Julia has lived in a tunnel on the east of Hong Kong island for more than four months.
She came to the city from Bangkok, Thailand, on the suggestion of a friend, who knew a man who said he was looking for a wife. She met the man a number of times. She met his mother and his brother. However, the marriage never eventuated. Julia holds no ill feelings towards the friend who made the introduction and they still maintain contact.
Julia has persevered in Hong Kong. She worked in Tai Kok Tsui soon after arriving, but didn’t enjoy that time at all – and refuses to work or sleep on the Kowloon side of the city again. For a period of time she cooked Thai food from her house for the staff of a nearby Italian restaurant, which she enjoyed immensely. She would wake up early and scour the markets for the best meat and vegetables. She has also worked as a delivery person, and for a Filipino loan company.
Julia maintains a small but very well organized space inside the tunnel. Compared to those around her, she has a considerable number of possessions, which are contained within makeshift three-feet high walls. Despite the order of her space and the friendship of some other tunnel residents, she doesn’t feel safe. People are often fighting at night – and she is one of only a few women that this project has observed occupying a regular, established sleeping area.
Hong Kong is an everyday struggle, but Julia will not go back to Thailand until she has money. “I need to return differently”, she says.
Note: Names in this article have been changed to protect privacy.