Its been a year to the month, since I was turned away from my flight to China from Hong Kong. As shocked as I was to wake up early after a night of partying on Lan Kwai Fong, one of Hong Kong’s notorious party alleys covered from head to toe in hookah lounges and open-air bars.
There’s something almost euphoric about being too tired to give a damn. The agent explained to me that the visa I had for China wasn’t a temporary residency and in fact didn’t allow me to reenter the country, only stay in?
As sulked away and proceeded to chew out my new HR manager in the best way my translator would allow, I quickly searched for a hotel near the one I had stayed at in the Sheung Wan district.
The next 4 days were filled with a myriad of tears, the kind you get when you’re over adulting, 3 failed attempts at a youtube video, dumplings with a favorite I met via Instagram and me pretending to be El Chapo and jumping the border.
On an extremely brighter note, the expat community in Shanghai is super supportive and I wasn’t the only one who had been stuck in such a situation. Also most people if not everyone speaks English in Hong Kong as well as Cantonese and Mandarin . I was able to put together documents for a rush visa and was told it would take two days. The gag was I wouldn’t be able to fly, I’d have to cross the border via land. Like come again??
That evening, I actually took some time to scroll through social media and relax because hey! Life happens! Audra who I spoke to a lot on instagram invited me to one of her favorite Dim Sum restaurant the next day and I was so excited to have a friend!
It was that kind of excitement that brought you back to memories of yourself sitting at a lunch room table alone and being thrilled when a kind soul sat across from you.
*cues tiny violin
We automatically clicked as if we’d been friends for ages talking about our trips to Africa, family and all the abysmal men we seemed to attract wherever we went. This Dim Sum spot was located on Holly Wood rd. and had a lunch special of endless Dim Sum, which I surprisingly had never had up until that point.
The next day I woke up pretty lively with a new sense of contentment in my bones. I headed to the metro to make my trek across the city where I would be reunited with my passport and a temporary (and fairly expensive) visa for China. I’m optimistic about the new plans and ready to book a direct flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai for the next day.
In the words of Robert Frost “nothing gold can last”. I was told that, due to the temporary visa and the location in which its be obtained, I would not be able to fly out of Hong Kong.
Instead I would have to go to the border of Hong Kong and China, nearly two hours by train, have my passport stamped, then catch a car to the airport in Shenzhen, China. From there, I would take a late night flight to Shanghai.
A four day weekend trip to Hong Kong, had stretched into eight for me. It was by far the most unexpected and anxiety inducing event i had to deal with. Never did I think I would have found myself in a foreign country, separated from all my material things and friends and just having to figure it out myself, but I did.
I checked out of my hotel, the Travel Lodge hotel on Hollywood rd, around 9am and began my two hour trip to the border. The train wasn’t busy so I kept my senses busy by watching the facial expressions of those who had noticed Donald Trump on the t.v screen that was playing the local news.
“Damn” I thought, Donal was really out here making his rounds. Most people around me had no reaction and since I couldn’t understand nor read cantonese, luckily it didn’t hold my attention long. Instead I watched as the looming skyscrapers were reduced to greenery and breathtaking mountains as the train neared the border.
Finally, I had arrived at the border town of Lo Wu to be met with a nearly three hour wait to finalize my visa. the wait room was full and I was number 39…
I knew I had neared the Chinese border due to the lack of English. I had sat for nearly fifteen minutes before I was informed that I had to take a picture at the kiosk machine outside. After falling asleep next to a kind grandmother who tapped me when she noticed my number was being called (probably for the fourth time), I finally received my visa in all of three minutes and made my way to the border.
I passed by school children on a daily, routine cross over the border from china to Hong Kong for better school, no older than 7 and 8.
Finally, nearing the finish line of my journey, it was too late for me to save some money and catch the train so I bargained a price for a taxi and was abashed with (Ohhhhhh, wow you speak Chinese) by the unsuspecting taxi driver which ultimately saved me 150 RMB on my trip to the airport.
By 8pm, I had sat down on my flight and slept the entire way back to Shanghai, safe and sound.