At 4 a.m. the shops start to re-open, including the currency exchange, which I switch all my money in the world into HK dollars in whilst also getting an international phone card so that I can call home when I land
. The guy serving is great, and after what felt like hours of painful explanations of my job role, I admit defeat and say I’m a fashion designer… easy way out. I go back downstairs expecting my check-in desk to be up, alas, I’m not even exaggerating here, EVERY flight on the board has it’s desk and check in flashing, bar mine! 40 minutes later it comes up and it’s the usual mad dash to get in line. As I’m travelling alone, I get moved to the premium check in, don’t ask why - someone’s looking after me. I somehow get to chose a window seat at the front as I’m in here too! So, I sit in comfort whilst I fill out all my forms. My bag is, 20KG! Yessss, phase one complete. Next to security. No weighing on the way in but my contingency plan is taking my laptop and liquids out as they’re what sends it over. Through security and I get pulled to the side after the scanner, I actually thought I’d had it. Mentally choosing between my beloved ghd’s and clothes… but, just a random search. So after the security guard has ruined the fen sui of my bag so that it no longer closes, it’s duty free time! I’ve never taken advantage of it before, but as I’m seeing Michele tonight it would be nice to have a couple of drinks and a catch up. All the offers are great, £30 for 2 x 1litre bottles of spirits. But, HK has a rule of one. So I can’t take advantage of the offers - but see a bottle of Absolute vodka ‘Mandarin’ flavour
. I think I’m getting silly with omens and signs, but it’ll be tasty I’m sure. The guy who serves me is Chinese and comments on how happy I am, and when I tell him where I’m going to he shakes my hand and welcomes me to HK! I haven’t even left the country yet! So, I have an hour now. I can’t see any coffee shops, but it’s probably for the best if I lay off now and try to mellow out before the flight. Helen called before. So nice to speak to her, and hear Dyl in the background! Not sure when I’ll get a chance to speak with them again, bearing in mind travel and settling. I love the departure lounge. No stresses of security or checking in bags, everyone seems so happy. The constant announcements of ‘Mr.X… please board your flight, the aircraft and other passengers are waiting for you…’ are pretty amusing. Especially when the announcements increase, the ‘YOU’s’ get even more brutal sounding! We’re leaving from gate 8... Okay, so one more omen. I wonder if that’s intentional? Probably. In the departure lounge, I get the first glimpses of the aircraft. I love seeing them, it’s a little odd to see the outside of an aircraft somehow. A couple opposite are giggling at me taking photos… I can make out ‘English’ and ‘Girl’ in Mandarin… it’s quite bad but at least I can understand some! It’s about 6:30 a.m. now and we are greeted by dawn whilst we wait for the plane to start boarding
. The sun is emerging from behind the runway, so we get a beautiful view. A bright white horizontal strip, then Pink, Purple and blue… with Monet-style vanilla sky clouds. The weather has just been too perfect, it’s as if NZ doesn’t want me to be left with a bad impression. That would be hard. I’ve totally fallen in love with this country and it’s people. Everyone’s so friendly, and it’s taken 6weeks, but I’m even comfortable with chatting to total strangers now! I was a bit suspicious at first, but I think that’s in the nature of a Brit. We board, this is my time to shine as the seat numbers are called out in Chinese first… slight fail when I miss hear 5... But correct second time round so I‘m up quickly with the Chinese speakers! The plane is okay. Nothing in comparison to Singapore airlines, but that was exceptional. I’m sat next to a Chinese guy. It’s funny, I keep speaking Mandarin, and he English! I’m a little confused about the flight time now. I thought it was 12 hours… but set off was about 8ish , it’s 11a.m. now with 8 hours to go… okay, so 11. Blimey I’m glad I’m starting work on Monday, all this travel and lack of regular brain-ercise is making me simple! Okay, so fun flight facts, I am flying 5,703m/ 9178km AUK-HK. We are currently flying at an altitude of 34,000 feet over the Coral sea directly above Brisbane. I’m still amazed at the size of Aussie. It takes so long to cross, and go around
