I’m not technically here. There may be a big old sticker and several dozen stamps on my passport but I’m no citizen. My name is on no register, my details are on no computer in the shady imagined basement of a building somewhere in Mainland China. Physically I’m here walking around, being irritated by tourists, hunting out the bars, meeting new people and dining with them but it’s all on the understanding that I piss off at some point. Bloody foreigners, coming over here, taking our jobs, stealing our women…
It’s finally time for this to come to an end. Enough of this limbo, my much vaunted transformation into ‘real human being’ I’ve droning on about since last year begins! To that end, this is The Plan I’ve been working my way down for the last few weeks. The outline for what I need to keep going, to stay here and enter ‘the real world’ finally, once and for all.
Phase One – Finally get my new working visa for the new job. This may have set the record for longest processing time ever in the Hong Kong SAR but it’s done now. All I had to do was take a boat across to Macau, whack the sticker in my passport on the other side and then cross back over to Hong Kong to upgrade from ‘Piss off in six months at the latest sunshine’ to ‘Alright, you can stay for a year if you’re working I suppose’. When the time came to buy my ticket at the self service screen in the port I selected a return that would sail we out at 1pm and back at 3pm. The screen was seemingly designed purely to fuck with unsuspecting punters who should know better, scaring and confusing them into buying something they didn’t want, like an automated loan shark or Glen Beck.
‘Right so that’s three tickets to Macau…’
‘Woah, what? Two. Two tickets, a return journey.’
‘Oh I see. There you are two tickets, first class…’
‘Hey! No need for any of that business, cattle class thank you very much.’
‘Fine, fine. So that’s four cattle class tickets…’
And so on. The boat trip was pleasant and uneventful but thanks to a certain condition of mine that is commonly referred to as ‘complete and total ignorance’ I had no idea it takes about an hour and a half to sail to Macau. So all I can tell you about the place is that it has very nice arrivals and departures sections. I charged into Macau, took what I needed and barged back out again as quickly as possible and to put an exclamation mark on this, the Facebook status went up: ‘Macau is my bitch’. Phase One complete.
Phase Two – Get Hong Kong ID Card or Become Part of the System! Way the hell back in January I attempted to get one of these which was idiotic of me seeing as I was on a visitor’s visa and wasn’t eligible. I couldn’t get the ball rolling again until I had the aforementioned working visa so with that now proudly adorning my passport I took myself off to Wan Chai Immigration Tower this morning. Stupidly early this morning. Too early considering I only got in at 2am last night and spent an hour or so lifting furniture and swearing in a futile attempt to catch a cockroach. I can at least rest in the knowledge that I probably caused it some consternation. If it comes back with all its cockroach mates for revenge I’ll be ready; you may be able to survive nuclear armageddon little cockroach but we’ll see how you fare against a Yorkshireman with a grudge! What was I talking about? Oh yeah ID cards.
Last time I had my hopes for a ridiculous tale of bureaucracy and red tape cruelly dashed, this time… I was just bored. I waited in three different waiting areas (after pitching up at 8.50am and having a piece of paper with 10.30 printed on it thrust in my face with the accompanying warmth of ‘You come back LAH’) and had a new photo taken which is good because I look atrocious in the one I had left over from the last time I got passport photos. The new one gives me a slightly lazy eye but at least it doesn’t look like I’m in the middle of threatening the camera with horrific descriptions of sexual violence. A slight wave of excitement and foreboding overcame me when it got to the point where I had both my thumbs scanned. It felt sci-fi in both a Star Trek and a Brave New World kind of way. The thumbprints go on the ID card itself but the fact remains you’re never quite sure where the data goes at the same time. Coming from the same country that blessed us with George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, we are naturally inclined to be paranoid and weary of surveillance and governmental types even as we willingly surrender our details to them. This doesn’t make us more socially aware, it makes us doubly moronic. I’m not at all sure where I stand on the issue of ID cards in the UK but then I don’t have to make a stand right now. Getting one in Hong Kong was necessary to keep doing what I want to do and there isn’t a force in the world that will stop me doing what I feel is right for me. It’s the nature of the beast and I am willingly buying into Hobbe’s Leviathan for better or for worse. I don’t know whether I like that idea or not but there we have it.
Phase Three – Get somewhere to live. Hmm, yes, well. This is where the march of progress meets a roadblock. I have been flat hunting for a couple of weeks now as it turned out I would need to vacate the fantastic apartment I have been generously allowed lodge and board in since October much sooner than we expected. I have seen some great places and some severely ‘What the fuck happened to my life?’ places (worryingly all around the same price bracket) and have discovered it is impossible for me to set myself up just yet. Looks like I will be transitioning from one limbo to another as I hunt for a serviced apartment or sublet for a couple of months until the funds are available to finally pay that obscene amount for deposits/estate agent commission/management fees etc and I am finally allowed to squeeze into a shoebox on the 10th floor in a building in Wan Chai or Causeway Bay.
That sounds like I’m dreading the idea, I’m really not. All I’ve wanted since the end of university has been a place to call my own. Space that is all mine, paid for and lived in by me and at twenty-three, it really is time. I’m pissed off that this has been denied me for a little while longer but these things are finite. As my mum is fond of saying, this is the next chapter, I’m on my way now.
There’s not a force in the world…