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My dad's clinic was packed today, all the way to closing time. I asked him if the major complaint of his patients was overindulgence during Christmas. Force knows, we came dangerously close.

Christmas eve we went out for dinner and cheesecake, and to catch the Christmas performances at the mall. Christmas day breakfast at this spanking new dim sum restaurant (where hordes of people, most of them coming straight from the church, had similarly gathered), *and* dinner at my aunt's, my uncle having cooked up a giant vat of spaghetti. Then *another* dinner at the country club restaurant the following night, to celebrate my other aunt's birthday. Oi. Antacids all around, please.

Was pleasantly surprised to receive more unique coins from my parents for my (small but slowly growing) collection - two solid gold, one silver, all commemorating special national events - as I hadn't expected them to get me anything (and had certainly said as much!). Also - probably as proof of how much of a games nerd I am - received three games from friends this season: one of which is still scaring the hell out of me because I'm wussy enough to play it only when there's still daylight or when there are people talking to me on Steam (Amnesia: The Dark Descent); one which is something I would never have thought to get but which turned out to be highly entertaining (Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures), and one that I'm going to die of old age before I play it because it's taking forever to download on Steam (Mass Effect 2). And if you don't think that's already enough to last me many, many months, I went and bought Wings of Prey for myself as well because... well, it's a World War II fighter simulator, and I never quite got over my I Want To Be A Fighter Pilot phase. (Fighter/bomber sims were about all I played during my misguided adolescence).

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures




This isn't the sort of game I would have ever tried on my own, let alone get, but playing it has disabused me of the notion that Lego Video Games are only for little kids. Tory actually got this for me so that we could play co-op. If she'd read the specifications a little more carefully, though, she might have noticed the words, "local co-op"... which effectively means that, unless we find a way to open a wormhole connecting our studies, we're not going to be playing together anytime soon. Which, actually, is a bit of a blessing, given the kind of havoc you can wreak with this game.

I haven't played all that much of it yet, but I can honestly say this: Lego Indiana Jones is singularly The Most Destructive Game I have ever laid my grimy paws upon, and I'm saying this as an action game fan, and especially one who has played Ghostbusters: The Video Game, where they tell you in your financial statement just how many thousand dollars' worth of government property etc you have managed to wreck while taking down your ghosts (my final tally being somewhere in the order of USD300+ K). To put it simply: *anything* made of Lego bricks can be destroyed. This includes all manner of plants, furniture, fixtures, decorations - and, of course, other Lego characters. Not only can you smash *anything*, even upright pianos, apart with your bare fists, the game actually rewards you for this wantonly destructive behaviour by giving you - gasp! - money for anything and everything you break.

Here we see Indy savaging an innocent filing cabinet as coins pour out of it:



Hilarious, I tell you.

Anyway, I digress. The game, as its name implies, is Lego brick-based... or at least Lego bricks rendered in beautiful, shiny 3D. All three original Indiana Jones movies are represented here, each with its own game: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. In each chapter, Indy is accompanied by one or more other characters, each with his/her own special moves/actions/abilities: Indy has his bullwhip, of course; female characters, being more lithe, can jump higher; other characters may wield special equipment, like Satipo who, in Raiders, wields a shovel you can use to unearth partially buried treasure. Gameplay-wise, it's very much action-adventure style, with a hell lot of running and jumping, and finding keys and pulling levers. Only, this being a Lego game, you also get to *build* things to earn rewards or obtain objects for progressing.

It's a highly entertaining game - and not just for kids either. I suspect that it would be even more entertaining playing it with a friend because... there are endless opportunities for annoying the hell out of each other, seeing as you can push and shove and punch each other, and even put them in a position where they die every time they respawn. Of course, these being little Lego people, there isn't any blood when anybody dies, and they just come to pieces when they kick the Lego bucket. It's also interesting how much of the original story can be captured in a game that involves only hilarious facial expressions and body language, and absolutely no conversation, even if the game is more a humourous version of, rather than a faithful, accurate recreation of the original movies. (How serious could Lego Nazis possibly be anyway?).

