So reflecting back to this summer I have to comment that Brave New Voices ’09 in Chicago was awe inspiring as always. My dear friend Iyeoka Okoawo captured the event culminated in some dope clips and juxtaposed it here with her song “Yellow Brick Road”. Her energy and belief in what we do is so inspiring, I believe in her and I believe in this creative art movement we are a part of. This song really highlights the power we all have to expand the art of spoken word, the art of communal dialogue and the collective ability of our voices to make positive change in our world. Do yourself a favor and check the video. power up!

Growling Halcyon

pillows of smog
on its throat, spoken
heavy like broken meteors
landing in the harbor

the lights
high accessory, aurora
bling future, garment
space suits
on buildings

star ferry, rocking
charted
ancient long, beams
hold buoyant
history

flute slung down
sub-tropic mountain side
a typhoon,
whistle in bamboo

beast rattle, trolley
car thunder
growling Halcyon
pronouncing
the city

So I been adventuring since I last inked here. An acquaintance of mine, a friend named Jim, dropped in on his way from Shanghai back to Seattle this last weekend. We ventured to an area called Lan Kwai Fong which is near Central in HK. LKF on a Friday night is a freaking zoo. It is essentially the party area for expats, foreigners and locals to co-mingle and get crazy. There are literally thousands of people partying the streets and bar hopping – every weekend.

The drinks in the bars are pretty pricy, but its legal to drink in the street so this is how it works: You go to 7/11 and buy a beer, the cashier pops your bottle top and you basically kick it in front of 7/11 drinking your beer and watching the mad scene unfold. Needless to say Jim and I had a fun time, we behaved ourselves for the most part and were responsible within the realm of having fun (<—mom). The thing that baffles me is that people party like this all the time, its cracking till the sun comes up for real. It is definitely a scene, and you have the same people kicking it in the 7/11 crowds as there are in "members only" clubs.

Since last writing I have learned how to order a few things at restaurants on my own, learned a bit more cantonese and learned that it would be possible for me to spend all my money on clothes here. Ima be sooo fitted when I get back to Seattle, ya not ready. haha.

I have a pretty solid list of bomb eats spots around Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. BBQ pork is off the chains, the won ton noodles at Mak's are quickly becoming a staple in my diet. (ACTUALLY just made friends with one of the servers there today, Calvin, and he offered to take me to some more spots in Causeway Bay this Friday afternoon on his day off!!! ahhh jeeeah.)

I got to play “local” this week a bit too (while dude Jim was here, and again yesterday and today while my friends Jenny and Myra were here for a wedding for their friends). I have to admit it feels pretty good to introduce HK to other people, I haven’t been here too long but these couple visits have been a good measuring stick for how much I’ve really learned about the city and how comfortable I am traveling around it.

School has been going great still, students are having epiphanous moments this week in terms of using imagery and simile to describe things. We are writing “Where I’m From” poems and learning to detail our surroundings and our experience in our local environment by making comparisons using the 5 senses. Some really great stuff today, one student’s opening lines (Gordon) stuck in my mind he said:

Boats travel like flash photos
the harbor smells like diesel
and rotting fish

I am really proud of the work they have been doing. It has been really challenging for them to conceptualize some of these ideas, as well as its been a challenge for me to communicate them but they are all very intuitive and creative and willing to try. Overall, by the sound of it, it looks and feels like they’re gon have some tasty poems when were done, in a sense you could say they are following their noses. : )

Well on to the next next for now. Going to Vietnam next weekend with my friends Carmen and Joanne, staying in Ho Chi Minh city for 3 days over the holiday. Really excited, they’re really fun -should be a great trip. Keep ya posted.

peace – mg

I taught my first class today at HKSC.

I went to bed last night truly believing and 100% convinced that I was supposed to be at school at 10:20am. I woke up at 8:30 this morning, hit snooze for the 3rd time like, “ah I’m cool plenty of time….wait lemme check that schedule just to make sure I’m not trippin, its in my bag somewheres….ah yeah….here….wait what….ah shit….this says class starts at 9:30!!!!”

Jump outa bed, toothpaste to toothbrush run to the bathroom (IT TAKES 40 MINUTES TO GET TO SCHOOL ON THE TRAIN) “ah man can’t be late, can’t be late, can’t be late, first freakin’ day, damn it, damn it, should have checked before i went to bed. AAAAAAHHH, it takes forty minutes to get to school on the train…”

Money, wallet, labtop, umbrella, backpack, shoes, socks, t-shirt, pants, shoes, hat, ipod, keys, hat, money, MTR card, take my vitamins, banana, granola bar, can’t eat or drink on the train. lock the door, hit the lift, ground floor, shit it looks like rain, its not so hot though, kinda nice, Times Square, no time to spare, run down the escalator, don’t hold the handrail. train better be there….

