Fresh baked “Fong Bao” from the oven – 方包出爐

Random musings & meditations straight from the oven. Hopefully some food for thought as well…

Archive for About Fong Bao – 方包的材料

My connection with the All Blacks

Through the years I’ve come to accept my lot in life as a sports fan, one that’s deprived of championships and/or sustained success. There are exceptions like Team Canada in the 2002 & 2010 Winter Olympics but, by and large, I’ve endured a lot of disappointments and heartaches for the past twenty years. Despite all that, I’ve never been ashamed to be a supporter of the teams I’ve adopted: the Canucks, the Mariners, Everton, England (in footy), the Seahawks and the Whitecaps.

And then there are the New Zealand All Blacks.

What happened on Oct 23rd, 2011 was an event four million Kiwis have waited for twenty four long years: Their mighty and beloved rugby team has captured a second World Cup title. While I was not born in New Zealand nor have I ever visited this island country in the South Pacific, I consider myself a part of the four million since I am a dual New Zealand-Canadian citizen. It’s a little known fact that surprises a lot of people I know.

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Shortly after my dad finished grade six my grandparents decided to send him to Christchurch (to live with relatives from my grandmother’s side of the family) in search of a better education and set up the possibility of the family moving to New Zealand. The latter did not happen but my dad got naturalized nonetheless and returned to Hong Kong after graduating from university. A few years later I was born and had the option of attaching myself to one of my parents’ passports (New Zealand or the old British Commonwealth Citizenship) for traveling purposes. If I remember correctly I was asked about it and proudly made the “pledge” to become a Kiwi. The rest, as they say, was history. Granted I was around five at the time and didn’t really know what was going on but, in hindsight, I was glad I made that choice. Otherwise I would have gone through a period of uncertainty with regards to my citizenship status prior to the 1997 Hong Kong takeover. But that’s a story for another time.

I only started paying closer attention to rugby about ten years ago and frankly am still learning the nuances of the game. With my somewhat indirect connection to New Zealand, it was a natural decision to adopt the All Blacks as my team. A glory hunter, I am not. In some ways I feel fortunate to have a connection with countries where a sport is so engrained in the national fabric that it can lift the spirits of the people: Footy in England; Hockey in Canada; and Rugby in New Zealand.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup final was not the entertaining spectacle I had hoped for but gripping to the very end. Aside from being relieved of the outcome, I was proud the All Blacks, amid the pressure of playing on home soil, produced the inner strength to overcome all their mistakes and win a match they could have lost. Alas the Eden Park magic lives on and a sense of indescribable joy and pride went through me when captain Richie McCaw lifted the Webb Ellis Cup; a feeling similar to one I felt when Canada won Olympic hockey gold in 2002. Driving home from *Cdn Gooner’s house that morning, I found myself humming “God Defend New Zealand”.

I’m not sure why I have not made my way down to New Zealand but I know I need to visit the country my father spent his formative years in. Better yet, it would mean so much if I can go back with him.

Working on “The Drive”

Welcome to Commercial DriveIs there an area in your city where you never/hardly venture into because it’s just “out of the way”? Commercial Drive was the place for me before I started working there in the fall of 2003. Previous to that, the furthest I’ve gone in the area was to the theatre and the legion hall around Commercial & 7th Ave.

I’ve grown to love “The Drive”.

Arr!vaI love its roots. It is Italian through and through.

I love its heart. Local merchants are proud of their trade and not afraid to stand up to the “evil” franchise store. The other day a man, Starbucks coffee in hand, sat down outside a local café & was given a verbal lashing by the owner.

I love its culture. One look at the sidewalk cafes you’ll wonder what these people do for a living. Sipping lattes and espresso on a week day?!

Joe's Cafe

I love its diversity. Young professionals, the homeless, vegetarians, seniors, low income earners, members of First Nations, all roam the Drive.

Mural

I love the smorgasbord of food choices. Italian, Greek, French/Tunisian, Japanese, Thai, Jamaican, Ethiopian, Mexican, to name a few, all within a few blocks. Colleagues from other areas are often envious of that.

Panini - La Grotta del Formaggio

I love its passion for the beautiful game. It is in full glory on any given match day during the World Cup and the European Championship. World Cup 2006 was especially memorable for obvious reasons.

The Beautiful Game

And I love its uniqueness. You’ll be hard pressed to find another neighborhood in town that has all the aforementioned attributes. 

Red Burrito at night - Corner of Commercial & 1st

Even though now I only spend 2.5 days working on “The Drive”, I still, and will always, consider it my home base until I move on to another role.

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If you love footy, there’s no better place to watch a match than “The Drive”.

The cell I call “My Office”.

