My Year in Hong Kong: Work, New Flat & Friends, Questionable Racism and more..

Sorry for the delay in posting. I have been so busy rehearsing for a show that I am performing in this month in NYC. I will tell you more about the show in my next post so for now let me get back to the HK story…image

My mom had now left to go back to the states. I was officially on my own in Hong Kong. I started my new job with the Hong Kong Ballet, as a member of the Corp de Ballet. imageIncluding myself, I think there were about 12 new dancers. I was very nervous starting work. Everyone who knows me knows that I am initially very, very shy until I get to know a person and feel comfortable. Everyone appeared very nice and somewhat friendly. It started off well. Right away we started rehearsing the ballet Don Quixote, which would run at the end of August 2014. I was so excited to be cast in several roles and I felt like everything was going to be ok. I attended a welcome dinner at another company members home and I was trying to make friends and fit in. About 3 weeks after I moved to Hong Kong on Aug 2nd, I turned 20 years old. It was my birthday and another dancers birthday so several company members took us out to dinner and for drinks to celebrate. It was nice to have someone to celebrate my birthday with given I knew nobody in HK except for one friend who I went to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy with. She wasn’t there for long though because she was only home visiting her family. She danced in the USA at the time.

My beautiful friend & Bolshoi Alum Josephine
My beautiful friend & Bolshoi Alum Josephine

imageMy first month in HK was pretty much eat, sleep, and work. I would skype with my mom or text with friends. I went out a few times with my friend from the Bolshoi. My priority was to find a new place to live also. I had made a few friends on a social media app and they gave me some advice on finding a flat share by joining a few groups on social media, so I did. I had success right away. There was a room available in a fairly large, 3 bedroom apartment in a great location. It was a few steps from the MTR and in walking distance to work. It was a more local neighborhood in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon. It was ideal because I really wanted to experience HK local life. I was nervously excited because the two other roommates were girls I had hoped to connect with. One was from the USA and the other was from Russia and I thought we would get along given I lived in Russia for 2 years and speak some Russian. Finally, two girls my age that I might connect with here in HK. Not to stray away from the apartment topic however I have to say that I sometimes feel like someone was looking out for me from up above because at the time I was really sad and lonely.

imageWe had just finished Don Q, which I was so happy and proud to be a part of. I had thought I made a good impression with my cast mates but I guess I didn’t. After the final Don Q show with the HKB somebody had planned an end of show dinner/drinks event. I had no idea. I was leaving after the last show, so happy and ready to go home and talk to my mom or whomever. I was walking out of the building and ran into another company member. She said something like, hey are you coming tonight? Coming to what I said? She then went on to tell me briefly. I don’t remember my response. But I am sure it was something like… well I don’t know…but in my head I was thinking well no, since I wasn’t invited by the organizers. I was a little disappointed I wasn’t invited but what really hurt came later that night and the next day when pictures went up on FB and it appeared everyone was invited except me. Normally this wouldn’t bother me at all but I had nobody. I mean nobody and to see the other new dancers included just killed me. I had spoken to many people that day and thought I was making friends. Not one person mentioned it to me. I cried once again. I knew then that I had to take my mom’s advice and make friends outside of work.

So when I found the flat with the two girls from abroad I had really high hopes. I went to see it right away. The bedroom was small but the price was perfect. The other 2 bedrooms were a little bit larger so when someone moved out I could upgrade for a little more money if I wanted (which is what I did). It had a real kitchen, which I was happy about and it was furnished with a couch, dining table, big screen TV and wifi. I was a little nervous about meeting the landlord. The whole finding an apt. from a social media site seemed sketchy and honestly the whole apt. search in HK was very different from the American norm. In some cases you can move in the same day you find the apt. in HK. It is scary meeting a strange man but once I met him I felt fine. He was very nice and I didn’t get any sketchy vibes. I took the room. I couldn’t move in for a few weeks which, was perfect because I had to give notice in the current service apt. I was living in.

