The inner calm of Hong Kong


Today has understandably been a much quieter day than yesterday. I have felt a little tired and also my stomach caused me a few problems so since a delightful lunch and early afternoon meeting with a colleague I have rested back at the hotel. I still can’t get a normal pattern of sleep but if I feel like a sleep during the day then why not I’m on holiday. I will no doubt find myself at the iPad at 3 am in the morning as I was last night face-timing my son in the UK!
I had lunch with the managerial staff who I have worked closely with over the years of teaching here. (See pic below) We opted for a tea shop and a light lunch which suited me after yesterday. The Tea at this place in Shep Kip Mei, which I have been to once before, is excellent and very special and I enjoyed a cup of jasmine blossom tea, see the picture below. The blossom slowly unfolds in the hot water releasing a delicate and beautifully refined taste. One of the dinner party kindly bought me a box of this tea to take back to England for special occasions. It was a lovely lunch and we chatted about many things from work to children and to life in Hong Kong. One of the party recalled living in the Kowloon Walled City as a young child before it was demolished in the 1990s, that must have been some experience. Another colleague yesterday had talked about his early work as a social worker when he had to visit the city and found it dangerous and difficult work. He particularly found the presence of dogs difficult. I have a lot of sympathy with this as my years as a community probation officer involved visiting homes with some fearsome looking animals. I was always very wary though did find the whippets of Yorkshire folk more of a nuisance than anything else. How are you supposed to conduct an interview when you have three or four whippets running all over you is a mystery but certainly was my experience when I first started work in 1977. 
After lunch I met up with a colleague that I have worked with a lot over the years. We sat and chatted easily for some time, as always it was a stimulating and thoughtful conversation. He gave me a wonderful keepsake of a decorated champagne glass and a glass ornament inscribed with the words ‘live a long and healthy life’. This was in Cantonese. Whether I can achieve such an ambition is more challenging but with such motivation I can continue to try! I shall definitely miss these moments when I return to the UK. People here are unfailingly kind and interested in you and what you are doing. This welcoming has always made me feel relaxed whilst in Hong Kong. It is a feature of my experience here that I will miss the most when I no longer visit. They are in many ways a unique set of relationships sustained initially by a common activity but blossoms out like the tea into lovely connections which often lie fallow in between visits to work here. The genuine pleasure people show when we meet each other again reflects my own joy at seeing them. Given we live and operate in countries 7500 miles apart our engagement is necessarily brief but still binds us together when we meet afresh. In recent years that gap is bridged just a little for some by Facebook contact. 
Reflecting on my experiences here it almost feels like I am in a bubble when here, somehow hermetically sealed from the rest of the world, almost a protective bubble. I have always found myself at ease here and much calmer than when at home. When I was here on sabbatical I know that my pace of life changed and I was able to make more considered decisions. Indeed I did hope that I would continue this sense of inner calm when I returned to the UK but within six months I was dealing with health scares and this experience, whilst always in the memory, receded. But when I return so does that sense of calm. It’s a good feeling though I do not know what to do with it. For just a few days, Brexit, Trump, Crisis in criminal justice prisons and probation, hospital appointments, and all the rest of life’s disturbing realities can be left in the bubble, no doubt sadly to bubble over again one day soon!
I did notice a huge Christmas tree in Festival Walk today (a shopping mall next to the university and where I would shop and drink coffee on many occasions) and see the pic below. They do make a lot of the commerce surrounding Christmas though the predominant religion is certainly not Christian. It was slightly strange to celebrate Christmas here with my daughter in 2010. We went down into the shopping mall and found hundreds of people shopping and enjoying the day, not quite in the way of an English Christmas at all. For our part we cooked some food together, drank plenty of wine and as our day ended we enjoyed connecting to the UK through Facebook and Skype to sneak into their early Christmas Day. 
It’s not been a photo day today so just a couple of photos. 

5 thoughts on “The inner calm of Hong Kong

  1. Just caught up with your very informative and gloriously illustrated blogs. Sounds like it’s living up to expectations. So glad you’re having a good and full time. Reminds me, very happily, of our visit and what a good time we had. What a great experience that was. Rather sad that this is the last visit (are you really sure about that? You’ve got a good few years in you yet going on past record!). Must feel somewhat bittersweet though, effectively goodbyes to some very good friends.

    All’s well here, Had a lunch time visit from Greg and Sarah where some planning for next year’s Booker was under discussion, only in terms of how to get the books read though, nothing about the menu yet! Great to see them both – they’re well.

    Speak to you when you get back. Hope the rest of the trip goes as well as this first part.

    Love Jane x

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  2. You do make Hong Kong sound very appealing. We’re hoping to visit China but think our stop at Hong Kong will be just in transit. I’m wishing that wasn’t the case!

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    1. Mainland China is of course vast and probably amazing to explore. I have only been on two short trips. Hong Kong though has its own character and is worth a visit in its own right. More welcoming open society than China.

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