I hadn’t forgotten. Here:

From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit, etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Very sound advice, to be sure. Any person or creature possessed of even the rudiments of sentient thought will realize the necessity of having a towel with them at all times. I carry a small one in my bag whenever I leave the house, and I make sure my linen closet is stocked with an abundance of thick fluffy towels. Moreover, I always know, at any given time, where each one is.  Clearly I am a man to be reckoned with.

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pop goes the world: folk vs. pop culture

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  20 May 2010, Thursday

Folk Against Pop Culture

Carabao turds are greenish-gray-brown in color and mushy when you step in them. Kiping is edible – first deep-fry or microwave. Buntal hats and fans make interesting decorations.

You learn something interesting every day, as we found out when we attended the Pahiyas festival in Lucban, Quezon, last May 15. The fiesta honors the town’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador, and celebrates the agricultural harvest. The bounty of the land –vegetables, fruits, rice husks, bamboo -  is used to decorate homes along the procession route. Kiping is the signature decorative element: these are leaf-shaped ornaments of rice flour, cooked to stiffness, tinted with food coloring to traffic-stopping hues. The procession route is changed yearly to give the residents of different streets a chance to showcase their creativity in adorning their houses.

It’s a small town. You can walk around the main parts in a couple of hours. Most of the houses are decorated for the fiesta. The most eye-catching was a large, multi-story house, well-built of expensive materials, imposing next to its humbler neighbors.

From ground to roof, sunflowers crafted of colored kiping and pamaypay (fans) and decorative circles of bamboo sections and vegetables – eggplants, stringbeans – covered the façade so completely that the original paint color could not be discerned.

A large model of Lucban church with models of miniature people was displayed on a table in front of the door; before it, smiling teenagers in salakot, barong, and baro’t saya posed for photographers.

One wall of a house across the way was festooned with yards of fabric of scarlet, emerald, turquoise, and magenta, glowing in patterns embroidered in gold and silver thread. The sheer audacity of the sumptuous cloth nonchalantly stapled to the house’s window frames was breathtaking.

After that, a kaleidoscope of details: dense crowds of people, posing and taking pictures. Sun-yellow, leaf-green, and orange kiping strung into ornaments like chandeliers. Fringes of rice husks. Farm implements, vegetables, and hay used to create tableaus.

Suddenly, amidst the jumble of visuals and sounds, a jarring note. Banners of products passed by, borne by parade participants, advertising snacks. Juice. A daily newspaper. A telco. Erika Alcasid, an 11-year-old visitor from Manila, was disappointed. “With the decorations and all, it looked like I imagined fiestas would be,” she said. “Then I saw the flags with the ads. The specialness was gone.”

Pahiyas began as a religious festival in honor of a Roman Catholic saint, whose intercession merited the townspeople’s thanksgiving for blessings and bountiful harvests.  Today’s Pahiyas is the collision of folk culture and popular culture. Popular culture is mass media-based, commercial in nature, and oriented to the individualistic, new, and trendy, constantly changing. Folk culture is rooted in the traditional, rural, religious, conservative, transmitted interpersonally within the community; change happens slowly and infrequently; individualism is subordinate to traditional community standards.

Commercialization is not a feature of folk culture, though some of its elements may be co-opted or copied by pop culture. The inclusion of advertising in Pahiyas points to the increasing commercialization of festivals; religiosity seems an afterthought, rather than the primary purpose. The commodification of the event, once an occasion celebrated with joy and solemn ritual, shows how heavy and far-reaching the impact of market forces are upon practically all aspects of society.

Yet some would argue that sponsors’ resources are needed to ensure the event’s “success”, more so in during the current hard times brought about by the global economic recession. Yet the people of Lucban did fine before using simple farm tools and produce to decorate. Do they really need those vinyl advertising banners?

