Quarantine is always an odd experience. This time I’m alone, looking out at the world but unable to touch it. For seven days I watch the apartments above Elements, hundreds of boxes filled with life. I watch the restaurants and green spaces below, and the motion of cars. To one side I can see the Star Ferry trundle back and forth, and beyond that Hong Kong island, another stack of buildings and people. I watch a parent and child tend plants on their balcony, and children chase each other around a playground. Far to the left I can see a swimming pool, filled with those rich enough to reside in one of these towers.
Hong Kong is built on this density, on this ability to see several thousand apartments from any angle, but the view is rarely this good, nor are we forced to watch it this long. For a boy who loves people, loves towers, loves motion and this city, it’s a pleasure. While I of course would rather be out, rather be able to feel the air and touch the water, I’m glad to have this view.
Seven days is just long enough to force thoughtfulness. The first few days, burnt away in the haze of jet lag and working from a hotel, feel like any work trip anywhere. It isn’t till the weekend that the situation becomes clear. Like the weekends I used to spend in Dongguan, too injured to bother going anywhere, staying in a hotel alone is an odd experience. Even on those Dongguan weekends in twenty fourteen, though, I would spend most of the day walking, would feel the air and eat in restaurants. Quarantine is a different form of solitude. I think of all those who did three weeks like this, the requirement in Hong Kong over much of the past few years. I think of a factory project manager I know who spent fifty three days in quarantine in twenty twenty two for the pleasure of seeing her family in Taiwan for a week. Fifty three days alone, as a person others are to be afraid of touching.
It’s hard to imagine that length of time. It’s an odd experience, this week, but another few days and I’ll be home to my cat. Another few days and this whole trip, circumnavigating the globe fore the first time, will be over, almost like it never happened. So much of travel is like that, a blitz of new places, new weather, new colleagues and old friends, and then home again, to the cat, the family, and the hillside. Home to my tiny routines in our neighborhood, where the world is within reach.
I’m excited to see if the bakery has re-opened, to get bagels and milk tea. I’m excited to feel the humid air, and walk in the park.
Quarantine is a strange place, so close to home and yet nowhere anyone can see. And that comes back to the window, where I sit looking out. A boy kicks a soccer ball against some stairs, practicing his touch. Taxis loop in and out of the fancy apartment complexes, bringing guests and residents. And the harbor reflects the light as the sun sets on Saturday.
I’m glad to have this view, for a week.