Not a day goes by where I don’t wonder at where I live. Out my window, I see apartment buildings higher than anything I’ve been in in California, and the earthquake-ometer all Bay Area natives have installed at birth goes off.
The buildings are lit up and look lovely. I’ve been on some of those high floors and felt the dizzying pull of the wind in my hair at the edge of the balcony and stepped back, afraid of what I might do out there, just to see what it felt like.
Hong Kong – international, finance center, travel base – a sexy, free, crazy place to live. You’re not wrong.
It does and yet doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since I moved. Only a million things have happened, I’ve learned a LOT about the world around me and about myself. I’ve made incredible friends and visited parts of the world I never dreamed of.
It’s been heckin hard some days, especially the early days, when cockroaches would jump onto my boobs in early mornings as I made coffee, or when I had to move apartments by myself, uphill both ways, during a typhoon. Or when everything with my rent/visa/bank/phone/job went wrong at all times. But I wouldn’t trade it.
I’m just about used to living in HK. And something about friends coming to visit you and getting to feel like an expert makes a place feel more like home. And not just any kind of friend – former roomies and colleagues, friends-who-have-done-major-life-with-you friends.
Nine years ago, my first year of teaching, I overheard Leana and our friend Jill talking about “Twilight” in the staff room and casually mentioned I liked it, too (I refuse to be embarrassed about this, as my passion at the time for the book/movie series landed me on the front page of the Huffington Post with a very popular and somewhat controversial article, and more importantly, scored me some friends). We ended up seeing it together, traveling together, living together.
When I was quietly losing my mind and ending a big relationship in North Carolina four years later, Leana came to visit and convinced me to teach abroad with her in Brazil. Which is where we shared an apartment with Anysia, from Texas. The three of us went through a lot of beach days, karaoke singalongs, youtube marathons, caipirinhas, boy drama and work drama that sealed our friendship forever. Last year, we reunioned in Boise, Idaho, where Leana had resettled. And a year later, the girls flew out to meet me in my new home – Hong Kong.
It takes a lot of effort to coordinate a trip from around the world, and ours started off with some plane delay hiccups, during which I introduced Anysia to the wonderful world of soup dumplings and airport wine. When the three of us were finally together, I just kept looking around and thinking “of course we’re together.” It was the most natural thing in the world and I’m so lucky to have friends like that. We settled back at my house (after the casual six flights of stairs with heavy luggage . . . heh heh) and just chatted and snacked away until I forced myself to bed. I still had two days of work to get through before it was my summer break.
The girls recovered some jetlag and explored my hipster haven neighborhood before meeting me at work for happy hour. I work with some of the funnest people on the planet, and we shared a round of drinks before we tripped happily through SoHo and Central to the Star Ferry to meet our friends for dinner.
When we taught in Rio, we met this Australian couple, Nathan and Esther, who have since re-relocated to Hong Kong and are basically the reason why I’m there now, so it was amazing for all of us to be together again, especially with their 3 year old daughter Elsie who defines ‘precocious.’ She took to her two new aunties right away, especially because she was wearing the dress Anysia had bought her when she was just an infant in Brazil. We ate Italian, watched the light show, and then met Nathan for a World Cup game at a neighborhood bar, where Anysia stretched out and fell asleep.
Friday was my last day at work; bittersweet, knowing I was saying goodbye to so many students and two of my favourite work friends. But it felt good to wrap up what had been a successful first year and be offered opportunities for leadership roles in the future.
Friday night was an adventure through Lan Kwai Fong, which is a somewhat gross but definitely entertaining corner in Hong Kong where adults go to act like they did in college, with a curious mix of kids in college, families, old business guys, and plucky refugees selling light-up Minnie Mouse ears and temporary balloons (I may or may not have bought both of these at some point).
Anything goes in LKF. You buy “cheap” beers at “Club 7-11” (the two most profitable 7-11s in the entire world are in this neighborhood) and stand on a curb and watch the chaos happen around you. We ended up at a dance club boogeying to a cover band and then getting some shawarma from Kebabs and Pizza, a cash-only joint run by some of the hardest working guys in Hong Kong.
The next day was a bit rough for us all, and also had a storm warning. (“We can’t possibly go out in this maybe rain!”) So we flashbacked to rainy Rio days, snuggled up on the couch, ordered delivery, and used my roomie’s work projector to watch youtubes, ‘Twilight,’ and some other eye candy garbage I can’t remember. We never got dressed or brushed teeth. We giggled and napped. It was glorious.
Sunday we did what people in their 30s with expendable incomes do best – we brunched. Nathan recommended this amazing free-flow place with a mimosa brunch and oysters (which Anysia totally loved – please follow up with her on this) and a view that reminded you what made Hong Kong so unique. We sat at a table and the bubbles and brunchies kept coming, we made friends with the Portuguese and the Italian and the ladies in the bathroom, and belly-laughed until we were the last ones there and they were asking if we would leave. We took some iconic photos, picked our next drinking hole, and off we went.
Well, first, one of us picked the most inopportune time to need the bathroom for a very long time. And we missed ubers. And cabs. And got sweaty. And I won’t mention names. But I bring it up because I think the freedom to talk about poop is lifelong friend freedom. And I love it. So there.
Our next watering hole happened to be *the* highest up bar on God’s green earth. The lobby was inexplicably decorated with jars filled with Starburst, which we quickly poured into purses and munched on for the next several days. But going 100 something stories up, the elevator ride alone required me to be quite tipsy. Luckily, I was!
We had incredible views, Elsie joined us, we munched on popcorn, ordered caipirinhas, reminisced about our years together and caught up since the years since. A storm passed through and we stayed, parting at the last minute so we could go pack for Thailand.
The girls and I trudged back to my apartment, packed up for Thailand, and Leana and I watched some Carpool Karaoke for good measure (highly and shamelessly recommend Paul McCartney and One Direction!). The next day was Thailand for the three of us, and good sleep was required.
We didn’t get it. We were all too anxious slash excited. But we had good intentions, and that’s what matters sometimes. I’ll catch you up on Thailand in the next post. Until then – loveyoumissyouwishyouwerehere.