Thursday, June 17, 2004

Sweet Home Hong Kong
I just rolled a Hong Kong vagrant for HK$20 in order to afford the minimum 1 hour stay at an Internet cafe to post this. Damn, the air conditioning is fine but the other users - mostly kids in blue and white school uniforms on their lunch breaks or playing hooky - are avoiding me and making what I presume are rude remarks in Catonese. Probably because I look and smell like a squid that's been rotting on a rusty hook for two days outside a HK fish market. That what happens when you've been living under a subway bridge for several days and nights...
Nah, actually I've landed more or less on my feet and have found temporary, comfortable, furnished housing with AC, basic cable and a fridge within walking distance of a free shuttle bus to The Standard.
It all came together late last week when an editor asked how my housing search was going and I broke down in tears and writhed and flopped like a beheaded chicken on the stained newsroom carpet describing a fruitless 3-hour wait in a real estate agent's office as she tried to track down an apartment owner. She spoke little English. I speak as much Cantonese as I do Mandarin or Esperanto, which is to say none. (Unlike Shenzhen and most of the rest of China, the majority of HK's denizens hablo Cantonese which has several more tones than Mandarin and is as incomprehensible to most mainland Chinese as it is to the rest of us.) This rental impasse all made for strained feelings on both sides as she kept clucking and redialing her cell phone and I kept sighing and looking pointedly at her office clock.
The editor suddenly remembered that the paper had leased a furnished apartment for an intern who had postponed her arrival by several months - thus my new digs.
Yes, I am sleeping in a fetal position on what amounts to a large shelf, but it's a small price to pay for a place to go after leaving the office.
The neighborhood is a mix of traditional HK shops and whatever the 21st century mostly has to offer. The most notable landmark is the infamous Amoy Garden apartment complex- SARS Ground Zero- a place I'd imagined from the States as a decaying slum crawling with diseased rats, curs and swine. In reality it's several modern unassuming towers that, like much of HK's architecture, looks like mammoth Legos stacked sky high. No sign of SARS or any aftermath.
Speaking of signs, I am happy to report that while the English literacy level is noticably higher here (thank you, British colonialists!) there are still plenty of random messages on T-shirts and shops to amuse a foreigner: "Famous Hoolywood Pet Gromming" sits near my place, as does a large home furniture chain called "Homely Furniture." I peeked inside and discerned that there was indeed truth in advertising.

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