Okay, time to talk about what’s been going on for the past couple of months. There have been big changes in my life and possibly bigger changes to come. Mostly negative, with that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel seeming very far away.
The easiest one to write about is that my wife moved back to Hong Kong. In the Philippines, she spent two years looking for a job and constantly was rejected solely due to her age. In Hong Kong, from the time we stepped off the plane until she had a job (paying more than ten times what she could have earned here) was almost exactly three hours.
Last time she did this, last year July, it didn’t work out – and that’s in no small part due to the fact that she very quickly decided to do a flat share arrangement – in a place where she had a large room but no TV and no internet. The price was right, the location was okay enough, but she was miserable. When my mother fell ill in September and I needed help taking care of her, she agreed to come back to Manila before I could even finish asking the question. Following my mother’s death and her daughter’s 18th birthday (a big deal in the Philippines), we agreed that she would give Hong Kong another try.
This time we’ve hopefully learned from the past. We’ve rented a small place, what’s referred to in HK as a sub-divided flat (in this case two large apartments that have been divided up into 10 smaller apartments – each with their own entry and bathroom). The entire apartment is smaller than the master bedroom in our house in Manila, but for one person it’s good enough. I set her up with NOW-TV (including GMA, of course) and internet* and it’s so close to her work that she can go home and lie down for a bit during her break. It’s also just a two minute walk to my office.
* Even though the place is on HK island, where one can get up to 1 gigabit per second internet for around US$25 a month, her building is so old that we can only get 8 Mbps (which then gets cut in half if she turns on the TV).
I was in Hong Kong last weekend because it was her birthday. For two people, the apartment is very small indeed – but okay enough. She’s asking her bosses if she can take vacation next month to be with me in Manila for my birthday. And while we’re apart, we do long video chats every day thanks to Skype, Facebook Messenger and others.
Also, I’m not in this big house alone. My wife’s daughter remains here, we have a domestic helper, and of course I’ve got my friends both inside the village and in Manila in general. I will confess that while I am not alone, I am sometimes lonely.
The Other Thing
The other thing that’s going on is a bit harder for me to write about because it concerns work. I’ve always tried to avoid writing about my work here – and that’s in no small part due to the fact that I’m aware that several of my co-workers read my blog. I feel that the events of the past few months merit a mention here, but I’m only going to talk about some aspects of it and I hope I’m not saying too much.
I just passed my four year anniversary in my current job. While the job has more than its share of stressful moments, in the balance of things it has been a good place for me to work because I’m working for friends. Of the two co-founders (both Americans resident in Hong Kong), I’ve known the CEO for almost 10 years and the CIO (whom I report to) for more than 20.
The company is a listed company and the stock price seemed to be unreasonably flat for most of last year. We have a strong product and a great client list so we were obviously a take-over target and I became aware of just how much of a target when I was called into due diligence sessions with potential buyers earlier this year. Finally one offer was accepted and the transaction completed last month.
One immediate outcome of the sale was that all stock options immediately vested and were purchased by the new owners. The day that money was deposited in my account was definitely a Good Day.
On the other hand, the two co-founders (along with the CFO) handed in their resignations as soon as the sale completed. I’ll remain friends with the co-founders for hopefully a long time to come, but I won’t be working for friends any more.
The new owners have spent the last month asking questions but not providing much information from their end. They have stated that our company will remain a “separate operating company and brand.” They are also intending to make cuts to current operating expenses. I’ve been told that the budget for the department I manage represents 10% of the company’s annual revenue and “that’s too high.”
I don’t know what’s going to happen. The Little Mary Sunshine part of me says that the new owners had zero footprint in Asia until now and that they might view my long career in IT combined with two decades in Asia as a positive for them, maybe even a promotion for me.
Meanwhile, the cynical New Yorker side of me says that … well, I don’t need to go there, do I? I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself.
One thing I can say is that I absolutely abhor uncertainty. Of course the situation will be resolved one way or another at some point. I’m trying to not allow myself to get too crazy in the interim but there are no guarantees.
The Other Other Thing
I think it’s at least a little bit funny that each time I fly to Hong Kong, as the wheels touch the ground I find myself thinking, “I’m home.” Well, I did live in Hong Kong for 18 years and Hong Kong was very very good to me for most of those years.
I never lived in Wanchai in those 18 years (unless you want to count Kennedy Road, so called “Wanchai Mid-Levels”) and for 8 of those years I was up in the New Territories – Sai Kung and Tai Po. On this last visit, having an apartment in Wanchai, having so much within quick walking distance, it was really quite nice.
I bought one more lens for my Fujifilm X-T2 (the 56mm F1.2) and was able to get over to The Wanch and some other spots to shoot some bands – photos soon.
So when will I go back to Hong Kong again? Soon. I’m thinking now that I have a place to stay there again and don’t need to pay for a hotel, I’ve got some (hopefully) minor medical stuff to take care of that I’ve been putting off. It will be cheaper to do it in Hong Kong (as long as I don’t need to pay for a hotel), I’ll get to spend more time with my wife, and there could be other advantages to spending more time in Hong Kong at this particular point in time.