Thursday, 19 October 2017

Match Report: Chatteris FC vs the Hong Kong Hornets

In a new feature for the Chatteris Blog, Ben Bennett (our answer to Jose Mourinho) documents the trials and tribulations of Chatteris FC, a football team made up of any Chatteris employees who fancy competing together against the best (and the rest) that Hong Kong has to offer. In this edition, we join Ben as Chatteris FC take on the fearsome Hong Kong Hornets...

Chatteris FC were back in action last weekend following successive defeats (which will remain unreported) under the Saturday night lights of Kowloon City against the Hong Kong Hornets. With some tricky selection problems, the gaffer (‘gaffer’ means ‘coach’, American readers –ed.) went with the tried and tested 4-5-1 with Donald ‘The Don’ Heilig spearheading the attack, Harry dropping into defence and Kyne ‘Kynesteiger’ Wigel making his debut in the famous Chatteris sky blue from the left.

The early exchanges were even and the wind was impacting the flow of the game. Within 15 minutes, we found ourselves in front as The Don raced onto a ball down the middle like a well-maintained whippet; slotting past the keeper and giving the whole side a huge injection of confidence. However, within 5 minutes a disaster struck as we conceded from a set piece following a failure to clear from the near post.

Nevertheless, as the first third drew to a close Dave sent over a free kick from the left from 40 yards. It angled off the goal frame in an effort that David Beckham himself would have thought implausible. By now, we also had a team of cheerleaders and Davy’s wavy set piece sent them into raptures once they were informed it had gone in!

We began the second third kicking into the wind with our opponents beginning to take a hold of the game. They had the breeze in their sails and so we were very grateful to Big Ron for making a tremendous Cat-like claw to keep out a shot destined for the net. The Don then galloped forward on the counter-attack and saw a good effort  kept out that was unlucky not to find the onion bag (and ‘onion bag’ means ‘goal’, American readers- ed).

Next came a moment of madness from the previously imperious Glewis as he brutally scythed down an opponent from behind in the box, causing time itself to slow down. At this point, we were unsure if we were in Kowloon City or the twilight zone. Astonishingly, the referee decided not to award the penalty which caused more confusion than an American receiving instructions from his gaffer to stick it in the onion bag.

Into the final third with the wind behind us once again, we dominated with ‘The Admiral’, Lewis and ‘Box-to-Boscar’ providing guile in the middle, allowing Dave and The Don to use their pace down the flanks. ‘The Admiral’ then went on an incredible maze-like run which included more pirouetting and twirls than an entire series of Strictly Come Dancing. He beat four opposition players before running out of steam as it wasn’t just the opponents he had tied in knots.

Into the last 10 and disaster struck as we gave away a needless free kick 30 yards from the goal which Gianluigi BuffRon couldn’t hold and the rebound was gobbled up to tie the scores at Desmond 2-2. Undeterred the roar went up from the lads and we sensed that the goal scoring was not yet at an end. With 5 minutes remaining, we grabbed a winner courtesy of our American goal scoring sensation, The Don, who hooked home after a flick-on from Oscar following a clipped ball from Glewis. The defence stood solid in the last few minutes not permitting a single chance with Adam ‘the roadblock’ and ‘50 Spence’ cracking the shutters down the sides. ‘Dirty Harry’ and the reformed Glewis were acting out their inner Gandalf, allowing nothing to pass through the middle. If anything, we were the more likely to grab another goal as Oscar teed up The Don for the hat trick, only to be denied by the opposition keeper.

Full-time result: Chatteris FC 3 – 2 Hong Kong Hornets
Man of the Match: ‘The Admiral’ Akbar Khan

Sunday, 15 October 2017

City of Lattes, Part 1

Chatteris' own Caroline Lengyel shares with us her insider knowledge of the best coffee shops Hong Kong has to offer.

I drink coffee every day, many times a day — a habit I afford by skipping meals, frequenting McDonalds and owning about three pairs of clothes. In any case, I’ve done plenty of time in Hong Kong’s indie coffee-shop scene, young but growing fast! Here are some favourite spots:

5. CAFE SAUSALITO (Sham Shui Po Location)

Coffee: 8/10

Aesthetic: 7/10

Overall Experience: 8/10

Just a few blocks around the corner from my apartment, Cafe Sausalito is the California-style coffee shop I thought I’d left behind in the States. It gets hipster cred for being in Sham Shui Po instead of the usual glossy Hong Kong Island locale. Serves (expensive) breakfast all day. The owner is very sweet and the café hosts all sorts of cool events, like live jazz!

Be warned, you will see lots of photos of coffee + my computer + possibly my bag in this series.

4. OMOTESANDO (Wan Chai Location)

Coffee: 6/10

Aesthetic: 8/10

Overall Experience: 7/10

Not the most staggering latte but a solid effort — and the atmosphere is one of a kind. The baristas wear lab coats which is a little cheesy but also makes you feel like you’re in a Frankenstein movie. I’m not entirely sure what the aesthetic is supposed to convey (the minimalist website does little to clarify)… I suppose, coffee-brewing as a science? I prefer to think of it as an art but whatever works for the beans.

I don’t have any photos from Omotesando but enjoy this pic of a man walking five pups (spotted on Gough Street).

3. COFFEE ACADEMICS (Wan Chai Location)

Coffee: 9/10

Aesthetic: 10/10

Overall Experience: 10/10

Rather posh, but you guessed that from the name :) I view coffee as a necessary expense so I was willing to shell out 100 HK dollars for a cappuccino and latte; I understand others might be less eager. Nevertheless, I love this place. The decor is minimal, the lights dimmed atmospherically— at least in the evening — and the staff are kind and very willing to answer your questions about coffee! I learnt what a tall white is here (told you I wasn’t an expert). To be honest, it gets the most points because I was able to read, write, and sneak bites of smuggled-in raison bread for three hours straight without disturbance. Not to mention the people-watching opportunities; only the classiest™ dates occur here and all outfits are on point (as in checkered pants, crop tops, suede block heels as far as the eye can see). 10/10 would smuggle again.

Not pictured: raison bread.

2. ELEPHANT GROUNDS (Sheung Wan Location)

Coffee: 9/10

Aesthetic: 9/10

Overall Experience: 9/10

Huge portions, cute patio area, enough said.

1. HAY FEVER FLORAL & GIFTS (Prince Edward Location)

Coffee: 7/10

Aesthetic: 200/10

Overall Experience: Wondrous

My favourite coffee place so far, also my favourite place on earth. I’ve been five times and each experience is etched in my memory. Put it this way: flower shop. PLUS COFFEE. Maybe I’m just basic but this had me reeling. If anyone has had a greater idea in the history of culinary arts / interior design / human innovation in general, I can’t imagine what it is. I genuinely didn’t want to tell you about this shop because it’s crowded enough (on the weekends) but I suppose you’d have found out anyhow. The coffee is great. There’s seating upstairs.
Go, live your best life, you’re welcome!

Thursday, 12 October 2017


Chatteris' own resident wordsmith Akbar Khan offers his poetic take on his new life in Hong Kong

Inspired once again,
Could be all the new friends
Could be my old job coming to an end
Could be the new job, new career
First time teaching
Probably the fear
Either way…
Got new wheels to steer

Having to watch my language
When teaching kids English
Use caution when bantering
As these kids will absorb anything
Since it’s all about portraying an ideal role model
Keeping your cool is hard pill to swallow
Especially when surrounded with smiles on adorable faces
Still can’t believe I’m teaching in Hong Kong of all places

Great sense of humour
Never a bother
Always laughing, smiling and asking
& kick off my day with at least 10 Good Mornings

Though I gotta say
Loving each and every day
& these kids bring out the best in me   
Keeping me honest and friendly
If this is the first month
For the rest of this school year
… I’m ready

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Struggles of a Hong Kong Veggie

Chatteris' own Abbey Johnson on the trials and tribulations of adhering to a veggie lifestyle in Hong Kong

The life of a vegetarian in Hong Kong is not an easy one. When asked by family and friends if I would be staying veggie before moving to Asia, I naively answered “of course- how hard can it be?” Turns out, it’s very hard. The helpful green ‘v’ on restaurant menus does not exist, and it can sometimes seem like the locals are doing their best to sneak meat into everything you eat. Dim sum is a minefield of hidden minced pork and oyster sauce, and asking the waiter in broken Cantonese if the spring rolls contain meat will often get you an eye-roll or a bored ‘hai’. Fortunately, and despite outward appearances, Hong Kong is actually a very vegetarian-friendly place if you know where to look. Here are some places that we’ve discovered in the heart of Kowloon that will feed your veggie soul without emptying your wallet.

Sham Shui Po
Sham Shui Po is more famous for its electronics than for its vegetarian food, but there are a few hidden gems scattered amongst the video game stores and the sketchy used television stalls. Kashmir Curry House is one of them- its online presence is virtually zero and it looks more like a wet market than a restaurant, but be brave and venture inside for the best curry you can find Kowloon-side. As with most authentic Indian restaurants, there are several meat-free options; the dal is a great choice as is the traditional potato curry, and for around $50 a meal, you get any veggie curry, rice and two paratha (a traditional flatbread). The best part comes after you’ve finished; the portions are so large that you can take half to work the next day and be the envy of your co-teachers. 
Recommended dish: Dal Makhani with paratha ($50)

Prince Edward
Further down the red line (and a short walk from Sham Shui Po), Prince Edward changes from the shady computer stores to streets of busy bars and restaurants. Similar to Mong Kok but without the frantic pace, this area has numerous places for vegetarians to eat. My favourite is The Alchemist on Poplar Street where you can find a veggie full English breakfast (including hash browns and Heinz baked beans).  As well as a top hangover brunch, The Alchemist serves tall iced coffees and, if you’re brave enough for some hair of the dog, classic cocktails like mojitos and margaritas. With a slightly random but calming décor and excellent food, The Alchemist is the perfect place to hide on a rough Sunday morning. 
Recommended dish: Vegetarian Full English Breakfast, with a mango smoothie. (around $120)

Yau Ma Tei
Choosing a restaurant with no English name and little English on the menu can seem like a huge gamble- but at ‘Veggie Foods’ in Yau Ma Tei, it pays off. Like so many eateries in HK, this Buddhist restaurant can seat about 20 people and there is often a long queue stretched out the door, but the 10-15 minute wait is a small price to pay for the excellent food. Don’t be fooled by the menu, which offers sweet, and sour ribs, pork chops and sesame beef, as everything in this place is 100% vegetarian. The staff are also extremely helpful and will walk you through the process of ordering (make sure to ask for iced lemon water or citron tea) and you will receive a small book of Buddhist prayers with the bill on your way out. The best part about Veggie Foods is the price- a set menu is $58 for a huge meal and a drink of your choice. 

Recommended dish:  Sweet and sour pork fillet with steamed rice and lemon water. ($50)

Burger Lab in Jordan smashes the healthy vegetarian stereotype by offering two obscenely large veggie burgers on their menu: the Veggie Burger and, my personal favourite, the Portobello Truffle. Despite being slightly pricier than the previous recommendations, Burger Lab will leave you with the food baby to end all food babies, especially if you opt to upgrade to a meal for $22 extra. There's even options for your omnivore friends if you can't convince them to give the Portobello burger a try. Tip: Grab your burger to go and have a picnic in Kowloon Park, which is just across the road. 

