I don’t remember much about that Sunday, looking back after three years. It was cold, I recall, much colder than I thought it should be in a sub-tropical area. I huddled in my apartment, on the thin-padded wooden sofa. The television broadcast programs in an unintelligible language. I watched infomercials for breast enlargement creams and drank instant coffee.
My boss, an aged, chain-smoking, New Zealand crone, met with me twice and explained my schedule. I had arrived a week later than the other new teachers. They had had training, a welcome dinner, and a tour. I, on the other hand, was shown around the local area by a disbarred lawyer from New Orleans who talked about his adventures in Asia as a Seventh Day Adventist missionary, and the prices and etiquette related to prostitutes.
My boss was kind, she gave me local currency as I hadn’t converted any. In between drags on cigarettes so cheap even beggars wouldn’t accepted them she explained the times of each period. Her laugh reminded me of a rasp being dragged across a rusty piece of metal. There was no explanation as to what I should teach the following day, only a schedule. The phrase, “thrown to the lions,” echoed through my head.
I ate instant noodles and hot dogs, the only items I’d recognized in the grocery store. It was scary place: Tanks of live fish, eels and turtles filled a wet corner. Cages held chickens and rabbits, watched over by a man in a stained white coat, a giant cleaver in his hand. I could only identify foodstuffs by the photos on the labels. I hate instant noodles, the result of a long year at college and consuming them twice a day.
The Martha Stewart biography movie starring Cybil Sheppard was on the Hong Kong station that night. I watched it absently while thinking about returning to Canada. I would have called an airline if I’d known how to use the card-based telephone system.
On a precipice. And my footing was tenuous.