Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saying Goodbye

Had my last archery lesson in Hong Kong yesterday. It was fun, and I felt I was finally up to speed with my new bow (a Mathews Conquest Prestige called Nerys). It was great. Until it came time to end it and say goodbye.

I am an emotional person, I know. But I normally hide my real feelings from others - unless it’s anger, disgust or approval. Everything else is kept neatly locked away. I do feel it. I just don’t want other people to see it on my face. It’s just how I am - and I’m not a crier. I get angry, or Hulk-out with long words and facts, but I don’t cry. So when I suddenly feel soul-crushing sadness and actually feel like I’m going to cry, it’s hard to keep it in check.

The archery lesson ended. I didn’t feel sad - I felt good. The day had been a very, very good one, and everything had gone as I’d planned. I had recovered my score level from before I changed to a brand new, unused bow. I had got back to my own personal level of concentration and comfort, with a new bow. I felt happy.

I went home. I got a call from my coach - I’d forgotten to return the fletching jig that I’d borrowed to prep some brand new V6 arrows before the outdoor shoot. We agreed he could swing by and pick them up from near me Sunday morning. I got ready and went out for my official leaving do, at the Hard Rock CafĂ©. We had fun. The resident band, Black Widow, was as bloody good as ever, and we shouted along to the songs with glee. Loads of people attended - and I realised I didn’t think I had that many people I wanted to be there. I got home, went to bed, tried to sleep off the drink, woke up, got ready, and made sure I had all of the borrowed items to give back to my coach.

I met him outside my residential block. And as I stood there, thanking my coach for everything he’s done for me in the past year, all the feelings hit me like a brick in the face. He’s always been in the background of my week, ready for me to arrive for the lesson or the outdoor shoot, letting me stay longer, discussing makes, models, technical specifications, physical demands - and how I can improve as an archer. How to be better; how to use the different parts of myself to better my concentration; how to turn myself into someone who knows how they work, and more importantly, own all those parts of myself that I didn’t like.

Sounds kind of deep, right? I suppose it is. I suppose that’s why they’re called coaches and not teachers - he may as well be Master Yoda, or the Stephen Fry of my archery world.

I was sad, yes. I knew I was about to cry if I told him that losing him as a coach may be the worst thing about leaving Hong Kong. So instead I exchanged postal addresses and updated e-mail addresses, and said that I’d keep in touch with pictures and info about my prospective local club and how I went on in FITA rankings and such. He was happy. At least his face was. I know mine was. But I wasn’t.

But what do you do? I thanked him, returned his gear, and went back up to my flat and pretended I wasn’t feeling like I wanted to cry it out. Instead I helped my flatmate move some of her stuff to her new home round the corner. Job done.

I went to the afternoon hotel tea arranged by my mate, and we had some really good food (that was very welcome after the night before). We moved on to the pub quiz a few streets away. Our team actually won (thanks to a visiting acquaintance), and got free shots as prizes. We got ready to go, and that same feeling of overwhelming sadness hit me. I think I just about got away with hiding how upset I was on the inside - I got my big goodbye from the world’s best barman, and then as I was saying the goodbye things I always say to him, that’s when it hit me that I wouldn’t be saying that again. At least, not for the next few years. I had my last hug. I had my last goodbye. I managed not to cry, managed to look normal.

We were on the street, waiting for a taxi home. The quiz master came out to say goodbye. I nearly lost it - we had a quick chat about how many years I’d been going there, how the place had changed, how the people had changed, and wished each other luck, exchanged e-mail addresses etc. I got a hug and managed to leave, dignity intact.

On the way home I thought about all the people I’m leaving behind. I wasn’t sad before. I am now.

I have a full day tomorrow - packing the last box, making sure I haven’t forgotten anything I’ll need, and then handing it all over to the shipping company in the afternoon. I have my last nails appointment (if you think I’m taking on Blighty without the requisite nail camouflage then you’re sadly mistaken) in the evening, and then it’s Tuesday. Packing my suitcase, checking in online for my flight, and then dinner with friends in the evening. Then it’s Wednesday. Last minute checks, then checking in my cases in the afternoon - and then waiting around for my plane.

I’m looking forward to the flight. I’m just not prepared to handle all the sadness surrounding it. I never knew I was so out of practice as far as emotional control went. I never knew it would affect me this much. But I should have known - I’ve always had a slow emotional build-up to everything. It takes me weeks to begin to like someone. It takes me a while to recognise that I like something enough to buy it. And it takes me a while to process all the sadness at my leaving here.

The actual country of Hong Kong can go jump; I will not miss the people, or the red tape, or the various systems in place. I will miss my friends. I will miss having my flatmate to talk to and have TV series and movie marathons with and share good tea with. I will miss everyone who has always been good to me, and let me look out for them. I’ll miss how easily I find all of them when I want to.

I guess what I’m saying is I’ll miss the life that I’ve built here. I never even considered that I had one. In the eleven years I’ve been here, it’s been struggle, work, struggle, more work, struggle, paperwork, struggle, pay tax, struggle, go to Uni, struggle, get a better job, struggle, find out the job is letting you down monumentally badly, struggle some more - and leave. I never noticed that, yes, life happened while I was busying wishing I could make other plans. I like the people I’ve made friends with, I like them being here, even if I don’t see them as much as I used to when other flatmates were here, and my lifestyle was disposable. Now I’m older, more tired, completely ready to leave this country for what I hope is a better one. Whether it is or not is irrelevant; I have to leave here, I have to get out before it drives me completely mad. It’s not where I’m supposed to be. I don’t know where I am supposed to be, but I’m one up - I know I can cross this place off the list of options.

I do have fond memories; the nights out in Wan Chai and the mahoosive bar bills we paid easily because we had disposable incomes and consciences; Patrick the taxi driver who communicated solely through the medium of English swear words; the pub quizzes where we won alcohol as Waldorf and Statler, or We Don’t Google; the live rock band round the corner and the patrons who paid for us to keep drinking so we’d keep singing; the ladies in the TWG tea shop who always recognised us; the cigarette breaks when we didn’t even smoke; the naked man I found on the sofa the next morning; the red wine meltdown and my mop of bleach; the chimichangas across the street; the fan club e-mails and the website translation; the karaoke every month with the uni crowd of drinkers; the Doctor Who discussions with former students, the First Class flight to Bangkok and the champagne and cake; walking home in the pissing rain during a typhoon number 8, the woman in the computer shop who knew exactly what I was looking for without me even saying or pointing; wandering home at 5:30am to have a young woman give me a beef dumpling, because she’d bought too many, and the consequent conversation we had; the man upstairs in the Wah Po Building who practised the cello right when I needed some soothing background music; the workmen at North Street who put my flat right in under eight hours, owning my first iPod and finding it the best damn thing to stop HK people getting on my nerves on the way to work; going to the cinema and seeing the Guangdong Investment Tower - my bus stop - being used in the country’s biggest selling film in the last twenty years, setting fire to the instant noodles in 7-11, the bar-top dancing and the Olympic marks we gave the participants, the Games Nights and the Outback Steakhouse…

There - I’ve talked myself into a better mood. Hope it keeps tomorrow.

Peach and lube, people. Peach and lube.

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