September 14th, 2007

Book Cover

Saturday Morning!!



Friday Morning:

 

I met Concha at the Writing for Change conference and she just finished reading “Breast Stroke.”  Her comments are more than positive which is satisfying, obviously, and she requested to know more about my experience of Christian Science, and why I took so long to go to the doctor when I saw the dimpling.

 

I have now brought my computer up to the Executive Lounge on the 31st floor to sit and look out at the view, while nourishing with a glass of fresh orange juice, and consider that.  I am full from a lavish breakfast buffet, so all my needs are met.    

 

I have lived feeling rather self-contained and with a strong sense of mind over matter.  There have been times when that smugness almost killed me, as I was sure I could push on through.  In Nepal, I literally crawled to the altitude sickness clinic.  The doctor there did not have good things to say about the stupidity and arrogance of what I had done.  I thought I learned my lesson, but I still find it tempting to see how far one can push.  I do try now to listen more carefully to my body’s needs and I still have a tendency to ignore.  Yesterday, Steve and I both went beyond what was probably sensible as to length of walking without water to drink.  

 

Anyway, for me, my breast cancer journey, was one of “becoming a community.”  I learned how connected I was to all of you.  That knowing brings tears.  How wonderful to know and feel the spokes of our wheel.

 

So, to my front is a view of Hong Hong.  Behind me the news on a plasma screen TV is of the falling American dollar.  It sounds dire and is disconcerting to listen to the bad new of home from here.

 

The day is gray and it looks like we chose the right days for Victoria Peak.  The view continues to shrink and enclose.

 

 

So, to lighten my mood, I imbibe in a poem, a place, like a bench, to consider, contemplate, renew, and rest. 

 

One thing I notice here is older people.  They seem an intriguing part of this landscape I travel.  I want to know their history, what they have lived through and seen. 

 

Dorianne Laux has this to say about her poem, “Demographic.”   She lives in Eugene, Oregon, so I assume that is where the poem takes place.

 

“These days, the bus is where I get many of my poems written, since it is one of the few stretches of time when I’m free from the phone, the computer, students, family. I will often make quick character sketches of the people around me that will later turn themselves into full poems. This particular piece focuses on those who are encumbered by life’s bodily disasters and have to make their way around the world the same as any able-bodied individual but with a complex set of obstacles and adjustments. I’m amazed again and again by the patience of these people as well as the other riders and the bus drivers. It’s sometimes a community effort to get just one person on the bus and settled for the short ride to the grocery store, the hospital, or the university.  Maybe the bus is one of the last bastions of humanity and democracy. I’ve noticed that I have begun to feel a great sense of calm and comfort fall over me as soon as I reach the stop and sit down among my comrades on the metal bench.  Every age, sex, race and class is represented there and I know what my role is, what is expected of me as a member of this movable and intimate society.  We wave to one another, greeting each other by name, making room in the seat next to us or standing up for the elderly or infirm. For once, we all know who we are and where we’re going, and we have one another to help us get there.”

 

 

Here is her poem:

 

 

Demographic

 

          By Dorianne Laux

 

It’s time for me to walk to the bus stop

and sit down among them, the man

tied to his wheelchair, the woman

with the humped back, time for me

to kneel and hold his cup while he adjusts

his books and his pack, look up at her

flowered blouse, his scratched glasses.

There’s a sky full of rain that won’t

come down, pigeons asleep on the lawn,

and across the street pumpkins piled high

in front of the market, Xeroxed flyers

stapled to the telephone pole.  To the east

a day moon above the bridge, cars

filing under like a school of fish,

and if I look down at my feet I won’t

knock over the plastic dish the blind man

has filled to the brim for his dog. It’s time

to go to work, to wait while they gather

their belongings, while the metal mesh

platform unhinges and bangs down,

time to nod to the driver as he pulls

back on the lever and a man lifts

into the air, to cup her elbow, a thin wing

sharpened by suffering, to enter

the threshold and stand among them,

listen to their murmurs, the news

of the day, to slip my hand through

the frayed canvas and hold on.

 

 

May this poem bring gentle patience to the meetings and greetings of our day!

 

 

It is now Saturday morning, and we are moving slowly after an indulgent day yesterday.  It must be incredibly hot outside as even the hotel is warm and the air is even grayer and wetter as we look out at the well-hazed view.  We spent yesterday on the south side of the island in Stanley Village.  The drive was magnificent as foretold, though I see that my idea of “rural” is not the same as the travel books on Hong Kong.  Still, nothing rises as high or as dense; the hills are green, and the ocean is gentle as it tickles the toes of little white beaches. 

