Face Book regularly reminds me of milestones during the journey that is my life. Some leave me thinking “what was I thinking?”, others, “wow, I forgot about that!”
This week, there were recollections of a significant day; the day I left Melbourne as a resident of Australia, to become the expat koala girl that I am today in Hong Kong.
This is a modified version of something I wrote three months after my arrival. It is hard to believe time has gone by this fast but here we are.
Join with me, as I remember.
I didn’t sleep the night before. That was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t even go to bed. I am sure my neighbours appreciated hearing the vacuum cleaner at 3:00 a.m., and me then dragging boxes into the garage at 4:00 a.m. all while the rest of neighbourhood was eerily quiet.
My suits cases had been ‘packed’ for a week, but the contents had been constantly repacked, as I washed and sorted my belongings. The most time-consuming chore was deciding what I was leaving behind, a torturous task for an indecisive koala.
By 4:00 a.m., I had lost my sanity. Maybe I had packed it in a box somewhere? It was to be the last hours I would spend with my pets, but instead of snuggling up with them, I was pacing the house like a mad bear. My dog, who is a sensitive soul, put herself in the dog house outside, away from the havoc being created by the crazy lady.
Before I knew it, it was 6:00 a.m.. All morning I had been wishing that time would slow down, but it didn’t, it just seemed to slip away faster than the previous hour. By now there was no feeling of excitement, just exhaustion and a deep sense of dread for the inevitable knock on the door.
Believe it or not, moving overseas had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. (Think of Kelly Clarkson’s song “Breakaway” and you may get the picture) As a lesson in not tempting fate however, I had said to Panda in late 2014, that I was taking the goal to relocate off the table for the next year, so that I could focus on other important and timely priorities. Of course, less than a month later, stuff happened, and the consequences of those events changed the course of our future in ways that we hadn’t even realised at the time. Before we knew it, we had committed to moving to Hong Kong.
We packed up our house in less than four weeks and moved in with the panda mummy for the interim. I was due to fly over but had to cancel my relocation last minute as I had unexpected family business to attend to. By time I finally arrived in Hong Kong, Panda had already been there for six months. This was coming after a horror Christmas period, which then followed us into the new year and beyond. I could safely say that we needed a holiday from everything and everyone, not an international move, but alas, such is life!
Just before 6:30 a.m. I got a text from the taxi company advising me that the driver was on his way and minutes later I could hear the big, Yellow, Ford sitting in the drive way.
I guiltily hugged the dogs for the last time as they sadly watched me struggle down the hall with two heavy suit cases, a back pack and a lap top case, on my own. They had seen Panda’s suit cases months earlier. The dogs knew what a suitcase meant and they didn’t like it.
As we drove down the freeway in the dark, the driver politely asked me about my trip. I told him I was relocating overseas. He shared with me that he had moved to Australia from India a year ago. He said he loved Australia but he was the only person in his family living there, so he was lonely. He was excited about visiting India in the next few months to reconnect with his loved ones.
As I sat there, I realised that the world is full of expats and migrants. I may call Australia home, but to someone else, it is a foreign land, away from the comfort of familiarity, family and friends. I figured, if this kind, young man from India could survive a year here, then I was going to be fine as I at least had friends and family in Hong Kong and I had come this far already.
We eventually arrived at the International Departures Terminal and the driver helped me to unpacked the car. I paid the $110 AUD taxi charge, and loaded my bags onto a luggage trolley. My biggest anxiety was being late for my flight so I promptly shuffled into the departures hall in search of the airline.
The good news was I had arrived early, a rare occurrence, a miracle! The bad news, the person who checked me in was incredibly rude and condescending, lacking any empathy. Maybe she was at the start of her shift and didn’t want to be there? Maybe she was at the end of the shift and was tired?! Maybe she needed a Snickers Bar? I don’t know! I couldn’t bothered making a complaint, so I will complain about it on the internet like everyone else, Ha! It turned out that my whole moving experience was disjointed and stressful, even down to the check-in.
When I finally escaped the check in counter, I made my way down towards Cafe Vue for breakfast. I savoured my last Melbourne coffee. I even indulged in a chocolate crackle as I knew that I would not find one in Hong Kong. Besides, it’s a known fact that calories don’t count when you are travelling, though I may have made that up to justify the chocolately goodness!
As I sipped my cappuccino, I watched random planes and people and frantically tried to message and call as many people as I could before I boarded; the next time I would turn on my phone, it would be a long distance phone call.
As I walked down the air bridge onto the aircraft, I said my silent good-bye to Melbourne as I sombrely prepared to leave Aussie soil with the heaviest of hearts.
On the surface, the flight was uneventful. The staff on board were much friendlier than the woman who checked me in. I amused myself by eating and watching movies for ten hours. The plane made it safely from point A to point B most significantly, and as the flight wasn’t full, we had space to stretch out, so it was actually a good flight, thank GOD!
Stepping off the plane into Hong Kong, it was the first time that I wasn’t there as a holiday maker, with a head full of exciting holiday plans. This time it was me arriving as an expat, clueless about what I was doing, and pondering the foundations I now needed to establish and how I would do that in a way that suited me.
My work was (and still is) cut out for me, but after months of uncertainly it was good to finally arrive.