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Alyssa’s Expat Life—Ode to Shenzhen/Hong Kong

Jul 6, 2014   //   by astahr   //   Alyssa Stahr, Blog  //  Comments Off on Alyssa’s Expat Life—Ode to Shenzhen/Hong Kong

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
Isabelle Eberhardt, The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

Being a member of the media has its perks: free show tickets, invitations to fancy dinners with important people, free trips to conventions, video shoots in various parts of the country and social events. But, nothing could have prepared me for the awe-inspiring visit and flight into Hong Kong for VAPE News magazine. My editorial destiny with VAPE started back in 2002 when I met Matt at Drag Racing Online. Back then he was “just” a designer and I was “just” a clerical worker/copy editor. Over the years we’ve done little projects here and there, and when Matt started VAPE I was eager to help. The magazine has taken on a life of its own, which has led me to a factory tour (of e-cigarettes of all things) in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

The flight in was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was like I was getting dropped straight into a James Bond movie with the lush tropical mountains and a city scape you have to see to believe. My photos just don’t do it justice. I can’t even put into words the week I’ve had with the Wingle Group boys. Dman, Shlomo, Igor, Ivan and Borya have really made this 14-hour work days and crazy week of e-cig factory tours and VIP lunches/dinners well worth it. Shlomo (means King Solomon in Hebrew), our driver, and I immediately had the most unexpected of connections. While the boys in the back spoke Hebrew/Russian or whatever their combined languages were, Shlomo and I were in the front of the car teaching each other our own form of Chinglish, laughing and complaining about stupid drivers while he read all the signs to me and laughed as I pronounced them.

The funniest point of the visit was crossing across the border in a van with someone from Lebanon, Russia, Israel, Germany, the UK, China and little old me. We definitely got searched. We were laughing about the array of passports and our unlikely caravan and how we must look to customs.

My last night in Hong Kong with Dman was a dream. He took me on a ferry ride and walking tour of some of his favorite hot spots. We went to a Japanese bar, the Butler, where the bartender took my simple Captain and Coke and lit honey and lemons on fire, mixing it ever so precisely with a flourish. Topping the drink off with a stick of cinnamon, I never knew a basic drink could be delivered with such pride and accuracy. The only sad part about my night in Hong Kong is that it wasn’t long enough. I believe, however, that it won’t be my last time here. That’s my hope, anyway.

There’s really something special about working hard and traveling at the same time. You learn so much not only about the world, but yourself. I feel relevant. I feel important. I feel alive more than I ever have in my lifetime. Coming back home and settling down just doesn’t feel right in my bones anymore. Perhaps that’s why life before all of these blessings never quite meshed with the person I was trying to be. I was trying to be married and have the two-car garage that everyone else had, to be what everyone deems “normal” in mid-America. But, that’s just not me. And now that I’ve accepted it and steered my life in the direction that I have, wow. I never thought I could be so happy. Dmitri even said that he can’t settle and live in one place for more than a year, and for the first time I really understood what that life meant and how it completely agreed with what I’ve always wanted.

Idle time never has done me justice, and that’s why flying, trade shows, conferences, you have it, have been so appealing to me. Listening to other languages, laughing with new friends from around the world, learning about different cultures—it’s all a wonderful gift. I have one more night to wrap up some unfinished business in Jinan. I gladly say goodbye to the city I’ve called my home for five months, and I head to Bali now with one of the best weeks of my life behind me and with what I’ve learned deeply imbedded in my heart.

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