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Hong Kong the City That Broke My Traveler Heart

    After spending over a month in Japan, touring Japan and Osaka with Kinky Boots, I decided to forgo my original side trip to Thailand, to travel locations who’s return trip to the USA, I'd least want to kill myself on. Being a street food enthusiast, I'd heard of the wonders and curiosities that made up the Hong Kong street food scene.
 
So, I decided to give Hong Kong a try. I had always heard that is is an international city, and after spending 9 months learning Japanese, I no longer had the brain resources to learn Cantonese, and as they were a former British colony, I said to myself “Hey! I can speak English, with Chinese people who have British accents? Yes!”. Unfortunately, all of my usual planning and organizing for a trip abroad, could not prepare for the range of emotions and feelings I'd have there. This is my account of my first day in Hong Kong.

 

The Vibe i felt in HK in one pictire
The Vibe I Felt In HK Captured in One Picture

    Discrimination

 
   So many feelings and emotions all hitting me at once. How do I process the day that I've had here? How do I describe the heartbreak and confusion? Or the feelings of loneliness and rejection that I've felt today?  It's time to write. Something. Anything. As an African-American woman, I've definitely dealt with discrimination because of the color of my skin. It's part of the American experience if you're of black skin. I wouldn't trade my skin and culture for the world, but there are times when the color of my skin is thrown in my face as if to remind me that I'm seen as different. 
 
    I'm no stranger to being the only person of color in certain situations and locations. I don't necessarily even like being in any homogenous place. That even includes being with all folks that look like me. That may sound strange, but I'm a traveler. A cultural sponge. A chameleon. I long to fit in where you may not expect me to and to learn from those different from me. Who knows why.
 

Trying to Fit In

    Maybe I've always felt like I don't belong and like I wanted to run away from it all. I've been trying to find my place in this world and traveling is one of those things that is helping me find out who I really am and amongst whom I really belong.


     I arrived in Hong Kong yesterday, after a month in Japan. It was my first time East and my travel hunger was at an all time high. I arrived, as I always do in a new country, with my wide-eyed curiosity and obsession to immediately get in touch with the culture, start scoping out the vibe, figuring out where I belong and making sure I frequent that location. Of course, I also had to fulfill my need to find a watering-hole. They say water is good for you anyway, right?

    The “fitting-in” part was easy to do so in Japan. It happened almost naturally. I had learned enough Japanese to get by and dammit, I was going to speak Japanese to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or in this case “Yoshi, Yusuke and Matsumoto-San. The Japanese people did the rest of the work, with their kindness, smiles, and compliments of “you speak VERY good Japanese!" I don't want to be the person that lumps all Eastern countries into one bundle of stereotypes and illusions, but it was my first visit East and after my amazing month and the generosity I felt in Japan, I guess I foolishly assumed the cultural, kum-bah-ya, drum-circle would continue. Not so. Not here. It's a different story altogether written on a page of dirty, half-torn paper that's been kept in a polluted, humid environment for too long.

[caption id="attachment_272" align="alignleft" width="492"]The unmastable Grit of the Kowloon side of HK

Broken Hearted
Hong Kong broke my heart.The first day started off as a positive day. Full of all the wonder and hope my almost child-like heart was hoping to experience. It didn't happen for me like I had hoped it would. I arrived downtown and took the Star Ferry across to Central Hong Kong and signed up for a Big Bus tour. You know one of those double decker monstrosities that I normally wouldn't be caught dead on.

However, I only have 3 days here and my bad back and Achilles heel would not permit me to just walk around, all Willy-Nilly, all over central HK. I needed a quick fix and for $45 I got it on the top level of a double-decker douchebag bus.
 
hong-kong-6
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The UnderBridge Crab Saga

I had my heart set on some seafood at the famous "Under Bridge Crab Restaurant". I had seen it on all the travel videos and articles. Anthony Bourdain had spoken of this place highly, and as he is my spirit animal, I thought I'd give it a try.  It didn't disappoint. I didn't get the whole big crab because I was there alone and there is nothing sadder than a black woman, sitting in a Chinese restaurant eating a whole giant crab with all the fixins by herself, while wiping both sweat and tears onto a wet napkin. It's not a good look.

    So I got the shrimp, which was prepared like the crab, but without the loneliness and the need for a suicide hotline. I finished my meal and prepared myself to meet my friend/bandmate at the Four Seasons for some good ole fashioned fancy drinking. The only problem was that it was pouring and I had no umbrella. I was equipped with only my hood, a shitty google maps signal and my semi-photographic memory. I needed to make it back to either the big double-douche bus or the pier to catch the Star Ferry.

No Cabs for Me…WTF?

     After giving up on walking, I figured I'd catch a cab back to the pier where I'd find my friend drinking over-priced booze. The only problem with that was the color of my skin. Or my lack of ability to speak Cantonese. Or what I was wearing. Who knows? Although, all sources seem to point to the former. First cab with its "available" light on, not only ignored me but added a "go away" gesture to it.

    I'm tough, and a New Yorker, so I thought nothing of it. Maybe he was in a bad mood or maybe his wife had left him today. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm not prone to rash and irrational judgements or shouts of racism. However, after the 4th cabbie who's light was on and back seat was empty give me the "not you, screw off" wave my heart sank. I was drenched from the rain and couldn't even get a taxi driver to take me a half mile.

    There was no sympathy to be found.  What had to done to them? After a while, it became obvious that I was not wanted. Not only was I not wanted, I was flat out pushed and shoved by people. I asked for directions only to be met with a serious stinky tofu stank face. My Google Craps signal was bad and I was lost. Wet and black and lost and my stomach was full of mystery seasonings that were either going to give me superpowers, or diarrhea.

The Shrimp at Under Bridge Spicy Crab was pretty awesome!
 
   My heart broke a bit today. As a traveler who craves the cultural exchange and sharing of ideas, I was met with the reality today that this place and is people are not for me. It's not going to happen here. This is now my 12th country and NEVER have I felt so rejected and unwanted. I let some tears flow on a bus that I found that happened to be heading where I needed to go. The bus driver didn't even look at me or check if I had paid the correct fare. I merely asked if it was going to the pier, he grunted and waved me back, I found my seat and cried. For a good few minutes. Then it was over.
 

Friends Saved the Day

 I met up with my friend. He bought me a drink and made me laugh and all was right with the world again. For now.  Although I had noticed on the ferry ride home that I had put my camera away and felt a sense of indifference. The magic that i was searching for remained elusive.
 
    Tomorrow, however, is a new day. I will not let the events of today defeat me. I've found writing to be therapeutic so, for today, I've worked out my demons. I hope that tomorrow when I wake up that Hong Kong will he kinder to me. Or if not, if I wake up with a mindset of "I'm going to enjoy it here anyway, screw you". It is time for me to return home. Back to the United States. Where at least, I know where I stand.

3 Comments

  1. Cousin Tubby Reply

    Oh dear Sherisse I would not think that such an international melting pot would be so neglectful to not be polite. But seriously you are so brave and adventurous.

  2. Very insightful post. I've been thinking about visiting Hong Kong for a while and have been looking for a real, honest post. I found it! You are so adventurous. I'm sorry you had this experience. Travelling the world, we run into every kind of human. Here's to the next place being beautifiul and inclusive! 🙂

    • Reeses Road Life Reply

      You should visit it if you’re a foodie. I stayed in the old part of town near kowloon. So there was a lot more older people, less tolerant of foreigners of any shade. But if you stay on the mainline there’s a thriving nightlife scene for expats and its more modern looking. I’d hate to discourage someone, but as a black woman, and their views on dark skin people, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. 

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