A Whole New World

Third day back, and I am constantly fascinated at how different my view of this city is. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years, yet after a trip to an area  of this world that is so culturally different from home, I see the same things under a completely new light. There are even things that I’ve been seeing right through all this time, and all of a sudden you have a new appreciation for the things you’ve always ignored. For example, the other day I was walking crossing the road and I decided to test my sister. I asked her, “do you know what these yellow things are?”

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Truth is, I didn’t even know until I went to Japan and noticed all the accessibility aids around the city (in fact, I wrote an entire post about it). And then I went to Hong Kong and noticed the same thing everywhere. There are ‘trails’ for the seeing impaired all over the city, and they’re quite obvious because you always try to avoid them – they’re quite annoying to step on. On the other hand, these guides are only placed near intersections in Vancouver, with maybe a few more of them around the city centre. The reason though, is not because we’re any less accessible than Hong Kong or Osaka. It’s simply because we don’t walk nearly as much! Those two crowded Asian cities get a ton of pedestrian flow on their streets every day, while here the emphasis is on the cars. People would rather take the 2-minute drive than a 10-minute walk. It just doesn’t make sense to invest so much into something that will be used so little.

(You would never see such an empty street in Hong Kong!)

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The other thing is the atmosphere. You really feel it – the way people walk and talk, it’s all a lot slower. My sister was complaining about me walking too fast, and I realized that it’s one of the things that happened to me after living in Hong Kong for 6 months. My biological pace has been fast-forwarded about 5x. There’s also that sense of boredom, of not knowing what to do, of having hours to just chill at home. Partially, it’s simply because I don’t have to work – of course I can just chill out at home in Hong Kong. But usually that never happens in Hong Kong even on my day off, because I have someone to see or something to do. Here, my body can actually sit back and relax; take my mind off my worries for a while (even if I know there are things I need to start thinking about).

One of the things I really miss about Vancouver is the smalltalk behind the counters. When you’re waiting for someone at the bank or convenience store, and you just talk about the weather or something. It’s why our service is a billion times slower than that in Hong Kong, but it’s also what makes this city so nice and friendly. Instead of focusing solely on efficiency, we also try to build connections. Granted, you’re not going to keep in touch with this random stranger on the street, but every conversation contributes to this sense of community in Vancouver. Seriously, if there is any single reason why I love Vancouver so much, it would have to be community.

So anyway, yesterday I woke up super early (probably a bit jetlagged, although above all I’m just simply sleep deprived) and since I had so much time on my hands, I decided to make waffles for breakfast. Now that’s something I realized you can’t do anytime in Hong Kong. We keep a large bag of flour and a 2L bottle of milk at home for our everyday use, but space is so limited in Hong Kong that you literally buy only what you can use within the next 2 or 3 days. When you bake, you buy exactly what you need so you don’t have to keep it at home (there are stores in Hong Kong that actually sell ingredients by weight!). Not to mention that waffle makers are kind of hard to come by in the average Hong Kong household. So in other words, when I get back to Hong Kong and I’m feeling jet lagged, there’s no way I’ll be able to just make waffles that morning because I feel like it.

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Among all the busy-ness, I’m glad still have time to do nothing! It really does mean a lot to me.

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