I am a stranger in a strange land. It’s great!

Ah Hong Kong, where the pedestrian crossings sound like Geiger counters. The sun has just set on my seventh day in the Special Administrative Region and although it’s felt like it’s taken a while I can just about call myself settled which is not to say I’ve got this place sussed. I love the views but I can’t work out how to get to most of the things I see from the living room window. I love the chaos of Central but I hate the bastard forty-five degree incline on the hill I have to walk up to get back to the apartment. Seriously, in this heat it feels like I’m training for a triathlon… that’s to be held in Hell. I arrive back from my sojourns into the surprisingly close collection of bars (found on my first day here by following the pictures of massive bottles of beer) sweating like a fat lass at a disco and the worst part is there is this crazy escalator that runs up the side of the hills to the houses beyond that people can get on and off of whenever they like but have I found it? Have I bollocks!

I don’t have a lot of time now for battling my shameful sense of direction and the humidity trying to find possibly make-believe escalators mind you because I’ve finally gone and got that ‘proper’ job I’ve been banging on about since the very first entry in this blog-that’s-not-a-blog. Well sort of. It’s an unpaid internship but it’s experience and that’s a start right? Why am I asking you? My bemused Westerner routine will have to wait until the weekend for now I sit at a desk and ring people and e-mail people and type things in spreadsheets and oh happy day I am now a normal human being! So now I work, I drink more water and I risk my neck every morning and night in taxis. I’ve never felt more alive! I would actually prefer to walk to work in the morning but that’s where my diabolical sense of direction attacks again. I’ve been taking taxis in the hope that I will learn the route after a few days and I then I won’t have to spend the money and it will be healthier. Only one problem with that: every day the taxi driver has taken a different route. Every day! I don’t know how they manage it, I’ve looked on a map Hong Kong isn’t that big I’m sure of it.

The first day’s route was scenic to say the least. It took about half an hour and cost about HK$20 which is not much. I was a touch late and actually round the corner from where I needed to be but hey, I was there, let’s get on with it. I queued up for the lift in the swanky looking entrance hall to the building I would be working in. The office I was aiming for was on the 27th floor. At home we don’t have 27 of anything apart from, I don’t know, millimetres of rain per day perhaps. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a lift that made me feel like I was shrinking as well as popping my ears three times. I restrain the thought that I was being made to feel like a country bumpkin and concentrated on staring awkwardly at my own reflection in the doors like everyone else was doing. Seriously how weird are mirrored lifts? We can all see each other at the same time and we’re all just staring at ourselves, at our ugly faces, the backs of our heads and our ill-fitting trousers, all looking in the same direction. It’s a wonder more people don’t go mad in lifts. Just saying.

I was shown around the small, pleasant office by the office manager and introduced to the girls I would be working with (and one man) who I promptly forgot the name of immediately after saying it out loud and shaking their hands (apart from the man, I mean he is the only other one). I sat down at my desk, which faces the door and logged into my own personal work e-mail account. I already had five e-mails offering me Viagra and ‘more girth’. Excellent! They do move quickly around here! There were also less interesting but more important e-mails telling me exactly what I had to do with my time here. One from the boss man who was in Singapore I think and one from a girl I could actually see from where I was sitting. That’s the weird thing about these messages you get. Important information is exchanged without two people actually saying a word to each other or their facial expressions changing in the slightest. Even if they’re writing ‘lol’. It’s almost like that acronym is completely superfluous or something.

The day seemed to zoom by in a blur of international phone calls to places in every country in the Far East it seemed. Conversations with receptionists and secretaries were both taxing and confusing. Yorkshire and Japanese to not an intelligent exchange make. Try sounding out letters to spell things because you’re too retarded to remember the phonetic alphabet, that was a fun half hour. The rest of the day was spent trying to pick up snippets of Cantonese from the girls in the office in between calls (fun fact: I failed). As I was leaving the junk mail folder caught its fifteenth of the day titled ‘men with big instruments don’t have to go down on girls’. It’s true. Double bass players are let off. It’s the vibration from the low notes.

The second day’s taxi managed to take a much more direct route, shaving two thirds of the travel time yet inexplicably adding ten more dollars. Hm. Well I wasn’t going to debate the finer points of a fair toll system with a man who could only barely understand what I was saying at the best of times, I had e-mails to read! E-mails like the baffling ‘fake Cartier watches for men with erectile problems’. That’s rather niche isn’t it? I thought. Those brave pioneering Asian entrepreneurs. And they say there’s a recession going on, pah! On this day the girls at the office decided it was up to them to de-Westernise me, which I welcome wholeheartedly. I sat among them on lunch desperately hoping for some Cantonese to sink in so I wouldn’t actually have to, you know, actively learn it but to no avail. Our English pronunciations are so dissimilar one lady wondered whether I shouldn’t be learning a bit more of that language before Cantonese. Grumble, grumble

And the third day was alright too. So life, life is good and on the whole tax-free. I have begun to settle into what should be a productive internship followed by a leisurely break back home for Christmas and New Year. It’ll pad out my CV a bit more and actually give me real experience not just experience you bullshit you way around when you write the damn CV. I’m beginning to make new contacts, new friends… but not any money. But that’s okay that’s not the chief reason I’m out here. Right now I can say to myself that not only did I make the trip but I settled in and I enjoyed it. I hope I can say that six months, a year, forty years from now too. The very point of It’s Not As Bad As All That was the vent my frustrations and stop my brain from rotting while going through that terrible patch where nothing ever seems right to you. I can safely put my hand on my heart now and say that I am ten times happier than I was when I began writing only four months ago. All that sulking has been replaced by confusion and a little fear but it’s the right kind of confusion and fear narwotahmean?

So is this the end for the blog-that’s-not-a-blog? No not at all. I’m still going to get pissed off by something eventually. Besides it makes me feel like a writer. Losing its generally miserable tone can’t be too much of a bad thing can it?

Right, I’m off to book some sousaphone lessons. You know what they say about men with large instruments…



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