Tuesday, 29 January 2013

So much to do, so little time...

One of the toughest things for me to realize was how challenging AC is. I know that sounds comedic, especially coming from a girl who used to go to one of “those” international schools (where 90% of the student population was of East Asian descent) where not going to university was cultural suicide and a gap year was for the weak. I’d wake up at 7:30, start school at 8:15, finish school at 3:25, and have track or swim or rugby practice from 3:45 until 5:45. I’d get home at around 6:20, have dinner, go on the computer at 7, go to Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail (yes, in that order), then start my homework. And if I end up not having that much homework, I’d watch a season or two of Grey’s Anatomy or the Big Bang Theory or something like that.

English class was cancelled today, so my first class started at 10:45. I woke up at 8, spent 45 minutes at the gym, and made myself breakfast. I got to the Languages block for French class at 10:44, only to find that the teacher was not there (probably supervising orals or written tasks or some other horrendous assessment that the IB forces its students to do.) I spent the next 45 minutes working on my English homework (Crime and Punishment gets so much less credit from students than it deserves), after which I headed to Economics (where one of my classmates, Driss, was teased three times by the teacher) and, finally, Politics (John Stuart Mill, anybody?).

I finished lunch in 15 minutes (smoked mackerel with a side of, er, quartered tomatoes with balsamic dressing… I hate it when the balsamic vinaigrette touches my freaking mackerel!) and headed back to the house for a half-hour power nap. I’ve started taking these power naps because I have been far too sleep-deprived in the past few days. I went to Llantwit at 2:30, grocery shopped, and got back to the college by 3:15. Did some homework, shopped for Wellies (never buy cheap Wellies – they leak and mud gets into your socks and on your feet and it’s not pleasant.)

I know it might not sound like much – indeed, I haven’t been particularly productive today. But as my Chinese second-year, Donny, said, AC stretches you in different directions and that is infinitely more tiring than the traditional education systems from back home. In China, there was only one direction: straight forward, straight ahead with my academic studies and my futile (and quite embarrassing) attempts to showed that I was all worldly and shit by doing some random community service and going to orphanages even though I absolutely hate little kids (okay, a bit harsh there). Here, there are so many activities to choose from and things to do that there’s room for everybody to be themselves, and to pursue their own interests. I’m not studying or pretending to care – I actually care about the stuff that I do because I choose to do it. Back home, I would think to myself, If I don’t do this, then I am at a disadvantage in the game of college admissions! That is true for the environment over there. But here, the grass is actually greener (literally and metaphorically). There’s so much to do, and so little time. There are people to meet and food to eat (not really.)

Socializing is no longer a “waste of time”, because from each conversation and every interaction, I’ll learn something new about myself, the other person, or about life in general. The Skype IM-ing that I did back home has now been replaced by face-to-face discussions and potlucks in the student house. The problems that I have are no longer superficial – indeed, I feel as though I have no problems now. My classmates are all friends; there’s nobody I despise here. There’s so much more to the world than I would have ever imagined. So much to do, so little time…

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Where's the Beef?! -- Whole30, Day 0

I've been trying this "diet" called the Whole30 Daily. It's not so much a diet as it is a thirty-day transformation of your nutritional intake -- or that's what it's supposed to be, anyway. I've never been able to stick to a diet or any restrictions that I've put on myself in terms of food intake. I blame my lack of "self-discipline" on the amount of exercise (during the "peak" of 2012, I was exercising 3 hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 2-2.5 hours on the other days.) It was a huge challenge to get accustomed to not exercising at all, really, and accepting the fact that the food here was going to be quite horrible (each student gets 2.37 pounds for all three meals of the day.) I decided to try Whole30 because I realized that a) I basically could have unlimited quantities of a lot of food and b) I get to try out recipes and such.

The bad thing is that the things that I am allowed to eat require quite intense preparation. That is, I have to take out my seasoning and my oil and my ingredients and my meat, heat a pan on the stove and make an omelette. And that's the easiest thing I can do. Which is a lot more difficult that just eating a candy bar, if you know what I mean.

I'm going to try it for another 30 days (the longest I've gone was for 7 days) and really do it right this time. These are my dietary guidelines:
  • No sugar
  • No legumes
  • No grains of any kind of any "pseudo-grains" (such as quinoa)
  • No dairy
Other than that, I can eat anything I want. I want to try not buying groceries for a week, though. I imagine it would save me a lot of time and effort. The only thing is that I would like to make another batch of rice pudding this weekend, so I'll think about it. But for now, one day at a time.

Here's the recipe for my omelette.

