Sunday, March 28, 2010

Transience of Life

I am writing this with a heavy heart, because I am writing about something I don't want to understand.

By chance I crossed paths with a scientist/ scholar/ vedic astrologer who somehow read my character and my life like an open book. 

He told me April 2007 till now was a difficult period for me, when the universe wanted me to understand the transience of life - that nothing is permanent, and changes are inevitable.  Indeed  I was first introduced to this concept in April 2007, when Chico passed me an article on Transience from Namaste magazine the weekend before he left Hong Kong.  I was furious and stormed out of his apartment, finding him so insensitive lecturing me on change when he was the one making me go through it.  Since then, I went through more significant changes, Stefan coming into my life then dramatically leaving, Kevin coming into my life, showing me the joy of steadiness and stability, then leaving dramatically.

When the astrologer told me about the universe planning that stage of my life for me to learn about transience, my immediate thought was: why couldn't the universe courier me a book on transience instead of make me go through such hell, each time worse than before?

Right after my encounter with the astrologer, I ran into Kevin when I was buying flowers from a stall.  It was a very awkward, though "friendly", brief conversation.  He reminded me a lot of him when we just started dating.  Very simple, innocent, shy.  After he left, I turned around and cried.  After two years of sharing life together, we went back to square one.

I tried not to think too much about it, but I could tell from my smoking at home last night that something was bothering me.  A few hours ago I had dinner with Angie, and I finally cried when I told her about my confusion through the whole experience and what the astrologer had told me.

I understand, through such heartbreaks, that life is transient by nature.  But, how can I go through life not believing that anything could last?  The man told me that only love and compassion are permanent.  He told me when the time was right (a few years from now) I would find someone who could truly love and care about me, and truly understand the meaning of love.  So what I experienced in the past few years wasn't love?  What was it?

I am crying not because of Kevin or Stefan or anyone.  I am crying because I don't understand what to believe in, and it makes me scared.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Finding My Roots - Tang Ancestral Hall

Last Saturday I went to help out at an event similar to Amazing Race, and was assigned to Pit Stop 3 - Tang Ancestral Hall in Ping Shan, Yuen Long. It was completely by chance my last name is Tang, so I joked about finding my roots there. Coincidentally, there was a middle-aged, retired cop walking around the hall at night, so I chatted him up and he started telling me the history of the Tang's. By the way, in that village, most residents have the last name, Tang.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Choice of Happiness


Years ago, I met a friend who felt that perhaps some people were not destined to be happy in life.

Now, two years since that conversation, I would say:

I believe that happiness is a choice we make. Even the luckiest person can be unhappy if he takes his luck for granted, while the unluckiest can be happy appreciating whatever little he has. Nobody is doomed to be unhappy. Nobody is destined to be happy either. It is a choice afterall. It is the way of life we pick for ourselves.

I find that a lot of people are "snobs", thinking only big things and events deserve feelings of happiness. They can never understand why people like me feel happy about little things. They may find us silly, simple, unsophisticated - but what is so sophisticated about being unhappy and uninspired all the time?  

I am not encouraging anyone to pursue a blissfully happy life every second, because life is bound to have ups and downs, and is never perfect.  Can we at least try hard - really hard - to seek out the positive side of everything?  Can we try not to dismiss the value or importance of something too quickly? 

It took me many years to get to this stage where I could, and actually did, say something like:  You know, despite all that crap, he really was amazing.  And I sincerely meant it.  

I no longer believe, liked I used to when I was younger, that everything in life is black or white.  Apart from different shades of grey, I realized that black and white can co-exist.  Things don't have to be all perfect to be great.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Slowly, I am getting used to being alone and not feeling far too lonely.  I still miss sharing life with him a lot, but I am gradually finding peace in solitude as well.

I have decided to let go of all tension and pressure to do what I am "supposed" to do.  Not forcing myself to hang out, meet guys, do things for the sake of doing them.

Perhaps I have fallen too hard, and now regaining my composure, it feels surprisingly nice and peaceful to completely go with the flow, taking everything easy.

I read when I want to read.
Cook soup for myself when I crave for soup.
Drag my friend Stephen to watch TV with me when I want to catch up on Lost and House.
Light candles when I want to feel romantic.
Smoke when I want to smoke.
Invite friends to my pad for drinks when I want to entertain.
Join some associations' activities and events when I feel like being around new faces.
Watch How I Met Your Mother when I feel like a good laugh.

