By Michael Silk
Special to KP News
This piece was to sum up my experience in Hong Kong. I was supposed to describe my re-assimilation to the culture at home. The truth of the matter is: I am at home here in China.
Up until recently, I was sure that I would be moving back to the United States. Plans change. I’ve been dating a local Chinese woman and I realized that I couldn’t leave her, so I have decided to stay.
Hong Kong will now always be the city where I found love. Dating someone from an incredibly different background is a challenging experience. At first, communication was difficult, which I think has actually brought us closer. We have to be all right in just being with each other.
Sometimes, it feels like we are creating our own language. We have completely different perspectives; her political, lingual, familial and cultural experiences are vastly different from my own. Everyday with her is an exciting adventure as we find a way to overcome the gaps that divide us; it has resulted in my learning more about myself as much as I learn about her. As much as I love my friends, my family and the food (that has been the biggest adjustment), it is more important to see what comes of our relationship.
In the past month, I returned to the United States for my sister’s wedding. It dawned on me that despite being with my family the entire time, I never felt “at home” while I was there.
In the States, I found myself examining the country as an outsider. When I was asked by U.S. immigration my country of residence, I answered Hong Kong. That was the first sign that I had actually and tangibly changed while here. I may be a citizen but I am no longer a resident of the U.S. I grew up in the U.S. but in many ways I no longer feel “American.”
Although I am a resident of China, I cannot be called Chinese. My life at the moment is a whirlwind of two cultures. Every moment is a choice. Do I stick with a custom or tradition from my upbringing or do I acquire a new one? Living while caught between two cultures, you constantly ask yourself: “Who am I?” and “Why am I that way?” I now straddle two lives, two cultures, because I can see the value in the individual traits and behaviors of each.
This piece was supposed to describe my re-assimilation to being home but I only now have come to the realization that I have been home for a whole year. Hong Kong is now my home. It isn’t as quiet or restful as the Peninsula. It isn’t where my oldest friends live. My family is thousands of miles away.
I do not speak the language of this place but that doesn’t change the fact that I am at home here. I love riding the Star Ferry. I love seeing the city at night. I have even grown to love most of the food. Despite all the differences, I have grown to love this place. I am home.
Thank you for reading my monthly columns. It was truly a pleasure contributing to Key Peninsula News. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures as much as I enjoyed writing about them.
This next year brings a year teaching English in the People’s Republic of China. Perhaps if there is something new and extraordinary that I experience, I will be able to share it with you. This piece however, will conclude my series of monthly columns. Thanks again for reading.