Tag: Hong Kong

Mapping My Memories: Lamma Island

October 3, 2020,  Lamma Island, Hong Kong

It’s a bittersweet month of transitions, a welcome reprieve from the anxiety-ridden few months, and the week of heartbreak in its wake. For now, wounds are still raw and emotions are either really high or the lowest of low — so here I am forcing myself to pause. I am momentarily suspending the present by mapping my memories on this island I’ve learned to call home.

I just left a job I’ve had for almost five years, leaving the organized chaos that was familiar and comfortable. I’m walking away from friends who have become family, letting go of the laidback island life and the routines I’ve built through the years. I am packing my whole life and my cat for another dream job; a new chapter of my life a continent away. I am elated, overwhelmed, scared, and hopeful — not at the same time nor in that particular order, but the feelings come and go.

Hong Kong’s been a life-changing stop for me. The move was not easy, but my former employer did take care of me. This job and career move was an opportunity I could never have passed up. I could afford an apartment I liked, I had funds to feed my cat, and I lived a good life in a new country. Details of all that I’ll probably write in a separate post, but I’m not ready for it now. 

At this moment, join me in my here and now, as I map my memories while they are fresh, and while the feelings are still familiar.

As I write this on a lovely October day, I still live in a quaint village called Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island. I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be when you read this. I’m not certain when I’ll be ready to share this with the world, but when I do, it means I’m in a good place emotionally and mentally.

I’ve lived on this island since 2016, but I’ve moved homes a few times. My first apartment was this beachfront flat in Mo Tat Wan, a smaller village on the same island. It was a simple unfurnished two-bedroom apartment, but it had the best view.

I also had the best neighbors, humans and animals alike. My first week in my new apartment, the neighbors invited me to join their standing Sunday night dinner at the only village restaurant, which was just next door. When one of them told me “we’re all mad here,” I knew I was home.

Even though I loved the apartment and I was used to living alone, sometimes my home felt too empty. Coming home tired from work to an empty apartment took its toll on me. That’s when my significant other suggested I adopt a pet. I really wanted a dog but I did not have help nor the time to properly care for one, so I tried meeting cats at the shelter. Long story short, I adopted a dog in a cat’s body, more popularly known as Hank. 

After a couple of years in Mo Tat, I moved to Sok Kwu Wan to have more ferry options and to be closer to emergency services. I had a near-death experience in 2018 after I reacted very badly to Hong Kong’s air pollution, so I needed to be in a more accessible village as a precaution.

Our second home was smaller but was homey. We had a roof deck where my friends gathered and cooked feasts on Sundays during their day off. I’ll surely miss Fe’s lumpiang shanghai (spring rolls) and Marie’s seafood pasta and leche flan, among so many others! The apartment was also on the waterfront, had the best sunset view, and had easy access to ferry piers to Aberdeen and Central. 

My third home, the one I’m currently at while writing this, is closest to my heart. Even if it’s a street away from the waterfront, I still get a glimpse of the water. This flat I was able to personalize to my liking. They painted it with my chosen colors and my landlord installed the light fixtures I purchased. Hank and I are happier here because it is light and airy, thanks to one of our walls that has floor-to-ceiling windows. Hank has a cozy bedroom under the dining table. It faces the glass window where he looks down on other creatures — birds, dogs, and humans alike. Sometimes I wonder why people stop and wave towards our apartment, only to realize they are paying respects to his royal majesty Hank of Sok Kwu Wan.

I love living here because I have easy access to nature and I have befriended the beach dogs, thanks to my friend Marie who takes care of them. I’ve also grown accustomed to snakes here. The reptiles have become a normal part of my life in Lamma.  I have learned that when I am outdoors, I am in their home so I just let them be.

One memory I’ll forever treasure being an island girl is learning to catch crabs. Or maybe, learning to help catch crabs is more appropriate. I spot them and Marie catches them with a pair of tongs. How did this happen? One day I told her I really miss eating crabs. I get allergies when I eat seafood so the only way I can eat them is if they are really fresh and with 20mg of antihistamine. She told me we can eat crabs later, so I assumed we were going to buy crabs from one of the waterfront restaurants after work. But I was mistaken! Marie brought me to the mudflats, armed with a headlamp and tongs, to catch crabs so I can eat them fresh. I will never trade this experience and this memory.

I have so many memories here, not all of them I can easily write down now. But hopefully, these maps will hold them for me and keep them alive. So the next time I want to be transported back to my island home, I can just look at these maps and feel like I never left at all. 


Working From Home in the Time of Covid-19

It is day 37 of this work-from-home experiment—day 51 if we count the weekends. Has it been easy? No. Is it manageable? Definitely.

Before I continue writing, I would like to recognize that I am coming from a rather privileged perspective—I work for a company that’s been doing proactive measures to keep their employees safe, we have good healthcare coverage including mental health support, I have a home that I am happy with and access to nature, and I don’t need to leave my house so I can work. I think disclosure is important because not everyone has the same privilege, and the least I can do in a trying time like this is to check my privilege. I hope before you post anything, you would do the same.

