“So, how did you end up in Hong Kong?”
“Wait, you support Chelsea? Whaaa? Why?”
Fair enough, I have been asked these questions often enough that perhaps I should offer a confession explanation on both accounts. So, here goes. (Taz Ahmad, this one’s for you.) They are vaguely related… and totally logical. [Not.]
I came to Hong Kong in the late summer of 2005. Why did I come here? Well, I was deeply dissatisfied with my job location relationship life. I thought I could stick it out, you know, like play through it, suck it up, the standard drill. However, the way things unfolded that began to seem… untenable. It was like I kept making deals with myself; if this worked out then I would be okay, or if that happened, then I could make it. Clearly I was swimming in ripe Reno bullshit. When I was told that I would be losing all of the courses that I had worked so hard to create at the school where I was teaching because the new teachers “could not teach anything else” and I had the “ability to teach outside my preference” (who says that?) I decided a sabbatical was in order. Only a sabbatical was not on offer. So, I quit. Not with animosity, more with self-preservation, and honestly, the work situation was simply the catalyst that sparked the whole pile of kindling that had become my suburban demise. Regardless, I found myself in a situation where I needed to find something else to do. [ironically, I now find myself in similar circumstances… perhaps I will get to that eventually.]
I thought I might go back to Latin America. Get my Spanish on and enjoy all the finery of the Latin scene. But my parents suggested Asia. I responded with the typical aplomb that accompanies my attitude towards the unfamiliar. “Uh, you guys are the ones with Asian fetish not me. Why would I want to go there” But, you know how it is when you have parents like mine: they are usually at least one step ahead of the game – or at least my game. With a very reliable (and now dear) friend in Hong Kong, my parents convinced me to give it a go. So, I did.
Soon, I found myself in the most foreign of places, on my own, without my cat, a boyfriend (mostly) or a clue. It was remarkably refreshing. Certainly there were some dodgy moments and I would say some less than fun ones… but through it all, my Thai ghetto neighborhood, my first forays into LKF, my eventual landing on Lamma… somehow I became a Hong Konger. Oh, and the work? It sucked… at first. I mean, I suppose for a newbie fresh out of college or a gap-year kid it would be great. But for me? Not so great. I quit that shit decided there may be better opportunities elsewhere.
I was right.
I headed out on the road through South East Asia, first stop: Thailand, in April of 2006. Though I must admit, I looked back on occasion, it was not often and when I did it rarely to the suburbs of Northern Nevada. I eventually found myself in Laos PDR at the height of the World Cup frenzy. And it was mad fun. I was in Luang Prabang and reading the Bangkok Post one morning when Ex #5 (a Tottenham supporter) was telling me I had to pick a team. A team? In soccer? huh??? I told him that of course I would support the US. He laughed and said “Well, that won’t take a lot of energy as they’ll be out in the first round – but I mean in the Premiership. You need to have a regular team to support.” Now, bear in mind that I am and have always been a sports fan of a fairly intense variety, so I was game. I grabbed the paper from him and there was a big color photos on the front page of a good looking guy and I said, “Okay, he’s cute, who does he play for? I will support them.” Ex #5 almost shit himself. It was the front page story announcing that Michael Ballack had just signed with Chelsea. He said, “That Kraut? Are you joking? And Chelsea? Good grief.” [And yes, he did say ‘good grief.’] I had no idea that, a) Ballack would turn out to be sort of a dick (though, he is dark and dirty and in general – that is right up my alley), or b) that supporting Chelsea as a Yank was akin to a Brit coming to the States and being like, “Oh yeah, I think I will support the Yankees” (or the Red Sox – either one would make me vom.) But, the effect it had on #5 made it all worth it. And they wear blue, which is good because I really just cannot get behind any team that wears red.
We watched World cup games in the pub in Luang Prabang, a dodgy hotel in Vientiane, an even dodgier roadside restaurant in Vang Vieng, on Koh Sahn Road in Bangkok and on the beach on Koh Pah Ngan. But my favorite was when we were staying in this tiny village called Mong Noi up near the Chinese border with a local family and a randy group of three Aussies, and Irishman, and two Brits. There was no power or running water in this village – and it was in a very heavy land mine area. We had spent our days wandering around with local kids who showed us how to not get blown up and all the cool little back woods places. We mostly had to be out and about during the day because everything was shut down. Then in the evening the family would do Laos-style barbeque and we would all sit around and eat eventually heading to the bar/restaurant/picnic area by the river where they had their one television that they would turn on for the football around 2 a.m. when it came on. They saved all their power all day just for the football. And they were so excited to have a group of nutters to watch it with them.
And so I watched the Americans lose (though I stand by my assertion of that year – beware, we are coming after you all sooner than you think, and I mean on the football pitch), the Aussies achieved some heroic wins (before being defeated by a bad call and a great foot -Totti the Hottie) and Peter Crouch be called a “lanky streak of paralyzed piss!” loud enough to almost get us kicked out of a fully packed bar. Ballack played for Germany, of course… but soon found his home at Stamford Bridge – winning farily regularly, much to the dismay of my English friends. [But really people – West Ham? Leeds? ‘Spurs? Ouch.]
The summer of ’06 turned out to be a great introduction to Asia and what it had to offer as well as the world of soccer.
Five years after my Asian arrival, I find myself single (for real), employed (at least for the moment) and well versed in the language of the Premiership. That seems like a win in this day and age.
And so that is why I am in Hong Kong and why I support Chelsea FC (Gooooo Bluuuuuueesssssss). Or at least, that is most of the story.