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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Handling hectic Hong Kong . . .

The pace of life here in Hong Kong, for me at least, makes Beijing look almost rural. There's so much to see and do and always something going on but I feel as if I've done very little the past three months. I guess that's not truly the case.

After my first month looking after friends' apartment and gorgeous ginger cats, I found an apartment of my own that I love. Like many homes in HK, it's a tiny studio but is ideal for me. The building is only three years old so everything feels new and clean and it has great facilities - gym, pool, a reading room, relaxation area with several Bali-style loungers, massage chairs, barbecue terrace with two Webers, an outdoor area and 24-hour reception staff.

My apartment came with a new sofa bed (I got to choose the style and color) and has a reasonable amount of storage space, a great bathroom and a wonderful open kitchen area with lots of counter space and an oven. There's a small balcony (I need to get a chair to put out there) and a small view of the harbor (I'm watching ferries go by as I write this). I've been slowly buying everything I need for the place, picking up items most days as I head home from work. I make my own meals to take to work most days and am again baking sweet treats to take in for workmates or share with a friendly neighbor.

My neighborhood, Sai Ying Pun, has wonderful restaurants, markets and shops and almost everything one needs is withing walking distance. It has the feel of a village rather than a big-city 'hood and you see and acknowledge a lot of the same people around all the time. My apartment complex has a similar feel, with regulars in the gym and pool and several families with young children to liven up the place.

Work has been a slight case of being careful what you wish for - I wanted a challenge after not finding that in my last position and have definitely found it here. I've completed my probation period and feel I'm settling in well and work with some great people - always a huge plus. It's been more intense that I expected, which explains why I haven't done as much as I expected as yet. I often just want to stay in my quiet apartment in my free time for now.

Obviously, it's a busy city and I work in a hub of the mayhem at Causeway Bay, and have become to narrower, more crowded walkways than even in Beijing. There are also public spaces everywhere, however, allowing a respite from the bustle and a place to rest and recuperate before heading back into the fray. I also like the sports areas I see dotted throughout the city, which seem busy whatever the hour.

I've made time to take care of myself and find my own peace - something that seems more important in such a busy city. I start each day with meditation before breakfast, coffee and hitting the gym, and often follow that up by swimming laps then hanging out poolside with a book. I'm taking a yoga class at least once a week and trying to fit in one other practice session also. The meditation and yoga help me relax and be more tolerant, the workouts give me happy endorphins and it all together makes me a calmer, more chill person. 

I guess I've achieved a reasonable amount in the time I've been here and the weather is starting to be ideal for hiking so I hope to explore more of my new home in the next months. There's no hurry - I imagine I will be here for some time . . .

Saturday, August 20, 2016

two months in . . .

. . . it's been a busy, busy time getting settled in Hong Kong

Obviously, I've been learning my new job. Anywhere you go, even if the job description is the same, the systems, the corporate culture, the people and personalities will be very different. It's been a steep learning curve and I look forward to fully relaxing into it - not slacking off but feeling comfortable enough to not second guess my every choice. (Not the fault of anyone but myself - I'm the hardest taskmaster I have).

Then there's the city. and I've fallen in love with Hong Kong. I always liked it, but living here rocks. I was incredibly fortunate when I arrived that not only did I have a hotel room for a week, but I had friends from the Jeju community who were heading away for six weeks immediately after that. I got to spend that time in their apartment with two wonderful ginger cats and planned to look at where I wanted to live during that time. I fell for their neighborhood, and took an apartment here.

There are very, very many reasons I love my new home, but it's 0100 (I worked a late shift today) and I have so much to do tomorrow. Now that I'm settled in my own place, I plan to write more often.

BTW, there's a single bed available in my postage stamp of a home. I've been hosted so well by so many friends - it's my turn to repay the favor.

For now, some sleep is needed. Tomorrow's plan is the usual early gym visit (I love having my gym three floors below my bed), yoga with the mom of the ginger kittehs (she's amazing, but I'm going to an "all-levels" class" because I'm nowhere near her level), meeting my next house guest at the airport, meeting another friend for a sunset cruise on a luxurious junk, back to mine for refreshments and then out to dinner.

You can see why I've not written much lately . . .

Friday, July 22, 2016

preconceptions . . .

. . . are often misconceptions

I thought I grew up poor, but I grew up with a mother who would fight to get anything her children needed, and taught us to do the same. My Mom taught me to work hard and smile often, but also to not accept anything less than what I deserved

I thank her for that

my mum gave me all the riches in the world

Friday, July 15, 2016

Unique in our own dysfunction . . .

. . . the more I am welcomed into other people's lives and their families, into other countries and places I thought I would never be, the more I realize every family, every friendship, every workplace and every group is dysfunctional in some way. Because each of us is, in our own way.

