Hong-Kong Stories Part One
Today is my 15th day away from montreal. We left hong-kong to come to china. So much has been happening the entire time i have been away that i have not really had the energy to keep journal by words, I have, however, been keeping a well documented visual journal. At this point in time I have taken approxematly 3000 photos, give or take a little. It will take a significant amount of time to select, edit, and share these images, not to mention really get my journal/blogging up to date.
We decided to fly with Eva Airlines because they allow us to do a stop over in Vancouver for an extended period of time, where as Air Canada would charge us for two seperate flights. Eva Airlines have the cleanest bathrooms I have ever seen while travelling, but serve food that is comparable to hospital fodder.
We left Montreal on March 19th, Friday. We "loose" 3 hours, because of the time change going accross Canada. We fly out of Vancouver at approxmately 2am, arriving in Taipei, Taiwan at approxmately 6am, flying to our destination at around 8am (Taipei time). Because of the time change, it was Sunday, which really took me some time to wrap my head around this concept because it is a 13 hour flight from Vancouver, and we had left Montreal on Friday.
Ziggy's parents had been living at the City University of Hong-Kong for 6 months as his dad was there on sibatical (he's a prof at Concordia University in Montreal). Ziggy's mother met us at the airport, and took us to a bus that kept looping around and around the airport, it took at least 20 minutes to get away from the airport, it was very funny. It had been explained to us ahead of time that we were taking the slower, cheaper bus.
There are alot of double decker buses in Hong-Kong, many are highly decorated with pretty and interesting images which are cleverely disguised adverts. Transit in Hong-Kong is highly efficient, better then anything I have ever seen in Canada. Hong-Kong really has benefitted from the best of both the Chinese and the British, and is in strong contrast to the chaos of China.
Hong-Kong is bilingual in terms of public information & media, but not everyone is able to speak English or understand it, though many can read English, sometimes even quite well. English is taught to children. The major language is Cantonese. There are immigrants from other countries, mostle the phillipines, who provide alot of nannies and other types of assistant jobs.
Bathrooms here usually do not provide paper towel (unless it's a ritzy place) and toilet paper is usually at the door where you come in. Many times I have fogotten to grab some before going to the toilet, a pridicament which can be exasperated by the empty dispensor besides the toilet which they never fill. I have learned to keep a package of kleenix in my purse.
Health in Hong-Kong is something that both the public are concerned with and the government spends quite an effort educating people about. Social change usually comes from the government in stages, I think the government must have a plan I would approve of. People in Hong-Kong are very aware of sanitation. If you are sick, be it a headcold or something worse, most will voluntarily where a surgical mask to protect others from getting sick (sick days spent resting seem to be frowned upon). Antibacterial liquid dispensors are everywhere. Many people border on paranoid about sanitation. From what I understand, back in the mid last century, everything was so dirty that the streets were black, layered Iayered in coats of spit and god knows what else. Cockroaches used to run rampet along sides rats in the thousands and garbage was everywhere. Now it is illigal to spit, including in garbage cans, the streets are washed regularly, and there are garbage cans everywhere, with a growing number of recycling bins.
Another oddity about the bathrooms are the squat toilets, which from what I have read is healthier for the body then our western sitting toilets (although many bathrooms offer a few of this kind). When you squat to relieve yourself, your muscles in the abdomen are developed properly so that it is easier to pass a bowel movement. Cultures who use sitting toilets have a higher rate of statistics indicating a culture with regular bowel related health problems. But if you are not acustomed to a squat toilet, it can take some strategic planning to not make a mess (although not everyone who is used to squatting are necessarily good at it either).
Our first evening spent in Hong-Kong, we went to see Ziggy's grandmother, "paupau" in Cantonese. The neighborhoods we went through were a mix of old and new, more new then old. Hong-Kong is, as I have said, highly efficient, old neighborhoods are torn down qui kly with new buildings being constructed at the fastest rate I have I ever had the chance to witness, making Canadian construction look slow and disorganized (though China itself makes Canada look efficient & fast, but I'll get into that later). I guess everything is relative.
Our second day we went on a 6 hour "walk about" with Ziggy's mom. She took us through areas that westerners never go and I got staired at alot (westerners are not unseen here but are usually tourists who stick to certain tourist "traps" and don't stray).
I included in my wanderings a mad hunt for a meridian qigong book and Chinese medicine book, which both turned out to be quite rare. One of the things I learned while talking to a small Kung-Fu store, is that the Chinese government controls the distribution & printing of qigong books and most of the time will not allow most qigong books to be distibuted outside of China. The fellow running the store said he would be rare to find any qigong books in Hong-Kong. I know the particular book I was searching for is impossible to find in Canada. I only know about it because someone brought my teacher a copy of the book from Beijing. The second book, a chinese medical book exemplifying in comic book form, explains the basic fundamentals of the chinese medicine system. This book is not quite as rare but still difficult to find and appears to be out of print, fingers crossed for a used copy coming my way (it even has pirate mice helping to tell the story of Chinese medicine).
So many thoughts to share, hard to decide what to focus on. Right now I am on the MTR, the train system that is simular to the metro in Montreal. In Montreal we recently got the Opus card, which is a card with a chip in it which records how many tickets or week or month pass you have for using transit. Hong-Kong has had this sort of card for over 10 years now but it is more advanced; you can use it for transit, food, or any other number of exchanges normally requiring money, credit card or bank card. The card is called the Octopus card, a metaphor expressing the multiple ways it can be used. You can put cash on your Octopus card, or you can have it electronically connected to your bank account or credit card.
Anyways, this is all for now... Much more to write about my Hong-Kong adventures over the coming weeks, photos to come soon.