Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The whole isle full of noises

After a first two weeks in Hong Kong (doing a residency at the excellent Chinese International School) there are, granted, visual impressions -the dizzying heights of buildings hemmed in between mountains and harbour:

Quite a hum down there. Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

the night lights:

the poetry of the street names:

and the little remnants of British-ness (like double-decker buses or trams):

But I also noticed the distinctive sounds.

For a start, it's another polylingual city. But what was the PA saying in the MTR? It was only after a couple of visits that I could tell: "Please. Hold. The handrail. Don't keep your eyes. Only on your. MOBILE PHONE."

And I arrived on a Sunday, Maids Day Off. The streets, parks, undersides of freeways were full of Filipino and Indonesian young women, the airwaves jammed with the sounds of thousands of women chattering away in Tagalog and Bahasa all at once.

Other little things I noticed? The slopes in this steep city are 'registered' (to make sure they're on someone's maintenance inventory, I guess). Cab drivers take a while to interpret the directions that a friend has written out in Hanzi and then go, "Aha". (The friend took a while working out how to write it, before saying "Aha" and writing it.) I'm guessing the characters are interpretable until put in context of all the others.

Of course, it wouldn't be me without noticing the natural beauty, which is most obvious on the southern side of the island.

I hope urban pressure won't force the authorities to 'reclaim' too much of the harbour on the northern side. I hope it will always be possible to remain impressed with this megapolis's charm.

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