I would like to write more about this work-from-home / social distancing / social isolation experience, but for starters, let me share with you my WFH survival tips. These might not work for you, but maybe it can help you start somewhere.

  • Tidy up
    When I worked in the office on a daily basis, I was not extra tidy because I would be rushing out of the house in the morning and coming home late at night already tired. But while I’m home, what’s really helped with my mental health is keeping a tidy home and an organized workspace.
  • Create an office space
    My home is tiny but I have a little home office that I set up even before the novel coronavirus outbreak. When we got the email that we were supposed to start working from home after the Lunar New Year, I decided to spruce up my home office. More on that later!
    Others would like to move from one spot to another through the day, and that’s totally fine. A home office might help get you into work mode though — so start at your desk in the morning to tell your brain and body that it’s work time, then eventually move to other spots when you can’t focus or get antsy.
  • Get a good chair and an extra screen
    Sitting for long periods hurt my back so I had to buy a chair that would be comfortable to sit on. Do not underestimate the wonders of a good chair! They also don’t have to be expensive. You just need to try it out and make sure it works for you. Working on a laptop is manageable if your main task is writing, but for me, having a bigger second screen helps.
  • Noise-canceling earphones or earplugs are your best friends
    This will be extremely helpful especially if you don’t live alone. This has been a lifesaver for me even if I have the house to myself. It drowns out my cat’s loud meowing or the neighbor’s barking dogs, or the tourists screaming outside when my windows are open.
  • Surround yourself with things that inspire you
    My house looks like a jungle…okay, maybe that’s too much; let’s say it looks like a garden. Having plants all over my home makes me feel like I’m enjoying the great outdoors. I also love flowers, so when I go on a supply run once a week, I would buy myself flowers. They do wonders for my mood, thus helping with my mental health.
    I’ve also brought out maps from my collection and put them up on the wall of my home office. They give me inspiration when I’m working on my graphics and maps.
  • Keep track of the days
    This is a great struggle for me. I’ve found it hard to keep track of what day it was, so I had a very simple solution! I got myself a tiny desk calendar and I mark the days manually. Marking the days helps my brain take note of the days better. But you don’t need to buy a calendar, you can always make yourself one on a piece of paper or on a notebook.
  • Take short but frequent breaks
    I was very good at this in the first couple of weeks. I would take 5-10 minute breaks every couple of hours. I am quite lucky to have access to nature outside my home, so I took advantage of this. I know not all of us have the luxury of green spaces, but your balcony will do or maybe check out a nearby park.
    There was a week that I was paranoid (we had a confirmed Covid-19 infection at a restaurant near my home) I did not take breaks outside—it was horrible! Boatloads of tourists were coming into the island to go on hikes so I was scared to do my walks because, in my mind, everyone might be a carrier. My anxiety worsened because I felt trapped and eventually my migraines started. Please do not do this to yourself. I have learned my lesson!
  • Limit your social media time
    Things can get too much too quickly. I know this is easier said than done especially if you work as a journalist or in social media, but I think this is crucial for our headspace. On most days, I have an 11pm deadline for Twitter and Facebook. Though I am not very strict on this. It depends on my current state of mind, or if there are things I need to do; for example, my friends and I gathered COVID-19 information for Filipinos so I stayed late on social media for that.
  • Talk to your “happy people
    Well, this really depends whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert. If you’re an extrovert and feeling antsy about being away from people, then maybe it will benefit you to do virtual hangouts or virtual happy hours with friends and colleagues. If you are an introvert like me, sometimes these chat groups and virtual video hangouts can get too much. So I suggest starting with your “happy people.” These are the people you are most comfortable with. When you’re in a better frame of mind, then you can start expanding the circle of people you communicate with.
  • If in doubt, ask
    We’re all experiencing this for the first time, even our managers and HR personnel. A lot of them have crisis management training, but the situation changes quickly. If you have questions, do not assume or try to come up with all the possible interpretations. Ask someone who can explain things to you. This will save you from worrying too much.
  • Do not overwork yourself
    Log off at the right time you’re supposed to stop working. I was not very good at this when I was working in the office because sometimes you get so engrossed in your stories you forget about the time, but I made it a point to do this while working from home. It helps make sure you don’t get burnt out. I personally would like to follow this even when I’m back in the office — whenever that might be.
  • If you need help, reach out
    It does not matter what kind of help it is—do you need podcasts and book suggestions, virtual yoga class links, cat photos. I have friends who reach out to ask for cat photos to help them get through the day. I am very happy to share Hank’s “what-do-you-mean-it’s-Monday” face. So please reach out if cat photos and videos cheer you up, or follow Hank on Instagram and follow me on Twitter.
  • Please be kind
    The times are stressful which can make us anxious and emotional. We all have different challenges—though they may vary in type and scale—so please consciously remember to be kind. Part of being kind is not hoarding food or other medical necessities. At a time when we’re unsure when this pandemic will be over (or all the time, really), let’s be a blessing to others by being kind.

This is quite a long list now—so maybe let’s start with these tips. Hopefully, this can help you. Please reach out to me if I can be of help in this crazy time. I would reply to you the soonest that I can (and when my headspace can handle). I’ll see you on the other side when this storm is over.

Please take care,