Out of Hong Kong

I have not posted a letter on my Letters since we returned from Ireland, which was more than four months ago. It was not that nothing had been happening. The reverse could probably be the case; but I had no convenient starting point and no pegs on which to hang anything. Then, my desktop crashed and I was forced to learn to adapt to new hardware and software. Work piled up and some tasks were not well attended to, or worse, forgotten and left undone. There was a point when I had a rather ambitious plan, albeit of the unreasonable kind: I had thought of starting a weekly or even daily series, by using the popular social media, which is all that most people use these days.

But first, let me share with you something more recent and perhaps more relevant. I went to a dietitian on Christmas Eve. She asked me to shed 10kg in about six months through a healthy diet and through regular exercises or workout at the gym. Now into the sixth week, I have lost about 6 to 8 pounds and some friends have said that they noticed the difference. Considering that we have Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year in between – with compulsory and compulsive consumption of food and drinks – I am not doing too badly.

I have never tried dieting or following a dietary regime in my life. The only time I was close to that was in the days leading up to the annual trail-walking when it was necessary to have more carbohydrates in the system; and that was more than 20 years ago. Why I am doing this? Well, the answer is obvious. I would like to stay healthy longer while I can still do it; and I intend to slightly overdo it so that I can indulge myself in some fine food and wine at times. Su has stocked our Mei Foo flat with so many books on culinary skills; and I think I can reasonably expect to be fed some good food at times.

Talking of our Mei Foo flat, the shifting of furniture and unpacking is almost complete and we finally had TV sets installed. Once again, we found that technology had crept up with us, so much so that most of the AV equipment we had – some only slightly used and almost new – had become obsolete or were incompatible with the age of Smart TV. The good news is that the prices of these TV sets have fallen so much in the past decade that it would not make sense to stay with the old systems. The bad news is that it seems so wasteful and environmentally incorrect to discard stuff that is still good and usable.

Still on the Mei Foo flat, this is the first time either of us lives outside the Hong Kong Island, or as some friends would say, on the other side of Hong Kong. Many friends were worried that we would have adaptation problems and were looking forward to our moving back. While I am keeping an open mind, I cannot see this happening where I am. First, it would not make economic sense. The move has not been cheap; and we can ill afford to back track. Secondly, Mei Foo is excellent location, sitting in a transport hub and well served by railways and transport systems, which coupled with my graduation to being a member of the $2 club, makes one think twice before running a car. Thirdly, Mei Foo is a well developed residential area and houses all shops and institutions to meet most day to day needs; banks, eateries and supermarkets are everywhere. Fourthly, our block is right next to the entrance of Lingnam Garden which is part and parcel of Lai Chi Kok Park, which is beautifully landscaped and very well maintained. This week, we realized a plan we had in the mind a year ago when we first visited the Park, which was picnicking in style at one of the more scenic spots within the Park. Now, two of Su’s ex-colleagues came to visit us earlier this week. It was a fine day. Around four o’clock, Su decided that the time was ripe to put the plan into execution. We packed some fruits, Spanish ham, French cheese, bread and butter, a bottle of whisky, wine glasses, a thermos with water (a left-over from my trail-walking days) and a table cloth (plastic), among other things. We had a great time, and we had pictures to show how happy we were. The spot is called Youwei Tai (Pavilion), named after Qing scholar Kang Youwei (1858 – 1927) because the spot featured one of his poems. It was a semi enclosed area with a round stone table and four fixed stone stools. There is a staircase leading up a flat roof which overlooks a pond and the environs of the Park, which enhances the picturesque and serene atmosphere. The pond is frequented by migrating birds and other regular residential birds which sing all the time. It is difficult to find another spot like this; and it is free. The pavilion and its roof can easily and comfortably house a party of 25 people and up. I can name other advantages; but I hate to overplay it, lest it becomes so popular and too crowded. Come and see; is all I would recommend.

Su and I spent some time and a lot of energies planning and executing the move out of Hong Kong, which was first mooted nearly two years ago. Looking back, I have been moving houses rather frequently all my life. I hardly stayed in the same flat for longer than four years. Sometimes, I wake up from a dream and wonder where I am, but I suppose that happens to a lot of people too, for various reasons. Somehow, I quietly wish that I would live in this flat longer, even though Buddhist teachings would generally advise one not to have attachments to external objects, including one’s belongings and place of abode, and I often recall one well known Buddhist monk and scholar, who would never stay in a place for longer than six months, lest he becomes attached to the place.

I may be out of Hong Kong as such, but I am on Hong Kong Island every day. I still try to go to morning Mass at Ricci Hall. I have explored the various bus routes and MTR connections. Now, I can reach Ricci Hall comfortably by public transport in less than an hour. The return journey typically is faster, between 30 to 40 minutes. Sometimes, I drive; and each way takes 15 to 20 minutes. I have also got used to my trip to Zetland Hall and back. I am also taking to using public transport more often to go to my gym at CCC, thus saving parking charges and gas. I have come to realize that journeying time is a mind game. While it is true that I am spending more time travelling or on public transport, the time spent is not wasted as such.

Before I sign off, I would like to wish all of you out there a prosperous, happy and mindful Year of the Horse. I hope to write to you more often and I hope to hear from you more too.

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