Thursday, January 17, 2013

Visitors Are Welome!

When I was back in the US, people expectedly asked me what the best things about living in Hong Kong are. My usual answers were incredibly cliché, such as, ‘it’s such a vibrant city’ or ‘it’s surrounded by tons of great travel destinations’ or ‘living there is so freaking convenient!’ Though I get tired of repeating these statements, they are all very true and I try not to take them for granted. However, one really special part of being here that I don’t usually mention is being a host to my friends back home.

Just this morning, my high school/middle school classmate Evan departed Hong Kong after spending a week tramping about the SAR. He and our mutual friend Henry left for a trip exploring the Yunnan Province in southwest China and if I didn’t have work up until Chinese New Year, I certainly would have joined them. Having Evan here was splendid, both in playing tour-guide for him, and being able to converse about the very different lives we lead. He is currently between stints working for the conservation corps in the great American West. After Asia, he’ll be headed to Kalispell, Montana to do some work clearing non-native plants species from various trails and such. Pretty different from helping teach Chinese six-year-olds in one of the densest populations on earth.

Since I moved into my current apartment nearly a year ago, I have hosted four high school classmates (one more next month) as well as my parents. For those of you curious BHS kids, that’s Henry Atkinson, John Leatherman, Luke Jensen, Evan Stewart and soon to be Cosmo Smith. All but one of those five people was on their first trip to Asia, and for most of them, visiting me and having free accomodation were among the biggest draws for coming to Hong Kong. When I first planned out my move to Hong Kong a year and a half ago, I never thought about this. But by having a comfortable residence here, I’m hosting people who may otherwise not have been particularly motivated to visit this region. Since I’ve come to firmly believe in the importance of exploring the world, it’s quite rewarding to know that I play a part in facilitating my friends’ journeys.    

Of course, travelling is expensive and peoples’ lives are busy and twelve-hour plane rides are not fun. I realize all of that. But. It’s not common to have a friend in a world-class foreign city like Hong Kong inviting you to visit. There’s no time like the present, especially if you don’t have a major job/school commitment or kids yet.

I never intended for my blog to be a persuasive platform but hey, there are no real rules here on MFHK. Every time someone visits me, it seems to be a rewarding experience for all parties involved. Give it the old post-college try.

Just think. You could be this cool!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

USA Again

Happy New Year to all! At this moment, I am back in Hong Kong, one day into my school's winter quarter. I was in the States for two weeks and I managed to spend time in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Tacoma, Phoenix and Tucson. The two main purposes of the trip were a) spending time with family and friends and b) showing my girlfriend my home country for the first time. Both went extraordinarily well, but of course, that made it harder than ever to leave. So it goes. 

This was the first I'd been home since last Christmas and though the two trips were similar in many ways in the way I spent my time, my mindset was different due to the length of time since I'd been a US resident. I haven't been living in the US for a year and half, while last Christmas it had only been six short months. This time I felt more nostalgic, needing to dig deeper in my memory when thinking about the last time I did a particular activity or saw a certain person. 

I put a lot of effort into keeping in touch with people, but this is a blessing and a curse. By the end of my trip, I was feeling quite overwhelmed after I'd had half a dozen two plus hour conversations with individual friends in as many days. These hours are invaluable and mean so much to me, but after a while, sometimes it's best to take a break by shifting the conversation from various life decisions relevant to most twenty-somethings to, how 'bout those Seahawks?! 

Forgive me for sounding a bit less positive and optimistic than usual, but that's honestly not how I feel all the time, so I don't plan on hiding these emotions in my blog. Seeing all of my closest friends and family for two weeks then parting ways for the next fifty is one of the biggest challenges about being an expat. Particularly one with a serious love of his home turf. As my girlfriend said, all this is sort of like going to a party and then coming home to your house and feeling suddenly aware of your solitude, but on a much larger scale and with a language barrier.

But instead of endless dwelling, it's time to share some New Years' resolutions. I was pleased that my class teacher Katie had our class write personal resolutions on their first day back. Of course, the resolutions of a six-year-old aren't much more than "tidying my room" or "saying please and thank you" but nonetheless, it's nice to see children joining in on the refreshing hope we adults try to take in at this time of year. For myself, I plan to be more creative, continue to improve my Cantonese, read like a fiend, and exercise more. I have countless other little goals but those are some that I'm trying to keep at the forefront. At this very moment, I'm working in the creative category so as Barney Stinson might say, "Self five!" 

More on the matter of this blog and my writing in general, I'd love to see posts here take all sorts of new directions. I write for myself and for you, dear reader, and by expanding the content, I think I'll do better to keep you and myself engaged. 2012 saw twenty-two posts, mostly about what I've experienced, which I'll continue to write about. But a year later, I find myself more intrigued by writing about what I'm thinking about, especially if I can do so in a way that doesn't feel self-righteous or indulgent. That being said, please let me know if it comes across that way :) On one of the six different flights I took recently, I read a great quote from Obama in Time about why he considers why writing in a diary is important. "...writing has been an important exercise to clarify what I believe, what I see, what I care about, what my deepest values are; that the process of converting a jumble of thoughts into coherent sentences makes you ask tougher questions." This blog is not a diary by any means but it also shouldn't be pure journalistic documentation of my time here in Hong Kong. I'm usually dealing with a jumble of thoughts in my life and I agree with our President that writing is a great way find meaning from that jumble. 

To conclude this long and winding road of a post, here are some photos from my trip. Land of the Brave.

Sharman and the King
The Newest Addition to the Seattle Skyline

Cowboy Country


Gray but Beautiful

Bainbridge Island's Landmark