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Blog // Travel
July 29, 2010

Hong Kong Lassitude

There is nothing more dull and pointless in the whole of the blogosphere than a expat blogger complaining about the city in which they live. All too often such posts pick the low hanging fruit of travel writing – petty racism, obvious cultural differences, predictable scams and inconveniences and so on. With that said, I’m […]

There is nothing more dull and pointless in the whole of the blogosphere than a expat blogger complaining about the city in which they live. All too often such posts pick the low hanging fruit of travel writing – petty racism, obvious cultural differences, predictable scams and inconveniences and so on.

With that said, I’m going to write a dull and pointless blogpost.

I love the word lassitude and probably don’t use it enough. Lassitude means weariness, tiredness and a lack of energy and also implies an inability to focus or concentrate. Lassitude describes the office worker’s inability to complete a Friday afternoon’s work and also the muddled fatigue that can grip us in the first days of a much anticipated vacation.

And, lassitude describes the way I feel about Hong Kong right now. I could blame the oppressively humid summer weather (it’s been 30C and raining for most of this week). But, it’s not that simple.

Last year, when I came back from my summer break I was deeply discontent. Granted, that was an exceptionally long and pleasant summer break. Two weeks in London, plus trips to Paris and Yorkshire as well as two weeks in Adelaide. It was an overdose of the kinds of art, music, food, theatre, shopping and outdoor activity that I love, while spending time with family and friends.

From feeling overwhelmed by choice and social interaction I came back to the reality, in Hong Kong, of having almost no friends, very little social network and few communal or recreational options. Most of of things that made me want to “get out of bed in the morning” were not based locally. I was fed up with living through the internet.

So, I made some choices and changes and underwent a year of refocussing. Coming back to Hong Kong this year, after my summer break I was not friendless or network-less. But, neither was I overwhelmed with a sense of being “home.” Things are better but they are still, well, flat.

I’m accustomed (or, is that resigned) to a pattern of life in Hong Kong. The daily frustrations and irritations are, in the greater scheme of things small and familiar and I’ve grown to depend upon, if not necessarily need some of the comforts (including the excellent underground system and the much loved City‘n Super food store).

But, comfort and convenience is not inspiration and motivation. I’ve met some westerners who claim that Hong Kong offers them the perfect lifestyle, but without exception those are folks whose lifestyles I don’t care to emulate (or, I end up questioning the truthfulness of their claims). More realistically, every city is a set of contradictions and compromises that we must try to navigate.

This week, having walked passed the long queues of folks waiting to buy an iPad (they officially went on sale in Hong Kong this week) I was reminded that as a semi-geeky tech-head living in Hong Kong is not that dissimilar to living in Delhi (but, with better postal services and no problems with tax and duty). I’m gearing up for the second half of the year and all my hard-drives, ram, guitar strings, light-boxes and bags will be coming from the US. Same goes for software and sample libraries.

None of which gets in the way of enjoying my days or being productive through the week. By contrast, I remember all the days I lost in India to power and internet outages (not to mention all the other daily technical and personal catastrophes). Neither have I forgotten the way London’s fickle public transport often played havoc with my commutes and commitments.

Years ago I was enamoured by the idea that our location in the world would matter less and less, that we could “tele-commute” to our “virtual” office from anywhere in the world. The joys of call centres aside, I’m not so sure about that idea anymore. I don’t need to work in what most people imagine a professional music studio to look like in order to compose music. But, living without a vibrant musical community around me has been tough.

This is a hoary problem with little resolution in sight. I’m not moving yet and not all that sure where I would like to move to if the opportunity came up. I’ve got a model that seems to work for life here in Hong Kong.

Of course I’ve done lots of planning for different cities where I might set up (and where rents and technical costs would be lower). I’ve also got some crazy dreams for moving to remote and less technically apt locations.

But, for now, those are just dreams. What I really have to do is get up every morning and go to work – again and again and again. That’s why that word lassitude comes to mind.

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