Global citizen making my rounds… towards ANTARCTICA!

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Map HK-HEL-NYCSo, having had a week to think back over my Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand Finland trip this summer, I am ready to update my Countries Traveled list! As of now, my father has been to 20 countries and my mom has been to 17. I’m between them with 18 countries visited now that I’m back from HK!

1. NZ
2. Aus
3. Switzerland
4. Spain
5. UAE
6. Oman
7. Qatar
8. South Africa
9. Rwanda
10. England
11. France
12. Jamaica
13. Mexico
14. Canada
15. Singapore
16. Hong Kong/Macau (China special administrative regions)
17. Thailand
18. Finland

(Honorable Mention: Italy – only running through the airport in Rome trying to make a connection!)

This means that after South America/Brasil (hopefully by the end of the year or beginning of next), all I need is Antarctica and I will have hit ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS! I’m sitting here now trying to research voluntary options for going to the South Pole/Arctic Circle! I really would love a selfie on the continent seldom visited by girls like me!  As a matter of fact, there’s a book I’ve been meaning to read, just for fun, called Antarctic Security in the Twenty First Century: Legal and Policy Perspectives. I think that it will give me a perspective on how to visit Antarctica, not as a scientist, but maybe in the policy/social scientist capacity… Who knows! #daydreams  Meanwhile, I really need to step my Caribbean travel game up! 😎 #worldwideunderground #globalcitizen

Review: Marsha Ambrosius – Friends & Lovers

Here’s a review on Marsha Ambrosius latest album, Friends & Lovers, that I wrote for Berlin based Pop Magazine:

Coming out with her second album, Marsha Ambrosius releases Friends & Lovers three years after her first solo LP Late Nights & Early Mornings. The British singer and songwriter and former member of Floetry illustrates the world of emotional merry-go-round relationship navigation that comes with friends who become lovers. The lead single, “Stronger”, a cover of Sade’s 1988 hit song “Love Is Stronger Than Pride”, mashes up Marsha Ambrosius’ chill R&B style with a verse from gangsta rap guru turned billionaire businessman, Dr. Dre. This is the first time I’ve noticed Dr. Dre lace a verse on a legitimate love song and he waxes poetic on the age old friends-with-benefits turned ride-or-die romance narrative. The mashup remake takes you by surprise by sampling Jeru The Damaja’s 1993 banger “Come Clean”, and puts you in a space of Method Man’s and Mary J. Blige’s 90s collaboration. Marsha Ambrosius also samples Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” on the song “La La La La La” but stops short of delivering the definitive sweet spot: Minnie’s timeless falsetto. Listening to the song, it leaves you either wanting to hear Ambrosius attempt the iconic high note, or be thankful that she chooses to stay in her lane throughout the song. (Click HERE for more!)

Dr. No To Eastern Medicine???

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For the first time in my travels abroad (between the Middle East, East/South Africa, Europe and now Asia over the last couple of years), I’ve contracted a stomach virus of some type. Nothing major, but achy enough in my abdomen to stay away from solid foods for the last four days except for a couple of pieces of fruit here and there (which I found out is the WRONG thing to snack on, apparently). Even though I’m in a foreign country, I’ve wanted to stay away from going to the doctor… not that I have a phobia of medical visits, I just always think, unless something is REALLY wrong, whatever it is will sort itself out. Hopefully. But, my circle of influence, here in Hong Kong as well as in the States, thought it was in my best interest to visit an MD, and since I was still in pain halfway through this afternoon, I ventured out on a hunt for a doctor.

So, in my mind, and in some of the suggestions given to me by friends, I thought it would be a great opportunity to seek out EASTERN MEDICINE given that I am at mainland China’s side door. I was curious enough to seek something out, but had my reservations at the same time. So I stopped by the front desk of the apartment and asked to be referred to a doctor. “Go out the door, turn the left, and cross the footbridge to the Great Eagle Centre.” Sounded easy enough. I stepped outside of the lobby and started walking. Overwhelmingly, the sunlight and heat were an immediate burden. Largely due to my lack of sustenance and mild fever, moving through the humidity, especially when in the direct sunlight had me question if I should even try to go and find a doctor. Going back upstairs to the air-conditioned room wouldn’t have made logical sense, but that’s how I was feeling. Luckily, it didn’t take long to actually find the doctor’s office, but as timing would have it, I had arrived during his lunch break, which was longer than an hour’s time. SO part of my mission was accomplished, finding a doctor that took walk-ins. Now I would have to wait out the time before he arrived to see me.

