Monthly Archives: October 2013

Attention All Campers!

"...wear something bright and keep low." Tripper (Bill Murray) Meatballs

“…wear something bright and keep low.” Tripper (Bill Murray) Meatballs

Autumn is SCHOOL CAMP season in Hong Kong. The weather’s fine and dry, slightly cooler. It’s the perfect time for our upper primary and secondary school students to kayak, rappel, gorge walk, team build, stay up late, eat white bread and mystery meats, and of course wear the same t-shirt for four days straight!

But for some HK kids (species florem hothouse), camp is fraught with scary, new experiences, like making your own bed or hiking in wet shoes or gasp! horror! carrying your own suitcase.

In their honor I send out my deepest sympathies… to their teachers. (Next time you see your child’s teacher after camp week, please give him/her a hug and a shot of whiskey. Both will be much appreciated.) And I offer the following poem, sung to the tune of the classic camp song by Allan Sherman.

The lyrics are based on ACTUAL TRUE STORIES of HK kids at camp. You’ll think I’m kidding but I’m not.

Hello muddah, hello faddah

My school camp is such a bother

Camp is very intimidating

They’ve just told me that my helper won’t be staying


Expectations are so crazy

They don’t dress me, they won’t bathe me!

I don’t know buttons or even zippers

I can’t tie my shoes so I just wear my slippers


Not much longer, can I stand this

I cut my meat and, I choose my breakfast

I’m exhausted, by independence

How is cleaning supposed to help me with my confidence?


I don’t want to, be a baby

But this rucksack’s got me straining

Where’s my auntie, to play Sherpa?

It’s unfair to cause me any kind of hurtin’


On the trail I, dropped my jacket

But there was no one, there to catch it!

I hope somebody brings it to me

I heard you say it cost you quite a lot of money


Dearest muddah, dearest faddah

If you come get me, on my honor

I’ll be good and study harder

And I promise that one day I’ll be your doctor


But when you text’d me that you missed me

All my bunkmates, they cried with me

Then our teacher, she surprised us

And confiscated all our portable devices


So don’t call me, I’ll have to manage

Without feeling like I’m permanently damaged

I know you love me, but I’ve discovered

That it feels good not to be so very smothered




Monday Morning Music: Never Can Say Goodbye

But when you’re an expat, you do say goodbye. A lot. Sometimes your friends leave in bunches, and it feels as dispiriting as flood gates you just can’t close. Sometimes you reach a nice equilibrium where everyone you enjoy hanging with renews their contracts and leases and decides to stay.

But this is Hong Kong, and you know that won’t last.

Over the past two weeks I’ve caught up with some old friends, now living in Singapore, who were here for a visit. I’ve heard from another close friend who is transitioning back to life in Australia. And I’ve said goodbye to a dear friend and fellow writer who, after 20+ years in HK, has moved on. She and I haven’t known each other that long – not quite three years. We met in a writers’ group and we’ve written our first novels together, so it feels like we’ve spent a lifetime with each other, or at the very least a long, intense gestation period. Midwives to each others’ babies. I don’t think I could have finished my project without her.

She’s a huge music buff, and a fan of ’70s and ’80s pop. So I’m starting off my week with a few tears, a little disco dancing and two versions of the classic song, ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’. I chose a heartbreak song because well, I couldn’t find any music about the bittersweet goodbye of the expat (Graham Greene never wrote lyrics).

You just don’t get used to it.

My Madonna is Better Than Your Madonna

I got a little worked up about things and then I had to stop. I had to watch ‘Vogue’ on YouTube and then I had to ask myself: why am I getting so worked up about this? What a colossal waste of my time and energy. By this I mean Miley Cyrus and all her shenanigans and everything that’s been written about her.

But what needs to be said is it doesn’t make a difference how many body parts Miley exposes because there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is Lorde.

When you're tired of throwing your hands in the air.

When you’re tired of throwing your hands in the air.

EO and YO and their friends have moved on, fickle by right. And the new stuff coming from Bieber, Perry, Gaga is just same-old, same-old. So go and listen to the first 30 seconds of ‘Team’ from Lorde’s new album, Pure Heroine, and enjoy the future. It is glorious.

If I can paraphrase Willie Dixon here:

Well, the parents don’t know

But the little girls they understand

So this whole hot mess is just a bunch of adults tsk tsk’ing and/or celebrating whatever message of (dis)empowerment Miley’s laying down. Is she savvy? Is she stupid? Is she high? I’m not sure. But I do know two things: 1. She needs to get far, far away from that pervert disguised as a fashion photographer, Terry Richardson. 2. She will never be Madonna.

If there are any Miley fans reading this, you might disagree with the Madonna bit. But when you can find the following references in any Miley videos – German Expressionism, Catholicism, Racism, French New Wave, Andy Warhol, Busby Berkeley, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Martha Graham, Pro-Choice, Parkour – then we can talk. When Miley references ANYTHING other than porn, I’m happy to have that conversation.

A few years ago, back in the golden, wistful Hannah Montana sunset, I wrote my own open letter to Miley. I was trying to be sympathetic not preachy (but maybe a little full of myself too). I was trying to imagine a young woman who felt she had to go from her age-eight target audience to a sexualized adulthood in one album of pop songs. That can’t be easy. I don’t think Miley ever read my letter, but here it is again:

Dear Miley…

And for good measure, if you need this in your day: