Mary Beth McNamara

Where were you born? In the US. I’m originally from the Midwest but we moved to the Boston area when I was ten.

Where else have you lived? Including for school (“lived” might be too strong a word), Belgium (exchange program), Maine (college), Geneva (semester abroad). And as an adult: NYC, Tokyo, Jakarta, and HK.

How long have you been in Hong Kong? Oh lord, 22 years now! I’m one of the many who came “for a year” and are still here. We did leave for 14 months to backpack in 2002, but came straight back. My husband is from the UK and so we have no other obvious home. Plus, we love it here: the pace (“New York having a heart attack”) and the outdoors — country parks on our doorstep.

Children and ages? We had some dubious family planning and had four kids in four years. Rory is 11, JJ is ten, Elizabeth is nine, and Angus turns eight this month. The early years were a blur. We also have two elderly beagles, Fonzie and Chachi. Our house is loud and chaotic. At Christmastime I also have my badly behaved Elves, who love booze, Saturday Night Live, and 80s movies.

Two of our kids have (very different) special needs and I am active in the special needs and autism communities in Hong Kong. Being a SN parent in hyper-competitive (and underserved) Hong Kong can be very isolating, and this network is a huge help. I’ve made some very close friends and (I hope) helped others through the early dark days.

Which part of Hong Kong do you live in?  We’re in Pok Fu Lam, which I love, in a very old building with good outdoor space. My kids tend to cage match or burn the house down for fun, so the outdoor space is key. I’m sure my upstairs neighbors wish we’d shut up, however.

Are you working in Hong Kong and what do you do? I work in finance, in equity sales for an investment bank. I do love the markets – especially in this part of the world – where the role of history, religion, culture, politics is so front and center. But the industry is changing due to regulatory issues and technology, and the changes have particularly hit my end of the business. Pre-global-financial-crisis was much more fun!

What time of day do you check Hong Kong Moms?  Usually my commute home. When I should be reading the New York Times, really.

What posts do you comment on and why?  Elves, special needs, schools, travel with kids, and anything where someone wants to treat their helper like a child or a criminal.

What is the best thing you have learned from Hong Kong Moms?  “HK supermarket fails” is genius. I also love advice on travel in Asia with kids. Now that we’re out of the weeds, we’re much more adventurous. Last October we took them backpacking by local trains in Rajasthan — Hong Kong Moms was a great source for that trip.

Also, when my daughter broke both arms (at the same time), the Hong Kong Moms were a huge help. Someone even offered to 3D print some extra long utensils since she couldn’t bend her elbows to feed herself.

The GPS system for Rajasthan train travel – also comes with a whistle!

What is your biggest Hong Kong fave? It’s got to be the country parks, and their proximity. We’re also very grateful for our fantastic domestic helpers who have made this life not just possible, but fun.

And frustration?  That’s easy — government bureaucracy, where the goal appears to be to deflect, delay, pass the buck and covers one’s ass. Avoid decisions at all cost! (Except Paul Zimmerman, he restores my faith). All cartels too, but most egregious is the school bus cartel!

What is your craziest Hong Kong experience?  I moved here single at age 25, so those years are also a blur!

Does anyone ever recognize you or your name from Hong Kong Moms?  Maybe at Christmastime? When my Elves were escalating and in dire need of an intervention.

The Elves enjoying James Brown Celebrity Elf Hot tub!

Which Hong Kong Mom would you like you to see featured next? Trisha Tran, who has done so much for the special needs community with her tireless work with HK schools on behalf of the SN students. Or Lester Lim, who has a great eye for the absurd posts and regularly gets himself banned. If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me!

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