Friday, July 02, 2004

b>Across the Borderline
Though they are neighbors, the differences between Hong Kong and Shenzhen sometimes seem as diverese as Hooterville and Gotham City. Though in Hong Kong no one spits on sidewalks or spits bones and gristle on tables while dining and children don't urinate on the sidewalks, misconceptions abound on both sides.
I tell Hong Kongers - expats and Chinese alike - that I'm recently arrived from Shenzhen and a frequent response is "Oh, it's dangerous there, isn't it?"
I tell Shenzheners that I've relocated to Hong Kong and again: "Oh, it's dangerous there, be careful!"
The Chinese I've met in Hong Kong also seem to be light years removed from their countrymen across the bay. "They don't think they are Chinese, only Hong Kong" one SZ Chinese friend told me and I'm finding she's not entirely wrong.
While my current reference points are ridiculously superficial, confined as they are to folks I've met after several beers at the Pacific bar, I've been struck by several conversations and encounters.
I was rehashing last night's 500,000 person pro-democracy march with a 30something graphic designer named Steven ho told me he hadn't attended it because he feels "no future, only a dark hole" in Hong Kong. "The night of reunification I was at a big party. Americans, English, Chinese - it was wonderful and I felt like we had a new future. Now, nothing. I feel nothing for Beijing and the mainland."
Our table of four also included a cynical unmarried female kindergarten teacher pounding down Buds. This in itself was a minor shock. Not that some kindergarten teachers in the US don't enjoy a tall cool one or two after work, but she had more in common attitude-wise with Edna Krabappel - the jaded elementary school teacher on The Simpsons - than with any of her mainland counterparts who would've been summarily fired or reassigned to some rice-foresaken Chinese version of Siberia if they had been seen drinking beer and playing dice with three men in a bar, never mind on a school night. No biggie in Hong Kong, though.
Sex seems to be another no biggie. Or at least talking about it. Earlier in the evening, Steven had briefly introduced me to a 19-year-old woman who for reasons I still can't fathom was perfectly content to blurt out to a 51-year-old foreigner she'd known for about eight minutes that she had slept with 5 guys since she was 17.
Even in "dangerous" Shenzhen you'd be hard put to find a hooker that candid.
Or at least that's what friends have told me.

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