Looking out from my office

(* = Lingo alert)

My office is located, literally, in the heart of the “bakery*”. It is sandwiched between the book vault, where we keep all our stationary, and 2 safety deposit rooms where clients use to check the contents of their safety deposit box. So the walls of my office are, understandably, a bit thick. Add a heavy wooden door that’s at least 2.5 inches thick; with a window the size of a sheet of legal size paper and you have an office that resembles a cell. If you add padding to the walls, the ceiling and the floor…….

What my office would look like with padding all around.......

But I digress…….(Come to think of it, sometimes I wish my office was padded.)

The view from my seat

Working in a window-less office can be somewhat depressing. Add to the fact I now spend only 2.5 days in that space, there’s a sense of disconnect with the rest of the “bakery*” as nobody seems to know what I’m doing and vice versa. But the trade off is privacy and I’ll admit I do enjoy the peace and quiet of my office whenever I need to devote my attention to a certain task. As long as the AC is functioning properly, I can close my office door and work away while listening to my iPod. (Believe it or not, listening to music while working actually helps me concentrate.)

The back of my office

There’s really nothing special about my office but I’m thankful that I can call it my own since a lot of colleagues in my role have only a cubicle or a work space to call home. So who am I to complain about?

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The Fong Identity

I no longer serve as much as I used to in the Church but I valued the time that I have interacting with the people that I serve with.

Few Sundays ago I was counting offering with Ms. S and we started talking about bits and pieces of the Hong Kong we used to remember. Ms. S is just a bit ahead of me in terms of life experiences and she told me about an interesting conversation she had with a friend.

This friend and her family came & lived in Vancouver for a few years before moving back to Hong Kong just before the takeover in 1997. Shortly after China regained control, Ms. S received an email from the friend and was told that “things have changed.” When asked to elaborate the friend could not provide an explanation or an example, only to say that she “noticed it” and “felt it.” Ms. S had read one of my first loaves where I wrote,

“…….I realized the Hong Kong I remembered and grew up in was nothing but a distant memory.”

So the question was asked, “Can you explain what has changed?”

Like the friend, I couldn’t answer it.

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Frozen TreatAfter lunch, Pie Pie Lo and I went to Queensborough Landing (Btw, lots of new shops there) for a bit of grocery shopping and I made a detour to the Marble Slab Creamery for a frozen treat. While I was eating and staring at that bowl of blob (Vanilla ice cream mixed with Skor, Oreo and Butter Finger in a white chocolate waffle bowl), it came to me.

My answer to THAT question.

Hong Kong has lost its uniqueness.

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For people who grew up in the colonial era, we were told, indirectly, we were different and we aspired to be different from those living in the Mainland because we stood for something China was not. We had, supposedly, better education, better opportunities, better infrastructure, better economy, better living standards, etc. We told the world that we were from Hong Kong, not China. We projected the image that we were forward thinkers, not backward farmers. We used to have a specific term in Cantonese to describe those from the Mainland –「阿燦」. Inherently, we believed we were different and, in many ways, superior.

The takeover (Noticed I used that word instead of handover) took away that uniqueness. Hong Kong was no longer the exotic British colony; no longer the thriving economic nerve center of Asian Pacific; no longer the pearl of the East orient. It is now just another city in Southern China that’s dependent on the Motherland. It is now Hong Kong SAR, China「中國香港」instead of Hong Kong「香港」.

The Bourne IdentityGranted the 14 years I lived in Hong Kong were all during the colonial era so my perspective is likely to be skewed. And I didn’t write this to disrespect any “Mainlanders” because I’ve known and worked with a lot of them who are geniuely awesome people. Having said that, I cannot deny these are my own personal feelings. Like Jason Bourne, I’m just trying to figure out what happened in the past that shaped my identity today.

Any thoughts?

Btw, Happy Canada Day!

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Watched the ceremony live 12 years ago and it actually brought tears to my eyes.

Farewell Ceremony of Hong Kong Handover 1997

Call Myself An Evertonian

(* = Lingo alert) 

Everton BadgeEvertonians are born, not manufactured. We do not choose, we are chosen. Those that understand, need no explanation. Those that don’t understand, don’t matter!

25 years ago today was a special day. Everton beat Watford 2-0 to claim their 4th F.A. Cup title. It was also the day I was “chosen” to be an Evertonian.

84 FA Cup

Like all young lads in Hong Kong, I grew up playing and loving the beautiful game. Everyday before class, during recess and after school you would find me roaming around the concrete pitch (yes, there is such a thing), playing footy* with my classmates. As a reward for doing well in school, my dad would take me to the park, teach me some basic skills and kick the ball around with me. One year during the year-end parent teacher meeting, my head teacher asked my parents why I wore shorts throughout the school year, even during the winter months. My parents didn’t know the reason so I had to explain that it was footy related – I didn’t want to rip my pants while playing. The REAL reason? It was just a hassle playing in pants.

When I’m not playing the game, I would be glued to the Tele* every Saturday afternoon watching the Chinese version of BBC’s “Match of The Day”( 英國足球大賽). That was my introduction to the old English First Division. But I didn’t know which club to support.

