Friday, March 28, 2008

An Ode to Sheesha [Insert what you smoke here] by Anthony Lauderdale, 9:59pm Tuesday, Mar 25

One of my boys wrote this about one of my favorite activities and I just had to post it. Remember Common's "I Used to Love Her" ode to Hip Hop?

I remember the first time
Our lips touched
You tasted so sweet
You made my lips blush
Inhaled slow, no need to rush
After a couple rounds
I had a new crush
Friends arms outstretched
Eager to secure your allure
Procure your demure
De jure your inure
You’re so fashionable
They sought to procure your couture

Though my feelings were pure
I kept them obscure
My selfish ways
Is why our relationship matured
We were the envy of trendy
Haute couture
I’d smoke you for hours
And jut your lure

With you by my side
I was so sophisticated
Mixed business with pleasure
Soon became inebriated
Craved you after every meal
You kept me satiated
You knew how to calm me
So to you I gravitated
Your international allure
Couldn’t be abated
When we went out with friends
I became aggravated
As they patiently awaited
To touch your lips
To look at your hips
As you bubbled inside
With sips from their lips

I thought we had something special
And in you I could confide
When you kissed my friend
I nearly died
Though you were cheating on me
I’d let it slide
Either I was too addicted
Or had too much pride
Your intentions were pure
Didn’t conquer and divide
But when you were conquered by another
My high would subside
When you were divided amongst othersSheeeeesha!
I’d sigh inside
I’d even get jealous
And cry inside
Your imperial ways
Made me deny my slide
Into the world of euphoria
Filled with delusion and snide
Like the Hutus and Tutsis
I couldn’t put minor differences aside
And a Rwandan Genocide
Entrapped my mind

But I love you nonetheless
You helped me relieve stress
Relax after a test
As my lips were pressed
Up against your crest
I’d get epiphanies
Like the meaning of death
In my never-ending quest
To only smoke the best
With you I became obsessed
Our relationship was orgasmic
Inhaling was how we had sex

© 2008 ~ Transnationalist

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Art walks, March madness, Ocean Park, Shisha and other musings from HK

Links to photos I've been taking while here can be found on my Flickr photo site, so check it out if you want to

Why I thought keeping a regular blog would be an easy thing just goes to show how I sometimes overestimate my communication/writing abilities (which is, as many of you know, pretty bad, but I choose to ignore this obvious fact) and underestimate the time needed to hit my stated goal of once or twice a week. In reality it's not that hard, so the real excuse is that I've been extremely lazy and need to get my ass back in gear (excuse the expression).

So what's been going on since my last post about happy valley (my talib kweli music video, obviously doesn't really count)? Where do I start? I guess a synopsis of the last few weeks followed by my musings will be the way to go here.

FYI: For much of this I'll be mentioning neighborhoods and places that some of you probably have no idea about so instead of writing a several paragraphs trying to explain the neighborhoods here's a link to Fodor's section on the HK neighborhood you can check out if you really do want to know about them. Otherwise just pretend you know exactly where the places are and enjoy my ramblings

I've been exploring much of Hong Kong--so far it's been mostly the "familiar" areas on Hong Kong Island where areas like Central (a ton of expats and has a slightly European feel to it), Soho, etc...provides an endless array of shops, a variety of restaurants with food from all over the world, art galleries, hookah lounges, clubs, etc..., to explore. I've discovered some incredible places to eat, great art/photography galleries and so on.

About three weeks ago there was an Art Walk charity event that took place for one day that was quite simply sublime. For HK $90 (about US $12 the  student rate, regular was US $64; being a student definitely has it perks) we got to tour a plethora of participating galleries located in several districts along with all the free wine, snacks, beer, etc..., you could consume. I've got some pictures (insert link) but they really don't do justice in capturing the night. The surreality of walking up and down the steep, narrow streets found in the Soho district, slipping through crowds of mostly Europeans (and a good sprinkling of Aussies, of course) while sipping on a glass (okay, a plastic cup) of some unknown white wine and dipping in and out of dimly lit galleries is really hard to describe; suffice it to say it's an experience I'd encourage everyone to go through if the chance ever presents itself.

Let's see, what else? The other week, a few of the student ambassadors (local students from the university we're going to who have been assigned to help us out if we need it; it's quickly turned into more of a "let's go hang out and have fun relationship" which has been great) organized a nothing like a good basting of honey bbq saucebarbecue at Tai Mei Tuk, a beach in
Tai Po, which is in the New Territories. Gotta tell ya, Hong Kongers don't play with their barbecuing. Good times, amazing beach scenes and good people. Good times all around.

