Friday, 24 April 2009

On the streets

It's time to hit the Hong Kong streets.

The first difference I notice from the last time I was here, nearly twenty years ago when Hong Kong was a British colony and handover a long way ahead, is that in these days of Chinese rule, the cleaners are in. I remember grimy, difficult, hazardous streets. You'd be pushed into the oncoming path of a tram by the simple mass of humanity tidal sweeping down the street. It wasn't malice. Or even indifference. It was self preservation. Everyone needed to keep moving because if anyone stood still for more than twenty seconds they'd be bonded to the pavement. Forever. One particular street was especially perilous. It ran with sticky chicken fat, and in the grey humidity of sub tropical weather making it past the chicken shop was a life or death negotiation.

Well there's nothing like that deep grime now. The hazards of moving humans stays the same. We quickly learn to walk building-side. But I don't know whether my perception of cleanliness is because today I am married, have children and Dig is older and seeks certain comforts in life, or in those days we simply inhabited a world of grime as a consequence of trawling low class dives, sleeping meanly, eating poorly and living dangerously without regard for personal safety. I don't know. Maybe I think the big front-of-house public clean up is because of SARS, because of China hosting the Olympics, because too many bankers and accountants sticking to the pavement became a hindrance to international trade. Perhaps someone can help me here.

Shark doesn't feel like she's in exotic climes, that's for sure. She marches along the pavement looking like she owns the place. She's well ahead of the family group, marching on independently and purposefully while Dig pauses to consult the map so we can make it to the Museum of Hong Kong for the orientation lesson without falling in the sea. Shark strides on, casting ne'er a glance behind her. We should all follow her. She looks like she knows where she's going. By the end of the week she may be running the Hang Seng bank. We'll let you know.

Tiger, by contrast, is wilting. Her feet hurt. No, they really hurt. They really really hurt. They hurt so much she is in pain. Did you hear that? PAIN. Let's talk about that, Tiger. Let's go on endlessly about FEETINPAIN and let's not notice the lady in front of you wearing a coolie hat and face mask. That is not interesting at all. Nor is the Star ferry heading towards you which we are going to get to go to Kowloon. Nor is the huge variety of shipping just thrown up in your face and all the Cantonese language singing out around you. None of that interesting but let's talk about FEETINPAIN. Tiger, you do that while I put my fingers in my ears.

That strategy will serve me well for Squirrel, too.She may be suffering culture shock. She denies it. But we can tell. It started off OK. She was asking why? why? everytime we pointed out anything, like rubber necking tourists do – skyscrapers, pavements, road junctions, shop fronts, how they are not pet shops. Then the why? became more insistent. Then it lost the question mark and became downright aggressive. Finally she is clutching her head in her hands and screaming in an agonised cry WHY! She needs only to drop to her knees to complete this image of a soul locked in perpetual torment.

Dig, of course, is master and commander of this fragmented party. He has the map. He also has the rather useful manner of looking like he knows where he is going and what he is doing. This is probably a show of confidence gained from years at a public school where one simply commands resources because they are there and one is here as well, so they are one's by rights to dispose of accordingly.

He doesn't try this technique with old wife Grit of course, because she would get nasty and kick him in the shins, which she would do whether she is standing by Hong Kong harbour or outside the lavatories in Homebase, Bletchley. Old wife Grit, I'd just like to say, is smilingly pleasant, charming, patient, kind and motherly throughout the five hour trek today on Hong Kong's many busy streets. I just thought I'd mention that on my public record.

But master and commander triumphs. He manages to steer this unwieldy and unlikely party forward. Through trams, traffic, across the water, via a pizza eatery in a shopping mall, until he can deposit the happy not-arguing-at-all family safely at the Hong Kong Museum with the inflatable dinosaur head outside.

And thus is our first day. As a result the children will be tested on fossil fish, salt pans, the role of the pawnshop in nineteenth century Kowloon, the Opium Wars, the handover, and how to cross the street safely. Like next time, if you don't want to be shoved into the gutter and crushed to death horribly by a bus, tram, taxi or minibus, wait for the bips.

11 comments:

lotusbirther said...

Seems like there is rapid family learning going on there!
I hope you find some faeries soon :)

sharon said...

Poor Tiger! I'm sure she has told you that if she was wearing her boots her feet would be fine, JUST FINE, no trouble at all! And poor overwhelmed Squirrel, she'll be ok in another day or two. Shark, well I suspect you could drop Shark anywhere on the planet and she would be right at home and in charge in an instant. Grit, I think you are enjoying yourself hugely and I'm very glad about that, Dig too ;-)

Potty Mummy said...

It sounds like you're having a fantastic time. When the boys are older, I keep telling myself...(but not too much older)

Wife in Hong Kong said...

We love that museum and yet I never quite get enough time to do it justice so I have to go back again. The Science Museum is great too. It's really funny for me to be reading about HK through someone else's eyes, saying yeah, that's what it's like but I don't notice so much any more.

Rubberbacon said...

Oh that's great Grit! I'm so glad to see you - for one - are having a great time!

Ruth said...

What an amazing adventure:)

kellyi said...

Sounds like you are having a ball! (Sore feet aside.)

Looking forward to reading more....

Grit said...

thank you folks for your comments! i am fighting with Dig over internet time here. I may go for the ankles. surely blogging is more important than work?

lotusbirther said...

Well, blogging is important for your health and so that of your family and work funds your food and living, so they are both important! Going for the ankles could be considered a strategy, but perhaps there is another one you could try that doesn't leave Dig incapacitated?

Brad said...

I have my own cry of WHY! Why didn't I get parents who take kids on internatonal vacations? WHY!

Cursed genetic lottery.

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