There are ten days of my exchange in Hong Kong left. Ten.
When I arrived in the roaring August heat, the months stretched out infinitely. I had arrived and I was staying- I hadn’t even acknowledged the fact that I would have to leave eventually.
When Christmas came and went, bringing with it my boyfriend for an all-too-brief encounter, I noticed, with some surprise, that I had been away from home for four months. The time had snuck past me without the English seasons to denote Summer, Autumn, Winter; suddenly it was January, and I didn’t have nearly enough clothes to keep out the penetrating damp.
Now, seven months later, with summer thunderstorms turning the air (and my hair) wild and electric, I’ve come full circle, and am preparing to finally accept the inevitable- that all good things come to an end.
Unable to ignore it for any longer (although still trying my best) I am finally having to face facts and prepare myself to leave. Closing my bank account, posting my possessions home, returning my keys, taking unwanted items to charity shops, buying new things for the next part of the adventure- it has all started to overtake me, and I’m drowning in to-do lists, kept awake at night by the number of tasks still to complete, and the dwindling number of days left to do them in.
Soon my life will be sent packing in two cardboard boxes, crossing the globe by land for three months until they finally come to rest on the doorstep in Bristol. It’ll take me almost the same amount of time to get home too; I’m leaving Hong Kong, but not Asia just yet. Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Borneo await, delaying the inevitable return to real life for just a little longer.
But for the moment you must excuse me: I have a year’s worth of packing to do.
I’m pleased to be able to say that Hong Kong feels like home- in fact it has done ever since that first weekend away in Taipei way back in September- it feels familiar and safe, even in its strangeness and diversity. But now, having been here 7 months, I feel the urge to leave, and to explore again, to see a new corner of the globe and to dip my feet into a fresh ocean. A restless soul indeed.
In Sai Kung at the weekend, while camping on the beach, I saw the most magical sight of my life. At the water’s edge, in the blackness of the night, nature performed for us.
The water, inky black, sparkled and danced with countless millions of tiny pinpricks of light. The water teemed with fluorescent life, rushed in on a wave and then helplessly sucked back out into the vast dark ocean.
I stood with my friends, thigh-deep in darkness, spellbound by the dancing fireflies under the surface, the phosphorescent peep show we were bearing witness to.
Like a substance-induced vision - only one hundred times more real and wonderful because we were intoxicated only by dreams and cheap beer. A group hallucination of magnificent proportion. The whole sea turned into a glittering disco ball.
Krill glow in the dark. I never knew that.
On friday, the pain began. It woke me in the morning, like something burrowing down into my flesh, and I had to breathe shallow to stop it from escaping. During the day it was better, bearable; just a little shadow or a flicker every once in a while to remind me it was still there, lying low. In bed that night it came back with vengeance, and brought with it a light-headed sensation, a dull flushed heat in my cheeks - and the paranoia of checking Wikipedia and finding you have the symptoms of any number of terrible, incurable ailments.
I’m not a hypochondriac, and I don’t take pills to feel better; I listen to my body, and it sings me the truth. I couldn’t hear the singing over the screaming in my gut, so I took myself off to A & E - just in case.
An hour in the sterilised waiting room and I felt fine again- just get me out of here. Every surface was that dusty pink colour found only in hospitals; the colour of salmon vomit, or sepia blood. People wheeled past empty gurneys with dark spreading stains, and a police guard with gun cocked sat outside a patients’ door. I’ve never been inside a hospital before - it was all I dreamed of and more.
The doctor admitted me to the gastro surgery ward at 3am after just one gasp of pain - suspected appendicitis said my notes. They took me to the dark ward and laid me down in a bed. I crawled into the hospital-issue gown and listened to the choking coughs and bile purging of the other inmates, and wished I wasn’t quite so alone.
Morning greeted me with six failed attempts to skewer a needle in my hand, which left me perforated and swollen: who knew viable veins were so hard to find? I finally ended up with a drip in the crook of my elbow to stop me dehydrating, and the sight of the saline tube under the skin made me wince and recoil. Three x-rays and two ultrasounds to be sure; they wheeled me back to the ward in my pyjamas, defeated. If I wasn’t ill when I went in, I surely felt ill now.
At 6pm- three visitors! Angels in disguise, come to rescue me from the monotony of ward life, and distract me from the adult diapers being changed in the bed next door. Some things in hospital cannot be unseen. The results came back- nothing abnormal. Just an unexplained pain that wouldn’t go away.
They moved me to a new bed, (almost) in a room of one’s own, and for a blissful evening I had the place to myself watching crap on tv, until they turned the lights on at 2am and wheeled in my roommate, comatose and sweat-sheened. I had seen her the night before in A & E, moaning like an injured animal. Now she was silent.
24 more painfully slow hours passed restlessly by, feeling the needle in my arm and the saline solution in my blood with every heartbeat. In the morning they finally let me leave on my own two legs, back in my own clothes, but without an explanation or a cause. A body malfunction perhaps; a reboot needed. Now I just have the bruises and a dull ache where that splintering pain used to be, as if it is laying low until this whole thing cools off. I get the feeling my appendix is laughing at me.