I’d like to think of myself as the type person who can pick up and move halfway around the world without missing a beat. In my mind, we’d hop off the plane, and we’d visit street food vendors and walk into restaurants and order without hesitation. But the truth of the matter is – that’s not really me. I guess I have to give myself some credit for the fact that we did, in fact, take on this challenge of moving to Hong Kong, but I have to admit the only word that I can use to describe our experience so far is overwhelming. I think this feeling is compounded a bit by the fact that the boys’ schooling is unsettled at this point; there is a wait list in our school for second grade (long story), so we’re not sure what’s going to happen on Tuesday when we go in for our interview.
What really brought this feeling home to roost, though, was our trip to the mall in Tuen Muen, the town about 10 minutes south of us, to find a Toys R Us for the boys (we had seen their ad on the cab ride in). Now, I know Hong Kong is the most crowded city in the world, but it’s hard to understand what that means in the abstract. Concretely, the mall illustrated that vividly. It’s hard to describe it, but let’s just say it was nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced. First, the people, oh the people. I have never seen so many people shopping; normally, seeing lots of people engaged in a past time I enjoy quite a bit would be a good thing, but this was beyond that. I expected this in the downtown area, but I just wasn’t expecting the sea of humanity that confronted us in this mall out in the “boonies”.
The real kicker, though, was the fact there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to this mall. There were stores everywhere, down seemingly endlessly rambling corridors. There were different phases of the mall, but no central planning as the paths twisted and turned with no rhyme or reason. There seemed to be areas (communications, electronics, etc.), but no clear indication of how to get from one to the next. In fact, there was not a directory or map to be had anywhere (I suspect that’s due to the fact that the mall is so immense that any map or directory is outdated the second it’s printed). Some escalators went up one floor, some went up two. Some escalators started in the common area, but ended in a store. We went by what seemed to be an information kiosk, but there was a line of people holding receipts, waiting for one woman who seemed to be helping them along with a random man typing on a computer in Chinese. Should we wait and probably be unable to communicate or stumble on? Eventually, we did manage to find Starbucks – much to Doug’s relief – where a press pot and coffee were secured. They gave us vague directions to Toys R Us which we came across after some more confused exploring – much to all of our relief. With goods finally secured, we came home and hung around for a nice relaxing evening.
In the end, I guess it’s a bit too much to expect to move to a foreign country where we don’t know the language, where we can’t make out the script and where there’s a 12 hour time difference without feeling a bit overwhelmed. And, to be sure, we’ve managed to do quite a lot: grocery shop, visit our local wet market, journey using public transportation, eat at the school cafeteria, and so on. Today, we plan to venture out to visit the Peak. Given that we’ve all been up since the middle of the night (or middle of the day for you all in the U.S. and for our bodies), it may be an interesting and overwhelming journey, but hey – at least we’re attempting it.