A place I've really enjoyed visiting is Kowloon Park in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, an amazing oasis in the middle of a very busy shopping area. The aviary has some amazing specimens in there and you get to observe so many interesting people and sights.(Images coming soon!)

Two weeks ago I got to go listen to Rob Gifford speak on the topic of whether "Is a Peaceful Rise Really Possible for China? Impact on Southeast Asia and the World," which was hosted by the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival.  Rob Gifford has, according to the poster for the event, "served as NPR's China correspondent from 1999-2005 and traveled widely in East Asia for NPR. He has covered elections in Taiwan and East Timor, diplomatic visits to North Korea, and produced a range of features from Christian missionaries in Mongolia to Internet start-ups in Hong Kong. He has also reported widely on Islamic issues from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Southern Philippines in the wake of September 11th. Mr Gifford holds a BA in Chinese Studies from Durham University, UK,and an MA in Regional Studies (East Asia) from Harvard University." Quite a mouthful. Anyway, it was a great lecture and had some very interesting thoughts and opinions about issues like Taiwan, China's place in the global economy, unrest in China, etc...(if you really, really care about any of this, shoot me an email and we can have a great discussion about it).

mr. octopusThis past Sunday I went with a few friends to Ocean Park, a marine themed amusement park. Yes, I went to an amusement park, and quit judging me, damn it! The views of the ocean surrounding it are spectacular and the sea life in the aquariums were an amalgamation of the weird and beautiful all rolled into one.

I've met a few Americans out here (there are surprisingly few Americans out here) and true to form, they've somehow found a way for us to watch March Madness. Thank God!!! We've been spending evenings watching games via satellite, talking trash and making friendly wagers.

In the next week or so I'm planning to go to Macau, hop some of the 235+ islands that make up Hong Kong, go see if I can scalp a ticket for the Hong Kong Sevens (a supposedly ridiculously fun annual rugby event held here), visit the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, and start planning the rest of my travels through Southeast Asia (planning on going to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and hopefully Bali in Indonesia).

I've met up with a few Nigerians here who I'm becoming good friends with. Sola (he's the younger brother of my friend Wale who lives in Chicago with me) works at HSBC and I met Chris, a colleague of his, through him. Really good guys. It's been nice to have some friends closer to my age and who have also experienced living in several different cultures. There's definitely something unique and familiar for those of us who have grown up that way that puts us at ease among each other. They've been great and have introduced me to some great spots like Makumba, a great West African restaurant/lounge in the Soho district and Sahara, an amazing hookah lounge (pictures coming soon!). I've enjoyed sharing my perceptions of Hong Kong and its people with them*--both the great things and the not-so-great things--and hearing about their experiences during the time they've lived out here.

*more on my thoughts in the next couple of days, hopefully =).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Talib Kweli - Hostile Gospel Pt. 1 [Deliver Us] (OFFICIAL)

So this is not about HK. I'll put up some stuff soon (I promise!) but if you love music that deals with social issues you should check out the beautifully filmed video for Talib Kweli's "Hostile Gospel Pt. I" which is set entirely in Lagos, Nigeria. Shot in the streets of Lagos amongst the people of Nigeria, with pieces filmed at Fela Kuti's Shrine, this ground breaking video, directed by Andrew Dosunmu (a Nigerian native himself), truly illuminated the message behind Kweli's song.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Valley races

Visited the Happy Valley racecourse on Wednesday with a friend I made out here who works for Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. Horse racing is huge here and over $10 billion is spent each year here. Yeah, $10,000,000,000. A fun, if slightly insane, experience.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


In the shadow of Big Buddha, originally uploaded by koréboy.

Went and checked out the Big Buddha, officially known as the Tian Tan Buddha, on Lantau Island. Big Buddha, the world's tallest Buddha found outside, weighing in at 242 tons and almost 112 feet high, sits atop the Ngong Ping plateau, chillin' in the lotus position next to the Po Lin Monastery.

The cable car ride was amazing and the view was breathtaking. I was struck by the beauty of the ceremonies taking place around me, though I must say the sheer number of people lighting incense to bring in good luck for the new year and having their fortunes told was overwhelming. As one of our lecturers explained to us, "The Chinese aren't very religious but are very superstitious!" I'm finally beginning to understand what she meant.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chinese New Year

So last week was the Chinese New Year and there's this big parade that takes place in the Tsim Sha Tsui East area of Hong Kong (I think it also winds through some other areas of the city). A group of us head out to check it out, joining hordes of others hopping on the subway and all heading in the same direction. We finally get to our destination, shove our way through crowds to get as close as possible to the road the parade will be passing on and set camp. After waiting for about 45 minutes or so, we hear the parade coming and everyone is suddenly craning their necks/standing on tippy-toes/lifting cameras as high as possible to try and catch a glimpse of it as it passes by.

