Today marks the first day of my last week stateside before I move to Hong Kong. As I keep saying, at some point I should probably start getting ready for that. I put in a good college try today – spent three hours wandering through Target, came home with an adapter, three items of clothing I never needed (but cuuuuuute), tampons, allergy meds, a storage tub, and PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE CREAMER. I am so pleased. I do not care how ‘basic’ you think I am for enjoying this – I am allowed to spend my own money on something possibly toxic for my body that tastes nothing like pumpkin and is not spicy and gives me pretty intense bowel movements afterwards (still learning to respect my lactose intolerance).
I’ve filled up two bags of Goodwill stuff and packed what I think is a solid amount of things. I can only have 50lbs per bag before I get charged an extra $200, and I was used to 70lbs for my trips to Brazil, so this is an adjustment. Plus I am sharing a 732 square foot apartment with 3 other women and two dogs…so…that’s 122 square foot per individual and I think my behind alone is like three square feet of goodness, so I am trying to be minimal. Pro tip – do not look up “minimal living” if you are trying to pack for that kind of life. You will spiral down a rabbit hole of Pinterest and websites and some BS from Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop nonsense pops up and no one has cares for that.
One of my friends asked me if I was feeling more excited or panicky. I think I’m oscillating between the two feelings every, oh, I don’t know, five minutes or so. Because the date of departure is so near, I’ve now entered a phase of irrational fears where I’m worried I’ll get a terminal illness between now and Saturday, or after Saturday in a foreign country. WebMD does a great job validating every minor pain I feel and turning it into certain death.
I’m worried about living in a city and not getting enough Vitamin D and devolving to the point where I start hissing in sunlight. I’m worried the time zone will make it really difficult to keep in touch, and try as I might I can’t get the dogs to figure out texting or Skype.
I’m trying to balance these fears with logic, and it helps to talk to people about why I’m going to Hong Kong and just a few facts about it. I’ve been all over the States, Europe, Central and South America, even Antartica! One of my majors in college was Latin American studies, so this will be a completely new experience for me in every way. So let’s look at some basics people have been asking me and I should probably know the answers to.
Where is Hong Kong? Here’s a map.
That’s my 15 hour non-stop flight from SFO to Hong Kong. Oddly enough, HK is at latitude 22 degrees north, and Rio de Janeiro, my last abroad situation, was at 22 degrees south.
It’s one of the three most expensive places to live in the world – San Francisco and New York being the other two. It has more skyscrapers than any other place in the world. It has one restaurant or cafe for every 600 people, and everyone I’ve talked to mentions the food as being the best part about Hong Kong. This is not something I need it do well – I’ll be trying to work off five months in the States!
The official languages are Cantonese and English, and the predominant religion is Buddhism. The weather is described as humid, tropical, with cyclones and storms and rain and such, but very air-conditioned whenever you’re inside, so you always need a sweater.
It’s a 3 hour flight to Bangkok, a 4-5 hour flight from Japan, and 8 hours to Australia. And turns out a lot of it is protected areas full of hills to hike and views to instagram and trees to shade me from even more sun-induced freckles (your thirties really are different, aren’t they?!). OH and you’re supposed to eat noodles on your birthday for good luck.
And that’s kind of all I know, besides some stuff about major holidays and cultural things I’m sure I’ll get more into when I move there in a freaking week. I’m getting picked up at the airport at 7am Hong Kong time by my live in helper, Ella, who will have a sign with my name on it. My work visa isn’t complete, so I will enter on a tourist visa and then make a day trip out of the country when my work visa comes in to make it valid. I start work August 3rd, hopefully.
The packing process is something else…I have to ask myself questions like “do I really need the banana costume AND the shark AND the penguin ANd the hotdog AND the Trex AND all my onesies??!” My instinct says yes, my physical living space and the tiny part of my brain that resides in reality says “NO YOU MORON NO.”
I’m used to humidity and walking everywhere from having lived in Brazil, but I need to be more choosey now because of weight and space limits. Luckily the food is more international in HK and I’ll be paid a living wage, so I’m trying to limit my “comfort” items to ranch dressing, taco seasoning, spaghetti, and packets of hot sauce my bestie absconded from a taco truck in Brooklyn.
While I’m still sad about what was happening at my last school that led me to quit my job and come home and spend nearly five months here, I can’t regret any of the time I’ve spent here.
This last week I got to hang out with my college best friends for the first time in two years all together. There is nothing in the world like carrying on the never-ending conversation you’ve been having since you were 18 with the people who know you and love you best in the world.
I keep saying to myself “you are not scared – you are brave and you are not scared.” And I am hoping that if I say this often enough, I will start to believe it and live that as my truth. What’s cool is that whenever I start to get really freaked out, God throws something at me to keep me going.
I was cleaning up today and found this note from a package a woman at church I didn’t even know had sent me when I had moved to North Carolina as part of a long line of bad decisions I’ve made for boys I thought I loved. One of the passages I liked the most, and keep rereading to this day, because I pack this note with me wherever I go, says this:
“I learned to love time alone – only me to keep me company….I promise you that at the end of this experience you will be your own best friend. All the sh*t right now, I PROMISE you will be so worth it. You are BRAVE…Home will always be here. You are loved and missed, (but) these are the adventures you are going to look back on and realize that they all shaped you to be the fully whole and vibrantly alive woman you are becoming.”
When I think about this decision I threw to the wind to go to Hong Kong, I remember this letter. And I think about conversations I’ve had where people, women especially, expressed a regret about not having traveled and experienced more before getting married and starting a family. It in no way competed with the joy they felt in having what they did, but I have yet to talk with someone (besides my mom, maybe) who thinks I should stay put, work on my marriageable qualities, and get the baby-making machine fired up.
Sometimes its hard to be 33, single, no kids, no car or ownership of anything outside a few suitcases. No health insurance, retirement, plan of any kind. But.
As the predictable and comfortable and lovely days of living here in the Bay Area wind down, the days of shuffling the dogs around, walking the trail, soaking up the nature and the sun, swatting at june bugs that dive-bomb my wine spritzer wind down….the days of sprinting through my parents’ hospitality and generosity…as these days slip away, I know I’m lucky to be able to pick up and go see and do things I might not even be sure I am excited about yet. I know how lucky I am to have a family that (mostly) accepts what I’ve determined might be my life’s purpose – to travel the world in an American flag onesie promoting a message of love and peace and democrazy and probably a local beer and an inappropriate joke or two. Also how will I meet every dog in the world if I don’t go everywhere in the world?
With a favorite quote i leave you, until I land in Hong Kong. I’ll be at least 14 hours ahead, so I’ll tell you what tomorrow looks like.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
If you haven’t heard it yet today, and you need to, you’re more than worth a trip to everywhere.