Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Living in Hong Kong

We've been here three weeks now, so I thought I'd share a few things.

First, you're perhaps wondering why we came.  We visited HK a few years ago during vacation from our teaching gigs in Seoul, South Korea.  While it was very hot and humid, pretty much everything else about Hong Kong excited us, and we pledged then that if we ever could live and work here we would.  Fast forward a few years.  Nora returned to school to get her teaching certification, realized that she wasn't all that jazzed about being a teacher halfway through, and settled on being a school librarian (these days they need teacher's certifications and a Masters in library science).  Nora took on both programs at the same time, which was a pretty astounding workload; I continued working online, and took on a lecturing position at MTSU because we were living about a mile away and it seemed like a good idea.  Long story short: we moved out of our apartment, I left my lecture position after three semesters, we went to India, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador, and meanwhile Nora applied to a lot of positions around the world.  Two in Hong Kong called her back, and a lot of paperwork later, we were all set to go.

(us at the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island in 2010)

So we sold our car, our desktop computer, our Xbox, and my bicycle (the bicycle was the hardest to let go) and bought flights to Hong Kong.  We arrived the night of August 1st, got to our hotel, and slept.  When we woke up, it was my birthday, which I thought was a pretty good sign.  And aside from still very slowly recovering from the ankle I sprained in India, just about everything else has been a very positive experience.

(milk tea and Pearl dumplings in spicy sauce)

We gave ourselves 3 days to find an apartment, but thanks to Nora's research and emails in advance, we signed a lease on the first day and paid the deposit and rent on the 2nd and got the keys.  The building is relatively new, in a quieter (for HK) neighborhood, and has a gym on the 5th floor.  Across the street are two more buildings of the same complex, and they have a larger gym and a pool.  It's a 4 block walk to Nora's work, and so far I've visited four bakeries and six grocery stores within a ten minute walk.  Several major bus lines stop on the corner, from whence we can go downtown, to the subway station, or to the other side of HK island.

(rush hour at the Central subway station)

Within a 5 minute walk of us there are several cafes and bars, a public library, as well as restaurants specializing in Chinese (obviously), Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Spanish, Italian, French, American, and English pub foods.  We got a ridiculous amount of furniture delivered from Ikea and assembled for less than $200, and any of the above restaurants offer free delivery.  I've recently discovered that the grocery stores do, too, but to be honest grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities, so I'm not cutting it out anytime soon.

(Chinese breakfast: eggs, bun, noodles and soup, and milk tea)

Our apartment is on the 20th floor, and has a balcony with harbor views. We've got a kitchen with fridge, decent counter space, 2 sinks, 3 gas burners, and a washing machine.  We've got a table with two chairs, a chest of drawers, and a couch and coffee table in our living room.  the bedroom has a double bed and wardrobe.

(our apartment before we got furniture)

Potential downsides: we've got 410 square feet in our apartment, including the balcony. So it seems pretty small.  The weird thing is, after getting all our furniture moved in and our things stored properly, it actually seems larger.  It's plenty of space for us, though the shower could be a little larger.  It's difficult to turn around in for someone with arms as long as mine.  The washer is supposed to also be a dryer, but I can't get the drying function to work, and I broke the latch that opens it on the first day.  So I'm using a pair of scissors to open the washer, and we have to hang dry our clothes on the balcony, but these are minor inconveniences, and we hung all our clothes to dry the year we lived in Korea, too.

(light show from Kowloon)

Imagine, if you will, a city that is caught somewhere between the future and the past, a place where light shows illuminate skyscrapers to the sound of a symphony orchestra, and where bamboo scaffolding surrounds construction work on a traditional herbal dispensary.  Where you can buy 1 Gigabit internet service for the same price as 10Mb service in the States, and within a short walk also by dried shark fins.  Where ferries cruising above the waves on hydrofoils jostle for space with sampans, junks, and cargo vessels. There are tree everywhere, and from afar the buildings seem to rise up as if out of a forest.  The harbor on one side and the mountains on the other are omnipresent; no matter where you are, you can always orient yourself.  This, to me, is Hong Kong.

(walking along the harbor in Kennedy Town)

It's fast, loud, hot, and always humid.  It's a polyglot, gastronomical wonderland that encompasses the best of what big cities have to offer. The only thing it's missing is you.

(sunset over the harbor from our balcony)

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