Thursday, November 1, 2012

Step by Step... Literally

For anyone not familiar with Hong Kong, it is geographically situated somewhat similarly to New York City.  There is a body of water, Victoria Harbor, that separates two main parts of the city: Kowloon, which I would liken to Brooklyn because it is much bigger and less expensive, and Hong Kong Island, which is similar to Manhattan in that it is where the financial district and more expensive shops, restaurants, and homes are located.  There's even a really pretty park in the Central district.

However, one major difference between the two cities is that Hong Kong Island is situated on a huge slope that eventually leads to Victoria Peak at the top (They must have really liked this Vicky character).  Great set up, right?  This means there is no shortage of gorgeous views, plenty of challenging hiking trails, and lots of other exciting perks of living on a hill.  It also means it's a bitch to get from the bottom (area called Central, name is pretty self explanatory) to the Mid-levels where I am staying at the moment.

Lucky for me, and lucky for you whenever you come to visit, is that they built a GIANT escalator that goes up the entire length of the incline.  This saves you time, energy, and also presents plenty of thrilling opportunities to get shoved around by a crowd on a moving walkway.  Now, in the theme of a path of destruction following me wherever I go (Hurricane Sandy, T10) of course the most relevant section of the escalator has been broken since I arrived.  Consequently, every time I venture out of Mid-levels, I have to climb hundreds of stairs.  On the upside, it's good exercise since I can't join a gym yet, but it's also quite exhausting and my legs are painfully sore after only 2 days here.

Climbing these steps is extremely painful and exhausting in both anticipation and in reality.  If you're standing at the bottom of the hill looking up and you know those 5 flights of stairs between you and your destination are going to make you really tired and sore, that doesn't change the fact that once you start climbing they will actually make you really tired and sore.

In the interest of extending the metaphor, the first few days here have left me exhausted in every other sense as well.  It's much more difficult than I thought it would be, or at least it feels that way. In order to get even the simplest task accomplished, I have to take it step by step - and patience is not a virtue I possess.

I think I had a decent grasp of the various challenges of moving to China.  Perhaps it is my ego or just plain old arrogance but I really thought I could take it in stride (maybe I would be if the damn escalator was working).  I'm not sure how you would define "taking it in stride" but let me list some of the things that have lead me (step by step) to exactly two panic attacks in three days:

  • Trying to set up my phone
  • Figuring out what to eat for lunch
  • Not being able to call and chat with your parents or friends while you're walking somewhere during the day because they're sleeping
  • Not being able to call anyone at all since you incorrectly set up your phone
  • Getting lost in the endless maze of shopping malls
  • The metal bars that prevent you from crossing the street where you need to and instead having to walk an extra 5 minutes to get to another set of steps to climb that take you to an elevated walkway that changes directions halfway across the street and leaves an another 5 minutes down the road from where you wanted to be in the first place
  • The only coffee shop you remember from your last visit being closed 

Once I catch my breath and feel my feet on the ground again, I keep telling myself it's okay that I am panicking at these moments.  The typical comforting declaration would be "This is normal" but that's not really what it's about.  I don't mind being overly emotional, nor am I afraid of being abnormal (good thing, right?!)  However, I am afraid of not being able to keep moving. I do mind staring up at those steps and not being able to take the first one.

I still haven't quite figured it out, but so far my solution has just been... continue sobbing but just keep climbing the steps at the same time. That way, at least I'll get to where I'm going eventually right?  And on the upside, the sense of sheer panic will distract me from how fucking sore my quads are!  Not sure how that metaphor translates, but nothing's perfect so I'm going to cut it there.