So we have been here more than a month now, it's incredible how time flies when everything is new! I feel I have seen so much, experienced so much, yet everything is still strangely exiting.
Hong Kong is full of contrasts, skyscrapers vs relaxed islands and remote beaches, the hustle and bustle of the city vs tranquil fishing villages, extremely commercial vs spiritual, and not the least rich vs poor. At first glance HK seemed to be a place where it's all about earning as much money as possible and spending as much as possible. But that's all downtown, where there is a maze of shopping malls (once you get in you're trapped and have to ask someone to guide you out of there!!), escalators from one building to another (you don't even have to touch ground, but can travel through the city standing on the moving conveyor belt reading your paper!) and bankers sipping their Starbucks coffee at every corner.
Travel a bit out of central, only one or two stops away on the underground, and you'll find the street markets, crammed narrow streets with the typical shops that sells EVERYTHING, street sellers, small improvised temples on every corner, only Cantonese speaking inhabitants and restaurants you wouldn't normally go into because of the look of it but that turns out to have delicious food! Or you can go to one of the 200 surrounding islands, where the paste of life is completely different and plenty of small villages to explore.
Amongst this, we are starting to get some kind of everyday life; Juan goes to his office that is only a 10 min stroll away and several floors up in the elevator, and I have rented a studio nearby where I can work, practice and teach. I have met with a choreographer and we are working towards some performances in here February. The art scene so far seems very commercial or dominated by big international names, so I am still searching and hoping to find the more experimental scene. Similarly it is difficult to find venues that are willing to put on smaller performances, and not the least to pay for them! But so far we have three performances lined up and there are more to come, I hope.
Juan is enjoying his work and starting to understand the culture in work-situations, meetings etc (you always give and receive everything with both hands for instance!).
Hong Kong is a very social city, it's easy to meet people here, and there is always an excuse to go out. There are plenty of 'meet-ups' for people who wants to explore the culture, the scenery and the local traditions. So far we have done classes in Kung Fu, been on several days camping trips, been to exhibitions and art networking events, concerts (from Chinese hand bells to pink pop), been to Macau, done several beautiful treks and explored some of the islands, salsa dancing and food tasting. Some of this on our own, some with people we've either met on our way or got in touch with via other people or social events.
There is a stream of people coming and going here, the questions is always 'how long have you been here and how long are you staying'. Our friends (I guess we can call them that now!) have been here from 5 years to one month and are staying for a good time, these are the foreigners, expats, who has been placed here or had an opportunity like us to come. But there are several people from Hong Kong and China we meet up with; I am exchanging language skills with a girl who wants to learn Norwegian (!) whilst she teaches me Mandarin and Cantonese. I have started Spanish classes and study with two other lovely Chinese girls, and we have started going to weekly Spanish social meetings where you meet all nationalities. And there's a few locals we have met through couchsurfing who has willingly and kindly showed us around town to secret hideaways and local favorites.
HK is small and easy to get around. After being used to calculating minimum an hour for anywhere you go in London, 20min from door to door almost where ever you go seems like a luxury! But then there is the crowds.... if you enter the heart of the city at the wrong time you have to zigzag your way through the streets, and poor you if you are hungry just at beginning of lunch time! Luckily they are effective at the restaurants; you eat, pay and go! They give you a firm 'byebye' as you hand over the money.
For those interested in whereabouts we are; our flat is in Fortress Hill on Hong Kong Island (well, we are moving there in a week, until now we have stayed in a hotel in Quarry Bay and are amazed about how we have not gone crazy for the size of it!). It is quite central but not too hectic, with plenty of public transport options. We are very close to Tai Tam Country Park with beautiful, several hours long treks that makes you forget you are in a city - and that also takes you all the way to Shek O village and beach, or the Big Wave Beach surrounded by yet another network of walks to do. The weather is still curiously hot to be November and we are enjoying it to the fullest!
In spite of ups and downs of feeling lost and not at home, it has so far been an amazing experience! I feel very lucky to be here and to have the chance to learn about Asian culture and visit all these beautiful places. We are just about getting familiar with various places here in Hong Kong and are preparing for exploring more!!