In defense of the present

So I realize that my last post makes it seem like possibly I am unhappy here.  I also realized that my friends can’t count anymore than I can.  (Turns out I’m not quite to the double-digit countdown yet, but at least I’m close!)  So I just wanted to post in defense of living in the present.  I will admit, it is difficult.  There have been parts of me that have had a hard time adjusting to life in Hong Kong.  That maybe be highly due to the fact that my amazingly supportive boyfriend still in Kentucky and that all of my friends are having babies and getting married while I’m away.  Four weddings and eight babies.  Good grief.  It is hard to be away for those special moments.  But even though I greatly lament missing the baptisms and holy vows, I have to admit, I do love my time here.  As anxious as I am to start my next placement (wherever that may be), and to be within a day’s flight home, I am as equally sad to be thinking about my time in Hong Kong drawing to a close.  So, as a way to celebrate the good in my life instead of always being overwhelmed with what I may be missing back home, I want to share the joys of life here in Hong Kong. 

*My Job.  I don’t think it can be said enough, but I absolutely love my job.  It is challenging,  difficult, even borderline depressing at times.  I watch scores of women tossed aside by their governments and employers as if they were a rag doll.  I hear countless stories of oppression, abuse and heartache.  Needless to say, it is overwhelming.  But what I love about my job is that I don’t have to focus on those things.  I work in a shelter where I interact daily with women who love to laugh and to sing.  I hear mothers tell stories of how proud they are of their children, and listen to young women plan their dream weddings for when they return home.  I see the strength that can be found community.  I have enjoyed getting to know these brave women who leave their homes in search of the hope being able to provide for their families.  I love watching the joy on their faces when they have reached justice, accomplished a goal or are preparing to go home.  They love to dance and sing and they compete often, in costume.  I’ve seen them dance the Sister Act II dance and they’ve taught me a few smooth Indonesian moves.  This is a holistic job.  One that embodies education, counseling, rights training, personal involvement and government accountability.  We march, we rally, we sing, we pray, we listen, we write, we take a stand and we empower.  I could not ask for a better job.

*The Travel.  I’ll admit it, I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to travel as much as I have while I’ve been here.  I adore traveling.  The uncertainty, the excitement of being somewhere unknown, of discovering new foods, people and places.  I’ve stayed in families homes in Semarang, Indonesia; kicked the surf in Bali; played the slots in Macau; ridden elephants in Thailand; and eaten spring rolls in Vietnam.  Next month I will be hiking waterfalls and visiting growing medical clinics in Mainland China.  In October I will be attending conferences and visiting friends in the Philippines.  In December that wonderful boy I keep mentioning and I will be dipping in hot springs in Japan before heading back to the States.  Travel is not only easily accessible here, but fairly cheap. (Particularly compared to travel around the States.  I can fly to Thailand and book a 3 star hotel for a week for less than the cost for an air ticket from Kentucky to Florida.  And let’s face it – Thailand?  Way cooler than Florida.)  The passport stamp collecting is something I will definitely miss when I’m back Stateside.

*The Food. Its funny.  When I was little, I was about the pickiest eater you have ever met.  Ask my parents, they’ll tell you how I wouldn’t eat my broccoli unless it was covered in Cheez Wiz (the kind from the jar, not the can!)  Even before I moved here, I refused to eat anything with bell peppers or onions in or on it.  Now?  Bring on the tofu, the liver, the intestines and veggies whose names I can’t pronounce or remember.  Just, hold the chicken feet.  Tonight, I had pigeon for dinner.  You know, those birds that have taken over Manhattan?  Roasted and served with rice and boiled lettuce.  Tasty.  I’ve eaten dishes that I won’t tell you what was in the ingredients, so as not to make you squeamish.  And then I had seconds.  Call me an Anthony Bourdane convert – but there isn’t much anymore that scares me.  I’m willing to try anything (which is good, because I’ve been given lots of opportunity for growth in this area.)  Asia food is nothing if not interesting.

*The People.  I’m not talking about the people that crowd the sidewalks or run the government.  Nah, those I’ll be happy to leave behind.  But I talking about the women in the shelter, my co-workers, the international migrant community here that has become a source of community and inspiration for me.  I love the guys who work in our office who make my stomach hurt from laughing as they sing “Hey You Guys” from Legally Blonde the musical.  My co-workers are full time volunteers who have full-time jobs as well, but still manage to bring in baked goods and fun lunches on occasion.  We celebrate successful conferences and spend the holidays celebrating on the beach with BBQ and Karaoke.  They have welcomed me whole-heartily to their community, and have taught me so much about the workings of the world, the cost of justice and the beauty of compassion.

*Banche. She gets her own shout-out, cause she’s just so darn cute.  Banche is a dog that technically belongs to one of our volunteers, but in all honesty belongs to everyone.  We all take turns loving on her, playing with her and feeding her apples (her favorite).  Its been incredibly difficult to live without a dog after living with four dogs.  Leaving Hank behind, even though I know he’s in a loving home, was almost as hard as leaving my friends and family.  I miss the comfort of my furry companion, and Banche has been more than willing to fill in for awhile.

 <— I mean, seriously, how cute is she??

*Public Transportation.  Who knew that I could love life without a car?  As much as I loved (and miss) aimless driving and the independence that comes with having your own car, I have to admit that I love not having to worry about brake pads and oil changes and gas money.  I love walking to work or taking the train or the ferry home from the office.  I love that I can hop on a train and get just about anywhere in this city.  And Hong Kong has really done a great job of offering as many forms of public transportation as possible.  Buses, mini-buses, trolleys, trams, the MTR (subway) and ferries.  Its more than convenient.  Its more than just environmentally conscious.  Its a time and money saver that keeps my legs active and my eyes open as I walk the streets. 

*The Protests.  Valerie made a comment on the last post about how interesting it is that protests and rallies are such a common part of my life now.  Four years ago, heck, a year ago, that wasn’t the case.  I attended my first protest in New York last summer.  Now I average two a month.  I love the feeling of getting out there, waving signs, listening to passionate speeches, saying to whoever it is that needs to be told, “We know what you are doing.  We don’t like it.  And we aren’t going to be quiet about it.”  Plus, protests usually make for some GREAT pictures. 🙂 

Its easy for me to fantasize about how great and wonderful “home” is.  And it is, don’t get me wrong.  But sometimes while looking for greener pastures, I forget that there is perfectly good grass right under my own feet.

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