Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Three-Week Wall

When I studied abroad as an undergraduate, I discovered something I called the Three-Week Wall. The Three-Week Wall is built down the street from Homesickness Mart and around the corner from the Culture Shock Condominiums.

Basically, it's when the honeymoon period for studying abroad is over, the comfortable sense of true residency is still about two weeks away, and you are stuck in limbo, obsessing over all of the now-glaringly obvious flaws of your new city, new friends, new situation, life, etc. It's also characterized by a sideways sense of homesickness, not for any particular place, but simply for the concept and feeling of "home."

It is, of course, fleeting. Even when it's happening, you realize this. But that doesn't mean you can do much about it.

In the case of Hong Kong, I feel hypersensitized to every distraction and annoyance. The viscous quality to the pollution-ridden air. The always-startling thud sound the door of the #28 minibus makes when it slams open violently at every stop. The way people seem to know a tantalizing amount of English, so that you can get your hopes up about communicating with them really effectively, before you realize that there's still a haze between you (unrelated to the pollution).

And this place can really stress you's a feeling that I've only experienced this badly in Berlin and in Moscow (though in Moscow, it is much much worse, as the problem isn't just the city, it's the fact that everyone there is a humongous asshole). I wondered why Hong Kong was getting to me so when New York never did, and that's when I realized that the reason New York didn't stress me out is because I usually refused to travel north of 35th Street. I couldn't stand spending too much time in Midtown because, well, it was apparently too much like all of Hong Kong (not that I knew it at the time). My Californian soul aches.

And none of this is helped by the fact that I spent the entire day today, from waking up until dinner, dealing with travel accommodations for what was our trip to to Cambodia and Laos, and is now either our trip to just Cambodia or to Yunnan Province in mainland China, or who knows where the hell else. It is one of the little ironies of my life that travel might be the thing I love most in this world, and travel planning might be the thing I hate most. I already retired from planning vacations for nine, and I may now be retiring from planning vacations for anything but two completely like-minded individuals with comparable resources and priorities, one of whom must be me.

I spent most of the day moping openly about all this, though I did openly admit the absurdity of said moping. And passing a homeless man on the street who had a crew of city workers with jackhammers set up shop next to his sleeping spot helped put the ridiculous white collarness of my problems into perspective. "Oh no, Muffy! I've already grown weary of Hong Kong, so soon after returning from Malaysia, and now the local holiday is making it just impossible to plan my next excursion! Whatever shall I do? And when will my imported artisinal olive oil from Italy finally arrive?"

Sigh. Now I need to give $10 to a monk again just to feel like less of a douche.

1 comment:

Marie said...

At least in this case, I'll go wherever you feel like, except Bali. =)