My wife likes to travel - well, normally. But this time it was different. Everything was different!
Travel is her great escape from the drudgery and humdrum of the daily grind of work and earning a living. It's a wonder world of places and experiences you read about in books. Books are one of her favourite things along with movies and shows, all of which involve escape from that very humdrum already mentioned.
But this time it was different! It was travelling to work.
Don't get me wrong! She was grateful to have the work, and well paying work at that - the same type of work that she used to have in Australia. But the circumstances were really not of her choosing. If she had the party connections ..., if hadn't been appointed by the other side ... . Losing that job hurt. It hurt sooo much. It hurt to watch her hurt.
In 2018 I found myself on a plane to Hong Kong. My wife travels there for work - her new work - about six times a year. She usually stays a couple of weeks each time. Apart from work she had no contacts in Hong Kong so I go about twice a year to provide a bit of company.
Frankly I was quite excited. Hong Kong - China: One Country, Two Systems: The Asian Century -all that. And I'd never once been there.
So what did I find? I mean apart from the obvious: an Asian mega-city, an international finance hub sporting an array of architectural show pieces promoting various brand-egos.
Well here's what I found:
1. A bloody big airport. It's really fascinating! It's on an artificial island in the South China Sea. It has spectacular views of cloud covered Lantau Mountain. That mountain somehow tells you are in China and nowhere else. The mountain is guarded by chilling rows of apartment towers, all the same, lined up like soldiers. Imagining a life in one those sent a shudder down my spine. Out the other side beyond the planes and the runways and the hangers and the terminals, the sea, those ubiquitous clouds and the haze and dredging: a myriad of dredges. And ships; all sorts, not modern passenger liners, but the grubby, industrial ships of work and commerce, old, new, big and little.
2. The water, the harbour, where ships come and go as they have ever since and even before the British freebooters, thugs and drug runners stole it at gunpoint. Those same ships I saw from the airport, but more and more of them. All shapes and sizes and ages, but -as before - functional, industrial, nothing much elegant. But there's a kind of romance - maybe even a heightened one - in the grubbiest, the oldest, the smallest cargo ship.
What I found was, I guess, what was ever there: the gateway to southern China, to trade and riches. Now it sort of belongs to China (and only 'sort of' if the Hong Kongers could have their way). And the haze sits over it all: the tropical haze, the industrial haze. Everything is just that little unclear. But clear enough to paint.
James Yuncken, January 2020