Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The Standard - July 2, 2015
The July 2, 2015 edition of the Standard – from our last day in Hong Kong

Today marks three weeks since we’ve returned home. At this time three weeks ago, we were already asleep in bed after enduring a trans-Pacific flight.

In the two weeks since the last update, I’ve sometimes found myself asking whether we really lived the past two years in Hong Kong. I set my desktop slideshow to play photos from 2015, hoping to see some photos from my old home that would spark some feelings of nostalgia, but no sparks come. I try setting it to June of 2015, just a few weeks ago, and it’s the same. I’m kind of a nostalgic person (as can be seen from the Museum and the Nostalgia categories on this website) so it seems a little strange that since I’ve been back in the States I haven’t really thought of Hong Kong too much. I thought that I would really miss my life there, miss the people, the environment.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been back and forth enough times now to know that it is futile to try to keep up with what’s happening on the other side of the world. When we are there, whether “there” is HK or SF, we don’t even have to try to know what’s going on locally. We become aware through osmosis, whether it’s through local television and radio, walking on the street, or hearing coworkers chatting. For example, on the day that we left I probably could have named at least one topic that was covered in the Standard newspaper pictured above. But now, on the other side, despite trying really hard to keep up by listening to internet radio, streaming television shows, or chatting with friends on WhatsApp, I couldn’t tell you anything about what’s trending in HK right now. I could quote a headline from an HK website, but it’s probably not exactly what everyone’s talking about in HK at this moment. There’s definitely something to be said for being fully immersed. Those other things are not a substitute.

It could also be that I really am getting old now. As I approach my fifth decade, I find that I’m able to squeeze less into my brain. It’s harder to recall things. You actually notice that a lot of things don’t stick (I know because I write a lot of stuff down, knowing that I can’t remember shit). It could also be that in my old age I’ve learned to stop paying attention to noise. I’ve stopped paying attention to some things that I now consider noise that I used to capture easily without trying, so when I try to recall details about them I’m unable to. Some of the examples from my list would be the crowds and the cigarette smoke. If I hadn’t talked about the air before, I probably would have completely forgotten how bad it was in HK.

I knew before we left that there would be some knowledge that we took for granted that would fade with time, like which car on the MTR to get off from to get closest to the escalator or how much the buses cost. At this very moment, I still remember that 2A costs $4.10, but when I try to recall the fare for a cross-tunnel bus, it takes me a second to come up with $9.30. A lot of other stuff that I’m not even aware of has probably faded already. Still, I’m starting to fill that space with new stuff, like $1.85 for BART in the city, or $2.25 for MUNI, so it’s not a total loss.

I’ve probably mentioned somewhere on here before that at the most basic level, people are all the same. Still, it’s kind of unbelievable how far away Hong Kong seems now, how it seems like two different worlds. In my day-to-day life over the past three weeks, it’s almost like living in HK never happened. But every now and then, I might encounter something to remind me of my time there. I sometimes see people out and about being absorbed with themselves and I wonder if they’re aware that there’s a whole other world out there. They’re so caught up in their current context. Although sometimes it’s tough trying to balance two different worlds (something I’ve struggled with ever since we immigrated to SF), it’s times like these that make me thankful that I have another perspective. There was someone talking to me about construction noise the other day. I just nodded my head and thought about the endless renovations that occur in Hong Kong, the jack-hammering into concrete that is a staple of HK renovations. As bad as you might think you have it, someone else in the world is probably having a harder time than you right now. And, just to be fair, I used to think the same thing when people complained about the MTR (versus BART).

To end this post, I’ll post a photo of our HK home just before we handed it back to the landlord. What I see in the photo no longer exists in the physical world, but I’m hoping it will jog my memory and spark some feelings for the place I called home for over two years. Good night.

Our HK Home
Our HK home on the last day – June 30, 2015

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