India, with its myriad of religious and folk rituals, is looking for answers to the same question. Gayatri Sankar comments, “The impacts of commercialization and consumerism have polluted the true religious meanings and traditional customs…People tend to celebrate festivals not only as a customary practice but also as a means to exercise their spending power…festivals are no longer simple religious practices but are ways when producers make their fortunes.”

A study done by Ajit Abhimeshi et al, concluded that “The commercialization of the festivals (is) mainly driven by markets and the nexus between the local leadership, (and) companies who want to market their products.”

An opposing view from Rita Putatunda derides the “sanctimonious nay-sayers who talk piously about the so-called ‘terrible commercialization’ of the festival…” Speaking about Diwali, a “unique festival about light, noise, joy, ebullience, and mirth…rooted in the ancient culture of this land,” Putatunda says any commercialization is adapted into the celebration. “Indians being Indians, we will just go ahead and send off another salvo of colorfully noisy rockets into the Diwali sky.”

And that is what Filipinos do as well. We assess, absorb, adapt, and embrace all that is useful and functional into that which needs to be carried on.  We have no problem merging pop with folk because it not a matter of folk “versus” pop, rather it is folk “plus” pop.

Just as Pahiyas celebrates the survival of farmers in an often harsh environment, so too does the present-day adaptation of commerce and pop culture into existing traditions represent the effort to sustain the staging of traditional events at the appointed time. Filipinos have roots in the past and hopes for future, yet always live in the present, celebrating life in all ways and with all means that may come.

And Erika’s disappointment was forgotten after she saw a black carabao whose back was adorned with painted leaves in rainbow colors.

Munching on the town’s specialties of meringue and apas cookies, sipping from a can of Sprite and listening to Korean boy band music on her iPod, she epitomized the merging and blending of cultural elements, even as she was one with the annual ritual of gratitude for the land, the water, and the plentiful harvests. ***

All photos by Jenny Ortuoste.

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art on the move

On the Coastal road to Naic, Cavite, last Saturday, I saw these funky passenger transport vehicles in Imus, Cavite. They were smaller than a bus but larger than a jeepney, and as flamboyantly decorated with folk art. Let us call them “beeps”.

Beeps have the characteristic artwork common to jeeps – the “title” on the signage above the windshield; the names of the owner and his family painted all over the vehicle; and colorful motifs.


The design on the back of this beep reminds me of Hawaiian quilt appliques.


This artwork shows Mickey Mouse as a cruise director – implying, perhaps, that this beep is your own cruise ship to your destination.


The backs of beeps, like taxicabs, often bear the names of the owner’s wife and children and some motif that has special meaning for them. The splashguard at the bottom will often have either the name of a patron saint or some quotation.


This beep’s rear splashguard bears a quote about love. Filipinos are, in general, a romantic folk. Why the matching prawns? No idea. I saw several beeps with the prawns.


The airbrushed art on this beep is eye-catching. Note the color-coordinated passersby. Photography is a serendipitous activity.


Motifs from popular culture are often used. This is an anime-decorated beep. The side panel shows characters from “Kingdom Hearts”.


The bishop’s miter and crook are also common motifs for Cavite beep artwork. The back art of this one – a  guardian angel watching over two children crossing a log footbridge – is beautifully and painstakingly rendered.


Since beeps have more surface area than jeeps, there is more scope for folk artists to let their creativity run free in creating large designs. This kind of art work, executed on a moving canvas, reaches a wider audience than if it were just hung on the wall.

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elizabeth gilbert: eat, pray, love

This is another of those books that I didn’t get when it first came out in 2006. I’ve always been kontra-pelo when it comes to trends – going against the flow – and I’m suspicious of whatever’s been declared a “best-seller”.  Who gets to say what’s hot or not?

But, seeing nothing else of interest at the bookstore, I picked up a paperback copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, and Love, without any expectations, and just settled in for a succession of letters forming words and coherent thoughts to imprint themselves on my retinas.

I was surprised that it was good.

