Wednesday, May 12, 2010

City of Blinding (Neon/Tacky/Wasteful/Wonderful) Lights

So here’s the thing. I am not doing nothing with my life, in case you were picturing me just blogging and wandering the streets taking pictures all day long (though I do wander A LOT...sometimes unintentionally). I am doing some teaching of English during the days which has been an experience very different from what I had pictured (as is usually the case, yes?). And…sorry to disappoint all of the eager beavers (because I know you all are just sitting by your computer screens refreshing my blog until something new shows ;) kidding! Haha), but I am not blogging about that experience just quite yet!

I will talk about the city though. This crazy, new city (very much exploded after WWII) and all its lights and sounds and smells (the many smells) twenty-four hours of the day, seven days a week – is making me fall in love with it (kind in the style of the Love Actually pair with Colin Firth and the cleaning lady). I underestimated HK. I’ll admit that as much as I tried to avoid it while on my way here, I othered the entire culture (even limiting culture to the singular is a part of that, even though I knew about the diversity before hand). The lens I looked through was so full of cultural blind spots…but I suppose getting rid of those is what the learning process is all about. Not only is this city so much like the west (although don’t get me wrong, many, many things are very different) – but it is like a more advanced West on crack.

I am going to show pictures of the lights, though they will not do experience justice (but keep in mind I rarely if not ever used a flash with my outdoor night shots).

The city is buzzing, not just with the lights but the amount of people. Rough stats: about 6400 people per square kilometer compared to roughly 1500 within the same space in Toronto. When the city was being planned (which happened quite quickly), not only was the incredible transport system intricately thought out, but urban planners/developers built islands (much of the city sprawls across man-formed land), and then built not across, but up (a concept very much not thought of by the endless sub-urban planners in Brampton). The apartment complexes are not just 24-story living spaces, but small cities. Vivian’s apartment is within one tower of ten, all built upon their own mall complete with department stores, a full-sized grocery store, many clothing stores, countless restaurants, convenience stores, dentist, optometrist; in addition to a huge gym (about the size of the Brampton Y, with tennis and squash courts, a track, pool – though they have an outdoor and indoor pool)…and on goes the list. And that’s just Vivian’s building; there are millions of them. HK has one of the best public transportation systems in the world – like actually, not just self-professed. Vivian says that’s why all people from Hong Kong are fat…because they work till late, eat late, and never have to walk. But it’s not true. They walk more than “we” do, and don’t even touch the definition of fat. They also have restaurants EVERYWHERE…I wish you could understand…when I say 2 of every three store-fronts all over the city are some sort of food venue, I am not lying to you!! And all of the food is amazing, and the variety is endless. I am intentionally taking advantage of this an refusing to have the same meal twice….even for breakfast (of course coffee never changes).

Anyways, I’m getting side-tracked. My point was that I am beginning to feel comfortable here – still foreign – but safer. I am told that my original anxieties towards HK will be renewed when I enter the mainland, which I have been researching about – the two areas are extremely different from one another, and obviously China in general can by no means be summed up to one culture. And socio-economically the mainland has many more issues than Hong Kong as I am sure many of you know so stay posted for when I share my China experiences with you. Perhaps I will once again have to unlearn the “othering” perspective that I’m sure will inevitably come.

As I have been working on my plan for the last half of the trip, I decided that I would begin a side project (I only label it as a “project” to help me identify and organize some sort of accomplishment….and to make the blogging more fun, of course). As the feeling of traveling and touring is becoming more integrated and accepted in my bloodstream, I have decided to fully and intentionally submerse myself in the culture(s) over here. Of course that may seem obvious to you – for why else would I have come…but I mean fully researching the important, popular, and integral aspects of the various Chinese cultures, in order to get the smallest sense of them by taking a couple of baby-steps in their shoes. Five weeks is a very short time, but I am going to squeeze as much into them as possible. As humans we experience so many of the same things – but it’s fascinating to me how differently we do life, and how much “normal” really is relative to where and how you were raised. I want to learn through living, though I know my perspective will still unavoidably be through Canadian eyes – I will do my best.

The Project will be called “Carolyn’s Chinese Culture Crash Course” – or, the 5C’s Project. Basically, I have like two-dozen small lists of things that I have thought of that may encompass what a culture is, such as History, Art, Religion, FOOD, traditions, etc.. I have been researching and talking to many people here about their opinions as to what are integral parts of their lives (which I think is hard to identify in oneself because so much of an individual’s culture is ingrained into their being/routine and thus not always thought of) …and during my stay I will plan ahead to try and live this out, or be aware for spontaneous opportunities. It’s actually not as big of a deal as I am making it… I’m just having fun giving myself check-lists and challenges (I have a lot of time with my own thoughts, being on my own for the most part not being able to understand most people around me kind of puts your mind in a bubble…it’s dangerous…but fun).

Oh AND…update: Sunday morning church did have an English translation, they gave me headphones and an Aussie translated for us newbies (yay!), and last night I went to see the Symphony of Lights with Vivian!! Will post some pics.

Alright, I need to sleep so I can have energy for the kiddies tomorrow!!

Good Morning, Canada,


p.s. During this post I have realized that I love the parenthesis way too much (or just the perfect amount).

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