In Hong Kong, we’re a tad spoilt. Okay, maybe more than a tad. When I flew to London for my sister’s Jaya’s 40th birthday weekend last December I realised just how much more.
Our helper Zelena eagerly ironed and folded my clothes and, as I kissed my three children and loving husband goodbye, our cook Puja beamed maternally. I didn’t see my suitcase till we reached the airport as our ever-attentive driver Julius had whisked it into the trunk of our car.
Arriving at Jaya’s home in Hammersmith, my first challenge presented itself. My suitcase resembled a rhino, the guest room was up a steep set of stairs and there was no bellhop service.
“Would you like a cuppa?” Jaya called out from the cellar.
“Yes, please!’ I exclaimed. After lugging my case up what seemed like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I was ready to indulge in some Earl Grey heaven.
“Go for it!” she called. “The kettle’s whistling.”
“Humph, I forgot this is DIY territory,” I muttered, as I searched for a tea bag. I was back in the land of self-sufficiency.
“So Jaya, should we pop over to Westfield Mall for a spot of shopping?” I asked hopefully.
“Won’t have time,” she replied. “The kids will be home soon so we should start on dinner. We could throw together a stew but the kids might prefer a curry. I’ll cook and you wash up?”
I felt an inward groan rise up within me, resentful that I’d flown all this way to do what is magically handled at home in Hong Kong.
Jaya’s 40th birthday was fantastic. Friends and family came together to celebrate with milestone merrymaking. For me though, the real celebration came the following night.
Jaya, her husband, their two teenage kids and myself were battling at a game of Rapidough around the kitchen table. Listening to their laughing, teasing and cheesy anecdotes, I was engulfed by deep waves of love. As we chatted, I learned that my sister’s husband knows what his kids eat for school lunch because he makes it at 6am each day. My niece and nephew can cook, sew, hand-wash and iron because that is daily life. Braving the cold is natural and quality time together is truly valued because it only ever happens when all the various chores that I take for granted have been completed.
For the first time ever, I found myself envying this “harder” way of life. There doesn’t seem to be time to argue. Heart-to-heart bonding happens as the family washes and dries dishes, and my niece and nephew have great respect for their parents because they know very well the value of hard work. I left their home with the gift of a new perspective and boarded my plane just a little wiser.
So, did I fly home and convince my husband to relocate to the UK? Not quite! I’m still rather enjoying the perks of living here. I do however insist that the five of us do our share of chores and during our Chinese New Year cold spell, we go for a thanksgiving walk to truly appreciate the blessings of Hong Kong life and, more importantly, each other.