I stopped actively seeking for answers, meaning, purpose.  Just trying to rest my mind and soul as much as I can.  Allowing myself to float.....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hypocracy - Nice Customers Finish Last

Companies don't care about their customers, especially nice customers.

The more understanding and patient you are, the worse service you get.  This is especially true with complaints.

Being in the consumer research business, I know about consumer rights and how businesses prioritize which customers they service first.  Being a client servicing professional, I also know which are the hot buttons clients push to make us give them what they want.

As a consumer and customer of various products and services, depending on the product/ service defect level and my schedule, I sometimes do fight for my rights - and when I do I am quite good at it.  Don't get me wrong, I do not enjoy the process at all.  I'd much rather have a functioning product/ service or a simple, straightforward, friendly resolution to defects.  Unfortunately, the commercial world does take advantage of nice and friendly customers.

Take my HSBC travel insurance as an example.  When Kevin and I went to Italy last September/ October, our luggage went missing for more than a day and the air carrier never called us to update on status of our luggage retrieval nor delivered the luggage to us.  We spent almost HKD 2000 in total making calls and taking trains to and from airport to get our luggage back.  When I was back in Hong Kong and made a phone call to HSBC travel insurance, the staff told me that their policy did not specifically cover any losses incurred due to lost luggage except purchases of replacement clothing and necessities up to a certain amount.  However, she told me sometimes they would make exceptions, but I would need to put that in writing and convince them why they should approve the claims.  So in November I wrote a letter to HSBC and filed for claims.  The next few months, apart from sending us a few copies of the same letter, asking us for receipt of the dress I bought, there was no mention of the other claims.  They never called us.  Only sent us those computer generated letters.

The past few days I was very sick with stomach flu, so I stayed home to rest.  With the idle time I rarely had, I finally picked up the phone and called HSBC.  The "boy" on the line sounded very junior, as he was stuttering a lot, and always quoted "the policy".  The whole time I was very patient, until he quoted "the policy" for the fourth time, I said to him,"Listen, Mr Cheung.  HSBC claims to be the world's local bank, but its travel insurance policy shows that it has absolutely no understanding of local markets, or even what traveling is all about.  The policy assumes the whole world functions like Hong Kong - when you lose your luggage, CX will proactively call you every few hours to update you the status and deliver your luggage right to your door even late at night.  This does not happen in every city, as much as we'd like it to.  Travel insurance is meant to cover one's accidental losses during a trip, and not all sorts of losses can be pre-written otherwise your policy would be as thick as a bible.  So don't tell me what your "policy" says.  I am asking you, Mr Cheung, to escalate this to your supervisor, so that he/she can kindly consider my exceptional case.  I understand it is not written in the policy, and that was the exact reason why I wrote the letter to explain.  Now if HSBC decides it cannot accept exceptions, I am in the media industry, and I will certainly make sure I will voice my suggestions to HSBC publicly, so that your company may consider my suggestion someday."

Today they called me back, first quoting policy again, then said they could make an exception and compensate 50% of our claims.

Another example:  magazine subscription.  Back in December, I ordered an Inside Lacrosse Faceoff Yearbook and annual subscription for Kevin as part of bday and xmas presents.  We never received them.  I emailed customer service, and the lady called Pamela blamed it on snowstorm twice, remoteness of the shipping office in Baltimore, etc.  Till mid-February, after Kevin moved out, I still didn't see the package.  I emailed Pamela again, asked them to deliver to Kevin's work address instead to facilitate delivery, and requested for a confirmation.  She never wrote back.

Finally, two days ago, I decided to go to Inside Lacrosse website and look for other contact emails.  Fortunately, they listed out all their department heads' emails... Business Manager, Sales Director, Marketing Director, etc.  So I forwarded my last email to all these three contacts, copying Pamela:
Dear all,

Apologies for copying you all, I am sure some of you are not responsible for subscriptions.  In case there's a more appropriate contact to settle this issue, please kindly re-direct this email to him/her copying me. 

My last email to the company was Feb 17, and I have not heard from anyone from the magazine regarding my missing (1) annual subscription (2) Faceoff purchase which were ordered and paid in full in Dec 2010.  Those were meant to be Christmas and Birthday presents.  I hope someone from your company can take this seriously, as both purchases have been paid in full but I have not received any of my orders at all.  I do not wish to sue the company for fraud, if we could settle this promptly and peacefully.  Please understand I have been extremely patient and understanding in the past few months.

