Applying my mascara on the bus this morning (yes, that is correct… the bus), I noticed a stray eyebrow (I am very particular about my eyebrows) that my aesthetician must have missed last week when I had my eyebrows threaded, so I reached in my bag and puled out my faithful Tweezerman tweezers and yanked out the offending stray. Putting the tweezers back in my bag and continuing with the mascara application it dawned on me what I was actually doing… on the bus.

This goes along with a bunch of other things I now do, which I would have never done before. Or at least I think I wouldn’t have done them before:

  • Using toothpicks in restaurants (admittedly behind the demurely placed hand, but still… I cannot imagine what my grandma would say)
  • Answering my cell phone anywhere and time and having a funny little charm-y thing hanging off of it
  • Wearing the same [sensible] shoes to work nearly everyday (it pains me to admit this)
  • Carrying an environmentally friendly shopping bag with me all the time – with things in it – in addition to my normal bag
  • Ignoring wrinkles, and maybe little spots on clothes, (because they are both going to get better or worse depending on the weather outside anyhow)
  • Accepting a lack of personal space… I deal with crowds very differently; it is sort of an acceptance, but since I can always see over the heads of everyone I feel less stressed about moving in a human river most of the time
  • Dealing with the smell dried fish, cigarette smoke, smog and general funk when I am outside and no longer make a scene and try to get away from it
  • Ignoring the newspaper… I don’t read the newspaper anymore, Hong Kong people as a rule seem really disninterested in ‘news’ and it shows in the local paper (at least in the English one, and I hear the local papers mostly cover accidents and horse racing)

As I make plans for my imminent return to the States I have been thinking a lot about the changes that these three years in Asia have had (or will have had, as I like to pretend to be clairvoyant) on me. Lots of the changes seem sort of freeing, like I certainly care a lot less about my appearance here, or is that not really freeing but actually depressing? In Hong Kong, as a 5’10”, blue-eyed, not-black-haired female I have no chance of blending in anywhere, anyhow. Because of this I have been freed from a lot of the natural social constraints I would normally feel. Basically, I am going to appear strange anyhow, so why worry about the minor details. I guess this is good. As far as public grooming goes… I have yet to succumb to the loud, glottal spitting, the nose hygiene, using Q-tips in my ears, or shaving in public (I have seen all of the above done on busses, in restaurants, on the street, in public buildings…) but I have ceratinly adopted the behaviors that convenience me.

In terms of the other changes… being more accepting of the mayhem that surrounds me instead of controlling it, well, I guess that must be good, except that I keep feeling like it is apathy rather than acceptance and that is hard for me. Shouldn’t we try to fix the things we see around us that are problematic or generally annoying? In Hong Kong the answer appears to be a resounding “No!” As there is no way to control the infinite number of variables, you let it go and deal with it. Still, I wonder if that is just giving up.

I am quite sure that if I were a Hong Kong local/native or was vested in the ex-pat community my attitude about keeping up with the Chans or the Smiths would be very different… but as a more transient (at heart) resident, I am free from that as well. It is like I couch everything in terms of whether or not it is necessary for me “here” since some day I will be “there.” Lately I have come under the scrutiny of people I know for this attitude which they say is limiting my Hong Kong experience and preventing me from really having a life here. That seems a bit harsh; but again, I wonder.

Every experience we have changes us in some way. I chose to try a new life in a place that was not so different from where I came, but ended up being totally different in so many ways.

I wonder if that makes me not so different from when I came but totally different in so many ways.