The last blog I posted was three weeks ago – the night we were released early from work because the protest situation was too unpredictable and we had to make sure students and staff could get home safely. I remember walking home that night with my friends as quickly as we could, stopping at the grocery store to stock up just in case things got super hectic, but also thinking “it couldn’t really be so bad, could it? It’s been months of this, it will be okay tomorrow. It’s always okay tomorrow.”
We spent the night glued to our respective sources of news – mainly instagram, since you can follow all sorts of sources that aren’t government sponsored, as most of them are in Asia. We were deep in Whatsapp threads, passing around protest schedules sent by Chinese-speaking friends, asking “did you see about – did you hear about -” and replaying footage of close-range shooting and stabbing, looting, massive fires, throwing of petrol bombs, street violence.
The next morning, the coffee made and poured and getting ready to head to work, I received the text that school was canceled for the day. I rejoiced a little – nothing like a mid-morning nap and a day off work – but then after that, a sense of dread and suspense crept over. I was glued to the news as the johnny-on-the-spot photos and videos were uploaded, the stories spread of the chaos whipping through the streets of Hong Kong while we all stayed in our homes for the day.
And the next day. And the next.
We didn’t return to work for over a week.
For six school days, eight days total, we watched Hong Kong rock with violence and uncertainty. I have no idea what the story looked like from the outside, but judging from the number of texts I got from around the world, there was probably a decent amount of coverage of the absolute madness. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marching in the name of democracy were taking to the streets at all hours of the day. Normal working hours were suspended.
College kids laid battle ground, trapped in their universities, trying to escape by rappeling down freeway overpasses or even climbing through sewers. Thousands of teargas canisters thrown, water cannons shot, police on motorcycles mowing down civilians. Transportation and business were completely shut down by order of Hong Kong, effectively enacting a curfew on the city.
For those of us that aren’t locals, that was a strange moment. At first, it felt a little bit like a gift of time to take advantage of. A free staycation. Indeed, many people went to amusement parks or hotels because there are massive deals since tourism has dropped so dramatically. Yet it also felt like a slow, building and suffocating panic attack.
I posted unofficial “how to survive life lockdown” instagram stories, detailing the many bottom-of-the-to-do-list things I accomplished in those first few days that felt like freedom – messaging every guy I matched with on Tinder and wondering if he lived near DNA-altering tear gas, planting lavender seeds I bought three years ago, brewing kombucha, looking up braid tutorials on Youtube, using Web MD to diagnose every ache and pain and deciding I might die sooner than the climate wars I’d planned on.
A lot of that time was spent wondering what I should be doing, how I should be feeling or acting, how I should be supporting or questioning a movement that by and large, doesn’t dramatically effect my life because of where I work and where I live and the fact that I will leave this place in the very near future. Except when I have gone looking for it, I haven’t seen much of the situation up close. I live in a residential area with one way streets and a mix of old locals and young expats. So if I were to just keep walking back and forth from work to gym to home in my half-mile radius, I could probably ignore the turmoil forever.
Except for the way that grocery stores clear out on weekends, and we’re warned to not by local produce because of tear gas contamination, and the trains and buses don’t run at certain times. And you can’t wear the color black anymore. And we don’t move about much after dark.
Except for the fact that Hong Kong is fighting for democracy itself.
Because I have an Ameican passport, I have the luxury of thinking, “well, if it gets really bad, I can just leave.” There were moments when I started mentally sorting through my house and packing my bags, determining what I would leave behind if I had to go in a rush. Besides the pang in my heart of leaving my students and my friends, I wasn’t too bothered. It’s strange to feel so deeply connected yet distant from a place I’ve called home for nearly three years.
Fortunately for me, because I can go off the deep end with my thoughts and because I was going stir crazy, I had a mini-break already scheduled for that weekend over the protests. I don’t have a lot of stories that start this way, but I spent that weekend singing Jesus rock at a conference taking place at a charming, terrible, and somewhat creepy museum slash amusement park. It is a lifesize replica of Noah’s Ark, built to the exact cubit (church kid joke!) and a place called Solar Tower that tries to tell some sort of story about galaxies far far away. So. Quite a normal weekend.
Through my flatmate Suz and my awesome brother, I have become involved in YoungLife, which ministers to high school and university students all around the world. I have LOVED it, as most of the time I basically act like a child – I dress up in costumes, lead silly games, connect with kids, tell stories, sing songs, etc. It’s magic and it’s everything I’m good at and goodcleanfun. It’s weekly summer camp for adults and kids. There’s nothing like singing about stars while looking up at stars to the one who created the stars.
I came back from that weekend spiritually filled, emotionally and physically spent, and then we still had two days off. Hong Kong was still unsafe. Finally, we returned to work. It was strange at first. We’d missed each other – staff and students – and there was and is still an air of unease and uncertainty. But the show goes on, and despite the stress of it all and trying to cram the curriculum through, I’ve had a great time doing science, art, throwing a Thanksgiving party for my students and making them eat cornbread and play Scattergories, reading chapters of Exodus every morning like it’s a soap opera drama, getting made jumbles and getting sneezed on and getting hugs. They’re a weird bunch but they’re mine.
I held my annual Friendsgiving this last weekend, which took countless visits to at least nine different grocery stores to get the right ingredients for Gma Susi’s potatoes and Aunt Penny’s spinach dip. But in the end, victorious, I tasted a memory of home.
I ordered two turkey dinners, demanded everyone arrive in American costumes, and decorated the house and roof so it looked like autumn had thrown up. We played word games, darts, said what we were thankful for, broke the bathroom lock, fixed it, played flip cup and beer pong, and in true teacher fashion, brought our own cups, helped clean, and were all home by 11:30. My favorite thing is having people over at my house when it’s decorated, sharing food I love, playing games, costumes, and organized fun. So my heart was very, very full.
And getting fuller, and growing more excited, because in 9 short days – finally under two digits – I will be home for Christmas.
It was the puppy’s birthday the other day, which I dedicated to her on instagram, because she has an account, with an astonishing amount of followers (like, way more than me). I’ve been unreasonably excited about seeing my dogs since then. Because they don’t even know I’m coming! You could tell them every day, and it would still be a surprise when I showed up next Friday! Because doggos.
I’ve placed my yearly order with Amazon of all the things I need replaced and don’t want to bother shopping for – mascara, tennis shoes, leggings, sunscreen, inspirational feminist literature, Mr. Sketch markers, Thanksgiving decorations.
I’m all ready for the next list – holiday things to do at home. So here goes:
- Smell a tree. A christmas tree, a normal front yard tree, a tree at Ace Hardware. I just miss trees.
- Fireplace staring contest.
- Bubble bath with candles that smell good.
- Mom’s food and the house all decorated. Special towels you aren’t supposed to use in the bathroom.
- Puzzles with mom and gma.
- White elephant gift exchange with family on Christmas Eve.
- New pajamas that match my sisters.
- Opening the annual matching cousin ornament from my grandparents (and the 50 dollar bill that comes with! Lol)
- Step on crunchy leaves
- Seasonal Starbucks drinks.
- Seasonal Trader Joes cookies.
- Snow in Chicago with Ryann and her baby I finally get to meet.
- Watch “elf” with my bestie in pajamas.
- Make a gingerbread house and hope bestie doesn’t notice me eat all the frosting.
- Eat Mexican food as much as possible.
- Christmas beers!
- Have a totally anticlimatic New Years Eve.
- Make resolutions I have no intention of keeping.
- Sing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” with my dad.
- Bay Area Tinder and it’s many possibilities to not explore.
In nine days, friends and fam. See you then.
PS someone translate this into dog for Kizzy and Buddy.