Month: October 2014

Tomorrow marks the four week anniversary of the time I tried Zumba in Hong Kong. I had a coupon for a free class, and I thought it would be a great way to get myself up and out, maybe meet a fellow Zumba fan/friend, and as a bonus, listen to Ricky Martin. I am not a dancer. I am not an athlete. I like equal opportunity workouts, and Zumba has always been just that. Some women wear Lululemon, most wear t-shirts from James Taylor concerts. In my experience, it’s always been a low pressure environment, if slightly cheesy/obnoxious.

This was not my experience four weeks ago.

When I arrived, I completed a short questionnaire about my contact information, my medical history (asthma induced by cats and dogs,  if you must know), and then a section about Personal Fitness Goals. I left that section blank. My goal was to use a free coupon and shake my tail feather, thank you very much. Also to leave the house because I am new here, and Mondays can be lonely.

Our class instructor arrived wearing a cutoff Yves Saint Laurent sweatshirt and orange leopard print Adidas high tops. He had obviously taken a shower and styled his quite-coifed hair, which was not the route I had chosen that morning. He smelled like Jo Malone. And, as all Zumba teachers do, he wore one article of clothing clearly displaying his qualifications: his was a pair of neon shorts that read ZUMBA down the side.

The warmup was fine, although it quickly became clear that a 12 by 12 foot room was not going to be enough space for fifteen women to shake the collective tail. We sort of glued our arms to our sides while also trying to “greet the morning” with what turned into downward-facing spirit fingers. After a fifteen minute session of finger shakes and grapevines, the true Zumba experience began. But not before the teacher looked straight at me, now guzzling my water bottle because the room’s air conditioning had stopped, and asked, “How’s your asthma? ARE YOU OKAY?”

I replied that, um, errrrr, Yes, I was fine. Usually just, errrr, had trouble around animals… LIKE ALL THE COOL ASTHMATICS.

So it was finally time to Zumba and I thought things were going to get easier. Shakira would come on the sound system and I could basically just hop around a little and shimmy and call it a workout, like I have been doing for the past ten years of Zumba. WRONG, little Hong Kong transplant. Oh, how wrong I was. For the next 30 minutes, I swayed from side-t0-side while trying to copy the intricate footwork of a man who did not teach Zumba as an equal opportunity fitness activity. It was more like his former life on Broadway had come to an untimely end, and he wanted to see if all that choreography he had developed in his youth could work well for a bunch of sweaty stay-at-home-moms on the other side of the world.

After tripping at least twice and running into my neighbor at least three times, it was time for what I expected would be the cool down.

WRONG AGAIN. It was time for the dance off.

And that’s when I had a small emotional seizure and pondered leaving the class immediately, except I had used my only free coupon on this place and I wanted to get my money’s worth (of humiliation). The way I feel about dancing, especially if I think there’s a chance someone is watching (JUDGING!!!) my dancing is how I feel about dying a slow death by boa constrictor (btw, we have those here). It’s something I could avoid every day for eternity and not be sad. I can handle dancing 1) in the kitchen with my toddler as we pretend to sword fight or 2) after two glasses of wine. Ten o’clock on a Monday morning in a sweatbox? NO.

We were divided into teams, and then we were told to dance with reckless abandon to “Sexy and I Know It.” It was like the teacher reached into my psyche and thought, “How can I make this woman feel the same way she did on the first day of seventh grade?”Thankfully the other team danced-off first, which meant I picked up some tips from the moms across the aisle. Closing eyes, shimmying, and giggling at the end of the turn was a common technique. I decided to follow suit.

I shook my tail, and I shimmied, and I sang along as if I actually felt sexy and knew it. And at the end I didn’t just giggle, I cackled. Because if one year ago, someone had told me I’d be taking a Zumba class that involved a dance off with a bunch of expat women in the middle of Asia, I would have dropped dead. Probably of an asthma attack.

You just never know what can happen in a year.




One way we’re keeping up with news is through a new and STELLAR app, NYT Now. It is everything that’s wonderful about the newspaper, but curated and with captions that make me laugh out loud on a regular basis. Whoever is writing those captions has my ultimate dream job. I should be getting paid to sell this sucker because I talk about it constantly. And I am very persuasive.

So please cancel your Netflix and spend that seven bucks a month on this app, because I will sob if it ever goes away. My parents read the paper (The Denver Post, to be exact) at the breakfast table growing up, which undoubtedly taught me how to be a curious, information-hungry adult. So while I may not be reading the print edition, the news MATTERS. I realize I am preaching to the choir, but I think it reminds us that the world is bigger than our own hula hoop’s worth of problems. Reading the news makes me kinder and more empathetic to other human beings. And with this app, it’s also good storytelling. Definitely worth seven bucks a month.

Now watch this video about second graders feasting on a fancy dinner at Daniel ($$$$$) in NYC. It’s my new favorite.

“It tastes like soap.”

When people move to what’s known in diplomat-land as a hardship post, many Western food products are impossible to find. We are as far from a hardship post as you can get. You can find anything in Hong Kong, for a price, as the ol’ expat saying goes. (See me feeling so expat-y and experienced?) When we are seriously missing our families and the rhythm of a life we knew well, we can go to Starbucks and taste the same burnt coffee we tasted in Seattle. Mmm.

Although I run across familiar stuff all the time, finding a favorite American item is like running into someone you know in public. And for the record, running into people I know in public is one of the top-ten happiest things in a day. I LOVE it when that happens.

On the other hand, we didn’t move to Hong Kong just to pay 30% more for pumpkin granola. We better sit up and look around and learn how this culture is a brilliant new-to-us reflection of humanity. One of our goals is to rise above we-just-moved-here hibernation and soak it up, man. Even if it causes the culture shock to flare up again. We are working on a list of places to visit, habits to cultivate, and customs to experience so we don’t just leave here as essentially whitebread as we came. (Is that ironic? White people making a list for their fridge about cultural exposure? I can’t win for trying. I’m going to think about this all night.)

But while I freak out about my cultural blind spots, I will continue to grocery shop. Here’s some of what I’ve found lately.

healthy pigs

The problem with this label is…Wait. There are several problems with this label. First, if you have to clarify that the food is SAFE and HYGIENIC, you have already made me panic. And also, are your pigs sitting around talking about raw food and Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook? How can pigs be health conscious? The label also makes me feel inferior to these health conscious pigs, because tonight I ate some (more) British cookies and loved them. P.S. What the heck is SPF technology?

baby food

Lest you think that America is the only Western country capable of making disgusting food for children…HA! Tell Jamie Oliver to take the plank out of his own eye, on behalf of the entire United Kingdom. (Except I love you, Jamie, and I am obsessed with your new restaurant here and its beautiful branding, and please don’t be mad at me.)

sour cream

One funny thing is that every time you go to the grocery store, the selection is different. Especially dairy products. The inconsistency makes my mind go to the dark place of “How long was this sitting on a hot shipping dock?” But this week I found some Tillamook, and I decided to live on the edge. WORTH IT.


I’m sorry, but I have nevernevernever heard of Hooland. Is this a joke? Also, fresh currants are kind of too much. They are the fruit version of the person* you just met at a Christmas party who will not stop talking. Tone it down. *I fully admit to being that person sometimes.

french tea

New life motto: If it’s in French, take it/eat it/don’t ask questions. I am drinking in chicness with this stuff.

To summarize…we are not starving. And I will never be sad to receive Trader Joe’s snacks in the mail.