Nighttime in Hong Kong

I am 36. I am a teacher. I am a student. I am a traveler. I am a homebody. I am a writer. I am a critic. I am a photographer. I am a voyeur. I am compassionate. I am caustic. I am a geographer. I am a historian. I am a believer. I am still only 36. Once in a while, it all comes together. Not very often, but once in a while it does. And those are the moments I want to grab on to, to revel in and to be eternally grateful for. I am waiting for more moments like that and as I do, I am taking the opportunity to look at the individual moments that make up a life. My life.

I am from Northern California… I usually say San Francisco because it is easier, but in truth I come from a funky little place called Petaluma. I have been teaching predominantly reluctant teenagers the joys of Social Studies since 1994. I love my work, and it has been the primary motivation behind more decisions and actions in my adult life than I care to admit. My students have been everything; brilliant, obstinate, ridiculous, challenging, rewarding, confusing, patient, lazy, conscious, shut-off, permissive, critical In the end, they have all made me want to be a better person.

In search of something, which still comfortably eludes me, I left the Western US, my lifelong home, for Hong Kong in August 2005. Armed only with my discontent, a master’s degree and twelve years of teaching experience I headed to a part of the world I had never before seen. I was amazed. I found work, a home, and an overwhelming variety of new choices. I had left behind a home, a job, a life, my cat, my family but I would come to call on all of them with much gratitude and little regret as I explored a whole new perspective.

I left that first job and took some time to travel and rediscover strengths and weaknesses that I had long forgotten. I decided to return to work after an eight month stint on the road and have found a renewed sense of calm in the routine of employment, while also taking the time to really enjoy life in a foreign place. Hong Kong is deceptively familiar at first glance, but make no mistake, it is part of China and it would be careless to assume that the familiarities are much more than skin deep.

Today I will go to work in the heart of Hong Kong and I will return at day’s end to a small island that eschews motor vehicles, high rises and chain retailers. I will be shiny with the pervasive humidity and I will long for the days in the arid West when my hair was shiny and straight. I will work hard and marvel at how the time passes and at the joy of playing with my two kittens. I will eat some strange combination of Asian and Western food. I will look at my British partner and wonder what will be next for us. It will be predictably unpredictable and it will be good. And I am still only 36.

Hong Kong as seen from my garden

Amanda, 36, Hong Kong S.A.R., China