On the flip side, the controls make me want to throw my mouse at the monitor at times. Characters can get stuck in various odd places, enemies can spawn where you can't get to them, and you can trip over a ledge and fall to your death on a bed of spikes - and respawn right at the edge of said ledge to fall in and impale yourself again and respawn right at the edge of said ledge to fall in and impale yourself again ad nauseam. And to make it worse, characters you're not currently playing can block your path out of said hazards, keeping you locked in a vicious reincarnation-violent death cycle. Saving is also a headache: the game only saves after you complete a chapter, which is pretty dang long, so if you have to shut off your computer or go anywhere before you complete one, you can kiss your game goodbye. Oh, and lest you think you can play *any* of the three games at will... think again. I spent a considerable amount of time dismantling everything I could crack my bullwhip at in The Last Crusade, only to realise that, to progress to the next section, I needed a character I did not currently have, and couldn't obtain unless I played the game right through from Raiders and Temple. GAH!

All in all, though, it's a fun game for when you're tired of violence, blood and gore, and want a little good, clean stress relief. Unless of course you find yourself in one of those loops, in which case the game actually causes stress, and rather a lot of swearing.

Next up: Wings of Prey.

Quote of the Day:
 Linda: [On Christmas day, upon seeing that I'd launched Amnesia] "So you're celebrating the birth of Jesus by playing a game that causes you to scream out his name frequently?" ROFLMAO.

Amnesia Diary:
Do not ever assume, when reaching a door, that the monster you hear growling necessarily has to be beyond the door. Turning up a staircase in the sewer to a heavy wooden door, I heard the ominous rumble, and turned and RAN back around the corner - only to crash headlong into one of the goddamn freaks. Needless to say, Daniel's face got torn off in the encounter, and my heart jumped out of my ribcage in a panic and ran away with my lungs.
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When it comes to food, my mother does not take "no" for an answer. It is her chief belief that I'm ridiculously fussy about my food, and it is her duty to (1) disseminate this information to anybody who mentions food preferences and (2) condition me to like them with repeated, forced exposure. (Well, not so much anymore, since the last repulsive food she exposed me to a few times caused severe allergic reactions for two nights in a row, a few months back). Obviously, the latter doesn't work, because I have not managed to like anything that I was repulsed by upon initial contact, but more annoyingly, everybody who has heard this now assumes that I was spoilt rotten as a child, and am now insufferably, reprehensibly picky.

I choose to believe that there is an in-built biological reason why people like or dislike certain foods. )
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Here's an enlightening little conversation I just had with my mother:

[mum watches me remove a microwaved leftover pizza slice from the oven]
Mum: Didn't you cover that? You and your dad are exactly alike. Why didn't you cover the pizza?
Me: Because it's dry, and there's nothing to splatter all over the inside of the microwave?
Mum: But you should cover it! My friend told me all about MICROWAVE RAYS. What if those MICROWAVE RAYS get into the food?
Me: Mum, they're called waves. What do you think cooks the food?

It's both hilarious and appalling how many people don't know how their modern gadgets work.


In other news: MAFIA II WILL BE OUT IN TWO DAYS' TIME!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, I have waited for this game for six years. And god, how I loved the original. I really, really want this new one to be good.

You're never seeing me again.
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MOULDY BREAD - Following the abrupt southward drift of the Far islands into the chilly region of Mère, its capital, Mouldy Bread, has been plunged into what the city's spokesman, Cere Bral, called a "deep-shit crisis" as melatonin production plummets to an all-time low. This is just the latest of a string of disasters that has swept through the city over the past few months as first, enemy forces took over the capital by storm, doing immense damage to the Lower Respiratory System and killing off several platoons of general infantry before Special Forces finally wrestled control back three weeks later; and later, microscopic terrorists released toxins into the Nutrition Processing Centre, causing massive loss of liquids from the centre's reservoirs. It is hardly surprising, then, that there is an oppressive air of panic in the city.

"It's a nightmare!" wails the production manager, Pine Al. "Melatonin has always been an integral part of our city's economy; with its collapse, all the industries, even government sectors, have been toppling like dominoes! I've been getting nothing but frothing phonecalls all this month from ministers and heads of  industry about how our failure to meet the city's demands has screwed them over. It's chaos, I tell you, CHAOS!"

Indeed, with the acute melanin shortage, the city is tottering on the precipice of failure. One of the areas hardest hit is the Ministry of Power, whose Nutrition division has yet to recover from the last assault.

