Hong Kong is becoming a friend. It is a complex city, but from the start it has been very familiar. Like a good friend, as you spend time and get to know the city , you become open to its offering. If you travel here, you may even fall in love with its story. It is inviting and familiar, but noticeably different.
Our first day was incredible. It made me appreciate traveling with friends. We emerged from customs to the open arms of our greeter and the city of Hong Kong.
The magic moment was emerging from the airport and seeing the vehicles parked in the lot where we awaited our transportation. The vehicles are more electric. It seemed a little sci-fi. Parts of the city feel futuristic. It is like looking through a portal and catching a glimpse of what might be awaiting us in, say, 20 years. I spotted a couple of Teslas. A familiar site. But them a van with a softened box shape that reminded me of a Star Trek shuttlecraft.
Someone always playing corporation games
Who cares they’re always changing corporation names
We just want to dance here someone stole the stage
They call us irresponsible write us off the page
“We Built this City”
-Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, Peter Wolf; Starship
The site, on which the airport was constructed, was once water. The island, on which it was constructed is artificial. It was built by flattening a couple of mountains and reclaiming over a kilometer of seabed. It is massive. Stand at the site in the early 90’s and you would be under nearly 20 meters of water. Today, it is runway, terminal, customs, and likely a Starbucks or two.
Drive another kilometer, the earth is broken open and buildings are springing up from the ground. It is as if construction is happening from the ground floor and the buildings are pushing toward the sky like a push-pop. There is construction everywhere. It is a glorious unfinished city with people stacked on top of one another. It clearly stands as a testament to what people are capable of achieving together. Marvelous.
There is a deeper side of the city, too. Even catching a quick glimpse down a city ally, I saw a restaurant worker sitting after a long shift. A raggad and soiled uniform was his banner. His eyes looked exhausted. A cigarette dangled from his mouth and his arms rested on his legs as if he had given his last. He watched me move by. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I could not so I moved on.
Being a tall man in a city of statistically shorter people is sometimes very noticeable, and sometimes painfully obvious. It just depends on the setting. Walking down a hotel hallway, I might have a fleeting thought of avoiding a protruding exit sign. Walking through a market with tourists, it is nearly unnoticeable. Well, with at least one exception. It was notable for at least one shopkeeper who pointed at me. “You tall.”
“Yes”, I said. It was a moment of validation.
There are moments where I think that perhaps I’ve actually grown a few inches. I walked through a building and nearly scraped my head on the ceiling. I ducked to get off of a boat or go through a doorway. Squeezing between partitions on the way to a urinal, or reaching down low to wash my hands and search for a towel. It takes energy to be a big man, but it requires even more energy to be tall. I wonder how many calories I have burned simply trying to avoid a head injury?
I’m certain that I am clean from my shoulders down.