There have been many accounts of both men and women – usually Westerners, the Americans and the British – going on journeys to exotic places to “find themselves” or achieve spiritual enlightenment. I find it hard to relate to such stories, though I enjoy reading them for the “travelogue” part. It isn’t in the Filipino culture to spend sums of money on travel for such esoteric reasons. We’re too busy trying to survive.

But that’s what makes multi-cultural interactions interesting. People are a product of their culture. It seems that it’s the Western orientation to go looking for something undefinable, something missing, something they will recognize only when they see or experience it.

Writer Liz Gilbert’s account of her own journey brings it down to a personal level, and the honesty of her story shines true. A failed marriage and a shattered relationship pushes her to put her life on hold for a year as she travels to Italy to learn the language and eat her way across the country; to India to meditate for several months in an ashram; and to Indonesia to make friends, influence people, and find love and happiness.

On a technical level, it is well-written. The net of words that Gilbert weaves is taut and shimmering; it is a pleasure to be caught up in it. From a communication perspective, it’s a look at both intra-personal and inter-personal communication practice, with a hefty dollop of intercultural insights.

On a deeper level, it is an intriguing story of how one woman manages the conflicts in her life in her own way and finds healing. It’s the tale of a Gogirl, empowered, confident, and happy.

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worth a thousand words

I’ve been taking a lot more pictures lately, since we got the Nikon D60. There’s something about a kick-ass SLR camera, that, well, kicks ass once you’re squinting through the viewfinder, with trigger finger itching to pop off a shot.

Mind you, I’m nearsighted, and often all I see through the teensy window is a mass of color. I try to frame using shapes and lines and forms. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’re going to get until you upload those files into your hard drive and look at the images you captured on a 19-inch color monitor.

Then in comes Photoshop or Windows Photo Gallery for a dose of  “auto-adjust”, increased brightness/contrast, cropping, or whatever it takes to resolve the images’ minor issues to bring them to full, colorful, spectacular beauty, ready to tell their story to the viewer.

Here are some of my personal favorites (mostly taken on a recent trip to Hong Kong) and the stories behind them:

A dragon dance ritual for luck in Hong Kong, Feb 2009. From the demeanor of the store manager and other people nearby it was clearly an important ceremony; yet they allowed me to get as close as I wished to take this shot.

View of a hilly street in Hong Kong, taken from the top deck of a #973 bus on the way to Stanley Street.

View of Repulse Bay, enclave of ritzy homes and yachts.

The Stanley Street market.

Jade jewelry on display.

Lanterns like colorful bubbles.

Another view of Stanley Street.

One of my favorite images. Macro shot.

Miniature “terracotta” warriors at Stanley Street.

View at Stanley Street main. I love landscapes and macro shots.

Another favorite macro shot – a sign in Braille somewhere in the bowels of the MTR (subway) system.

The Happy Valley cemetery, as seen through a moving bus.

A traditional Chinese building on a hill in the New Territories looks more at home in its setting than does the modern tower beside it.

A cup of Chinese tea. Gazing into its depths, I tried to read my future…and couldn’t. So I drank it. *burp*

A serving of chocolate mousse at Bambu buffet, The Venetian hotel, Macau.

View of a bay and harbor in Hong Kong. Taken from the top of the revolving tower ride at Ocean Park.

Australian wool tapestry designed by artist Michael Santry. It took several weavers three months to finish.

Drain in the shape of a horseshoe at Sha Tin stable.

Saddlecloth and helmet at Sha Tin.

A groom leads a horse into the John Size stables at Sha Tin.

As a graduate student of communication, anything to do with signs and symbols (semiology) interests me.

I love this shot of jockeys, their owners, and trainers huddled together before a race at Sha Tin.

Jockeys wait for their mounts.

One of my favorite shots – I love how the jockey’s leg is parallel to the horse’s back. This is one of France’s leading riders, Cristophe Soumillon, getting aboard Steel Nerves.

