The last few days have been full of firsts. Flew to Asia for the first time. First time living in a big city with buildings so tall I actually don’t know what the weather is until I get down to the ground floor (and by then its too late baby, now, it’s too late). Battled my first Chinese cockroach. Saw my first Asian rat. Watched my first HK sunset from a rooftop bar and felt delicious until the first big HK bill came around.
There was the First day I didn’t feel the need to take an entire sleep cycle nap in the middle of the day, meaning the jet lag might finally be conquered (but I will probably continue using it as an excuse for any thoughtless thing I do for, oh, I don’t know, the next three months or so). The middle of the night gave me my first cracking thunderstorm with some very cool weather warning things on my phone about flash floods and color codes of rain storms during typhoon season. I took myself out on my first date in Hong Kong. AND I had my first day of work!
My flight here was mostly fine – I time traveled. Which is bad ass but also I don’t really understand it?! I found a website that lists hour by hour the differences in time and I check it on the daily. I left SFO at 1:30am and skipped Sunday and arrived in Hong Kong at 6:30am on Monday. I spent the flight alternately napping and silently fuming at the toddlers behind me who kept kicking the seat and screaming for their mom. And then fuming at their father, who sat across the aisle and offered no help to the poor mom. I didn’t watch or read a single thing I had so meticulously downloaded. I watched my plane crawl across the Pacific Ocean on the flight tracker and listened to worship music and bargained with God during even the tiniest bouts of turbulence.
Landing and customs were quick, my luggage arrived, and I went to meet our helper, Ella, who is an adorable angel from the Philippines and has been my auntie for the last week. She’s moving back in a few weeks and I’m preemptively pouting. We managed to shove my luggage into one of the famous red taxis and then sped towards the island. She fell asleep and I pressed my face against the window and tried to take it all in.
I’m living in Causeway Bay with two girls and our helper. I’ve yet to meet one of the girls because she’s a flight attendant and off in Vancouver. There are also two disabled dogs. I really love one. The other one . . . God has sent him to test me. We call him “uncle” because he is a grumpy old man. I think my room is a nice size and I have more than enough space for my things, which is good. The only emoji frowns are the kitchen – which is so tiny I’m not super motivated to make things at home – and the bathroom. As in there is one for four girls. This reminds me of living in cramped apartments and houses in college and the passive aggressive fights that would happen on occasion as we tried to figure out who was comfortable with letting each other pee while being in the shower and who would notice if I used a bit of their shaving cream on the sly if mine ran out.
I spent the first day in a dreamless, active and walking sleep that involved the grocery store, the park, and a lot of “did I – am I – am I in the Hong Kong?” and then unpacked, which went much quicker than I thought it might because I only had three bags!
The next few days I spent practicing the metro, the minibuses, and the commute to work. Wandered through old market streets, took the escalators as high as I could go, and went into every grocery store I could find to take inventory of my essentials. I was able to find Ranch dressing, green tabasco sauce, Cheetos, and feta cheese. Praise be.
I practiced buying things from the wet markets and successfully entered and exited the seventh circle of hell known as Ikea and tracked down a drip coffee machine (harder than one might think in Asia). I learned that my shoulders could sweat. And my eyelids could sweat. And what an Amber rain alert means. My entire life here will revolve around weather, I think. It truly is a different kind of heat, and I thought I was used to humidity in Brazil. But there is no sea breeze – just the sweet relief of air-con drafting from the stores. My glasses fog up instantly every time I enter and exit, but I’ve been reassured its very cool.
I’ve signed up for a gym pass to try it for the week but have been getting plenty of exercise dodging sewer rats and cockroaches and navigating the sidewalks of Causeway Bay. It’s wall to wall people most hours of the day. I’ve been doing laps at night in Victoria Park, which is cool because it’s cool and also because my uncle used to run there. There is so much to see – old men lounging around on benches without shirts on, old women practicing tai chi, kids playing at the ping pong tables and soccer fields and basketball. There are a million signs telling you how to live your life in polite ways. No one jay-walks here and I find that strange. But they are all on their phones, so that might be for the best. I still can’t get used to the cars and drivers on the wrong side of the road, despite all the streets painted with “Look Left!” before you cross.
Moving to Hong Kong hasn’t been as emotionally overwhelming as I thought it might be . . . yet. I mean I do look at old pictures of my dogs on my phone during the long bus ride to work . . . But I’m also probably still too excited and caught up in the newness of it all to really appreciate the permanence and significance of moving across the world. I mostly feel the change when I look up how many hours behind everyone is now and try to figure out how I will ever FaceTime anyone. Or when I try to look up at the sky and can’t.
And I’ve been lucky to already meet a few good people – my roomie being one of them – who listen to all my questions and sympathize with me when I flop on the bed in front of the aircon and peel off sweaty clothes and try to not cry about this that and the other. And the people at work are cool so far . . . turns out you can go anywhere in the world and the start of a new school year is straight chaos, but it’s fun to do it with new people who have British/Canadian/Australian/Kiwi/Chinese accents and who don’t yet know how crazy I might be . . . I’m tempted to adopt a new identity. I’m a failed astronaut! I’m a trained underwater basket weaver! I’m fluent in penguin!
To be honest, I mostly just sit with a very bewildered look on my face – this is a completely new system, curriculum, acronyms, philosophy, group of people, language, country. I still don’t have a proper phone plan, bank account, tax id, or visa! But you know what? We’ll get there.
If you haven’t heard it yet today, and you need to, let me tell you because I’m there – the sun will come out tomorrow.
And then it will dump rain on your walk from the bus stop to work so bring that umbrella.
Love you miss you wish you were here.