That would come easily with a trip to the neighborhood nail salon for a bit of mani-pedi therapy, which was long overdue. Because of the speed with which the nail technicians completed the service, I actually made it back to the doctor’s office ten minutes after he’d return from lunch. I went in, we made pleasantries (he couldn’t tell where I was from, “Don’t I look American??” I joked) and then I explained my symptoms: that though I’ve been here since June 1st, it’s only since Saturday that I’ve been feeling nauseous and experiencing mild stomach cramps. I explained that even when I drink water or eat a bit of fruit, my stomach cramps for an extended period of time afterwards, though I don’t have diarrhea or vomiting. It would almost be better to have some extreme physical manifestation of a stomach virus because at least I would know it was leaving my system.  With very little physical examination he diagnosed a mild case of food poisoning or gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the GI tract largely due to something ingested that was bad. He prescribed gastrocaine and hyoscine-butylbromide (basically antacid and an anti-inflammatory tablets) to be taken four times a day for the next few days. (For someone who doesn’t remember to take vitamins everyday, I thought, Great, days of pill poppin’. But, with the pain I’ve endured and lack of appetite, I’m sure I will remember to take them.)

In regards to the lack of appetite, the doctor asked if I had eaten lunch, a phrase that you hear often from Hong Kongers, and from my understanding it’s more small talk after a greeting than actually wanting to know what you’ve eaten. So I told him no, and that I haven’t eaten much of anything in days. He said, “You must eat. You will give yourself other problems if you don’t eat.” He suggested warm liquids, no greasy or fried food, and no fruit. I told him of the little I have indulged in lately, it had been tons of cold water, melon, cherries and a banana. He said everything I was eating was the wrong thing…. Warm water to drink. Rice and noodles with veggies in watery broth would be better to eat. But that didn’t sound appetizing at all! Sounded more like something I’d want to add spicy sauces and meat to! Nevertheless…

This led me to ask, “So, what options do I have for Eastern medicine?” He looked at me with a side-eye glance and said, “Chinese medicine?” I smiled and shook my head as he leaned forward and faced me full on. “I am Chinese,” he said, “And I do not ascribe to Chinese medicine.” My expression was all question marks as he continued. “Look. There are plenty of people who will still use ancient Chinese herb, but there is no way to know what it is and where it came from. You are taking something that has no indication of expiration or contamination. There is no regulation for the containers in which medicines are processed, or whether it is affected by the metal or lead. You don’t know the environmental quality of the ground from where the root came. You don’t know what environment and surfaces the herb is prepared in. You know nothing. It’s not hundreds of years ago when traditional herbs could be blindly trusted as the only or best option. If an herb is from a good or bad batch, how will you know whether the next one will be from the same? There is no standard that I know of for these things.” He was looking at me with such intensity that all I could do was sit back and exhale. “What an analysis!” I said, “I’ve never thought about any of that.” He went on about there being regulatory standards for Western pharmaceuticals and reiterated that he always deters his patients from Eastern medicine…

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Photo credit: preapism.com

So, there was really no other conversation to have with him about that. I don’t know, though, that I will take his word as the sole authority on Eastern medicine, but it has triggered my interest in reading up more on the standards and regulations associated with its production. I am fully aware, however, that Big Pharma has a devastating impact on people’s ability to get healthy and likelihood for substance abuse of prescription drugs. And I try not to always resort to pill-popping when physical pain is an issue. (Or at least I’m making more of an effort to take less OTC pills.) I never got around to asking his opinions on acupuncture, cupping, ear candling and Chinese massage therapy, but I think my time was up and my prescription was ready to be filled. So I kindly said, Bye bye! as he encouraged me one last time to EAT LUNCH! And I paid my $45 consultation fee before heading out to find a meal.

