When I started nearly three years ago, never in a million years would I have thought that this is where I would be, this is how things would turn out, and this is what I would become.
Things have been immensely overwhelming this past month and as much as I would love to pretend I am ok, I am barely holding it together.
Where do I start?
Well, how about I start with Cathay Dragon shutting down overnight. A 35 year old company with an outstanding record of service, and nearly 6000 staff all made redundant overnight. The kicker was that many of them found out they would be jobless from the press leak the day before! Once they got the company emails telling them that they were out of a job, they were sent a QR code for them to courier their uniforms, lapels, pins, belt, you name it, all back to Cathay City.
14 years of service, many of those as a Captain, and just like that, my husband was out of a job and we were left with the scramble of a logistical nightmare that is ending a life lived in Hong Kong.
We are lucky, as a family, we made the switch to a minimalist lifestyle quite some time ago, so we have no furniture to ship, only personal belongings, our beds, sofa and dining table we will likely leave for the next tenant if they want them, if not, we will just have to send them to the tip.
Anything else of value, we have either sold are in the process of selling.
We gave the school notice and our kids will cease going to school by the end of the month, the same time that we hope to be able to hop a plane and make the move back to The Netherlands.
The shop will continue, the team is staying put, and they are the most dependable team I have ever had the luxury to train, share ideas with, learn from and work with, so I know they will be fine until I can return to Hong Kong alone to ensure a smooth transition when we either return the key to the landlord or we find someone to take over our license & lease. That date comes by the end of March 2021. At this stage it feels like a lifetime away, but 2020 has passed by in the blink of a lazy eye and I know that March will be upon us before I have a second to practice gratitude or to continue feeling sorry for myself.
The same day my husband found out he was out of a job, October 21st, a day that nearly 6000 people will remember forever, is also the day I received a message from my mother telling me my fathers PSA numbers were high for the second time in 6 months and that they needed to get an appointment with a specialist to confirm whether or not my father had Prostate cancer.
Yeah, that was NOT a good day for my family.
I cried...a lot.
I was scared, helpless, just...I felt useless. I had no means to get back to India to be with my 70+ year old parents and I had no way to help my husband feel better about the very real prospect that the aviation industry is unlikely to recover for another four years at least, by which time it would be a miracle if he can get a job flying planes again!
My husband has wanted to be a pilot since he was four years old.
You know how many people dream a dream and actually make it reality? From four years old!
Now at 46, I have to watch his heart break...
And it breaks my heart. It just breaks my already broken heart. It hurts so much, I don't even know how to make the pain go away.
So here I am, trying to pick up the pieces, put it in boxes, to cargo what is left of us, and to top it all off, I got diagnosed with Ménière's disease! Like, seriously, double wtf with a side of fries, please! I would like a rare disease that has no cure and may possibly be managed by avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and SALT!
Seriously, no soy sauce, Lis, no frikken soy sauce for an Indian Japanese Vegan Chef who cannot survive on a diet of "eat high protein, eat meat, meat, more meat, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruit"
Yeah, sure, like I can manage that and it won't depress the crap out of me!
Man, I could do with a drink right now!
I can't though...coz I know what will follow...loss of hearing, pressure in my left ear, vertigo, nausea, dizziness...and much as I would love to say, "just this once won't hurt", I have felt the pain, I have felt the almost instant pressure in my ear, the loss of hearing...and the nausea that is constant like the last dregs of a bad hangover...oh, and don't forget the fatigue, its like being pregnant without the joy of expecting!
I know, I am trying to be cheerful about this, but add a scheduled contrast MRI coming up this Monday to ensure its not a brain tumor I am contending with and you get the icing on that cake with, "Oh yeah, I forgot, look Ma, no insurance!!!"
Yeah, we had insurance with Cathay Dragon...and just like that...we don't. Ain't that how it always goes? You have brilliant to semi brilliant health, all the while that you have insurance, then once its gone you get diagnosed with a rare disease, your blood pressure scoots you into the "borderline hypertension" category, and you have to pay for a stupidly expensive MRI just to make sure you don't have a brain tumor which, holy crap, lets hope I don't! Pfft.
