Living Small

January 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

One thing I love about Hong Kong (and Asia in general) is the crazy clothing that people wear. Don anything remotely unconventional in the Midwest, and people will immediately turn their heads to gawk at your outlandishness. Here, wacky fashions are as common as the smog on the horizon, though I doubt I’ll be bringing back any with me. As soon as I rolled off the plane, I spotted this woman, who seemed to be the nanny of another woman and her child (although I could be very, very wrong):

Her shirt says: “my parent still think i am straight”

I feel like the only place someone who understands English would wear that shirt would be San Francisco? (Maaaaybe Japan too.) Then again, who knows?

Another aspect of Hong Kong that bothered me a lot is the prolific amount of PDA, especially in the subway areas — young couples just cling to each other like the world’s about to end! Take, for example, these two:

Maybe they were practicing the tango.

They were originally embracing on the left side of the photo, and then they hug-walked 15 feet to the right. Please…just stop.

Anyway. I had brought my SIM card from two years ago, hoping that it would still work (especially because I had to refill it just three days before departing), but it had expired, so I had to find a pay phone to call my landlord. I took a taxi to the apartment, which was quite a scary experience because I was no longer accustomed to the death ride that is a city taxi.

My landlord also happens to be one of my roommates. I’m living with an Indian couple (probably early 30s), Bobby and Tracy, and their maid, Aman, in an apartment listing that I found on an ex-pat forum. Bobby runs some kind of textiles business; Tracy actually grew up in Hong Kong and can speak some Cantonese. They’re both pleasant so far, but I haven’t interacted with them very much. Aman, probably no older than 20, is a gaunt girl who speaks very little English.

Upon learning that I was to be staying in an Indian household, quite a few of my friends expressed the sentiment that Indian people smell like curry, and their houses even more so. First of all, that’s racist. Second of all, I’ve never experienced a smelly Indian person or house, so I can only conclude that these are mere ignorant stereotypes. Third of all, I like curry, so I guess it wouldn’t be such a bad prospect anyway.

The apartment exceeded my expectations in many ways. The size — oh my goodness, the size. I had only previously been inside two actual Hong Kong apartments, which were both rather tiny, but as I was not living in them, I didn’t really pause much to think about them. Living in the dorm seemed cramped, but the rooms were comparable to American college residencies. Seeing this apartment in its dwarven reality kind of blew my mind. The whole apartment (two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom) is smaller than my parents’ master bedroom (plus bathroom & walk-in closets). Granted, my parents’ room is pretty huge, but fitting your whole life into a space this small is mind-boggling.

The washing machine, nestled in the kitchen, is big enough to hold maybe two pairs of jeans and a sweater. The shower is the nine square feet of tiles at the end of the narrow bathroom. Only the two bedrooms have windows. The (folding) kitchen table is the size of a nightstand. I have no closet. Aman’s bed is in the living room, as is the refrigerator. I would take photos of the place, but she’s kind of there all the time, so that would be awkward. I don’t think photos would do the place justice anyway — as someone who grew up in the suburbs of America, I would really have to see it physically to grasp the startling proportions.

The good thing about the apartment is that they keep it very clean. The bedrooms both have rugs to give a carpeted feel, and all three of my…roommates…are very particular about stowing things neatly and keeping everything tidy. The living room faintly smells of curry in the mornings because they eat dinner late, but other than that, I’m pretty impressed at how immaculate the place is. That’s good, because I’d probably shriek and faint if I so much as saw a hint of a cockroach indoors.

Due to the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, during which pretty much everyone gets the week off, Bobby and Tracy have gone to India for two weeks, leaving Aman and me to get to know each other (not). I’m still trying to figure out my relationship with her; considering her age, I’d like to be friends, but the language barrier is quite extreme. Having come from midwest America, I’m not really familiar or comfortable with the concept of having a domestic helper, especially a live-in one, which increases my feelings of uncertainty around her. I do wish that I could converse more with Aman and find out her story. My guess is that she was brought here from India to work as a maid so she could make money for her family back home. I can’t see any other reason for someone so young to waste her potential by spending her precious time taking care of a Hong Kong apartment and watching Indian TV.

After five days here, I’m still trying to settle in. Before coming, I imagined that I might be able to do some cooking, which I now have given up as impossible. Cooking takes a lot of supplies — you at least need a pan and some ingredients, of which I have none. I can’t ask if Bobby and Tracy would let me use their pots and fridge space because they’re in India, and even if I could, I don’t know if I would be motivated enough to. On one hand, it’s pretty easy to find a meal in Hong Kong. On the other hand, eating out all the time usually means an acute lack of any nutrients other than fat and carbs, so we’ll see how this goes.



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§ One Response to Living Small

  • kaiti says:

    HAHAHAH *RAISES HAND* -racist friend

    perfect title.

    “leaving Aman and me to get to know each other [not]” LAWLZ!!

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