….not really. It was pretty good. Saw friends. Visited. But the flu-from-hell had me by the throat and other organs for the first six days and Sal succumbed halfway through that. We are only here 8 days. So, you can see that HK was not much of an adventure this time. There is, thankfully, a pharmacy in the building and so, with that and the restaurant, we didn’t travel far for a few days. In fact, as I wrote this, I tallied up our ‘area walked’ and it was less than a square mile. Kinda silly, really.
Speaking of silly…I asked Sal to include some photos on this post. “Pictures of us sick?”
No. Just some pics. People seem to like ’em no matter what they are and we have some so why not just add some random photos?
“OK. But that’s weird.”
So, interspersed with the random thoughts expressed in this entry are random photos. The purpose? To illustrate that we were NOT well during this time. Couldn’t even get the photos right!
This is not the kind of thing to write about but, well, it is what happened and this is a travelogue….so…..?
Some knowledge was gleaned. The incredible energy that is the Chinese economy, the basic support-for-government expressed by even the democracy-oriented, the pace of modernity, the incredible cost of living, the incredibly restricted lifestyle……..
Restricted lifestyle, however, is much more a function of geography and culture than much else. These people live in a small, expensive, busy world but they can leave, they can travel and they can ‘have a life’ if they so choose (some have, and live in the States or Canada for that very reason). But most stay. Most stay living at home in one of the busiest, densest cities on earth mostly because of family and because there is a place for them here. A comfortable-to-them place.
Politically: the Chinese government is seen as an autocratic, omnipotent, despotic and authoritarian entity but, ‘so what, they do a good job!‘ The general take on that is that there is NO HEAVY HAND shown on a daily basis, the police state is virtually invisible, the economic system works and works well and it is very INCLUSIVE. They have a few marginalized people, somewhere, but they are not very visible and HK, itself, is awash in wealth. “So, what’s not to like?”
The hospitality we receive is over-the-top. We can’t even think to reciprocate at this level. If I turn on my charm (very rarely experienced by anyone) to the highest setting and jump through hoops to be nice until my teeth hurt, I can’t be as nice and considerate as are these people to Sally and me. They set the bar too high for being gracious, considerate and generous and it would be beyond me even if I had the inclination. And I don’t. I am a dog by comparison. A pig-dog. Or, as the Chinese might say, a barbarian.
It is not that I do not feel the same or even more affection for them as they do for us. It is just that gweilo ways are so much less effusive by nature. I think I am being a great host by giving people space, offering free access and use to anything I have and making sure they are well fed, safe and comfortable while near me. The more of ‘me’ I add (after a point), the less they actually get. So, I limit ‘me’ to the length of time that I think they can tolerate. When in doubt, shorten the exposure.
For many of my friends (Doug, in particular), 15-minute bursts are about the limit.
The Chinese see hosting a guest differently. Firstly, everyone always meets to eat and eat well. And a lot. And frequently. With attendant photographs. Plus gifts are given til we are laden with tea, paper products trimmed with gold, pots, cups, and all manner of small-boxed items.
But the biggest gift they lavish on us is time. These folks work ten to twelve hour days. They commute, on average, one hour twice a day. Some have started families. They live with parents and extended families. They do not have hobbies, activities or much in the way of entertainment except cell phones. And yet they find time to visit us for three or so hours whenever our schedule is open! They wouldn’t miss it! Tea with an old guy who they can only half understand and who currently has the flu took five hours out of Dong’s day yesterday and he would have stayed longer if I had allowed it.
I wouldn’t visit with Cindy Crawford for that long. Even if she could cook and brought wine!
Bottom line: Like most people I have met in life, throughout the world, we seem to have much in common, value the same things and are good to each other. But cultures make that kind of common-ness show up differently and theirs is so much more generous of spirit and consideration than ours (or the one I am used to, anyway). Theirs is an evolved, highly respectful culture that, once made a part of, is a wonderful and warm and welcoming experience. Very kind. Very nice.