Lamma Island

 

 

 

During that month I just went to work, planned for my move and awaited my aunts arrival. She was coming to visit for 2 weeks. When my aunt finally arrived I was very happy for the most part. We did tourist things, we visited the beautiful Lamma Island, went to Ocean Park and the Zoo. She was here at the time I was moving so she helped me move into my new room. We had a nice time with the exception of an experience that pretty much, momentarily, broke me as a person.

image
My Aunt and I at Ocean Park

We were at the mall, it was very crowded. We were just walking, minding our business in the mall and suddenly a male voice passing me yelled something. You could tell by the tone and voice whatever he was saying in Chinese was clearly not nice. I never actually saw his face because like I said I was minding my business, trying to assimilate to the environment. Then it happened… he spit on me. I was like “what the…” It was so crowded we couldn’t tell which man actually did it. I was mortified, hurt, disgusted, etc… In 20 years (now 21) I had never experienced anything like this. I have to assume it was racism especially given someone else yelled at us to go home on the first night we arrived in HK. Based on the mans tone and spit what else could it be? I highly doubt it was some random guy just spitting in a clean, beautiful mall. I still cannot believe it to this day. I am a biracial female. I was warned before moving to Russia that I could experience ignorance and racism and to stay vigilant. I lived in Russia for two years, went site seeing, to the mall, restaurants, theatre, etc.. and never once did anyone comment to my face or in public or physically harm me in anyway. I never really felt unsafe. Everyone for the most part was very kind and friendly in Russia. imageSo when I moved to HK I never thought I would experience this behavior. I didn’t tell anyone about this initially. I don’t want to be that girl that blames her skin color for how she is treated because I truly want to believe that in this day and age people are more open minded and accepting of diversity. My hope is that people will like me for me, because I am kind, hardworking and respectful. When I went to Russia with the scholarship from the Russian American Foundation and United States Dept. of Edu, National Security Language Initiative for Youth my essay talked about how we each need to learn about one another, learn about each other’s cultures, religions, traditions in order to really learn to accept someone. Once we stop assuming and once we learn the facts and understand each other’s differences we can then learn to respect each other. We will appreciate each other and what we all have to offer society. This is my goal in life, to travel and experience different cultures and show people that just because my skin color is different that doesn’t mean I am a bad person. I was so excited to have a job in HK but also to have the imageamazing cultural experiences HK has to offer however this wasn’t the experience I had expected. Obviously I am overly hopeful but I will always stay positive. Anyway after the incident I broke down to my mom again. I felt broken. I didn’t tell anyone at work or anyone whom I wasn’t really close with. My mom reminds me again, as she always does, that I need to stay strong and that I can’t let one person’s immature actions define my opinion of everyone and she is right. I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I had to stay strong and make the most of my experiences in HK. I can’t blame an entire population of people based on one man’s ignorant actions, so after a good cry I just let it go and moved on, but it is something I will never forget.

My beautiful roommates USA & Russia
My beautiful roommates USA & Russia

 

My aunt went home and I settled into my new apartment. I connected with my new roommates, who became my friends. I started having a real life. We would go out hiking or shopping or for dinner and drinks. Hiking Day w/new roomiesWe met other students, etc and I started making more friends. We had some good laughs and some difficult moments, as it is hard living with others sometimes, but we all worked it out. It was so nice to have someone, not in the dance field, to come home to and talk to about your day and vice versa. The hard part about living in HK is that most people my age are either study abroad or interns. They are only there for 6 months or so. Both of my roommates were interns so they would be leaving around the end December. My roommates were now my best friends in HK and I would have to start all over making new friends once they left. It was a good 3 month run with them though and I was finally smiling again.

Between October to December we rehearsed at work for upcoming shows and I went on my first company tour to the United States. It was so nice to be back on American soil and to perform in my country. I also witnessed history in the making as the Umbrella Movement aka Occupy Hong Kong took place from the end of September to December. I will tell you more about this and my performance experiences in one of my next posts. image

As always, thanks for your support and feedback.

Nicole ❤

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