She studied my face and gestured to my legs. “You can walk!” exclaimed this middle-aged woman from whom I asked for directions to a music store I was looking for. She grabbed my arm and shook it vigorously as she went on saying a few other things to me in Chinese. For my inability to understand the language, I could only hope she was wishing me well as I tried to find my way through the streets of Hong Kong.
I bowed to and thanked her, and I went on my way. From a distance, I glanced back at the lady. She and her co-worker were both waving at me with their gigantic general ad placards held up high. I smiled at them for one last time, and walked the whole stretch of Nathan Road.
The general ads lady wasn’t the only one I asked for directions from during this quest. I endured the blistering heat of the noon sun, with the constant dripping and sputtering of air-conditioning units from the high-rise buildings I walked past, and sought out so many other people on the streets – vendors, policemen, students and yuppies – just to get to where I wanted to be, and check if there are still any tickets left to a play I wanted to watch later that night.
Sad to say, I didn’t get to buy a ticket for the play.
From the music store, I retraced my steps and looked for a place where I could grab late lunch and brew a new adventure for myself. I found a place where the menu was written in Chinese. I ended up ordering something I didn’t normally eat. I shared a table with a stranger, but we didn’t get to talk. I was nursing my frustration while he sipped through his soup absorbed with whatever was blaring through his earphones.
As I twirled one of the chopsticks in between mouthfuls of boiled meat, I shook my head remembering my interaction with the locals on the streets that day. I noticed something about their responses to my plea for help. The young ones always gave me remarks like, “Hey, that’s far. Take the train!” or “Why don’t you try taking a cab or the bus?” while the more advanced in years were all constant in telling me to use my legs and walk.
This got me thinking about the way I was making my way through life. In a flash, questions came right at me like a bus on the street:
Am I hurrying to get somewhere? Is there a shortcut? What’s the fastest way around this? Am I there yet? For how much longer now? Should I even be going there, or should I stay right here?
There I was, in a busy restaurant in Hong Kong, with blistered feet and a sun-baked face, thinking about my career, my relationships and all the other things I left back home. I saw that life’s good – it’s worth waking up to and breathing for. But at the same time, I knew that I was built for more. I don’t know how much of what’s ahead of me would involve piecing together, stripping down, building up, or wear and tear. But I just know that life could only get better, and yes, I’m definitely going somewhere.