"Melatonin shortage leads to disruptions in nutrition acquisition," grumbles department head Mito "Mighty" Chondria, "And how the hell are we supposed to generate energy for the city, if there's nothing to generate it from? We can't just pull ATP out of thin air, you know! There have been riots in the Electron chain gangs the past month, something about wanting to transfer out or that kinda crap. And of course, when we got no juice for the city... well, the shit really hits the fan."

Minister of Transport, Myo Sin, agrees. "The city's transportation system is on the verge of collapse. Fuel prices have soared to ridiculous heights, and as a result, nobody's going anywhere." His deputy, Ac Tin, adds, "You should've seen the locomotive muscle construction sites. The foremen were flogging the workers to carry on, even when it was obvious they didn't have the strength to. Might as well have been flogging dead horses, if you ask me."

The Neural department has been similarly affected. With the sudden closure of the Arts & Creativity section due to discontinued funding, tempers have been running high as rumours of retrenchment and closure run rampant and departments vie for scant resources. "Blame it all on Kulchitsky!" rants one unhappy neuron. "He's the one responsible for our shortage of serotonin funds!  It's amazing we haven't all torn each other's throats out yet!"

"It's not just the serotonin; there aren't enough endorphins and dopamine to go around either," says a colleague sadly. "As you can tell, we're all feeling a bit depressed."

The Minister of Communications has declined to comment on the situation.

When asked about how the neighbouring region of Mère is faring in comparison, the city spokesman, Bral, says distractedly, "Oh, it's fine, absolutely fine. The southwest region took a direct hit, but a couple of other nations have sent help, and rebuilding efforts are going well, and their army's doing fine and dand.... er, what were we talking about again?" When reminded he was commenting on Mère's economic and political climate, he mutters, "If you ask me, I think it's draining our resources plenty."

Bral's assistant, Sulci, is more diplomatic about the situation. "Of course, we're not blaming anyone - least of all Mère - for the upheaval, y'know? There's no black and white in this matter, only shades of grey. Shit happens, and sometimes you just get caught in the vortex. You just ride it out as best you can."

There is some concern that the capital may take another hit from enemy forces while its home forces are still weak, though optimists guardedly believe that there is hope for recovery in the near future, as Mère's transportation sector is restored. In the meantime, the citizens are simulating normalcy as best they can, although they are understandably prone to hostility at the slightest provocation. "I got every right to be grouchy at this time of crisis," snarls one Paul Acorb, brandishing a pitchfork, "So if ya stick yer nose where it don't belong, I'll stick this into ya!"
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WEIGHTS 1, FAR 0

So I was at the gym yesterday, doing crunches on the bench with a lat bar attached to one of the cross cables - and, because it was rather chilly yesterday (it was raining!), I was wearing track bottoms for once. Everything was going fine until I got to my last, 50kg, set. I pulled down the lat bar, knelt down on the bench, and... all of a sudden I lurched forward. In alarm, I managed to lock my feet under the bench, and thus narrowly avoided the embarrassment of sliding off the bench and dangling in midair. Phew.

Lesson learnt: If you're going to be pulling your weight (or almost) on a bench, don't wear track pants. >.<


FROM THE FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE

Since my mother's been banished from the kitchen by her bionic foot for two months, I've been doing the cooking on Saturdays, which is probably one or two Saturdays too many of my cooking, where my parents are concerned. (Thank goodness said cooking is always supplemented by leftovers - my uncle brings over vegetarian food five days a week). Given that my unsurpassed genius always results in culinary adventures that wind up on the funny side of disastrous (I was, after all, responsible for the Amazing Exploding Microwaved Egg and the Scalded Eyebrows), I thought I'd maybe share my Recipes for the Week.

