Behind the Glorious Skyline

It’s been two weeks since I’ve landed in Hong Kong. Osaka seems like a story from too long ago to remember. Everything has been happening so fast. It’s weird.

Every time I’m in Hong Kong, of course my status is just a visitor, so I have the luxury of time to explore and see and eat. Now that I’m working five and a half days every week, you realize that time really is a luxury here. You have a buzzing city full of excitement and energy on the surface, but when you get to know this place, you really don’t understand where this energy comes from. Everyone works just as much as I do. If you leave work on time and go straight home, it’s at least 7 PM already. On Wednesday, I went out for dinner with a friend after work and I was exhausted by the time I got home at 10 PM. Plus, there are just so many social and political issues that outsiders won’t understand. Even this whole HK v.s China thing is a big complicated topic in itself. I consider myself enough of an outsider to be allowed to neglect most of these things (politics in particular), but it really makes you wonder – where does this impression of a blooming and beautiful city come from?

hongkong

Hong Kong is so much more than just the typical skyline picture you see on postcards. There’s a huge gap between the rich and the poor, especially foreign labour. Transportation is not at all convenient once you step outside of Hong Kong Island/Central Kowloon area. Housing is getting more and more unaffordable. I remember my coworkers last year told me that “供樓以前就供一世, 而家供兩世都未供完”. Mortgages on houses can typically be done with after maybe 30 years or so, but now your kids might be continuing on your mortgage for you. All for a tiny flat in an apartment a good ways away from the city center. The sea is disappearing, and the harbour on the two sides get closer every year. Of course, I’ve heard of all these things before, even when I was in Canada, but when you live here and face the reality everyday, you can’t help but let it wrench your heart.

Education is another tragedy – having to watch people suffer from an early age because there’s just too many people to compare with. It was all fun and games for me for the first few years of elementary school, but I’m sure it’s a completely different story here. For people that can’t get into university, they feel like they can’t get anywhere else in life. Even if they make it into university, they might be studying what they’re studying for the heck of it. For a degree. A piece of paper. Or perhaps it’s because they don’t know what else they could or should do. Whatever happened to dreams and passion? Taking the road less traveled? Doing what you love? I can’t say that this is true for everyone of course, but there are so many more people in Canada that actually aspire to be street performers, or sailors, or athletes. Even for me – taking a gap year to work – a lot of people are bewildered by the thought and ask me why I chose to do this. Why I don’t “waste less time”, as they like to put it. Personally, I think life is meant to be enjoyed. In that perspective, I’m sure I’ve wasted far less time than people not even knowing what they’re studying in school. Sure, going the typical route makes for a good, safe adventure. On the other hand, going the highway will bring an uneasy, scary, and mostly weird path where every day is a new unknown. It comes with sweat, blood, and tears, and it’s what makes or breaks you. But it’s also what forces you to step up into change. Embrace the unknown rather than be scared of it. I love who I’ve become, and I’m excited to know what’s coming for me next.

I still love Hong Kong. I just want to let you know what’s waiting for you here if you land as a permanent resident. One thing I’ve learned is that you really can’t decide on a city to inhabit based on a short vacation there. There are so many other issues to consider, and these are things you won’t even realize until you start living there. It’s an ironic conundrum to figure out, so I feel very blessed for this opportunity to obtain a deep understanding of so many different communities!

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