Soumillon’s face is set, strained, serious.

In contrast, Hong Kong’s leading rider, Douglas Whyte, always had a half-smile on his face.

Hong Kong Jockey Club race judges bank to see the action better. I love this!

A judge makes notes as horses cross the finish line. I like how the shot incorporates part of the indoors with a view of the outdoors.

Another nicely-composed shot of a scene at Sha Tin.

The huge video screen in the infield at Sha Tin shows the jockey in the lead looking over his shoulder. It’s a metashot – a shot of a shot.

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starbucks stores i have met

As a Starbucks fan, I “collect” stores wherever I go. This one’s at the corner of Nathan Road, in Hong Kong.

There was a branch inside The Venetian hotel in Macau.

At New Town Mall in the New Territories, Hong Kong, I took a picture of the Starbucks signage as I spotted it from afar. I went inside and had a Raspberry Mocha (skim, no whip) while waiting for friends to finish looking around the mall.

I didn’t take a shot of the interior because Starbucks stores look the same inside wherever you go – Hong Kong, Manila, Dubai, New York, Pasadena. They all have the brown tables and tan, chocolate, or olive sofas, the warm orange lights over the bar, the same smell of roasted coffee, the same subdued chatter.

The consistency is boring, but it is also comforting. I know that wherever in the world I go, hearing a cacophony of languages I don’t understand, brushing past tall men in robes or fashionable women in knee-high boots, once I enter a Starbucks it’s like coming home. It’s something familiar, something I understand. Being in a different city, you can go adrift, cast loose from the moorings of your own place and culture.

Starbucks, transcending culture, having created its own, is a pocket of home wherever it is.

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pens in manila

Are there still fountain pens to be found in the wild – in Manila?

Fountain Pen Network-Philippines members went to find that out last February 21, with a field trip to Escolta.

Escolta is part of “old Manila” and used to be the main shopping district from pre-war times until around the 1960s. Luis Store, a fountain pen sales-and-repair shop, has been located there since the 1940s. The plan was to meet up at Savory Restaurant at the corner of Escolta – another local landmark – then visit Luis and any other places that happened to catch our fancy.

On my way there in a cab, I saw many things. The sight of a Philippine flag flying in the warm breeze stirred me to near-tears. It was so beautiful.

A monument to heroes, near Manila City Hall.

It was, I felt, a good start to the day.

When I got to Savory, quite a few FPN-P’ers were already there, scribbling away. While waiting for the others – and for lunch – to arrive, we celebrated our passions of pen, ink, and paper.

The entrance to the FPN-P function room.

Early birds play with pens, paper, and ink – the triumvirate of our obsession.

A peek at some of writer-University of the Philippines professor Dr. Butch Dalisay’s Parker Vacumatics.

Lunch was another celebration, this time of gastronomic delights not often relished. The Savory  flavor is like no other. It is Chinese cuisine, yes. But it is also has a unique identity that sets it apart. Especially the fried chicken, which is famous.

Bird’s nest soup, pansit Canton, Yang Chow fried rice, pork something, fried chicken, and lumpiang Shanghai.

After lunch, it was back to pens.

Raffle items – pens, nibs, a loupe (for peering closely at nibs), and ink.

A leaf from Leigh’s notebook.

The attendance sheet – for pens, not humans.

Spot the Sailor, Danitrio, Pelikan, and Bossert and Erhard.

From Savory, the next stop was Luis Store. The fifteen or so of us crammed into the tiny piece of paradise, ogling the beautiful pens on display. Many of them are NOS (new old stock), some dating back to the 1950s, if not earlier.

Carretelas are still a common form of transportation within the area.

Walking down Escolta to Luis Store. The dome of Sta. Cruz Church can be seen in the distance.

FPN-P’ers crowd into Luis Store.

Dr. Butch Dalisay, Mrs. Pua, and Terrie Pua, who runs the pen store.

