We arrived in Macau at the end of the Year of the Golden Pig. Apparently a golden pig year comes around only once every sixty, and it brings good fortune. So when we came to make Macau our home, at the backside end of this golden pig year, there were fat, pink pigs dancing in bank ads, sparkly cartoon pigs wearing Chinese pajamas hanging in the local bakery, and tiny souvenir golden pigs for sale at the post office. All those pigs around me were comforting, with their full snouts and chubby grins. Welcome to Macau! they snorted. You’ll like it here. We do! I was willing to accept any good luck a golden hog could throw at me.
Macau: the bulbous nose of China, a peninsula and two islands strung together like a three-bead necklace, though by now the sand and silt have crept up and almost covered the silk of the ocean in between. Gobbled up, like most everything in Macau, by Progress. Progress and gambling. This tiny country, only twenty-eight square kilometers, once a sleepy Portuguese outpost, is the only place in China where you can drop a coin into a slot or lay a chip on kidney-shaped lawns of soft, green felt. The Vegas of the East. Bright lights, little city, fast cash.
We stepped off the ferry from Hong Kong on the eighth of January 2008. The date had a nice ring to it. A fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. We arrived with suitcases full of the light, breezy clothes usually reserved for the brief but seductive British summer. We were full of naïve optimism about our new life adventure. My Australian husband and his red-haired, blush-of-cheek English rose. We were babes in the woods.
The January winter was bitter in more ways than one. It was one of the coldest on record, and we were freezing in our bright, thin clothes. Every morning the sky was the color of milk. The apartment had no central heating, and it took us some time to realize we needed a dehumidifier. The walls started to bloom with a dark mold, which spread like a growing bruise, and I couldn’t feel my fingers in the evenings. It was the kind of damp cold that settles deep in the marrow of your bones and refuses to budge.
This is where I will start. Our life in this cold month, before the Year of the Rat began. When we couldn’t run any longer from realities; when life hunted us down and found us. It followed us all the way from Melbourne to London, London to Macau. All that running, and still we were discovered, no longer able to hide out in the meaningless details of our life—who is making breakfast and could you remember to pick up the dry cleaning.
It was time to find a life for myself. To make something out of nothing. The end of hope and the beginning of it too.