Today's menu: Far's Utterly Bizarre Casserole Thingy

Ingredients

1 packet ramen
4 eggs
Spam
Seasoning
Cheese
Butter to grease baking dish

Method

1. Bung ramen into a bowl, with hot water. Bung bowl into the microwave, and cook for two minutes.
2. Throw eggs into a baking dish. Discover that one is starting to look funny. Swear, and replace. Beat eggs into submission.
3. Drain ramen, then toss into dish with beaten eggs. Disentangle ramen.
4. Add enough salt to bring onset of hypertension, and pepper. Add some more to be sure.
5. Try to open can of spam. Break implement halfway through. Swear. Use up half of profane vocabulary. Find new can opener.
6. Slice up spam. Throw bits of spam into dish, minus the blood.
7. Cover top generously with cheese, to hide the monstrosity beneath.
8. Bung into oven. Set to some arbitrarily high number.
9. Keep checking oven.
10 Welcome guests who suddenly show up at door.
11. Run back to kitchen every five minutes to check.
12. Decide it's going to take a long enough time. Stay to chat with guests. Run back to kitchen when guests point out that something smells funny. Use up other half of profane vocabulary.
13. Take out dish. Top should have the consistency, contours and colour of alien volcanic landscape. Serves three (who have suddenly misplaced their appetites).
14. Realise belatedly that you forgot the butter, and there's now a thick layer of gunk at the bottom of the baking dish, that'll never come out. Use up remainder of profane vocabulary that you didn't manage to abuse earlier.

Okay, so I made up the last part of number 13. My parents actually ate quite a lot of it, and claimed it tasted pretty good. Of course, I should point out that it took my *mother* ten years to break it to me gently that the hot chocolate I kept bringing her back when I was a kid and she was sick in bed for a week had the overall consistency and appeal of drain water, so I don't know how much of what she just said today can be believed...
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So I've been missing from the Internet for the past week or so. What can I say, Jade Empire pretty much took over my life.

Beware of games that go on sale. Particularly those going for three bucks on Steam, and turn out to be highly addictive. And I don't even like RPG, usually.

SHAGGY DOG

I never tire of watching Sebastian's antics around the house. Seriously. Oh, he *knows* he's not supposed to come inside, but he does it anyway if there's nobody around to order him out (and he knows very well I'm the last person who will; he housebroke himself long ago anyway, so he's never so much as licked the furniture, let alone satisfy his hormonal doggy needs on them. He's quite content to just lie on your feet. No, I don't mean "at"; this dog knows all about taking hostages). Anyway, tonight I'm in the sitting area of the dining room, folding the laundry, when he wanders in and pokes his wet nose under my arm. I scratch him behind the ears, and then (because my mother does not appreciate having her freshly laundered clothes smelling of Eau de Stinky Dog) send him back out. Less than five minutes later, he returns, this time to sniff curiously at the fruit side table before disappearing in the direction of the bathroom (which I suppose must exude heavenly scents, if you're a dog), and reappearing in hope of getting more lovin'. He doesn't get it this time, which I imagine must come as a letdown, and pokes his head through the living room door in hope of getting attention from my mother - although getting yelled at probably doesn't figure in the equation. Exit dog. ... Another two minutes or so later, he reappears again - in the kitchen. I get up and watch in amusement as he walks around, sniffing at the cupboards curiously, before going out to dinner. (Yes, this is the same dog who will happily forego food to play with humans...). I imagine this is how dogs acquire juicy household gossip. Or maybe it's just because he's confused as to why the whole house reeks of fruit (visitors have brought so much stuff - not just fruits - that we could practically open our own grocery shop).

Much later, I go out to the living room, where my mum is sitting idly, waiting for my dad to come back inside. Sebastian's right outside on the porch, so I sit down at the door and he comes over, plonks down contentedly on his haunches and repeatedly tries (in vain) to lick me in the face as I scratch his ears. And then my dad comes out from the porch, sees Sebastian at the door, and snaps at him, "Out, Bas. OUT!!"

Now, "Out!" is a word that Sebastian knows very well (as well as "In!" when we want him back inside his doghouse), but he conveniently manages to forget what it means when other people say it in my presence. In this case, Sebastian decides to look up at my dad with an expression I can only describe as "Huh? what was that?"... and proceeds to lie flat ACROSS THE THRESHOLD, thus barring anyone from coming in or going out of the house, and leaving my dad stamping his feet in annoyance and me on the floor snorting with laughter.

The danged dog is just too cute, sometimes.
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So I started the new year by going out and buying my mother a laptop. <3

She's been wanting to get one for yonks. In fact, every time we go past a computer shop, she says longingly, "Maybe I should get a laptop. Then I could go surfing when I go travelling! And it would be so cool having something to carry around." So anyway, back in Hong Kong after her accident I was already thinking, She's going to be spending the next two months in the guest room downstairs, she's going to need a portable entertainment system, and there's no way I'm going to lug The Behemoth And All Its Peripherals down from her bedroom, so hey... why not get her a lappy after all? Since I have all that money put away for either an Oris TT3 or Hammy X-Copter that I don't see myself getting anytime soon because most of our trips abroad have been cancelled,  I might as well use the dosh elsewhere.

