South of Hollywood Road

As cordial welcomes go, the first thing my former Chinese roommate said to me when I got home from the late shift was if I stole her shampoo. I did, but that’s not the point. Nevertheless, she turned out to be quite pleasant in the total 20 minutes that I saw of her before she moved out, taking her electricity-wasting habits with her.

Evidently, she’d been rooming with her husband from Guangzhou and may have given birth in our midst because she suddenly appeared with an infant while I was en route to the communal bathroom. It took me about a day to figure out there was an actual baby in the house, which explained the cans of formula milk and the pacifiers.

Now, I am left with a Chinese-Italian engineering intern who hates beer but loves vodka and a Taiwanese-American law exchange student from New York whose heart broke when she heard the other girl hated beer. I get along fine with Italy, who spends about four hours at dawn washing truckloads of clothes in the washing machine we keep next to the sink in our kitchen.

Sandy speaks fluent Mandarin, loves dark beer and has broached the idea of rooming in a nicer 2-bed with me.

I get along more splendidly with New York, whose quirky observations (notice, for example, that Hong Kong University students hug sideways) and dry wit make for interesting conversations. The other day, she had lunch with me at a Japanese restaurant, manned by a jovial waiter with a mutated thumb. She also gave me a quick tour of the HKU campus and cafeteria, and we mistakenly walked into a museum attached to one of the school buildings while we were looking for a bathroom.

Wood carvings. We’re contemplating furnishing our dump with needless ornaments such as this one. This one would look good next to the broken clock in the foyer.

Our apartment is deliberately horrendous — tiny spaces, IKEA furniture and a strange kitchen where the hot plate doubles as shelf space for a toaster and rice cooker — but it’s cozy. I got jealous the other day when my NY roommate and I were walking out and we saw quite a bit of our neighbor’s flat while he was hauling a LaZ-Boy inside. It had nice furniture, a gleaming kitchen and a murderous Doberman sitting on the carpet. I wanted to knock him dead with the trash bin and take up his space.

It’s like living in a college dorm all over again, but it’s a funny living situation.  They could both be axe murderers for all I know, which is why I still make it a habit to keep my  door locked. And it could be worse, really. I could be living in Causeway Bay in a flat full of aspiring actresses and models, being in a purely commercial neighborhood without interesting nooks and crannies I could explore.

Sometime, I’m going on a photo tour to do my neighborhood’s beauty some justice.

Soho, Central, is probably one of the best areas you could hope for. It’s a 3-minute walk to every cool pub, restaurant, vintage clothing shop, antiques store, wet market and dai pai dong. It’s got steep inclines that offer picturesque upskirt views. And I’m loving the fact that when I’m stumbling home drunk at 4 in the morning, I basically have to rock-climb to the Mid-Levels, burning off all those calories, and vomit upward until I get to my doorstep.


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