ong Kong Redux
December 11, 1999 - January 30, 2000
Other China Pages
After a fifteen year absence we returned to Hong Kong in mid December. We choose Hong Kong as the next stop in our odysses for a mixture of reasons — the most immediate was that our visa to China was to expire on December 12 (we arrived with a day to spare). But that wasn't reason enough, as we could have theoretically gone any place in the world. Another reason was the fact that we'd been away fourteen years and wanted to see the place and friends again; in fact, when we left Hong Kong in 1985 we never imagined we'd be gone so long. That was pretty important, but also wasn't enough, as we have lots of friends we'd like to see and lots of places still unvisited.
The decision came down to three points: First, when thinking about where we would like to pass the Millennium it was either Jerusalem or Hong Kong. Second, Hong Kong was closest to China and an obvious end point for our travels about China
The final and deciding point was the offer we received while in Beijing that would let us rent an apartment in Hong Kong for seven weeks. The fact that it was on Lamma Island and would require a ferry ride to come and go gave us pause but in the end we decided to take it.
We arrived in Hong Kong on a Saturday and left on a Sunday seven weeks and one day later. Our stay was low-key compared to our intense trip to China. Before we ever set out on this trip we decided that we would try to keep an accurate diary and post as much (interesting?) stuff and photos as we could on the web; a lot of our time at the end of the stay was spent on processing photos and scanningthem. (When we first arrived and moved into 65 Pak Kok Gau Tsuen we quickly got on the web and revised our web page to tell you all our whereabouts and plans. That page is dated, but you can still read it if you want to see our mood of the moment.
We did do some cultural things,including going to a Christmas concert, an Indonesian puppet show, and four of Hong Kong's new museums
Health and Home
Jan was still suffering from the cold she had had for a month, and for which we had sought treatment in Hangzhou, when we arrived in Hong Kong. It was a nice feeling to think we could go to our old familiar practice, Drs Anderson and Partners, and speak English, and think a cure would be forthcoming. So we lost no time in making a visit and indeed it all seemed more organized and assuring than China had. Armed with confidence and some new medicine we retreated to Pak Kok Gau Tsuen to rest. Incidentally, Gerry too had picked up a cold and had it concurrently with Jan, but his didn't last as long and wasn't as debilitating. None the less, he too was happy to have a rest.
Our life over the next seven weeks was spent nearly as much "at home" as out. The first week we were in because Jan was recuperating. But after that we found so many good things to read and the atmosphere of the front garden and its flowers so enticing that we had little need to leave. Whenever the weather was favorable (alas all too often it was too cold) we'd sit out for a long lunch, reading and admiring the harbor and the distant islands and hills.
While in Honk Kong we wanted to make many hikes but we failed to achieve the two of most interest to us. The first was to go to the top of Mt Morrison, the highest peak on Lamma and the farthest peak from us. At first our health would not permit it and then we ran out of time. The second hike was missed for similar reasons: Gerry particularly wanted to make a hike to Dai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay). In our four years in HK we had hiked nearly a dozen times to this remote beach. The trail starts in the hills and takes you up and down them twice before reaching a tiny river mouth. (It now reminds us of Vietnam's many deltas, but back in 1981-85 we hadn't seen Vietnam.) At the end of March on our last Saturday in Shenzhen we meant to go there (Dai Long Wan is as easily accessible from Shenzhen as it is from Central HK) but we suddenly cut short our stay and left on the preceeding Tueday. Another big miss was going to Lantau Island, which has HK's highest peak. We didn't go and so we didn't hike there.
We did get in some hiking, though. Several times we made hikes on Lamma -- on the day of our 21st wedding anniversary when, happily, the weather was exceptionally good, we walked the five miles to Sok Kwu Wan and had an anniversary dinner on the waterfront. (Years ago we loved the seafood on Lamma Island and we were delighted to find it just as freshly caught and speedily cooked as ever, it's great.) In another hike we joined the David Liu Walking Group and did the back side of Victoria peak, an area we had been in many times. But there is always something new to discover and this time it was a small visitor center that taught us more of the history of HK than we had ever known.
