When viewing a new place, you have to look through the eyes of the culture you inhabit, or at least through the most optimistic eyes you have. There are things you will not like and things that will just rub you the wrong way, but through the magic of perception you can feel comfortable, at home, and at peace. A large part of perception is understanding. However, I use this term loosely because even understanding is in relation to your own past experiences and prior knowledge and therefore is subjective. An example will illustrate this clearly.
When I arrived in Hong Kong I was quickly annoyed by the amount of people bumping into me. I complained that, “people are selfish, they have no spatial awareness; they see you coming but don’t deviate until you’ve already bounced off each other. When people want to get past you they push you, and when they get on the train everyone crowds into the doors and you have to push to get in and push to get out. Right in the middle of the sidewalk people stop to chat, tie their shoes, or text without any awareness of the 1000 other people they’ve inconvenienced traveling in either direction. People just have no regard for others.”
Now, thinking back on it I feel like the big ignorant American people think I am. It’s only now, after seven months that I realize that all this touching and bumping and stopping has a positive side. People here are not afraid of each other and even trust each other. If you put your hand on anyone in NYC they will either think that you are trying to rob them, or touch them in their no no areas and you run the risk of physical retaliation. However, here in Hong Kong, it’s not a problem. How nice it is to not have to worry about some one stabbing me because I bump into them, and how neighborly it is to be able to lightly push on someone to get through. After all they trust me. They trust that I just want to go about my business and nothing else. So now when someone bumps into me I think, hey neighbor, how’s it going? Everywhere people are coming into contact and I feel the good will that resides just below the surface.
I realize that this is not the entire reality, and that the population density here is high, and it is because of this lack of space that personal space becomes small or nonexistent. But, like a photograph sometimes you only get part of the truth. No one whips out a camera when you’re crying, you dog died, or you lost your job, to document it. Cameras come out when it’s sunny, you see something beautiful or you accomplished something great. So, when you flip through your photos you reflect and think, wow, look at how many happy moments I’ve have and shared with others, I’m truly blessed. This is reality. We cannot remember everything and this is a gift.
We must make a conscious effort to remember and we remember what we notice. So take mental snapshots when you see that crazy looking dude with 50 face piercings give up his seat on the train to a little old lady. Or when see a group of boisterous teenagers annoying everyone on the train but one of them stops to help someone carry their packages up the stairs. It’s your reality so don’t take pictures when someone’s dog dies.
Following are some pictures of Hong Kong. Each could have their own cynical aspect. We could say it’s sad that old women have to collect newspapers. You could look at the chaotic market with trapped fish and unrefridgerated meat and crowds of people bumping into you and say, why would people subject themselves to this? You could say, children make bad choices and they never think of the future. But in the end, what’s the point? There is enough real pain around us without making the minor aberrations into signposts for the decay of society. In fact we should celebrate them. So take your pictures carefully because the world is a depressing place without a photographic eye.
English names of Chinese children have little to do with their Chinese names. Chinese names have meaning, which you can translate into English. So in theory you could just translate. However, more often than not, Chinese kids are very creative with the new English names if they are given the chance to choose their own.
Hong Kong is an ocean. It’s teaming with life swimming in ever direction, which can’t help bump into you like the frantic little fish washed by waves that bump into your legs when you’re in the ocean. Like the ocean it makes everything that enters it it’s own.
When I asked why old woman collect Newspapers in Hong Kong I was given two distinct answers. I was told that it was for the extra money to help out the family and that it was for the social aspect.