They say Hong Kong has changed a great deal since I was last there in 1976. Then, there was no subway, no building taller than the Connaught Centre, and a population in the three millions. Sure, the basic info has changed and images of the waterfront look different to last year’s ones; and the airport may be a long way from town now instead of being located between buildings; but after venturing to my old Kowloon ’hood, I can report nothing has changed.
The building I lived in is pretty downmarket now, and the yuppies (people like my parents) have gone. Even the apartment block across the road, which was being built in 1976, has been torn down and higher ones erected. But look at ground level and the smells, the people, and the character are unchanged.
The Reds will be happy I wrote that, proving that they have kept Hong Kong the same since 1997. I have written elsewhere about that and don’t necessarily agree that multiple recessions in the last decade and Politburo-meddling croneyism are good things. But this visit proves the resilience of the Hong Kong people and now character is not something that can be easily dismantled.
The strange thing is the amount of Mandarin one hears in transit: on the flights to and fro, there were Cantonese-speaking attendants, but the announcements were mostly in Mandarin and English (with German first on Lufthansa). To us southerners, at least southerners who left in the 1970s, this is as foreign a development as American street slang would be to al-Qaeda. It may be Chinese, but not as we know it.
And, despite being a native, I can hear a distinctive accent on my mother tongue. Pity: I can no longer pass as a local in my own home town. Further, being someone who has travelled is no longer a credential of any particular importance, since Hong Kong is very much the global city. I never saw so many people without yellow skin there before.
Del.icio.us tags: Hong Kong travel character change language accent Posted by Jack Yan, 11:56
Congratulations on your homecoming (of sorts), Jack. 30 years is a long time!
My 5 years in Los Angeles after nearly 14 years in Tucson was almost like being home after a very long vacation. Although not quite a dramatic as Hong Kong's changes, the city had grown and had commuter trains and new freeways. It was an emotional experience as I felt like I still belonged.
But "Home" was still else where and in my case Tucson. I'm happy to hear that the experience was positive.
# posted by Anonymous: 11/19/2006 06:26:00 PM
Jack, you have me thinking about my hometown with this thoughtful reflection on Hong Kong.
I was born in Columbus, Nebraska - USA. Diversity in Columbus ranged from Polish Catholic to German Lutheran with a few English Methodist thrown in for spice. And "all white", of course. The "old folks" spoke a little Polish and a little German when they wanted to keep us kids out of the conversation.
Today Columbus has not seen a net increase in population but has changed a great deal with many from Mexico joining the community.
This post and the earlier one you wrote on being "Kiwi" has me puzzling over what it takes to form and reform community identity as populations shift.
Small rural towns in Nebraska need an answer if they are to form their economic vitality for the future. Perhaps New Zealand does too?
I imagine cities like Hong Kong will be global villages but places like Nebraska and New Zealand will need to welcome transplants, mix the new with the old and make room for new business models and venues of expression like Lucire.
Thanks Jack for extending the conversation!
Thank you, Simon. Zak: wonderful to hear from you (and about your computer). I hope you know why I haven’t been active on email as much, with this travelling. Michael, I so agree that we need to rethink destination brands as places evolve. Character itself does not change, but we need to embrace new realities so new populations do not feel they have been left out.Post a Comment
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