The bathroom had a line, like all women’s bathrooms across the world I knew it would have a line… and Hong Kong the most densely populated place in the world, of course, had a nice long line of well dressed business class women. I was just outside the airport at the entrance to the MTR underground subway in Hong Kong. I wasn’t waiting for a toilet, only a sink and so with my bulky camera bag on my back I shuffled to the front to wash my face.
I was meeting my friend and her new baby son, and I smelt like day old beer and a night on the airport floor. I had just flown from Bangkok to Hong Kong on a red eye, and as I stood at the sink surrounded by locals brushing my teeth, I felt for the first time in my life homeless.
My hair was disheveled; I had run into a friend on Koa San Road, the late night, sometimes precarious tourist district, as I waited for an airport shuttle bus – the impromptu reunion led to more than a few Chang beers, a little dancing, top forty music blaring, and a missed bus, which then became a later night cab ride.
At 3am only slightly intoxicated I set up a makeshift bed, and spent a few hours on the airport floor to save a few dollars. My flight took off at 6am – what feels like a decade ago, and it is now 11:00. I’ve brushed the knots out of my hair, much shorter than when I started this trip, and changed my shirt. I had only one clean option left my backpack.
I’m being stared at; I’m a foot taller, and a hell of a lot blonder than any one else in the bathroom. I feel self conscious about my loose travel clothing, and the fact that I am brushing my teeth in a public washroom. Hong Kong is business and I am out of place, I feel like I don’t belong this late in the morning, still foggy.
I often ask myself how did I end up here? Its not that I didn’t make a conscious choice to go to Hong Kong but when I left home three months ago I could have never predicted my current situation.
Yet here I was, about to ride in a tube underwater to an island filled to the brim with people. A tube that moves millions of people around everyday and all I could think about was my hangover and the new conversion rate I was still trying to grasp. I put some makeup on covering up the bags under my eyes from the lack of sleep, stared at myself in the mirror, and then conspicuously I watched the people milling around me. It is a habit of a photographer people watching, culture watching. Then with a quick look at my watch, I walk out of the bathroom, no longer homeless but with places to be and a friend to meet.
[adapted from March 2012]