I didn’t learn how to ride a bike without training wheels until I was 11.
Yup. 5th grade.
That revaluation isn’t too startling for my local Hong Kong friends, who live in an expansive concrete jungle with excellent public transport and everything else more or less in walking distance.
But I was living in the suburbs of Texas at the time, where public transport consisted of only the yellow school bus, and EVERYONE drove (or biked if they were too young to drive).
After all, how else are you supposed to get from point A to B. Spend hours walking? Fly? Teleport?
The idea that someone could make it to teenage hood without learning this vital skill of transportation was virtually unthinkable.
And yet there I was.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have the necessary tools (a few seconds with a wrench to take off those training wheels would suffice)
Nor was there a lack of teachers (any one of my friends could have taught me, if I had the courage to tell them I didn’t know that is)
No, it was something else more sinister. I convinced myself that it wasn’t such a big deal or even that I was better off without learning. After all:
- I won’t like it… Who wants to spend all day in the hot sun instead of an AC-ed car?
- It takes too long to learn and I have better things to do.
- I’m too old to start do so anyways.
- I’ll make a fool of myself failing to ride.
On and on the “reasons” could go, like the wheels of the bike in question.
Except they weren’t moving.
Because I wasn’t getting on that dang bike and learning.
Had I spent even a few second consciously thinking about it, those excuses would crumble away into dust.
It took a “Ride your Bike to School” day and me not wanting to be the only one with training wheels to finally try to learn. And at the end? I wanted to kick myself for putting it off for so long.
In a round about way, that training-wheeled bike sums up my experience living in Hong Kong as an expat for almost 7 years now.
Why do I not consider myself (at least partially) a “local” Hong Konger?
Perhaps I feel the label is too strong, given I wasn’t born here. But considering that by the time I finish university, I will have lived here for a decade (almost as long as I’ve lived in Texas) it doesn’t really make sense.
And it still doesn’t explain away my actions.
- I cling on to my “Local- Non Jupas” (i.e. international qualification) status, never just Local like some of my friends do.
- I still default to English and Mandarin when speaking to others. My Cantonese, despite all my time living here, is pretty awful, just due to lack of use in my daily life.
- I haven’t really joined any hall activities with the local students, really sticking with the international or Mainland hall mates. Well, I am in the social subcommittee, but that essentially is for the expats in the same situation I’m in.
I could try and redefine “local” to exclude me, but that feels like a cheap way out to avoid the question. Why don’t I at least act more local instead of clinging on to an expat label?
Its the same excuses as the bike. All over again.
I really should work on my Cantonese and connect more with people that have different backgrounds to me.
Yes, I will probably “speed out of control and crash into the bushes several times” (it would be odd-er if I didn’t at some point.)
But I still need to make more of an effort to step out of my comfort zone and just try being more local, rather than sticking to places that cater to English speakers.
Learning how to ride without training wheels gave me a type of freedom not found elsewhere. To speed along bike trails that don’t allow walkers (not the zombie kind, the normal people kind :P). To feel the wind whip past in my hair. To explore the world in a new way.
I wonder what exciting adventures living in Hong Kong as a local will bring me. Well no time like the present to find out! Its time to take those training wheels off and challenge myself to explore the city, not as an outsider, expat or “psudo-local” but as someone who can say in earnest: “I am a local Hong Konger”
See you tomorrow.
This post is the result of two Daily post prompts: <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/local/”>Local (26/6) </a> & <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/wheel/”>Wheel (27/7) </a>
(Because of time zones, I don’t see today’s “official daily post prompts” until the next day, so these will always be slightly behind time wise, like with the Blossom one on Day 7)