Sea Urchin Soup
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As some on TripAdvisor have called it, I’d just entered the ‘Mad Place,’ or Sai Yeung Choi Street, a pedestrian shopping street in Mongkok. I stumbled upon the street by accident. And that's when I crashed a date without knowing it. After steering clear of two men serenading people with music and avoiding a woman selling watches, I spotted an ice cream shop. Eating alone is something you learn to do when you travel solo. For me, it’s strange every time. You become more aware of yourself. (Although, it’s not abnormal to travel alone. According to a Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, over 24 percent of people traveled alone overseas of fun in 2015, a statistic increasing each year.)
I studied the menu looking at pictures and the scrawling figures of names below that I couldn’t read. When it was my turn, I smiled and pointed and tried to make my face as friendly as possible. They smiled back and began preparing my large vanilla ice cream with chocolate popcorn. The young man behind me was now beside me. He handed me my ice cream and exuded the same warmth I had tried to give the cashier earlier. Was he trying to communicate friendliness with his face? Does friendliness fit everyone differently?
‘Thank you,’ I told him, hoping he would understand how surprised and grateful I was. ‘For you! Are you traveling alone?’ He and the young girl with him grabbed their ice creams from the counter as well and we floated to the side of the shop so the line could continue. ‘Yes, well, meeting a friend soon,’ I hated the question about being alone. It made me feel exposed. ‘Are you from here?’ He put his arm around the girl and they nodded. With broken words, they told me they didn’t go to school, but worked. We stood in silence, eating our ice cream and watching the crowds move in rhythm with the performances. They spoke softly to each other, and I wanted to join but felt that permission to stand with them was enough. We watched, soaking in the drawings of tourists being completed on the street and the music from stores pouring out into the pavement. They waved at me and disappeared into the crowd. My dates were gone before I could even finish my ice cream. (This story has been adapted. Visit www.lifethroughchocolate.com for the full version!)
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