Friday, February 22, 2008

Hong Kong to Zhanjiang

Scott and I hung out at the Maryknoll House for a couple of days after our return from Bangkok. Scott caught the bus back to Zhanjiang on Monday, but I wanted to spend some more time in Hong Kong. The Mayknoll House was full last week, so I checked into the Chung Kiu Inn in Causeway Bay. The hostel is a bunch of rooms scattered througout the ninth and fifteenth floors of an all-Chinese apartment building. My room was tiny- just enough space for a bed, small dresser, and maybe 15 sq. ft. of bathroom space. After the glory of the MK House and the open space and beautiful beaches in Stanley, I realized that I was finally experiencing what it's really like living in Hong Kong!

Hong Kong is jam-packed with tourists this week: Chinese making the most of the last bit of Spring Festival vaction, just like me. I spent a few days wandering around various malls and bookstores, buying gifts, and reading at Repulse Bay Beach. Anytime a food item vaguely interested me, I ate it without a moment's hesitation; believe it or not, those memories of a recently-consumed taco or Ben & Jerry's cone can be awfully comforting during cravings in China! Thursday I headed back to Zhanjiang, having made it to the bus with just one minute to spare due to a horrible cab experience.

I'm here in my apartment now, one of the first to return to school. The students' dorms are still locked up and all the stores on our little street are closed. It's not too bad being back, at least I know what to expect this time around. The funny thing I've thought about today is how absolutely nothing here has changed in the past two months. Yes, there's a new shopping mall and the Macau restaurant has some new dishes, but that's not what I mean. While I was flitting around to Florida and Thailand and Hong Kong, Zhanjiang people were just going about their regular business just as always. The insane bum who's a dead-ringer for a Chinese Johnny Depp still hangs around by the bus depot; adolescent boys still shout HELLO! at Scott and me and laugh; the tall cleaning woman at Trust Mart continues to gape at me in amazement; the mentally retarded beggar still lays facedown on the same corner with her pants around her ankles. People ask me where I'm from, if I teach English, compliment my horrible Chinese, and "covertly" make fun of my chopsticks with their friends just as usual.

This city is impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't seen it for themselves... if you're anywhere but Guangdong Province, it's hard to even imagine it exists. But it does exist, and millions of people live here, many of them cut off from the outside world without even realizing it. After I've been here a few weeks, my perspective will change as it always does. I'll become immersed in the routine, and all the craziness will settle into the relative "normality" of everyday life. But now, fresh from fantastically beautiful places far away from Zhanjiang, I'm newly amazed by the sameness of it all. Zhanjiang and Tai Mao Xuexiao (my school) have just been here all along. Waiting for me? Not exactly... more like ready for me to pick up right where I left off.

No comments: