Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Black Swan of Hong Kong


My last night of my five-week travel and I boarded the ferry to Central Pier to meet a friend in “downtown Hong Kong.” Five minutes on the water, with my classes behind me and the beckoning city ahead, I already felt swept up in travel romance. The sea will do that, with its alluring invitation to adventure and possibility waiting on its distant horizon. And then there is the Hong Kong skyline, a city framed by high hills and water as are other cities of romance—Rio de Janeiro and San Francisco, for example. My childhood associations with Hong Kong, scene of exotic films and mysterious back alleys and bustling markets and Chinese boats in the harbor, added yet more color to my romantic notions.

And so I felt my heart lighten as we bounded over the waters (not that teaching these classes had made it feel heavy—but after all, work is work and travel is travel) and arrived at the pier. I followed the crowd looking for my friend, who had assured me she’d be easy to spot. And yet she wasn’t there. I walked down past some other piers and back again to mine and lingered, but no luck. So I crossed the bridge into the mall looking for a public phone and need I report that none were to be found?

With a lifetime habit of improvisation and responding to the moment, my first thought was to wander around the area and just enjoy the city. But as far as I could tell in this neighborhood, that meant going from one mall to the next. Not much romance in the same old stores selling things I couldn’t care less about, in ostentatious pristine high-rises, in the dressed-to-the-nines folks with clicking high heels beating out the tune of money, money, money. Well, it probably is consistent with the markets of old Hong Kong, but now instead of hanging ducks and chickens and mysterious herbs, it’s all high finance, clean and dry and polished.

I spotted a sign for a cinema and within the half-hour, Black Swan was on. So my last night I spent at the movies! Well, why not? Not the most fun film and I'm ready for a discussion group about what actually happened and what was imagined (any thoughts out there?). And I just can't keep pace with Hollywood's penchant for graphic violence. Did we really need to see that scene with Winona Ryder and the knife? (Especially since rumor has it that Winona Ryder went to The San Francisco School as a pre-schooler and there is a chance—still unsubstantiated—that I actually taught her for a year!). Well, as I say so often after movies that churn my stomach and leave me dispirited—"It was well-done."

So today it’s home to San Francisco. What a marvelous time it has been! Gratitude to all my course organizers, all the students, both young and old, to the pilots, bus drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, to subways, trains and boats, to my travel agent, to the books that kept me company (The Girl Who……Series, Cutting for Stone, Zeitoun, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Life Without Lawyers, A Mathematician’s Lament), to Bi Bim Bop, Okonomayaki, Dhosa, curries and of course, pizza, to the Setsubon, Pooram and Perehara Festivals, to Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman and my teacher, Avon Gillespie. Apologies for jet fuel and too many plastic water bottles, despite my best efforts to keep them to a minimum.

Will this blog continue? Yes it will, probably slowed down during my ten days in San Francisco, picking up a bit when I fly out again to Salzburg for two weeks of teaching. In her book Long Life, the poet Mary Oliver says, “That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’”

Yes, indeed, I would. I must. Because it’s not music circling around in my head, not the latest arrangement of tones and rhythms. It’s words and ideas and observations and reflections. I have loved every moment of this travel, but have equally loved the opportunity to make a comment on it and know that there might be at least one reader out there who is happy (for the moment) that I made it. Hooray for the technology that made this possible and the opportunity to keep this public journal. And now, homeward bound.

1 comment:

  1. And I am that friend he missed...I was so sorry not to connect, but even knew when it was happening that you would turn the situation into an opportunity! NEXT time, I'll make sure we have very clear coordinates!

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