 

10 Things About Hong Kong Disneyland!

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A thing or two on visiting Disneyland Hong Kong:

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1) It is incredibly nostalgic, especially since one of my best friends growing up, Shay Shay Wells, absolutely adored all things Disney! We even spent one of her birthdays (I think her 16th) at the Disneyland Hotel Anaheim with her sister and our moms back in the 90s. She’s since passed away, but…… Being at DLHK reminded me so much of how it would have made her day to be here.

DIsneyland Hong Kong20140711_120823 20140711_120908 20140711_1209192) I was sooooo tickled by the group of BUDDHIST MONKS I saw around the park. Who knew they love Mickey and Minnie as much as I do! I took pics of them as they were taking a pic of me at the entrance! Later, throughout the day, I continued to chuckle at how excited they were at various attractions like It’s A Small World.

3) Speaking of IASW, I got on about three times, each time realizing that the degree to which I loved this ride as a child, I still do with same adoration. I even wonder how much of its global multicultural awareness theme had an impact on my desire to hop around from country to country these days as an adult! Nevertheless, it was comforting to sit back and take in each continent/country represented while humming the never ending ubiquitous theme song. I really think Disney does a good job illustrating snapshots of cultures. It was hilarious when a girl I sat next to on the ride around 13 years old nearly jumped out of the boat when we passed by Asia. “China!!!” she exclaimed of her motherland! “There is China!!” I just smiled, “Yes, honey. I realize.”

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4) I later wondered, upon riding IASW enough times, the degree to which people recognize that human beings of color are truly the MAJORITY worldwide. The ride starts in Antarctica but takes you directly into Europe where you see the British, Spaniards and Italians, but once you move about through the other continents and sections of the world, including the Middle East and the Islands, varying hues of complexion are most prevalent. I know this isn’t NEWS to anyone, but it’s something I find interesting in an exhibit like IASW, and considering that we still live in a time where “white privilege” is rampant worldwide. It was incredibly poignant that when passing through Australia, it is the Aborigines depicted, not the British settlers. And while North America is represented with ONE Native American, but TWO southwesterners, a cowboy and cowgirl, it is really interesting to see culture diversified through the eyes of Disney. What does it mean in the grand scheme of things? That perhaps there is a way to expand on cultural awareness and inclusion by further examining It’s A Small World, afterall…!

5) I was hoping, however, to see Tiana, the African American princess heroine of 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, represented SOMEWHERE in the park… If only on the Main Street USA parade float where most of the other Disney princesses were present and accounted for. But, alas, Disneyland Hong Kong has not taken the opportunity to incorporate her, nor Mulan or Pocahontas for that matter. I won’t chalk their lack of inclusion up to institutional racism though! LOL! I did notice that many of the entertainers are Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and Indian, and was really surprised to see a performer named Araceli representing Mexican folk dancing in one of the other shows. The performance also included an Egyptian queen and a male Native American’s folk dance.

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6) When it comes to inclusion, I thought it was great that the Main Street dance team included a teenage BOY whose Disney Channel choreography kept up with the best of them! It made me wonder if he was the first male to join the dance team, which otherwise was not very diverse at all. And if his inclusion meant that the team would eventually cast more dancers of color, as I’m sure there are many Asian/Southeast, African/Black, Indian and Latino expats, not to mention NATIVE HONG KONGERS who might like a chance to shimmy up and down Main Street USA!

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7) I purposely found things that were distinct about DLHK that I have never seen in the original Disneyland. For example, I found it interesting to see Chinese influences in the solid gold Mickey of the orient and golden junk boast.

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8) I don’t recall seeing Mickey Waffles in Disneyland Anaheim either, but that very well could be something that was later added to options for eating in Disneyland themeparks worldwide. The Chinese food menu, however, was a surprise to see! I didn’t order any of the delicacies, but given the amount of mainlanders who visit, I’m sure this is a welcomed option for eating.

