I am actually going to miss Hong Kong.
I didn't think I would, well, because I have already moved, in my heart, to Holland. My family is there now. My husband, my two younger sons, and although I spent most of my adult life and part of my childhood here in Hong Kong, it was a relief when we moved.
Now that I am back in Hong Kong, for the sole purpose of closing down our operations here, for closing down Confusion...it feels a bit surreal to me.
I know this time when I leave the airport, it may be the last time I see it. Sure, people say, "never say never" but those are the wistful dreamers. I know, with greater certainty, that this time will likely be my last. This time will be the last time that I see Hong Kong the way I see it now, with these eyes, with this perspective, not rose tinted from years of beautiful memories, but from a lens painted with fading memories, happiness, great sorrow, patience, grief, watching my children come into the world here and seeing them grow into men here.
I am actually going to miss Hong Kong.
You know what triggered this thought? The flower guy.
Yeah, for the past three years, I have been nipping down to the local market to pick up last minute odds and ends that we either forgot to order from the suppliers who deliver daily, or to pick up hard to source ingredients, and especially for the past two years, after the protests kicked off and made us tighten our belts, sourcing fresh daily, regardless of how heavy my bags got, became a mission in itself.
Saving money, cutting down on excess, cutting back on food wastage, it became so important and buying tofu by the tray was no longer an option, so I would visit "The Tofu Lady" daily. She sold me beansprouts, every kind of tofu, tofu puffs, and I think...well, more tofu stuff. I don't know her name, she doesn't know mine, but we speak in Cantonese with each other and we get the days Tofu done.
On my way to this old lady daily, I pass "The Flower Guy". Well, there are three of them, really, not sure if they even work together, I think they are family, but I am not sure. Each day when I pass them, I smile, I say "Joh Sun" and I go on my merry way. Not once have I actually bought anything from them...ok, maybe once! I bought a stalk of eucalyptus once I discovered that my trusty sidekick Peter loves eucalyptus...I bought it because Peter can be such an Eeyore sometimes, like a total Debbie Downer, as if the sun rose and shone on everyone but him, so yeah, I bought that stalk of eucalyptus that one time.
Peter noticed. He smelled it before he saw it. It actually put a smile on his face for a change!
Anyway, back to "The Flower Guy". Today I went to the market for what could be the first time in nearly 3 months. As I bought my tofu, the tofu lady was nice and chatty, but she is old, and likely maybe she was happy to see me, but not sure how long it had been since I had seen her. As I walked away from her shop, I saw the gentleman who runs the flower shop, he looked at me, his eyes lit up with surprise, his eyebrows raised and well, you know, we are all wearing masks these days, so for what I could gauge from his facial expression, he seemed genuinely happy to see me.
"Long time!" he said. "I didn't see you for long time!"
"Ah, yes, I moved with my family to Holland after my husband lost his job," I replied, as I smiled my biggest smile for his acknowledgement of my existence. I felt my heart literally swell!
"Holland???" he exclaimed.
"Yes, Holland!" (The land where all the flowers come from, I thought to myself.)
"But you come back! What about your shop?"
"That's why I am back, to close my shop!"
"You close your business?"
"Yes, this month."
"Yes!" by this point I am smiling with my eyes, I am literally smiling sunshine at this flower guy!
"Oh, no!" he exclaimed, "so next month you not here?"
"No," I replied, "I will go back to Holland, I will leave Hong Kong..."
"You leave Hong Kong for good? Oh, no, that is so sad!" he said, genuinely looking like he will miss me, and then he added, "I am going to miss you!"
I reached my hand out, touched his shoulder and I shared my love and appreciation the way only someone like me would, I looked him in the eyes, both of us peeking out from behind our masks, and I said with all the love in my heart, "I am going to miss you too! And don't worry, we have one more week of seeing each other before I close! So I promise to stop by and say hello!"
As he went back to busying himself with the flowers he was arranging, I walked away and I felt this little flutter in my belly...yeah, man...I am actually going to miss Hong Kong.
I am going to miss the people.
I am going to miss the old Sui Mei guy who has a stall parked close to the exit of the market. He'd see me daily, laden down with so much greens and tofu and each time he'd point to his Sui Mei (Roasted items like goose, chicken, pork and duck) and he would joke about me buying some, and I would laugh back at him, hold up my heavy bags for him to inspect and I would assure him, "Only Chooooooyyyyyyy" (in my shitty Cantonese which I hope explained I only eat veggies and not animals!)
We would do this dance nearly daily, he'd point at the roasted animals hanging in his stall and wink with a laugh, and I would shake my head and show him a tub of tofu I was heaving around with great haste.
