Hey guys. So, I recently participated in the World Nomads Travel Writer Scholarship programme, where I wrote a piece on the theme ‘a place that is unfamiliar to me’. Devastatingly, I didn’t win the scholarship (next year, perhaps?), so here is my entry published here instead, entitled Chasing Home:
When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I described the city as a sensory overload.
Fresh durian and fermented bean curd in the steaming streets of Mong Kok. Strobing neon signs on Nathan Road. Soup noodles slipping from chopsticks held between clumsy fingers. The telltale salty tang of MSG. Tonal Chinese languages with staccato one-syllable words.
I loved it.
The longer I spent in the city, the more it felt like home. Weekends spent hiking in the New Territories or lapping up the sun on the trio of Tai Long Wan beaches. Evenings spent in TST or Central or Wan Chai, drinking overpriced cocktails in tiny bars or sitting on the waterfront with cheap beers from 7-Eleven.
Summers were coated in a thick layer of smothering humidity, while winters sparkled in red and gold, auspicious signs for the coming Lunar New Year. The sunlight was thick and creamy like milk tea in the day, then deep orange like the peel of a mandarin in the evening.
Back on British soil, home turf, I feel that sensory overload once more. Somewhere in those five years away, England became exotic and strange and paradoxically new. The air tastes different, like newly cut grass. When I exhale, I marvel at the puffs of dragon’s breath that appear.
The colours of England are different. Vivid greens of patchwork-quilted fields and a mysterious grey of cloud and mist. There is a freshness to them. A crispness. A fertility.
The seasons are different too. Front gardens and back gardens (two!), filled with flowers that pop pink in spring. Stark winters with skeletal tree trunks and clawing branches; frost on the bark like the tinsel of the holiday season. Summers with long days and nights that stretch out, reaching to extend lazy days barbecuing or picnicking in the park. And autumn with leaves the colour of bonfire flames.
I bounce between them, Hong Kong and England; their intricately entwined histories wound tightly together with my own. I am not quite here or there. I am not quite now or then. I stand with a foot in each continent – two places that I call home.
Perhaps, to break my tossing between them, there must be a third place that comes after. Where is that new place, where I will build a new life? Will it be back in the steaming cities of Asia, will I find it on the cobbled streets of an English town, or is it somewhere beyond where I can imagine myself being?
Where will I next say the word ‘home’ when it slips inadvertently off my tongue and in what language will it be? How will I know when its seasons pass? Where will the colours of that place sit on my kaleidoscope?
Where is next?
Where is forward?
Where is home?
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