By: Sandy Duncan
Flashing greens and reds hit the stucco wall opposite the only window in my small, cramped excuse of an apartment. When I reach out and turn off the lamp on the table that also serves as my work desk and ironing board, my room is still illuminated with artificial light.
The flimsy curtain hangs lifeless to one side in a desperate effort to let some air through the two-inch crack in the rusted-up window. I curl backwards and attempt to stretch out on the sofa, which at night becomes my bed. I watch the kaleidoscope of colours bouncing around the room as I slowly succumb to the events of the day that have made me so weary.
I have to get up early for work in the morning. Unfortunately, this fact does not make any difference to the people upstairs who are having an argument. The language isn’t distinguishable, but the anger and the frustration are. Something smashes to the floor and I hear a scream. More shouting and a door slams. Heavy footsteps come bounding down the stairwell and pound past my front door, which seems inches from my head. Actually, it is inches from my head – twelve, to be exact. I am wide awake now.
When I opted to move to Hong Kong, I thought I would have a lifestyle that my friends back in Dublin would envy. The salary I was offered was nearly three times what I could earn even in London. The lure of tax incentives was the clincher. From a financial point of view, Hong Kong was the place to be. I considered myself extremely lucky to have such an amazing opportunity so early on in my career. I was flown over and put up in a luxurious five-star hotel for two weeks while I tried to find somewhere to live.
That’s where the dream started to unravel a tad. As I went from real estate agency to real estate agency, I started to realise the chasm between what I wanted and what I could afford. A week went by and it finally dawned on me that home was going to be a one-room affair, with furniture more befitting a leprechaun than the five-foot-eleven Amazon I am. I settled on a place in Wan Chai where I could actually fit into and under the shower. The rest I would work out.
I did work it out. I love my little hole-in-the-wall. I have everything at my doorstep: food, transport, nightlife. Tonight, as I lie awake, sweating from the relentless humidity, my senses are alive. I listen to the whirring of the dilapidated air-con. It’s a false hope believing that the air inside will become cooler than the temperature outside. I watch the flicker of lights dance around my room. I listen to the honking horns, the sirens and the cacophony of music from the four competing bars below me. I smile to myself. Hong Kong is my home. For now.
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This article first appeared in the Aug/Sep edition of Expat Living magazine.
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