I can breathe.

The transition from work to studentship was crazier than I expected. I had tried to distance myself from projects I handed over, but had kept one big project to work on over the summer, which ended up being more last minute than I expected. I realised there was a bit that everyone had forgotten about and I felt the need to do it last minute.

It didn’t help that I had taken on a couple of freelance articles to write and though I intended to put them on a backburner, they just kept nagging me and driving me crazy.

So yeah, I was scrambling like a crazy person right till my last day, which I then spent wiping down my desk in preparation of the new girl. Who seems really awesome, though she was overwhelmed with what the work entailed. Which came as a surprise to me, because I thought it was a breeze. Then again my boss and colleague when I joined were very clued in.

My colleagues threw me a farewell lunch that week, the date of which I had cluelessly messed up so I was totally disoriented, not helped by having to wake up multiple times at night for a coughing child.

The fact that I was leaving hit me the day before my last, when I was clearing out my desk. I was overwhelmed by sentimentality as I went through my old notebooks. It really had been the best job I ever worked – in terms of providing a good balance of stimulation, non-stress and really really nice and supportive colleagues. Yes, a lot of things got on my nerves towards the end, but I know a lot of that was impatience at knowing freedom was at hand.

Everyone was very sweet at the last moment, and though I had been angling to avoid the inevitable photo-taking, in the end, I just did it because I realise this is a way my colleagues show affection.

I had a very brief but much needed hiatus when the whole family took off to Lantau for a staycation. It was really bliss, just as it had been the last time. We all relaxed, we frequented beaches, we ate good food. I invited a couple of friends to join us for the day and we spent a good our bopping in the sea drinking beer, while the kids and helpers played in the sand. The kids really took to the friends which helped also. The friend’s fiance and V wanted to stay forever, the friend and I were like – no no, it’s city life for us. On an even more deserted beach the next day, I just lay in the sand soaking up the sun – something I’ve never done before – with Mimi slopping sand all over me.

The very next day the crazy began again. I dropped Benji to kindergarten, went across town for an interview in an art gallery, met a couple of friends for lunch, raced across town to the uni for registration, then headed home.

Tuesday was supposed to be peaceful, but I can’t remember where it went.

Yesterday was the most schizophrenic. Dropped Benji to kindergarten, headed to uni to attend two MPhil candidature presentations, had a welcome lunch at the new department, headed to the grad school for some admin work, raced back home and did an interview over the telephone, had a cup of tea and then raced across town for another interview. Got back at 9 pm. Basically had been on the go from 9 am to 9 pm, and switching between three different roles at least.

This is a far cry from when I would go into the office at 9 am and get work done at leisure till 6 pm when I shut down and came home.

The two student seminars were a stark reminder of how I had been coasting intellectually for five years. I had wondered a bit about academia in Hong Kong, but within 10 minutes of the presentation starting, I realised I was in a room with very smart people. I had to be switched on for the entire two hours, and even during the lunch after because the conversation is at an intellectual level and one doesn’t want to come across as the class doofus. Luckily, there’s another girl who seems to be claiming that spot, which i fine with me. It’s kind of odd being the clued in one when all along I’ve been feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing administratively.

Also, it’s so helps to not be starting out in a new city. People think that it’s a big deal that I’m a mum and doing a PhD but at the end of the day, I have a very organised house set up to go back to. Yes, it’s a bit disorienting working from home with the kids jumping around, but I can seclude myself if I want to.

On the other hand, I know not just the city but the university nad how it works and where things are. I can see that it’s hard for an absolute newbie because the system is unfamiliar and the grad school hasn’t really explained anything and you don’t want to be asking your supervisor idiotic questions. I am still a bit clueless and it’s like the blind leading the blind but at least I’m not the most clueless one and I don’t know why I find that reassuring.

You may have noticed Benji started school. It is so much better this time around that last time. It could be that he’s older, that he’s already been socialised into school. But the school itself helps – they let us right in there into the play area before school starts, everyone is friendly, the whole vibe is welcoming. And it’s expensive but with kids like mine, it helps. Benji still isn’t as chatty about school as I’d like him to be but he doesn’t fuss like he used to and he ocassionally mentions his teacher. So that decision seems to have worked out, fingers crossed.

The school is new and can be a little loopy. I called to ask about first day procedures and they told me that the kids just have to go in on their own from day one which I thought was strange but I asked around and some schools do it because Hong Kong kids start some sort of structured class at 2. Then they suddenly sent an email about an open day, so I decided to skip the first day and attend the open day since anyway I wouldn’t be able to go in with Benji on the first day. I had just one half day of leave left so I juggled it. Turns out at the open day, they say we can go in with the kids on the first day after all. Arrrgh! I had floated the idea of our helper going in with Benji but the school didn’t seem too keen. I asked V to go but he had a project implementation on that day. In the end, V arranged to work from home despite his project implementation and escorted Benji. It reminded me of this article.

Whew. But at least you’re all caught up.