Monday, March 12, 2007

Once upon a time, I actually lived here...

Yeah, actually lived in this metropolis of highrises perched on mountainsides: the frenetic but always fascinating Fragrant Harbour: Hong Kong.

Guests of my old Hong Kong friends Roger and Sue, I slept last night in their Wah Kwai Housing Estate government flat. They are here with their two precocious kids, for what will be an annual Cantonese immersion program. They are renting the 360 square foot place from a little old lady friend of a friend. It is straight out of a chop socky flick, from the plastic armoires to the piles of amah bags suspended from the bathroom ceiling. Hong Kongers become adept at storage.

I vowed to attend the Hong Kong Literary Festival, and so will blog a bit about that, but it is always fun to be back in my old hometown, so a few words about that, first.

Oh, Bali, you have thinned my blood, marshmallowed my memory banks, but given me a smile. Hong Kongers do smile brightly if one smiles first. This is really not as dour and sober a place as I had remembered. Hong Kongers don't proffer their business cards quite as quickly as they used to, unless they are just waiting for me to do it first. And I am freeeezing here, on a simple, misty March day. I had to go and buy thermal undies from the Watson's, a windcheater from Baleno, and scarves from H & M.

I fairly gasp in wonder at the busy Aberdeen channel, the kind of thing I saw almost daily when I commuted about on ferries, 1989 - 2001. I am amazed at how much stuff I can get done in a short period of time, but I can't believe how much I have forgotten: bus routes, place names in Cantonese, etc. It is good to be back, but one reason is that I needed to be reminded of things.

Last night the festival opened at St John's Cathedral, a lovely Edwardian church in a lovely pocket of greenery in the heart of Central. I have always loved it, but I had forgotten that sparrows make their homes in the rafters, and they twittered away while the vicar welcomed us, while writers read to us, and while members of the Soho Collective sang charming songs.

Last night I

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