Thursday, July 7, 2011

First Impressions

Before I even begin this initial post, I’d like to thank all of you people back home who might be reading this. I love you all so very much and will keep in touch with every single one of you. The last six weeks was basically one goodbye after another and though I probably won’t see you all for a while, I look forward to hearing about what y’all are up to, particularly in this strange time of transition to the “real world.” I managed to stay close to most of my high school friends after I went to college so I see no reason not to keep in touch with my northwest friends now that I’m onto another life chapter. Huzzah!

I arrived in Hong Kong at 11 pm on Monday, July 4th after travelling for about thirty hours. Other than the five-hour delay in San Francisco, everything went according to plan, though it wasn’t the best Independence Day of my life. I hopped on a train from the airport and then a taxi from the Kowloon station. My first attempt at Cantonese to the cab driver was a complete failure (“Can you speak English?”) so I just showed him the address and off we went. Seeing the city for the first time after being awake for so long wasn’t ideal but I could sense its majesty nonetheless. I had anticipated calling my host Ben (yep, same name as me) after being dropped off at the Chan Uk Village public restroom, but the cab driver didn’t have a cell phone so I just hung out there until I saw a couple teenagers who were nice enough to let this random bearded white dude use one of their phones at 1 am.

The next morning Ben took me on a tour of parts of the city. Ben is an American currently employed at the school where I will be working. I’m so grateful that I’m able to stay with him temporarily as I get my feet on the ground. I’ve probably asked him several hundred questions in the past thirty-six hours and so far, he is happy to answer them all. He lives on the top floor of house that’s a good distance away from the main city on the East end of the New Territories, but filled with incredible vegetation and scenery. Here’s the view from his roof:
On Tuesday, we went all around the city where I got some necessary items (cell phone, shampoo, etc.) and saw the place I’ve been researching for the past few months. I wish I could tell you all the exact locations I saw but it’s all such a blur that I don’t think I can. The best view however, was travelling across Victoria Harbor by ferry and seeing the skyline against the blue sky. It is the most vertical city in the world after all. Here’s a picture of Seattle on super steroids:
That night, I got to meet some of Ben’s friends who all have worked at various branches of my school. They invited us to delicious curry dinner at their house nearby. It was great to meet them, though I could hardly stay awake due to the jet lag even while playing Wii games for about an hour. That night I slept for eleven hours. Hallelujah.

On Wednesday, I went out by myself to meet Joan, the center director at the school I’ll be working at in Kowloon Tong. I made several mistakes in trying to navigate the public transportation system but eventually made it back home in three times the time it would take a more experienced Hong Konger. I kind of enjoy figuring these things out on my own though, as it forces me to really observe things with a keen eye. The rest of the day, Ben and I just hung out at his house and I discovered, to my delight, how good his taste in TV is. I must say I did not expect to watch “Family Guy”, “30 Rock” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” while eating Pizza Hut pizza in Hong Kong. No wonder expats have such an easy time moving here. Ben is currently on a break from work—something that works out quite well for me, having someone to show me the ropes as I get settled.

Overall first impressions of Hong Kong summed up in a string of adjectives? Busy, Westerner friendly, hot, gorgeous, sprawling, fast, geographically diverse. Since I’ve been here for such a short time, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions but so far, so good. Moving to a new country is daunting, particularly for someone like me who’s spent his entire life in the USA. But thanks to Ben and the user-friendly nature of the city, I’m doing quite well with the change. I plan on writing an entry like this once a week, so check back soon!

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