Monday, December 9, 2013

Hong Kong - Reflection

My last day in Hong Kong was spent at Lantau Island, again. There was one destination I read about prior to coming and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it. Fortunately, Katie and Caroline were heading out that way on Monday. I tagged along with them. Upon arriving they wanted to ride the Cable Car, see Big Buddha, the Monastery and do some shopping in the village. I’d already done all that. My main goal of the day was to explore the Tai O Fishing Village.

We parted ways with plans for Katie and Caroline to meet me at Tai O in the afternoon. Arriving earlier in the morning around 10:30am, a stillness and peacefulness still blanketed the town. Market stalls slowly began opening. The elderly were out for their morning strolls. The small fishing village was slowly awakening to the day ahead full of bustling tourists.

I snapped a picture on my iPhone of the village map before crossing over the footbridge. Bicycles and boats are the available modes of transportation throughout the village. I didn’t know where I was headed. I had my camera and a map in hand, that’s all that mattered. After winding through the narrow streets happily greeting residents, I ended up at a Chinese Temple, then out to a looking point. After hitting a turnaround point, I wound my way across another footbridge up a steep path to an obelisk. The point provided the perfect spot to rest, gaze out onto the village to my left and the water to my right. It was just me and my thoughts with the ocean breeze gliding past.

One thing I loved about Tai O was being along the ocean. While I typically consider myself a mountains person, I’ve always loved the sound, smell, and breeze of an ocean. It provides comfort and inspiration.

With my stomach starting to grumble and feet beginning to ache, I hiked back down to the main section of the village. I found the most delicious fried donut dipped in sugar and a beautiful painting. I knew Katie and Caroline would be arriving soon so I plopped myself on a shaded bench in the town square. Two elderly Chinese men joined me exchanging only smiles due to language barrier. From there I tried to capture on film a butterfly dance around a gorgeous, brightly colored bush.

I found a smoothie place that served “American” food. I ordered a mango smoothie and tuna melt hoping Caroline and Katie would walk past. Luckily, only a few minutes later they did. They were exhausted from their morning adventures and joined me for refreshing mango smoothies. Afterwards, we decided to call it a day and catch the bus back to the metro stop.

Probably my favorite thing I saw all day!
Katie and I in front of the "Welcome" Sign.

That night Caroline, Katie, Will, Sara, and I went to Sahara Moroccan restaurant for an non-traditional “Friendsgiving" dinner. It was perfect! Even more so because we got a champagne toast on the house! The night finished at Chocoholics where Will, Sara and I devoured a molten lava chocolate cake in mere seconds.

It was a perfect last day.

Tai O reminded me of the importance to be still, reflect, and embrace simplicity and tranquility.

In Hong Kong I found the tranquility of silence and isolation can be lost in a loud city full of millions. The simplicity of living gets replaced with high stress and competition to keep up with your neighbor. The art of friendliness with a simple smile or head nod fades away within the shuffle.

Flying back into the Philippines.
Sunset in Manila

As I reflect back on my trip to Hong Kong, I realize a lot of positives came out of it. At first when I returned to the Philippines, I thought maybe it was mistake to go to Hong Kong. Culture shock enveloped me as I remembered what I’m missing back home - good friends, diverse food, easy transportation, conversations in my native tongue. And there’s such a different lifestyle and pace that comes with being in a city that I miss.

However, a couple of weeks have now passed. I’ve come to the conclusion that Hong Kong taught me I’m in the right place at the right time. I couldn’t imagine being a missionary or volunteer in an expensive, vast place. When I pictured my YASC year, I wanted not only the challenges of living abroad but also the challenges of living in a developing country. I imagined life to be harder so I could learn to be more appreciative. And in the tiniest of ways, I wanted to experience how billions of others live – without many day-to-day luxuries.

When else will I have the willingness, recklessness, and freedom to live like this? I know my time to live in a big city will come.

I recently read this on one my favorite blogs, TheCollegePrepster, and it hit home, “We're always in the right place at the right time. For good times. For not-so-good times. For the boring times and the exciting times. Honestly, you're always exactly right where you should be... even if it doesn't feel like it”

Well it feels like it for me. I’m exactly where I should be.

But thanks for the lovely memories, Hong Kong! 

Thanks for reading!

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