I am going to miss the people. I am going to miss everyone I have connected with through this place we call Confusion. The number of people who I have seen come for our food from Day 01 and who still come, the number who still pop by wondering how new we are and discover that we will be closing, I am going to miss all of it.
I am going to miss my team. I am going to miss being able to pick on Peter daily, asking him to name the three things he is grateful for only to hear him reply, "Nothing! I don't have anything!" I am going to miss hugging him as he leans in, unsure of how to really hug because he never grew up with hugs, but still so sure he wants a hug.
I am going to miss my son, who always comes in for hugs, even when I am in a shit mood and not a hug-it-out place. I am going to miss him so much, and yet, I know he is in a good place. He has found love, he has a wonderful girlfriend who has a wonderful brother and a loving, fierce mother whom I had the good fortune to break bread with this trip. I am just so proud of my son. He has grown into such a confident, sharp witted, handsome young man, and I am so grateful he has such loyal, kind and nurturing friends around him, so I am not worried about him in the slightest.
I am going to miss Anh, her patience, her infectious laughter and her capacity for loving kindness that transcends any bad day. I am going to miss her tiny frame working diligently in a corner, I couldn't have asked for a better human being to be introduced to us nearly two years ago. She has been the peace and calm our kitchen desperately needed when she first arrived, green as she was, to rise to become the manager of the back kitchen!
I am going to miss Swati, who still reminds me how crazy I was to hire someone after posting an ad on Hong Kong Mums facebook group! She said I didn't even ask her if she could cook! I just asked when she could start! Lol. Swati has been the one person who has heard me out through everything. Our first few months may have been her watching me, seeing how I really operate, probably even questioning her sanity on staying in this job, but she has stuck with me through and through, and she has gone from this quiet woman who I barely knew to this fiercely loyal, take-no-shit Boss lady that she is so ready to be one day. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her, who knows, maybe even taking up the mantle of Confusion once more, a year or two down the road. I have faith in her ability to do the things I was too scared to do, to rule the way I didn't know I was capable of, and to build a team that will excel through all circumstances. I know she can, I have unerring faith in her ability. We essentially grew into our roles together, no one knows what I have built here more than her, and no one has more faith in what I built, than her.
I am going to miss Maggie, well, Maggie has already moved on to another job, and I have to admit I am so grateful she stayed until the point that she did, because it afforded me the time to get a lot of administrative work done before being tethered to the shop for operations. Maggie was always quiet and cheerful, a shy type, sometimes you'd see this dark cloud following her and you knew to stay away, and other times you knew the smile that lit her face would make any rainy day a good one. I hope, more than anything, that everything she learned with us will carry her through the future. The importance of communication, the importance of teamwork and the love and respect that comes from supporting each other through good and bad. I have seen her grow from timid young girl to a confident young woman...I am truly proud to have had her on the team.
There are so many more people I would miss, of course, but Shan is moving to Holland as well! Not with me, but she is going there on a working holiday visa to be with her boyfriend, and I have met that dude, in Holland, and he's a good guy, so I am really happy for her. Oh, sure, she is anxious, she is unsure of the future, but I am always pushing her to be more positive. To focus on building a future for herself and Rob. To remember her family loves her and wants her to be happy. This is what I have tried to instill in all my Hong Kong Chinese staff. I have done everything I can to be their host parent, to hug them when they cried, to assure them when they were insecure, and to give them advise on speaking up with their families when they felt sidelined.
Each has actually learned a lot from my advise, none more than Shan. Shan has grown so much, has learned to go boldly into a future where she is making her own choices and willing to take a chance, something that is a difficult path for many local Chinese kids, many who still live with their parents well past their turning twenty.
So I am proud of her, I won't have a chance to miss her, she won't have a chance to miss me, because even if we live an hours drive away from each other, I will ensure I drive there to see her and I will make the most of our time in one country together before I leave Holland to sail the world with my family.
So you see...there is a lot about Hong Kong I will miss, and I am taking a part of it with me, in Shan, lol.
Peter wants to come sail with us one day, he said he is keen to join us when we finally cross an ocean, that will be two years down the line when we do the Med to St. Kits. So hey, he has time to get his acupuncture course out the way. The whole team knows they are welcome to join us, our 52 foot, 5 cabin boat will have more than enough space.
I just know, deep down, everyone is going to be ok.
And I am glad, I am happy as much as I am sad, but mostly, I am glad.
I am going to miss Hong Kong. After thirty years here, who wouldn't?
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.