Tag Archives: feelings

More Confused

I told myself I would give New York a full year evaluation in the same way I had promised when I came to Hong Kong.  That is, I need to see New York (as I did with Hong Kong beginning back in September 2009) in every season before I knew what I thought of it. I am nearing the first quarter of this evaluation (it started June 1st for me despite having returned in late April, since I travelled much of May), and I am frankly more confused than ever. My transition back into a New Yorker started out pretty well, actually.  After my London visit, where I pre-panicked about my return, things actually turned out better than expected: After toying around with my morning commute, I quickly discovered that the 45 minute bus-train combo was far more predictable and easy than I thought (and ditched the less predictable US$6 express bus into midtown).

  • I discovered I could borrow e-books from the New York Public Library, which I began reading on a US$20 tablet that I got on promotion at a local shop in my neighborhood (score!).  This has made my commute amazing and I have been reading loads (something I’ve come to love as an adult).
  • Very critically, I also found the perfect gym for me –  one that had workouts as brutal as the awesome boot camp I had only joined in my last weeks in HK, with just as awesome a group of trainers and gym goers that suited my location and schedule. Ding! Those who know me know that without the right fitness routine, I just can’t cope with anything.
  • Work was exciting – it would never be like my job in HK, but I was receiving a lot of support around me to develop my cross-border HK-US practice.  AND I brought in my very first client (!!) — Americans who were dissatisfied with local counsel in HK, handling a regulatory investigation and related litigation.
  • Home life was going smoother than I thought it would, and I was making good progress in finding high quality and AFFORDABLE home renovations!
  • PLUS dating was surprisingly EASY! I just joined a website called Coffee Meets Bagel that essentially was perfect for someone who was lazy about dating (you get just one match a day, and if you mutually “Like” someone, you get an opportunity to communicate anonymously, and potentially set up a date).  I learned something from the bad dates, and was pleasantly surprised by a good date.

So what happened? I suddenly decided to come back to Hong Kong for a visit just three months after leaving.   I was allowed to work from the HK office, back at my old desk, even working on one of my old cases.  Plus, the new matter I’d brought in needed some TLC from HK that I could not do properly from NY.  And finally, I had personal reasons that contributes to my present confusion.

Coming back to HK, I felt like I was coming home again.  It was my home for almost 5 years after all.  It was super familiar, especially as I was staying in my old neighborhood of Sheung Wan (something I’ll always do on future trips, since I just know it so well and love the feeling of familiarity, plus being right next door to some of my best friends in HK).

It was bloody hot and humid, but something I craved since NY’s summer has been extremely Fall-like. I got to try loads of new restaurants that opened just when I left – some hits (Mott 32, Ho Lee Fook, Ding Dim), some misses (Man Mo Café), in addition to many old favorites (the congee on Queens Road Central, the always tasty Chachawan).  As much as I might complain about the abysmal Western food, Hong Kong’s Asian cuisine definitely reigns supreme in creativity and quality.  I enjoyed some of the “extreme” fun that expats tend to enjoy in HK (just living life to its fullest), and could go to a beautiful beach within 20 minutes at a moment’s notice.

But besides the personal/private thing, working in HK just turned me around and upside down. Whereas I was mainly doing business development in NY, I was billing a load of substantive hours from HK suddenly.  It was a drastic contrast to what I’d been doing in NY, and I missed working with my boss terribly (he might read this (embarrassingly, he’s discovered this blog and deduced my identity some time ago), so I won’t indulge his ego too much, though he knows well how much I adore him).  Worse, one of the US based projects I was working on remotely, was not very well managed when it came to me, and I felt frustrated and worried that I was letting down the client and making a terrible impression on my new US colleagues.

The HK office was buzzing with interesting activity, and I miss that extra step of excitement and crazy that my HK cases tend to take on.  During one of my client meetings, as my client was describing some recent events involving wire taps and listening devices, I just thought to myself how much this real case that I was handling seemed like a legal thriller, and thought, “I hope I don’t get killed!”

Then just a week after coming back to NY, I saw one of my boss’ cases made front page news again. I miss my work and my colleagues in HK.  It just excited me in a way that my work in NY never did, and after my recent trip, I am confused more than ever, wondering if that’s where I need to be.

But no – I’m committed to the one year evaluation plan.  I need to be here.  Besides, there’s lots going on that I must attend to and accomplish here. And if I really can pull off the cross-border practice, then who knows, maybe I actually can “have it all” (even if I stopped believing in that phrase a number of years now).  Let’s see… (almost) one quarter, three to go.


Getting Over You Getting Over Me

[So it turns out, I am going to keep blogging – just a little while longer as I cope with this transition back.]

One friend, who incidentally is also locating to New York from Hong Kong (though he is not returning home) after roughly as long a stay as me, told me that he was advised it takes something like 6-9 months to get through the transition and get over Hong Kong. — Again the reference to a relationship – and I now start to wonder how long will I take to “get over” Hong Kong.

I’m pretty sure I said it before – but I never hated Hong Kong, and did not leave it because there was something wrong with it in particular. I mean, there are certain things about Hong Kong that encouraged me to leave, if we can put it that way. For starters – there are still many quality of life issues that don’t exactly lend to me seeing a long-term future for myself.

I hate that there are so many food quality issues. The bulk of food sourced into Hong Kong comes from its mighty neighbor, China, and I just don’t trust anything coming outta there. I admit, I bought “organic” Chinese grocery, but even then, I worried about how “organic” that was. After all, you cannot exactly control for nearby contaminants in the soil and air and water, can you?

Then if you wanted to get trustworthy organic foods, you end up shipping it from far away lands, and not doing much better for the environment.

Similarly, I worried about my air quality, and stopped running outdoors for years now thanks to Hong Kong.

I also sadly saw a giant retraction of the “two systems,” and every single day, bit by bit, the Red Hand made itself known to the citizens of Hong Kong. It’s no wonder there have been so many racist* incidents against Mainlanders.

So will HK always be so “free”? Is it really now? That really disturbed me – though, admittedly, who knows how free the US of A really is either, right?

But it’s these two main things – a clean and healthy environment (including food, water, and air) and access to free and fair government that gave me concern over Hong Kong in the long run, and I decided that I would be better off dealing with this Stateside and closer to my family – the main impetus for my move.

As I’ve indicated earlier, I experienced the worst year abroad yet in 2013, and it really brought home – well the notion of going Home.  Home really is where the heart is, and for me, that is my family.  They may make me crazy many a time, but they are still my inspiration and strength.  And as much as I absolutely adore my work in Hong Kong, and could have pursued a very fulfilling career, it ached at my heart to be so far away – especially when tragedy struck.

So there you have it – that’s what led me to let it all go – the amazing travels, the great friends, the one of a kind job, and all the convenience.  I’ll elaborate more on these things with subsequent posts, but that’s that in a few paragraphs.

But for such a compelling reason to leave Hong Kong and return to New York, that does not make this transition any easier.  And I wonder how long it will take me, and whether or not you will see me going back to Hong Kong (or elsewhere) in the not so distant future.  Who knows?!

But as with my promise to me in 2009 when I came to Hong Kong, I will promise to me in 2014 in New York, that I need to experience all the seasons and a full year here before I make a decision on that. So here I begin – I officially begin that year-long evaluation 1 June 2014.

So far, it has indeed been hard, and my mind wanders to Hong Kong very often.  But more on that in other posts.

(*see comments below)

Neither Here Nor There… AGAIN!

I have a LOT of blogging to catch up on in order to get to where I am now – which technically, is neither here nor there – a term I have used before to describe my status.

When I wrote that post, I had just come back from a trip to Brasil, and had about one month to go before heading to New York. Oddly, I’m in a similar situation, as I draft this post from London, where I am stationed for about 3 weeks before “beginning” again in New York come June.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have indeed left Hong Kong. I packed everything up into about 7 boxes (home) plus 4 (office), two large suitcases, one more box (excess baggage), and a carry-on and a half (I always cheat with my carry-ons). Quite an expansion from the 2 suitcases + carry-on (and a half) that I came with 4 years and 8 months ago! On the other hand – not too bad, considering I’d ended up staying nearly half a decade!

But I wouldn’t say I’ve quite “returned” to New York either. I brought those 2 suitcases, the one box, and the carry-on and a half with me to NY. I dropped off those belongings in my childhood home, where I plan to reside for the second half of 2014 onwards. But I’m not exactly “back” quite.

I chose to return at the end of April in order to make my 10-year law school reunion (how does time fly!). It was wonderful seeing so many friends, including some of my very closest, altogether at the iconic Waldorf Astoria, where I also attended my high school prom even longer ago. I told friends I had left Hong Kong and was “unofficially” back. I could not bear to admit that I was now resident of New York yet for some reason.

In many senses, I really am not yet a resident – I am still technically employed by my office in Hong Kong, have not yet really moved into my home yet, and don’t have those 7 + 4 other boxes of belongings yet. I haven’t started anything routine at all – not work and certainly not my near one hour (one-way) commute. I haven’t got a gym routine (an important aspect of feeling “schedulized” for me), and what would be considered MY foods have not yet populated the fridge. (Food and fitness are EXTREMELY important for normalizing me!)

I most certainly left Hong Kong. No more flat, no more belongings – but I am not really in New York either. I just can’t seem to admit that I am now someplace other than Hong Kong, and I feel as though I am in a kind of mourning now, missing everything I thought I wanted to leave!

For the time being, I really am neither here nor there.

The Waves of Grief

I had not written about the tough emotions that once consumed at least 50% of my days, but I was recently watching 60 Minutes (it broadcasts on Pearl in HK), featuring an interview of Liam Neeson.  The actor talked about his loss of wife Natasha Richardson for the first time and I thought his summary of grieving was simply so apt:

“It hits you. It’s like a wave. You just get this profound feeling of instability. The earth isn’t stable any more and then it passes and it becomes more infrequent, but I still get it sometimes.”

This is so true.  While this “wave” hits me so much less now almost 9 years later, I still feel it every so often when something hearkens me back to a memory of Mom.  I do remember how it hit me so much more regularly at first, and for such a long time.  In my first months in Hong Kong over 4 years ago, I felt it on a daily basis.  At that point, Mom had already been gone for almost 5 years.
Now we are approaching almost 9 years since Mom’s left Earth.  My life (and I credit my time in Hong Kong) feels far more “normal” again and those waves are quite seldom – possibly just a few times a year, versus every day.
But that is loss, that is death, that is grief – it is life-long.  It just gets easier somehow, but it stays.

Time is Flying!

Shocking – I have not posted anything in more than two months, and the year is fast coming to an end. Just last week my office building put up its Christmas decorations, and this morning I heard Christmas tunes in the building muzac. What is going on?

A part of me is not as inspired to write. I admit I am coming to a confused stage in Hong Kong. I am trying to love life here as much as I did four years ago, and yet something about these four years of excitement and adventures have also left me a bit tired. Since my falling fita, I have been thinking a lot more about me just pre-Hong Kong, and have been reading my old diaries from 08-09.

My frame of mind was very different then, and I can see easily why it was that I came to moving (the initial reason for blogging), no matter how sudden and seemingly out-of-the-blue it was. I really needed a drastic change in my life to help me feel myself again after so much sadness and stress.  Something inside me pre-Hong Kong was dying or had gone dormant.  What that was I cannot say, but it was something that just fed me the energy to live life normally.

So packing everything up to go to the other side of the planet on a seeming whim made sense – jumping into all this newness and challenging myself in new ways drove new life into me.  I was then inspired to seek out a sort of regularity, starting with a gym membership, then an apartment, and finally a job (which I truly adore).  I was in a relationship for almost 3 of those 4 years, and started to become a homebody, though I was not sure if I was really “home” yet.

Anyhow, after the relationship ran its course, and after I came out of my post-relationship introversion, followed by this summer’s great loss, I’ve started to come out again in search of exploration and excitement in this city that never lacks of either.  It has been wonderful, especially as I become close to friends here in a way that I hadn’t in my first four years.

And now here we are, on the verge of Thanksgiving (which I still celebrate here in Asia), with holiday songs and holiday cocktail parties all around, time it just flying so fast!

So what’s the point of this post? Just a rambling, and perhaps a minor apology.  I’ve been out and about living Hong Kong life with yet another pair of eyes now – not as the wide-eyed newcomer, not as an acclimatized homebody, but more as a seasoned resident at 4.25 years, if I’m allowed to say so. So forgive these gaps – I’ll try to catch the blog up with my happenings soon.


