So we packed up everything we own into 4 suitcases and left for Hong Kong. A combination of jetlag and excitement made arriving in Hong Kong a surreal experience. “So we live here now” was the first thing Sam said to me when we landed and although technically true, it didn’t feel like a fact at the time.
Our school is hosting us in a hotel for two weeks to give us time to get grounded in the city and set up our lives.
We have now been in Hong Kong for 10 days including one “T-8” typhoon, one thunderstorm and a torrential downpour and we’ve been adjusting to the weather and climate as well as the “quirks” of the city. It’s been a whirlwind of a week and although we are still living Partridge style in a hotel, Hong Kong is slowly becoming our home.
Day #2 The Octopus Card: The Octopus Card is Hong Kong’s answer to the Oyster card though arguably better. You swipe to pay for train, bus and tram journeys but you can also use your card to pay for items in shops and for meals in restaurants. Obviously, this means that you can fall foul to the contactless trap of the UK where you tap away forgetting you’re spending real money…but this little piece of plastic really has helped us to feel at home. Using an octopus card has meant we haven’t had to fiddle around with odd shaped coins at the 7/11 till with a line of impatient city dwellers huffing behind. Instead we proudly brandish our octopus cards and swipe on out of the store feeling smug and accomplished as real hong-kongers. (Until I realise that although I thought I purchased a bottle of plain old water, I’d in fact managed to buy the grossest, powdery tasting energy drink this side of asia.) We’re getting there at least!
Day #6 Phone & Apartment: The majority of our first week in the city was occupied by various induction events run by the organisation and although we’d had a great time and were starting to get our body clocks in sync with the timezone, we only had 8 days to move out of the hotel into an apartment. The problem with trying to navigate the fast moving real estate market in Hong Kong when you have only just arrived is that you don’t have a phone number. While you can get by using whatsapp to contact friends and family, when you are trying to find somewhere to live, negotiate with estate agents and set up utilities, not being able to make phone calls is a real hassle. Day #6 represented a major success in our mission to call Hong Kong home. We woke up uncontactable and homeless and went to bed with new phones and an apartment.
Day #7 Sight seeing: We had been so busy trying to find somewhere to live we hadn’t actually seen much of our new home. We decided to take a day to visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island (close to disneyland…!) on the advice of lonely planet. Although taking a cable car is not my preferred method of transport, it was amazing to experience the natural beauty of Hong Kong and take a day away from the pushing and shoving (so help me god) of the city.
Day #8 Candles: So far in Hong Kong we seem to be doing much more each day than we usually would (out of necessity more than anything!). On day 8 we visited our new school for the first time and saw where we would be teaching. Although 6000 miles from Essex, the school was comfortingly familiar, each corridor and classroom is filled with the same lockers, tables and posters we see day in, day out in the UK. There are, however, some notable differences. Not only is there a turtle pool in the playground which serves as a refuge and sanctuary for rescued pets, the facilities are industry leading and on par with universities across the UK. The school has high expectations of both teachers and students, but the facilities and resources empower both to excel. We absolutely cannot wait to meet the students and start teaching!
We ate an authentic dim sum lunch with the staff (including chicken lung) before spending an hour searching for two different mattress stores which turned out not to exist. We finally managed to purchase a bed and a sofa along with a few free extras thrown in. Walking out of the store with a delivery notice and a blood orange and bergamot scented candle in my hand, we decided to go for a celebratory dinner. Admittedly getting a free candle with your sofa is not normally a cause for celebration…but this was our very first item to furnish our completely empty apartment. We had succeeded in securing somewhere to live in just over a week after arriving and had a bed to sleep on.
Day #9 IKEA: Furniture and homewares are incredibly expensive in Hong Kong so on the advice of colleagues, friends, the internet and guidebooks, we braved the perils of IKEA. Not only is IKEA in Hong Kong somewhat of a tourist attraction, with visitors coming from all over to wander aimlessly through the showrooms and unhelpfully clog up the aisles in the market place, it’s also a “thing” for people to sleep on the beds and sofas. We went mid morning and although the actual shopping experience was fairly painless transporting a car load of stuff to your new apartment is pretty difficult when you don’t have a car.
We had planned to take a taxi but we could barely fit our stuff in the lift out of IKEA, never mind the boot of a taxi. We decided to take the plunge and try out “Go Go Van”, a kind of Uber taxi service but for transit vans and lorries. We typed in our location and destination and our journey was instantly accepted by a driver. Communicating over the phone with our driver was somewhat of a challenge, given that I don’t speak Cantonese and he didn’t speak much English. After leaving Sam on the side of the road with 5 IKEA blue bags, a bathroom bin and a clothes horse the driver and I eventually found each other. (Well he found me, the sweaty girl sprinting around the perimeter of the shopping center in a Disney T-Shirt). Despite the 20 minute delay, the driver only charged £6 for the entire service! Hong Kong can be an incredibly cheap place sometimes.
Day #10 Sorted: Today is day 10 and we are all set to move into our apartment tomorrow. We spent the day at the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin shopping for the final items to create our new home. We treated ourselves to a gratuitous TV because although we’re travelling light, we still found room for Sam’s play station. Of course we bought a Nespresso machine too, because what’s a kitchen without a coffee machine? After ANOTHER day of shopping another celebratory dinner was in order…