Just last night I was having a girls night out with one of my new CTY friends at a random craft beer bar. She is much more extroverted than me, so one of the first things she said when we sat down was, “Who should we try to talk to first” I found it so interesting that that was one of her first thoughts because the thought of socializing with anyone around us never even crossed my mind. Eventually, opportunity came and we started talking to the group of old foreigners (lol) at the table next to us. It definitely was the highlight of the night, as we joked around with these complete strangers, learned about one of the guy’s life as a project manager for the MTR and how he had come to leave his home near London to live in Hong Kong for over 20 years, and even got a few recommendations for some of their favorite bars and hangout spots.
Today, I decided to have a little “Elaine time” so I adventured to Sheung Wan to do a bit of photography and exploring. The thing I love about this area is that there are so many hidden gems scattered about. You can find an old vintage antique shop sitting next to a modern cafe, or a fusion burger joint next to traditional Chinese butcher shop. It’s really remarkable. I’d like to think that this is Hong Kong’s natural progression towards the intermixing of different cultures instead of westernized ideals being imposed into this area… but that’s another conversation for another time. For now, as far as I know, these juxtapositions are a sort of beauty that is adds to the uniqueness and beauty of Hong Kong.
Anyways, I walked into a fusion burrito / coffee shop named Americanos (again, not so sure how I feel about enjoying that burrito / the name of the restaurant in general) hoping that it would be a quiet little coffee shop that I could eat lunch / read a book / write in my journal in. Turns out, this place was a full on hipster restaurant filled with expats and their friends. It was already too late, so I walked in, sat at the only available table in there (which happened to be this huge ass 4 person round table) and ordered my food. It wasn’t too bad though, since my table was so big, a random Australian girl who was waiting for her take out order sat down next to me and me, trying out this new thing where I try to talk to strangers, started initiated conversation with her. I found out she was a recent graduate who came to Hong Kong in the summer to work as an intern at a law firm, and how she had studied abroad in Beijing and thinks Hong Kong is an awesome place. Talking to her reminded me of the group of Australians I met while studying abroad. I miss them!
After lunch, I walked around aimlessly through random back alleys and stumbled upon a cool antique shop. Both because I was interested in what the shop had inside as well as the fact that it was hot as fuck and I was dripping in sweat, I escaped into the store to enjoy some AC relief. Inside, I found an Asian American girl asking the store owner a bunch of questions about his shop, whether he designed all of his goods, whether they were by local artists, ect. I could tell that they were genuine questions filled with curiosity, and I admired that because I would have never done the same. Curious to her background, I thought about striking a conversation with her, but my introverted tendencies made me hesitate, and she left the shop before I could say anything. Just my luck though, she was taking a photo of the shop as I was exiting.
Long story short, in the span of 5 minutes, I found out that this girl not only was from California just like me, but is going to work in my home town, studied abroad in Shanghai like me, AND knew one of my closest guy friends at UCLA who she had met during her study abroad session last semester. WHAT A FUCKING COINCIDENCE RIGHT?! My mind was completely blown. The best part was that we clicked really easily and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring with her.
Every shop we went into, my new friend continued her trend of asking the store owners interesting questions. By the end of the day, I had met two sisters who with zero knowledge of fashion, created their own line of women’s swimwear purely because of their love for water sports, a lady who continued her great grandfather’s work of creating beautiful furniture created from precious stones around the world valued at several hundred thousand US dollars, and a man who both sold his own designs as well as taught a class to teach others to create similar products. By talking to them, these store owners suddenly became so much more, I guess, human. Normally, you go into a store and do your shopping and your only interaction with the workers at the store are to to make small talk and pay for anything you decide to buy. However today, I was reminded that store owners, especially pop up shops where the owners tend to be the designers of the products themselves, have so much more to offer and that the products they sell are more than just items; in many cases, they are little pieces of their passions in life that they are sharing to the world and you can only make sense of their work if you talk to them about it.
Moments like this made me think about all the possible “holy shit” moments and personal stories that I missed out on because I didn’t make that move to be a social being. It’s been a goal of mine to be more of the conversation initiator and every time I have acted on it, something cool / interesting / unforgettable has happened. Time and time again, I am reminded of this and the events of yesterday and today are definitely new additions to that ever growing list.
Oh, in case you haven’t already figured out, I’m back in Hong Kong and will be here until the end of the month. Then, I’ll be off to Japan and Korea for the first time in my life. Stay tuned for more updates!
Also, as promised, here’s your dedication Amy Jiang (;