The first 2 days in Hong Kong have definitely been quite the experience. The first night was spent catching up with my cousin (who is actually my nephew yet happens to be older than me), his wife (I guess that makes her my niece), and their perfect baby Jackson. We drank some really… REALLY nice Bourbon, and laughed a lot. I’m not sure if it’s my cousins wit or his delivery, but 95% of the time I am with him I am crying laughing.
The following day I really began to map out the places I will be seeing while I am in Asia, and I think I have it all figured out.
- Macau, China
- Hanoi, Vietnam
- Halong Bay, Vietnam
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Koh Phangan, Thailand
- Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
- Phuket, Thailand
- Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia
- HMC, Vietnam
- Da Nang, Vietnam
Obviously things can change, however if things go well I should hit most of these places (with a possibility of replacing Laos with something else). My “nephew” Sherif and I were joking about what the worst case scenario would be for me while I am backpacking through third world countries, His answer… “You get captured and ISIS posts a video of your final moments on YouTube”. Yikes!
I did venture out a bit yesterday, however today was my first real taste of Hong Kong. I met my nephew near his job, and he took me to the local pharmacist, followed by a Chinese healer who practices Eastern Medicine to try and get some help fighting my nasty cold. The main avenues of Hong Kong really reminded me of NYC, however when you peer down the side streets you start realizing you’re not in Kansas anymore.
When Sherif and I first walked into the healing store we both gave each other a look like “What the f*** is this place”!? I was doubtful at first because when I was in Macedonia in 2014 and came down with a stomach bug the village Doctor prescribed with none other than Coca-Cola… Needless to say my experiences outside the realm of a primary care doctor have been less than successful. Dr. Chen saw us and greeted us (speaking English which helped). He brought me to the back and asked me about my symptoms. I explained that I had swollen glands, sore throat, and a bad caugh, and he began to write on his note pad. While he was writing he explained to Sherif and I that he was 75 years old, and is back in college for his Masters, followed by his PhD. After writing down what my remedy would be, he explained that for the next 3 days I should not not eat chicken, fish, or spicy food. He also told me to stay away from females. I got my receipt and was told to return in 2 hours.
My nephew had to head back to work so it was my time to explore a bit. I went down to the subway station and headed over to Wan Chai (the subway stations are extremely more advanced to what I am used to in NYC). Wan Chai was a very busy area, and had more of an authentic feel to it. There were tons of ducks being displayed in windows, and packed streets of people walking. The one thing I found interesting was that since being white is obviously the minority in Hong Kong, in the rare event that you walk by somebody who is also white, there’s usually a brief moment of eye contact, kind of like saying “hello old friend, you’re not alone”. While standing around I met a nice family from California and they shared with me their experiences so far while being in Asia. I am always told that I have the ability to spark random conversation with people, and will usually be able to make them feel comfortable enough to share some interesting facts with me. My cousin Leeza always jokes saying “You are incapable of small talk”.
When it was time to head back I hopped back on the subway, ate some awesome Pho, though I unfortunately couldn’t make it spicy (Doctors orders), and headed back to get my remedy. One of the employees grabbed my cannister of meds, sat me in a side room with a few other people who were taking drinking tea or eating some black gel, poured my tea, and made a gesture to start drinking. I felt like all eyes were on me, probably due to the fact that I was the only white person in there and was starring at the gross steamy cup of something tea. It also came with a roll of “haw flakes”. I had no damn clue what haw flakes were, but one of the ingredients said sugar so I added a piece to my tea since the tea was absolutely vile. You would have thought I committed a mortal sin, as all the other patients started talking about what I had just done, and a few even giggled. I figured before messing up the whole process I should go grab the Doc.
Dr. Chen came and sat with me, and we embarked on quite the conversation while I was trying to down this stuff. I Figured that regardless of making convo with this guy or not I will be sitting down sipping my tea, so why not try to learn something about someone I’ll most likely never see again while I am at it.
My sister Sarina and I were in a cab 2 weeks ago in the city, and I sparked a conversation with the cab driver. It somehow manifested into him sharing his experience on 9/11, and the young girl he dropped off that morning for an interview inside one the Twin Towers.
I remember Sarina telling me how if it were her in the cab by herself, she would have been on her phone or just starring out the window until her destination. My sister and I both learned a lot from that conversation, and she also learned you never know what you can find out if you just stop and listen.
Dr. Chen asked me about why I am in Asia, and what I do for a living. I explained to him that I am spending time with family, then going to backpack around Asia for a while. I also exlplained how I just graduated school, and wanted to travel before working as the last few years have been hectic.
Dr. Chen then grabbed my wrist again (kind of like the picture above when he was diagnosing me), and after closing his eyes for a while he looked up and said that I was born to heal people. It was interesting that he said that, as I was in social work for years, as well as my fathers caregiver during his end of life. By no means am I saying I am now going to become a Chinese healer, however there may be some valid points behind his findings. He went on to explain how he did not practice medicine his whole life, but felt like it was his calling and pursued it much later on. It reminded me a lot of a story from a book my mom had given to me “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” by John Izzo. He interviewed almost 300 people who displayed wisdom and happiness, and from them he wrote a book on their experiences. At the end of the book he gives the reader a list of questions for “interviewing your own wise elders” so I figured I’d ask the Doc. He was old, and seemed wise (if I die from this tea I take the wise part back).
“What has brought you the greatest sense of meaning and purpose in life? Why does it matter that you were alive”. He didn’t say anything for a second so I was scared I offended him, but then he started to explain. He said that education and pursuing his dream of practicing medicine has brought him purpose to his life. He told me “I am aware that by the time I get my PhD I will not be able to do anything with it in my life, but it will do a lot for lives in the years to come.” He went on to say “Children are the next generation, and it is our duty to guide them correctly. My life has meaning if I can show the next generation that it is never too late to follow their passion, and to also continue to learn”.
After I finally downed my tea he wished me the best of luck, we shook hands, I slightly bowed my head (not sure if I am supposed to but it felt like the right thing to do), and I was off. While walking back to the house I couldn’t help but be amazed as to the conversation I had with a random stranger in Hong Kong. Life can be funny like that, I was able to find some reason behind something as simple as a cold…