As per my email below, despite months of delay, I was fine with re-delivery of my purchases - providing the delivery was to be made promptly and a confirmation was to be sent to me so I would be informed of the shipment to my friend's address (I provided a new company address to facilitate your delivery).  However, neither Pamela nor the shipping manager nor anyone else in the company responded to me.

I am requesting for someone to look into this and help me resolve this ASAP.  If I do not hear from anyone by Mar 10, 2010, I will consider taking legal actions.

I hope to hear from the company by then.

Thanks in advance.  Again, apologies to those of you whom I mistakenly copied on this email.

Best regards,
Guess what?  The Business Manager wrote back within a few hours, explained he had never been made aware of my case, and promised he'd make the shipment immediately.

So you see?  Nice people always finish last.

Now I should find a way to complain about my 6-month defective laptop.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Song Meanings Website

Have you ever loved the melody of a song but never quite understood the lyrics?  Here's a site I recommend where people post their interpretations of lyrics:

I came across this site when my friend sent me Ben Harper's She's Only Happy in the Sun, because it reminded her of me.  Then I looked up meaning of the lyrics, found this website, and learned that the song could be about a girl addicted to drugs and found happiness when she was high... and she probably died of OD.  :)

中女告白 - My View

Just yesterday, my friend sent me a youtube link to the TV program aired last week on 星期二檔案 - 中女告白, about single women in their 30's and above, their attitude towards love and relationship now.
中女告白 part 1
中女告白 part 2
中女告白 part 3

Then I watched Erica Yuen's video comment on the program (Erica Yuen's Comment) , which I found somewhat judgmental, and felt the urge to voice my view.

While the women featured on the show all have some success in their career, they are single today not because they chose their career over love, but because something else went wrong.  Some were in relationships where the guy had a wife or another girlfriend, some had cheating boyfriends.....

The society tends to blame women for focusing too much on work, but I know so many women - myself included - who have good jobs but also put their boyfriends before everything.  Having a career does not automatically make us negligent girlfriends.

If anything, I do agree that women have evolved to become much more independent.  Take myself for example, I traveled alone to London, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Marrakech, Casablanca, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Sydney, Dubai and Jakarta for work in the past 12 months.  I am capable of taking care of myself traveling all over the world, dealing with issues as they arise.  Is that a bad thing?  No.  Does that intimidate men?  Possibly, those who aren't as well-traveled.  What can I do - lie about my travel experience?

If I were to narrow down the reasons for "mismatch" among men and women in Hong Kong, I would say:
1. Women have been evolving to become more independent, while men never evolved to accept independent women.
Increasingly women have done better at work, rising to senior positions at a younger age, making more money than previous generations' females.  As a result, women have become more independent, more capable of looking after themselves, making decisions.

However, men have at best maintained their levels.  Yet, they have not evolved to accept more independent women.  They still seek women who are somewhat weaker, submissive and needy.  Men may claim that they admire a girl for having a mind of her own - but when it comes to hearing her opinions they feel threatened. 

Women's independence and capability threatens men's ego, self-esteem, confidence, and image.  Women's strength makes men feel weak.  I am no feminist at all - I am not saying that all women are strong and it's great to be strong or anything like that.  It's just a fact that many women have become quite tough, and this threatens men.

So strong women should really look for secure, confident, very self-assured men otherwise their relationships will always be doomed.

My own experience:  Everybody knows I am very independent and strong-minded.  I never grew up aspiring to be strong.  It just came naturally, having to survive given the circumstances and environment I was in.  In relationships, I was already silly, stupid with certain things at times (e.g. sports), accommodating, sometimes needy, sweet.  Still, nothing could hide the fact that I had my point of view, and I didn't let people walk over me.  Not that many men truly appreciate me for speaking my mind, even though they all said that was what they loved about me and found me special when they met me.

2. Women in their 30's have learned to appreciate what they have; Men are still exploring their options.
Most women do aspire to have a happy family.  That is an ultimate life goal for many women (including myself).  Women in their 30's are getting ready to settle down, and having experienced a number of failed relationships, they try their best to nurture a relationship.  They have learned to accept, accommodate, and not give up too easily.  They understand that love opportunities don't come by everyday.

Men on the other hand are often times still exploring in their 30's.  Some settle down, but most know that they have until their 40's to keep looking.  There is no rush to settle down except for those who are more stable, traditional and grounded.  Many men have not yet realized that relationships take effort and hard work, and have not yet learned to feel truly grateful for the love and care they received from someone special.