The silver lining in all of this is that we finally got news last week that my father has been confirmed by a specialist who shoved him into an MRI as well to be cancer free. Praise the forces of good!
We are doing our best, as a family, to be grateful for what we have and not dwelling on everything that is lost. Still...there are moments that I stop during my work and just begin to cry, not ugly sobbing, although I do have a lot of those moments too, but tears just begin to roll down my cheeks and I can't stop them. Its important to cry, I know this...just let it out, right? Besides, when you can't stop it, what choice do you have but to just go with the flow!
Our kids are just looking forward to no more school and making the monumental shift to home schooling. Yeah, I bet they are! Lol. Little do they know that this tag teaming duo of Mom and Dad are gonna be busting their asses to make sure they are ahead of the curve. Its going to be a whole new world for them...and for us.
People keep asking me, "so what are you guys gonna do?"
Well, what can you do when the primary breadwinner has no future job prospects in his field? Well, you adapt or die.
The restaurant may be seeing daily diners but we are nowhere near returning to pre-covid, pre-protest numbers. We are running on fumes. The team has been whittled down to bare bones staff and I can see that the fatigue has begun to set in for all of us. It starts with feeling run down, it continues with poor sleep patterns, and then all we need is one person to get sick from being immunocompromised and its game over for the rest of the team.
That is where we are right now.
One person finally got ill, and that means I have to step up my effort a bit more, that means other team mates have to cut short their days off and wait till we have a replacement, and all the while my heart breaks for my team even though all I want to do is close my eyes for a short break and forget about the immense stress we are all under, but more importantly, my own personal stress.
Damn. This year has been a hell of a year, eh?
To think we said, "Happy New Year" back when this year started! Pshhh, thanks for the punch in the face is what we should have said!
Nah, it will get better. I mean, maybe I have said it before, like...if you are at rock bottom, the only way to go is up and all that jazz...
Sometimes the worst stuff happens to you as a means to teach you how strong you are and how capable you are of keeping your shit together and lifting others up while you lift yourself out of the mosh pit of self-pity!
I have been fortunate this year in many ways. I have been able to make new friends, build lasting bonds, my husband and I have weathered the ultimate perfect (shit)storm and we have come out of the other side still holding our heads high. We have each other, we have a lot of people who have reached out to just share a kind word of encouragement or simply to quietly say they are sorry we are where we are but that they believe if anyone can survive it, it would be us...its a vote of confidence in our resilience, I guess, and I will take what I can get, coz I need to know we got this.
I need to know we can do this, not for us, but for my team, and for my kids.
How we deal with this will teach our children how to cope with extreme circumstances and to come out on top no matter how that looks. We don't need much money, as long as we can manage to home school our kids, earn a living through creativity and we do our part to live a sustainable life that is kind to the environment, the animals and to our bodies, we will be fine.
So whats the plan?
Well, we sell all our stuff, we buy a second hand yacht, we shove all our stuff and our kids in said yacht, and we spend the next decade making videos about sustainability, about living on the ocean, about the changing environment, about cooking with local produce from every stop we make on land...and about teaching our children about the world they live in, first hand and not from a book.
Are we any good at making videos? Not yet, but we will figure it out. Have we done any ocean crossings? Not yet, but we will figure it out. If there is anything we have on our side, its time. The world has slowed to a standstill thanks to Covid19. People have had to improvise, do a 180 degree turn in life, reassess their priorities, and we are not the first nor the last family to be dealt the hand we have. We will survive.
As for Confusion...
Yeah, I burst into tears from time to time about Confusion too...
Go big or go home...or just go quietly into the night...and say that it was good while it lasted, we did our best, we gave it our best shot...
Maybe one day we can open one in another country, but Hong Kong is no longer our home.
I grew up here. I went to school here. My children are all born here.
