>I am getting settled. It took me no time at all to get cell phones, sim cards, deposit my check in my ALREADY ESTABLISHED bank account, get cash from the cash machine (thankfully I wrote down my pass code before I left last time), go to the grocery store, and get street guides for the students who are with me. And I did this without a guide! Well, almost. I had to have a Chinese friend listen to the first phone message and get the phones activated–I didn’t understand the Chinese.
I understood context–when I got the cell phones at the Broadway store I asked if they had sim cards and they said, “no, go to the 7-11.” And then I asked the follow-up questions–where was the closest and they said just outside the mall…and I said…”the one by the train station?”…and they said “yes.” Whew! We could communicate with minimal knowledge of each others’ languages because I had the physical context in my head.
I went to Starbucks and when I placed my order, I understood the question, said in English with a strong Chinese accent, here or to go? I knew what questions to anticipate and what they would sound like.
Now I sit in my apartment, 5 floors above my previous apartment, but laid out exactly the same. I listen to the washing machine run and it sounds like home–a newer version of our old one but the same sequence of sounds.
Yet, my view of Hong Kong is slightly different. It is a more self-conscious view rather than the initial one where you are just blown away by sensory overload! We visited a beautiful Buddhist garden yesterday that was essentially under an overpass. It was like entering another world of quiet and green. But as we curved around the path through the methodically laid out stones, trees, and flowing water, we turned the corner and the bucolic scene became framed by huge high rises set against the mountain side. I thought–yes, that is Hong Kong, a city of extremes that always take you by surprise. I could more self-consciously reflect on the meaning of what I was seeing, as the rest of my group was quickly snapping pictures.
I take the perspective from my apartment as my metaphor of my initial experience of returning to Hong Kong. I am at the top of the building looking down, assessing the lay of the land with a framework already in my mind–I have a sense of what I am looking at from day one. Before I was closer to street level, taking one snapshot at a time, trying to get the lay of the land through single sensory overload moments in particular places. The wonderful thing about any place is that you never fully understand no matter how many snapshots or views from the top of the building. Places are so intricately complex that their mystery is never completely diminished.