My own experience:  I never wanted to date younger men, but for some strange reasons (fate) I always ended up dating men born in year of the Horse (1978).  I have already done enough crazy things in my 20's, traveled to enough cities, devoted 30 years acting out of self-interest, and finally wanted to settle down and devote time to my own family and hopefully children.  Finally, I realized that my ultimate life goal was not to travel around the world, but to create a happy family.  Unfortunately, my partner and I broke up just 2 months ago.

I don't have an answer to how we 中女 can finally find the man to settle down with.  I do however agree with the women featured in the program, that if anything we can learn something from our failed relationships.  Perhaps we can be even more giving in a relationship, without calculating too much what we receive in return?  Perhaps we can overlook even more shortcomings of the guys, and appreciate their sweetness or companionship more?  Regardless, I think most importantly, with or without a guy, is to love ourselves and work on having a meaningful, fulfilling life the best way we can.  Keep our spirits up, and let ourselves shine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Every few days, yet another old friend I hadn't been in touch with would write me or meet up with me (whether by chance or not) and ask about my lovely relationship.  So every few days, I would have to break the not-so-new news to someone again.  It kind of sucked having to do that over and over again for 2 months.  In the past few months, I have heard the word "shocking" more times than in my entire life so far.  Each time I'd give my customary smile, whether in person or " :) ", hoping to show I was alright, things weren't so bad...  Finally, it got to a point where I shook my head and said,"let's not talk about it.  Let's just stop talking about it.  I don't want to talk about it" when someone brought it up out of shock/ curiosity/ concern - and I really cannot recall who it was - and kept leading the conversation back to the topic.

While I've been making progress moving on in my daily life, learning to enjoy my own company and space, I find that I still cannot really move on spiritually.  You know how sometimes we tell people to keep their spirit up, not to let anyone break their spirit?  My spirit is so broken, I no longer believe in all the wonderful things I believed in before:
I do not believe in love, or
laughter and happiness...

My strong belief and insistence on all these made me who I was before.   Now, I feel like I have lost a big piece of me I don't know if I will ever find again.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recommendation: Allen Youngblood Live Performance in Grappa's


Recommendation: Healthy Chinese Soup Blog

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, soup plays an important role in Chinese families/ culture.  It is not just any other dish in a meal, but an expression of love and care - because almost all varieties of Chinese soup require a combination of many ingredients for their unique health benefits and Chinese soup requires at least 2 hours of slow boiling.  When you cook soup for someone, you genuinely believe that the soup will bring about the health benefits intended.

I was searching for the health benefits of a vegetable I wanted to cook soup with, and came across this website which I find very helpful.  For those of you who care about your health, and have the time to cook soup, check out this website:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Things which make me happy - My Community

In Hong Kong, I live in a small but charming community in the city - which is a rare find unless one lives in a small village in New Territories.  This is why my rent is so inflated!

I literally walk down the street and wave at various people along the way...  Locksmith (below), herbal tea shop owners, owner of the curtain / upholstery shop, restaurant owners, property agents...  They are mostly very genuine and sweet people, and we can chit chat quite a bit. 

This is the locksmith below my flat. "Key Man" has become a friend of mine since I moved to the current flat 2 years ago. He loves giving me lectures on family, love, life, cooking (yeah cooking), and he's such a friendly soul.

He was bored that night and borrowed this stranger boy's bicycle to play with.

This is my Thai masseuse Ana/ Thai Girl/ Man Man, at Happy Foot, Happy Valley. She is Thai but came to Hong Kong with her family when she was 17 and speaks some Chinese and English (and of course Thai).
She is a very sweet girl we can chat the entire 2 "parts" while she gives me the strongest massage ever. We can talk about my work, her work, her marriage, my relationship, my stupid injuries from "shaolin master yoga" and paddling, beauty... She is a very good masseuse, using both Chinese pressure point and Thai massage techniques. She gives me very strong massages and always reminds me "no pain no gain".

Things which make me happy - Freshly Developed Film

The anticipation, excitement, surprise, relief in opening that envelope from the photo shop containing your freshly developed roll of film, checking out the contact sheet... is unbeatable.

There are things in life technology cannot replicate or take over.

Things which make me happy - Cooking Food I Like

I've always enjoyed cooking.  I used to make breakfast and dinner for him and I every now and then, and I enjoyed it a lot because he really appreciated it.  I'm very traditional Chinese in this sense - cooking to me is an expression of care and love especially Chinese soup. 

