The following is criminally incomplete. It's mainly a short collection of quick glimpses and descriptions of my trip to pick up Ruth at the airport and help her find her way to my apartment. Very abbreviated. No photos.
It's raining. It hasn't rained in two weeks and today it hasn't stopped. I'm standing by the bus stop which consists of a metal sign under the overhangs of a short straggly tree. There's only one bus that stops here. The rest of the traffic rushes past, spraying puddles of water across my shorts. My blue Circle K umbrella keeps me dry from my head just past my shoulders. The wind and traffic ensures the rest of my clothing is at least damp if not outright wet. The shallow river running along the uneven concrete threatens to cover my shoes.
The bus comes after a short wait and mercifully is almost empty. It's 4:30pm on a Tuesday, about an hour before traffic gets really bad. I ride for four stops, juggling my umbrella and my giant cell phone in my hands while trying to maintain my balance and keeping my suitcase from rolling away with my feet. A man gets up and offers me his seat, but I'm too proud and stupid to take it. He remains standing next to me for the remainder of my ride.
Four stops and I exit to wait for the next bus. This bus takes a winding path to my destination. It passes a mall complex I've never seen before. I make a mental note to head back this way sometime. We pass by the Mini Macau mall, YoungMix mall, and the mall with the Carrefour. After about an hour the bus pulls to the side of the road——it's the last stop and the remaining passengers exit.
It's dark. It's still raining. I puddle hop across the road and a stone courtyard to get inside the port. The ferry terminal is nearly empty. I'm early, so I order some food and wait to board the boat.
One day I hope to be a real adult, with a real job, and can stay at real hotels. Tonight I'm at a hostel.
Some hostels are neat, I've been to a few which are really nice. This particular one has been recommended by someone I trust, so I feel good about it. Or I will, once I find it. I exit the metro station at Causeway Bay. The taste of a HK$14 white chocolate macadamia nut cookie from Mrs Fields lingers on my tongue. I could have eaten a dozen of the small wafers, but I need to watch my spending this trip.
I'm a bit lost so I stop at McDonald's to use their WiFi. I'm only there for the WiFi so I order a medium fry and chocolate pie. There are Christmas references on the picture menus and my mind refuses to believe that the holiday is fast approaching. I look up the hostel information, or try too. Half my phone apps are still in Chinese.
Back out on the street I have a general idea of where I need to go. Large Christmas tree shaped decorations line the wide sidewalks. I flit under awnings, trying to avoid using my umbrella. My friend told me to look for a place called Aesop. The Hostel entrance is right next to that in Paterson Building C. I find Aesop and a door labeled Paterson Building A. After looking around for a few more minutes. I try the door and unlike the other similar looking doors, this one is unlocked.
There's an old man behind a security desk. I glance at him and walk past him to the elevators. I'm looking for anything that might hint to where I'm trying to go. My facial expression can best be described as "lost."
"Three," the old man says in a gravely voice. It reminds me a little of how my grandpa sounded. When the elevator opens I notice it's lined with luan held together with what appears to be cream colored painters tape. I get off at the third floor as instructed.
This is the type of hostel where, after checking in, I'm led back down to the ground floor, across the street, and into a different building. The lady shows me the two digit door code for this second building, before leading me down the hall to the elevator. We ride to the second floor. Metal gates block off some of the doors on this floor. Small signs say "Resident. Do not harass." My key card will get me into door at the end of the hall. The walls are the color of mayonaise mixed with ketchup. The WiFi password is scrawled in large letters around the corner.
Room number one is a four bed room and I'm in bed number two——the bottom bunk. I have the room to myself until someone shows up at 1:30 am, but he's quiet and I'm soon back asleep.
The Airport Express line is the dark teal colored line on the Hong Kong MTR maps. I assumed I had ridden it before, but when I board the sleek and comfortable train car, complete with padded seats and carpet, it's clear to me that I have not. It has four stops, the one I'm getting on, the airport, and two in between. Later I find out this ride costs HK$100, but I just tapped my octopus card and it let me through.
I follow the large signs from the Airport Express station down to the waiting area. The Hong Kong International Airport is wonderfully laid out. Big signs in Mandarin and English provide clear directions where to go. The passanger waiting area is split between exits A and B with both sides having large TV screens showing a high angle camera of disembarking passengers coming down the hallway. I'm waiting at exit A, the one where Ruth should be coming from, but I keep an eye on the monitor for exit B, just in case.
We connect via WeChat and suddenly she's walking down the passageway. My sister. Now with long purple hair, apparently. We embrace and exchange greetings. It feels like it's been forever, even though I saw her a few months ago in LA. There's a McDonald's less than 50 feet away from where we stand and we head there for breakfast, coffee, and to catch up.
Crossing to China
We take the Airport Express back toward the ferry port and arrive just a little too late to make the 10:30 ferry. The next one departs at 12:30, so we have two hours to wait around and drink coffee.
The ferry ride is smooth and uneventful. We move through customs relatively quickly and without incident.
A "black taxi" or unregistered taxi driver takes us back to my apartment. It's something I've never done on my own, but it's also something that I want my sister to experience. So I don't warn her as she tells the man asking "taxi?" that yes, we wanted a ride.
He leads us across the parking lot to a small van. I cringe inwardly, knowing this is going to cost a little extra. He turns out to be a good driver and our ride along the coast is smooth and safe. It gives me a chance to point out a few landmarks to Ruth as we go.
A Fast Week
Ruth is only in town for five days and they go by fast. I eat a lot of good meals with her friend and former roommate who's now teaching at UIC. We explore the underground market, the old part of Tangjia, and go on a day trip to Foshan. On Sunday we eat Dimsum and go back to Hong Kong. Ruth flies out on Monday morning. It was a great week.