I kind of did the same thing again this past week. The eastward flight was much longer due to prevailing winter winds, and the time on the ground was twice as long, though everyone felt compelled to tell me over and over again what a short trip it was (they don’t know short), and now I am back again. Still, a quick turn around for sure.
This time I was not going to meet someone new, but someone I knew well already. Ahh, Hong Kong… my second amicable Ex: I am still interested in your well-being, your comings and goings. But, you just don’t stir me like you used to. No hard feelings, eh?
The weeks leading up to this trip I had begun to get pretty excited. Really excited. Perhaps it was just to take a trip, that can do it for me sometimes, but it seemed like more than that; I was so curious how things would seem to me. After five years spent making a lfe in Hong Kong, I had left with little more than an abstract plan eight months ago. That my life has fallen into order in a remarkable way here took much of the sting of change away. And so, on the eve of my return, I found myself shivering with antici…
And so I went.
Hong Kong greeted me with all the appropriate familiarity. Efficiency. Pollution. Shopping malls. Dai pai dongs. Traffic. The Skyline. “Mind-the-gap”. Markets. Taxis. Trains. Ferries. Lammado. Everything seemed exactly the same. But totally different. This does make sense. I mean, Heraclitus, the king of all things logos himself did declare:
Δεν γίνεται να μπει κανείς στο ίδιο νερό του ποταμού που κυλάει δύο φορές.
Oh, you don’t read Greek? Well then, know this: ‘you c[an] not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.’ But when faced with this experience, it can be very disconcerting. And of course it brings up all these metacognitive questions, like, who has changed? Was it Hong Kong, or was it me? I pondered these things as I moved from plane to train to ferry to Cath’s Bar. Without my computer or even a sim card I turned to my journal. I began to write again – do not panic, this is self-indulgence of a private sort and you shall be spared – but it was interesting to put on paper the things that struck me most immediately and viscerally.
Well I was walking down the street just a-having a think
When a snake of a guy gave me an evil wink
He shook me up, he took me by surprise
He had a pickup truck and the devil’s eyes.
He stared at me and I felt a change
Time meant nothing, never would again
The smells got me the most. This is not unusual, smells for me being analogous to that other princess’ famous pea. Everything took me right back to a specific memory. Someone cooking breakfast took me back to a breakfast sanny with #5. An early morning walk down the path to the ferry had me looking for Norm and Matil. Actually, everywhere I went in my old village reminded me of Norman and Matilda. I saw them in every vista of their old familiar places. But they were not there. The other smells all had an equally powerful impact: The jungle. The beach. Tsing Tao. Dim Sum.
I saw all sorts of people who registered my face, but were not quite sure. Hong Kong is one of those places where people come and go so much, and people tend to get so caught up in their own busy-ness that it is hard to know if you are seeing returnees, a visitor, or you just haven’t bumped into a neighbor in a while. One of my neighbors thought I had been gone only three months. Another friend wondered in what year I left. If nothing else, it reminds you that we are all sort of in our own dimension. One person I tried not to make eye contact with caught me and called me out: “Amanda darling! When’dya get back then?” [I do love that everyone assumes that on your return you are staying, it is a rather endearing kind of pride in place.] This individual I know through some illustrious events with #5 and I am fairly certain he just got out of the clink. He shook me up and took me by surprise. Ah well, Hong Kong welcomes all.
It’s so dreamy, oh fantasy free me
So you can’t see me, no not at all
In another dimension, with voyeuristic intention
Well-secluded, I see all
With a bit of a mind flip
You’re there in the time slip
And nothing can ever be the same
You’re spaced out on sensation, like you’re under sedation
I kept saying I wanted to know what it felt like to be back in Hong Kong as a visitor. I guess that is mostly true. I did want to see it in another dimension, with voyeuristic intention. I wondered if the things that had stood out so sharply to me when I first arrived would again, or if it would be something different. I also had started to wonder if I was going to feel like it was a place I would want to be again. I mean, the money was really nice [being on a budget fucking sucks, and while I realize that it is the way of the West these days, I do not like it] and the glamour of being so apparently international [or at least the glamour that I associated with it] was something that I had liked having attached to my calling card.
I looked at everything I could see. I tried to take it all in. And the only feelings it brought up for me were the same ones I felt when I was trying on all my clothes that had been in storage for five+ years on my return to California: a sentimental appreciation for something that had been incredibly important to me and had made a huge difference in my life… but no longer fit exactly right.
It was a trip. It was really wonderful to see all those people – sichuan at the Lung Kong with Sheli, Ewa, Vicky, Andre, Camellia, Kate, Karine and Chris; passing Mrs. Chan’s and seeing Olly and Jean and Anne; tea with Eric; lunch with Colette; yoga with my former Bendy Cohort; fondue with Tracey, Nickie and Frenchie; dinner at Kelly’s with Peter, Ira and Andy; drinks with Barry; lunch and football with Adele and my LBFF; a day with the cousins and beautiful Saya; hellos with Tams, Ames, Cath, Daz, Josh, Danny, Emma, Simon; coffee with Francois; juice with Olly; a late (well-behaved) night with Dr. Man; walks with Chris and Frenchie; surprising Lizzie on the eve of the arrival of baby number 2 and seeing the first photos from proud papa Rhys; and of course the requisite date with Fun Bobby. But after five days of getting caught up with the people who had helped me make my life in Hong Kong, I felt ready to go. I really did not have a whole lot else to do.
And so I went.
I will be ever grateful for what Hong Kong did for me. It taught me about more things than I can comprehend, but mostly, it taught me about myself. And helped me to stop running. I have never felt so right, validated – sure – about the decisions I have made. Hong Kong gave me that as well. I guess my work there is done.
M’sai, Hong Kong, m’goi lei.