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No Regrets

I’m essentially at the 1.5 year mark since leaving Hong Kong, and the more I get into New York life, the less I blog.  But I felt inclined to write this note after a close friend of mine from law school asked if I had any regrets leaving Hong Kong, given the extremely positive professional experience I had there.

I noted how two colleagues of mine had made partner this year at my firm in HK, and I do believe that I would have eventually walked that path at some point too.  I had an incredibly supportive senior partner behind me, wonderful work, positive relationships with clients, etc. etc.  Most importantly, there was also a logical promotion process in place in my office.  Why shouldn’t I have believed that I would get that holy grail eventually?

So do I regret leaving that behind for New York, where my firm is your typical  NYC BigLaw hot mess? In a word – no.

Though I may now lament my current professional situation out loud frequently, I don’t regret leaving Hong Kong to come to New York.  I’m home now. Being near family and friends has indeed filled my heart to the point that I’m able to forget many of the other every day woes.  It’s worth it.

I’ve gotten to visit/be visited by some of my further away friends a number of times as well, and that means a lot to me too.  I don’t feel rushed to do things at home, and yet I can cherish time with family all the same.  It’s amazing and it fills my heart.

When I contrast to time in HK, so often I just felt inexplicably lonesome, no matter how fulfilling my work was, how incredible my HK-based friends were, or how much fun I was having in my travels or experiences.  Something about my family is just so integral to my whole existence, I had to leave – no matter what I was leaving behind.

I guess I want to say – find what fills your heart.  It will never be just one thing, but there are some things that do it better than others.  Be near the people and things that make you feel full, and then you don’t need to worry about ever being hungry.

Happy holidays everyone!

Is It Over? Reflections After One+ Years Back

Has it been more than half a year since my last post? I guess I’ve let NY life take over, and stopped reminiscing about my old life in HK…. and yet I have just returned from my THIRD trip back since I repatriated.  However, this third time was actually really required for work (unlike my quasi-“work” trips, where I honestly made up excuses to go and was just merely working from HK as if I were working from anyplace, like home or a coffee shop).

This time I went for just under 2 weeks.  I was cautious not to spend too much time in HK.  Every day in HK meant a day outside of NY, and after my last visit, I realized I had to commit to being home if I was going to be home.

Sadly my best mate and my beloved boss would not be in HK for the bulk of my stay.  I came a few days early just to spend time with my bestie, and only got to catch up with the Boss at the tail end. I actually had a legitimate work reason to come to HK – flew business and the whole shebang (though I still chose to stay in my good friend’s guest room in Sheung Wan, as I much prefer homes to hotels).

Hong Kong did its best to seduce me.  Though the visit started with daily rain, those rains did its thing and cleared up the pollution and lowered the humidity, yielding incredibly blue skies – which no doubt look AMAZING with the cityscape of highrises, mountains, and sea in HK.

I got to see many friends and with a long shopping list from friends and family from home, I had too much to do to feel lonely in the big city, a terrible bad habit I frequently had while I lived in HK.

All the amazing things that are unique to HK happened while I was there this time:

  •  A dinner that was meant to be a one-on-one catch-up, ended up being a larger gathering among rich and wealthy, at one of HK’s premier classic Chinese restaurants, where a 1996 Dom Perignon was cracked open.
  • I begrudgingly attended a birthday junk (boat party) where I only knew one person, but quickly got reacquainted with someone I had met early days years ago and met some amazing new fun friends.
  • Am treated to another catch-up lunch at the city’s hottest new Chinese restaurant since my dining partner’s husband was a shareholder.
  • And just before flying back to NY, am given a luxury gift so extravagant, I have no idea what to say.

Such is Hong Kong.  You have amazing food, rub elbows with the rich and quasi-famous easily, and am surrounded by luxury – all the while sharing the same streets with hunched over elderly men and women, pushing carts of cardboard to recycle for a small fee, domestic workers who will never be treated anything better than third class, and loads of HK inhabitants just getting by on HK’s recently instated minimum wage of HK$30 (less than US$4).

Everywhere I went I was asked if I was coming back.  I would never say never now.  But no – for now, I am happy re-establishing myself in my hometown of New York, where a day without blue skies is the anomaly, and unbreathable humidity is also a rare feature.  While we also have very rich and poor, NYC is still big enough such that we all can remain a bit anonymous.  I don’t see Lambos and Porsches on a regular basis, and at least there are talks of raising the minimum wage to double digit dollars.

America the Beautiful

Last night I attended the AABANY Annual Dinner, where three incredible Asian American lawyers were recognized with awards –

  • Jenny R. Yang, Chair, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
  • An-Ping Hsieh, Vice President, General Counsel, Hubbell Incorporated; and
  • Preet Bharara, United States Attorney, Southern District of New York.

Each of these outstanding lawyers referenced their parents, all of whom were raised and inspired by immigrant parents. And from very humble roots, each of these individuals were able to achieve amazing things.

I was really impressed by Preet Bharara’s speech.  First, he was a lot funnier than expected, and it’s nice to see that someone who has to be so serious so often can have a chuckle.  Second, he very eloquently reminded us all why America is so great.  He talked about the naturalization of his Indian parents almost 3 decades ago.  Back then, these two immigrants from Punjab could never imagine their two young sons would become as successful as they are today – one, being the first Asian American US Attorney for the SDNY, the other, now a millionaire after selling his company to Amazon for half a billion dollars.  Of course a joke ensued of how one brother was obviously a lot more jealous of the other.

He spoke about how much he loved this country and why he did.  Only in America could you find immigrants from 30-odd countries in a room anxiously awaiting to be welcomed into a country where all sorts of possibility can really still happen.

I may lament that such possibility has decreased to a certain degree in the US, but I very much still agree with Preet (can I be on a first-name basis with this amazing lawyer just because he let me take a legal groupie photo with him last night?).

In discussing one of the big reasons why I left Hong Kong, I often complained how Hong Kong has limited opportunity.  It’s true that I have gone very far in HK, and I can probably go back to find just about any job I want now, but the opportunities I found are really not available to everyone.  I came to HK with an excellent educational pedigree, good work experience, and a fighter’s attitude.  It was this background that gave me a huge leg-up and got me where I did in HK.  I may not have gotten any of these if not for having been born and bred in the US to my hard working immigrant mother.

In Hong Kong, not every college-aged student can find a seat at a local university, and thus, has no choice but to go to an expensive school abroad.  Obviously, most international students don’t get financial aid.  In contrast, in the US, there are just so many opportunities for everyone to get higher education, this would never be an issue here in America.

Access to education is simply so fundamental, and it really is appalling how limited this access is in such an advanced place as HK.  Sadly, for all those folks who still manage to seek out great education, their parents have paid a substantial penny for it.  And for all those who could not, they are the ones who become invisible in HK, completely neglected by their country.

This is a big reason why the students of Hong Kong protested for so long in the Umbrella Revolution, and why there continues to be signs of unrest. There simply is no real future for these young people.

And so yes, I do feel strongly about being back here in the golden land of opportunity, the US, where my future offspring, should I have any, WILL have a (pretty) fair shot at just about anything.  I still believe this deep in my heart and hope that as a 1st generation American, I can do even more than my immigrant mother could do for me. And I am so grateful that I was lucky enough to be born here and am so happy to be back.

As Preet said, only in America do we have the explicit right to the pursuit of happiness.

Hong Kong Solicitors By the Numbers

Taken from the November 2014 issue of Hong Kong Lawyer (the official journal of the Law Society):

  • Total members of the HK Law Society (not barristers): 9.261
  • Members with practising certificates: 8,111
  • Trainees: 837 (shows a growth in HK lawyers of around 10%)
  • Registered foreign lawyers: 1,340 (less than 10%)
  • Hong Kong law firms: 829
  • Registered foreign law firms: 79 (again, less than 10%)

OLQE Update

And it’s official – the 2015 OLQE will now include a sixth head on the Basic Law (i.e., Hong Kong constitutional law).  So if you were hoping to get away with not having to study for this, then I’m sorry!

