After the amazingly uplifting experience of our trip and a year of not working, I am starting a new life and new job life in Hong Kong. This is of course exciting and many benefits come from a return to routine but I also fear losing the perspective I have gained during my year of “seeing things clearer”. Conversations with two good friends this week about the challenges of maintaining a healthy balance in this crazy city have given me a lot to think about. Other friends and former colleagues tell me that I am good at the work-life balance thing but I worry that the fast pace here in Hong Kong may eat me up and spit me out. Ideally we want to take a breath here, build a home and put down some roots as we save for our retirement, just over a decade away. We are playing the long game for the first time and this makes our arrival in Hong Kong feel very different to previous transitions in and out of the UK, Cairo, Kuwait, Bangkok and Berlin. We both know that making it work here long term is dependent on finding an acceptable quality of life and that maintaining a balance is an essential part of that. How can we continue to see things clearly once real life takes over and how do you create a slow life in the fast city?
The flight from Birmingham with Emirates was pretty easy and our priority on arrival was to not “hit the ground running” but to take the first week slowly, get over the jet lag and find our feet. It helped that we came for the transition visit in May, stayed in the same hotel and know the area already. Jet lag is a major hurdle in the first week of a new life in Asia, so we planned to combat this by eating light and healthy, getting out in the daylight on foot, keeping stressful tasks to a minimum and indulging in some Thai massage http://www.salaraj.com and yoga. The Thai massueses here are total sadists, who climb onto your back, bearing down on you while they hold on to bars on the ceiling. We tried to keep a stiff upper lip and bear the agony of the torture but I cried out spontaneously at least once. We have not had less than 6 hours sleep all week and slept for 12 hours one night, so the ladies must have worked some magic, even if we are left with bruises. I have had my yoga mat out in the hotel room most days and feel my strength and flexibility starting to return very slowly.
We managed to limit onerous tasks to a quick visit to Dave’s school HQ to collects his work visa, followed by an afternoon trip to Macau on the fast ferry to validate said visa plus an hour spent at immigration applying for our Hong Kong ID cards.
House hunting has been limited to a 15 minute viewing of a serviced apartment http://www.kornhillapartments.com, which we move into tomorrow on a month’s lease. This will buy us time before we need to find something more permanent and will allow us to control the pace of this potentially stressful period as we start work.
We have been out every day, using the MTR, walking a lot, shopping and eating in mostly Thai restaurants, including Bangkok Restaurant on Kings Road near Tin Hau station, which I really like. It is easy to get good vegan food if you ask -fried morning glory and som tam (papaya salad) are my favourites. It’s a shame they don’t have brown rice like in the USA but they do have fresh coconuts full of juice. On Friday lunchtime we tried a Chinese vegan restaurant in Causeway Bay http://www.changle.com.hk. The set lunch menu was only 55 dollars (about 5 quid), which is virtually free compared to the normal cost of food here. It included several dishes with tofu and veg, rice, soup, tea and hot water (very Chinese). The veg was super fresh and well cooked but every dish had the same brown, gloopy sauce thick with MSG and it all he’d the same bland taste. What a shame. The atmosphere was great though and I have a feeling that the food on the a la carte menu is better. We may try again.
We have spent time chatting with old friends from Thailand, some we have not seen for five years. On Saturday night we went out with Lisa and Fred Nevers to Enoteca at Tai Koo Plaza http://www.enoteca.hk where we sat outside and ate some great food, including a delicious vegan pizza (cheeseless, gourmet mushroom on a thin, crispy base). The guys downed several pints, while Lisa and I stuck to mocktails.
As we come to the end of the first week, we still feel relaxed and mellow despite one or two small wobbles. So far, so good. Tomorrow I start work. It should be a slow transition moving from two days with only senior leadership in school to the transition of new staff and then a week with all staff in school but no kids, before the kids arrive in two week’s time. Plenty of opportunity to find my feet, I hope. We move into our serviced apartment tomorrow and next weekend will start to look at some houses in Clear Water Bay. We are not in a rush to move so we hope to take a relaxed approach and wait for the right thing to come up, which means that looking should be fun (in theory).