South Park native's book tells tales from Hong Kong

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A few years ago Jessica Bellas, a South Park native, was working as an environmental engineer in North Carolina and started to feel restless.

She was in a rut, was unhappy with the political climate in the United States and wanted a change.

She made a big one. In February 2006, Ms. Bellas, now 38, moved to Hong Kong, where she took an engineering job with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, helping Chinese manufacturers to comply with international standards.

"I was really ready for something new, and I certainly got that," she said.

To keep in touch with her family and friends thousands of miles away, she committed to sending an e-mail each Friday at noon describing her experiences.

"When I started this, I was not going to write a book," she said.

But after 30 months sending one e-mail each week, she had a lot of material. Enough, she realized, to write a book, which she did.

"Maotai, Mooncakes & Monks: Misadventures in Hong Kong & China," published by Tamco Publishing, features 57 vignettes describing Ms. Bellas' experiences abroad.

She tells the story of drinking maotai, a popular Chinese liquor, with Communist officials at business functions. She describes a near attack by monkeys as she visited the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Hong Kong, and her struggle to learn the minibus transportation system when she didn't speak the language.

Her stories are accompanied by pictures, some of which she took herself and others that were taken by a professional photographer and other friends.

Ms. Bellas spoke for an hour Monday night to a small group in the basement of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library about her book and about her life in Hong Kong and traveling through China.

She's been back in the United States for only two months. She left Hong Kong on Oct. 6, 2009, and moved to the South Side, taking a job as an engineer with Michael Baker Corp., Downtown.

Her book can be purchased at for $19.95.

Kaitlynn Riely can be reached at or 412-263-1707.


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