! There may be a little adventure there someday. I’m going to get a bit of a sleep before we land… tried to watch ‘Remember me’… and despite this being the least productive and worthy of my time, that is 15minutes I’ll never get back. We are now 4 hours from our destination, flying over the Philipine sea. It’s quite annoying, a day time flight, but we have to keep the shutters down? Due to glare? It’s quite bright. But I was hoping to see some land! I raise the shutter every now and again, being the rebel that I am, to get a photo. The Philippine sea is, just that. I’m not sure if I can see tiny, tiny islands… or the shadows of the clouds on the water. It’s very nice out there, the clouds look like unseasoned popcorn. Wow, I’ve just realised I’m in the East! Watching the flight path over the Tasman and Australia took a lifetime, but we seem to be picking up again now and going a bit more ‘as the crow flies’. I’ve probably had about an hour’s sleep, but I’m a little too excited to sleep. I’ll probably just get an earlyish night tonight. I’m so excited to see Michele later. Saying goodbye’s hasn’t really sunk in as I keep making more ‘landmark-meetings’ with people. It‘s always easier if you have things to look forward to. Maybe on Monday night, when it’s just me it will kick in. Oh I can’t wait to see China. The culture shock of going from NZ to HK is worrying me a little, but I think it’s great I’ve got Michele with me, we’ll be shocked together! Oh! The guy next to me picked up on my petty-Mandarin, I think I was speaking too quietly before, so we had a little chat. He’s from Kowloon. The airhostess keeps talking English to me, she’s not playing ball at all. Flying Into HK waters now and over Manilla… the view should be incredible, but we’re stuck in a huge white cloud and the suns’s so bright it’s difficult to look out
! 51minutes to go. So, we land. I bid farewell to my new friend and exit the plane. There are, several, stressful moments of which direction to go in through the poorly sign-posted airport, especially after the trail ending at a train??? The train leads to a larger, much scarier building… I finally find customs, and get through… which is reassuring. After that the terminal opens out into, hmmm, about the length of forty football pitches. It’s scary. So glad I’m landing in HK airport. The bilingual signs are reassuring. After a 30minute wait, I get my bag and make my way to meet the driver. This is my rockstar moment, he’s waiting for me, but with the company name, not mine… not so rockstar. Mr.Chun is great, and calls the general manager's assistant and she wants to speak to me. She tells me that he has my HK phone in the car, and will take me to the apartment. Also she tells me that because the head designer, he's heading out to Paris tomorrow, he wants to meet me for dinner tonight. Not overly convenient as I’m so tired, and feeling gross from travel, but it would be nice to meet the guy I’ve been e-mailing for the last 6months. We exit the airport, and hit a WALL of humidity. It was like that feeling of not being able to breathe you get in a sauna… Sooooo, this is the next 6 months of my life! Hair like a bush. Mr.Chun tells me that the recent Typhoon activity in the Philipine sea has increased the humidity to about one million percent in the last few days. Yup, slight exaggeration, but seriously?! Apparently it was hotter yesterday… silver lining. En route to the apartment, I set up my HK phone and send a couple of texts home. En route, we pick up a girl from the company. She gives me an envelope from work with some tourist plans and the address of my apartment written in Chinese, just in case! Very good plan. Later down the road, we pick up a lady, a boy and girl complete with shopping bags… at this stage I’m tired, confused and have no idea about what is being said. I’m starting to feel more like a fish out of water than I thought possible, and that this is an incredibly bad idea. It’s bad. I can’t lie. I keep getting that default function of laughing when the others do, but swiftly realising that I haven’t a clue what has been said! We pull up at a large building in Tseun Wan. All depart bar the driver, and we make our way through the enormous entrance lobby. Up to the 31st floor and into a one bedroom apartment, unfortunately during development… so, no seating area really. A large storage space for what I can only assume is boxes of paperwork or swimwear? The floor is completely covered with protective plastic sheeting, leading to an enormous window which