Sunday, June 01, 2008

Life Update: Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo, Shanghai

The good thing about consulting is that you're never in one place and you live out of a hotel room.  The bad thing about consulting is that you're never in one place and you live out of a hotel room. I got to say though, it's been more good than bad.   I've been in four cities these past four weeks.  I work out of an office in Manila during the week and weekends I'm free to roam.  Each time I think there's no surprises left in life, the universe proves me wrong. 

Some reflections, sorted by city:

Hong Kong
If you think Chinatown in New York is great, check out Hong Kong!!!  Best "beef flied lice" ever!!!!  Seriously though, I've never had a bad meal in HK and dim sum is worth the price of admission.  HK is a banker town and if you hang with expats you find yourself talking finance in the night club.  Girls seem to like it though, which is why when they ask me what I do for a living I tell them "bank teller".  Then, they usually go away - you know - because they're so impressed.

You spell Filipino with an 'F' when you talk about the people.  You spell Philippine with a 'Ph' when you talk about the country.  It's an arbitrary western convention indicative of a country whose history is riddled with arbitrary western influence.  Sometimes, like when I see Filipinos party I think "Spanish" and other times like when I go to the mall I think "American" and other times I think "WHAAA"?  I read in a book that the Filipinos are disarmingly western but Asian at their core.  This gave me a whole new understanding of the Filipinos I've known over the years. I'm enjoying myself working in this city and I think it's because people here understand my what I'm all about.  In Japan, they identify me as "American".  In America it's "Japanese dash American" (Japanese-American).  In the Philippines, however I'm "Japanese slash American" (Japanese/American) and I love that. 

It's good to be in my second home.  Beautiful weather to walk around.  I'm just sad however to have missed the cherry blossoms.  Highlight of the weekend.  I saw a jogger near my hotel in Ebisu.  From the waist down he looked like a regular jogger with running sneakers and mesh shorts.  From the waist up however, dude was wearing a puffy black jacket and had his hair done up like one of those guys from L'arc en ciel. 

Run Forrest.  Run.

As of April Japanese passport holders can enter China for 15 days without a visa.  As a Japanese citizen it's not my place to question why I am allowed effortless entry into mainland China while millions upon millions of foreign born Chinese need to wait in long-forming lines to obtain a visa.  It is my duty however to rub it in.  "IN YO' FACE ABC"!!!!!  But I digress....  As my Shanghainese friend Xin pointed out, it's a sign of diplomacy and friendship - don't push it Jap boy.  I can't help it though.  The irony!!!!  Excuse me, I need to go buy a trucker hat with a catch phrase.

I actually didn't get much of an opportunity to check out Shanghai because mostly I was working for the weekend, but I did enjoy myself immensely there.  I hung out in the expat crowd.  The highlight of the weekend came when I went to a bar aptly named "Abbey Road" that featured - and I am not making this up - a 50's era costumed Beatles cover-band made of Japanese musicians with mod haircuts.  Suffice to say as a hardcore Beatles fan also Japanese with a neo-mod haircut, my mind was blown.

What strikes you about Shanghai is how new everything is.  All the things you've heard about Shanghai are true.  The buildings are futuristic and you get the sense of a new age.  But with newness comes a price.  Tall skyscrapers and concrete jungles make a place feel cold and unfriendly - a fact the Shanghainese are starting to realize.  My expat friends tell me there are less slash and build operations going on.  More and more, people are refurbishing old homes and coming to grips with what they are losing to modernization. 


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