Week Highlights: Today is October 1st, which is known as National Day of the People’s Republic of China; the 70th anniversary of communism in China. It’s also the 5 year anniversary of the Umbrella Movement and Occupy Now. We’re in our fourth straight month of protests in Hong Kong. My roomie and I decided that since the day was a public holiday and we’ve been living in constant low-grade stress with the protests and wondering about our future, we’d celebrate the potential beginning of the end that has been a glorious reign for us in Hong Kong. Because in times like these, sometimes you need a day to laugh and forget it all.*
The protests meant we had to stay indoors to avoid trouble. Despite the dangerously high pollution levels, we’d decided on drinks, snacks, the kiddie pool, an epic playlist, and the roof. We made a trip to the grocer on Sunday to stock up and stayed up late last night doing nothing but story-telling and giggling. I fought against my teacher alarm clock and mounting anxiety and slept in until 8am, and I even made my gym class today! Woo!
Suz and I joked about putting out ads on Tinder for how well prepared we were for a terrible day – “Seeking apocalypse buddy – standards are quite low because nothing matters anymore and the pollution is melting our faces anyway so. You don’t have to look like your profile pic, but please be funny. BYOB. Inflatable pool, excellent soundtrack, card games provided. Must fit in a twin-sized bed.” If this lockdown continues, we might make posters with this ad and hit the local watering hole to see what happens.
Another true highlight was a teaching conference I went to this weekend with three good mates from school. We nerded out about teaching (literally almost getting in a fight over the nature of assessment for international mindedness for four year olds), got to take learning walks through a truly developed school and get some great ideas, and bond together over televised rugby games and a very good cover band in a bar called Rock Bottom. The trip started with me losing my phone about thirty minutes before we had to board an international flight (which led to the glass of wine that ended my month of sober September!) and we were blessed with nearly empty flights both ways, allowing us to to take a row each, which was divine. A 40% drop in tourism to Hong Kong has some dark perks.
Week Lowlights: These are strange times we live in. I’m an American living in Hong Kong, in my sixth year living abroad, and watching my home country fall apart from a distance via twitter has become oddly familiar, but now I’m doing it in my host country as well. Today is (for some) a great day of celebrating how awesome China is. For Hong Kong, it’s got a very different name and vibe. I went to the gym this morning, and about two hours after I’d been on that street, it was filled with street blockades, water cannons shooting a mix of blue dye and pepper spray, police rushing the crowds, and angry protestors. Helicopters are circling overhead, ambulance and sirens keep rushing past.
We have no idea how this day ends, or how the next few weeks will go. Someone’s been shot today. A few weeks ago a woman lost her eye via rubber bullet. They’ve shut down all public transit and it feels quite close to the enforcement of a public curfew. My friend Laurel, who is an incredible journalist, was hit with a water cannon on Sunday night. I don’t really know how to end this paragaph, because as I write it, we just sit here, updating Instagram because that’s how we get the news on our phones, wondering what will happen tonight. But it’s scarier than I could have imagined. Prayers appreciated.
Last meal: after living through the massive typhoon that ripped through HK last year, which Suz and I were wildly underprepared for, we both went a little more conservative and stocked up on canned goods and frozen foods to make sure we wouldn’t starve in the event that the city shuts down after October 1st. I also made a quick 711 run for some wine and guilty pleasure because of reasons. So currently I’m having chicken wings, puffy Cheetos, and a wine spritzer.
Last seen wearing: pajamas – I’m in that weird “post gym shower, might get into a bikini, might just get into bed” mood. It took a lot of work just to get out of a towel after I sat on the couch in post-shower bliss, scrolling my phone for an hour of nothing. Currently in jam jams.
Fav recent joke: A vegan, an athlete, and a crossfitter walk into a bar. How do you know who is who?
Don’t worry – they’ll tell you.
The Media that has Helped: If you haven’t already, please add “Unbelievable” to your Netflix queue. Trigger warning – it starts with an 18 woman reporting a rape. It was a miniseries I could not stop watching, and should be required viewing for men and police officers about the very real, insidious, toxic ways that assault and abuse and the public’s or police’s views of it and/or the victim contribute to low numbers of reporting from victims. Also, we’ve nearly finished our watching of all seasons of “The Office” and are slowly catching up on “Brooklyn 99” and more television should be like both of those. I’m finishing up “Life of Pi.”
Quote of the Week: I’m reading a novel with my fourth graders about a family during and after World War Two in Warsaw, Poland, which has been a bit nuts, because in 2019 in Asia, kids have very little knowledge about the world at all, let alone WW2, which loomed quite largely in American education when I was growing up. Anne Frank, just a few years older than my students, obviously comes to mind, and this quote of hers, that she had no idea would be something that anyone read at all, seems so appropriate:
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
― Anne Frank
Best Conversation I had: The reason was sad (there were massive protests by his house, so he didn’t want to go home) but a really cool friend named Gabriel came to hang out on Sunday night. He’s one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve known in the flesh – loves Jesus, professional break dancer, creative, tall, fit, Nigerian, London accent, grew up with sisters so super respectful of women, works with kids, etc. And we got to grab some beers and nachos and talk about things. Profound conversations about instagram influencers, dreadlocks, third culture kids, dating, family relationships, etc. One of the things we touched on was the different perspectives we live in, me as a woman and him as a black man, and how his whole life, he’s gone out of his way to present himself as non-threatening, and to be seen as a friendly easy-going guy who is not a predator in any way, and how for my whole life (and every woman’s whole life) the goal is to present yourself as someone too troublesome or forgettable to be someone’s prey. Fascinating stuff to chew through over beers and the rugby World Cup.
Looking forward to: my first wedding in Hong Kong! A friend I used to work with is getting married this Saturday, and I love celebrating love, a chance to put on fancy dress and dance with friends. Then next week another friend and I are taking off to Thailand for some beachside R & R. I hope to have a chance to catch up on reading, sleeping, and see if I remember how to tan. And eat my weight in curry.
Until next time.
*My tone might be considered too lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, maybe, considering how intense these protests are, the escalating violence, the very serious threat to democracy and life as we know it in Hong Kong. In no way do I want to devalue the struggle of the people, and a large part of me wishes I was out on the front lines. I don’t think it’s my fight to fight, and can really only handle the constant stress of the situation with some gallows humor and hopefully also spreading the word about what’s happening here. I’ve had people from around the world reach out to me, caring about the situation, really only because it’s made personal to them by the fact that they know me and I live here. I do love this city and pray for peaceful resolution and a return to some semblance of normalcy in the near future.