I moved to Hong Kong with a single checked bag, a carry on suitcase and a purse. I had some clothes, shoes, a towel, measuring cups, nutmeg, and some essential toiletries and medicines.
Since I have been here, I’ve stocked a kitchen with dishes and food stuffs, purchased a DVD player, bookshelves, board games, art, frames, large furniture-for the roof and indoors-and various clothing. Last week I bought an oven, and we’ve already cooked in it 4 times: banana bread, sopa, peach crumble, and chicken kievs. Pete even brought back a couple of my paintings from his business trip to the States. It’s taken a little bit of time, but I finally feel like there isn’t much else to acquire
I feel like I live here, happily and comfortably. Yet I still have a large amount of things stored in my parents’ basement. There is a stack of boxes full of books that is 6 feet tall, plastic containers of bedding supplies from college, notebooks, paints, sweaters, coats, knick-knacks. All in a 6 foot cubed corner of my parents basement. I would love to have it here, but it wouldn’t fit and I certainly don’t need it.
When I moved to Turkey in 2011, I took with me twice what I took here. I had a backpacking pack full of winter clothes, and I even purchased some clothes in Ankara. When I departed, I left some old ones and some new ones there because they wouldn’t fit in my suitcases to travel again. I left some liquids, nail polish, lentils, some herbs. I gave away my kitchen supplies to a couple of friends.
It was oddly important to me that I left a pair black boots in my apartment in Ankara that were never going to fit in my luggage. I miss those shoes. I managed to fit another pair in, but I had to leave them at my Parents’ when I left a week later. They were putting my one bag over 50 lbs. I finally arrived in Hong Kong wearing my bulkiest shoes for the 20 hour journey: cowboy boots. But that was one of 3 pairs of shoes that weren’t open toed, and you can’t exactly wear cowboy boots everyday either. People notice.
2 weeks ago, I went to Marks and Spencer and bought a pair of short leather boots I had seen before and wanted, and I had a discount. For some reason, this seems like the last piece of the puzzle. I now have a complete and well rounded wardrobe; anything else I buy will just be extra. The oven and the boots have completed my drive for acquisition.
I could have bought those same shoes in May in Turkey. The store had them. But I decided against it, I was leaving soon. It was a good choice: I would have had to leave something else behind, and they would not have fit in my bag to move here. If I had bought them then, they would at best still be in a basement in Connecticut.
This seems to be the nature of moving by plane to places you will be for less than 5 years. Your move is temporary and all of your things are also temporary. You buy shoes, they only need to last until you move again. You buy dishes, appliances, shelves etc, and you expect to leave them behind.
Perhaps this is wasteful. But hopefully the next tenants will get the furniture we will enjoy for two years, or we’ll sell it to other newcomers who have the same lives we do. There is a cycle of furniture: you inherit things from people who lived here before you, and you continue to pass it on.