Monday, June 26, 2006

Sail Away
Not your usual weekend. Courtesy of a friend -of-a-friend and the mainland's largesse in allowing one of its citizens (C) a pass so she could visit Hong Kong -- "one country, two systems ... and myriad difficulties if you're emeshed in either and want to pass back and forth" -- she and I spent Sunday on a chartered junk with 20-some expat mostly children and their Aussie and Brit moms sailing to a very thinly populated small island called Po Toi, south of Hong Kong. It once about 1,000 residents, most of which seem to have left a life of fishing and subsistance farming for the bright lights and big city to the north.
The cruise was wonderful - soothing scenery, calm ocean, an unusually bright blue sky, blue-green sea, the junk stocked with wine, beer, homemade rum cake, chips (or "crisps" as my Anglo-centric shipmates refered to them) but a tad weird in some other ways. It's a crowd I don't hang with normally, mostly lawyers or law or education connected, one male judge (the only other adult male) and wives of lawyers and all have which been here for many, many years.
I felt at times as if I was an American yokel in the sketchy outline of a failed Graham Greene or Paul Theroux novel. The small Po Toi harbor was crowded with yachts and the ramshackle open air covered restaurant where customers sat on small plastic blue stools was jammed with members of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and Aberdeen Marina Club ("The most prestigious private club in Hong Kong" according to one blurb I've seen) -- mostly all very old school, ''pip-pip" kinda guys and their wives/girlfriends who had docked to tuck into 5-inch broiled prawns, fried rice, scallops, sweet and sour pork and lots of grog before casting off back to their lives as bankers, developers and investors.
The walk from the boat to the restaurant was another world, too. Abandoned small shacks and mud brick homes nearly overgrown with sub-tropical foliage flanked the winding, hilly path. C and I paused in front of one that was papered with torn, faded handwritten Chinese signs.
"What does that one say?" I asked her, pointing at one that was still mostly intact and legible.
She studied it for a minute, cleared her throat as she always does before reciting a written translation and read: "I wake up in the morning and look up at the beautiful green mountain and ask her: 'How old are you?' She replies: 'How old are you?' "
Lovely, we both agreed. And, I thought privately, much better than cornball notices I recalled outside of cabins in the States like: "Wipe your paws here," "Camp Run-a-Muck" or "An old gopher lives here."
Onboard, my shipmates reminded me how political correctness -- or just plain common courtesy/sense -- still has a way to go here in some quarters. They kept referring to the 40something Chinese skipper - who also doubled as waiter, wine steward, tea and coffee maker along with his wife - as "the boat boy" as in: "Boat boy! We'd fancy a little more tea if you please!"
He spoke little English -- indeed C, as the only non-hired Chinese person aboard went beyond the call of duty as a occasional translator though she speaks virtually no Cantonese and he little Mandarin -- and referred to the women collectively as "Missy," like Hop Sing, the servile Chinese cook on Bonanza.
There was also the budding conspiracy freak. One late-30something paunchy Aussie mom told me about some 911 conspiracy video that her 13-year old had recently downloaded. Lulled and stuporous as I was by wine, digesting monster prawns and the gentle sway of the boat, I initially thought she was talking about United 93 and finally realized that her teenager's Internet quest had her completely sucked into theories that the whole 911 affair was all Dubya and Co.'s doing. A missle hit the Pentagon, the WTC bldgs were dynamited, Flight 93 was shot down by an F-16. etc blahblah. Not that I wouldn't love to blame The Smirking Chimp for that as well, but he's already got enough innocent blood on his hands and what she was spouting was sheer tripe and nonesense, of course. The last thing I wanted to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon rocking on the South China Sea was debate 911 aluminum foil hat jive, so I kept my mouth shut.
That is until she said:"If it's true, it's one the most heinous crimes ever committed against humanity-- more than 2,000 people died, you know!" I almost mentioned the Holocaust (or Pol Pot, or Mao's 38 million victims...) but then she did it for me. "How many Jews were killed by the Germans? 10,000?"
"Six million," I said.
"What? Six million? Really?"
"Why, that's a lot! That's almost the entire population of Australia!"
At that point I said, "It certainly is," and excused myself, politedly declined "boat boy's" offer and helped myself to another glass of wine and another chair where I had a view to savor with no blather.
It isn't even the population of Shenzhen. On the maps for sale in the stores and on the streets of this city, the country Israel does not exist. It has been replaced by non-existent nation populated by a ficticious nationality, both invented in the 1960's, well after Freedonia was christened by the movie Duck Soup. I wish it were only my tinfoil hat talking.
Careful Justin. Folk might think you use you head for something other than a hat rack. You might be accused of being a curmudgeon (like me) if you are lucky.

My car sports a license plate frame that I believe sums it up too well “The gene pool needs chlorination”

Of course you know have an insight into the “thinking” of those who still support Dubya. “Dumb and Dumber” looks to be the norm.
God help us all
Scary stuff indeed.

10.000? Guess she never felt the urge to watch news or open a history book.
she probably had the urge, just decided to let it pass...along with all the gooey brain matter oozing from her ears.

as I was once told...stupid people shouldn't breed, but they do.

ignorance is bliss...but only for the ignorant!

Jeebus save us all...
People's idiocy about war casualities always amazes me. 3,000 dead in the WTC is certainly a tragedy. However, I think the U.S. lost close to 2,000 in a LST accidental sinking off the southern English coast in a training exercise prior to D-Day. That's not counting the deaths on Omaha Beach.

Keep up the great writing.

Fred Jacobsen
San Francisco
Let people keep swallowing the anti-americanisms until they need us to bail their butts out of a conflict with a certain "red" state. Then we can pull up an international smorgessborge of hate and tell them "handle it yourselves." Yeah, Mao's, Hitler's, Stalin's and a legion of local strongmen's crimes are easily forgotten.
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