 

9) The DLHK park is a lot smaller than the original Disneyland as well as the Disneyworld Resort in Florida, and it made me wonder how it rated in comparison to EuroDisney in Paris. I haven’t gotten around to looking at solid numbers and reviews, but I say that it’s pretty cool to have a taste of Disney to consider in Asia. I look at it like an intimate venue for all things authentically Magic Kingdom! It was also surprising to see the American flag waving atop Disneyland City Hall on Mainstreet USA, and it made me wonder if the US Consulate of Hong Kong actually owns the property on which Disneyland sits thereby enabling the Stars and Stripes to be flown. Something else to further look into, I suppose!

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20140711_155125 20140711_13010110) At the end of the day, I’m really glad I got a chance to visit this pocket of wonderfulness which ended up being more of a case study than I expected! The social scientist in me has really analyzed everything there is to about the themepark! But I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process. Since I didn’t get a chance to stay for the fireworks that happened after nightfall, I may have to make one more trip out to Lantau Island for another day at DLHK!

Review: Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

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I’ve completed a few more write ups and reviews for Berlin-based Pop Magazine! Here is a review of Lana Del Rey’s new album Ultraviolence!

Lana-Del-ReyIf Lana Del Rey knows how to do anything, it’s stay in her lane. The melodrama of her self-defined genre known as ‘Hollywood sadcore’ is revisited on her new studio album Ultraviolence. Despite claims following the release of 2012’s Born to Die that as a singer and songwriter she had said everything that – as an artist – she needed to say, the sultry, pouty songstress, whose melancholy delivery is Monroe’esque by some standards, indeed has more to say. While selling over seven million copies of her previous album, as well as positive reception of soundtrack singles for The Great Gatsby and Maleficent, to say that Del Rey is enjoying the success that comes with the fruits of her popstar labor is to draw the wrong conclusion. Reportedly, there is a disdain for life (or at least life in the spotlight) that looms in the shadows of experience with brutal media backlashes in recent years due to a string of rumors and misfortunes since the release of her most notable hit, Video Games. However, recording for two weeks with producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys proves that there is something to live for. In the classic songwriter’s tale, pain begets inspiration, and inspiration becomes lyrics. (Click HERE to read more!)

Review: Joe – Bridges

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I’ve completed a few more write ups and reviews for Berlin-based Pop Magazine! Here is a review of R&B veteran, Joe’s new album Bridges!

Joe-Bridges-AlbumJoe’s new album, Bridges, is as smooth as a glass of chilled moscato, in a manner of speaking. The R&B veteran singer and songwriter is true to his soulful roots with his eleventh studio release of ballads and up-tempo tunes. Many songs have a throwback feel to them, bringing artists like The Spinners to mind as you sit back and sip what he’s offering. Since his most successful album, My Name Is Joe with the lead single ‘I Wanna Know’, Joe has maintained a few hits while collaborating with artists and producers like R. Kelly, Mariah Carey and Kelly Price. With each album, fans get a chance to enjoy the classy artist in concert where he gives great performances bringing songs to life backed by live band. Like each of his albums, Bridges offers a collection of real life scenarios through music which listeners will be sure to identify with. (Click HERE to read more!)

 

And to get a taste of BRIDGES, take a listen here!

Cormega’s Return is Built on Purpose

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I’ve completed a few more write ups and reviews for Berlin-based Pop Magazine! Here is a retrospective of Cormega’s career and upcoming album release!

CormegaQueens’ native son, Cormega, is somewhat slept on as an MC, yet having lived and breathed hip-hop literally all of his life, he represents the authenticity that is lacking in many of today’s recording artists who fit under the genre. Followed by a faithful audience of lyricism connoisseurs, Cormega maintains that he’s building his legacy in rap music with the current challenge to elevate himself above the norm. With his upcoming album Mega Philosophy, scheduled for release later this month and produced by Large Professor, Cormega is adamant that hip-hop has failed listeners and that he is one of the few fighting for its culture. (Click HERE to read more!)

Review: Leela James – Fall For You

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I’ve completed a few more write ups and reviews for Berlin-based Pop Magazine! Here is a review of R&B Divas LA Leela James’ new album Fall For You!

