Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oil And Water

I've been in Hong Kong for two months and I haven't even skimmed the surface.
The culture still throws me. Not full culture shock, I haven't experienced that. I'm hoping that I won't, that if I haven't now, it's not going to happen. I mean, in SF, I lived in a predominantly Chinese part of town. I went to a Chinese supermarket. Got my hair cut at a Chinese salon. Ate Chinese food for more meals than I'd care to admit. I'm not saying it's the same, but it did make the transition a little easier.

But Hong Kong, man. That's something different. This isn't China. Not in the strict sense. It's a city I can't figure out. Part of me likes that- it should take years for someone to really get the measure of a place like this. I still want an inkling, though. There's a dichotomy here, and undercurrent, that I'm just starting to see. When all the glitz and neon wears off and you sort of see a different side to the city.

A lot of the exchange kids have been feeling it. Honeymoon is over. Now it's getting colder and little darker. We're all trying to figure out where we belong in this chaotic machine, even if we're only here for a few months. Some people just avoid it altogether, using the exchange as an opportunity to travel around Asia. I think that's a great way to spend the couple months here, but it's not for me. I'm trying to find my place and my people.

Not many people in Hong Kong seem happy. It's a city with a sadness to it. When you first get here, it's really exciting. Everything seems to be in chaos, the massive entropy caused by thousands of people trying to find order. But look at the madness long enough and you start to see patterns, and you realize that what you're seeing isn't the manic movements of life. It's the combined routines of every one in the city, going along their normal routes and methods. And they just don't seem happy doing it.
Is happiness the hard and fast end goal of every human? I don't necessarily think so. But in a lot of cultures, you see these cool little glimmers of life breaking through the normal day-to-day. Some breaks from the norm. Those little elements make you feel differently, maybe a little more hopeful. I haven't seen too much of those here. In Thailand, despite the pervasive smell of eggs and rats the size of your dog, people had an energy to them. A feeling of general contentment. They may not be millionaires, but damn if they aren't enjoying the ride. I don't know if people here enjoy the ride.

I love this city, don't get me wrong. It completes me in ways that San Francisco can't. But it's going to see how I feel after a year here. I'm probably wrong about all of this. I hope I am.

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