We have been here for just under a month now, and I am, a little bit more every day, having to figure out where I stand between "visitor" and "resident". It isn't always easy, but it's pretty much all in my head. I worry about not having found a job yet, and I have to remind myself that it hasn't been that long since I started looking. It's a Saturday morning, is it okay that we're holed up in the apartment working today? Shouldn't we go out and explore the city or something? Just five days ago we took a tour through Chungking Mansions with our flatmate who studies Pakistani migration, but it feels like forever ago. He moved out yesterday. My diet is slowly returning to what it was, before we started eating out almost every day (like the first two weeks we were here), or carbo-loading off 80% buns and rice (last week and prior). We're already using Akram's room as an office/living room/yoga studio.
I felt the first pangs of homesickness last week over Chinese New Year, which was unexpected, since I don't think I've celebrated CNY with my family since I moved to Montreal in 2007. But as a single girl in Montreal, the lunar new year isn't really a Thing, but it is at home, and it definitely is in Hong Kong, where, it seems, people spend the 15 days of it visiting family, eating things, watching fireworks. I am always amazed by Skype, Facetime and WeChat - you pick up your phone, dial home, and suddenly you're in your parents' living room. Everyone's wearing sweaters and the sunlight pours into the living room as you've seen every morning growing up, but through some sort of rift in the time and space continuum (or, timezones, I guess), you're actually in bed, about to turn in for another night. I'm not sure if it helps or hinders the homesickness, but last night was Carlee's morning, it was -25 outside her window and +25 outside of ours. Her face was right in front of my face.
Another thing about waking up from Tourist mode, where you're just kind of walking around on autopilot, in the dumb sponge mode of absorbing the world around you, free of the responsibility of inhabiting a space: I was once an environmentalist. I'm ashamed to say that it's something that I have to remind myself of. Recycling, for example, is something that I've just forgotten about, because it doesn't exist in my neighbourhood (I've heard that it "gets taken care of" on the street, whatever that means). I didn't really eat meat for more than half a year leading up to moving here, and I've somehow totally forgotten about this important personal priority. And not even in a, Oh, somebody's grandmother made this so I have to eat it, kind of way. More like: We're making pizza tonight, so should we get the cured ham or the bacon? Will one package be enough? Like: Unconsciously reaching for a hot dog bun. I tried really hard last year to become healthier, more environmentally responsible and conscientious, and moving abroad seems like some subconscious excuse to completely unravel my efforts.
Part of this is because the assumption is that we won't live here for longer than a year or two. I admitted to Adam a few days ago that my castle in the sky was a semi-detached house in Roncesvailles: our art's on the walls, the record player is spinning, Maddie, Hiroki and Domenica are on their way over and I am baking banana bread, marinating tofu. Life looks like what it did a year ago, only much more settled. But I have to stop thinking this way, because it will only hold me back, and it's unfair to where I am right now.
I have to keep readjusting my scope of this city to a long-term, sustainable view. I'm surrounded by gorgeous and diverse landscapes, a totally unique culture, incredible food from a tradition centuries in the making. It's right outside my door. I need to walk to the pace of the life on the streets and not just wander around with my eyes wide and my mouth agape. I need to explore, reach out to, and foster a relationship with the places I want to be on a Saturday afternoon. I need to support the future of this city, anyway that I can. I should probably quit my hot dog bun habit.
And that won't happen until I start really living here.