Sunday, March 11, 2007

 
"Had a job in the great north woods working as a cook for a spell, and one day the ax just fell.."
Excuse the long delay, faithful bloggites. A partial explanation is coming. The ax fell, as they say, (assume profound-sounding announcer voice: "suddenly and without warning") about a week and a half ago at VOA my most recent last, best hope for employment here.
Oh, there were some vague explanations, mostly having to do with budget cuts, last hired-first fired, oh, and something about an amateur video leaked to YouTube. Not much, really. Just me or someone who looked a little like me clad in an American flag loincloth and VOA T-shirt who was snorting what appeared to be industrial strength Marmite while flogging the 49-year-old wife of the assistant Uzbek vice-consulate -- herself stuffed in a Tokyo school girl uniform -- with bleeding baby purple squid in an ante room outside the main hall of a US consulate reception ... all in all, just a misunderstanding and a minor one at that.
I was mulling this depressing and untoward turn of events a couple days after getting the hook, wondering what to do next, why it happened, why I am here, why nothing ever matters, think I'll off myself soon -- cosmic self-pity and loathing 101 -- while a Hong Kong Chinese pal I'll call L was telling me about her mother and how her ma arrived in Hong Kong.
I arrived in Hong Kong on a United jet from Los Angeles in 2003 on my way to Shenzhen.
Hong Kong is a city of immigrants, refugees and flotsam. (The Brits had an ancronym: FILTH's for their ilk who came for a second chance. Failed In London Try Hongkong.)
But L's mother arrived in Hong Kong the hard way in the 1974 when she was rescued by fishermen and stumbled ashore with two other people after swimming and floating for two days in the South China sea. The trio were fleeing the Cultural Revolution. She's told her children she plotted and physically prepared for a year prior to making the literal plunge to freedom.
L: "'My mother told me that her feelings were so complicated. She thought about being caught, or dying in the sea, but at the same time she was so disappointed in China and saw no hopes of any future there," L told me."It's really scary when you see nothing in the boundless and dark sea," my mother said.
"She finally made it before the sun rose. Some fishermen saw her and gave her some dry clothes. Then she went to the police station to get her HK ID".
I burned out in the States, impulsively took a 3 week gig in Shenzhen came to Hong Kong got a HK ID and nearly four years later now more or less find myself facing the same situation I left. Plotted? Prepared? Nah. Rescued by fisherfolks? Big jet airliner. Barely thought twice. But that was part of the thrill.
L's mother raised L and two other children. One of the two men who'd helped her mother make the brutal crossing was in love with her, but she turned him down in favor of a Hong Kong guy who fathered L and her siblings. Then he left her when the children were still in school for the oldest, coldest reason -- a younger woman.
I wondered but never asked L if her mother might have regretted coming here at that point. Her life as a mother didn't get exactly get better either. During college L moved out of the famly home and in with a - gasp - foreign! - boyfriend. Not a big deal where I come from but still frowned upon by some in Asia's World City where it's not uncommon at all for children in their 20s and 30s to still live with their parents.
Presumably though her ma is now fine in her dotage. L sowed her wild rice noodles and is back home for awhile. Boyfriends come and go. A younger sister more or less repeated what L had done and mother survived. And the children all have heard the swimming story a zillion times before.
L is proud and impressed but wonders if her mother has embellished some of it. How do you exaggerate swimming for two days, though? The strait between the two areas looks daunting even now, though the distance has diminished with both Shenzhen and Hong Kong's non-stop "reclaimation" projects to develop and build where only ocean was before.
My life has grown some, too. Not exactly reclaimed. No dramatic flight to freedom stories but lots of little tales though that make me glad I came even if the HK Tax Goons are still squeezing me. Where from here, though, I dunno. And there's C most of all.
To be continued.
Comments:
Oh my. Don't know what to say. Would call you up and take you out and get you wasted except I'm away from HK until the 25th. I'm sure you'll have landed a new gig by then.
 
Sure hope you land a new gig soon. I really miss your missives from the land with more English speakers than the US.
Been watching the politics? Private property rights in China?
The times they are a changin'
 
Hang in Justin - I think there is a book in all of this "From Ed Anger to the Voice of America"
 
Thanks, dudes! John, I love your book title idea.
Spike, gimme a ring when you return, por favor.
Don, yeah, eh, in fact I edited a story on that particular law recently. Of course just because it's in the law soon doesn't mean squat.
Freedom of speech and religion is also enshrined in the Chinese constitution...
 
Justin,

Missed you. Glad to see you're still coherent. Looked on YouTube but couldn't find you...

C sounds like a keeper (does she read English and know about your alter ego?...the guy who isn't buying flowers and wooing her with Victorian poetry?)

Hang in there, keep working on the grate
American novel.

-Ben
 
Oh my. Justin, you must be the most unlucky old dude in HK these days. Pretty sure you weren't born in the year of the pig. :-(

Keep breathing!
 
Sending good thoughts your way.
 
Good luck in the job hunt. Sorry, I don't know much about jobs in HK. I'm just wandering around Shenzhen with tons of little jobs here and there to pay the bills myself.
 
Justin,
Maybe the government will subsidize you. Not the Chinese, but the USA. The Democrats are back in the house, you know. Though I know you're going through a tough time professionally, it feels good to me to know that you're still feeling your C. Feel that good weather, too. The Tropic of Cancer was always so lovely this time of year.
 
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