Tuesday, 21 April 2009

When is a play on a world stage but the men aren’t acting?

When it’s the Hong Kong Sevens of course. Once a year teams from 24 countries come to Hong Kong to do 15-minute battles of endurance and speed, not to mention knock the be-jesus out of each other, in this stripped back version of Rugby.

Me I go there to hang out, take photos, shop and where possible drink some beer. Oh, and to work of course! Lets not lose sight of that now!

For the past 5 or 6 years I have designed corporate suites for a couple of companies. Over time the companies have changed but I still have the two suites to mould and make my own.

But we are ahead of ourselves. The place, people and games are but a vague blur from the starting point. They are important; they are the carrot for me. They are the main reason to apply myself all that time ago in front of my computer.

Briefly the process, I come up with a couple of different graphic approaches for each of the suites and send them off to get feedback, critique, abuse (rarely though it has been known to happen) direction and/or style tips. We short list them between our selves, or even lock in one approach but extrapolate it across the various areas and items that will be branded. Some work, others less well. Refine, design, submit. Finally the resulting art is satisfactory and the design is sent through to the client with a rational. A flurry of emails follow in its wake.

Slowly bits are designed and sent off for production other new bits are added to the list of things to produce and changes are a daily event all the while we watch the calendar, waiting for the day where we get to jet off to see our handy work. To fly there to immerse into Hong Kong, and of course, to drink some beers at the Sevens!

The big news is Cold Play were on my flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, sorry I know, I should have mentioned it before but I am now watered and fed and a lot more subdued. Sort of slipped my mind to this point. They travel with a lot of people. Oh and lots of stuff. Nothing else about them, didn’t chat, didn’t stop only realised when I was standing at the carousel waiting for my bag and LCD TV to come out. I saw them there with a huge entourage and about two tonne of bags some of which bore logos for the tour. I need a visual prompt sometimes. Cant always be quick.

Bugger, jackhammer! Urgh! I am in this room for 6 days and I have a jackhammer that starts at 8am. Hong Kong it truly the armpit of Asia, from a sensory perspective. The overload of smells, sights and even the tactile bits.

I had the morning to tour about. I looked in shops, went to H&M brought some new boxers and two jumpers because it is cold here, went to Shanghai Tang (one of my favourite stores here in HK) tried on some expensive jackets, sprayed myself with expensive after shave and exited to wander about some more, wished I HAD OF BROUGHT MY CAMERA, EVEN MY LITTLE HANDY ONE(oops cap lock).

There was this wild lady taxi driver, she had stuff all through her cab, above the speedo there would have been 5 or 6 phones, not sure why, books, animals, flowers, it looked like a lounge room in there. No one would get in, Hell, I didn’t either. I know I should have, but she really was weird and I was most worried about her ability to navigate the cab safely without being distracted by the myriad of shiny things in front of her. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a mirror ball hanging from the ceiling. Across the road were signs in Chinese and English calling Citibank to give compensation for losing peoples life savings, the cold hard light of the economic downturn. Is very evident here in Hong Kong. Have to get some technology while in Hong Kong. It is a prerequisite. No trip here can be concluded with out new Tech Gadgets and a foot massage.

Went to the box in the afternoon and finished off the graphics, ordered a couple of oversights and changes and padded about the place which in a few days would have 50 000 people wandering about through it. For now, there were just other teams of workers finishing off their own bits and pieces.

Went for dinner at American Peking for Tija’s birthday. I drank a lot of beer, more than I have drunk in a long time. Luckily it isn’t overly strong or my head would hurt more than it does. We even found the Kebab shop in Wan Chai on the way home. Every city has its kebab shop. Of course as one does in these fine establishments, we ran into an old friend from previous years Rugby. A Texan from Europe. I know it’s a great sentence, very visual isn’t it. Like us he too had had a couple of drinks and was partaking in the absorbing qualities that is this collection of chicken smothered with garlic sauce, laying in a bed of lettuce and tomatoes all wound up in a pita roll. I wonder if they taste any good in the daytime? Best not check!

Woke late, didn’t hear the Jack Hammer start this morning though it was there when I came too at 9.25am. Welcome to another wet and cold day in Hong Kong, well it’s not overly wet, showers, overcast at present. I hope the rain stays off for the rugby. Doesn’t help if it is raining. But first breakfast. Omelette, Canadian bacon, coffee, juice, ahhhhh.

Now I am stretching and getting ready to go to work. Will leave here just after 10. Have to be at the hotel before 11 to set up for the lunch then from there I have to go to the stadium and set up the AV in the suite. Stay there for 3 hours on my own and then everyone will arrive at around 4pm. Tonight I will finish at around 9pm. Urgh! For my amusement this afternoon I have several episodes of Flight of the Conchords to watch so I am not worried about being bored at the suite. My job is to just make sure it is already for when the client arrives with all of the guests. I also have a 32 LCD with me to play them on, everyone should travel with such a monitor, so I will be big screen entertained.

Just spent the last 15 minutes looking at iPhones, they want HK$4850 for one, is that good? I don’t know. Should I? Do I need it? Another toy, hmmm. I will think about it.

They came, they drank and ate and then left. We served them beers and wine. I took photos and chatted. Tired, but the really good thing is I’m not drunk, which is usually the scenario at 11.30pm on the 7’s Friday in HK . Bad news is I have put on about 2 kilos from eating and drinking this week; Well it’s Hong Kong for god sake and I would have done more damage had I been drinking!

