The Biggest Change: Times Past

Irene Waters hosts a monthly memoir post – Time Past. The theme for this month is The Biggest Change.

My mom is the Silent Generation and I am the Baby Boomer.

I have many stories to tell about the biggest change in my mom’s life as well as in my life. For this post, I write about the biggest change in my life within a few months in 1977. The changes in culture, environment, language, and ways of life happened to me all at once.

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I worked several years after graduated from college. I took the Double-Decker bus to work. It went from Kowloon to the underwater Crossed Harbour tunnel, then to  Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. At that time, there were no cell phones, I did my reading on the bus.

Being busy was an understatement. I worked forty hours a week in my paying job plus twenty hours a week volunteering at a church. I did most of the mental planning on the bus. It was an advantage to take public transportation. On some of the weeknights, I went window shopping to take my mind off the working mode. I did a thirty-minute walk from Pioneer Centre Shopping Arcade to Kowloon Central Post Office on Nathan Road, then took a bus home.

It was eleven thirty o’clock at night when I went to bed. The more I tried to relax the more anxious I got in my head. Getting six hours of sleep was fortunate before I shook my head to wake up the next morning.

On March 21, 1977, I arrived in Portland, Oregon to attend school for my graduate studies. The campus was surrounded by pine trees reaching into the sky. The school owned some housings and rented them to students. Many of the nearby residents rented out their homes to the students also. I shared a cottage with two female students. It was common that the basement and the attic were living areas if they met the legal requirement.  I lived in the attic, my housemates lived downstairs. I didn’t mind living in the attic because I was shy to carry on a conversation with my British English. My housemates were very friendly. We ate dinner together three times a week and took turns to do the cooking. Cooking was not something I did often in Hong Kong, so I tried to remember what my mom had done and did accordingly.

 “I’m living in a forest,” I told my family in a letter.

I had never experienced such quietness. It was so quiet that I started noticing the intermittent tinnitus in my left ear. This was an extremely different environment to the one I just left two days ago. My life was from running sixty miles an hour to almost a complete stop. In one minute, I was hustling and bustling to catch the bus; in another minute, I had nothing to do except going to classes and doing term papers.

Doing a typewritten paper was a challenge to me. I did all my writing in handwriting previously. When working on the first assignment, I learned to type with a manual typewriter and typed my paper at the same time. I didn’t want to type with two index fingers. How could I learn to type by doing that? By using ten fingers to type, it was inevitable to have many typos. There was no correction tape built into the typewriter, I used correction fluid. Experience taught me to apply a thin layer on the paper, not only for it to try faster, but avoid having a white hump on the paper.  Even when I typed after the fluid was dry, the dent would look like sticking the candles on the icing of a cake. It took me almost an hour to type my first page.

(Excerpt from my memoir in progress)

By the way, my first typewriter was orange. It looked almost the same as this image I found on Google search.

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Irene WatersThe biggest change: Times Past

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