Everywhere I go there are reminders it’s nearly New Year. Last week I was thinking I might be celebrating quietly, possibly alone. I wasn’t worried about that at all, being on my own never worries me. Was more concerned that the pool will be shut for 3 days and I would not get my daily swim. And now, well New Year Celebrations will be quite different from my Billy No Mates version. I won’t get to swim but I definitely won’t be alone. I will have my first experience of a very traditional CNY with my new family. Loneliness hasn’t really featured during this trip. HKers are a very friendly bunch, none moreso than the dynamic and crazy (she won’t mind me saying this) Robynne Nimmo.
Quite soon after my arrival, Robynne, who saw my posts on a FB site, took me under her wing, taking me on picnics and outings and trips that wouldn’t have been possible without her kindness and generosity. Linking me up with my Sai Kung landlady, sharing her home and family. Feeding me. Two fabulous boat trips, (thank you Pete), thoughtful Christmas treats, bargain hunting in Stanley, a theatre buddy…..The list goes on. Life is never dull around this lady. It was she who invited me on a hike, I turned up in my scruffy gear, only to find we were test driving Bentleys. She is the queen of one liners and the Baden Powell of picnic preparation. Today we met to say Goodbye as she is heading back to Sydney for a few weeks. I’m going to miss this crazy lady.
We had a goodbye lunch at the Royal Yacht Club. The decorations are tasteful and beautiful, just like the Club itself. I got home to find the foyer of the hostel had been decorated too, in fact there’s hardly any public space that hasn’t been adorned. See if can work out which are the HK Yacht Club decorations and which are the hostel’s!
Did you ever go into a casino and watch as somebody pulled a one armed bandit, and hundreds of coins come out all over the floor, and everyone gets very excited and screams and dances about a bit? No, neither did I, but I have seen it on film.
Family, friends, strangers are asking how do I feel. I can’t quite put it into words, but it’s a bit like I hit the family jackpot. But I’m being restrained and only screaming and dancing around in private at the moment!
At Chinese New Year, which is all about families, the family gathers in a favourite restaurant usually just before the big 3 days. My family brought the reunion dinner forward, I got dressed up accordingly, was a little overdressed I think. But nobody seemed to mind.
I am ‘moy moy’ little sister. And they treat me like a small little sister, holding my hand, helping me with everything, putting food on my plate, hugging and hugging me. They keep telling me they can’t believe it. My brother’s wife said she thought my brother was playing a big joke on her this morning when she found out. My nephew, when Winnie sent him the news articles, said he fell off his chair to read his Grandmother’s and his Father’s names in the press.
They laughed at mine and Winnie’s poster posting antics – ‘That’s how we find lost dogs’ they said. And my 2nd biggest sister walks past where we put the posters up and didn’t see them! It turns out that Winnie and my sister in law exhibited art together in the 1980s! Such a small world.
Over our celebration dinner we talked of many things. I heard more stories about my Mother, we worked out who in the family had inherited what from whom. I’m told I have my Mother’s hair, skin, lower face features. And I’m smart like she was! Several in the family have totally flat feet. Everyone at dinner is looking at each other to see what bits we share and what bits must have come from our Fathers.
Between us there are fluent English speakers (my nephew Tim and sister in law Willa, some who speak a little Mandarin, and my siblings all have a smattering of English. Generally most of the conversation is in Cantonese, unless someone is talking to me! My brother’s English is actually probably better than he is letting on I think. And Winnie, is always beside me to help out when I get stuck.
I keep a notepad to hand, because I’m trying to keep up with all the people that are mentioned in conversation. My niece Suui is there, as is my nephew Tim. He has a 6 year old son Jarvis. After a while I give up trying to keep up with it all, as I need to eat the delicious reunion dinner. So family promise they will draw me a family tree, roots and all.
I don’t imagine there will ever be another day quite like this one. We are hoping to all be reunited again, with my youngest sister who is in Japan, and perhaps if we’re very lucky, the brother who was adopted within Hong Kong. My Chinese New Year has all been arranged, and it begins on Friday with a visit to pay respects to our Mother So Kam Lai.
I don’t believe in life after death. But something tells me if my Mother were to see us all tonight, she would be dancing and screaming in delight.
In the picture above (more for my benefit than yours)
L to R. Willa Wong, sister in law, Suui Li, niece, Daisy Wong, eldest sister, me, Andy Wong, big brother, Amy Wong, elder sister, Tim, Wong nephew.
This happened today
I met my eldest half sister Wong Yin Ling, or Daisy. Huge hugs and lots of tears.
I woke up related by blood to 3 people, Tom and Lucy and Phoebe, and I ended the day with 2 photo albums full of half siblings, nieces and nephews and the children of my nephews, whatever they would be called (cousins to Phoebe???). I don’t think that’s right, but it will do for now.
So I have five half siblings.
A big brother, two big sisters and a little sister. And a big brother who was given away, who the Red Cross are now going to try and trace.
My Mother was born in 1919, and had 8 children, I was number 7. The first two died in infancy.
Before I came, I thought I was the forth child of four.
And this just on my Mother’s side.
