I stepped off the plane at half past 6 to face the Hong Kong morning – excited. Fog was dancing off the peaks of the mountains. When we flew in, I was convinced we were going to land on water, the only thing I could see around, until I actually felt the landing gear skipping the runway, settling on a nice spot conviently located by our exit gate. The dog was still barking in the cargo below. Poor guy. We deboarded and I followed a guy out who looked suspiciously like Logan Baker, except it wasn’t of course. The Logan-imposter kept stopping in the flow of people to tune his mandolin. I lost him in the crowd. As the woman stamped my passport and welcomed me to Hong Kong, I took a deep breath. Yes, welcome to Hong Kong indeed.
“Are you waiting for someone?” the blue-eyed scruffed faced stranger asked. Fighting tears, I told him yes, hopeful. “It wouldn’t happen to be Maggie, would it?” I sighed. “No, I’m looking for a Delores.” The tears were starting to come out. “I’m sorry,” dabbing my eyes, “It is the exhaustion taking over.” He was very sympathetic – being in the same predicament and all. And his spirits hadn’t yet dampered. He was helping my soul. We had both been waiting nearly 2 hours for someone to pick us up. Looking out the window, we could see the fog clearing, the mountains coming into clearer view.
Eric told me where I could check my email for cheap, to find the numbers that I needed to find a ride. Together, we fought the foreign phone system – losing until a kind police officer showed Eric where he could make local calls for free. So we joined one another in an odd type of solidarity – not exactly the solidarity I was expecting to be a part of here.
Eric and I got to know one another – passing the time by asking the appropriate questions: Where is your family? Any siblings? Where did you go to school? He is here for 11 months to teach English to 2-6 year olds, having never worked with children that young. It comforts me to know that he has less of a clue about what he’s doing here than I do.
Luck finally hit when I got ahold of my advisor, C-A, who is in India right now. She got ahold of someone who found my Delores. She thought I flew in at night. At least she came. Four hours later. I felt bad leaving Eric. He was wearing down, exhaustion was overcoming him as he set off to get a smoothie. I hope Maggie found him.
The first thing you notice when you get into the city are the signs. Neon signs. Each building hosts at least two per floor – they build upon each other, higher, wider, brighter, on and on for miles, until the street is drowned in signs. That is where the eye is first drawn, upwards, at the wires crossing from window to window, the strange characters mixing with English words. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Below the signs, the streets look like any other street in a big city. Crowded. Traffic and people fighting one another. Only here, look right, then left. Something that will take some getting used to. The public transit buses look like the tourist buses in England or New York City – covered double deckers filled with people. Only here, the people are not tourists. In Kowloon, everyone is going somewhere, and quickly.
The sidewalks lead right into the open store fronts, blasting their air conditioning for the sweltering patrons and passerbys. Bakeries, restaraunts – sit down or take out – clothing stores, pharmacies. With their racks on the outside holding newspapers in two languages, magazines and bottled water. The entrance to the subway is smack in the middle of the sidewalk. I guess it is so you won’t miss it while everything else is vying for your attention.
The smell is something else too. Not good. Not bad. Just different. It is the smell of a lot of people. Of exhuast and other city smells. And food. Things frying, baking, grilling, sizzling, cooling. The sounds of the cars honking, people talking on their cell phones. They wear their phones around their necks, as if they are expecting so many calls, to reach in a pocket or purse would waste too much time. The sounds of vendors, suffling, the beeping on the crosswalk sign.