I've taken on less work these days, and when I am working, I'm sneaking glances to Padmapper to look up apartments in Toronto* and fantasy-planning my next chapter. Tonight, we do our first test-pack, to see if all of our possessions can fit into two suitcases and a duffel bag (probably not). It's coming: we leave in a month. It feels like we've been here for a really long time, but also how are we already leaving? But the fact is, I'm really excited. I'm excited to reunite with my winter coat, especially after this endless summer (better as a title for a playlist than a description of reality for an irascible sweat-monster like me). I'm excited to rediscover Toronto, a city I emotionally checked out of during the Ford administration, which now seems to have culturally transformed itself into food and music capital. I'm excited to get back to crafting and baking. I desperately miss my family, friends, and cheap and accessible baguettes and cheese. In a month, I'll be able to sit in my mom's bed and watch the new Gilmore Girls with her, and it's worth the flight home just for that.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't think, a teensy bit, about staying longer. The weather is finally nice again, and every week I get a new email for job opportunities that most Canadian lifestyle writers would jump at, which is apparently something that happens when the magazine which once employed you dissolves into a pile of bylineless articles on the SCMP parent site. And, as part of the wind-down, we've been checking off bucket list items before we go, which is not a bad way to pass a month.
I had been to Tai O before for a short afternoon tour, but this time, we stayed almost a full day and really took the time to take in this gorgeous fishing village. We wandered between stilt houses, filled our lungs with fresh sea air, went from stall to stall in the main village picking up snacks, each one more delicious than last: giant curry fish balls, sweet silken tofu, egg waffles cooked over charcoal, peanut butter and condensed milk waffles, sugary fluffy donuts, wife cakes.... I could go on.
We got on an absurdly cheap tour boat and at one point, the skipper tapped us on the shoulder and shouted excitedly, "Dolphin! Dolphin!" Sure enough, popping up over the placid waters were the sleek rose-grey humps of the great, endangered Chinese White Dolphin (population only 60!!!!!). A few minutes later, we saw another, and then another. We drifted around, each glimpse inspired cries of pure joy and excitement from everyone in the boat, even those too slow to catch them; there was a contagious ecstasy of simply knowing they were there with us. From then on, we were walking around in a post-dolphin-sighting high. The scent of lime peels and drying fish hung in the air as we ate more snacks, and walked deeper into the collection of stilted houses. I tasted homemade XO sauce and bought way too much shrimp paste (as if there is even such thing as too much). After stopping for beer and peanuts on a terrace overlooking the bay, we were too stuffed to attempt a meal at one of the nearby seafood restaurants, and we all got back onto the bus and watched the mountains emerge and recede.
There's so much more on our bucket list, the stuff we want to do a few more times before we leave (like dinner at Chung King Mansions), and the stuff we haven't gotten around to doing when the weather was obscenely hot. I want to try cart noodles, and do a crazy happy hour with freeflow food with your $120 cocktail because that exists here, and go for karaoke, and hike the infinite mountains around Hong Kong. Yesterday, we and a group of friends hiked the Dragon's Back in Shek O, an 8 kilometre stretch along a ridged mountain that ends at Big Wave Bay. I was nervous, as this was my first hike of the season and carbs have since turned my once fit-ish midsection into a mushy paunch, but the views were stunning and there was a brisk wind to meet us every time we hit another peak. We finished off with a dip at the beach and a meal at a Thai restaurant, and going home, sore and happy, I briefly wondered what else I would miss by leaving so soon.
But ultimately, mine is a life of pea coats and family dinners, and the Gilmore's are calling my name. In the meantime, the rest of Hong Kong awaits.
*TORONTO FRIENDS: Adam and I are looking for, ideally, a two bedroom apartment in the East Side, near that axis of Leslieville/the Danforth/Little India/East Chinatown. Please HMU if you have any leads for January!!!!