 

We walked quickly through Stanley market, and ate lunch in a pub described as French with a lovely view of the water.  Construction is happening along this waterfront promenade, also, as China prepares for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the influx of tourists with money to spend.  The construction equipment is cute and colorful and protected with little, plastic fences that fit together like children’s toys.  The green and red walk figures on the traffic signals are burlier than ours, but the local construction equipment seems friendlier.  The scaffolding is bamboo.

 

The Chinese like to be inside in air conditioning, but they are aware we Westerners like to sit outside with our “views,” which is true.  They are working to accommodate us, and Stanley Village will be very different next time we return. 

 

We knelt in the Tin Hau temple, founded in 1767 and dedicated to the protector of seafarers.  There is a beautiful pathway walk of perfect Feng Shui, leading directly to the sea.

 

We walked, enveloped in our own bath of steam, up the hill to the Kwun Yam Temple.  In a pavilion above the temple sits a 20 foot statue of Kwun Yam, the goddess of mercy. She enjoys a lovely view, as do we.

 

We snuck, a bit embarrassed perhaps, into McDonalds for a much-needed Coke, air-conditioning, and a bathroom.  It is right next to the teeny-tiniest of temples. 

 

We walked out on the new pier that will unload passengers as they travel to and from nearby Aberdeen.   We thoroughly enjoyed the Maritime Museum, which is in the oldest surviving colonial building in Hong Kong.  The building was built in the 1840’s at the site where the Bank of China Tower now stands in the Central district of downtown Hong Kong.  The formal surrender of British troops to the Japanese took place there in December 1941.  The building was dismantled in 1982 and re-assembled in Stanley Village in 1998.  It is an impressive structure now hosting the museum, restaurants, and shops. 

 

The maritime museum shows how long the Chinese have been exploring by sea.  It also admits how quickly a country can go up and down in power and prestige.  They are proud of their introduction of the container ship.

 

We sat outside, under cover and whirring fans, enjoying an iced cappuccino.  There is no hurry in any of the restaurants here.  Service is great, but then, it is quite something to get the check.  It is sub-tropical and there is laid-back efficiency.  You can stay as long as you want with no sense that anyone wants you to move on.  As a matter of fact, it seems they want you to stay.  They are gracious hosts. 

 

It is hot and humid though and I don’t think I have ever sat so dripping wet without having emerged from shower, ocean, lake, bay or pool.  October will bring the sunny, cooler weather.  We are still influenced by monsoon.

 

We walked down to another exquisite temple overlooking the sea.  It isn’t even mentioned in the guidebooks and yet is my favorite of all.  It is built right along the hillside and over the rocks.  I love this one.

 

We climbed down on the rocks for the sunset which since we are on the opposite side of the island now sets to the right rather than the left when looking out to sea.  Steve stretched out on one long rock with a ledge for his feet and took a nap.  I sat and watched the tide come in and from this viewpoint could imagine myself back in the 1800’s.  There was one man with us, a fisherman.  It was perfectly romantic, and quiet, with just a soft slosh of incoming waves. Then, there was the eruption of a cell phone.  Yep!   The fisherman answered his call.  Hong Kong in 2007.

 

We met Yvonne and Tony for dinner in a lovely Thai restaurant overlooking the harbor and on to the sea.  Yvonne loves Hong Kong and can’t say enough about how wonderful it is to live here.  She spends July and August in Switzerland and France, her homeland.  Here, they enjoy coffee each morning on their balcony overlooking the sea.  They don’t have a car, or need one, so Tony takes a bus or taxi to the other side of the island for work.  They swim every day.

 

Dinner was a lovely indulgence, almost six hours of food, wine, and conversation, and that is why today begins slowly and I am not up at 4:30 and Steve is suggesting a slow, easy day.  The heat and humidity are tough.  I’ve been out in it more in my explorations, but Steve wilts, so we are looking at an indoor sort of day.  There are wonderful hiking trails on Hong Kong Island, but today is probably not the day to attempt them. 

 

We have been here a week, arrived last Saturday, and we will leave next Saturday.  I am starting to feel like a native, and to more fully understand what is here and how to move like silk through Asian waves. 

 

There is a review in the International Herald Times of James L. Kugel’s book How to Read the Bible, A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now, that sounds intriguing.  I’m going to see if I can find it here.  We perused a book store yesterday in Stanley Market, and checked out all the books.  I’m happy to see that Jane Austen is well-represented here.

 

So, that is the current news on a lazy, gray Saturday in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.  

 


Mahatma Gandhi:   Nonviolence is the weapon of the strong.

 

It is easy to see where that places Bush.   

Happy Day!