Jun 6, 2017
By Kathryn Curzon
Choosing Hope: A Migrant’s Crossroad in Hong Kong
Fear settled on my shoulders and defeat pulled at my heart as I descended the crowded escalator in Hong Kong. I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. We’re finished, beaten, I thought as commuters pushed past in their immaculate suits, clutching their pearl teas close. Rushing to work, they had a place where they belonged. Standing in the middle of the overpass, travel weary from ten months on the road, we belonged to nothing other than the roads we had travelled. I caught my reflection in the glass. It was that of a bag lady with an old yellow blanket around her shoulders. I couldn’t recall where I had found it and I couldn’t believe it had come to this. I looked to my fiancé’s eyes, hoping for a resolution to our predicament but all I saw were unshed tears. We were stranded in the middle of a foreign city at Christmas, surrounded by skyscrapers and with nowhere to go. Fear dug her claws in as we held each other tightly and wept.
After a morning of running between our tiny, box hostel and immigration offices across the harbour, we were out of ideas. Denied entry onto our flight to New Zealand, a simple paperwork error had left us unintentionally stranded and without assistance. We were two emigrants a world away from our former home. Our limited budget had carried us through eight countries and eighty-seven shark conservation events that we had organised but now our wallets sagged, empty. I struggled with the crowds as I walked past brightly-coloured medicinal stores on every street corner. Dried shark fins lined the shelves and, in my defeat, it felt a fitting end to our year. The animals we cherished were for sale by the thousands. The repeated offer of drugs on one street corner did little to lift my spirits. It was a world apart from the shiny metropolis of business, cultural wealth and enticing food I had hoped for. I longed for the lush, green pastures of New Zealand.
We had but one decision to make that day. We could fly back to England on our old Round the World ticket, knowing we couldn’t afford to fly to New Zealand again. The emigration dream would be over. Or we could take a risk and pour our remaining savings into two new flights to Auckland, not knowing if customs would grant us entry. An email from our immigration advisor pinged as we caught the hostel wifi signal. The question mark next to our residency visa remained as the Christmas lights sparkled above Hong Kong’s skyline and we waited.
‘What do we do?’ I asked as I kicked my flip flops off and collapsed onto our tiny bed. The dirt of the city marked the sheets as I scuffed my toes on them absent-mindedly.
Do we take the chance to begin the life we worked so hard for during the past year? Or do we fly back to England and give up? Unspoken questions lingered between us as we stared at the walls and listened to the city below, hoping our advisor would contact us again.
I knew the answer then, just as I know it now.
You don’t give up at the crossroad.
You take your fear, mould it into something resembling grit and dig your heels in.
No matter the exhaustion. No matter the sense of isolation in an unfamiliar city of noise, sweat and our copious tears.
You don’t give up. You just travel.
Echoing my thoughts, my fiancé grabbed my hand. He pulled our ageing bags along the narrow hostel corridor and down onto the streets. We’re doing this, his look of determination told me. We raced to the airport with our three-wheeled bag limping along behind us. Its sorry state reminded me of the exhaustion hidden inside us both as hope became our guide.
The airport was rich with the scent of coffee and the buzz of travel. The familiarity soothed me as I breathed deeply and contemplated how far we had come. The sales lady at the ticket desk did all she could but still I nearly choked at the price of two new tickets.
My phone vibrated as our immigration advisor called. I could have wept with relief and shouted in anger for her mistake with our visas. After three hours of discussions we still had no absolute certainty we would be admitted entry to New Zealand. We had but a hope it would be okay.
Nicholas slid our credit card across the desk with a single finger and purchased our tickets. We were doing this.
I watched our money for food and board disappear but I also watched the next chapter begin.
Shaking from exhaustion and fear, we boarded the flight. The crossroad was worth the risk.
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About the Author
Kathryn has lived in the UK, Egypt, South Africa and New Zealand and is a trained scuba diving instructor and Great White shark safari guide. She is the author of No Damage (on Amazon), International Editor of The Scuba News, a public speaker and co-founder of the marine conservation cause Friends for Sharks (www.friendsforsharks.com)..