Wonders in Hong Kong


I can’t believe I am saying this, but I miss Hong Kong.  I miss the bookstores.

Nick Hornby and the terrible Bill Bryson are very popular among the bookstores here in Cologne.  But try look for Kurt Vonnegut or Norman Mailer in their English books section, it’s more difficult than finding a grocery store that is open on Sunday. 

Page One is my favorite bookstore in Hong Kong.  Its collections of classic and comtempory literatry, art, economics, etc… are impressive.  And if you cannot find what you are looking for, they’d be happy to place an order for you – without additional charge.  

I know, I should use Amazon, or better yet, imporve my German at the speed of light so that I can read Stefan Zweig in his native language.  On second thought, I’d prefer the first option.  But here is the thing, I found buying stuff online scary.  Pretty ironic for a person who spends most of her waking time in front of a computer.

So, can someone knock some senses into me please?

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For many tourists, Hong Kong is the perfect destination: it has everything for everyone.

Lan Kwai Fung for bar/pub hoppers; gigantic malls for shopaholics; New Territories for nature lovers; Disney Land and Ocean Park for kids and kids-in-the-heart adults…There is also beach, hills, antique stores await their explorers.  All these are exciting, for a while. 

There is another Hong Kong worth exploring – the street markets.  Not those near Central that cater to tourists, especially westerners.  I am talking about the wet markets, the street vendors that supply everyday necessities for local communities.  

I live in one of these markets, as a matter of fact.  And what I see everyday makes me respect my “neighbours” more and more.  Let’s not talk about big words such as “entrepreneurship”, they are just hard working people taking care of themselves and families.  They take pride in not living on the welfare system, they don’t need politicians’ “rescue”, they are not poor people living miserable lives as media usually depict them. 

They are happy and proud.  And why shouldn’t they? Self-pity never gets one far, they know that.  And I hope the media, certain orgainzations and the politicians know this as well.    

I know when it comes to education, what matters is the knowledge one gained, not a piece of paper stating that you have attended all the courses and didn’t fail single one of them.  But come on HKU, I’ve seen better souvenirs from my school days!

It’s already bad that you have to pick up your degree certificate days after the graduation ceremony.  You thought you were getting it at the ceremony – I mean isn’t it what the whole thing is about?  I know, there are many other things you can do at the ceremony – wearing the funny gown and hat, socializing with profs, classmates, taking loads of pictures- but that piece of paper should be included on the menu, don’t you think so?

And its even worse when you see them piling up against each other on a table, waiting to be claimed.  Caption: “cheaper by the dozen”.  Wholesale, that’s what this education is about.  Did I mention that it comes with a free plastic bag?   I remember my graduation ceremony from University of Toronto, I had a large envelope at least.    

I woke up early this morning – 6 am (a personal record since…I don’t remember, probably my college days.)  And boy did the peculiar question bother me!  Spoiler alert: it involves toothpick.

I was having Dinner with some friends last night.  After we finished, all of them reached out for the tiny little bamboo (or wood?) sticks.  Then the question struck me: Why?  Why pick your teeth at the dinner table, in front of all others?

What’s so charming about this little object?  I wondered for so long – since I got to Hong Kong, as a matter of fact.  They are in EVERY single Chinese restaurant.  You order take-out, they come with the chopsticks.  There is no escape.  Go to a Chinese restaurant tonight, I guarantee you that you will see at least 3 persons picking their teeth with them. 

Let’s not get caught up with their usefulness (I support dental floss), the puzzle is why?  Why is that when many Hong Kong people are bashing ill-mannered mainlanders, they themselves are picking teeth in front of a full house audience? This blind superiority found in many Hong Kongers puzzles me.  I wonder what they say about “double standards”. 

And toothpicks?  I will never understand them either.