Beef and Spinach Omelette
Makes 1 serving.

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g / 5oz ground beef
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Sesame oil (to taste)
  • Spinach (prepared)
  1. Sprinkle an adequate amount of salt and pepper into the beaten eggs, beating them some more until the salt and pepper are distributed well.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to cover the entirety of the pan, and crumble the ground beef into the skillet. Cook until evenly browned.
  3. Pour the eggs over the beef and swirl so that the egg covers the entire circular bottom of the pan. Wait until the edges begin to set, and sprinkle the cumin all over the egg. Drizzle sesame oil in according to your taste preferences.
  4. When the egg is mostly set around the edges and is beginning to firm up, add a small handful of spinach on one half of the omelette. Let it wilt a little bit. When the egg has mostly settled, check for doneness by lifting up the edge of the omelette. If it has reached a brown color, it is cooked. Fold the omelette in half and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Homesickness, except not really.

It probably doesn’t make much sense to talk about Hong Kong when only two posts ago I was in Hong Kong. I haven’t talked to my parents (or anybody from back home, really) in a week and a half. I suppose that doesn’t sound like much, but being stressed with things that “actually matter” (such as schoolwork… that’s all I can think of at the moment) and not being around those you love is quite a tough environment to be in. The irony is that this stuff has started mattering less and less to me as I spend more and more time at AC. University and seeking higher education are admirable pursuits and I do believe that everybody should aim to earn a university degree.

However, I question the heavy emphasis that has been put on going to a reputable university by my parents. It’s a shame that the only way my relatives (and perhaps even family friends) judge my value is by evaluating which university I attended (those “casual” conversations I have with adults about what college I’m planning on going to, in which they pretend to believe that I have the “potential” of going there when in reality, they’re eyeing me up and down and thinking how is a girl like that supposed to get into a school like this?). Apparently my worth is also going to be measured by the job that I’ll be at. I feel that it is my obligation to make my parents proud; I am one of their biggest investments in life (if not the biggest.) Evidently, they want to be able to say that their daughter went to Harvard/Yale/Oxford/Columbia/Cambridge and is currently pursuing a medical/law/engineering/business degree and/or writing her doctorate thesis on a groundbreaking discovery that will change the course of history.

I jest, I jest. Ultimately, I believe my parents want to be able to say that I have a solid job with a stable (and preferably high) income and am very well-off, living in a metropolitan city and making what they deem to be “good use” of my time.

And here is where my problem arises: Suppose I don’t want to have a “career”. It sounds absolutely ludicrous, but it’s true. I recently stumbled upon a catalogue for the University of Cambridge advertising their department of Modern and Medieval Languages. I would love to pursue a degree in that field (whatever “that field” might be), especially this one where it’s integrated with Middle Eastern Studies – I would choose to study French and Arabic, and hopefully unofficially attend German classes because I have wanted to learn German for a very, very long time. I suppose my ambition to get into that college of Cambridge is sufficient for pleasing my parents in terms of my educational pursuits.
My friend at AC, Clement (born to very liberal Quebecois parents), told me the life story of one of his friends. His friend essentially travelled until he had no money, and when he had no money, set down his things and started working wherever he could find a job. Obviously, in these difficult times, job hunting should be a profession in itself. But I’m not talking about applying to Goldman Sachs or Bloomberg. I’m talking about seeking a humble waitressing job, or becoming a Starbucks barista (they are so underpaid, especially in NYC), or driving buses (I suppose I’ll have to get a driver’s license first). But then, what would my parents say about that? During social gatherings, what are they going to say when someone asks what my job is?

Perhaps I’m becoming too concerned about what people say about me. I’m not so concerned about myself as I am about my parents. I understand that as long as I’m not living off of their income by the time I graduate from college, I’ll be good to go.

Another challenge I would face is to learn how to live frugally. I’ve decided to start doing this at AC… though it’s going to be incredibly difficult. A quick list of things I have decided to get rid of:
  • ·            My duvet covers and bedsheet linen things (I have no idea what they’re called)
  • ·            My faux leather jacket (it’s breaking anyway)
  • ·            My hats (I look absolutely ridiculous in those slouchy knit-hats anyway)

…unfortunately, that’s about all I can think of at the moment. I don’t know how to live frugally – I’ve never had to do it and believe me when I say that if I am limited in terms of food, I start eating everything in sight. My weight has steadily increased over the past six months, but I suppose that’s something I’m willing to sacrifice for the AC experience. Ironically, I feel that my parents don’t understand that it is indeed a huge sacrifice for me to give up sports (especially swimming), which turned out to be such huge forces in my life.

