Sunday, 2 October 2011

Falling in love with place

There's another one. Exclaiming with great fervour and eyes aflame, 'I love Hong Kong!'

I answer, um, a bit shyly now, actually, I miss England. Eyes widen in incomprehension.

One woman drew herself up, physically, pulled back her head, regarded me a moment in contempt, shook herself a little, then said quietly, Oh! I'm sorrry.

What have they, that I haven't? What can they see, that I can't? What turns a person from someone passing through a place into someone happy to stay; say 'this is my town now, I'm happy to be an expat'. How do you know that point?

I can't figure it out. Why does someone fall in love with a physical place; a city, town, or village? Loving someone in it, maybe. Whether you're urban or rural. That helps, I guess. Particular people, family, friends. Experience. Enjoyment, suffering, seeking repair.

Perhaps these people I meet who love Hong Kong, perhaps they all fell in love here. Then lost love, and found love?

Maybe the landscape? A tree. The balance of a building. Curve of a hill. Edge of the sea. Any place into which you can tip different emotional moods and states. When you pass that way again, you can add new possibilities, with new fantasies. I could imagine that.

Perhaps it's the details that cause people to fall in love with a place. Twists of bindweed. Weathered brick. The way a latch lifts in a wooden door.

Maybe it's odd, how I'm not falling in love with this place, because Hong Kong has many features that ordinarily I would love.

There are people in Hong Kong who I love so much I can wish them dead in a ditch. And I have no shortage of country trails on mountainsides where I could push them. Right alongside country parks, this eye-popping cityscape. So I can't claim I'm denied either state. We can experience all in a five-minute tram ride.

And here we can choose our physical place: great, stylish architectural buildings, skyscrapers stilettoed into the sky; trash alleys, clogged drains, sea fretted walls, filthy gutter style.

But still, I find it difficult to love Hong Kong. Even when I can fantasise that it invites me. Last night, on this island with its out-of-the-way beach holiday vibe, I saw the banana trees flapping their leaves. Silhouetted against the night, they became two giant birds beating black wings, captured, straddling the space between land and sky. Hunting, courting, in fight or in flight, I don't know. I thought, there's a sight. I could make that my sight. Could I love that sight?

No, I can't. Maybe, at some level, love is a choice. Maybe, despite those captivating banana trees, I'm choosing not to.

If I did choose to love here, I feel that that no matter how much love I poured into this physical space - dreamed the buildings, hugged the landscape, imagined the banana trees - none of it, ultimately, I can have any commitment to at all. There would be no reward, none at all.

In this house, we are surrounded by trees, bushes, bindweeds, green growths. Today workmen started to clear the land of all of them.

We're reassured, the workmen are only clearing up, after storm damage.

I doubt it. Soon come clipboards, theodolites, a miniature digger. No-one needs our permission, nor our agreement. They don't need to let us know anything: what they'll do, when they start, when they finish.

There's no responsibility towards us. None, in turn, is expected.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Dearest Grit. Perhaps you just need more time. Or perhaps true love is not meant to be, and you can get by on mild affection.