Of course, I don't know exactly how to go about getting a birthday cake in Beijing, plus no one here knows its my birthday, so I made my own cake by frosting a balled-up plastic bag with shaving cream and sticking matches in it.
Just wanted to show you this to reassure all of you that my mental health in is FINE shape despite spending more than two months on the other side of the world!
IN ALL SERIOUSNESS: I've actually had a very nice birthday - the Intercontinental last night in Hong Kong was my official birthday dinner, and I even got to have cake and ice cream (well, technically a lemon meringue tart and ice cream, but I LOVE lemon.) I've been in touch with my family and even gotten some gifts remotely, so no need to pity me.
And whatever you do, if you're one of the people in touch with my employer in Beijing, DO NOT TELL THEM IT'S MY BIRTHDAY. I can't stress that enough. A couple reasons:
- I intend to celebrate when I get home, and really don't want to create an awkward situation where acquaintances feel compelled to do something that doesn't come naturally.
- Apparently the birthday boy is expected to pick up the tab for everyone else, and I'm a cheapskate.
- They had the office birthday party for July last Friday, and I really don't want to be part of that - it's like a tub of live bait, and the celebrants had to play some complex game involving pictures of people and posters on the wall, and I just don't want to be included in the August party and embarrassed in front of 100 people I don't know while trying to figure out what the heck is going on, and lastly,
- This is really juvenile, but I actually lied to a coworker about my birthday. He's a guy whose name I don't know, but we're on speaking terms, and at the party Friday he asked me when my birthday was, and I panicked because I didn't want to get dragged into whatever was happening, and I said March, and now if the truth came out, it would be really awkward.
IN OTHER NEWS:
HONG KONG IS AN AWESOME TOWN:
I had to leave today, but I really had a great time. After a half day with their transit system, I felt confident that I could get wherever I needed to go by myself - a stark contrast to how I often feel in sprawling, taxi-based Beijing. Of course, Hong Kong has the advantages of a head start and its compact and attractive geography. Beijing can't and shouldn't try to be Hong Kong, but I think as Beijing moves into its place as a world city, they can take some lessons from Hong Kong.
ME IN ANOTHER LIFE:
This morning, before leaving for Beijing, I got a chance to stop in the Hong Kong office of my employer, where I was shown around by J.K., originally from New York. He came to Hong Kong last summer on the same exchange program I'm on now and loved it so much that he got transferred there.
Great, smart guy, and it was cool to see another office in action. Like many businesses in Hong Kong, my agency does little local business, instead acting as a high-powered hub for the region, doing business in India, Indonesia, Australia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
STEREOTYPES ARE HURTFUL:
A shop across the street from my hotel in Hong Kong:
Personally, I think this stereotype the Chinese have of Americans as drycleaners is TOTALLY unfair.