Essentially, AC has made me re-evaluate all the expectations and standards I had set for myself. I don’t know what fruit this term is going to bear, but I really do hope it’ll be sweet.

Here's a picture of the wonderful snow that has descended upon Wales to make you happier.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

i am a sloth

Hahaha, I wish I was this cute.

The reason why I said I am a sloth is because I slept for sixteen hours straight -- from 1AM to 5PM. I thought my watch was wrong until I asked my uncle, and he said that it was indeed 5 o'clock PM.

So that was a day wasted. I didn't do much today and I didn't eat or make anything interesting today either. I also didn't blog yesterday so here's a quick update.

My father and I headed to Central and got there at around 11AM for brunch with my sister during her lunch hour. We went to a nice little restaurant called the Flying Pan that serves breakfast all day.

I ordered the Eggs Hussarde with grapefruit juice, as well as a Belgian waffle (which was not worth it; don't get the waffle.)

With a huge splat of butter, too!

After that, my dad decided to ditch me to play badminton with his friends. I think it's sad when you realize that your parents have more of a life than you do.

I took this opportunity to "explore" Central by myself. And by explore, I mean not venturing outside of a 500m radius of the MTR station.

What's cool about Central is that it's built on a hill, basically... so there are a lot of upward slopes.

I also found a nice reminder of where I'm going to go back to after Christmas break.

And you know how sometimes you stumble across an amazing work of art or marketing or painting or whatever? I absolutely loved the design of this restaurant logo/banner. I don't know why. It's so classy and simple and it seems to reflect the simplicity and elegance of the restaurant (even though I didn't eat there.) It just looks so nice!

More pictures of the slopes...

Hong Kong is definitely my favorite place to buy food. Even the supermarkets are better than those in the UK or the US (Tesco, Walmart, Waitrose...) Anyway, these are more like street markets. Which makes them better than supermarkets. They're the original farmers' markets; the West was just jealous.

With very cheap, yummy fruit.

Look at that meat! We use every part of the animal. We're very economical.


Fresh fish. 
See? They're even swimming in tanks.

I love how crowded and narrow the little alleyways are.

More seafood.

I was on Graham street.

Cherries: 2.2 pounds per pound.
Kumquats : 1/pound
Strawberries: 2/two boxes
Avocado: 80p / fruit

I love these incredibly crowded seated areas for food consumption. Only found in HK, I swear. :)

Hahahahahha no. Only in the UK.

Crowded streets! People!
 I wandered the streets of Central for about an hour before getting bored. I've decided that in order to explore a city, I really have to do it with other people. Preferably with people who will help me save time and make sure I go to the cool places and not waste time walking around in circles, which is essentially what I did. Then, I headed to Festival Walk, a nice mall in Kowloon Tong which I've been to countless times before.

Their Christmas decorations were really nice.

Huuuuuuge Christmas tree.

Adult choir singing Christmas carols 

Really nice decoration thingies.
I had sushi at Itamae Sushi at Festival Walk. It's not particularly cheap, but it's quite good. It gets completely full during the weekend nights (even on weekday nights at around 7PM) and you can't get reservations.

I highly recommend the seared salmon nigiri, grilled pork nigiri, soft shell crab hand roll, ox tongue nigiri, and roasted tuna nigiri. I like sushi with warmed meat/fish on top of not-warm rice, so I don't like sushi with raw fish on it too much.

Seared salmon nigiri

California roll and soft-shell roll in the back.

Ox tongue nigiri

Grilled pork nigiri

Seared salmon nigiri

Ox tongue

soft shell crab hand roll

some nigiri (i don't know what it is) with black truffle

grilled salmon... soooo good.

Wagyu beef nigiri

scallop nigiri
Honestly, don't hold back in ordering -- don't go there if you're concerned about money because it really is quite pricey. Also the foie gras is not worth it (they're four tiny pieces) unless you absolutely must have foie gras with every single meal you eat otherwise you have seizures or something. I would suggest trying one portion of whatever you imagine would tickle your fancy, and if you're not full by the end of the night (don't worry about it you'll be full for sure) you can always order more.

Tomorrow, I'm getting my favorite dish in Hong Kong -- this amazing beef sandwich that brings shame to American sloppy joes :) Possibly because everybody in America makes sloppy joes and there is only one "restaurant" (it's not really a restaurant; it's like a Hong Kong-style diner... which isn't like a diner at all) that serves this sandwich. Stay tuned!

Monday, 17 December 2012

This Is Not Steak.

