The wind-down has begun, I'm afraid, and it has not come with the subtle scent and the few stray leaves of Autumn (which, sadly, doesn't exist here anyway) but a windfall of drama, travel, personal milestones, touristy attractions, and, of course, everyone I know asking me when I'm leaving, a question I refuse to answer. I always knew Hong Kong was an extreme city, but I didn't realize that would translate into my personal life.
I'll start with HK Magazine, my employer for the last six months. I held the title of Staff Writer, but my job consisted of putting together the weekly round-up of events, the Culture page, the Film page, and looking for their weekly 852 cover, a Hong Kong-centric full-page spread. Retrospectively, it was an incredible and challenging experience, better than I could have possibly imagined for my first job in Hong Kong: Every day I got to work with friendly people who were deeply passionate about the inner workings of the city and unafraid to poke fun at my terrible accent in Cantonese. Every week, I interviewed a different artist, director, or musician and picked their brain about their favourite topics. I reviewed movies, tried new restaurants, and went to the symphony more than a few times. Cocktails; I've tasted a few, not to mention the endless flow of champagne on a Veuve-Clicquot-hosted press event aboard the Aqualuna (a junket I can truly get behind). I got firsthand experience into the daily grind of a weekly magazine, an opportunity sadly out of reach from many of my peers back home and new crops of young journalists in future years. Most important, I met friends who I will cherish for years to come.
My decision to leave was out of an itch to write, ambitiously, the stories I wanted to write, and because I knew I wanted to cram in as much travel as I could without having to worry about leave. So my last day at the magazine was Tuesday, September 27. On the morning of Wednesday September 28 as I was packing for a flight to Seoul, I received a text from Xavier, my buddy and colleague at the magazine, which read "So I guess this may also be our last day at HK Mag as well." By the time I got to the airport, it had been announced: Due to dire market conditions (though some other theories have been suggested), the next issue would be HK Magazine would be its last.
Seoul came and went in a flurry of k-bbq, kpop-and-hip-hop, k-araoke, and k-osmetics hauls. I was with Maddie on her visit from Canada. Together, we ate an insane amount of delicious and spicy foods, hiked the fortress wall, danced in our seats at a hip hop concert, simmered in a mugwort pool until our fingers pruned and got our dead, grey epidermis sloughed off our bodies by middle-aged Korean women in lacy underwear at a traditional jimjilbang.
As I write this, the trip doesn't feel like it was last week, though my skin is still baby's bottom soft and I am still sniffling from catching cold in the air conditioning of that hip hop show. It feels like it was last year. Upon landing back in Hong Kong I was sent straight back into a state of mourning over HK Magazine. We attended the farewell party, met the other members of the family and had my one last beer on them. On the train home, I checked my phone and received an "It's Live" notice from an editor at GQ, telling me my first freelance piece for them was finally published. The timing of this seems like a joke that could only be dealt by the fates, but there it is, under the red and blue banner that still looms over my writerly dreams. That's my name.
Since then (which was Friday, by the way), I've indulged the wine lunch tasting menu at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Amber followed by a four hour nap at Redbar above the IFC Mall, followed by, bizarrely, a Platters concert. I went to Ocean Park yesterday with Xavier. It's been a weird week, partially because I'm playing tour guide, partially because my friends have suddenly found themselves with all the time in the world on their hands, and mostly because it's Hong Kong. And Hong Kong is reality through a hyperlapse filter; it does not allow you to just sit at home and type away the day.
The day is coming, and it's coming fast. Eventually, I'll have to get up from the dai pai dong dinner table, get on a bus and board that plane home. But until then, I still have year's worth of adventures to cram into these next few months.