So I went shopping. And found this ludicrously sexy lappy going for half of what I was expecting to shell out:


The cooler it's resting on came free with the laptop. (As did the bag - duh -, the mouse, the keyboard guard and the 4GB Kingston pen drive).


I fail at sticking on keyboard guards. But at least the blue lights are pretty, yo.

Admittedly, I wasn't as interested in its uber prettiness as I was in the specs:

Platform Notebook PC with Intel Centrino Duo Technology
Processor Type Intel Core 2 Duo Processor
Processor Onboard Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T6600 (2.2 GHz, FSB 800, Cache 2 MB)
Chipset Intel 45PM

Standard Memory 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM PC-8500
Max. Memory 4 GB (2 DIMMs)

Video Type ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 1278 MB (shared) (holy cow, mom, you could play Left4Dead on this if you wanted to)

Display Size 14" WXGA LED
Display Max. Resolution 1366 x 768
Display Technology Clear SuperView TFT

Audio Type Integrated
Speakers Type Integrated

Hard Drive Type 320 GB Serial ATA 5400 RPM
Optical Drive Type DVD±RW

Networking Integrated
Network Speed 10 / 100 Mbps
Wireless Network Type Integrated
Wireless Network Protocol IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Wireless Bluetooth Integrated

Keyboard Type QWERTY 82 keys
Input Device Type Touch Pad
Slot Provided Optional
Card Reader Provided SD, MMC, Memory Stick / Stick PRO
Interface Provided 2x USB 2.0, VGA, LAN, Audio, eSATA

Built in Web Camera with SmartFaceTM Technology

O/S Provided Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium

Battery Type Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery
Power Supply External AC Adapter

Dimension (WHD) 340 x 38 x 232 mm
Weight 2.35 kg

3-year Limited Warranty by Authorized Distributor


<3 <3 <3

Windows 7 has, so far, proved to be far more user-friendly to less tech-savvy users like my mother. Which is good, because she's been handling the lappy far more confidently (and with far less questions) than her Behemoth.

Now I need to get her to kick her soap opera habit, and get her addicted to Plants vs Zombies instead.
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My mother's orthopaedic surgeon wins the award for the Fastest Admission/Surgery/Discharge EVER. When we brought her to his office at ten yesterday morning, he took one look at the x-rays and declared without hesitation, "This needs surgery." (Because the tip of the tibia - which, together with the fibula, forms a socket joint with the foot - had fractured, and shifted inwards). So she had another x-ray done, and was checked into her room by noon, was in the operating theatre by half past one, and back in her room by four. (Because they'd only given her a caudal anaesthetic, she was fully conscious during the procedure, although I believe she got tired of listening to the drills and fell asleep for about an hour, and woke up just before they finished). Visitors started coming in at three in the afternoon; the last batch didn't leave until a quarter to eleven! LOL.

[My mother's roommate - they didn't have any single suites left - was an elderly Chinese woman who'd suffered a mild stroke but was already up and about as if nothing had happened; her visitor for the better part of yesterday and today was another elderly Chinese Energizer-bunny woman (it keeps going! and going! and going!) who seemed to have mastered the art of circular breathing while talking, and whose opinions could be heard from... the carpark, probably.]

Spent the night with my mother, just in case she needed help fetching things etc. My nasal passages decided that they'd had just about enough of working, and, declaring holiday, shut down my entire nose, with a giant stockpile of mucus locked inside.

My mother got x-rayed again after lunch, was pronounced fine by the surgeon, and discharged soon after. My mucus wasn't.

LOL.

Anyway, she's back home now, and has been banished to the ground floor. Aside from mobility issues, she's in pretty good spirits, so her recovery should be pretty smooth. I foresee six weeks of drama and excitement, as she gets a severe case of itchy foot from not being able to step inside her kitchen...
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So I said I'd be back on the 30th of December. Yet here I am, typing away at my computer like there's no tomorrow. What gives?

Well, it's "gave", actually. And it was my mother's ankle.

