Omicron changed everything. It changed our “We are invincible” mindset. It quite possibly changed the course of our Chief Executive’s career, and by extension the political future of Hong Kong. It broke our collective spirit. I could go on.
The ever-shifting, knee-jerk, whiplash-inducing government policies that ensued when this particularly brutal variant hit our shores earlier this year, inspired feelings of fear, angst, frustration, anger, incredulity, helplessness and hopelessness among our population.
Each new government announcement or press conference became personal fuel for a potential satirical column. Every time the administration pushed forth or walked back yet another half-baked policy to help us “fight the virus”, I lifted my figurative pen and gathered my vengeful thoughts.
Finally, I sat down to write. There was so much to process, and so much I wanted to say. But when my whirring mind eventually slowed, I realized there was only one thing that really mattered.
I love Hong Kong. It doesn’t feel clichéd to proclaim it, because I don’t know if everyone can say the same for our city right now. Oh, I hate parts of it too to be sure — but the overwhelming verdict for me is that this city can be exactly as I view it to be, and at this moment, what I see is its unique, flaw-filled beauty. It is fallible; vulnerable; it is all of us. I have never felt so many different emotions for any other place in the world.
At some point, the sharp and biting rhetoric melted away, and instead, I inadvertently developed a newfound appreciation for my city: the tiny, island-laced territory where I was born and which I’ve been calling home for the past 15 years.
One side effect of the stranger-than-fiction regulations issued by our government, which included but were not limited to arbitrary flight bans and lengthy quarantines for airlines that dared to fly here and residents who dared to fly back here, is that it pushed my family to explore parts of Hong Kong we’d never thought to explore before, stuck as we were with nowhere else to go.
And wow, is our city breathtaking. We’ve got our glamorous skyline that can’t be rivaled — but we’ve also got no competition when it comes to the sheer number of accessible, jaw-dropping natural landscapes that are, on average, a half-hour car, taxi or ferry ride away no matter where one lives. From pristine beaches and ancient rock formations to luscious mountains and endless bodies of water, we really do have it all and then some.
This rediscovered love for Hong Kong’s albeit-superficial beauty allowed me to consciously step back and really take full stock of our city. I feel tremendously grateful for all of the things it had gotten right, before everything went so wrong.
I am grateful for the fact that my children are exposed to multiple languages in their environments, and being bilingual or trilingual is just common sense here. I am grateful that my husband, who cannot read or speak Cantonese, has no issues whatsoever in getting by.
I’m grateful that the pulsing energies of this city push me to try more, do more, and create more every day in my professional and personal life.
I am grateful that I can chow down on street food and Buddhist vegetarian one day, dress fancy for a Michelin-starred meal the next, and never get to the end of the city’s rolodex of restaurants even if I tried.
I am grateful that, once upon a time, I was able to travel to a different country every month or two, and it took only 20 minutes to get to the airport.
I am grateful that I, a woman, can walk home alone at 3am and not worry about being mugged or worse.
I could go on. But most of all, I am grateful that I have been reminded to never take Hong Kong for granted.