 

The End of Occupy… For Now

Having written a few posts on the Occupy Hong Kong protests, I thought it responsible to round it out and mention the uneventful end of the movement, 75 days later.  The whole thing just seemed to lose direction, focus, and steam.

  • The three main leaders of the movement apparently turned themselves in (but were not detained).
  • Public sentiment was not supportive of the movement, as businesses lost money.
  • Joshua Wong, the main face of the student movement, went on hunger strike, but had to quit after 4.5 days at his doctor’s insistence.
  • The government continued to do basically nothing.

Did something come out of all this? We can all still wonder.  There had been international attention – but not enough to really do anything. Even China turning away British politicians attempting to visit HK to investigate the protest situation sadly resulted in nothing.

And I admit, I also lost enthusiasm in following the current events.

75 days in, HK Police finally cleared out the protest camps, but signs were left saying the movement would be back.  Will they?

In the days since the clear-out, new signs (like the first banner that lasted on Lion Rock for just a short while) of an ongoing flame carry on, but who knows now what will be.  And commentary continues to be published in Hong Kong and elsewhere about how the public’s discontent in other areas, such as housing, must be addressed.

I head to HK in a few weeks again, actually, and am sorry to have missed the protest sites and the improved air pollution situation.  But perhaps there will be another chance to see a democracy movement in HK, since I doubt 200 square foot flats (at exorbitant prices no less) can cure the burning desire for “true universal suffrage.”

Last Travels of the Year…Scouting Out a New Move?

October has been a busy month of travels for me.  I’ve visited friends and family in DC, Virginia, Boston, Tucson and now LA.  Luckily for me, I have been able to combine a significant amount of that travel with work, as my multi-office firm has locations (sometimes more than one) in a whole lot of cities across the US and I also have had the flexibility to work from anywhere I please.

America is an amazing country, and I know there is still so much for me to see.  Up in Boston I enjoyed revisiting my old college campus, noting how nerds never change, and admiring the gorgeous colors of the Autumn leaves that you never see in a sub-tropical place like Hong Kong.  In DC I loved the preppiness of all the wannabe politicos working in our great capitol.  In Tucson I was in complete awe of the incredible flora of the Southwest and definitely plan to revisit in the not too distant future.

And now I am in LA, and really surprised by just how much I like it! I mean traditionally New Yorkers hate Los Angeles, and vice versa, but c’mon, I’ve lived in Hong Kong for the past 5 years, of course I am going to completely fall in love with any city with warmer temperatures, the mountains and the sea within reach, and loads of Asian people.  And even better – there’s no humidity and relatively less pollution (I know it’s still one of the worst in the US, but sorry, LA pollution  ain’t got nothing on just about any Chinese city).

I’ve barely gone out to check out normal life here, but there is something about sunshine that seems to make life that much more bearable.  So far as I can tell, there is just this lightness at the office that makes me take notice of the weightiness of NY corporate life and understand why everyone keeps saying California is that much more chilled out.  And as I already mentioned, I just love that as I walk down the hall I keep seeing Asian surname after Asian surname.  Plus, if you really can’t deal with the traffic, the empty offices suggest no one will force you to deal with it either!

Is it crazy that I could totally see myself living here? I suppose once you’ve picked up and moved one time, you are a lot more susceptible or open to doing it again.  So far as I can tell I’ve got everything I could need here – amazing weather, nature within reach, delicious and healthy food, and loads of Asians, BUT, and it’s a big one, horrific nearly non-existent public transport.

Could I really go from max efficiency (HK) to the walking city of NY to this?! I don’t know… but if the trade-up is beautiful weather, a laid back working environment, and being within reach of incredible beaches and mountains… well, let’s just say my mind is open.