The weather in Hong Kong has been pretty bad for the last two weeks. It’s nothing that I didn’t expect- after all, it IS winter, but I’ve been told that it’s been uncharacteristically awful for the area, and every morning before school, my aunt loads me down with at least 3 or 4 sweaters that were designed for people weighing 450lbs or more. “Nei jeuk doh-di saam la- Hou dung la!!!” I waddle to school as the unfortunate eye in this veritable hurricane of fleece, and shed them as quickly as I can once I’m inside. Cold weather without snow should be illegal.
Thankfully, today, The Fates offered a brief respite from the wind and fog, and the warmth for which the region is known spread from one end of the city to the other like a drop of Dulce de Leche. I spent the morning with my aunt and uncle (comment on that later), and then went out to enjoy the sultry, sunny weather at Kowloon Park. It took me kind of a long time to walk there from where I was, and since I wasn’t in any kind of rush, I weaved in and out of department stores and pocketed dozens of fliers that were thrust at me by anxious, doe-eyed, 20-something year old girls. It was a nice enough walk, but, as with everything in Hong Kong, you don’t much feel like you’re in China. Lots of people speak English, and it’s far easier to find a McDonald’s than a cheap noodle shop. Also, there’s so much money floating around, I never have to worry about getting robbed, and more often than not, I find myself staring, puzzled, at the rare people who sit on the street with coins-in-a-bowl. What are they doing? Don’t they realize that they look like begg- … OOHHHHH!!!
Once I made it to Kowloon Park, I came in from a different gate than normal and found myself face-to-face with a sign that read, “Health Education Exhibition & Resource Center – Free Admission.” I’m not afraid to admit that I actually fell running up the stairs to the main entrance. I spent maybe an hour frolicking about there, where I snapped this photo:
Don’t ask about the socks-in-ballet-flats look. It seemed like a good idea at the time. This is Asia, after all, isn’t it?
Anyway, nothing shouts “GEEK!” louder than a full-grown adult playing and taking pictures with a plastic replica of staphylococcus aureus, and the ONLY OTHER PEOPLE there (the security team) pursed their lips in disdain. I exited out the back, and wandered around for a few minutes before settling down to watch the flamingos at the eastern edge of the park. I watched them for nearly an hour and thought about how, 6-years ago, after coming back from my first long-term backpacking trip, I had tried so hard to make time to simply muse. I had purposely gotten a job at the Embarcadero so I could walk down Pier 14 on my lunch break and enjoy the Bay, and I jostled my way down the MUNI steps at 5 o’clock, trying to get home in time to catch the sunset from Ocean Beach. For a full 20 months, I did this every day, and on my days off, I would drive out to Marin, Pacifica, Tahoe, ANYWHERE, to rediscover the charm of the state I had grown up in.
That was in 2008, and here, at the end of 2012, I struggled hard to think of a time, ANY time, this year when I had done the same. Truth is, I hadn’t. I completed Spring semester by keeping my head down and doing things as fast as possible. Yeah, I got good grades, but I had become Milo at the beginning of the story, and had in fact, forgotten what it was like to be Milo at the end. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an excerpt from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. It’s my absolute favorite book in the world, and has been ever since I was 11.
“As he and his unhappy thoughts hurried along (for while he was never anxious to be where he was going, he liked to get there as quickly as possible) it seemed a great wonder that the world, which was so large, could sometimes feel so small and empty.” – Juster
My last year and a half in San Francisco was painfully overloaded with academics, more academics, a smattering of extracurriculars by which I hoped to bolster some lackluster academic records from a few years ago, work, my other work, my other OTHER work, and the occasional night out with friends, which I spent talking incessantly about how stressed out I was from the other elements of my life. Now, I’m not saying that I wish I had done things differently. After all, I wouldn’t be sitting in Hong Kong typing this right now if I hadn’t made those sacrifices and driven myself to the point of hysteria (Brett, you know what I’m talking about) to make my bigger dreams come true. But, I wondered how much I love travel because I love seeing other places, meeting new people, etc. … and how much I love it because it gives me time to think, not think, go, not go, talk, not talk, and pretty much do whatever the hell I damn well please.
Travel forces you to sit and muse. You often have no choice- waiting for the electricity to come on so that the only foreign-card accepting ATM in the country will work, sitting by the road waiting for the bus’ spare part to arrive on foot from the nearest town, or laying on a deserted beach where quite literally the only thing to do is flip over and lay on your other side. This is time you use to essentially spring clean your mind. You get to chew on things that otherwise get marginalized and never duly processed, and it gives you a kind of satisfaction and self-understanding that is the stamp of full adulthood.
Anyway, I wondered how I would manage to get in these moments once I started grad school. Would I, even? I have a terrible habit of categorizing all activities into “Essentials” and “Non-Essentials,” and musing seems to always get penciled in under the latter. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage to change that with accelerated graduate study screaming in my ear, but it’s got to be done.
I’m notoriously bad at closing these blogs, and the pressure is double for this one since I’ve only just decided to start linking my blog to Facebook (Hello new reader!). I thought that linking the two would encourage me to write more, but I think it’s really just giving me a bit of stage-fright. Oh well. I’ll end this one with a video from a Kung Fu demonstration.
On average, most of the performers were pretty good, and I watched, wide-eyed, with the glum realization that there were a healthy number of 8-year olds in the city who could kick my ass (I also nearly got my teeth knocked in by a man who was easily older than democracy itself). Not the most halcyon way to pass the evening, but a cultural one.
“But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.” – C.S. Lewis