To anyone who loves or has ever loved Hong Kong or to anyone who knows Hong Kong at all, the year about to end will go down in history as a momentous year, one that marks the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the piece of land that had been long called a barren rock, but which Fate had it turned into the Pearl of the Orient, the jewel in the crown and an economic miracle, and which the Heritage Foundation ranked for many successive years as the freest economy in the world even in January 2019 when the Foundation celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Yes, Hong Kong has been so successful continuously for so long, has had everything so good for so long and has always been in the limelight that somehow some people could have developed an illusion that it is impenetrable, indestructible and unsinkable. Sadly, the mindless but systemic destruction and the chaos orchestrated by the faceless rioters in the last seven months of 2019 has changed all these, unfortunately for the worst and irreversibly. Hong Kong will never be the same; and no one can do anything about it. Not yet.
It is against such background I write my Year Ender once again to remind myself the landmarks of the year for myself and those near and dear to me, lest I forget.
But before I forget, I have so far received only one Year Ender from amongst my friends. It could be an indication that they have been troubled and disheartened, but I pray that they would pick themselves up and strive to live to the best their lives for the future, the future of mankind in general and the future of Hong Kong in particular. I say this because I had actually gone through this process somehow. Let me be brief. I started a project about six months ago that I have said I would for some time – writing a memoire. I began with some research into my ancestry and I had actually written the first two chapters, covering what I could remember up to the time I was about ten years old, when I became affected by the senseless behaviour of the rioters, the irresponsible and biased reporting in the Media and the unprofessional acts of the politicians. I stopped writing. I asked myself, why write if Hong Kong and the next generations do not have a future. Many of the daily routines had to be cancelled, scheduled meetings and events changed, anniversary parties and reunions cancelled; and for quite a while, one started the day with checking the MTR schedules and which exits were open or closed. It was not practical to organize evening dinners or meetings; and discussions between friends could turn sour. For evening parties that we were committed, Su would book a room in a nearby hotel for overnight stay to avoid the uncertainties that had become daily fares. That was how we survived the more difficult times, while trying our best to keep our mindfulness and maintain our daily routines. Amongst other things, I have resolved to continue with my memoire project.
Back to what happened last year, we had two trips to Whistler between January and March, covering nearly four weeks in all, meeting up with our skiing companions and friends in Vancouver. In May, we re-visited our friend’s house in Pattaya, spending a week there in all, meeting new friends and bringing in an old friend of ours. This time, he had built a second house annexed to the first one, and the theme was to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Later in May, we spent another week in Phuket to re-visit Su’s favourite beaches and to do more snorkeling, eating and drinking. On Rotary related activities, we spent two days in Macau in May, about a week in Taipei in June and two days in Guangdong in August on some archaeological sites, all rather interesting, albeit short. Without exception, we were always asked for updates on what was happening in Hong Kong. The continuing unrest has prompted many friends to visit neighbouring cities such as Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Zhongshan; and in November, we found ourselves in Shenzhen and Zhongshan for nearly a week on some eye-opening visits and being entertained with good food and other luxuries. Life in these cities is good, comfortable and relaxing, and quite a break from the excitement we have been having in Hong Kong.
Lastly, in December we went on a two-week whirlwind tour to northern Europe, ostensibly to try to catch the northern lights for the first time. We first spent two days in London, where Su went to watch an opera after securing the only ticket left for the whole performance while I went to a dinner party at Freemasonry Hall. We then flew to Oslo for an evening from where we took a short flight north to TromsØ where we spent two nights in the middle of nowhere called Camp North albeit in a reasonably comfortable, warm and luxuriously fitted tent. It was quite an experience and a special two-night. It was not anything I had imagined or could figure out and it was a rather different experience from what we had when we were trekking in Nepal. It was cold, -12°C, but it didn’t snow or rain, luckily. We had the full moon which seemed to follow us all the way from the airport. The moonrise and moonset scenes were quite phenomenal, but its brightness could have deterred the appearance of the northern lights, but one can’t be sure. Another highlight was dog sledging – the handler or sledge driver put us both on a shallow open basin, Su sitting on me, while he stood very close behind on a small metal plate close to ground, from where he reined the eight dogs, from 2 to 4 years old, four of them belonging to the same family, two in a row, running on well-trodden snow tracks, shitting as they ran, sometimes sending tons of hydrogen sulphide to the passengers behind, all very exciting. From the Camp, we were taken back to the city where we freshened up in a small but expensive hotel, where Su got back the luggage she lost in the flight from Oslo to TromsØ (which would be another story). We then attended a midnight concert before boarding the Hurtigruten Cruise to Bergen, spending four nights, listening to the lecturers on what we had missed from the full course which would have taken 12 days. Su decided to indulge ourselves on good food by spending extra on fine dining on two nights – why not? We spent an evening in Bergen, walked a bit, spent some money and took a taxi to the train station for a scenic train journey which lasted nearly seven hours until we were back at Oslo, this time settling in an expensive hotel called Hotel Continental which features paintings by Rubens and so on. We didn’t see much of the paintings, but we dined in their expensive restaurant and felt rather nice and happy. The next morning, we went to a museum by bus, learning how to buy and use the system in a socialist country. The museum is all about the Viking burial boats and the Vikings heritage. We then toured the frontage of the Oslo Town Hall and some historic buildings before making our way back to the Oslo Airport, all by public transport. We flew from Oslo to Brussels which took less than two hours. Brussels is indeed a great change from Oslo or Norway. There are so many more people there, to start with. We spent two nights in Brussels, checking out a few restaurants and feeling happy eating and drinking. The taxi driver who took us to the airport was quite chatty and well informed on world affairs and indeed on the Hong Kong situation. He would be much better value than any politician we have in Hong Kong.
If you find this Year Ender too much of a travelogue, well, please take what you find. For the record, we have been away from Hong Kong for fewer than 70 days in 2019, but I have only uploaded two articles so far, one on 3 January and one on 1 September, which was much below par compared to previous years. I intend to do better in 2020, beginning with finishing the project I started this year.
Su and I are both keeping well and fit. We keep up with our Latin Dance programme and we maintain our personal fitness training separately. Su recently has taken to being an able handler of home grown yeast from which to raise her sour dough and make genuine pizza and bread. Watch this space.
As to my children, I am afraid I have terribly little to report on and I take that no news is good news. I wish them well. I pray for them all the time, and they are always on my mind.
On this happy and optimistic note, I wish all of you out there a fabulous and mindful 2020 ahead; and I wish you and your family good health and happiness.