Leela James: Fall For You

If for everything there is a season, as the ecclesiastical scripture dictates, then this is officially Leela James’ season. As the story goes, everything that James has done in her life and career up to this point has prepared her for the release of this latest album, Fall For You. Taking it back to the days when albums had ten solid tracks, James’ fifth record delivers a complete R&B listening experience worthy of pressing repeat and just letting it ride. (Click HERE to read more!)

Leela James: A Diva Taking Care of Business

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I’ve completed a few more write ups and reviews for Berlin-based Pop Magazine! Here is a retrospective of Leela James’ career and her upcoming debut on R&B Divas LA!

R&B Divas LA’s Leela James

In the early days of Leela James’ career of being a talented, bright-eyed and bushy-coiffed soul singer, the business side of the music industry wasn’t something that her team had handled in the most profitable way. Looking back, she acknowledges that she has the quintessential artist story of being excited simply to sing in the big leagues. As a result, a lot of efforts were mismanaged, if not squandered during the five years between signing her first deal and the release of her debut album. Nine years later, she’s all about business and performance, recognizing that the two go hand in hand to reap the kinds of success she is looking for. Part of the current Leela James business strategy, especially as it pertains to exposure and widening her fan base, comes with her decision to join the cast of R&B Divas: Los Angeles. The reality show follows her as she gears up to launch her fifth studio album, Fall For You, in early July… (click HERE to read more!)

 

Flowers Are For The Living!

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After a peaceful yet physically demanding afternoon at the Nan Lian Gardens & Chi Lin Nunnery, then trecking up to see the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, I was so wrecked that I decided TODAY I was finally going to get a massage for my achy lower back and shoulder muscles. I showered, changed and put my clothes in the laundry before heading out to find the spa a friend recommended here in Wan Chai. As I’ve developed an appreciation for walking on the second level of town from our building to the MTR entrance, I meandered through the warren of footbridges connecting the buildings until I arrived at exit A3 near Thompson Street down below where I anticipated finding the spa. The thing is, strolling down the back road I tried to follow the building numbers and eventually saw a sign that said “MASSAGE” in neon, but the entrance to the building looked much more seedy than I would have liked. So I stood for a moment contemplating and decided with disappointment not to go in.

Totally bummed, I crossed the street, still looking back at the dodgy building entrance trying to determine if that was the only possible “spa” or massage parlor in that block. Not watching where I was going, I literally stumbled over a bouquet of flowers on the curb. Once I looked up, I realized that there had to have been six to eight, maybe more, huge floral arrangements spanning the length of a few storefronts but on the curb without any fanfare or interest of the people walking up and down the block.

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I looked at the flowers to make sure they were real and in good condition, and I realized that not only were they in great condition, but many were incredibly fragrant… Stargazers, white lilies, roses, gerber daisies and all types of other desirable flowers from some garden far from Wan Chai. Just laying out… on the sidewalk. I walked past, to see if they belonged to anyone. And walked back the other direction to a woman I saw taking a few stems out to collect for herself. “Are these flowers out for the garbage?” I asked? Not entirely sure she understood my question, I inquired again, “Rubbish??” while pointing to the display on the ground. (Since I don’t know the Cantonese word for “trash” I figured maybe the British version would work!) She nodded and pointed to the arrangements as if to say, Take some!

So… I began with handpicking about six white and pink lilies, the ones I thought were most fragrant. I still wasn’t sure I should be taking them, even though they were clearly out on the street at 7p Sunday evening. Finally, a gentleman stepped out of a restaurant door nearest to me. “Excuse me, are these flowers out for the garbage?” He nodded, “Yes, I think so. The company on the fifth floor is done with them and it’s late, so I think you can take them.” TAKE THEM!!! There were so many that I couldn’t have taken all of them even if I wanted to… “So, I can take this whole arrangement??” I said pointing to one full of pink stargazers and gerbers. “Yes, if you want to carry it with you.” The arrangement sat in a basket that could not be seen without fishing through all of the flowers and greenery. I stuck my hand in to find the handle and heaved it up, balancing the other bouquet I’d made in my left hand with my purse and phone. “You’re going to carry all of this???” he asked skeptically! “Yep, matterfact, can you take my picture?”