After 30 years, I am finally leaving and it feels surreal, if feels like nothing, it feels like I won't realize I have left for good until I simply realize I won't return. How many times have I taken a plane out of Hong Kong? I have always returned. Lived in America for four years, I still returned every year. Lived in Japan for two years, always returned, nearly every month!
So yeah, it is a bit surreal...that this time...there is no coming back. There is no reason to come back. My parents left here so many years ago. My brother left here so many years ago...and now...its my turn.
Now its our turn.
My oldest son is still at HKU...he has another year to go, so he will stay to complete his Undergrad and then he is planning on going straight into a Masters program. I don't think either of us has really registered that we may not see each other for a few years. 22 years in his life...and then who knows when I will see him again, I hope its not too long.
He's grown into a fine young man. I am so very proud of him. Working with me for nearly three years, I have seen him go from a clueless, entitled little teenager to a man with a fully developed prefrontal cortex, someone I can actually have deep and meaningful conversations with without calling him an idiot, lol. I am going to miss my boy, but I also know I can be confident he can manage just fine without me. He knows he is loved, deeply, and always will be, and he can always come sail the oceans with us when he wishes to take some time off from the real world.
The plan is to pick up this sailing vessel in Sweden come the end of winter in Sweden. We will then either sail it via Denmark and through to Holland, so as to avoid the possible rough North Sea, or we just brave it and sail the North Sea down to the coast of Holland, that plan has yet to be decided. From there we spend a few months altering the boat to install a water-maker, a desalination set up, put in more solar panels so we can comfortably run on solar for all our needs, and also to get lithium batteries so we could even run more energy taxing items on the solar without having to use fossil fuels to run the generator.
Once that is all done we will cast off and sail to the Mediterranean.
My husband says we can spend a year or two there to get our sea legs and once we are confident that we can handle ourselves as a team, we will make the ocean crossing towards the Caribbean Sea. What do they have there? Saint Kitts, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Antigua, The Bahamas....Cuba...shit, I don't know, its like all make believe for me right now because its about as real as dealing with the fact I have lived in Hong Kong for 30 years and may never return!
This all sounds so awesome and all, but deep down, I am scared shitless!
I am scared I won't be good enough. I am scared I don't know how to sail. I am scared for my health. I am scared for the safety and welfare of my kids. I am scared about money. I am scared about the oceans turning on us. I am scared of so many things that I don't even know I am meant to be scared of.
All I have is a very recent Ocean Survival course that I took with the RYA, so basically I know how to bust out the life raft and how not to abandon ship unless I absolutely have to. I know that if we were to abandon ship and end up in a life raft, don't eat a thing for 24 hours! I also took an Ocean First Aid Course....also very fresh in my memory, and I know now how I can set a broken leg or arm, I know how to clean a wound, I know how to do CPR and what brand of shock emitting thingy I may need to buy and how to administer it to jump start someones heart!
You can imagine, all that knowledge did not make me feel better whatsoever! I hope I never have to deal with a lion fish spike or one of those funky small blue dotted octopuses poisoning me or my family! I am just scared to death about the future and yet...I know I was built for this. My family is ready for this, ready as we will ever be, I mean, what else would we do? Sit in Holland, send our kids to local school while my husband works in construction and I work in a restaurant busting our asses, paying high taxes and doing the same old thing everyday?
I am not built for that, we aren't built for that.
So for better or worse, Fear can hop in the back seat with us and as long as he stays silent, he will be with us for the whole journey. The future is wide open...literally!
So I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the last three years. I want to say thank you to my team. I want to thank my business partner for taking a chance on me. I want to thank everyone who continues to come and eat our food and to support us in any way they can. We will remain open until early next year, March at the latest if all goes to plan, so if you are wondering how much longer you can still dine with us, you still got time!
I will try and post again once my MRI results come out, lets hope we have some good news. I am as optimistic as I can be right now.
So thank you, for being along for the ride, and thank you for hearing me out.
With kindness and heartfelt gratitude.
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.