 Recommended dish: Portobello Truffle burger with sweet potato fries and drink. ($70)

This brief tour of Kowloon's best plant-based food should point you in the right direction towards some great places to discover, and away from eating a 7/11 sandwich on the way home or having instant noodles before you go out in case they don't have anything veggie. I've grown to love the challenge of finding great food here, and it becomes almost an obsession of finding the best, most obscure places. I hope I've inspired you a little to go out and hunt for yourself. 
Happy exploring, veggies!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A Weekend in Tokyo

Chatteris' Akbar Khan tells all about his whirlwind weekend in Tokyo

It was barely a weekend, as I landed Saturday morning and left Sunday evening- so just two days and one night in this incredibly clean and polite city. Following a four-hour flight from Hong Kong with a time difference of one hour, I did what I could with the little time I had.

After meeting my good friend upon landing, I was quickly dragged in the direction of a local 7-a-side football tournament. However, not having had any dinner the night before, or even a quick breakfast that morning, we stopped at a 7/11 on the way and I munched on my favourite Japanese snacks. The chicken was decent with almost no fat and loads of white meat, just like home. I indulged in plenty of fried chicken (chicken katsu) and some yaki tori (chicken skewers drenched in teriyaki sauce), and if it weren’t for my mate giving me the “this is why you’re fat” look, I would have doubled up on the dosage.

However, I was undeterred- some scrumptious burgers were on the lunchtime menu, which were delicious but a little too small for my appetite. After (almost) eating our fill we made our way to a terrace where we could enjoy a smoke and a coffee (in Japan you can only smoke in specific areas). As I ordered my iced caramel machiatto, I couldn’t help but notice how ridiculously overpriced everything was in this city. Having got off a plane from Hong Kong, it was quite a shock as to how expensive everything was, especially the cabs.

Slowly but surely a group of us made our way to my mate’s place to start prepping for that Saturday night, as it was his friend’s birthday and everyone was planning for a big night.

Above: Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo

After getting dressed I finished an amazing Bordeaux with my mate’s older brother and we all left for Shibuya. Before doing any more drinking the crew stopped at a 7/11 to stock up on ‘ukon’, a magical remedy that protects your liver from a heavy night. From there we made our way to an ‘Izakaya’ which is an informal Japanese gastropub where you eat and drink for ‘cheap’ before hitting the club. Once entering this narrow building made of wood, we had to climb five flights of stairs to make it to our table, conveniently (for me) located in the smoking area. Once seated it was, simply put, order after order of fried food, sushi, kimchi and drinks. Being in Japan I had made the executive decision to go with Sake as my poison. Once my mini bottle of Sake arrived, accompanied with a rather large shot glass, I was stopped by about 3 friends when attempting to pour my own drink. They explained that whenever someone orders Sake it falls on whoever surrounds you to make sure that your glass is never empty. It’s apparently bad luck to pour your own Sake and your friends’ responsibility to pour it for you ensuring that you will earn a lot in your career. So there I was, totally unaware of how much Sake was being supplied to me. Entering the small hours of Sunday morning, we left the Izakaya and made our way to Roppongi (nightlife central in Tokyo). I spent the cab ride with my head spinning furiously and, once we arrived, I found myself a comfy corner to pass out in for the next 4-5 hours.

Above: Sake- the chosen poison of Chatteris' own Akbar Khan

Slightly hungover the next afternoon, I manage to make it out of bed at around 1pm and toured the area with a group of friends. We treated ourselves to another burger-shack for lunch, from which we then made our way to the Tokyo Dome (an attraction and tourist hot-spot) to shop for some souvenirs. We all rushed back to my mate’s place so I could get my stuff and catch a train to the airport. I made my flight by the skin of my teeth, and went straight to bed after landing back in Hong Kong.