We got to see all of our old friends, many of them several times. At RCP we were treated royally by Virginia Ng and Richard Gibson, the core of RCP when Jan worked there and the only ones she knew who are still there. One person who quit before Jan left was Susana Chan who arranged a great Christmas meal where we caught up with her husband C.P. and Gloria and Thomas Tam. Lots of our friendships derive from Gerry's teaching at the PolyU. On that side we saw May Mok, Graham and Kate Mead, and through them met some new people. One dinner was with three of Gerry's former students. Another person we saw was K. K. Lam, who gave us a good tour of the City University; we'd met KK when we answered an ad and ended up renting his house in Tinton Falls, NJ. We found that we had a lot in common and kept in touch.
We were happy that after the first round of seeing friends in their homes and in Central HK we could invite them out to our place. The pattern was pretty constant: walk over the hill from our apartment to Yung Shue Wan and have a meal with our guests on the waterfront. Then walk back over the hill to home and sit and chat and eat cheese and wine until it was time to walk down the hill to the ferry. One sidelight of these outings was that we had a chance to see that our frequent walking back and forth the twenty minutes from Yung Shue Wan to Pak Kok Gau Tsuen had gotten us in good shape compared to our typical invitee, who puffed along beside us.
Elsewhere we talk about how HK has changed and not changed. The same applied to our friends. Upon seeing each other we all screamed to one another "You haven't changed a bit." But it wasn't true. We were all 14+ years older, had less hair, often a bigger waist, and a myriad of other changes that are summarized in one word: age. But in a larger sense it was true that we haven't changed. Nature makes each and everyone of us truly conscious of no age but our own. What we are is the right age. Older brothers are always older and younger sisters are always younger. So it is with our friends. In our period of residency they were slightly older or slightly younger than us and still were, so all was right and understandable. And their personalities and quirks and ways of laughings or telling a story were just the same as before, so it was easy to slip into familiarity in spite of our long absence. But, to change our tune once more, in still another sense they and we had changed. Whereas before all the talk was about business and striving and young children and a long future now much talk crept in about grandchildren and retirement and rest and a shorter future.
Back to Work
Soon after we arrived in Hong Kong, Gerry had been asked via email if he wanted to do some consulting for a Chinese telecommunications company. He said he would be willing to consider it and then heard nothing for a long time. But after the new year he got an email that lead to a few phone calls. The end of this was that he became a two-time commuter to Shenzhen and started doing some real work to prepare for the consulting interview and the actual consulting that he ended up doing. Thus, bit by bit, we ended out schedule-less existence.
Hong Kong used to advertise itself as the "Shoppers Paradise." We think it was. In 1981-85 we found quality restaurants to be cheap compared to "home" and electronics and clothes also to be well below American and even more below European prices. This stay we spent a lot of time shopping — or really window shopping because it wasn't cheap any more. Having just come from China we doubly experienced a "price-culture shock." Restaurants were easily twice as expensive and clothes even higher than in China. But prices were also just as high and sometimes higher than in the USA. Besides film, food, and a few books the only significant thing we bought in HK was a dressy pair of shoes for Gerry to wear on his ZTE visits.
One thing that has hardly changed is the love of HKers for fresh food and our fascination with its open display in shops.
On January 30th we got up and left our cozy world of Lamma Island. Our bags were already packed. We loaded them onto our two carts, went out, and shut the door for the last time. Jan took the keys around to the hiding place from which she had extracted them, and we were off. Off for the ferry, off for Central, off for the KCR, and off to Guangzhou and then Vietnam When we next came back, it would be to make the final preparations before starting consulting with ZTE
One of the very last chores was to unburden ourselves of still more goods, so we dragged everything to the post office, sorted it there, and with the help of the friendly staff, got things sorted, wrapped, and posted just as they closed.