Well, now that I have no one to cook for, I sometimes cook soup for myself.  I don't really cook dishes anymore as there's too much work for just myself, so I usually just boil some frozen dumplings.

A few days ago, using the Tom Yum Gung ingredient pack from my masseuse, I cooked the soup for the first time even though I rarely order it in restaurants.  It was great working with new ingredients I hadn't even heard of before.  I love cooking because I love food and specifically the taste of certain dishes - and cooking allows me to make my food taste exactly the way I like.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

So glad it was not a date!

Last night some friends arranged a night out to watch horse racing in Happy Valley. It was pretty fun and exciting. It was not as crowded and overwhelming as I had been told (likely because it was not some special race), but was interesting nonetheless!

I went with a couple and their friend whom I had met once or twice before, a very friendly person. It was a night out checking out the horse racing scene in Hong Kong, NOT a date. I am not a gambler and have always been scared of gamblers and their obsession.

The couple were not gamblers either but their friend turned out to be one. It was a really strange experience for me as the guy seemed a bit grumpy the whole night losing money. In the last race, when he was hoping to at least break even, as the horses approached the finishing line, he started shouting behind me "Go Number Ten! Number Ten in Second! Come on!" His shout sounded more like anger and anxiety than excitement.

It was strange, seeing a different side of an otherwise friendly person, who took the races so seriously.

It was still a fun night out with my friends and it was absolutely sweet of them to arrange it so I could get out of the house and do something different. I just thought I was very lucky it was not a date, because otherwise it would have been the worst date of my life!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Things which make me happy - Sweetness of my favourite masseuse+friend,"泰妹" (aka Thai Girl, Ana, 雯雯) at Happy Foot (Happy Valley).

 She has been my masseuse since a year ago, and she is very good (I took a picture of her with my film camera today so I'll post a separate picture of her next week). Most importantly, she is very good-natured and sweet.

I hadn't seen her for 2 months before last Sunday, when my whole body was aching real bad. The sweet girl was very happy to see me and told me she had bought some very fresh Tom Yum Gung ingredients. She then decided to give them all to me, and teach me how to cook it!

Today I went again as my right side of body was quite painful. The sweet girl had had her day off yesterday and she had gone to Kowloon City to buy me some more ingredients like tamarind paste, coconut milk... and she had also bought me some tamarind candies! She refused to take my money no matter what and insisted that I take them as a souvenir!

I feel so blessed I have friends from all walks of life caring about me in their different ways.

Things which make me happy - Comfy Home

With the help of my good friend Stephen, I redecorated my living room area a little bit, adding color and coziness to my otherwise white/beige/beach house like home.

I'm slowly making this home a little more girlie, a little warmer. Will buy more colorful cushions to complete the "project".

Here's the updated look:  With more pink cushions, purple floor lamp, and a grey throw as I recently developed a new habit of falling sleep on my couch while reading or watching TV.

And the final look:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Things which make me happy - 幸福飯 (Heartwarming Rice Dish)

I was once known for my addiction to this rice dish I used to call 幸福飯 (Heartwarming Rice Dish).
It's actually 叉燒煎蛋飯加火腿,1/3飯,少油多汁 - Roast Pork with Fried Eggs, Ham, 1/3 Steamed Rice, Less Oil, More Soy Sauce.

Each time I order this, the staff would ask if I'd prefer half the normal portion of rice instead and I'd say,"no, one-third is fine. I can't finish it anyways and there's a lot of people who are starving each day so I don't want to waste food." They still end up giving me half portion though.

I posted these on facebook as well, and surprisingly quite a few friends found the idea interesting - making an album of things which make one happy.

I really think it helps to consciously remind ourselves what makes our lives interesting and meaningful, what brings smiles to our faces.

I'm sure my list of things could be very different from yours. What matters is we don't take things and people for granted. I figured that by actively making a point to take pictures of these things that touched me/ made me smile to myself, I would appreciate life more.

Hope this inspires you all too.

Things which make me happy - Flowers

 I love flowers.  I love pretty, unusual flowers with romantic colors.  They make me smile.....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sharing of Life - 45 Life Lessons and 5 to Grow on


Regina Brett's 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on

By Regina Brett, The Plain Dealer

May 28, 2006, 10:13AM
To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.
It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update:
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
49. Yield.
50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
To reach this Plain Dealer columnist:, 216-999-6328