Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Long Day (or is it The Two Really Short Days?)

The day begins when I wake up at a quarter to five in the morning. I'm not very well rested. Actually, I haven't been very well rested for the past two weeks. Ever since I quite my job at the end of July, my days have been filled with shopping, cleaning, sorting, and preparing, with a little bit of time set aside for last-minute socialising. I spent most of Saturday packing. Three-quarters of my stuff was already packed on Friday, but it's always that last quarter that gets you. Having stuffed a suitcase with ten months worth of clothes, and dumped my C.D. binder, shoes, and toilettries into a duffel bag, I found there wasn't much room left for... anything else. Saturday thus became an arduous process of rearranging, stuffing, and compressing, as I tried to fit as much in as possible. Around six in the evening, I actually said the words, "No one gets left behind!" and, amazingly, I did manage to fit almost everything. Many of the books I had hoped to take got cut, but then, books are always the first thing to go. It looks like I won't be able to read War and Peace this year, but I did get an anthology of Canadian literature as a going away present, so I can read that instead. My pencil case got left behind, along with a lot of things I had hoped to use as teaching aids, but over all I'd say all the important stuff got packed.

My mum and my sister see me off at the aeroport. We have breakfast together at the restaurant, and then I'm off to security. My belt sets off the metal detector, but otherwise it goes hitch-free. Once I'm through, I find a water fountain and fill my water bottle for the trip.

The first flight is the short one: Ottawa to Vancouver in approximately five hours. Refreshments for sale. I eat my sandwiches. I watch the first movie, which is Fracture. Mediocre crime-drama with Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins. Then they show one of the Shrek films. I haven't seen it, but I miss the beginning, so I decide to skip it. We land in Vancouver without incident.

Vancouver aeroport is big. Once I figure out where I'm going I have a substantial walk from my arrival gate to my departure gate. Fortunately, there are at least a couple of those moving sidewalks. They're slow, but I'm lugging a milk-crate worth of stuff (translation: ~ 35 lb/16 kg) and I'm grateful for them. As aeroports go, it's also kind of pretty. They've given it atmosphere with these totem poles set into the pillars, and sections of the wall designed to look like a rock face give the place a kind of organic feel. It's like they really want you to know you're in B.C. now.

Which is good, because the view from the windows is uspectacular. You can't see any of the city from here. Some hills rising in the distance are probably the rockies, but they're so far away that they're no more spectacular than looking out on the Gatineau. And flying in all we saw was water and countryside.

I stop at a gift shop to pick up some Canadian souvenirs. There's a half-pint of maple syrup that I pick up, but there's no maple sugar, and I'm sad. I'm okay with splurging at this point, since I have CAN$100.00 that are rapidly going to become worthless. I decide to hold onto some just so I can show the people in Hong Kong what Canadian money looks like. Looking through my change, I realise I have everything except loonies and twonies. So I buy something else and I get them.

We finally do get to see the city on the flight out. It's a spectacular view. I only wish I knew Vancouver so it would actually mean something to me.

This flight is the long one: thirteen hours up the North American coast, across the North Atlantic, over Japan and Taiwan, and across the South China Sea. We get well-fed on this flight: three meals, relatively decent ones for aeroplane food. They're ostensibly lunch, supper, and breakfast, although, going by local time, the entire flight takes place in the mid afternoon. It just happens that sometime around 4:00 p.m. it spontaneously turns from August 12, 2007, to August 13, 2007.

Despite my lack of sleep, it takes a while for me to feel really tired. The daylight convinces me that it isn't really late. I finally give out at around 11:00 p.m. Ottawa time. I doze intermittently for a couple of hours. I wake up as we're flying over the southern part of Japan. This is the closest I'll be to the country for at least another year. It's too cloudy for me to get pictures, though.

Finally, a small, green, forest-covered island appears out of the ocean, followed by another one and another. They get successively bigger, and soon the forest begins to give way to towering sky-scrapers. We're flying over Hong Kong. On the far side of the city the plane meets the runway, and we land.

Hong Kong International Airport is huge. I have to take a subway-style train just to get from the gate to arrivals. Without thinking, I fill my water bottle at a water fountain. It doesn't make me sick, though. It's a long line-up for immigration, and when I get to the counter the clerk spends several minutes scrutinising my passport and visa. In the end he lets me through without trouble. By the time I get to the baggage claim, the carousel is clear. Someone has thoughtfully taken the unclaimed bags and put them on the ground, which makes my job a little bit easier. I grab one of the remarkably well-designed Honk Kong luggage carts, and load up my stuff. The last stop is customs, and it ends up being a breeze. The customs officers look a little perplexed when I show up at the red gate for people who have something to declare. (Prescription medication is among the controlled items). They don't even look at my bags. They just ask me a couple of questions and usher me though.

We touched down early at 6:30 p.m. I make it to arrivals at around 8:00 p.m., and find a young woman in a blue golf shirt with the name of my organisation on it. I'm tired and a bit anxious, but I'm alive, and in one piece, and I know where my towel is.

And since Hong Kong is exactly twelve hours ahead of Ottawa, I don't even need to reset my watch.


Hello World Wide Web. Welcome to my Logbook. In this BLog, I hope to chronicle my adventures as I travel around the world. That, at least, is the ultimate plan. For now, it will be a record of my time in Hong Kong, where I will be living for the next nine months.

Having graduated university in the fall, I decided to travel to Asia and spend a year teaching English. I was fortunate enough to land a place with a respectable organisation in Hong Kong, that focuses on improving the oral communication skills of young English-learners. From the beginning of September till the end of May, I will be working in a high school, teaching English to local teenagers. I hope that during this time I will acquire work skills, improve my abilities as an English teacher, and learn something about Hong Kong culture.

This BLog has been created as an easy way to keep family, friends, and random acquaintances updated on the work, sight-seeing, and day-to-day living I do while I am here. I know my time in Hong Kong will be an edifying experience for me. I hope that reading this BLog proves to be one for you too.