Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bye Bye South Korea...

It was difficult to say goodbye to all things that had become pleasantly familiar in JinJu, and torturous to say good bye to Bonnie, Christine, Jonathan and Rohanna who saw me off at the bus terminal. Luckily for me my new home will allow me to rest assured that I am not really that far away. The flight between Seoul and Hong Kong was ~ 3.5 hours.

I arrived in Hong Kong at 11pm and was met by a driver who informed me that there was a typhoon headed for the city. By the morning, he believed, there would be a level 8 typhoon warning in effect, which would mean the city would shut down for the day. "You're quite lucky to have gotten in today!" he remarked. It was definitely gusty outside, and the rain began as we headed away from the airport. In the dark I could see trees sneezing out fistfuls of leaves as the wind fiercely tickled their branches. All along the highway towards Hong Kong Island, around each bend in the road, I kept anticipating that picture-perfect HK night skyline to unfold before me. I could see massive high rises, lit up in endless rows as we approached the city and this small voice in my head quietly whispered to me. She said, "You ain't seen nothing yet! Bu bu bu baby you just ain't seen nothing yet!" Just for an instant before we crossed Victoria Harbour via an underground tunnel, I actually saw the sprawling Hong Kong Island sky line. The next thing I knew we were in it. Roads snaked in every direction, sometimes bridging intersections with up to 2 levels of other roads below. Sometimes I was looking out the window at the first floor of a building, other times I was eye-level with the neon signs hung 10 floors up. The lights were intoxicating, and the speed of everything around me was exhilarating.

My hotel room is on the 19th floor, surrounded on all sides by much, much higher buildings!

My first day out and about was dark and cloudy as the Hong Kong skies where still tempermentally typhoony. It was monumentally rewarding as I accomplished standard, yet unfamiliar, city tasks such as catching a double-decker tram (streetcar), hailing a taxi, remembering that traffic comes from the opposite direction that my brain tells me to check before crossing the road, navigating through the underground railway system, and successfully locating correct addresses of hidden, hole-in-the-wall entrances to flat viewing appointments that I had scheduled with realtors. I don't think I've learned so much in any other single day of my entire life. I saw and heard so many unfamiliar things. I don't recall ever having been so excited about a place before. At times my heart was racing with an adrenaline so overwhelming that I found myself giggling out loud. It is magical and energizing, beautiful, toweringly colossal and so totally like nothing I have ever seen before. I am so happy that I am going to live here for 2 years.

Since arriving, I have spent a lot of my time wandering around SoHo in particular, discovering open-street wet markets, antique Chinese shops, local cafes, flea markets and cobblestone alley ways. The towering buildings are so magnificent. The smells and sounds are potent and penetrating. I feel so safe and comfortable here. I feel, very strongly, like this is already my home. Hong Kong is so completely where I need to be right now, like I was meant to live here. It is perfect.

I made a bid on an apartment, and it was accepted. The rental market here works the same way as the real estate market in terms of bargaining. It is in the heart of SoHo. It is spectacularly central to everything I could ever dream of. It is across a pedestrian-only thoroughfare from a world renowned fitness and yoga facility. It is beside an organic, trendy, hippie-chic food emporium. It is minutes from the liveliest bars, clubs, shops, spas and salons. It is speckled with seafood markets and produce markets and antique markets on grungy, moldy, ancient allies and narrow streets. It is surrounded by one the world's finest culinary hot-spots, where chefs from all of the world come to learn, and establish their fame.

So the apartment hunting is over. I also already have a Hong Kong bank account, a metrro Octopus card and a personal Hong Kong ID card. I managed to do all this myself within my first 3 days here. This city is exceptionally efficient, and so well organized, which really makes the adjustment easier.

Today I explored the outskirts of the city with two new friends, Ross and Cindy, a new teaching couple from Calgary. We set off in the morning hoping to navigate our way beyond the crowed city streets to some of Hong Kong's many outlying green spaces. From our hotel we explored a historic cemetery and then headed up the side of The Peak. About half way up, the sidewalk stopped abruptly and we jumped on a double decker bus heading up. We had front row seats (up top) which provided panoramic views of our route up the "mountain". The Peak is similar to Niagara Falls, in terms of exorbitant tourist traps, even with it's own Madame Tussaud's. We were happy to discover that it is also a hub of hiking/walking trails through parks in numerous directions, back down the mountain. So after a HK $42 scoop of sorbet, we headed south down through Pokfulam Country Park towards Aberdeen. We were in a Hong Kong forest, which was nothing as I had expected. We learned (through a guide book, not an encounter) that there are, in fact, poisonous snakes on Hong Kong Island. The trail took us past a reservoir full of different coloured carp and turtles. The three of us pressed against the metal railing gazing down at an artificial 'pond', like observers at a city zoo, thinking, "Wow... Hong Kong wildlife!". It was pretty sad, to be honest, but we were nonetheless mesmerized.

I took this shot from The Peak, looking down on SoHo and the Central district of Hong Kong Island which is my new neighbourhood!

Tomorrow the new teachers begin an orientation week at school, getting all the details of settling in sorted out. There should be more than one opportunity for celebration and exciting times with new friends as we all explore our new home together. So far it has been better than I could have imagined.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Nothing could make me happier than knowing you are so excited about this chapter of your life. Thank you for sharing it with us all. Your life is so full and wonderful because that is how you are. You go girl! Enjoy! ILY