It is Monday Morning in Hong Kong, and Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. I am still on San Francisco time so have been awake for hours. It has taken this long for my soul to catch up which is why it has taken me so long to post. We are on the 21st floor of the Excelsior Hotel, which sits on the first plot of land auctioned by the British government when Hong Kong became a colony in 1841. We have views out three sides so I sit looking out at Hong Kong Harbor, Causeway Bay, and can turn and see Victoria Peak. All is still and dark as I type this. The skies have been gray. We are at the tail-end of monsoon season and that means every shade of gray. It’s not too hot though, is just right outside and rather cool inside, as air conditioners run where, so far, we have been, indoors.
The flight was lovely. One cannot complain in business class on Cathay Pacific where every desire is noted and someone rushes to satisfy. Food is East and West. As I ate the western breakfast of eggs and meat, and contemplated the Asian one of soup, and fish, I saw why they might experience greater health. The care on the airplane and in Hong Kong is efficient. It feels different than “home.”
I am aware I am accumulating a huge carbon debt. In addition to the plane flight, it was accelerated by eating fresh pineapple flown to San Francisco from Hawaii, to, then, be consumed by me, as we flew together from SF to HK. I need to plant more trees, and yet, I feel a need to be here. I love Asia. Something answers in me. I have always felt it might have been my rightful home.
We have mainly been walking since we arrived, and napping and sleeping and eating and reading. I found a book store first thing. Victoria Park is next door and one can walk forever along the water to refresh, and then, head in a bit to the endless shops and then back out to quiet and the serenity of the waters of the harbor and bay.
I have learned there is a World Cup in rugby, and it seems I am good at picking the winning team. If I bet, I could make some money, but I am not a gambler. I lean serene.
Saturday we took a sampan ride around Causeway Bay. Sunday we took the Star Ferry to Kowloon. It has changed immensely since I was last here, many years ago. Land replaces bay. We have a drink at what used to be the Regent Hotel, where we stayed then, but now is the Intercontinental. We walk the Avenue of the Stars, movie stars. I recognize some names. We marvel at the changed skyline, not marvel positively, adjust. Hong Kong is beautiful with hills, now partially blocked by skyscrapers. It is like looking through the stars that glitter to see the background they define. I continually peer to glimpse the hills, the natural landscape of the past.
I know we barely touch the surface of this land, but, as I watch the cruise ships sail in and disembark their passengers for a few hours perusal of shops that spawn in any major city, I wonder what it means to say I have been to Hong Kong. I hope to visit shrines and monasteries built to gods other than those of money, finance, and most probably slavery and exploitation, but, perhaps, that concept is naïve.
Black night has turned now to morning gray and the movement of boats and ships draw my eyes outside. I could sit and just look and I do.
The new airport is on the island of Lantau. Here is a description from Fodor’s. “With 1.8 miles of moving walkways, 14 acres of glass, and around 30 acres of carpeting, the international terminal at Chep Lap Kok airport is the world’s largest. At $20 billion to build, it’s also the world’s most expensive. A super-efficient express train runs between the city and this modern marvel in 23 minutes.”
We left Lantau by limousine, crossed an amazing bridge, and went through two tunnels to get to the island of Hong Kong. It is hard not to compare the infrastructure here and that of the US. So much is young, exuberant, new. My last trip here, Hong Kong was still British. Steve points out the downtown is cleaner since the change. There is the usual battle of development vs. the “people” and their needs. Central, the business part of the island, has maintained a farmer’s market, endangered now. So much is like home. I think of the ferry terminal in San Francisco. Maybe they can meld human and statuesque.
I love the aesthetic, so much of it transferred now to where we live. We have orchids and baby bamboo confined to vases. Our plates have grown. Their dinnerware stays refined. The plates are small. I look now at a bowl of fruit, two bananas, an apple, a pear, an orange, and an oval fruit I do not know, though it probably is exported to my home. There is a bottle of wine from Chile. What do I say to you this Monday morning in Hong Kong, as I continue to look out on gray city, ships, junks, sampans, hills and sky.
My time clock is still with you, my nature at home, and I begin to feel a clarity of self. It is something to be carried in an airplane and dropped in another land. Steve will work today and I will explore. I want to know more of the people and the streets. Shopping does not interest me. I respond to the feel and the “views.”
The U.S. does not come off well reading the news in the East. They seem very aware of their carbon footprint, striving to make changes rapidly even though their use of resources is, per capita, so much less than ours. They say economically and financially they no longer catch a cold when there is a sneeze in the US economy. They are proudly independent. Of course that makes sense. I read that the greed for profits by foreign investors is what led to lead in the paint of children’s toys. Foreign investors are responsible. They explain what happened as the rushed demand forced them to use businesses they normally would not choose. Of course, the “truth” lies somewhere in between as everyone rushes to excuse and explain. Again, it shows though how closely we are economically, and perhaps, morally tied.
I read an article yesterday in the Sunday entertainment section on how we, in the U.S., imprison children for life, and five of these “children” were interviewed. The stories are shocking, of people, at the time of the crime, under eighteen, one a girl who was not even considered responsible for the murder of her grandmother, until her boyfriend turned her in to gain a lesser plea. There was no evidence other than his corrupted word to link her to the crime and yet she is imprisoned until she dies. It is odd to read of one’s own country from another and feel the judgment and lack of humanity or sanity. It seems harder to read from here, though I am critical, also, when at home. I realize here that I do read hoping to see the best in my country, and so looking at the words from the point of view of those who might not wish us as well, is even more sobering.
I am grateful to be here. I suck what nutrients I can into my roots to take home. I come for guidance, and feel how clearly we share one sky, and mold the stars like gears to feed our need for motion and torque.
I always believed that “wherever I go, there I am,” but, today, I feel wherever I go, I am. I feel how clearly we all are one, and how the curve of the planet holds each of us close. We are embraced in beautiful arms of land and sea, hope and connection, West and East.