Yesterday was the 26th anniversary of Tiananmen, which got me thinking about other June anniversaries. None of my weddings took place in June (I had two with the first marriage and one with the second), but this month does mark 21 years since I moved back to Hong Kong.
This photo shows me at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, bidding my parents farewell at security. Way before 911, security was still pretty laid back in 1994 but there was a certain point in the international terminal that only allowed ticket holders.
I couldn’t fly non-stop to Hong Kong back then, so took a direct flight to Seoul, where I switched to another KAL plane that brought me to Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport.
On that Seoul-Hong Kong leg, I sat next to a young American guy and casually asked if he was going beyond Hong Kong.
“Nope, just to Hong Kong. I used to live there and am visiting some friends.”
“I used to live there, too!” What a coincidence. “And now I’m going to move there for good!” I could barely contain my excitement.
My seat mate studied me carefully. “So what are you going to do in Hong Kong?”
“Well, I applied to grad school, but if I don’t get in I’ll just look for a job.”
The corners of his mouth dropped. “Do you know it’s almost impossible to find a job there now if you aren’t a local? No one’s hiring expats with the Handover coming up.”
I looked over to the seat pocket in front of me, as if I would suddenly find the ideal job in there. My seat mate put on headphones and listed to his Walkman for the rest of the flight. As we descended into Kai Tai, I peered over him to the window and felt bittersweet as our plane flew dangerously close to a line of apartment buildings in densely populated Kowloon City.
Had I just made the biggest mistake of my life? Was I wrong to quit a good job in Washington, DC, store my few belongings in my parents’ Chicago basement, and move to Hong Kong with nothing but a travel visa, one suitcase, and two carry-ons?
Looking back now, I’m relieved I took that chance. Moving to Hong Kong was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, despite how things turned out after that.