Whoa-a I’m an Alien, I’m a Legal Alien

I almost didn’t get here. I was, for about 20 minutes, barred from leaving my country by a series of very courteous but firm airport officials who said I lacked a certain certificate. They were all telling me how I needed to rebook my flight and wait another week for said document as horrific scenes flashed through my head of yet more 17-hour naps at home and explaining to my employer that I would be delayed again.

For a moment, I considered trudging back home with my two suitcases and simmering in defeat. Then came a loophole: a lady officer told me I could try making my flight, but that there was a strong chance Immigrations might question me about going as a tourist when there was already a work visa stamped on my passport, and face stiff penalties. I focused on that steaming heap of dumplings waiting for me in HK and risked it. It also helps to notice which officers are friendly (or distracted) and which seem likely to cuff you.

With a nervous smile, I got through. And I made my flight. And I got into HK without a hitch. And I got to my hotel relatively unscathed. Even had time to walk up and down Causeway Road, eat at a 7/11, make futile phone calls to home, read some David Sedaris at a public park and a cool library, go to an art exhibit and go drinking with some friends near Soho. All on my first day.

I come here at a time when diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong/China are shaky and I was warned that I might get a cool reception. But I find that’s not the case — in fact I’m quite popular with liver-spotted elderly Chinese men. I also moved at a time when the US dollar was devalued, effectively shrinking my savings. But my arrival was also opportune: shops are all having end-of-summer sales.

I’ll admit, it’s not a nice feeling to dribble snot and tears onto a butch-looking overseas employment official’s desk as she feigns interest (maybe even pity). It sure as hell isn’t good to start your move with a note of illegality. But from where I’m standing (the 16th floor of a Causeway Bay hotel), I’m thinking that whatever crap happens to me here, at least I fought to be where I am. Cue the fireworks.

My first meal was microwaveable. Also burned my tongue.
My first train ride. An old woman who thought I was Japanese helped me buy an Octopus card (essential for HK$150) and showed me how to reload it on machines.
This is a warning sign at Statue Park in Central. Notice the Tagalog translation.
This was my first drink. It’s got a nice logo I am contemplating having tattooed on my person. The plan is to get beer logo tattoos in every city I live in, like an alcoholic travel trunk.
My first acquaintances. There’s the girl whose Chinese name sounds like “testicle,” the American who teaches digital media, the quiet one, and the girl with top-notch bestiality jokes.
An entry for world’s largest lantern sculpture at Victoria Park.
My mug shot.

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