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A fellow EPL fan I’ve just met: So, I support (insert one of the so-called big four), which club do you support?

Fong Bao (proudly): Everton!

The fellow (confused, bewildered, etc): Oh……..really……..ok.

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To many, it just seems such an unfashionable choice.

So why Everton?

As mentioned off the top, May 19th, 1984 was a special day. That night was the first time I watched a live match from beginning to end. It may have been the colour of the kit, the style of play, the left midfielder with the sweet left foot (Kevin Sheedy) or the fact they won the match. But to this day I still can’t pinpoint the reason why it felt right cheering on the lads in Royal Blue that day. I suppose that’s what we Evertonians meant by being “chosen”.

It’s not easy being a Toffee* since I have yet to find another one in Vancouver, let alone a local supporters club. But I take solace that I’m not a “glory hunter” nor a member of the “prawn sandwich brigade”. Take a look at what “The People’s Club” have achieved with so little, compared to the so-called big four, for the past 5 seasons and you’ll understand why I’m proud to support a club that, arguably, have been, pound for pound, the most efficient club in the Premiership.

The best little Spainard we know

Tim CahillTim Howard

 

 

 

 

Less than a fortnight from now, on May 30th, the Grand Old Team will be in Wembley to take on Chelski for the F.A. Cup. Win or lose, it’s good to be back.

If you know your history……

Come on you Blues!

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More reasons why I started “The Oven”.

Growing up as a child I was encouraged to keep a diary but I never found a compelling reason to embrace the concept.

“I’ve got nothing meaningful to write about.” I quipped at the time.

Too young to have a perspective, I supposed.

I have made half-hearted attempts but frankly I simply do not have the discipline to maintain a diary for the long haul. Then……

Remember LiveJournal?LiveJournal Logo

About 5 – 6 years ago, Cdn Gooner (I think it was you. First name drop in The Oven, if I exclude Pie Pie Lo) introduced me to it and I slowly developed a taste for journaling. It was fun sharing some of my thoughts and parts of my life with friends and those who I’ve lost touch through time. But then I got married and busy with other things in life hence the LiveJournal experience came to an end after almost 2 years.

 

Unexpectedly, my “return” to Hong Kong in 2007 triggered streams of emotions that were kept inside since my last visit in 1989. Overwhelmed by the amount of change during that 18 year period, I realized the Hong Kong I remembered and grew up in was nothing but a distant memory. As well, I got caught up with the whole “Collective Memory” (集體回憶) movement and made a point to visit historical landmarks under threat of progress and demolition.

 The MagistracyVictoria PrisonOld Central Police StationOld Wai Chai Market

Armed with numerous pictures, thoughts and feelings, I returned to Vancouver wanting to share my experience with everyone I know. And ever since then, I’ve become more contemplative in thought and attentive to my surroundings. My little camera is now a trusted companion and helps capture images that interest me wherever I go.

But something was still amiss.

Facebook gave me the platform to share the images but not so much the words.

After reading a few blogs, I realized that’s the next logical step to take hence the construction of this blog.

While I’m not sure if “The Oven” is worthy of public consumption, I hope you will find it worthwhile. At the very least, you’ll understand what makes this “Fong Bao” tick.

Item du jour

“階磚不會拒絕磨蝕 窗花不可幽禁落霞
有感情 就會一生一世嗎 又再惋惜有用嗎”

謝安琪 – 囍帖街

Why? 點解? I just baked my 1st loaf of bread!

“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery”

 

I’ll admit my original motivation to start this stems from the fact a lot of people I know have their own blogs. Just thought it’ll be cool to “have my own”. But the more I read, the more I appreciate the time, effort and thought being put into each post. So this, in a way, is my salute to all my blogging friends out there. Thank you for allowing me a chance to catch a glimpse of your world and I hope to reciprocatethrough this blog.

 

Now, this may sound ambitious but 我想嘗試寫一個雙語的部落格*. So if you can’t read what I just wrote I’ll try and have it in English as well, if the “message” is not lost in translation. Or perhaps it’s time for you to enrol in that Chinese class you’ve ALWAYS wanted to………

 

(* I want to attempt to write a bilingual blog)

                                              

So to all who’ve just spent 45 seconds, valuable time you’ll never get back, reading this, I sincerely thank you! Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed and I hope you’ll find this blog somewhat interesting and amusing.

  

Cheers,

Fong Bao

 

P.S. This blog is dedicated to Pie Pie Lo!

 

 

Item du jour

Help! I’m locked inside my car. Checkout the audio link in the article. Compare to the woman who called 911 three times after McDonald’s ran out of Chicken McNuggets, this one is even more bizarre.

 
 

 

 

Charlie-Brown-Writing

As for The disclaimer….. The fine print……

 

Writing has never been a strength of mine so if the quality is lacking I hope to make it up with sincerity.