So, yes, I'm weird and so are my friends, but I suspect everyone might be also, and that is fine within limits to the weirdness and dysfunctionality.

This weekend, as my sisters (who are braver than me) prepare to join our father's latest and last family and farewell the old bastard in traditional Tongan style. I realize that, yes, we are weird, but all families are. We are a little damaged, but everyone is. Some more than others.

Our first response of hearing of our Da's death was to contact each other, to ask "how are you feeling, are you ok?" Even those of us who don't really understand each other and don't communicate often did that and, for me, the instinct was also to check on the new family. I had consciously avoided them - why would I want to know the replacements in my father's life?

It was one of the current family who informed me, and he was gentle and respectful. My sisters, who know him well, say he is wonderful. I'd like to get to know the family. There's no need for me to be jealous any more - maybe I can just meet these half-siblings and tell stories and learn what we have in common. And what we don't - that's what family is.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

me Da . . .

My father died last night, and friends advised me to share stories to work through the grief, but most of my stories of my father aren't fit for sharing.

It is probably appropriate that I got the news from a half-sibling, who has become a good friend and family member to my sisters but who I have avoided getting to know. I didn't want to see my bad dad become somebody else's good dad - it was easier to have that void in my life if I pretended he wasn't capable of being a good dad.

I'm sad that it took our father's death for me to talk to my brother. I won't go to the funeral. I didn't go to my mother's either. I would like to visit my Dad's latest family (he was a one-man United Nations, children everywhere) and get to know them, but not right now.

For now, I'm going to look at this picture, and remember him carrying me on his shoulders as he strode down the beach.

He made me, literally. He also made me who I am, for better or worse. I look at this photo and can't help but smile - I got some of the adventurer genes from him (from my amazing Mum also, she was brave enough to marry him!). He gave me my love of the sea, he gave me the gift of storytelling, he gave me life and the desire to live it well.

Edward Patrick Joseph Barrett - farewell. I wish you following winds

Friday, July 1, 2016

Welcome to the SAR . . .

It's just over a week since I moved to Hong Kong and this evening I finished my first week at my new job. Which I am really enjoying and, best of all, is where I'm learning new skills each day. I've always believed a day is wasted if you don't learn anything from it and my colleagues here, who are all incredibly friendly and friendly, have much they can teach me.

As for Hong Kong itself, as I expected from previous visits, I'm loving it so far. I haven't seen much of it yet as I've been concentrating on the job and learning the area around my workplace, which has a lot to offer. The hotel I stayed in for the first week was literally five minutes walk from work so I explored the area in ever-widening circles for that week. I had stayed in both Causeway Bay, where the office is, and neighbouring Happy Valley on previous trips and it hasn't changed that much in the 10 or 12 years between. (Note I have gone back to British English spellings, that's what I use at the new job so it's best to make a clean change.) It's a different style of exploring when it is where I will spend five days a week though and I've found great markets, fabulous food options and a wonderful public pool that I overlooked from my hotel room and never seemed crowded.

Yesterday I moved further out to stay in my friends' apartment with their kittehs for six weeks while they enjoy Mongolia and Italy. They took me around the neighborhood last weekend to show me their favorite places and I'm again exploring each evening as I go out to gather (purchase) food items. It's great to have a kitchen again after a week in a hotel but I'm very glad I spent so long living on small yachts. I'm accustomed to cooking in a confined space and at least this postage stamp kitchen isn't being violently thrown around by stormy waters as I prepare food.

I'm incredibly fortunate my friends planned to travel just as I was moving here, allowing me the time to decide where I really want to live, but I must say I'm tempted by their neighborhood. I've barely looked elsewhere yet, however, and intend to spend my weekends doing just that for the next month. I really look forward to getting my own place and setting it up but am enjoying my time here with the feline overlords as well.

I'm also blessed to not only have my own network of friends here but to have been put in touch with friends of friends to help me settle in my new home. I'm having lunch with one such on Sunday and look forward to learning more about Hong Kong from a long time resident.

The adventure is back on track . . .

Thursday, June 23, 2016

the new home . . .

after three years in China and far too many years in Korea, I'm suffering severe culture shock on my arrival in Hong Kong. Pedestrians wait for the light to turn green before they cross (at the pedestrian crossings, even!). Taxis obey traffic signals also. People are polite and helpful. 

First thoughts on flying in, which coincided with sunset - I love the mountains and the water. I probably didn't sleep enough the past week (packing out after too long) so I keep seeing Blade Runner and Mission Impossible in the silhouettes. There seem to be three 7-11s on every block, and taxis are very expensive. The MTR can be confusing when you're tired but after wandering a while, I found my way back to the hotel. No more taxis! 

The view from my window is a mountain, lush and green. I have kittehs to look after and friends to catch up with. AND a mountain of paperwork to fill in. it only seems easy until you arrive. Then the bureaucracy kicks in.