Tag Archives: hong kong

A Taste of Things to Come

Eating is how I become familiar with a city. I live on my own and find cooking for myself daunting. Eating out, even though it’s solo, offers me a welcome break from the tiring routine of taking care of myself. I love the dim sum, sweet little nibbles coming to you in bamboo containers, thrown at you by waitresses whose brusqueness is part of the experience. I’ve tasted chicken feet before but back then it felt more like a dare. This time those posed toes didn’t last long on the plate. I love the taste of it all though it does start to blend together, the delicacies of the flavores and textures overruled by your desire to scarf it down like the locals around you. I’ve eaten nothing too “strange” and hesitate using that word as it implies that I am a tourist to this place that is now my home. I feel excluded by many of the restaurants around me, only displaying their food in long vertical strands and not including pictures to help me out.

Eating is a communal experience but food is solitarily consumed. You buy your food from food counters and eat amongst throngs of people coming on going. When you eat sitting at a round table with a lazy Susan in the middle you bend over the bowl to ensure you can slurp it all up.

The taste in Hong Kong runs sweet. Bakeries sell sweet breads and the chips at the 7/11s display honey proudly embracing that sweet and salty pairing.

Ive developed a taste for the variety offered to me though I crave the specificities of my previous posts. The sweet condensed milk tea in Madagascar. The white cheese in my tortillas in Mexico. The avocado slices over pizza slices in South Africa. Polish pierogies with caramelized onions dripping in grease. Sweet soy sauce over everything from Indonesia. Now to my list I can add char boa sui. I can add the fresh Vietnamese foods I get on my way home. I can add the sweet and sour pork that satisfies that American Chinese food desire.

I can’t wait for more things to come

Senses and Scents

Smell

Your senses trigger memories so that every stimuli you receive is not perceived as new and leaves you perpetually confused. You see something with four wheels and moving fast past, your memory helps inform you that it’s a car. The olfactory bulb is activated by smell and triggers your memory. Smells are a powerful sense. When I started writing about smell I wanted to give a thorough list of the delicious and distracting smells I encounter in Hong Kong. But every time I tried to capture the sensation of a scent I was reminded of a memory, time traveling without leaving my shoes.

 

Hong Kong is made up of smells of people. Seeing animals is a welcome anomaly. You smell people’s sweat, smell people’s food, the oil from fried food, savoury deliciousness mixed with sweet custards remnants of Hong Kong’s European colonised past. Smells like these make sense in such a populated city, smells move quickly and never linger for longer than it takes to trigger a memory.

 

Hong Kong smells like five spice. This spice is sweet but salty like soy sauce and has an almost indescribable but unavoidable smell. I first encountered this smell on a school trip to Taiwan. The smell of five spice is strongest in 7/11. In Taiwan it was the sale of Thousand Year eggs, in Hong Kong it’s the sale of fish balls on a stick, both bobbing in brown liquid.

 

The staff room at my room smells like every staff room. A mix of coffee, Tupperware soaked lunches and exhaustion. My work is right by the ocean and the whiff of salted fish sometimes crawls up and surprising me. It reminds me of the supermarkets fish section I avoided as a kid afraid of the smell and the carcasses. There are a pack of cattle acting like loitering youth causing you to change your route and taking up way more space than they should.

Cows gonna cattle, ladies gonna tai chi
Cows gonna cattle, ladies gonna tai chi

Senses are only activated by new sensations. I’m in my third week in Hong Kong, into my first full week at work. Sensations are becoming less novel and just becoming life. It can feel deadening not realizing new sensations. The smells are less distinct, falling into familiarity the way a smelly room no longer becomes noticeable. During moments like these I look for new sensations to make me feel alive. The heat feels familiar, a recent rain making me feel chilled. The bus and metro of my commute feeling longer and shorter at the same time. I have my seat on the bus, I have my routine. I started coaching again, following that up with practice at a sport I know nothing about. I’m going to a ska show tonight having been invited by my co-coach. I’m going to play in a soccer tournament. When I take a moment I realize I am experiencing new sensations.

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Familiarity becomes memories and after comes expertise. I’m excited for my experiences, my new sensations, to become memories and to become an expert in living this life.

