Carry on.

Reflections on Hong Kong and Shanghai

Writing this blog post is somewhat bittersweet for me. I love Asia. My experiences here in both Hong Kong and Shanghai have been life-changing and amazing. But the hard part for me is the realization that I came here ten years two late. While this post will be a bit sad at first, rest assured, it will end off on a good, happy note. After all, like most things, we can’t experience the positive without having the negative in our lives as well.

Why ten years too late? Both Shanghai and Hong Kong are for the young. I traveled with a bunch of eager 25 year olds who are are ambitious, capable and able to  move at a drop of a hat. And that’s exactly what these two cities need and successfully attract. At 35 years old, with a family of six to support, the prospects of living here in these two amazing cities are very slim. They’re expensive, they’re busy, polluted and not geared for large families like mine.

The hard part is that I will not be able to regularly go to the local xiao long bao restaurants that dot the cities of Shanghai. Crystal Jade in Hong Kong too. I won’t be able to walk up to a cart and grab a couple of fish curry balls, or pick out a huge cheap lobster in Sai Kung and have it cooked fresh for me by the seaside. I won’t be able to work in the fast paced and competitive market that is Asia.

If I were a 25 year old with a young family in 2010, I would definitely ask my wife if we could move here, particularly Shanghai. But with an older growing family of six, we just can’t afford living here with the standard of living that we want.

Of all the people that I’ve met in my travels, only two have a family here – with one child. All the rest are single – and live a life of the next party, the next networking social, the next handbag or the next cellphone. At what cost would have I had to have made had I chosen such a life? Bottom Line. I will not give up my family for such a life.

Despite the realities of the prospects of living here, I am, nonetheless very happy to have had the opportunity to have a taste of life here in Hong Kong and Shanghai. After all, how many people get the opportunity to pack up and go for a couple of weeks to the next town, let alone across the ocean to another culture? I will remember the burst of flavoured ambrosia of the fried pork dumpling soup at Yangs. I will remember the food crawl that I had with Jericson in Hong Kong – Xiao Long bao, Curry balls, Gnocchi, Egg Tarts, and Pork Rice. I will remember the tenacity, ambition, positive can-do attitude that the people have shown me in my travels here- A lesson and inspiration that I can take home with me. I walked the length of the Bund and saw the space-age skyline that is Pudong. I saw the Hong Kong Skyline at night -with all its colourful lights and splendor. I ate dimsum, went to a Karaoke bar and listened to a Filipino band – experiences that I have been looking forward to that will last a lifetime.

And the best thing about it all? I know. I know that I will not always be wondering whether I would have been successful in Asia. I know that that kind of life is not for me, and not for my family. Shanghai and Hong Kong, and the rest of Asia will always be there for my wife and I to visit when we have that urge to go. But to live there on an extended basis? No. This I will always know: I know where my life stands.

And for me, that’s enough.

I am grateful for my wife for supporting me in my decision to go. It’s been hard for her for sure for me being away. Without her, this wouldn’t have happened. I am so excited to see her again!

Off to People’s Square for some people watching. Looking forward to visiting the public market, coming back, having a good night’s sleep, and going home tomorrow – and to focus on building my life and career with my wife and children – in Canada. It will be a rewarding one – a life lived on our own terms.

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