Sunday, 26 April 2009

Just when everything made sense

He is not mad. That is normal.

This is the fifth time I've whispered that to Tiger and we're only two blocks down.

It's Sunday, and everyone's feet hurt from pounding those hard Hong Kong pavements, so today we're playing safe and taking the children to experience life in one of the many local parks.

Although Hong Kong is in many ways an enclave from China, it is very much a part of China too. The people here behave much as I have seen them behave in other parks in other towns and cities of China. And China can do parks in a big way. They can be large communal spaces, paved, marshalled, arranged, concreted, planted, with children's play areas, designated photo stops, public injunctions and signs not to spit, park bicycles, play ball games, skateboard, set up market stalls. They can contain kitch items – a giant panda composed of plastic flowers – but they can contain practical meeting spaces, elegant marble features, streams, stone bridges, nectar rich flowers and fluttering butterflies.

But above all, they are public: places to be seen in, places to play board games, places to watch others, to do the things that a small room does not allow, places to take your pet bird, along with its little bamboo cage, and hang it in the tree to sing with all the other birds and wonder at flying.

Watching all the behaviours here today I've made it a goal to find a history of the Chinese park. I am sure it is a social history, and one inextricably linked to change, to the Cultural Revolution, to family life, to city dwelling, the new wave of capitalism, to the changes happening round us all the time. The park is China in microcosm.

So when Tiger sees the middle aged man standing solemnly in front of a traffic cone, his arms outstretched, as if he is cuddling a big bear, his eyes closed, swaying slightly, concentrating, breathing deeply, her first reaction is to look away; to ignore him, because that is what we do. He might be mad, possibly dangerous, he might conjure the bear to life and set about us, screaming. But I tell her to look back, because his shoes lay discarded, and on both his feet, tied firmly round the ankles, are two plastic bags.

Then, of course, everything makes sense. He is standing on walking stones – raised pebbles, fierce projectiles of stone as hard as bullets, and they have been made wet by the recent shower. Sensibly he is keeping his feet dry with the plastic bags while he conducts his daily exercises to strengthen his muscles, cause good energy flow, massage his feet, concentrate his mind, focus on the here and now and go home refreshed, probably living a longer, healthier life than me and mine.

This moment, realising that round here everything is normal, tells me why I love to travel, and what a special time it is to share with Tiger, Squirrel and Shark. I tell Tiger that wherever we go we might often think that folks round here must be mad, or dangerous, or scary, or strange. But if we take the time to pause, observe, think, talk it through, work things out, then we might find that everything is normal. And more, it might give us a moment to think about our own lives and how we live, and how we might do things differently, or the same.

Yes, says Squirrel. Because if he came to England, he would find that we put doors all over the place.

16 comments:

Katherine said...

Another glimpse into another world. Thanks! You are homeschooling ME too Grit.

Kitty said...

I agree with Katherine - I'm being educated too. Lovely post. x

The Gossamer Woman said...

It is good not to be fearful of the different, but to be curious and then to embrace it. You are doing just that and showing your girls how. It will make them better world citizens, global individuals, who are at ease with other cultures.

mamacrow said...

classic Squirilism!!!

Rubberbacon said...

Yeah! Grit regained control of the computer.

Love Squirrel's comment about doors.

sharon said...

Just beginning to wonder if you had fallen off HK!

Evocative post. It's lovely to experience the world through the Gritlets eyes. Thank you Grit.

Casdok said...

Lovely lesson on normal!! :)

Mr Farty said...

Hong Kong sounds fascinating, even with the weirdos, er, normal people.

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I can definitely see you all on Lamma. Great choice as a base for home ed! How's Oz?

Mud in the City said...

What an experience for the Gritlets - something they'll never forget and should raise that wanderlust in each one. Can you come and educate me on my next trip?

Angela said...

Loved my trip to Hong Kong`s park and people with you ! Thanks, Grit. You are so wise!

Potty Mummy said...

Can I send my boys to you as well?

Have given you an award...

Brad said...

That's a lesson we all need reminding. Great post.

Mean Mom said...

I don't know - I turn my back for a minute and next thing you're in Hong Kong! Glad you're having a good and interesting time. It's great to broaden your children's horizons. We are so conditioned by our own societies.

Squirrel is funny. Is there a shortage of doors in Hong Kong?

Rubberbacon said...

Did your laptop break? Wondering when Grit's coming back...

Grit said...

hello people! finally a connection? en route for home? but laughing. the economy class grit tribe got in! hello business lounge singapore! see you soon, heathrow, home and blogland. by the way, the australian volleyball team is sitting right next door. and i can tell you they are all very tall.