Three Wishes / Belated Anniversary Post

I celebrated my 4-year Hong Kong-aversary just a week ago, getting together with just a few good friends for a quiet Monday night drink.  Unlike the previous 3 years, no big changes really – things are now settling down into a kind of “normal” actually.  I am in the same job and in the same apartment.  I have roughly the same lifestyle as I did last year.  I can say I added some amazing new travel experiences in the past year – including a mind-blowing trip to Yosemite, a relaxing time in Cebu, connecting to my roots in Hainan, spicing things up in Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou.

Oh but of course there was one tremendous change… and that is the loss of my one and only Paw Paw (maternal grandmother).  That change is irreversible and forever breaks my heart.  But I can also say all the wonderful times I had with her forever fills it too.

So what does year 5 have in store for me? Well an unexpected thing happened to me last night.  I was fiddling with this red string that has been tied around my right wrist for the same amount of time (plus a few months more).  It is called a “fita,” and I got it during my last trip to Brazil in the summer of 2009, not long before I left for Hong Kong.

The concept of this “wish string” is a bit different from  the Indian “pooja” or the Thai Buddhist “sai sin” or the red string used in  the Kabalah tradition since it is not so much a protective talisman or blessing, but is one that represents three wishes that are made when three knots are tied into it.

I actually don’t quite remember my exact three wishes anymore (hopefully I wrote it down in my travel journal of the time), but I do remember how very sad I felt during that trip.  Despite going to a country I had fallen in love with during an earlier visit, and seeing the most incredible things (sloths are my favorite Amazon animal by far), I could not shake this almost tangible feeling of sadness.  I remember it unnerving my travel companion.

During my many travels, I have picked up a few poojas and a sai sin in India, Nepal and Thailand (respectively), and they all would fall off in a reasonable amount of time.  I can only imagine they provided me with protection as nothing awful has ever happened to me on my many travels.  But this one string, my Brazilian fita, remained so terribly stubborn.  It outlived three other similar strings and lasted me all these years.  Sometimes I found it irritating, but I always believed one day it will fall off and my wishes will (hopefully) come true.

And just as I had grown so used to it (like I have to Hong Kong) – it falls off very unexpectedly! !

So I wonder if it is a sign of things to come…

The Worst

Since my last post, things got better and then they suddenly became the worst.  Paw Paw (my granny) fought hard, and in the first 3 weeks of my stay, made incredible improvements – so much so that she was discharged and able to go home (albeit needing serious physical therapy if she were to be fully mobile again).  But notwithstanding this almost miraculous recovery, her time was her time, and Paw Paw went to sleep one morning shortly after she got home, and did not wake up.

Paw Paw was around 90.  I say “around” because many Chinese from her generation weren’t exactly sure what year they were born, and on top of that, they often altered their birth years when they came to the US (for older folks – they became younger, to be more appealing to the immigration authorities; and for those too young to work, they became older to be of age to find work).

She lived an incredible life – coming from rural farmland in China, where she and her young widow of a mother were antagonized for owning a bit of land and a cow, to post-WW II Hong Kong, to NY’s Chinatown, where one of their apartments burned down, to owning her very own 2-family house in Queens. She once did not have any running water, but by the time of her death, experienced plenty of interesting enjoyable technologies.  (I’ll never forget when she figured out that the talking screen in the car (i.e., the GPS) was giving us directions on long road trips,)

Paw Paw was always so loving and selfless.  I miss her so much, and know that she was the last of her kind in our family – the pre-WWII, Toisan dialect-speaking, uneducated (she only got to third grade) but hard-working type. She was very devout in her ancestor worship and committed to Confucian values.  She may have not learned much English at all, and yet she understood me and my predominantly English speaking sisters incredibly well.

I was always afraid of losing her while abroad, and always hoped I’d be home again before we lost her forever. I’d wanted to live with her in the 2-family house she owned, and now that will never happen. I hoped I could make up for all the lost time.

Now she’s gone. I miss her sayings, I miss her laugh.  I miss her superstitious worries, I miss her love of animals, I miss her just so much.

Paw Paw still lives on in us.  I just wish there could have been more laughs, more celebrations, and more memories together.