Touch/Feel

When one sweats in a mild environment you can feel the tingle, the accumulation of perspiration, before it overfills, spills and drips down. Those few drops build and pop up across your body. In Hong Kong during the summer, sweating is head to toe and feels like walking through the sprinklers of my suburban summer youth. Just imagine sprinklers set to warm and you get a clearer sense of the sensation. You sweat even if you will your body not to. It’s not unpleasant always, in fact there is something cleansing and accomplishing about your body being able to completely drench your clothes. The constant shift from the moist heat to the cool conditioning draws out the moisture in your body full force. It’s physical and visceral, reminding you, your body, and everyone’s sweaty backs, does things that you don’t want it to.

The environment of Hog Kong has other elements of extreme sensations. Drops of moisture, fabricated by the air con, drop on to your head and body.It causes you to prepare for rain when it’s only a drop. There are moments when I feel cold and hot at the same time a truly foreign and jarring sensation. When your sweat becomes a clammy blanket. Buses lurch past you engulfing you in heat from their exhaust.

touch

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world but I never really touch others or feel claustrophobic. This has to be partly because I’m about the same height and build as most people. In other countries people’s mass made me feel vulnerable but here I feel more normal. When I watch masses of people transitioning I’m reminded of the collectivist studies describing movement in these places acting like school of fish.

Touch is important when you make a lonesome journey. You crave it because connection is so close yet so far when you are surrounded by people you don’t know yet. This week I had a moment of touch. I joined a rugby team, by accident and to meet people. We had a drill to wrestle for a ball, sweaty and exhausted we wrestled for an overgrown oblong shape our bodies slipped past one another making contact.

Touch turns to a feeling, alerting our emotions, fired from external stimuli. What I always search for is a feeling of comfort and acceptance. I’ve gotten an apartment in Hong Kong, I’ve chosen a place to live. It was a struggle, forcing me to be an adult with responsibilities, the decision a weight that I usually run away from. But once I signed the papers for my home for the next two years that weight lifted. After the first official day of work I needed to do something for myself. I wandered around my new neighborhood and felt so complete. Maybe it was because I knew this was my neighborhood, or maybe it was because I knew this was my home, but now I feel I own my decisions and with it my comfort. I feel more confident than I ever have in my life. I feel confident because I feel competent. Hong kong’s public transport, tiny size, and isolated costal development means I haven’t felt lost yet. I feel stressed, I feel bored, I feel happy, I feel confused, I feel frustrated, I feel proud, I feel curious, I feel like an adult.

Senses in a Megacity

House music sets the beat of my journey through the mega city of Hong Kong. Hong Kong and house music fit better together than any city I’ve tried to set house to (London, Cape Town, Warsaw, Paris, Detroit). Hong Kong is a pulsating organic ecosystem strengthened with steel and cement. This city, with its many beautifully contrasting layers, sync up just like house music’s many sounds do. House music’s electronic beats may seem wholly artificial to some. But the heart, the soul, the emotion of house music comes from its Motown heritage. House music was created to keep people dancing, to allow people of color and women to showcase their struggles and then forget them in euphoric expunging, to cleanse their souls and retain their humanity. House music, like Hong Kong, doesn’t behave, breaking you into a sweat, drawing you to certain places. In a city your body makes decisions that your mind isn’t aware of, you move because you must, just like dancing. You go off onto unexpected beats and streets but you never leave the track or the city.

 

The music of my soul is Motown, created by my city and perfected by the genius of few. The music of my soul is hip-hop, poetry narrating a solo journey. The music of my soul is house, my senses soothed by the repetition, the layers and its thematic yearning for love.

 

I’ve been in Hong Kong for a week and a half. My journey every morning to school takes me from the City, traveling on the metro and then on a bus through the jungle to my seaside school. I must find a place to live, to put down roots. I’m deciding between living in solitude amongst the sounds of a village, with my school just a shout away, or in the city whose solitude I found suffocating before. But listening to the sounds of house music on my commute, so perfectly matching the sounds of Hong Kong and my soul, I know where I belong.

 

To be developed: taste, sight, smell, touch