Exactly 2 years back, at 5:00am, I was sitting in the passenger's seat of my then-boyfriend's car with much eager anticipation of the 16 months that was waiting for me in HK.
I rememeber so well how we spent our whole day 1 in HK. We were picked up by our stage maagers from the airport at 11am then we headed straight to GoldCoast Hotel where we were to stay for free for a week, while we went flat-hunting. By noon, none of us has been given a room so we were brought to the nearby mall to have lunch. Those of us who brought enogh cash with them to live by till we get our loan and sign-on bonus were confident enought to have Mc Donald's. The rest of us settled with microwaveable rice meals from Circle K and 7-11. At 3, each of us was sent to his own twin sharing room. We were delighted to see that the hotel rooms were spacious and nothing close to mediocre. Most of us took a nap, others went swimming. At 8, we saw one another by accident at a place that was to become our favorite diner until we got our loan: 7-11.
That was 2 years and 18 hours ago. I was only 25 then. I was a relatively young OFW.
I woke up this morning looking back at the time that has elapsed. So quickly, if I may add. Besides my weight, a lot of things have changed in and around me. For starters, my weight has been an ever-fluctuating struggle for me to keep up with. Doing the same show day in and day out, my body has become quite accustomed to it that it's hardly ever a workout for me anymore. In fact, so accustomed that my body has now learned to do the whole show in whatever state I may be in --- hung over, half-asleep, broken-hearted, horny, or recovering from a crazy night-out.
Out of the three major romantic relationships that I've had, the one that I treasured the most, I lost while I'm here in HK. For some, it was a revalidation that long distnace relationships really don't work. I see it as a valuable learning experience that only made me a better person and a better lover. Whether it really is over for us both or we'll find joy in each other's arms again, only time will tell. What matters now is that we're both healing and we both know that in due time, our hearts will be ready to love again.
Over the past two years, I've seen friendships that grew and those that waned. I've even experienced both. Until now, I still find myself wondering whether there are things I could have done to prolong the life of our friendship or we've really reached the finish line, and choosing to stay any longer will no longer be healthy for us.
What interests me most is the fact that when I boarded the plane on June 5, 2005, all I had were a suitcase, a backpack and a belt bag. Now, I look around in my room alone and the stuff that I've accumulated from shopping over the past 24 months can't even fit in 10 huge suitcases. (Well, that includes the electronics that I've purchased so no, I'm not exaggerating.) My math skills have become incompetent too over that period of time. In our first month here, I could easily convert to pesos how much something cost and tell whether it was worth spending for. Now, we only use or conversion table once a month --- when it's time to send money home.
I'm on my second contract now and I've witnessed 3 cast turn-overs. Some of those who've left, we've made a special bond with. Others, we barely got enough chance to get to know. And although it's sad to admit it, our inter-personal dynamics at work have changed. If I threw a party and I had to choose only 20 people to invite, that would be a herculean task back then. Now, I'd have to look outside of work to fill in my 20 slots. We still are a family, yes. But not a closed-knit one anymore. Still, I'm sure there's love in the midst of us all. It's just not that evident anymore.
Hong Kong still fascinates me. Maybe not the sights and sounds it offers anymore, but it still does. It has a way of putting people together, testing them against one another and making them learn relevant lessons. It's probably because HK is like a neutral ground for most of us --- far different from our comfort zones and it's swarmed by non-English speaking locals. We, foreigners have limited chances of not interacting with one another.
Before my contract expires in September, I will have celebrated my 3rd birthday in HK. And if the big mouse decides to renew my contract one more time, I will be celebrating my third Christmas and thrid New Year here. I feel nothing but excitement when I think about the many changes I have yet to see and experience in the coming months. Years, maybe. The ennui that I used to complain about in my first contract is dead and I could say that somehow, HK has become home to me already. Two years went by faster that I thought it would. Three more rounds of the time that has elapsed and I'm already a permanent resident. I will no longer have to deal with the traffic and noise and pollution in Manila. But that means many, many summers of sickening humidity ahead of me.