>Why did I not see this, or understand this, or find this the last time?

>Last night a friend took me to the equivalent of Hong Kong’s Target. It was one subway stop away, right outside the subway escalator. Why did I not know about this before? I lived here for 5 months before and never found it!

Always, the challenge is to be able to explain what you need and have them understand it and then point you in the right direction. This time I was looking for an electric heating pad–translation is an electric blanket, but for your back. And I was looking for a bath mat. One friend directed me to a store in the mall next to our apartment–they had the electric “blankets” but they were way too expensive and complicated. They were more like massage blankets. I looked for a bath mat in everyplace I could think of near by.

Finally last night a friend asked me if I had tried a Japanese department store. A what? Why had I not heard about these?? We took off after dinner at 8:15 p.m. What a discovery! It was like a huge Target in a mall. I could get vitamins there. I could get pens and paper there. I could get a spatula there…I got a bath mat and a desk lamp for a good price. I gave up on the electric heating pad. They don’t have the basic, cheap, version.

A couple of observations have arisen out of this experience–I see and understand things this time that I never did grasp last time I lived in Hong Kong. For example, someone showed me the wet market (market with fresh food) just a block away. Last time I literally walked by it multiple times a week without ever noticing. I figures out quickly how the subways work to enable you to just walk across the platform to catch a different subway line. In the US we have to go up the escalator and off to a different platform. In Hong Kong each exchange overlaps at two stops. At the first crossing spot you get off if you are going to go one direction on the other line. At the second crossing spot you get off if you are going the other direction on the other line. Either way you just exit the subway car and walk across the platform to the other side.

Finally, someone showed me the way to the park that I knew was JUST around the corner. It was huge but I couldn’t find it before because, as is typical in HK, it is on a hillside and you have to figure out the right level and place to access it. Otherwise it appears hidden.

I’ve concluded that three factors are at work in my new discoveries. First, distance and then return makes you see things that were too close before–you need distance to focus. Secondly, I have added some new people to my social network this time and their experiences are added to mine. The combination of our local knowledge has helped all of us! Thirdly, having lived here before and acclimated much more quickly, I am not overwhelmed when getting instructions. When my friend said the Japanese department store was at Lok Fu–I knew where that was and how close it was.

Having said all this…there is a pattern of avoidance that comes with living someplace where you don’t know the language or culture. You live with what you have because it is too difficult to explain what you want! I have a broken refrigerator shelf but don’t want to try to explain this to the main office. I could take it in with me, but I’m not sure they will recognize where it comes from.

I just put it in my cupboard and am living without it. Pick your battles of explanation.

And then there are the milk tea shops. They are everywhere but I never saw them before! They must be new…

1 thought on “>Why did I not see this, or understand this, or find this the last time?

  1. >Your descriptions remind me of my recent experiences, while with you there, the first three weeks of January. Albeit, this was my first (of I hope many) visits to Hong Kong and mainland China. However, I recall spending our first days in HK, prior to going on into China and then to Macau, and then a couple of weeks later, returning to HK.

    My sense of perception was truly shifted my second time back to HK. I not only noticed positioning of familiar places (i.e. the level of the 6+? level mall near your apartment, that I needed for the grocery store vs. the Japanese gadget shop) but also a growing awareness of the closeness of the two flower markets. Something about taking the MTR kept me from realizing that many places are probably within walking distance, if I only knew my way.

    Wednesday I made a short presentation to the Foundation Board of the college where I teach, thanking them for helping to support my travel to China. Yesterday was our Professional Development Day, where I was able to share for an hour with faculty, staff and administrators about our adventures. I found myself positioning my location to the photos on the powerpoint screen and then describing views that were not available from the photo. I was imagining and sharing what was behind me and to the right and the left of the photo. I now believe there will always be a "sense of place" in my heart and mind in HK, China, and Macau. Thanks again for making this opportunity real for me and now those with whom I share these experiences.

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