I bet you have that restaurant that you always loved going to as a kid.

That one restaurant that brings back so many memories and seems to never change.

For me, that was a cheap "steakhouse" in Hong Kong. I remember how I used to love going to that place. I loved their bread, and I always got the option of cream of chicken soup as a side for my main meal, which was usually steak or lamb chops. I remember it being very, very good.

t-bone steak with an... unidentified sauce.
But boy was I disappointed when I ate this steak. Well, actually, let's start from the very beginning. The bread was okay. It was slightly warm but should have been hotter, and it didn't have that really subtle crunch on the outer surface. The cream of chicken soup tasted like it came out of a can and wasn't hot enough. I didn't even finish it.

And the steak? It didn't even taste like beef. It was so, so disappointing. I don't even want to talk about it. I make more beef-tasting steak than this place does.

Childhood dream: crushed.

On another note, enjoy some pretty pictures of Sha Tin and Hong Kong on a gloomy day :)

I also ate some egg tarts after lunch. Well, one egg tart.

I don't really like this picture because it is far too focused on the pastry shell rather than the delicious custard filling.

Victoria Harbor

And afterwards we went to Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong where I bought a bunch of stuff from H&M and all was good in the world for a while.
Then I went into the fitting room and I realized that I had become a tub of lard since my time at AC, so that happiness was short-lived.

But it's okay because we headed back to Sha Tin and we went to Park N Shop and we got some BBQ pork spare ribs... and two other things.

Can you guess what this is?

And this?!!
Okay it was pork intestine and pork ears.
Here's a star for effort. 
I'm assuming you didn't get it. If you did get it... you get a cyber pat-on-the-back from me :)

And then we ate some delicious food at home, including steamed pork with some type of salted preserved vegetable, steamed shrimp with garlic, and steamed fish.
We like steamed stuff. It's not (that) fattening.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

going healthy II

Okay, I know I should seriously stop spamming you all with random posts but I really need to get all of these recipes off my chest so I don't start crying in agony about how I have too many recipes to post and not enough time and when I do get the time I don't post and it just turns terrible.

I've really been struggling with my weight and my body image since coming to AC. In all honesty, I've never really had my thighs rub together but I didn't have a complete "thigh gap" either. I felt really good in my body and I was honestly quite thin but muscular.

I've essentially turned into a tub of lard since coming to AC -- and I'm ready to change that. All my muscles are covered with a good ol' layer of fat and I'm off to kill it.

I think it all starts with diet -- 70% diet, 30% exercise, right?


My goal was to go to the gym every day for the rest of this month but I think I'm going to take a step back. I can't fuel my exercises with absolutely terrible, carb-laden food day in and day out like I have for the past three months. I'm going to take this month and use it to reshape the way I see nutrition and everything. I'm going to make sure that I eat right. It takes 21 days to form habits -- that's what I've got.

Obviously I don't expect to make myself absolutely perfect, but I've got to practice moderation and I have to remind myself of what it feels like to eat well and treat my body well. So I guess this will be the beginning.

Here's the description that I wrote for it when I put it on my Tumblr:
I think I’ve just regained my love of salad. I’m Chinese, so I grew up eating rice to “bland out” the stronger flavors of meat and other dishes. Now, I love rice and I’ll never stop eating it because it’s part of who I am and it’s part of my culture and my upbringing. However, salad really does offer a great alternative. The lettuce basically replaces the rice - it helps provide balance to the strong, distinct flavors of the salmon and the chicken breast chunks.
This is a great recipe and the portion is HUGE. And it’s a bit over the amount of calories that are usually in my recipes, but seriously, this there’s so much food in here it’s ridiculous.

Smoked Salmon and Grilled Chicken Breast
3 oz smoked salmon
4 oz grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
5 cherry tomatoes, halved

Toss all the ingredients into a bowl. Serve immediately.

going healthy

because, like I said, I need to lose weight.

This is from a couple of months back when I still did the Insanity! workout. It was pretty good but I stopped after like 45 days (I know... so close, right?) because I started getting bored with it and I wasn't seeing any results to be honest. I wouldn't do the fit tests because I hate being tested for anything to be honest.

But I did get this nifty, low-cal recipe from the recipe book, and I remember it tasting pretty good.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Mushrooms
Yields 1 serving

4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chicken broth
1 tsp sesame oil

In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chicken breast pieces over medium heat until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and cook broccoli and mushrooms in the same pan. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6-8 minutes. Add the chicken back into the pan, with the vegetables, and season with soy sauce, chicken broth, and sesame oil.