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.
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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.
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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.