I’m immediately drawn to…. Considering this was the 31st floor, this was the reason to my initial faux pas… I went to the window to look down, then on return, I'm told I should probably remove my shoes in future. Damn it. I knew that one! I’m so embarrassed! So, faux pas aside, the cleaner - yup I know who she is now - has exclaimed in Chinese that I look like her daughter and she would like a photo with me! Ahhhh, not my best really. After the worst photoshoot of my life, we discover that the hob Isn’t working. Rubbish. The microwave is, and I politely reassure them that I can cope. We go back downstairs and I say goodbye to the girl, boy and cleaner. I'm taken for a quick tour of the local area, to ‘7-11’s’ which aren’t actually 7-11’s as they’re open 24hours!!!! Ah, this tour is just all so awfully painful. It’s horrible to say, but I’m so tired that everything feels same-y and close-by. We eventually come across the panda hotel which Michele is staying at! I ask she'd mind me picking her up. So we call into the lobby of the Panda hotel. It is so, so nice to see Michele. All my stresses from the airport ride vanish. It’s so crazy that she’s here. The fashion show she is exhibiting in was supposed to be on Saturday, but was changed to Tuesday last minute. This does mean I won’t be able to go and see it, which is a shame, however, her stay in HK completely coincides with mine! It’s funny how things work out sometimes. She’s been really sick for the past 24hours, a combo of jet lag and stress we think. So we're taken back to the apartment and we settle in. I don’t have long before the head designer takes me out for dinner, so quickly get a shower and change. Meeting people that you have only ever spoken to via e-mail is always strange. He’s allot younger than I had thought, and has a Canadian accent! We wander around the local area to find somewhere to eat, and settle on sushi. It’s very big in HK. I’m flummoxed by the menu, so he orders 8 plates to share complete with green tea. For the next 40 minutes, I’m grilled about my degree, work experience, plans for the future and expectations of the next 6months. I wasn’t really prepared for this, and the one hour sleep complete with 11hour flight mean I totally fluff it. I’m already picturing them deporting me… but somehow manage to bring it out of the bag and rectify his confidence that hiring me hasn’t been a mistake! He tells me about the team I’ll be working in, mainly Product development. But says there is scope to work in the other departments too, namely design and pattern cutting. He says that having someone like me in the factory will be quite interesting for the company, as all the workers are specialists, and so don’t have a broad education in all the aspects of garment manufacture. It sounds so good. He shows me a slideshow of the offices, there’s a further 2 on the one I will be working at. They are massive! He also shows me a floor plan of where I’ll be staying and says who I’ll be living with. There’s 2/3 of the residents with very good English, so that’s a bit reassuring. On the language front, they’re entirely Cantonese… so I’m in trouble. All of the technical meetings are conducted in Cantonese, so this is quite worrying for me. He suggests that taking lessons wouldn’t really help me as the language I’ll need to use day to day will be specifically relating to work and garment manufacture. During this dinner, I somehow manage to get myself signed up to teach English 2nights a week to some of the Northern girls, who speak Mandarin. This could be beneficial for me also, so it’s not a bad thing. After dinner, he takes me to a local supermarket for breakfast supplies and I get back to the apartment and Michele. We have a couple of drinks and sort the beds out. It’s been such an epic day, but our plan for tomorrow is even more so!
So, this blog is starting from midnight NZ time. I have been at the airport for 5 hours now, check in isn’t for another 5, boarding isn’t for 7 and the flight 7.5... It’s okay though, there are some really interesting people at the airport that I get chatting to. My now affectionately named ‘Travellers bipolar’ is no annoying though. One minute I’m stressing about what I’m doing and feeling sick to my stomach, the next so elated and happy I could trolley skate the length of the terminal… I didn’t though! I feel like the luckiest person alive. Every time I see ‘Hong Kong’ on the departure board, I can’t believe that this is actually happening, to me!