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Beautiful fall colours in Southern Ontario

Paul and I were in Canada for two weeks at the beginning of November, our first trip home since moving to Hong Kong a year and a half ago. That’s a long stretch without returning home, especially by HK expat standards. Many of the expats I know, especially the wives, make frequent trips home, wherever that may be, often for long periods at a time. That hasn’t been in the cards for me, so this trip was way overdue.

The sky, the spaciousness, the fall colours, the fresh air … these were the things we were struck by most during our return to Canada. These are all quintessential Canadian-isms, taken for granted by people who live there, but so noticeable when you’ve been away for a while.

We spent the first week in Southern Ontario with Paul’s family and our daughter. It felt so good to be encircled by family again. We had a great day in Toronto where we met up with friends and took care of some business. Then we had a whirlwind trip to Ottawa (a hour’s flight east) where we were able to visit with A LOT of people at an open house generously hosted by some very good friends of ours. Then it was off to Calgary, Alberta (roughly a five-hour flight from Ottawa) to see my family and friends. Again, although our time with them all was too short, we enjoyed quality time with everyone and it felt great to be in their midst.

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Alberta is called “Big Sky Country” for good reason. In this rushed photo taken from a moving vehicle (sorry!), you can see the mountains in the background behind all that space and sky.

Paul and I never did adjust to the time change. In Ontario, we were waking at 3:30 a.m.; this became gradually later each day until we were almost back to “normal”, just in time to go to Calgary which is two hours behind, where we started all over again, waking at 3:30 a.m. This too gradually improved and then it was time to come home to Hong Kong where we were back to waking at 3:30 a.m. I don’t know how people do it who cross time zones all the time. Better their bodies being battered than mine.

A new job

I am very pleased to tell you that I have a new job as Director of Marketing for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. This opportunity came up very unexpectedly and, of course, right before my surgery in September, so I wasn’t sure if or when I would even be able to interview with them. Had the outcome of my surgery been different, I would not have been able to pursue this job. As everything turned out so well, I took it as a sign that it was meant to be.

This job is a great fit for me. I have spent most of the last 20 years working in arts marketing and management, a lot of it with symphony orchestras (especially the National Arts Centre Orchestra) as well as in theatre and dance. Plus, my background is as a classical pianist. I hit the ground running with the HK Phil right after our return from Canada.

Actually, I’ve been doing double duty the last few weeks, finishing off my contract with Premiere Performances of Hong Kong and getting my feet wet with the HK Phil. I am so grateful to Andrea Fessler, the excellent, energetic founder of Premiere Performances, for giving me my first arts admin job here in HK. Andrea really challenged me and I learned so much during my time there about the HK arts sector, HK advertising, venues, and challenges in this market – and there are plenty given that so much of the sector is controlled by the government. More on that another time.

I will continue working a few days a week with the HK Phil until Christmas and will take up the job on a regular, four-day-a-week basis in early January. I am grateful for this opportunity, which I think will be the best I will get here in HK.

One of the biggest adjustments for me will be working in an office again. As a consultant for many years, I worked from my home office with occasional periods at the client’s premises. In the few weeks I have been with the orchestra, I have re-discovered how much time is consumed by suiting up each morning and commuting (45 to 60 minutes each way for me). I am also experiencing first-hand Hong Kong’s famous pressure to work, work, work. I’ve written before about how people work crazy long hours here. My day will go from about 10 am to 7 pm, but add at least an hour to both ends of that and you have a typical work day here. I can’t imagine how families with two working parents manage. Well, actually I can: they have one or two live-in helpers to take care of the kids, do the cooking, run errands and all that. There has been quite a bit in the news lately about efforts to legislate working hours but that’s going nowhere because everything here is geared to serve business interests. That’s such a contrast to Canada where work hours are legislated and if a business can’t afford to operate within those regulations, then they won’t be in business. Here, it’s the opposite. The people don’t really matter; it’s all about the business owner and profits. I’m not saying it’s that stark at the HK Phil, but managing my life personally and professionally will be a challenge in this type of environment. 

Coming up

Our daughter is coming to HK for Christmas in two weeks. We will spend a few days in Singapore and then go to Phuket where we will have Christmas at a beach-resort. What a change from our Canadian Christmas tradition!! I confess that in recent years I was getting a little weary of our Christmas routine in Canada and kept making noises about just getting away at Christmas instead. Goes to show: be careful what you wish for.

Until next time.

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A very cool sky and light one afternoon in Calgary. You can see the ice just forming on the top of this pond.