Sunday, January 27, 2008

The unfamiliar place called home

HK Airport has changed a quite bit since I was last here, and that's no more than a year ago. There are new cafes lining both sides of the pathway to the departure gates as the numerical labels go up and more duty free stores. Watson’s is now “Nuance Watson” which I don’t get, but I guess that’s just 1 of HK’s many nuances (pun intended). Among others: a construction sign noting “Works in progress” and gadget product displays with the brand name “Ridgid” prominently imprinted on all items. I will never quite understand Asia’s use of the English language, but I guess it’s charming in its own way.

My watch says 3 o'clock, but it's really 7 o'clock early in the morning. The duty free stores are open and inviting. Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, Hermes, and every cosmetic brand you can think of (most tempting for me, Shu Uemura). Even so, I feel most comfortable by gate 66 with my legs crossed and handcarries taking up 3 other seats to my side. A dog-eared New Yorker flipped open and a tall Starbucks soy latte balancing on my knee, I began peeling the organic navel orange I brought with me. I could smell fragrant roasted meat and steamed dumplings from the cafes nearby, but my senses aren't the least bit stirred. As I sit slowly eating wedges of sweet orange, I start to count the number of waif fair-skinned girls walking past me wearing 3” heels and heavy makeup, their large traveling cases dragging behind them. 1. 2. 3. 4.

I would never wear heels for a flight. Unless the trip called for a business meeting upon arrival, and provided the flight lasted no longer than 2 hours, I wouldn't put myself through that kind of torture. Even so, they’d have to be boots or closed toe pumps (soft leather only please). Right now I have no makeup on despite the 5 red spots on my forehead caused by stress, and my facialist’s recent extraction attempts. My bangs are pinned up with 2 no-nonsense black bobby pins. And I’m wearing black leggings, the simplest of tanks, and an oversized grey cardigan.

That simple observation, is what made me admit how distant I am from my own culture – the very same 1 I was born and raised in.

This may seem unsurprising to some. After all , you’re thinking, you’re Malaysian and not from Hong Kong. To explain myself better, I’m Chinese, and I grew up speaking Cantonese. Hong Kong, more than any other Asian country, is where my family visited every year for food and shopping prior to my college years. We have family and friends there, and I was as familiar to the streets of HK as I am the ones in KL, which isn’t saying much admittedly (I lived a sheltered childhood). I can bet a lot of money though, that this same culture will present itself in KL, Singapore, Indonesia… wherever Chinese is spoken.

Hopefully I'll show signs of adaptability in the next 3 weeks. That's certainly something to look forward to.


Petrina said...

Just reading about you being umfamiliar with the streets of KL reminded me of a time the both of us went to visit Huei Suen at her place and got lost trying to find our way back home!

Actually, despite having been back in KL for the past 2 years, I must say, I still get lost. Hopeless!
I'm much better off giving directions in London!

Give me a buzz when you're back in KL!

Danielle Bumblebee said...

i'm STILL hopeless! somehow i manage to get my way around in singapore just fine.. knowing of course that i can just hop on the cab if anything goes wrong n it wouldn't ever b longer than 45 minutes to get anywhere unless he's ripping me off..

will def call u when home.. we have to do a goodbye thing for suen too..