Here is a brief recap of our vacation:

22 DEC: MACAU
IN WHICH FAR'S MUM GAMBLES, AND LOSES BADLY


Flight to Macau was delayed for over an hour - which was of little surprise, considering the budget airlines our tour group was taking - but no matter, because (1) I was armed with a thick Michael Shermer book, and (2) the tour operator had gotten somebody at the office to fill in all our immigration cards for us. Unfortunately, said person was probably educated in Martian, because said person managed to mess up half the passport numbers (I swear, the guy must have been channelling the numbers for Alpha Prime Green Guy because none of us knew where the hell they came from), made up bizarre occupations for half of us (clerk??? what the...), and produced two different signatures for each of us on two different sets of documents - which wouldn't have passed inspection anywhere else but Macau.

Thanks to the delay, though, we arrived at our hotel at ten pm, which I suppose is the perfect time for people to crawl from out of the cold into the many, many casinos on the island to worship the One Arm Bandit God of gambling, but my dad and I were exhausted (and personally, I think it's more fun to set fire to a wad of money, anyway), so we decided to stay in. My mother, on the other hand, wasn't about to waste the night cooped up in her hotel room, and went out with a bunch of friends and the tour operator.

Two hours later, she returned to the hotel - limping. Witness accounts are hazy, but it would seem that, while descending a very short flight of steps, my mother managed to subluxate her left ankle. As in, it totally popped out of place when she applied weight to it (whether or not she accidentally twisted it while placing her foot down is anybody's guess), but then boinged right back in place on its own a moment later. Mum was annoyed, but figured hell, she just wouldn't be getting as much sightseeing done on a sprained ankle.

[Yes, my mother's friend's husband went out and gambled and won $16,000. My mother went out and won a leg injury...]

23 DEC: HONG KONG
IN WHICH WE DISCOVER THE ILLUSORY NATURE OF ORDER IN HONG KONG


Made an amazing discovery at breakfast time: cafe chairs in Macau can walk. One of our chairs mysteriously walked away from our table to a nearby one occupied by a group one can only charitably describe as "vocal yokels"; a second one tried to walk away, but was impeded by my foot, which was tightly wrapped around it, and so was apprehended in time.

Our breakfasts were very nicely homogenised in our stomachs by the hydrofoil ride into Hong Kong. ("Monty Python" and "bouncy bouncy" spring to mind). Upon our arrival at the Hong Kong immigration, we quickly discovered that queues - and, indeed, order in general - was pure fiction, only believed by people whose IQ scores are surpassed by oysters. In other words, it was total chaos in there. Here, we found, were people who had not only never heard of Miss Manners, they'd have trampled her to human grits if they'd met her. Harhar.

The day's tour covered the Golden Bauhinia Square, named for the 6-metre-tall gilded sculpture of a Bauhinia blakeana (apparently an important symbol for the Hong Kong people after reuinification with China), Repulse Bay (where old men in "tea bags" are said to terrorise the sands), Aberdeen Harbour and Ladies' Street. (No, it's not what you think. Seriously).

1-bridge
The Tsing Ma Bridge, the seventh-longest suspension bridge in the world.

25-flower
Gilding a Bauhinia...

28-art
Watching two children watch an artist at work at Repulse Bay.

We went on a sampan ride around Aberdeen Harbour. On one end you see luxury cruisers and the gigantic Jumbo Floating Restaurant (whose past diners include Queen Elizabeth II, John Wayne, Tom Cruise, Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li); go around the river bend, however, and you see a very different side of Hong Kong: the "village" of fishing boats huddled together, inhabited by people who spend nine months of every year at sea, whose wives are illegal immigrants, and whose children are unregistered, and spend only three months a year at school. It was an eye-opener: Hong Kong isn't just a city  of rich people.

32-boat

37-boat

See more photos of the village

44-street
Ladies' Street. The market here is clothing (and electronics, and food), not humans.

My mother's ankle was rather badly swollen at this point, and so she decided to remain in her hotel room at dinner time, leaving me to gallivant on my own. Found a toy store selling action figures and collectibles at ridiculously low prices, and did myself proud by managing to carry out an entire conversation with the shop assistant (who was dressed as Sailor Moon) on the subject of Star Wars - in Mandarin. (Or should I say Mangledarin?)

24 DEC: HONG KONG - DISNEYLAND
IN WHICH TWO SENIOR LADIES PROVE TO BE EXTREMELY SPUNKY


My mother's left leg had become worryingly swollen and bruised, and so it was decided: (1) the tour operator and my father would take her to see the doctor, and (2) we would all go home on the next available flight. Thank the Force for travel insurance.

