November 24, 2015

People Everywhere

Twelve days into Hong Kong and the stages of adjustment are  playing out more or less as anticipated, but living-breathing-moving-functioning through them iss o much more  simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting than I had expected.

Of the many stages one goes through when moving to a new country, I'm only at stage 1.2--the adrenaline of landing here and sussing out basic needs is complete and now my body is craving routine and normalcy, which I now savor in the tiniest of doses.

I'm building little routines: waking up early to practice a bit of yoga at my temporary apartment, after which I take the exact same route each day walking to work. Then in the office I try to strike a nice balance between being a total newbie and picking up where I left off in Seattle.

All of these things sound familiar and simple enough, but they look and feel like nothing I'm used to.

Take the commute, for example. I'm staying a convenient 15-minute walk from work, which is made even easier by the above-ground human freeway that snakes one story above the cars, shops and sidewalk below.


The mass of people in Hong Kong is incredible. During commuting time, it doesn't really matter if you don't know exactly where you're headed, because you very literally just go with the flow of traffic. 

Human feet far exceed the intelligence of cars in a traffic jam, there's something intuitive about people walking with one another despite the variance in speed and cadence of steps. It's only when some poor human tries swimming upstream that near collisions occur. I've unfortunately been said human a few times this week.

Among the mass of bodies, it's fun trying to make some sort of interpersonal connection, even if only for a split second--catching a "yep, we're in this mass together," glance. Though it's more difficult than one would think, it seems the majority of folks I join on the great walk every morning have been hypnotized into complacency after taking it day after day.

There are few cities in the world that command energy like Hong Kong. It's like New York, Shanghai, and I imagine maybe Tokyo and Mumbai, in that the city is like it's own creature living, pulsing and feeling the collective highs and lows of its inhabitants. 

It's only when a place achieves a certain mass of people that it can force you out of your individual self and into the collective beat of a population. This is something I have never experienced on a daily basis for any length of time, and is something to work on growing accustomed. I am simply a cell in Hong Kong, fortunate to have the chance to pulse through her veins.

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November 16, 2015

Dr. Chao and his magic medicine

I've been in Hong Kong now for five days, and each day I work towards convincing myself that I actually live here and that I'm not on vacation. Every day there are moments of "WOW, this is my city now!" followed rather quickly by "Holy cow, why did I think moving here was a good idea?" It's safe to say my heart and head aren't fully in sync with the move quite yet.

Five days in, I can't say I've had any monumental adventures, but I have started carving out pockets that feel a bit more familiar. The side streets in Wan Chai, the neighborhood where I am staying, are packed with little shops, stalls and  restaurants.

Each morning I set out in a different direction to find a noodle soup breakfast at a dai pai dong style cafe, which is more or less a small old-style restaurant. Breakfast is simple and inexpensive, a bowl of macaroni with ham and broth and a cup of milk tea (dark-brewed breakfast tea with evaporated milk and a bit of sugar) costs less than $4 USD. 
dai pai dong style breakfast


The morning has been the time I've felt the best, so that's when I've done most of my exploring. I arrived in Hong Kong with a nasty cold that began in my nose in Seattle and settled into a nice chest cough by the time I landed in Hong Kong. As such, a good chunk of my time has been spent in my temporary apartment watching survivalist documentaries on Discovery Channel or reruns of NHL or NFL games. No joke, I saw the second period of the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal hockey game three times on two different days.

However, I am very fortunate that my good friend's father is a Chinese medicine doctor in Hong Kong. My friend is a former coworker from Seattle and she moved home to Hong Kong a few years ago. We met up on Sunday to check out a vintage market in Mong  Kok then went back to her home. She gave me some medicine her dad recommended to calm my cough. 

The medicine came in a tiny plastic bag that contained approximately a teaspoon of reddish-brown powder, she mixed it with a bit of water and told me to drink it. The mix was gritty, thick and bitter, but no worse than a shot of cheap vodka. 

Her father, Dr. Chao, arrived home an hour later.He had been in Taiwan for a week and walked in the door tired with his hands full of luggage. He immediately set down the luggage and walked over to me to take my pulse.

Then he walked away and quickly came back with a face mask on and a stethoscope. He listened to me breathing and took my temp. Meanwhile my friend and her brother were on Google Translate trying to figure out the English words for what he was describing.

Google's answer from Chinese-English was something like "hyperactive respiratory tract," which didn't really help. So then I pulled out Google Translate and keyed in "bronchitis." The English-Chinese translation was exactly what he had been describing to my friend.
Google Translate magic
TCM herbal pill packets

"Not quite yet bronchitis," he said. Best diagnosis ever.

He then gave me sets of herbal medicine to take three times a day. Each packet of medicine contained ~10 pills to help with my symptoms, six of which were the nasty reddish-brown powder in pill form.





Happy  to report that now, two days later, I am feeling much better. My cough is still a bit pesky, but I more or less feel like myself. All in, my first experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was a big success. 

Most of all, I feel very fortunate for my friend and her father who were able to help me out so quickly. Their generosity and kindness have been early seeds in the start of my yet-to-be-formed Hong Kong community. 

November 7, 2015

Asia Part II: Hong Kong

Hi there, the farlang lady is back! This time I'm off to Hong Kong, specifically on I'm moving to Hong Kong on Wednesday. That's four days from right now.

This blog started out a whopping five years ago when I moved to China fresh out of college. If you dig around in the 2010-2011 archives, you'll find some hilarious gems of me discovering China in the most awkward, beautiful, and entertaining manner.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and had zero expectations of what China should or shouldn't be, which is what it made it so damn difficult and comedic. It was the first time in my life I was in a place where I didn't understand the language or culture yet I had never felt so curious.

Now, five years later, I'm going back to the city that captivated my attention from the moment I crossed the bridge from Shenzhen into Hong Kong. After being in the city for only one day, I was determined to live there at some point.

China never actually left me. Somehow she was in the back of my mind when I decided to pack up my car and drive to the west coast with my dad in 2011. China was the linchpin that landed my first job in Seattle at an ad agency and was a motivator when I took a chance on a contract that bloomed into the amazing job that I have now. Hong Kong kept calling and I kept listening.

It turns out listening to and acting upon a dream are really difficult. My roots in Seattle are far deeper than I realized, even though I always knew in the back of my mind that I wouldn't be here forever. Willingly walking away from an incredible home and community feels totally ridiculous and sad.

The logistics are also a small horror. Yet, I know that I have it easy: no kids, no dogs, no man and no couch to complicate the move. But it still feels decidedly un-adult of me to start from scratch after just getting up on my feet and figuring out nifty grown-up things like health insurance deductibles.

Further deepening my feeling of regression is that I'm once again living out of a suitcase, sleeping on the floor of my living room. It's both strange and comfortable being a guest in the apartment where I've lived for three years. The movers came to take away the majority of the artifacts that make me feel like me. The next time I see them again, will be in my own high-rise flat on the other shore of the Pacific.

If I strip away the move logistics, goodbyes, and crumpled sleeping bag on the floor, the real gold of the story is quite simple: The bizarre and wonderful journey of following a dream requires relentless patience and enough of a degree of illogical gutsiness such that your mind doesn't scare you out of giving it a shot. Above all, the work has to come from a genuine place so that you don't have to go it alone.

"When you want something, all of the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it," -- The Alchemist.

Broadcasting next post from Hong Kong--