And I saw pictures of my Mother for the first time ever. Here she is
My Mother had a very hard life. But she died aged 78, loved by many friends and her children and grandchildren. Her life did get better after my adoption and four of her children are very close. I meet with more tomorrow for a celebration dinner. Here are my four half siblings
Winnie has pointed out that black is an unlucky colour for the Chinese at New Year. It’s OK to wear black to this VIP meeting, but not OK to give black presents of any kind. No black foiled green bottled Prosecco, no lucky black cat sweeets (and they are Japanese manufactured), no black box container. So it’s back to the hamper drawing board this morning. Luckily, I may not be good at Chinese Culture but I am good at last minute salvaging. I’ve No picture as its disassembled in a red Happy Shopping Carrier Bag. But basically gold tin, gold and red paper. Prosecco and black unlucky Japanese sweeties removed. I’m up and ready for an early morning swim before my big day. I wonder if it’s unlucky if I eat the black cat sweets for breakfast. Probably not a great idea. But luckily I have blue blue berries and a red pomegranate, and green avocados in stock. Sometimes I’m so glad I’m not superstitious. I’ve never had my fortune told at home or at any temple here, don’t follow my Libran or rat horoscope, walk under ladders……
And All this, from a city teeming with buildings whose facades are held together by bits of bamboo underneath which everyone is happy to walk.
But today is a day of respecting culture, customs and traditions, and carrying random bits of British foodstuffs on the MTR.
Just for tonight I’m having a night off from blogging in favour of a crash course in Cantonese and some creative hamper making. But rest assured I will be blogging tomorrow. See you soon x
A few days after I arrived, Sunday 18th November 2018 – last year!, I met up with Liz from my home town. I was still rabbit in headlights as I remember, struggling to find my way around Tsim Tsa Tsui and taking 20 minutes to get from A to B, when now, the same journey takes less than 5. I remember Liz telling me that soon I’d be navigating my way underground, using the MTR station to get seamlessly from A to B, without having to cross major roads using the subway or crossings. How native HKers do this all the time if they want to stay cool in the height of summer, or stay dry in a downpour. I remember thinking to myself, ‘you have got to be kidding me, that day will never come’.
Tonight, at around 9pm I decided that I must go in search of clotted cream, for a small English hamper present that I’m putting together for one, or some very special people I’m hoping to meet on Tuesday. I also wanted to buy a Chinese New Year traditional date pudding and check out where I would be able to buy fresh scones very early on Tuesday morning. English Breakfast tea was on this list, and traditional shortbread, and of course strawberry jam. The best place is Marks and Spencer’s, or the City Supermarket at Ocean Terminal near the Star Ferry. I plumped for the latter, it’s offers a exquisitely displayed global food range whereas M&S is well, it’s M&S! Time was running out, so I took the plunge, quite literally and dived underground. And emerged about 7 minutes later right outside star ferry – with a big beaming smile on my ‘Yes I did it’ face. I know that some visitors probably have this nailed within a day of arriving, and I’m some 70 days into my trip (albeit 20+ of those in Vietnam). Perhaps I’m a slow learner, but tonight this doesn’t bother me at all. As I wasn’t in a hurry to get home from my late night shopping spree I walked above ground, lingered to listen to some live music and happened upon 3 boy racers racing their Ferraris around the streets of TST. I wonder if there’s anywhere else in the world I could experience such a night as this. I mentally make a note to think of strategies to ease my transition back to St Ives.
I got home with everything that was on my shopping list, persuaded one of the fruit stall holders to give me a shallow cardboard box that I will decorate with red and gold, and stored my new year cake and the English cream in the common room fridge.
Earlier today I headed over to Prince Edward to meet up with Rachel who has a studio and gallery space there. As well as being a super talented artist, facilitator, teacher and an all round good egg, she is a founder member of Hong Kong stories, a group of people from all walks of life who are passionate about storytelling and teaching the art to enthusiastic newbies. I’d shared my story at a story telling meet up and she kindly invited me to podcast one of my blog entries for the HK stories podcast station. It wasn’t a live podcast – phew, and Rachel guided me through the process, advised on edits and within an hour I’d done my first ever podcast. I am fascinated by the whole podcasting world as a way of telling a story in small increments and I think of how Charles Dickens might do the same now with Pickwick Papers. All very intriguing and another first in an unchartered territory. Whether there will be a second remains to be seen, time is marching on and I’ve other things on my mind…..
To go before I fly home. And bearing that in mind, every morning I look at all the stuff filling my room and wonder how I’m going to get it all back home. Apart from the H&M flurry, I can’t begin to imagine where it’s all come from, but I suppose a book here and a book there, some souvenirs from Vietnam, it all starts to add up.
But nothing compared with this.
This morning I head to the common room to make my porridge. And am greeted with an indescribable amount of stuff covering every available surface. Two young guys are wandering around scratching their heads. Picking stuff up and putting it down again. Laughing and joking.
Meet Lucas and Dangii from France. They’ve been at Hop Inn for 6 months as exchange students studying Business and Finance at HK University. After their 6 months, they took a month to travel to Myanmar and China, and today they were packing to fly back home. They were having a packing party in the common room. Oh joy. Hostel life is so different from being in a hotel. Not least of all because you get to see stuff you wouldn’t normally be privy to. And in my case, are so happy to realise you are not the only one who travels with way too much stuff.
Both were very happy to let me take photos and blog about them, in case you are wondering. In fact, it prompted them to take a couple themselves, except they couldn’t find a camera. I’m sure it will turn up guys. Happy packing.