My visit to Hong Kong turned out to be a magical two-month hiatus in my life. My father, who had lived in Hong Kong for a year, had asked us to join him as a family there.
What optimism I had managed to muster short-circuited as soon as I entered my father’s apartment. Hong Kong is one city where you cannot estimate the height of a building without tilting your head back 180 degrees and feeling nauseous. We were going to live on the 23rd floor of the Mount Parker apartments in Tai–Koo. Apartments near the city are very small, given the petite structure of most natives and the culture of utilizing available space. However, a 600-sq.ft apartment was not going to be enough for four well-built family members sharing a single restroom.
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Since the day we landed in Hong Kong I had prayed for one thing: that some scientist would invent magic goggles that would provide subtitles upon hearing a foreign language. Even though Hong Kong had once been under British rule, people are more comfortable speaking in Cantonese mixed with some humorous broken English. For the first time in my life, I realized the desperation travelers experience in foreign lands where they could not communicate with the native populations.
Our apartment complex like others in the area provided a trail for residents who wanted to visit the nearby hills, so my mother and I decided to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, we got lost in the first hour, and I learned that I have a terrible sense of direction. The worst part was we did not remember the way back, so our only option was to keep walking. We met people on the road, but our language barrier once again prevented communication. Then it started raining and we lost our cell phone reception. At that point, I wished a helicopter would magically appear and rescue us. As the rain stopped, I started walking faster, curious to find an end to the road when I stopped at a clearing in the hills. Unknowingly, that day had invited me to experience Hong Kong’s sublime and mesmerizing beauty. I gave out sigh of appreciation and relief when I saw some purple orchids nestled in a bunch as the water from the stream trickled down the nearby boulder. After four hours of walking, we were back in our apartment inspecting our blisters.
The Hong Kong islands are like a string of gems on the South China Sea where local ferries serve as the primary transportation. We arrived at Central using the subway from Tai- Koo. As we waited there for the ferry, I noticed herds of people gathering on the brink of the harbor. What I saw next was exhilarating. A fire-breathing dragon was coming our way. Its color was burning red in the black of the night and it seemed big enough to sweep everyone away. As it came closer, people at the harbor started cheering. I realized it was not just any dragon; it was Hong Kong’s famous Dragon ferry, which took people to Tsim Sha Tsui Island.
When we were at sea on the ferry, I glanced at the night sky as the cool breeze filled my lungs. The sky was lit up as the spectacular Symphony of lights commenced. It felt as if the lights danced to the happiness and joy I too felt in my heart at that moment. Hong Kong had taught me to respect and welcome the beauty of the world and its residing cultures. However, most important of all it taught me the value of empathy.
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