Pens on parade.

Plates for the engraving machine.

Class picture!

The Puas pressed boxes of warm and delicious chicken empanada on us, and we ate as we walked. Our next stop was Binondo.

The Starbucks – and the Pancake House beside it, and most other establishments in the area – have signage in Chinese.

Leigh holds up the Frankensnork representing TAO, fellow FPN member. In the background, life in Binondo continues its busy hustle, oblivious to the posse of pen collectors chatting and drinking coffee.

Binondo Square still sports the red and gold lanterns left over from the Lunar New Year celebration.

The penmeets celebrate not only the shared interest in pens and ink, but also friendship, love, life – as do all gatherings. That which binds is important and significant, but when people get together and interact, there is so much more that is shared. Enjoy that. Enjoy each other. Let life be a series of celebrations!

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favorite chinese things

A recent trip to Hong Kong yielded some interesting finds from the markets. Much were tourist-y gimcrack doodads, but since I was, after all, a tourist, I flung myself into the role with enthusiasm and poked around for items to take back.

I fell in love with a personalized seal and a watch.

On our first day of our trip, we headed to the Stanley Market for souvenirs to take home as pasalubong (lit., “to welcome”). It is part of Filipino culture to take home gifts to family and friends.

After looking at countless tee shirts, silk bags,  and other things, a seal engraving shop caught my eye. Run by a family – the mother, who sp0ke English, was the sales person while the father, son, and grandfather did the custom engraving, drawing, and other services – the shop offered countless blank seals to choose from.

I’d always wanted my own seal, ever since my Mandarin teacher at the Ateneo, Prof. Songbee Dy, gave me a Chinese name – “Ai Fei Fei”.

“Ai” is from the “A” in Alcasid, and “Fei” means “luxuriant and beautiful”, from the “fer” in “Jennifer”. Prof. Dy had thought about the name over a weekend, putting much effort in coming up with something special. After all, it was like she was naming me all over again.

I told the seal lady and she wrote the characters down for me, asking me if they were the right ones. We were taught to speak a little Chinese, not read it, so I wasn’t sure. I gave her the meaning; she nodded and asked me to choose a seal.

Since my zodiac animal in Chinese astrology is a Sheep, that’s what I chose, along with a red box. I was told to return in twenty minutes.

When I came back for my seal, it was beautifully engraved. My Anglo name “Jenny” was added at the bottom, rendering it invalid for use as an “official” seal. Still, it is special as a souvenir of this trip.

The box is of red brocade and fastened with a plastic splinter. Formerly, deer horn was used.

Closeup of the seal, with my Chinese name engraved in the ancient seal script.

The interior of the box is lined in red silk, with hollows for the seal and the covered dish of seal paste.

Playing with the seal.

The seal is marble, while the seal paste dish is porcelain.

The underside of the seal and the dish of seal paste. Seal paste is made of pulverized red cinnabar mixed with castor oil and silk strands to bind everything together.

At the Night Market at Jordan, one subway stop away from where our hotel was in Tsim Sha Tsui, I got this watch.

I don’t usually wear watches. But I couldn’t resist this old fashioned clockwork one, which features Chairman Mao constantly waving his arm up and down.

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hong kong color

Hong Kong in winter, right after the Lunar New Year but still during the celebration, was a a feast of color and texture.


Flowers along Canton Road.

More color comes from other things – seals at a stall at the Stanley Street Market, for instance.


The seals (yin) are usually of marble or other stones, or plastic. They will be carved with a person’s personal name for use on official documents (chop), using an ancient script form. Seals may also be engraved with corporate names and studio names. For the tourist market, seals are carved with the person’s name in Anglo and Chinese and are not for official use.


The seals come with Chinese zodiac animal finials while some are plain cylinders. Those are only for Chinese names; Anglo names would not fit.


Metal exercise balls for the hands.

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