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He snapped the photo, and helped me arrange my phone, purse, handheld bouquet and gigantic basket so that I could begin my 15 minute trek back home, having all but forgotten about my muscle aches and lack of success in finding a massage. It was still quite hot out, even after sun down, and within five minutes of walking, first up the escalator, across the footbridge of Lockart, Hennessy, and Jaffe then down the stairs towards Steward Road, there was a torrential downpour of sweat coming from my forehead and down the front of my face and chest. So much so I could not see from the water in my eyes, nor could I put the bouquets down to find napkins and wipe my face. But I forged ahead, stopping every few minutes to shift the flowers, smiling at people looking at me as if I were crazy… Imagine me, nearly six foot African (American) woman, with dreads in a bun, pouring sweat over her pink dress, carrying an arrangement and bouquet that clearly should be delivered via refrigerated truck! But I kept going until I got to the lobby of my hotel.

The front desk attendant gasped, “What is this??!?!?! Where did you get all of these??” I told her that I’d found them, and asked if she would like any. She was so surprised but was happy to take the white lilies for herself and one of the cleaning women in the lobby. I had already decided that I wanted to gift some of the flowers to my colleagues, so I went up to my floor and started knocking on doors as the “Flower Fairy!”… Only a few of them were home when I arrived, so I was left with the bulk of the flowers to bring into my room and try my hand at floral “re-arrangment”, which I always love!!!

20140706_195927I immediately went for the extra wine bottles that I keep to store drinking water in. I easily have five wine bottles that I reuse, and would have more if I hadn’t thrown out the ones I drank during my first couple of weeks here. (My brother once said if I ever had a motorcycle club, we’d be called the Poetic Winos!) The largest of the bottles I stored all of the remaining lilies in, thankful that at least eight of them have yet to bloom. 20140706_202825Next I filled up the bottle that a colleague gave me earlier today after a long conversation about how I loved its shape and would definitely make use of it, and I made a home for the two lily pads. Next I had to figure out what to do with the thirty or so gerber daisies, so I grabbed another wine bottle along with smaller glass and plastic cups I have laying around. You should’ve seen me in flower cutting heaven while Mama’s Gun played in the background, making sure each stem was just right. Once I realized that I wouldn’t be able to contain all of the flowers in a “vase”, I arranged the remaining ones into a little arc display on my glass table over my Chinese fan until I could reach colleagues to come and take some.

20140706_205307Once every flower was designated, I decided to leave the green leafy basket as a “potted plant” on my floor. I took a palm and few branches and placed them in a used Minute Maid bottle off of which I took the wrapper. And when I was done, I lit some incense and sat back to take in my little zen corner. In one regard, I can’t believe that I received all of these flowers for free when I was going out to look for a massage. But in another regard, I can totally believe it. 20140706_203102

For one, I believe in giving people their flowers before they have died. You can send flowers to my funeral, by all means, but I will get so much more gratification if I receive them while I am alive! 20140706_210202 Plus I’d like to believe that I have a whole lot of years left among the living to receive all types of floral goodness. I don’t get  gifted flowers as often as I’d like, though for my 35th birthday in April, my parents, brother and a few friends made sure I had roses to last for weeks. When I arrived in HK last month, I kept saying my room needed some vibe, and that I should definitely get flowers, but never got around to finding a florist. I really wanted some, though. So, I’d like to think that I thought these free flowers into being! Or, even better, God knew the desires of my heart, regarding flowers for my room, and made sure I finally got some! I mean, really… I literally stumbled upon hundreds of flowers for the taking. I anticipate they’ll stay fresh for the upcoming week as well, especially since many of them haven’t even bloomed yet. And best believe, next Sunday evening, I will be down on Thompson to see if they’ve thrown out any more bouquets to bring home… What is that saying about trash and treasure??? Fresh flowers are ALWAYS a treasure!

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