Alright, so here I am trying to guess what will roll by first--the dragons? the dancers? drummers?--and I'm getting really excited, camera in hand, ready to capture my first authentic Chinese New Year in China (well Hong Kong, but same difference, right?) when I see this: Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, those are actually kilts, and yup, they're playing bagpipes. So I tell myself that of course this is to be expected because of the British presence on this island for over a hundred years, and also that this has to be the vanguard of the rest of the parade that would have the drums, the dragons, the firecrackers, and other performers. Well I was right that it was the vanguard, but wrong on everything else. This is the only dragon that appeared anywhere: Yep, kids on roller blades. Okay, I'm not going to say the whole parade was a complete let down, but...okay, who am I kidding, it was a complete let down.

The rest of the festivities were, thankfully, a whole lot better: the fireworks were amazing and we went to see the Big Buddha and the temple located next to it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hong Kong>Xi'an>Beijing>Shanghai>Hong Kong again...

After being here for a little over three weeks, I'm quickly beginning to acclimate to the food, the subway systems (so much better then anything we've got back home), the crazy time change, driving on the left side of the road (I'm still surprised I haven't been run over yet) and of course the fact that I'm in CHINA!

The first couple of weeks on the mainland were amazing. I couldn't update my blog because even though there's a ton of freedom in the use of the internet on the mainland there are still sites that are effectively blocked by the Great Firewall of China (the not-so-affectionate nickname citizens on the mainland use for the efforts by the government to filter out certain sites like Wikipedia, certain Google searches, etc...) and Blogger happened to be one of them.

I did write down my thoughts while out there and I've finally gotten around to typing some of them out which I'll be posting with corresponding dates. I'll also be posting photographs I've taken to my flckr account (click here), so when you get a chance take some time to check them out.

I've also got pictures from going to watch the Superbowl and 6 a.m. in a British bar in Central, HK, and other exploits I've been involved in since being out here. You'll see many photos of the local cuisine also--the food here is incredible. I wonder if I'll ever be able to look at a Chinese menu the same way when I get back to Chicago. And of course I did manage to find hookah bars in Beijing, Shanghai and a couple here in Hong Kong ;).

My goal is to update my blog about twice a week now that I'm back so check back occasionally if you're really bored to see what's going on or go to my flickr page to see if I've uploaded new images.

I miss you all but I must say I'm not terribly broken hearted over missing all the snow it sounds like you all are experiencing out there. Mainland China also experienced a ton of snow (the most in over 50 years) which caused major problems (read article here and here) but HK is great. The lowest it's been has been about 55 degrees at night so I'm not complaining.

Well the Chinese New Year is almost over--it began on Tuesday evening --and my classes will be starting on Monday so I'll be back to the grind; I'll admit I do miss being in classes--yes, I'm a nerd; so what?--and I'm looking forward to learning more about China and its place in our ever shrinking and yet expanding globe.

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers (I'm the only grad student among 50+ undergrads...) and you're in mine. I'd love to hear what's going on with all of you (it may take me a while to get back to you) so feel free to email me, skype me (if we happen to be online at the same time) or post me a message on facebook.


Jan. 22nd

Well here I am after ten years away back in Hong Kong (HK) and mainland China. Right now I'm in Xi'an, the ancient capitol of China (now it's Beijing, of course). I've learned a lot about the history of this nation in the last few days from readings, lectures our tour guide Stephanie, and our tours of various historical sights in Xi'an. We've been to the terra-cotta soldiers archaeological finds about an hour outside Xi'an, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the City Wall of Xi'an, the only complete city wall left in all of China.

On our first full day in Xi'an I ended up missing the morning bus and had to jump on a local bus to meet up with the rest of the group (when they discovered I wasn't on the bus they parked about 20 minutes out and waited for me); it sucked that everyone had to wait for me, but I loved taking the local transportation and enjoyed using gestures and sign language to figure out which bus to take to get to where they were. Needless to say I now have a new found appreciation for Charades.

Since this is my second time out here, what has really struck me most are the changes so apparent between now and then. The amazing growth rate economically in China can be seen everywhere--the cars, the amenities, the services, etc.... China was already erecting impressive infrastructure ten years ago. Now...well the results are staggering.

