The Long Goodbye
The image above captures my last purchase from the soon-to-close HMV store in Central, Hong Kong (What’s It All About by Pat Metheny and Live at Birdland by Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/Motian). This branch will shut on Sunday, just two weeks before I leave Hong Kong. In every city that I’ve called home, there has been at least […]
The image above captures my last purchase from the soon-to-close HMV store in Central, Hong Kong (What’s It All About by Pat Metheny and Live at Birdland by Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/Motian). This branch will shut on Sunday, just two weeks before I leave Hong Kong.
In every city that I’ve called home, there has been at least one record shop that became a regular haunt. Normally I would say goodbye with one final purchase. This time, with the actual store closing down almost at the same time it feels even more dramatic.
Hong Kong will be the fourth city I’ve said goodbye to (I was just a young child when my family left Santiago). Each time has been different and I’ve, hopefully, learnt a few lessons on the way.
One is to not assume you will see people again. When leaving Sydney, a number of friends shared their plans to travel to Europe. We kept a spare bedroom in our first home which was almost never used. Close family came, but other visits were very rare. Some of the friends who had most ardently promised to see us in London were totally off our radar by the time we moved to Delhi.
Perhaps the hardest lesson I’ve learned was to accept that you really are leaving and may never come back. When I left London for Delhi, it was heartbreaking. Living in London was, at the time, a dream come true. I left refusing to accept that wonderful chapter had come to an end.
It was only upon coming back to London for a working visit, six months after moving to Delhi, that I started to accept the likelihood of never returning to a life I had enjoyed so much. That was a painful trip, the kind of personal, vocational and emotional turmoil I hope never to experience again.
If there’s a lesson I learned in moving from Delhi to Hong Kong it’s to not get one’s hopes up too much. Delhi was a tough place to live as an expat. In those days, there were few stores catering to “western” tastes (certainly compared to now). Everything seemed so unreliable; the electricity, the internet, the roads, the postal service. Opportunities to play live western music were few. Moreover, it was insanely hot in the summer and alarmingly cold in the winter.
And, it was kind of hard to make friends. It wasn’t that people were unfriendly per se, in fact the whole expat scene was very friendly and most Indians we met were very hospitable. It’s just the problems of everyday life meant that many people didn’t have energy to socialise, or had to cancel at the last minute, due to unforeseen problems, or were simply away a lot, taking breaks and extended holidays overseas.
So, I came to Hong Kong keen to get out and play music, only to be underwhelmed by the local scene. It was great to have reliable power and internet, but on the other hand, there is no local iTunes store. As for making friends – well last night’s farewell drinks was the first and only time I managed to draw more than six friends into the same room at the same time.
Looking back on all the those moves, there’s another lesson – to accept the way a place can change you. London allowed me to grow intellectually, understand art more deeply and indulge my passion for football. Delhi gave me the opportunity to return to music full-time, take up golf again and do some profound soul-searching. Hong Kong allowed me to start a company, take up photography and travel extensively.
In every city the shape of my writing, my wardrobe, my cooking, my daily routines and most importantly, my spirituality has shifted and evolved.
That’s why I’m making such an effort this time to say goodbye to Hong Kong. Not just goodbye in some abstract sense; a vague salute on the way to the airport. But, goodbye to every person, to every place, to every pattern of life and regular activity.
Come July 17th, this chapter draws to a close. Whatever the future holds, it will have a different texture and reality. The days I have left in Hong Kong (and the few tasks I need to complete) should thus be savoured for what they are – the final glimmering embers of a beautiful urban adventure.