A thoughtful friend of mine asked me a few questions about my trip so far:
What’s your biggest surprise so far?
What’s your biggest embarrassment?
Where’s your favorite non-Garrett place to eat?
How’s your apartment?
At the time, these questions overwhelmed me due to the Great Internet Meltdown of 2013. I speak for us all when I say we are grateful it’s January, and the worst of the year has already passed.
I will sum up my answers to all of these questions with this diagram of my week in review.
Starting neither left to right nor top to bottom, this is how it happened.
I thought it would be fairly simple to set up internet for the apartment. Wrong, I was so wrong. Despite their response of “yes” to everything you ask, internet companies are not willing to set up connections for temporary and foreign residents of Hong Kong. Thanks to our realtor, we found one willing to compromise. But when the technician came last week, we discovered the signal wasn’t strong enough for a cursory hook up. They could come back in a week, and no they were not open to the idea of accepting bribes.
As I type, there are two Cantonese men sitting on my living room floor chatting away, probably about how this apartment is actually lined with lead so that information can neither enter nor leave the unit. They also just told me, “No, this will not be wireless! Haha!”
Café that doesn’t mind squatters
Since I do not have internet, I have taken residence in the neighboring Café O. It is a friendly place with nice hot beverages and a wait staff that doesn’t bother you if you stand outside the door before they open to use their wireless.
To add to its charm, in the last week I have made a friend named Josephine who is studying law, thrilled my café neighbors with 2 hours of conference calls, and been hit on by a random dude in sweats (I swooned).
Coldest closet and home of GP in Hong Kong
When I’m not at Café O, I use the internet from the cold and dark closet/office of our Shop. I can’t work there very long though if I want to maintain feeling in my fingers. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone there and they are very nice to me. My best phrase in Cantonese right now is probably, “You can try!”
Nicest pastry chef I’ll ever meet
I met Gregoire Michaud, pastry chef of the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. He kindly let me into his kitchen and offered me a mini sourdough baguette fresh from the oven. It was delightfully crisp, warm, and tender. If you can eat one of these without smiling, you are probably a robot.
Good-looking white people like this area
The mid-level escalator connects my no-internet apartment to the very cold closet. My observations tell me that you can only hang out at establishments along the escalator if you are a good-looking white person. Or if you are selling internet. As I am neither white nor an internet peddler, I just ride the escalator and watch the people talk about how good looking they are.
The Soup Man
Sometimes I wander away from the escalator on my way down the hill to see what I’ll find. What I found is The Soup Man. I walk up to him, smile, point to a bowl of soup that someone is eating, he barks at the soup chef, and then a few minutes later I have a bowl of hot and delicious soup. Pig stomach? Mystery fish paste balls? Unidentified offal? Yes, please.
The Soup Man is my favorite, but Hong Kong is generally a wonderful land of soup. I have soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are all different and delicious.
My understanding of HK’s street system
A week later, I’ve finally got Hong Kong’s system down: MTR -> mall -> walkway -> mall -> MTR -> walkway -> lost -> lost -> lost -> eat soup and feel better that I’ve been lost for so long.
Construction wasteland + the worst mall ever
On a quest for adventure, I got stuck in The Elements, probably the worst mall in the world. There is only a way in. There is no way out. And if you do manage to find your way out, you will get stuck in a construction wasteland for hours.
A really big teddy bear lives here
I finally found a way out of the construction wasteland and surfaced in a place with civilization. Civilization was really excited about this giant bear. So I took a picture too.
A lot of lights
I also found a lot of lights close to the really big teddy bear.
A lot of lights
I walked through Lan Kwai Fong. It was bright and loud.
Bus drivers who drive here will not tell you when to alight
Mini buses do not have actual stops – they only stop before the final destination if you tell them where to let you off. I showed the bus driver the name of the place I needed her to stop, and I thought she agreed to tell me when we were there. She did not tell me. Luckily, I used a couple landmarks and context clues to hop off the bus in the nick of time. I will most likely never ride a mini bus again.
Angry taxi and shady printers
I rode to the end of the Island MTR Line to talk to a printer at his “paper factory.” That was my first clue that this place would be difficult to find. I started following Google’s blue dot towards the address, but when I saw that it told me I’d have to walk up a very steep gradient for 2 miles, I decided to get in a taxi in case the blue dot was wrong.
The taxi was cheesed that I didn’t speak Cantonese and that my Google maps was not the local version. He kept repeating, “Where is it?” and I kept repeating, “I don’t know!” Finally he figured out what I was talking about and lectured me about not having the Chinese version of Google maps on my phone.
There was no door to the building, only a crowded loading dock. I saw a sign in Chinese that said something about customers, maybe, so I followed it. I found an elevator and some lady asked me what floor I was going to, I responded in Cantonese, and she guided me to a creaky old elevator.
It doesn’t matter what happened after that because I consider this two-line exchange in Cantonese an utter success.
Post-Great Internet Meltdown of 2013 Thoughts
Now that I've accepted that lost is found and all problems can be solved with a bowl of good soup, my friends and I are glad to call Hong Kong home for the month.