Above: The Tokyo Dome, a tourist hot spot

All in all, I would definitely recommend Tokyo as a trip but not for just two days. Sure I had bought the tickets a lot earlier and didn’t want them to go to waste, but a good week in Tokyo is definitely still on my to-do list while I’m this side of the world. The airline I flew with was really nice and cheap too (a Japanese company called Vanilla Air).

Just remember- if you’re planning a night out in a Japanese city, ask around for an Izakaya as the atmosphere, menu and prices are exactly what you need when warming up for a good night out!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

How To Get Hired: The Chatteris Careers Evening by Augusta Anthony


If there is one thing more terrifying than the fact I am leaving in Hong Kong in three weeks, it would have to be the word ‘career’. I’m not on my own either. Millennials are famously angsty when it comes to the world of work and, believe me, one way to prolong the inevitable final-year-of-university-soul-searching is to hop on a plane to Hong Kong and see what happens. Having said that, no matter how many beaches I find myself on, reality is due to hit soon. And so with that and my fellow CNETs in mind, I joined the team organising this year’s Careers Evenings.

The first event of the year was held back in November at the Chatteris office. Chatteris has been running since 1990 and since Hong Kong isn’t an easy place to let go of there are plenty of alumni still living and working in Hong Kong. We were very lucky that six of them were eager to come and talk to this year’s recruits and pass on some of their tips.

Two of our alumna had worked as Native English Teachers in the Hong Kong education system after leaving Chatteris and both now run their own companies; a Play Therapy service for children and an events and entertainment business operating some of Hong Kong’s notorious junk boats. The boys meanwhile came to represent shipping, finance and advertising and we were also joined by a recruitment expert who had plenty of advice on how to get noticed by employers. It was a great way to hear about the range of careers out there and get really tangible advice on how to get hired by using your Chatteris experience.

Setting our sights higher for the second round, we started organising a networking event to give CNETs aiming to stay in Hong Kong a leg up on the competition. Realising what a passionate bunch us Chatteris lot are, we wanted to focus in on how to transition the earnestness of our youth into a meaningful career. So we settled on our theme: turning your passion into a career. Maybe it was the painfully cool venue or the promise of mozzarella sticks but however we did it, we were very grateful to have five amazing guests to share their experiences of how to not just get hired, but to make a career out of what you love.

For CNETs interested in education, of which there are many, we heard how Karen Arkell has followed her passion for social justice - to Teach First and now as Director of Development of Teach For China. We also heard from Pol Fabrega, owner of social enterprise, Rooftop Republic, and Matt Rumple who has turned his passion for entertainment into a company with some of the best performers in Hong Kong. Those interested in StartUps, FinTech or Venture Capital (yup, that went over my head too) had plenty to learn from Brian Chan, who leads research at Oddup, a StartUp about StartUps, apparently. And, last but certainly not least, you can catch one of our favourite speakers and ‘the funniest balloon man in the world’, Andrew Smith, in his Ted Talk for yourself here.

There was plenty to think on as we munched those mozzarella sticks and listened to live jazz after the event. Hong Kong is a place that attracts entrepreneurs and people willing to work for their dreams. Its melting pot culture and status as Asia’s world city means people from all walks of life are part of your daily interactions here. Hearing different perspectives and expanding your horizons is a key part of the Chatteris experience and it was exciting for this to be translated into the professional realm for us. This year has given me not just my first full time job but a range of professional training (blog writing, event planning?!) that will stay with me long after Hong Kong. But more than that, it has given me a network of seventy friends, all equally riddled with debt and apparently unrealistic expectations, that will be there along the way.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Animal Magic

Borneo's lush rainforest is one of its main draws and we were eager to sample it after arriving in Sabah (the Eastern side of Malaysian Borneo) for our Easter break. After touching down in Kota Kinabalu (KK), the province's capital, we headed straight to the Kinabatangan River to sample the natural wonders this incredible part of the world had to offer.

To get there required a bus, van and boat journey of epic proportions. We took the 9am bus but it was beset with problems, culminating in it breaking down for about 2 hours which wasn't so fun in the baking heat. It was still better than taking an Arriva bus in the UK though.

