Archives for the month of: April, 2012

Sunday, midnight

A tall white tower stands in the distance, covered completely with plastic buns and radiating (or is it reflecting?) a blinding white light.  Voices carry over loudspeakers, but from where we’re standing (several exchange students and myself) at the very back of the crowd their announcements are meaningless.  Music fills the spaces in between.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a countdown (in Cantonese) begins – “10! 9! 8!…3! 2! 1!” – and with the final collective breath a sea of voices – and just as amusingly, phones and cameras – rise in celebration: the games have begun.  Contestants begin climbing the tower in a massive frenzy, knocking down buns as they scramble to the very top to claim those in the upper ranks (more on this later).  They fill their sacks and scramble back down, packs bulging under the strain of carrying so many buns.

This is the Cheung Chau Bun Festival (包山節), one of Hong Kong’s most unique and beloved annual festivals.  But even amidst all the excitement, the inevitable question remains:

What’s going on?

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Saturday afternoon

It looks pleasant enough as an aged building.  A four-story colonial building painted in bright blue, with balconies extending from the upper floors.  The surrounding buildings are draped with alternating hues: orange, green, purple, yellow – though the immediate neighbor is a stately earth-brown.  One wonders if the scene has been painted before.

But on street level, the name – first inscribed in Chinese, then its English translation underneath.  香港故事館: Hong Kong House of Stories.

A house of stories in the middle of Wan Chai (灣仔)?  Surely it’s a playful pun on the building itself?  But only the English allows for that possibility; the Chinese meaning is resolute.

So what, then, does one find in a “house of stories” in Wan Chai?  But as I mull the question over in my head, I can’t help but tinker with it, and ask:

What does one find in Wan Chai in a house of stories?

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Sunday afternoon

Does lightning really strike twice?

On the Light Rail again, and, not for the first time, a huge, colorful structure catches my eye.  A large, tiled orange roof seated atop of a dizzying palette of colors stands next to an even taller glass building.  The surrounding streets are rural and gritty, in stark contrast to their boldly – almost brashly – polychromatic neighbors.

What is this?  Or rather – where is this?

The Light Rail rushes past too quickly to discern anything specific, but the moment it stops, I get off and start exploring.

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Sunday afternoon

What roles do nature and environmentalism play in the lives of Hong Kong’s citizens?

What can Hong Kong’s exchanges with nature tell us about its traditions, and vice-versa?

Why are all these flowers so beautiful?

I still don’t have answers to all of these questions, but after having explored the Hong Kong Wetland Park (香港濕地公園) in Tin Shui Wai (天水圍) today, I’d like to think them through.

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I knew I had to come back at some point.

It had been two long weeks since I had done any serious, recreational traveling in Hong Kong.  One week (actually, spring break) was spent in Guangzhou (廣州) with family, which offered a much-needed – and well-taken – chance to reconnect with my mother and my grandparents, the latter of whom I have not seen in four years.  It was a fantastic opportunity to catch up, listen to stories, help run errands (which included cooking, for once!), and be in the company of loved ones.

The second week (when I got back), on the other hand, was largely  spent within the walls of UST’s library and its labyrinthine shelves of texts and tomes, studying for exams and preparing research for a senior thesis.

It wasn’t pretty.  The second week, at least.

So when I learned that Friday would offer a reprieve, and the potential for a fresh new look at a place I’d been to before and fallen in love with, I seized the opportunity, dropped my books, and set off.  That opportunity came in the form of the Tin Hau Festival (天后節), which in turn told me exactly where I needed to return:

I was going back to Joss House Bay (大廟灣).

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