June 23rd, 2010
I am sitting on my bed pilled with clean clothes ready to be folded and picking the skin off my sunburnt shoulders. My laundry is hanging on the balcony to dry and my suitcase is already stashed away in the closet. The remnants of my trip to Hong Kong are slowly fading.
Hong Kong was amazing. However, no trip can be separated from the frame of mind of the trip taker. And since I must admit I am beginning to slip into the constant whine some people term culture shock that may be a deciding factor in my feelings about the city. However, I am not sure if it is that or the memory of the delicious food, the great and beautiful beaches or the bargain shopping in the night that is breaking my heart right now. Either way, it’s painfully obvious that I am sitting in the midst of development instead of the Asian financial centre.
Lately, I find myself with little to no desire to leave my apartment and the comforts of my books. Snugly couched I could study a whole day away or easily waste it watching Micheal Scoffield try to escape yet again in Prison Break. There is no purpose to go to the bar except to please my friends who think it necessary. I feel there are few if any foreigners I haven’t already met and none of them are date worthy. So why not just stay in and read and hope to cross another book off the list of the Times 100 top novels. That is a far worthier pursuit than punishing my liver in a vain attempt to meet someone.
I have my pursuits that I greatly enjoy. Today I went to a nearby café to play their gujung and practice. There is a café I like to go to and play their instrument. Last time I was there one of the café workers pushed me aside to show me what I was doing wrong. It does not matter that six months have gone by the bluntness of the Chinese still throws me for a loop.
I miss the food in Hong Kong – the delicious fusion of flavours from all corners of the globe. I am sick to death of Chinese food and am eating packaged muffins for dinner to avoid it. On the train home, an older woman that I was sharing a compartment with (ayi or auntie) asked me how I was adjusting. I replied I don’t like the food and I miss my culture. I do. And what I mean by that is, I miss places where every corner is not a construction site with dust and soot flying in the air for eyes and mouths to catch. I miss the parts of the world where children don’t indiscriminately use the streets as their own personal toilet. (Just two weeks ago I was sprayed by a little boy who I guess missed the section of the side walk that was not congested with people while he was urinating. Yeah that’s right. A little boy peed on me in the street. I mean where am I? Where on earth is that okay? That’s right – Wuhan is the only place.)
Culture shock, Lucy tells me, doesn’t always mean that the person wants to go home. Sometimes it’s just a feeling of malaise, of unease, a feeling of pointlessness and sometimes anger. I guess that’s where I am. Especially today when Josh said I was wasting my time because another year wasn’t going to be anywhere near enough time to learn Chinese. That really made me feel worse.
But I did have fun playing the gujung today. And soon I will break out my book and study some more to fight that feeling of pointlessness. I do feel very lonely. I feel misunderstood and far from those that appreciate me for being something other than a foreign freakish looking face.
But at least I will always have Hong Kong. Anney (an AIESEC intern from the States) and I were in Hong Kong with a short stop-over in Shenzhen for nearly a week. Hong Kong was fabulous. We went swimming on gorgeous beaches; ate garlic shrimp on beach side restaurants; hiked and saw wild monkey; shopped in night markets; attended a couch surfing party; danced in pubs with free drinks for the ladies; and dinned, dinned, dinned. We stayed at my cousin Shauna’s with her husband Brian. They were gracious hosts and best of all they had a great swimming pool.
Hong Kong is the most densely populated city I have ever seen in my life. But it remains remarkably clean and the people are surprisingly friendly considering the size of the city (roughly 7 million.) No one stared at us while we there! Did I mention the food was fabulous? Unlike Wuhan’s limited selection, Hong Kong has restaurants from all over the globe.
The freaky thing about Hong Kong is we would hear perfect English everywhere and turning around expecting to see foreigners only to see a group of Orientals speaking English with flawless accents. It was weird. Small children in the elevator of my cousin’s building spoke to us with better accents than many of the Chinese English teachers at our school. It was definitely an experience.
I found the wide variance in people’s views of Hong Kong interesting. People in China see it as unambiguously belonging to China. But people in Hong Kong had the opposite stance. “Hong Kong is Hong Kong NOT China.”
Hong Kong and its ultra modern sky scrapers, clean streets and worldly atmosphere made me feel like I was living in the future. And the trip back to Wuhan, watching children pee in buckets on the train, was only too cruel a reminder that I live in China.