The Tourist

>> Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to spot a tourist: a map, a camera, a bottle of water, cargo shorts, rubber shoes, big backpack (or worse, a belt bag), possibly loads of shopping bags, overly giddy smiles, and a whiff of designer perfume with base notes of sweat and confusion. These things I try to avoid when I go to Kowloon , Hong Kong . The last thing I want is to be labeled a tourist, I don’t know with you but “tourist” does not sound too positive to me, i.e. a poser. Besides, I’m part of the ‘local’ crowd now—legal aliens marooned indefinitely for the promise of a brighter future. How to spot a ‘local’: settled and bored.

I’m on the routine now. Spend six months on the territory and you’re bound to know the tourist spots (and try to avoid it or at least go there discreetly), know which buses to take and which trains to transfer, where to shop cheaply, and know a few Cantonese sentences to get you by through the day and perhaps get you hooked one lonely night in a bar.

Culture shock here is not when you see a bunch of old Chinese folks doing flawless Tai Chi every morning at the park or being amazed (or nervous) around a gang of tattoo-clad kids with extreme fashion-forward `dos. Culture shock here is when you see a flood of Filipina domestic helpers along sidewalks at Central on a Sunday. One is guaranteed of this tear-jerking moment as random flashbacks of Milan , Anak and Caregiver overwhelm the first-time visitor. I’m used to the sight though. Like me, they’re already ‘local’.

Urban legend has it that Filipinos are more hard-working abroad. After more than a year as an OFW I’ve completely dispelled myths that Flips are lazy. Take away the trisikad, tricycle, trisiboat, multicab, jeepney and the occasional habal-habal and see the Pinoy walk. Here in HK, Filipinos adapt to the system without much qualms. We walk, we fall in line, we alight on designated bus stops and we don’t complain. This energetic and disciplined lifestyle reflects on one’s performance at work. At the end of the day, I’m tired but proud of myself for surviving yet another day without the usual conveniences.

So I get used to the absence of a nearby sari-sari store, tipid packs, and E-load and embrace a culture that has been perfected through centuries. Start the fireworks and throw the confetti, I’m a `local’.

And as part of the routine, when the work is done, the `local’ goes back to his quarters through a sea of lonely, weary workers on crowded walkways and trains, opens the door to his apartment, throws his bag on a corner, collapses on the bed, picks up the phone, and calls someone back home.

How to spot a tourist: a long face, phone cards and two mobile phones.


Work It

>> Friday, October 24, 2008

I hate to admit it but the long silence, despite all or any of the reasons, was nothing more than just me hitting the wall. It certainly took me awhile to get back because I was afraid to face the blank white space.

I hope the header is symbolic enough. I have arachnophobia. I have a new template. If eating freshly popped fear is easy for you to understand, we're transmitting brainwaves in the same frequency.

In any case, I'm back (yet again), with new harder equipment, a faster wireless connection, and a stronger sense of commitment to my blog. It should be better now, I think or else I'll have to give you the finger (video by




Abre Los Ojos

My photo
Thirtysomething educator who holds the secret to the meaning of life. =P

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