I’m in Hong Kong now! What an amazing city! It is on an island, like Manhattan, so everything is built UP instead of out. Huge skyscrapers, laundry hanging out of windows to dry, immense stores, wonderful smells! It is like Chinatown where we went on our field trip but EVERYWHERE! I love it so far, it reminds me so much of New York. I have had an adventure though, just in the short time I’ve been here.
My first day in town, I went out to lunch with people I met in the hostel where I’m staying. A hostel is a place where a traveler can stay when they are visiting a new city. It is usually like a hotel (but not as fancy) where there are bunk beds in all the rooms and you share things like a computer room and a kitchen with the other travelers. It is a wonderful place to meet other people who have been places where you want to go or who have suggestions for places you are going (like, “THIS town was great and I had a great meal at a restaurant down a little alley way” or “Don’t stay at this other hostel, there was a funny smell in the kitchen.”). Anyways, I met some people who were also traveling and one of them speaks Cantonese, the dialect of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong. We went to a restaurant where he ordered for us in Chinese so we got wonderful food that wasn’t even listed on the English menu we were given!
My plan was to walk to a place called the Visa Office after lunch. A visa is a pass from the government that means you are allowed to travel there and you need one to go from the island of Hong Kong into what is called “Mainland” China. This pass is put into your passport which is an official booklet that your home country gives you if you want to travel to other places. When I got to the Chinese visa office and started to fill out the application for a visa, one of the questions on the application was “What is the number on your passport?”. I reached into my bag to find my special wallet where I keep my passport and……it wasn’t there! I looked and looked! I took everything out of my bag twice and still I couldn’t find my passport!!!! I started to get a little upset since a passport is the most important thing to keep with you while you are traveling and without it, you aren’t allowed to go into other countries. I have 6 whole months left of my trip and SO many more countries to visit.
I took a deep breath and looked on a map of Hong Kong to find the U.S. Consulate. A consulate is like an office for a government and in a big city like Hong Kong, there are consulates for several different countries. A consulate will help people from its own country if they need it, like if a person lost their passport! I walked there and I was pretty calm, I went into the waiting room and I was pretty calm and when they called my name to come to the counter, I got pretty upset! I was even crying a little because I had not planned to lose my passport and I felt so silly that I had lost it on the first day I was in Asia! Plus, without a passport, I couldn’t leave Hong Kong and I didn’t want my trip to be ruined.
Do you know what the lady behind the counter said to me when she saw me crying? She said, “Don’t worry, we’re here to help you” and that made me feel so much better. She gave me some forms to fill out (asking questions like my address in New York, my birthday, stuff like that) and told me where I could get a picture of myself taken (a passport has to have a picture of you in the front so nobody can pretend that they are you) and when I came back from getting my picture, I got a brand new passport. The lady was right, they did help me!
I still had some running around to do to make sure I could leave Hong Kong. I had to go to a government office and explain to them that I had lost my passport so they could put a special stamp in my new one to prove I was here legally and only THEN could I go back to the Chinese visa office to get a permit to go to Mainland China. I’ve had to put off going to a new city for a few days since it has taken so long to run around everywhere.
Through all of this, though, I have been really calm. I am really proud of myself that I am getting everything done and being a responsible grown-up! I also keep reminding myself that I’m okay. I have a place to sleep at night, I’ve met nice people and Hong Kong is so interesting to me that I could be stuck in a much worse place! I am really proud of myself that I haven’t let it ruin my time in this city! I could have been really down in the dumps about it but I’m choosing to see the bright side of things and I feel really great! Plus, all that walking to different offices has made my legs really strong! 🙂
I’m leaving for a city called Shanghai tomorrow on a train. The trip will take me 10 hours! I am bringing a good book and lots of music to listen to! More updates as soon as I can!
Lots of love,