I made it to school at 9:20! boooyah!! Walked in the staff room all casual like…grabbed my handouts, preprinted with the invaluable assistance of Grace, (i’d call her my sponser? i think? and a senior teacher and the English director, she looks out sooo hard for me, she’s amazing.) Head up to class and I’m in there, kids ain’t even seated yet, still millin’ about. I’m wiping sweat from every area of my face and neck, ready for the lesson.

It seemed like a success. I was able to communicate the basic make-up of a poetry slam. Then we watched YouTube videos of Alvin Lau’s “For the Breakers” and Kelly Tsai’s “Little Red Books”. These two poems were perfect in introducing the range of spoken word poetry and what is possible with this art form. Students were also able to relate a bit to Alvin and Kelly both having Chinese heritage. Some great observations and comments were made for both poems.

Oh yeah on the way there – Stevie Wonder on the ipod – “Higher Ground”. Plus Outkast Aquemini to get my mood right.

I really enjoy being at school, I have my own desk in the staff room. Planned two more weeks of lessons today, its super chill and great energy there. I was bumpin Goldfronts doin work!! at work? yep. doooooope.

I met a local MC this evening goes by Double T, seems hella cool, and he’s got some good level of fame in terms of things here. There is really no HipHop scene in Hong Kong at the moment. There have been underground groups come and go, but as of now Hong Kong HipHop in general is nearly unheard of.

There is a strong B-boy movement and Graffiti, but really not much MC’ing. So in regards to that I should say there is little HipHop music being produced here. He will be teaching a class after school on rapping in Cantonese, the concept of “flow” in HipHop and some of the history. I’m so in there. : )

Overall another amazing day!!

From Causeway Bay on to Kowloon City/
i’m far east ridin’, stay gettin’ gritty/
but i’ma wash my hands/
yeah, health is on my mind too/
immunity defense/
ain’t tryna catch swine flu – ha!

peace yall, much love. – mg

I have decided that Prefuse 73 is so far the best music I’ve found for walking through large crowds and giants lights. I put it on “shuffle” through his albums and soundtrack with my backpack, nikes shuffle on the pave, hot days to nights, when I’m home on the way.

I presented myself today to 400+ teenage chinese students. I learned how to say good-morning (joh-sun) and my name is (oh-go-mang-hai…) practicing under my breath until i walked on stage. They were the first words I spoke in front of the entire school. Annnnd nailed it!! Haha, after I said “oh-go-mang-hai Matt Gano” everyone clapped and jeered in approval. I laughed and it was awesome.

I have not been that nervous to speak in public in a very long time. I went slow with my poems and tried to explain spoken word in basic terms for now just as a brief introduction. I stayed at school the entire day, sat in on some classes and observed a couple teacher’s teaching styles. Beyond the cultural and language differences I am still recognizing a lot of similarities to back home. HKSC is comprised of many young and talented amazing people.

The girls at the school are not subtle. I was told at least 3 times today that i was “very handsome” and then it was revealed to me by a group of girls themselves that “all the girls are swooning for you” hahahah very flattering. Learned some new phrases in cantonese, I’m very excited to keep learning the language, the students seem very open to teaching me some of the basics. One student (Charmane) believes I will know Cantonese by the time I leave here, “3 months is pleeeenty of time” she says. Thanks for the confidence. Right now I’d feel successful just knowing how to order food on my own!

Today was a brilliant day. I got to visit the Hong Kong School of Creativity for the first time. Rocking Dub music, Ipod on the MTR (the metro train here). Its really good when you can find your way on your own with a few basic instructions. I have a secret thrill for riding trains in big cities, Seattle you have prompted some sort of instinctual affinity with your inadequacies. I first met with all the English teachers for Dim Sum, which by the way was the super crackalackin bombness for shizzel.

Everyone is soooooo dope at this school!! All the English teachers are young and hip, energetic and hilarious (and speak perfect english). Their excitement for my involvement in their classes is genuine and encouraging. It seemed a true instant connection with all of them. One of the first teachers I met is named Ken – but he goes by “Punk” – because there is already someone named Ken at the school. Naturally there couldn’t be two Kens, so he jokingly told them to call him Punk, and it stuck. All the kids are allowed to choose their own American names, two very comical young ladies approached me together and introduced themselves. Their names are Cowball and Ribsy. Yes Cow – ball. Awesome!! I was made to feel very comfortable today and feel very welcomed at HKSC.

In hearing the description of the classroom atmosphere and student disposition from the teachers, it is very interesting that the kids here are paralleled almost directly with the kids I work with in Seattle. Similar issues and challenges. I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone and becoming a regular at the school. I spent 6 and half hours meeting people and talking with students before I even realized it, it flew by easy. Took the train home, ate a big mac and fries from MacDonald’s, yep it tastes the same everywhere, how magical.

