I picked up a pork bun and a bottle of green tea to go with my existing water bottle, orange and sponge cake i had brought over from China and headed up into the mountains. It was December 23, and after waiting over an hour to get through customs behind masses of people heading over to buy gifts and/or meet family, i really needed some peace and quiet. The sky was overcast and temperature was brisk but not cold. It was a perfect day for a walk.
I had not originally planned to do anything that weekend, because i was still on the tail end of a severe cold that had smacked me on my ass the previous Saturday, but my teacher suggested i go out and get a bit of exercise.
Getting health tips over here can feel very contradictory - on the one hand: "don't go out in the cold or you will get sick", on the other hand: "getting fresh air will do you some good". This is what happens when a secular government decides to repackage and brand a hodgepodge of quackery because they can't yet afford to provide real healthcare to the peasants. Nowadays the infrastructure to provide real healthcare is there, but modern China can't disavow Mao's stop-gap measure because they make too much money selling the myth. I can't decide whether the resulting mess is an indictment of ruthless authoritarianism or ruthless capitalism.
So, back to the mountain. It was a great climb; much less exhausting than when i tackled it in summer. I decided to break off after reaching Pak Tai To Yan (~2 hours in) because i wanted to be back in civilization before nightfall. I walked back through Lam Tsuen valley, where there a bunch of small villages, to the Tai Po urban center, where there are some bars.
I have decided i like Hong Kong bars better than mainland bars, mainly because they are more like English pubs. People just sit down alone and drink beer. It's perfectly fine to read the paper, watch TV or bury your head in your phone all night. In mainland China these sorts of bars are filled with douchey rich expats that make me want to kill myself. In the New Territories, they are filled with working-class Hongkongers who barely speak a lick of English or Putonghua. I sat down next to one. We grimaced and drank. He smoked. I ate spicy tofu.
I left Tai Po around 9:30pm in order to make it back across the border in time to catch the last subway. The border traffic was still insane. I just made it into bed by midnight.
The following day i met up with a friend who disappeared into a hole a couple months ago after some personal health issues and a death in the family. It was fun to spend a day wandering around town with her and doing an easy climb up Nanshan here in Shenzhen.
Her recent medical issues have have left her worried too, and she's struggling right now with the same contradiction described above - inability to afford a specialist due to losing her job amidst the turmoil, but frustration that the hocus pocus remedies of "traditional" Chinese doctors are not helping. Her next plan is to visit a yoga practitioner in Xiamen. I really hope he's also a trained physiotherapist who can provide her with proper advice beyond trying to pitch another round of expensive quackery.
I am sympathetic, though. Of course she is desperate to find a magic solution. This is a highschool dropout with no job who has just been diagnosed with a chronic condition for which there is no cure. She's not a close enough friend (yet?) for me to give her cash outright to help her see a physio, but i did share stories of my own health issues and explained how many of my family and friends live with their chronic conditions. Beyond that what could i do but listen? It was Christmas Eve. She bought me tangerines and 辣条 (là tiáo) - a spicy gluten jerky - and red bean cake. I treated her to dinner.
This week i booked my ticket back to Toronto. Christmas was just a normal day - headed to school, emailed my new employer to get an update on the work permit and so on. Yeah, the work permit drama continues. I don't want to talk about it. But it looks like January 11 will be D-Day, so i have set it up so i land in Toronto on the 10th. If all goes smoothly (please, God, let it go smoothly!) i will receive my digital work permit approval and file my visa application on the Thursday or Friday. After kicking back for the weekend at R's place in Windsor, i will return to the city to pick up my visa, maybe catch up with some other friends, then fly back here on the 20th. If things don't go smoothly i will scream.
Actually, i will probably scream as soon as i land, since it is currently -25 degrees and i will only be wearing a tank top and an unlined cotton hoodie. First stop will have to be a clothing store. It's hideous that i will have to spend a fortune on winter gear that i will only wear for 10 days. If anyone has an innovative solution for keeping me warm that will also be useful in a city where the daytime temperature rarely drops below 20, that would be awesome.
Ugh, right now i don't want to worry about it. I am tired. I am always tired. I think it's because i rarely sleep longer than 5-6 hours, even when i don't have anywhere to be in the morning. I wonder why that is? Eh. Don't care. I'm getting drunk. I ate BBQ for dinner - green beans and chilis and tofu. I also have a bag of horse beans and some of those giant-sized rice crackers. And beer. Merry New Year and stuff.