I have to pause here and also acknowledge that who I was at the age of 24 ten years ago and where I am now are two vastly different people in terms of experience and maturity (thank God!) and I've been blessed with having been able to travel quite a bit, delving/immersing myself into other cultures, and learning as much as I can. I came here to, among other things, study the similarities/differences between China and Africa (especially my home of Nigeria) and how identity as a people and nation affects policy (foreign and domestic), economic growth, etc...

With this in mind, as I have learned about the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (Qin dynasty, 221 B.C.), and his incredible impact on where China is today (unifying China by decreeing the use of one language, currency, way of writing, etc...) and China's relationship with the West (past treaties, wars, struggles, mistakes) I can't help but wonder where many of the nations in Africa would be if a) our continent had been further away from western marauders; and b) if we had leaders who would sought to create unified alliances and emphasizing commonalities that would not have been a more formidable front against the west.

I know as we continue on to Beijing and Shanghai I'll get some more answers but I know even more questions will arise which is the fun and beauty of it all. What lessons can I take back with me over these next few months that will help me create a concrete and pragmatic procedures to challenge identity, past policies and relationships between Africa, Asia and the West? What are the advantages of a truly unified system? What are the downfalls? What are the true perceptions vs. stereotypes that can be found in Sino-Afro relations? How do images and photographs factor into all of this? Outside of governments and the elite classes are there common ties that can be explored between the other classes of people of both continents?

I'm really anxious to start learning Mandarin because I believe it will really aid me in my understanding of the myriad complexities that are present in this country.

Beijing here I come!

January 26

Beijing feels a lot more like home (Chicago) to me then Hong Kong. It's got that gritty, urban soul; an aura of enormity, an air of urgency and a weary worldliness one feels in truly old metropolises like London, Paris, Cairo, etc.... There's a real sense of there being an international presence here and a strong mixture of the old and new, the traditional and the modern. Even the architecture reflects the the dichotomous nature of this city (indeed, of China). One of our guest lecturer's, Brian Chang, a world-class architect, gave us a brief and insightful overview on the structures found in China (esp. Beijing) and, combined with our tour of the Forbidden City really helped to begin to open my eyes to the soul of China, so to speak. By this, I mean i have been able to see the progression of Beijing's history through its architecture. Chang made a comment towards the end of his lecture, saying that" architecture should be about life," and as I've observed the architecture here, especially in the Forbidden City, I've seen this "life" in its magnificent edifices so rife with meaning, tradition and myth. It all speaks to a way of life unique to the "Middle Kingdom." The buildings, erected hundreds of years ago, are a breathtaking testament to a great nation and a great people.

I can see why, as Professor Tong mentioned, there was an arrogance and a belief that they were the center of the world (hence calling themselves the "Middle Kingdom") and how stagnation in progress could set in (a little history--to read more click here).

As I've read articles, attended the lectures on the trip and toured parts of Beijing a new realization and appreciation for China is emerging within me. Like I wrote in my previous entry, i know what I was coming here for but i was also coming with an open mind to learn from the unexpected (if that makes any sense). One thing I've learned is that the China portrayed by western media and governments is not the real China (which you'd think I know coming from Nigeria and seeing how news agency represent the news there) and that the one of the many amazing things about this country is its people and their drive to create a civil society, innovate and climb back to the top of the world stage.

I'm looking forward to revisiting the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall in the next couple of days. Not only is this a photographer's dream to visit these sites but the history I've learned about these places has given me an even deeper appreciation for what I'll be attempting to capture as I "see" them and try to represent through the lenses of my camera.

I'm still digesting and processing much of the information we've received during this last week here in Beijing and matching that up with the experiences of personally coming into contact with people here in the city. As the knowledge and experiences are accumulating I feel I'm getting closer and closer to a tipping point -- that point where some sort of epiphany will occur -- and all the various aforementioned experiences will coalesce and form a complete picture for me, an image that helps me to truly begin to understand the ins and outs of the middle kingdom.

These are many of the thoughts running through my head. I also wonder about governing styles. By this I mean I wonder if democracy, albeit different in form from that of the West, is the inevitable endgame for China; the allowance of privatization, the passing of a recent law protecting property rights, etc..., all seem to point towards an inexorable march towards democracy that may not happen in the next few years but will happen in the not so distant future. If this is the case then what will the end result look like and how will that shape policies between this country and its colleagues? What part will I be able to play in all of this since this is an area that means so much to me and how do I position myself to be a facilitator of this process? Once again, more questions then answers, but I feel I'm taking the right steps towards answering some of them.