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Back from Hong Kong

After what feels like an eternity, but in reality is only four days, I’m now back in Taiwan with my mission accomplished. The brief version is that I left Taiwan on Sunday to re-apply for my visa in Hong Kong (you have to leave the country to do that) and I returned home late yesterday evening. The trip was nice, but worrying about the visa and fairly bad weather made me unable to fully appreciate a city that would otherwise have been truly remarkable.

What actually happened

Now over to the slightly more detailed version. After leaving home on Sunday, I arrived in Hong Kong without any trouble and a friend of mine, Sophia, and her boyfriend Dickson, met me at the airport. They are both working as cabin crew for Cathay Pacific and had just returned to Hong Kong. We went together to Sophia’s apartment, roughly one hour from the airport and the same distance from downtown Hong Kong. Her apartment was in a beautiful and secluded area with beautiful scenery and few things interrupting the tranquility of the place. We had a fantastic meal at a restaurant famous for its goose and didn’t really have time to do much else.

On Monday, Sophia and I went into the city to have a look. Unfortunately, the weather was not too good, with very high humidity, making the night view of Causeway Bay and Central far from as splendid as it could have been. Still, I tend to appreciate people more than places, so I’m certainly not complaining.

The weather was bad, and so is my camera.

The night view as it should have been.

Beneath a steel sky.

All glass, steel and concrete.

My first impression of the city can be summarised in just a few words: sky scrapers, water and hills. Nothing else. This makes the city look impressive and very big, even though it’s considerably smaller than other cities I’ve visited (such as London). It’s a bustling metropolis of glass, steel and water, a combination I like a lot. People speak Cantonese (which I can’t understand a word of), Mandarin or English, so basic communication was never a problem. Sophia is Taiwanese and her boyfriend speaks good Mandarin as well, and spending time with them was a real pleasure.

On Monday evening, I was shocked by the news that in Hong Kong, Tuesday is also a public holiday (it’s not in the rest of China and Taiwan). I thought I had checked this before I left, but obviously I must have made a mistake somewhere. After some nail-biting, I was able to change the ticket to Wednesday evening and even though Sophia left on Tuesday, Dickson was kind enough to change his schedule to allow me to stay one extra night. This meant that two problems that could have been nasty, or at least very expensive, turned out to be fairly enjoyable.

On Wednesday, I left early to get to the visa office in time. I arrived with almost two hours to spare, but that wasn’t enough. In order to be able to collect the visa the same day, one needs to apply before eleven o’clock, but I never imagined that it would take more than two hours just to wait until it was my turn. Fortunately, they were lenient with the time limit and allowed my application even though it was almost half past eleven. I had lunch with a Canadian guy who also was there apply for a visa and had run into some problems and it was nice both to have someone to share the time with, but also to discuss or different problems. Managing something as stressful as this is a lot easier to do with company, even i it’s with a person I’ve never met before and probably will never meet again.

Some reflections

I spent the five hours waiting time walking around in the Central and Causeway Bay area, but drizzling rain kept it from being very enjoyable. It was still nice to have a look at the city, though, and returning to the office later I felt a lot more relaxed. Real relaxation didn’t come until I held the slip of paper in my hand stating that I am entitled to a new visa (they don’t actually issue the visas in Hong Kong, just the pertinent documents). I arrived at the airport almost three hours ahead of time and nothing strange occured. I arrived in Gaoxiong around half past eleven on Wednesday evening and was picked up by Jana and Sunny. Thus my four-day visa adventure to Hong Kong ended happily.

In addition to merely stating what happened, I want to say two things. First, I would like to talk about something which might not be apparent after a superficial glance. Having visa problems in a foreign country is very, very scary. It threatens your basic existence and a life that’s been established over a long time. Even though the risk is slim, the worst possible outcome is being kicked out of the country. I didn’t do anything illegal this time, but arcane bureaucracy and arbitrary rules might make it look like that, which kept me worried until the point where I actually had passed immigration at Gaoxiong International Airport. I can take many kinds of stress very well, but this kind is too much for me and the angst I felt at times was similar to what I felt at the beginning of last semester (see this, this, this, this and this post). Having one’s basic foundation in life threatened is scarier than it seems and probably has to be experienced to fully understand.

Second, I would like to thank some people who helped me get through this ordeal. First and foremost, I want to thank Jana and Sunny for helping me here in Taiwan. I might have managed the language parts without them, but psychologically and socially their support meant more than I think they realise. I would also like to thank Sophia and Dickson for their help and company and Hong Kong. Again, it would have been possible without them, but certainly a lot more lonely and difficult. In addition to these people, there are a couple of others who have helped and supported me and I’m indebted to you as well. Thank you!

I have seldom felt so happy to be back where I belong and to be able to do what I really want to do without interruption. I hope this adventure will enable me to appreciate my time here even more, having alerted me to the fact that my life here perhaps shouldn’t be taken for granted. Having survived all this, I choose to regard it as a valuable lesson, but also as a reminder to cherish what I already have.

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  1. Svante’s avatar

    Skönt att höra att det har ordnat sig!