Once we finally got moving, we jumped off at Sukau junction about 7 hours later where we were met by a disgruntled van driver who had been waiting for us for a very long time. He drove us to the rainforest from where we hopped on a boat to get to Osman's place, our quaint home for the next 2 nights.

Osman was a great host and I'd absolutely recommend him for a Kinabantagan tour. He's friendly, funny and knows his stuff (having toured David Attenborough around no less) and is much cheaper than the other tours in the area. Osman is an incredibly warm man with a big, booming laugh and a gazillion outlandish stories to tell. He speaks with such conviction when he tells them that it's almost impossible to tell whether they're fact or fiction. Certainly, be prepared to hear a lot about the sex habits of various jungle dwellers, himself included.

What sets Osman way above the others is his ability to find nature amongst the vast rainforest. From our boat, he was able to spot animals I never would have seen in a million years. On our first morning cruise alone, we spotted proboscis monkeys, macaques, rhinoceros hornbills, a snake (hovering precariously above the boat on a branch) and an insane number of elephants. Apparently the elephants don't normally hang out so close to the water so early in the morning so we got really lucky. I was like an 8 year old when one of the elephants let out a distinctive hoot from its trunk. It was very, very exciting.
It was a complete privilege to see these animals in their own territory where they are most comfortable. I'd seen more exotic wild animals than ever before in my life and I hadn't even had breakfast yet. What a start to the day!
There was a more tragic undercurrent to this sighting though since Osman told us 10 years ago, you'd be lucky to see one elephant eating by the river. Deforestation and the construction of palm oil sites has shrunk the rainforest drastically and forced the elephants to the river. Borneo's rainforest is one of the most incredible natural wonders in Asia and, through greed and power, humans are steadily destroying it. Hopefully there will be a U-turn soon. This jungle is too precious to waste.
The morning tour was one of three we took that day, with an afternoon boat cruise that saw us come face to face with dozens of elephants, more bizarre proboscis monkeys and an orangutan sighting that was akin to playing 'Where's Wally?'. After heading back to Osman's to dinner, we then ventured out for the night safari. I was a little sceptical about this - how much would we really be able to see in the pitch darkness?
I was immediately proved wrong in what was probably my favourite experience of the whole trip. The jungle takes on a completely different hue at night. The fantastic thing about the night trip was that we were practically the only boat on the river so the jungle was giving us a personal show.
Osman was adamant he'd be able to catch us a crocodile and he didn't disappoint. The trick is, he explained, to go for the back of the head since this prevents them snapping at you. Unfortunately, he mistimed his catch and got the tail meaning he had to ham-fistedly release the (admittedly small) crocodile into the boat. This obviously prompted much hysterical screaming and jumping up from our party though things eventually calmed down and we all got a go holding the crocodile before returning it to its home which was fun.
We found several more crocs, each increasing alarmingly in size, but our safari wasn't just limited to reptiles. Osman's insanely good vision found us owls, flying foxes, some sleeping kingfishers and a civet cat, best known for its role in Vietnam's renowned 'weasel coffee'. This was extraordinary since I'd never even seen most of these creatures before, let alone got up close to them. The night setting made us feel more like explorers, as if we were stumbling across things nobody had ever found before. It wasn't true of course but, as mentioned earlier, there was something so childlike about us sitting in that boat with no idea of what incredible species we were going to stumble across next.

It's a trek to get to but if you do one thing in Sabah, please do this. I've run out of adjectives to describe how good it was. There is not a single sanctuary or zoo I have visited that can compare even in the slightest to seeing these animals in the jungle where they belong. In fact, I daresay I won't visit such a place again. Because it doesn't matter where I go - the greatest zoo on earth or the best sanctuary on TripAdvisor - nothing will get my spine tingling quite like the wonders of the Borneo jungle.