Many apprehensions, tensions and anxieties were lifted today. Its been nice taking it easy, adjusting and relaxing these last few days, I’m ready for the gems though. Put me in. yayay!!

The air in Hong Kong is thick.  Walking the streets during the day feels like hiking in high altitude, only with a lot more exhaust and the pungent smell of sewer mixed with wet market.  The wet market is an open air market with fresh fish, vegetables and hanging meat.  You can find many great items here, although it seems a bit daring to buy a rack of ribs that have been hanging all day in 90 degree heat, but what do I know.

In Wan Chai during the day, the street sounds like a trash compactor eating a wood chipper. It has its own type of charm, that big-city-watch-your-fingers kind of charm. My room is on the 14th floor, the sounds echo from the buildings like vultures circling in smog.

Today I found ants in my room.  They are the smallest ants I have ever seen actually.  Their whole bodies are about 1/3 the size of your normal black ant.  They have light brown almost translucent bodies with black heads.  I am almost definitely certain they are in fact ants.  I have been studying their behavioral patterns as they scatter back and forth across the molding on the floor.  I first discovered them this morning as they formed a trail of lava from an empty granola bar wrapper I left on my nightstand.  They do not appear to be harmful, but rather inconvenient.  Their arrival has prompted me to venture out to the grocery store in search of ant traps.  I was successful in finding the ant traps.  They have been placed strategically along the path of the ants and now I am watching with furious curiosity as they swarm the “combat” bait.  I realize this is not very zen, or taoist, but I have asked the ants for forgiveness and acknowledged the fact that I have constituted chemical warfare upon their colony.  They are very excited and seem to be enjoying eating the poison.

So i got to meet up with my friend Chung last night.  We were friends in Seattle while he was going to UW, taught him some American slang and showed him around the night life etc.  Anyway we hadn’t spoken for about 2 years but when he left to come back to HK he told me to look him up if I ever were to come out here.  So that I did.  He showed me around Wan Chai (which is were I’m staying, and also happens to be where he works, pretty bad ass)  and we crossed the bay on the ferry, the city at night is some sort of futuristic space module,  the buildings all laced with lights that morph and change colors, chinese food is better in china.  We came back to Wan Chai and got beers, Chung led me to what appeared to be some sort of “red-light” district. Walking past the “dance clubs”  the women watching the doors literally were grabbing my arm and trying to pull me in.  I did not succumb to their temptress ways….this time.  hehe – jokes.   We sat in a bar called “Spicy Fingers” it was heavily occupied by westerners (old white men w money) all entertaining young women of the night, Chung said “they come to cheat on their wives”, there was no proof to argue this statement.  A live band played American pop hits – the singers: a man and a women, both had incredible voices.  In the bathroom while doing my business an older American business man walked in, stood next to me and asked “Is the chicken working?” to which i replied, (not exactly sure what he meant at first, but quickly solving the metaphor) “umm, yep” and he retorted, “well, that’s good, cause if its burning you’re in trouble, I speak from experience.”  Haha.  It was a fabulous scene.

Unrelated note, I watched “District 9” yesterday, not as badass as everyone built it up to be, certainly entertaining, not scary at all though, people kept telling me it was freaky.   You’re freaky.

So I arrived in hong kong last night, I was met by Grace, who is my contact here and one of here students who I worked with when I taught in Seoul last year, her name is Skyii.  This city is pretty amazing, I have only seen a small part of it so far.  It is very humid and muggy here, slightly oppressive but manageable all the least.  So I am coming to understand that teaching poetry here may be a bit more of a challenge than I had previously imagined.  It seems that most of the students at HKSC don’t speak english very well at all.  I will have to go slow and explain things on a very minimized basis.  I think everything will be just fine.  I don’t start teaching for a few days so I will be compiling some ideas and ways of communicating.  Wish i could just download cantonese into my brain.

At the hotel, the “Sleep Inn” in SeaTac.  Got my bags packed and all the gadgets working well, my pockets feel empty and ready to be filled with new things.  Danny gave me a Buddha, its red and a bit heavy for its size, I love it.  We drank a bottle of Mead tonight, the Chris’s and Danny, me and  my folks.  I had been saving the bottle for three years for some sort of special occasion.  On the bottle it reads that Mead is the drink of Kings and Poets, it felt very proper to be drinking it surrounded by both.  I am very grateful for all the friends and close family I have here in Seattle, Ima miss it, but Seattle is always home and so beautiful to come back to.  Adios for now, my next words will be from the future.  Peace. –  MG