There's a weird thing that happens when you live abroad, friends of friends (and sometimes friends of friends of friends) will put you in touch when they know someone who happens to be passing through. Generally, I'll get to chatting with them through Facebook or email about hotel recommendations and they'll freak out over the cost and I'll just say, "Oh just stay with us. We have a very humble home, but if you really just need a place to sleep so you can focus your time and funds on _________, save your money and use our spare room."
Before leaving Shanghai, I calculated how many people came and stayed with us in five years, and I'm not joking (we have the guest book to prove it) twenty-seven people spent the night that we'd never met in person before they knocked on our door or we picked them up at the airport.
I have pondered whether we would be so open with our home if we were still living in our birthplace of Los Angeles. I'm not sure. Living abroad, even in some of the largest cities on the planet, it feels a bit like being in the distant prairie of the wild west, living in an outpost where there's no doubt you'll welcome weary travelers who happen to pass through because you're quite aware of the "dangers" awaiting them out in the dark (i.e. scams, and Shanghai sure had a lot). I know we've certainly spent many a night in a guest bedroom in enough places around the world to know there's a vast difference in the experience you have in a home vs a hotel (and I've got nothing against hotels, I love a concierge, a set of luxury sheets, and room service at 11:00 p.m. as much as the next girl).
I'm quite aware that most everything we have here in Asia isn't really ours... we were given so much, whether it was a lump sum payment to buy needed household goods, hand-me-down appliances gifted to us when another family was repatriating, or even the monthly allowance that goes toward our housing. Come to think of it, with just two more years until graduation for Nathan and four more for Benjamin, even our kids aren't our own, they'll be off doing their own thing a hundred or so blog posts from now... I think being aware of this perspective helps me to understand that I can't (or perhaps shouldn't?) keep to myself what doesn't really belong to me in the first place.
I'm not sure I really believe in karma, but I do know that when my hand is open to freely give rather than tightly wrapped in a fist holding on to what's mine-mine-mine, things have a way of being gently placed in that still open palm at exactly the time I need them.
Our new home in Hong Kong is the second-smallest place we've ever lived (the smallest was in the San Francisco Bay Area, which despite the tiny size remains one of the most expensive homes we've ever lived in). We no longer have a dedicated guest room here, just a pull out sofa in the room where I write and my husband pays bills. It's not much, and to be honest, one month into our stay in this home it still looks and feels like the storage room it kinda is.
I won't deny I feel a twinge of sadness that we had so few people who actually know us in real life stay with us when we had far more space to offer in both Macau and Shanghai. Especially since so many family members and close friends have declared their intention to come visit us now that we are in Hong Kong. But though our space on offer has greatly diminished, the gift of a warm home (or cool, hooray for working air conditioning!) and an enthusiastic welcome to weary travelers certainly won't shrink in size. If anything, we're just seeking new ways to be creative with what we do have. We're putting this to the test as our very first actual overnight house guest in Hong Kong arrives tonight at midnight for a few days, and our second arrives in two weeks. We'll see how this works out! Adventure, always!
As far as visitors who haven't actually stayed overnight with us, we've already had seven people swing through Hong Kong to say hello, six of them Shanghai friends and one who I met via Instagram (I'm @roseknows if you want to follow along where I post daily, certainly more often than here). It's always nice to see a friendly face, and that definitely goes both ways... it's always rough when we move to a new country (even, I'm finding, when it's actually an old country you've lived in before), so seeing these beautiful friends has certainly made a big difference!
|Marijke on July 11!|
|Sara on July 31!|
|Anthony & Maria + kiddos on August 1!|
|Kelsey on August 31!|