Saturday is the real first day of the Sevens though the first 12 games are played on Friday afternoon.

Walked to the stadium, the good thing about staying in Causeway Bay. Sulked in the sprinkling rain up the hill. Actually walking around the city on the way from the hotel to the stadium is great, its a procession of weirdly dressed people all making their way up the hill, all trying to get there early enough to secure a spot, a good spot in the famous South Stand, it’s not every day that you see a collection of Smurfs, vicars, prostitutes (Usually boys dressed as girls), sheriffs, Indians (both sorts), the Gendarme about 20 of them too, some guys in fat suits, cowgirls, about 50 Steve Irwins, Hulks, hedonists, Cops, Generals, Mao’s and more.. That is the real Sevens. We are living a more sanitised version up in this corporate suite with free booze, though I am serving it not consuming it, free food and lots of great giveaways, hats, shirts, bags etc…

Come 6.30pm Sunday arvo and the Sevens had ground to a halt for another year. Fiji cemented their dominance by beating South Africa in a nail biting final. We cleaned up. I packed my 32” Hi Def LCD, looks great now in my lounge and headed back to the hotel. A quick clean up and then we went out and had pizza for dinner, Scott, Tija and myself. Quiet evening followed by an earlyish night. The morning came quickly to find myself standing at my window watching my little corner of Hong Kong waking. The view of the apartment block, across from my room, is slowly illuminating square by square, like a game show when you get the questions right. The sky is grey and promises another overcast and somewhat bleak final day for me. Bed is out of the question so I shower and disappear to the restaurant for breakfast. An omelet later finds me back in my room, I pack, I brush teeth, I spray aftershave on and then I peer yet again at the apartment building across the square. Before it was the tell tale signs of it coming alive, now the whole building has signs of life. I glance at the digital clock beside my bed. I have 8 minutes before the jack hammer starts and I can hear what city sound there are; cars and trucks and a general city din are the morning sounds that are reaching up the 14 floors to my room. I drift. It will be nice to get home to the frogs, birds and the 100 cc motorbikes again. I have had my hit of the city. I am ready for Bali. Oops out of time. Jack hammer has signaled this post must go.

And before I go, that iPhone. The Ayes have it. Boy gets new toy.


Monday, 20 April 2009

Mad House Down at the Beach

This was some stuff I wrote on Nyepi Eve. I then went off to Hong Kong for the Sevens, expect an entry soon came home for two days and drove to Java with Maxi for two weeks. Expect another entry when I write it. This one is a day in the life. Shouldn't be too bad a read! Enjoy!

This morning was a mad house down at the beach.

It took 30 minutes to drive in; normally a 3 minute drive. You should have seen it.There were trucks full of people, cars, and families shoe horned onto the world’s smallest motorbikes. A cacophony of sounds, smells and sights. People, sirens, gamelan music, hawkers selling everything from plastic toys and food to Red Bull and watermelon, the odd chook and a sorry rooster was also to be heard letting fly with it’s announcement of morning. Smoke from small fires hung about the carpark- not sure if it was from the fires or if all the men had fired up their Garam Garams (clove ciggies) at the same time.

There were waves of people. They arrived as a village enmass descending on the area in and around the temple and overran it for their allotted time. Then they packed up- clambered aboard the various modes of transport and skedaddled just in time for the next wave of attendees. The event was like a finely tuned machine.

The trucks were used to transport the family relatives, dead and living. Each huge extended family stand in the back and get driven from one ceremony to another. Their ancestors are carried about in paladin-like structures with these little rooves, gold and finely carved. Truly lovely.

As for the Gods throwing water at the believers it was there in all of its glory. Just as I predicted but even better as the tide came in. Most of the time they sat in an orderly fashion along the shore but eventually they wandered down to make their offerings. There was people dodging in and out of the shore dump as it snatched at their feet seeming to want to drag them into the sea. Mocking, teasing.

Some people climbed on top of a rock right in the middle of this shore dump. It seemed as if Neptune was playing with the climbers making it more difficult for them to negotiate the sharp outcrops on their way up and down.

I shot this panoramic view that needed to be stitched together, not a bad job if I say so myself: I stood in the carpark and spun. Lovely pirouette it was too. You will see praying, trucks, hawkers and people. I chose a lull to shoot it as I didn’t want to upset anyone. What do you think?

In a moment not long after I took these photos I made my escape. Only took 10 minutes to get back to the main road. At one point I had to slow down as I met another wave of revelers head on, pulling over to let their parade pass.

So that was my morning, oh the waves were not as big as the hype but I did get some lovely ones. Had a bad hold down where I was inside and the white water sort of landed right on top of me but instead of pushing me forward in it’s wake, like they normally do this one pushed me down and pinned me to the reef. I fought it and just before my air expired it released me. I scrambled to the surface and gasped for air. My arms and legs fatigued form the fight and lack of oxygen. I paddled hard to the channel so I wouldn’t be caught by the next one. It’s times like that that I wonder why I surf. The feeling doesn’t last though and the rush you get falling down the face of the next wave neatly erases the thought from your memory.

Didn’t wear a sarong this morning, I felt very disheveled, but in true Aussie style I wrapped a towel around my waist and wet boardies to somehow emulate these immaculately dressed people around me.