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Friday, April 21, 2017

Tainted love . . .


this stunning view . . .
I expected to love Hong Kong. And I do, but it's one of those toxic loves you want to get away from as quickly as you can, while not letting it know you're breaking up.

I'm not allergic to it, but I have developed a distinct intolerance. despite its many charms.

So, now I've decided we're breaking up, I want to enjoy this amazing city as much as I can. Which is really, really easy to do. I just have to be careful not to let it sweet-talk me into staying, because it's not good for my long-term physical or mental health.

I'm stunned to consider how sick I am in HK, but so is everyone I work with and almost everyone I know. A friend who has lived here for seven-plus years said this past winter was the worst she had experienced in terms of illness and described a feeling I've learned only too well these past three months - where you feel yourself recovering from one illness only to find another varietal taking its place. To borrow a US military acronym, SSDD - Same Shit, Different Day. One strain of the lurg of the week will give you a raw throat served as a side dish to the general malaise and wooly-headed 'feeling like crap' (a technical term), with another your throat will be fine but you develop a smoker's cough without needing to inhale.

I shared the back row of a flight back from New Zealand last week with two young boys (unaccompanied minors and they sit them beside me? what were they thinking?) and it's not just overworked adults who suffer. One told me he has eczema in Hong Kong (and he lives on one of the islands, not downtown) but not in New Zealand. My asthma is the same - I barely notice it when living long-term in Aotearoa but it's a life-and-death issue for me in Asia.

As to mental health, which greatly impacts physical health and the body's ability to shake off illness, HK seems overly intense for the purpose of appearing so, rather than to achieve anything. Few expats I know take meal breaks or breaks of any kind because to do so would mean having to work longer than they already do, and nobody wants to do that. Which is so counter-productive and counter-intuitive it leaves me incredulous.

I've discussed work-life balance with friends in HK and NZ over the past few weeks and I get a similar questioning look in both locales, but for very different reasons. In Hong Kong, the question is what that means (work-life balance??); in New Zealand the question is why such a term exists. Isn't that simply called life?

BUT, Hong Kong IS amazing - it's just not where I can live. But while I'm here, I plan to live it well, knowing I have a timeline and a recovery plan in place.

The Pacific Ocean, forests, rivers, art, music, theatre, friends, food and no doubt a little politics - its nearing time to go home.

. . . or this . . .

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