Thursday, 2 August 2012

The sounds and sights of daily life

Did I say that my Hong Kong neighborhood was relatively quiet? What was I thinking? Quiet, relative to the hordes of people chattering in the street outside the nearby Times Square Mall, yes. But quiet, relative to absolute silence? No way!

At night, there are the gleeful shouts of party people as the bars downstairs reach last call, or the occasional dust-up in the street. A while later, there's the metallic death rattle of the steel garage doors that shelter shops at night. Much too soon after that, it's the noise of morning delivery trucks and the construction workers across the street beginning their day before it gets too hot to bear. (Bare-chested construction workers, ladies, I might add!) But I must be tired, because I no longer let it prevent me from getting to sleep!

Life in Hong Kong moves smoothly and it's easy to be lulled, for a moment into forgetting that I am in a country outside North America. But then, I'll look around and realize that there are differences. There are men and women with hand trucks carting huge bags of rice and boxes of vegetables along the sidewalk. Workers are putting up a scaffolding by lashing bamboo poles together. People are standing on the street corners all day holding signs advertising their restaurants. Schools are all at least four floors high -- in a city of skyscrapers where land is at a premium, what else would I expect?

And of course, there's the language barrier. Smiles go a long way, but sometimes, knowing Cantonese would be helpful. Luckily,  people speak enough English to assist me. When I ask the mini-bus driver to stop, using a few words of Cantonese that a colleague taught me, and he then asks me for further direction, I have absolutely no idea how to respond. Thank heavens, there's generally someone else on the bus who can translate for me. It will be interesting to see what happens when I visit mainland China and try to get around!

Then there are the Olympics. I am on the Olympics editing team at work, so I eat, breathe and sleep the Games. When I come home from work, I turn on the TV and watch the local broadcast. I have the option of listening either in Cantonese or English -- not French or English! -- and when I opt for the latter, I get a commentator with an Australian or South African accent. Now, I am certain that I am no longer in North America. This is further confirmed by the mix of sports I watch. Would the CBC cut away from the men's gymnastics all-around final to show a gold-medal table tennis match? I doubt it!

Don't take this as complaint -- it's simply different, which is what makes this adventure interesting. Vive la difference!

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