“don’t you love cities at night?” a friend said to me, visually overcome, as we drove into salt lake city a few years ago. growing up near chicago, i was used to seeing rows upon rows of skyscraper windows glowing like stars in the sky, but it wasn’t until that moment that i really understood just how beautiful these collection of human creations could be.
now take that experience and multiply it by a thousand.
as i flew into hong kong last week, my comprehension of “city” was shattered. in the dust of its dissipation, i pressed my face against the taxi window and strained my neck as i gazed up in pure amazement. column after column flickering in a sea of structure. surrounded and intertwined with the green giants standing tall in the distance.
what was this place?
i was only supposed to be here for a few days. arrive sunday night, leave thursday morning. just enough time to secure a visa to mainland china. a brief stopover on the way to yangshuo, a popular china climbing destination. it was not meant to be a city trip. it was meant to be a climbing trip.
but if this week has taught me anything, it’s that things don’t always go as planned.
on monday, i filled out my application for a ten year multiple entry tourist visa to china. i wrote down my name. i wrote down my address. where it said occupation, i checked the box for “self-employed.” where it said company name, i wrote down “saradipity media.” i filled out everything effortlessly and honestly.
that night as i returned to the hotel, i was handed a message. the visa office needed me to contact them as there had been a problem with my application. my heart sunk deep into my stomach, and i instantly knew what i had done.
prior to traveling to mainland china, i had done a lot of research. running your own online-based marketing company from a country that bans the use of facebook and other such websites, requires a bit of pre-planning. i had surveyed all my chinese connections and read every article regarding the “great firewall of china.” i was all set to get around the communist control of the internet.
and then i let my guard down.
i was in this city. this chinese city. this magnificent chinese city where i could still check my gmail and facebook and wordpress. surely all would be well and good.
“sensitive” is what they deemed me. when i asked the travel agent why my visa application was rejected, she pointed to the word “media” and informed me that that was the only reason.
one. fucking. word.
our brains tend to slip into what we know. we forget that words have different meanings and connotations for every individual. what means one thing to me, means another to you. i have never been the best at picking the right words. at consciously choosing the appropriate syllables for the occasion. but this is an instance where i really wish i was.
a month long climbing trip foiled by one word. a puzzle piece of my travel itinerary lost forever under the couch. after deciding that ryan would still head to yangshuo and meet back up with me in america in mid-december like we had originally planned, i was left in my least favorite place…the land of choices, conveniently located near the land of questions.
did i go home? where was home? portland? chicago? should i leave tomorrow? stay in hong kong? visit family? visit friends? see a new place?
it’s been the first time in a long time where i’ve needed to make a decision purely involving me. what did i want to do? where did i want to go?
well, to start with, i wanted to be present in hong kong. i wanted to learn how to say thank you in cantonese and not just mandarin. i wanted to haggle over some jade jewelry.
i wanted to stare down from victoria peak at this beast of a city.
i wanted to experience the ponies.
i wanted to get lost wandering its busy sidewalks.
and i wanted to eat all the steamed buns i could find.
so i did.