I am a big hazy jetlagged ball of confusion (though I expect to be a slightly less big ball shortly, since we don’t have a car here; and I use chopsticks slowly and without finesse; and we don’t have any groceries yet, so I’m just not eating – see above re no car). Also Zadie is teething, and jetlagged and unsettled, so I am also breastfeeding 17 times a day. Today I walked her into Sai Kung Town to get a few essentials. The gweipo pushing the fat baby up the hill with yogurt, bread and oranges tumbling out of the pram tray was a sight of cultural misfitism not seen since last time I was here. Or that time in Africa I wore a very short denim skirt (without thinking, obviously…) and got followed all over Arusha by a leeringly salivating (and, if I’m honest, mainly incredulous – I’m comically white) pack of menfolk. Uncomfortable times.
Allow me to take this thing back to the start. When last I wrote, it was from my phone at the Quality Airport Motel in Tullamarine. Joel didn’t arrive until 2.30am, and we had to get up at 5.15am for our shuttle trip to check in. He staggered in, tiredness and sweat emanating from him, and my eyes filled with tears. His did too, but they were more from underslept craze. We shared a silent moment of absolute joyous delirium in the brown-tiled bathroom. It was done. Sure the area behind our garden shed was piled high with two uteloads of rubbish that we couldn’t dump anywhere because the the tip was shut, it being a public holiday; and we’d ended up having to leave our snake, our futon and other miscellaneous crap unsolicited on the porch of a friend away visiting country relatives for Christmas; and Joel had fallen asleep in the ShitTruck and ran two red lights on his way back from the 140th trip to the storage unit; and the last of our chattels was chucked through the door of said unit and the door pulled down immediately in such a fashion as everything will burst forth next time it’s opened – but, WE DID IT.
The emotional toll of saying goodbye to everyone was unexpected. In the rush to get gone, I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Nonetheless we did it, and we also did the flight, which I describe as Manageable due to Joel and I not having slept more than two hours a night for – literally – five weeks beforehand, and otherwise might even have been ramped up to Positively Comfortable. The kids were little gems. Zadie napped three times. We scored front-row seats so had extra leg room, and were first in line for trolley service (=no seafood congee for breakfast).
Gross abuse of airline headphones, flouting of photography restrictions, and complete disregard for safety regulations vis-a-vis inflight bassinettes. Happy baby though!
Pushing our 90kg of luggage around Hong Kong Airport was another challenge for Joel, whose spine, after doing so much of the move solo, by now had the structural integrity of a pipecleaner. But we found a taxi, one willing to transport us and our 15 pieces of luggage to our serviced apartment. Rain was falling as we sped along in the post-storm darkness, the boot flapping behind us (tied down over our suitcases with an occy strap, rad!). I had Zadie on my lap and Rufus next to me, and as I looked out the window at the cargo ships pulling into the port, smelling Zadie’s biscuit-head, I felt Joel’s arm around my shoulder and when I looked at him he winked at me. Not like a creep, or indicating that he just did some sort of hilarious jape, but conspiratorially yet lovingly. It was the most momentous wink of my life. It summed up all our work of the past six months – how very much we’d done, and now our adventure could begin at last.
Unfortunately the apartment in Wanchai provided by my employer, while serviced, was less than serviceable. It was rather luxurious but at 400sq.f, left a little to be desired in terms of, I don’t know, being able to open a suitcase. I couldn’t even take a good photo of how small it was because I couldn’t get far away enough from the shot. Seriously, these photos don’t capture the injustice.
This is a “double” bed. Though it was about a half, lengthwise.
Wanchai was a great place to spend our first night as expatriates, though. Streets full of smoked animal innards of every non-description, teeming and steaming rain, neon and high-rises. No mistaking we were in another world.
After a night folded up and squished into that tiny bolthole, though, we were less enamoured of the cultural experience and made arrangements to move into dad’s place in Sai Kung until our own short-term accommodation becomes available this Saturday. We didn’t have any keys to dad’s, but we optimistically packed our things into a taxi for the journey out to Sai Kung – beautiful Sai Kung, with its wide spaces, clean(er) air and forestation.
After a succession of unlikely yet ultimately fortuitous events including a gweiloriffically predictable lunch at Starbucks, and a visit to every real estate agent in town seeking out “Judy”, who apparently had good English, and her hunting down dad’s landlord, Mr Wong’s, phone number, and them both sharing a riotous laugh at our expense, we were finally inside dad’s village house in tiny Tai Wan village.
Two little crashed-out jetlagees.
It’s all catching up with me emotionally. Even though the places are familiar to us, knowing we’re here permanently this time is a seismic mental shift that’s only just hitting me, when it probably should have three months ago when we first kicked off this endeavour. I’m good like that. Foresight and shit. The extreme highs and hopes are countered at the moment by crushing fatigue, intensified child-related stress and fighting against my current magnified foraging duties (my kids can’t eat noodles and until we have our own kitchen on Saturday, each mealtime is an – often failing – exercise in avoiding the Evil Empires. Less for nutritional reasons than so we can cling to our self-held facade of seamless integration as locals. Which I may be putting the mockers on by appearing everywhere in jeans and white runners, wearing a backpack and clutching a piece of paper with dad’s address written on in Chinese.)
Speaking of, I must learn more Cantonese, stat. Being able to count one to 10, and say the word “cold” (and only because it’s “dong” – hehe…I said dong…) isn’t going to get us very far.
I’ve posted (and how!) holiday blogs for our previous six trips to Hong Kong, which you can find in the archives if you care for long-winded descriptions of tourist attractions featuring unnecessarily expansive verbiage, bad photography and ignorant remarks. I’m going to try, now – since it’s not a holiday this time, and I have to keep reminding myself of that! – to keep this document more about daily life in a fishing village somewhere in the South China Sea.
I long to move into our “own” accommodation on Saturday (well, where we’ll be for the next six weeks) so I can unpack our bags. And so we don’t have to lug the pram up and down eight flights of steep stairs to get anywhere. And so we don’t have to supervise the kids quite so closely lest they fall from a third-floor window or smash some Chinoiserie or stab themselves with a filleting knife from the completely un-childproof kitchen.
I long for the night I can again spoon civilly next to my husband instead of one or other of the kicking, grunting, grasping products of our union.
That sentence reads as overly blue for what is the expression of an entirely innocent wish.
The whole relocation process has been completely epic, and I use that word in its most meaningful sense, not its current bastardised and devalued faddish interpretation (even as I admit to leading the charge of “epic fail” and “epic win”). Joel thinks the biggest thing we’ve ever done is have kids, but I think it’s this move. Having kids is a natural progression for lots of people, but this is a deliberate deviation from the path we were probably destined to stay on for a long time. We are both ready to start living life again, instead of boxing it up and storing it and chucking it out and paying thousands of dollars to move it!
From Sai Kung, happy new year, and goodnight.
Jade K. King.