I have always maintained that the 4 places in this world I have no desire to visit are: Taiwan (what the hell is there to do – eat sausage?), China (who needs it, got it right here), Korea (seriously) and Japan (not kidding. People are often surprised by this but I don’t really go nuts over Japanese food and who gives a crap about cherry blossoms?). So, a design conference took me to Hong Kong, which I was quite looking forward to only because it’s technically not really China. If the conference was in Shen Zhen, I would have killed myself on the flight with the ingenious use of paper towels, bland mouthwash and those miniscule plastic cups. Of course, to make it easier, there are those disposable razors.
So, Business of Design Week wasn’t too bad – I thought it might end up being a little dry but it picked up the pace and I have a developed a passionate one-sided love affair with Michael Young (call me!). My foray into Hong Kong shopping started off weakly, I declared Hong Kong positively useless for any form of shopping (don’t worry, this turns around) until the final day where I ended up spending close to $2500 there (now, for little ol’ me, that’s quite a bit). But, I’m pleased with my purchases and it’s all good – no buyers remorse or anything.
I honestly would not mind working in Hong Kong for a brief period of time (maximum 2 years) – I enjoyed the fast pace, the luxury of being able to shove and push aside with no repercussions and the weather. Although, the people there severely overdress (I guess because they can). Here I was in my t-shirt and jeans and there they were – with the faux fur jackets and boots. Honestly, I see no reason for boots unless there’s snow. (Oh, fashion!)
The one thing I was not crazy about was the food. It was Carb Central up there and lord help me, I get sick of noodles awfully quick. At point, I was dying to duck into a McDonalds but feared my travel card might be revoked by my colleagues. So instead, I bravely sloshed down soupy noodles after soupy noodles and even porridge at one point. (They have set meals of porridge and noodles! Who the hell can eat all those carbs? I’m Indian! I’ve got carb-absorbing genes) Perhaps I tasted the wrong side of Hong Kong but till I get set right – I’m holding on to McDonalds and … wait a second, I don’t recall seeing a Burger King there at all (the airport doesn’t count). There were a crapload of KFCs there but I wasn’t eating no chicken. I never craved Popeye’s so badly before.
I also felt compelled to write when I was there (it’s an alternative form of insomnia – the need to purge thoughts and feelings before attempts to grab a pill strike). So, here it is – typed and scanned.
Travelling uncorks the brain. It starts at the airport check-in counter (packing never counts, you’re always nervous about forgetting something) – this feeling of jittery excitement. The breaking of normality. The hesitation and thrill of doing something different.
Taxi, take off, turbulence and landing.
A couple of firsts. First business trip, first time to Hong Kong. Strange, interesting, big, small, too much space, too many people, too little space – I feel very all over here. Uncertain and unsure – which I quite like. I’ve spent too much time being ambivalent – any end of the spectrum will do.
3 days of people constantly saying the same word over and over again. Design, design. Design. It made me feel important, yet insignificant. I am in my industry without a face. Where is my identity? What makes me special? What would make someone want to spend time with me? My work? Disbelief is as strong as belief and I am neither. Ambivalent, always ambivalent.
This city is unique and typical all at once. I find the people quite fascinating, which I did not expect. I thought I would dismiss them, instead I am drawn to their social side. Far more gracious and collectively independent than I imagined.
This has been a year of firsts. It wasn’t supposed to be this way – didn’t start out like that. It’s interesting to realise that the closing of a chapter would lead me to open up new ones (not just one but several). All I have are a few starting words of each chapter but no fruition, completion of significance. Everything is relative to the last milestone and inevitably compared and made to measure up.
I’ve had a first holiday, a first birthday, a first date, a first kiss, a first movie, a first party, a first drink, a first song – that I have not shared. Separation is surreal.
13 December 2008, Hong Kong