Life in Hong Kong continues to be divided between the weirdly familiar and the humidly exotic. On the weirdly familiar side we can now add rugby – Craig started playing for Kowloon Rugby Club the other week, so Sat was his second game. It has been 11 years since he played, and whilst not an unfit man, rugby requires a different style of fitness to hockey – he is feeling it. In yesterday’s game there was a moment that was a bit rough on his knee, so today I have been the supportive wife who goes in search of care packages. We now have two hot/cold packs, a half-empty packet of stick-on cooling packs and an elastic support bandage which are being applied to his left knee on a rotational basis. I am pleased to note that after 4 hours there is now less limping than earlier this morning.
In other areas we are learning more about ex-pat life. I had a great conversation with the ladies at snb on Wednesday, discussing the stresses of starting life in HK, especially for the stay-at-home spouse. There were a lot of different perspectives – wife at home with kids, retired husband at home, working husband hating the job but wife happy, job-hunting in a foreign country, volunteer work, playgroups, sports, language classes… Other conversations with colleagues at work, with another family new to Hong Kong about the kinds of personalities who choose this adventure – open-minded, a little adventurous, out-going, flexible, friendly. There seems to be a real willingness to jump into relaxed friendship based on mutual recognition of the special circumstances of being an ex-pat – very few people are here for more than 4 years, most are on 2-year contracts. In various places I have lived in Australia newcomers to the town are a rarity, viewed as something exotic, a curiosity, and you have to consciously choose to participate in local activities in order to find your place in the community and be accepted. Here your ex-pat status is an instant ticket of admission; admittedly there are degrees of social membership, and my salary does not stretch to the housing or clubs enjoyed by financiers working in the business district, but the people I meet at work, and those we are starting to meet through rugby, are all friendly and welcoming, the starter script is easy to follow as it runs through nationality, whose job, where you live, have you been to xyz yet… This is really a very interesting experience in a very specific kind of community.
The other thing that is great fun are the opportunities to ask questions about other cultures – in the school Library we have 2 Australians, 2 native Hong Kong ladies, one Indian lady more or less HK native herself, a Nepalese man who studied in Australia, and various teaching staff wandering in and out (who use our kettle) who range across England, Scotland, New Zealand and South Africa (at a minimum), many of whom have also worked in other countries such as Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand. It makes for some fascinating conversations about cultural beliefs about parenting, education, marriage celebrations, mothers-in-law, working parents, manners, mother-tongue literacy (that list is about two week’s worth of topics).
Moving here is certainly an education!