Well, looky here...an update!
I know, I haven't been updating this (same old song) and I have been scolded...which only feels great because that means that someone other than me is reading this!
These past few months have been a relative whirlwind and now I am blindly entering the next stage of my life which is now more representative than realized.
I finished all of my classes for my grad degree this summer and when I submitted my last assignment it felt GOOD. It was something like...euphoria. Now, I love learning, and I tend to make learning moments out of most situations, but I was glad to divorce myself from life being measured in semesters.
At the end of August, Chris left to Macau to work and I spontaneously decided to visit him with the support/insistence of him and others. I didn't know what I was getting into when I bought that ticket and I just decided to make no assumptions and enjoy the ride and I am glad I went. It was a life experience and I am glad that I could share it with Chris.
Lucky me that I faced procrastination and beat it with the ugly stick and finally got my passport this summer. Chris made fun of me for buying the passport card, too, but it sure made me feel safe at times that I didn't bring my passport around with me because I just didn't feel safe carrying it around.
Anyhow, I have summed up the stay in Macau in a few sentences. (1) I spent a lot of time getting lost, but I like to call it "exploring" instead. (2) What made things different (giving me that 'Aha!' cultural moment) was that things were similar but not the same. (3)...well, I have forgotten my third summary, but it may come to mind later.
Since Chris was working many hours in the week, I mostly saw him at night. I felt like a welcome distraction but I made sure not to be to imposing since he did need to be well-rested for the next days work. I spent the days alone and some independent spirit awoke soon after I arrived and I decided to go down to the bus stop and take a bus to wherever it may take me, knowing that it wouldn't go farther than Macau proper (and I always kept enough money to take a cab if I got lost enough). Well, I must have stayed on the bus too long because after crossing the bridge from Taipa to Macau, the bus driver started yelling at me in Cantonese, I suppose, and pointing to me to get off of the bus. I attempted to communicate that...that...I had no idea what was going on...but, for better or worse, the buses are on a tight schedule and so I scurried off of the bus and stared walking up the sidewalk in who-knows-where.
I started panicking pretty quickly but ended up flagging down a cab to go back to Taipa. Unfortunately, the cab driver couldn't understand my desired destination even though I showed him the business card that includes the address of the apartment I was living in. i mean, come on, you're a taxi driver...this is an address and a pretty small island!
Transportation issues seemed prominent for me. I swore off buses after that first ride and I got pretty frustrated with cab drivers for a while after that. Look, this is my line of thought: you are a cab driver and I would think, then that you know your way around town pretty well; this is also a tourist destination where most places are known by a Cantonese and/or Portuguese and/or English name so I would think that you know somewhere in English (or even Portuguese) if I say it (especially if that destination is plastered as an ad all over your car). I was pretty surprised that when I said "Ocean Gardens", cab drivers most often didn't know what I was talking about even though it is a very prominent residential area. And, I am just saying this about cab drivers because, well, you make your living off of driving people around!
And that could include acting like you don't know where something is and then just drive around as much as possible to jack up the cost of the ride. But, hey, that is just being cynical. On my cab ride from getting lost in Macau, I had NO idea where I was directing the cab driver and so I ended up on Taipa Pequena, the smaller hill on the island (though I didn't know that at the time) and was more lost than ever. The ride was costing a pretty pataca and so I just told him to drop me off there and I'd, you know, find my way...
But, things really just went uphill (haha, get it?) from then. I then swore off both cabs and buses on my own and decided to walk everywhere in Taipa. I was also on a mission to buy a few items and so I had a goal for my journey, too, then. Though I got lost most often in the beginning, at least it really didn't cost anything but time and I had plenty of that. Also, getting lost just involved me, not a driver or anyone else.
I got to know the island relatively well and I began to use the buses again with a renewed spirit and feet tired from walking so much :) I think the best thing of all that exploring was that I had new places to show Chris and felt more confident about where we were going. He didn't relly have time to do that on his own, so I became his tour guide! And I was only visiting! I loved it.
And, so, there wasn't really an overwhelming [cultural] differences in Taipa. When I first got there, I was so excited that I would constantly say to Chris (with accompanying dramatic hand gestures) that "I can't believe I'm in China!" I got over that soon enough and I realized that, yeah, I am far from home. Looking out on the river and the mountains I knew that, nope, no ferry, bus, cab, or walk was going to get me back to Greensboro, but at the moment there was no desire to do so. The language barrier was not so much of a barrier. Yes, you mostly heard Cantonese everywhere but it was hardly a problem, though when it was, it an annoying situation. A lot of people spoke English enough and aside from the funny/outrageous Engrish, there was enough English to direct me well.
Now, I'm not trying to say that I was totally pissed that there was no English around for my ease of tourist-ing, it's just that I have NO idea about Cantonese. As a couple of my friends and I have agreed on, it's not like a language with at least Latin letters where you could TRY to figure out what it says. Ich kann kein Deutsch much anymore but I could surely figure it out. I attempted another alphabet by diving into Russian, which was a humbling but profound experience, but I just haven't touch an East Asian Language. Now, I am capriciously promising Chris that I'll learn Cantonese and be his interpreter when needed!
In about the third week, I started feeling a slump, not wanting to go out of the apartment. I completed the few shopping goals I had and I knew my way around town well enough and saw as much as anyone. it was a slightly awkward feeling to be there for a month--longer than a tourist stay, I suppose, but shorter than a more permanent stay. I began to feel like more of a local even though I knew there was a lot more to learn if I were to stay there longer. I began reading one book that I was assigned for a summer class and that was nice...to sit on the couch in silence facing the Pearl River, reading. We spent many nights eating out on the town but I started to feel the cost/feel others feel the cost, even in patacas, and I started eating in more often. My menu was a basic one: rice, black beans, pasta and Sara Lee pound cake, but it would do. Then, I decided that there had to be more to see and do in al of the time that I was in the apartment during the day.
There was a road that was pretty mysterious to me in taht I just wanted to know where the heck it went! It was around the corner from Ocean Gardens and it went uphill; it became too tempting and so I made me a little adventure. What I found--after hours of a lot of figuring out and getting lost--was the Taipa Pequena hill. For the last week, I spent quality time hiking the trail on the hill and I loved it. Everyday I went a bit farther and loved finding new things. I found a perfect spot--a bench on a little rest stop on the top of the hill--where the breeze came in PERFECTLY. I would sit there and read a least a chapter of my book, working through the bad part of the breeze--fluttering pages. I always took the backpack with me that stored my purse and a bottle of water at the least. It left me preeeetty sweaty and I often thought I looked foolish since most other people who were using the trail to work out had the least bit on their bodies, but I was having a blast anyways.
My favorite part was my last day in Taipa, the morning before I left to the airport that night. I finally took Chris up there for a hike (after having a blast at Casa Museu da Taipa) and we had so much fun.
Ahhh...back in Greensboro. Now that's a whole other story. Life is a-changing, but I suppose that if there is enough tiramisu, it should all be OK...
A few other things:
-I never went to the Taipa Grande hill, but I don't regret that.
-Fashion was a whole situation there, for me of course.
-I guess that the McDonald's in Hong Kong doesn't have a fire code? I don't think anymore people could have fit int there!