Because it was also determined that I would be of more hindrance than help, I was promptly dispatched to continue the day's tour with the rest of the group. Everybody else of my age in the group was paired up and I didn't want to be a third wheel (or worse, a lamp post!), so I wound up with two of my mother's friends, both of them senior citizens. Of course, age is never an indication of compatibility, and the minute I discovered one of them was a video games nut, we just totally hit it off.

Arrived at Disneyland at lunchtime (made two stops at two Sponsor Shops first) - and, because a number of people in our group were massively smart enough to bring food to the park only to be stopped right outside, there was a fifteen minute picnic just outside the gates. We wandered around Main Street for a bit, watched the Christmas parade, and then I made a beeline for Space Mountain - which my two elderly companions, in spite of their enthusiasm, were unable to ride due to medical conditions. (So while I was zooming through the darkness of space, the two old ladies went and had themselves a grand train tour of Disneyland). Because wild rides were out for them, we went to It's A Small World and two shows (Mickey's Philharmagic - a grand 3-D experience, complete with gusts of wind, splashes of water, and the welcoming smell of pie - and The Golden Mickeys)... before one of the women spotted the Jungle River Cruise and exclaimed, "Hey, let's go on THAT!" ... only to spend the better part of an hour in the queue, due to technical faults. We did eventually get our ride.

47-disney
Bambi, Thumper and Flower.

61-disney
The Little Mermaid float at the Christmas parade.

3-spacemountain
Space Mountain boarding area.

20-disneynight

21-disneynight

See more Disneyland photos

Returned to the hotel with Disney merchandise and a grandly pounding head to find my mother in bed, a walker jammed in the corridor of the room, and a doctor's report that said she had not one but three fractures - which meant absolutely no weight on that foot, or it's surgery for you! The tour operator was looking decidedly ragged around the edges from running around making travel arrangements and insurance claims for us (he managed to book us a flight out of HK on the 26th - and messed with the accounting a little so that my ticket would be covered by my mother's travel insurance), so we took him out to dinner by way of thanks.

Memorised William Ernest Henley's poem, Invictus, because I had nothing better to do.

25 DEC: HONG KONG
IN WHICH FAR GOES EXPLORING, AND FAILS TO FIND EGG TARTS


Our tour group left for Shenzhen in the morning after breakfast, leaving my family to spend Christmas in Hong Kong. Because my mother was immobilised and my father was in no particular mood to go out, I went out to explore the neighbourhood alone, armed with my reasonable(y atrocious) Mandarin and a smattering of perfect(ly hideous) Cantonese. Walked several blocks north of the hotel, across the highway, to get the folks lunch, then walked a fair way south, where I stumbled upon just about the most amazing thing: a Park. In the middle of the 7-million-people insanity that is Hong Kong, there was a walled-in Park. With gazebos, and artificial rock formations, and huge trees, and waterfalls. And clusters of old men playing (or watching each other play) chess. It was just amazing.

75-streets

72-park

73-park

75-park

79-park
I stood there, staring at them for a long time, then sneakily took the shot - and ran.

Came back, reporting to my mother that I'd spotted a banner advertising Portuguese egg tarts around the corner. She was absolutely delighted, and dispatched my dad and me to buy a couple of boxes to bring home. So we went after dinner, discussing exactly how many we could fit in our carry-on luggage (and each probably entertaining the idea of eating a couple at suppertime)... only to discover that what I'd mistaken for Portuguese egg tarts were actually... Pacific abalone. EPIC FAIL. >.<

26 DEC: HONG KONG - HOME
IN WHICH FAR'S MOM RIDES A WHEELCHAIR, F1 STYLE


Aside from a number of minor snags we ran into at the airport (delay in locating a wheelchair, in fixing a minor booking problem, and getting hold of our tour operator for the check-in staff to verify his credit card info), the trip home was largely uneventful. My mother warned us that riding a wheelchair might become a habit, given how comfortable it was being waited upon hand and foot - although she had to remind me at one point that she was neither a trolleyful of goods nor a Formula 1 car. The airport service staff did just about everything for us, right up to the door of the airplane, where the flight staff took over and totally indulged my mother. Thank the Force for business class.

------------------------

The rest of the family wasn't notified of our premature return until this morning. My mother's plan was to sort of keep the whole thing a secret for a while... only we know all too well what happens when you try to keep things from your own family. ;) But that's another story for another time.

July 2016

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