Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Hot Hong Kong Nights

Hong Kong is hot. Hot and humid like New York, where the asphalt radiates heat like coals and the exhaust fumes from passing buses sticks to your skin. It's bright and busy and open 24 hours. Basically, New York in Chinese with English subtitles. And it's good to be back in a city, After Bali, I've realized I'm not that into beach culture. Funnily enough, I picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune on the plane yesterday, and the NY Times columnist David Brooks had already satirized beach culture in his column mcuh better than I ever could (you can find it at http://select.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/opinion/31brooks.html. For my friends that don't have access, email me and I'll send you my ID and password).

I've also realized that there are good things to be said for cultural imperialism and globalization. Now I know Jenna and Madhuri and possibly a few others of you will shower me with tirades about vanishing cultures and individuality, and I would probably agree with all your very salient points. But, after a long flight, there is a sense of relief and gratitude one feels when one sees a Starbucks, knowing that a cup of tea (with milk) is to be found and caffeine can be safely ingested so as to avoid getting lost, ripped off, or pickpocketed on the way from the airport to the hotel. There is childlike joy in eating gelato while waiting in 90-degree weather to see Hong Kong's famous light show. And, given that my stomach is like a Manhattan apartment (there is only room for the things I need and like), and I'm not the biggest fan of East Asian food, there is comfort in finding Pizza Express with it's margherita pizzas and penne al pomodoro.

In case you should start to think that I've become a predictable American tourist, I did do some very Hong Kong-y things yesterday, like visit the Temple Street night market that is open from 4pm to midnight, and spontaneously bought a chess set that has intricately carved Asian figures as chess pieces (I have no idea how I'm going to fit this thing into my suitcase, but I've been wanting a nice chess set ever since I had to learn how to play chess last year in order to treat one of my verbally-challenged patients). I also went to a temple this morning where you supposedly get what you wish for. If you have any doubts, there are fortune tellers lining the walls, waiting to read your palm.

Of course, no visit would be complete for me without a forced interaction with a sketchy man. So, anecdote du jour: I got on the subway, and this man started peering at me from behind someone so intently, I was convinced I had a button open or doing something wrong. Perhaps it's rude in China to lean across somone to hold onto the strap as to avoid falling over in the train. He then gets up and starts the oddest conversation:
Him: Are you Helen?
Me: Sorry?
Him: Are you Helen?
Me: No. Sorry.
Him: Oh. My friend introduced me to a woman named Helen.
Me: Sorry. I'm not Helen.
Him: Are you Indian or Pakistani?
Me: Yes, but I live in New York.
Him: Oh. I want to go to New York to study there. Are you a citizen?
Me: No.
Him: Oh. You're not a citizen. But you live in New York. Can I have your phone number?
Me: No.
Him: Oh... (pause) no?
Me: No.

Here's how that conversation should have gone:
Him: Are you Helen?
Me: Of Troy?
Him: Sorry?
Me: No, I'm not Helen. Are you Bill?
Him: Pardon?
Me: I don't speak English.

If only I was as witty in real life as I am in my head.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hola Minny,
What's up then. Very intersting conversation with that man.
How many days remaining for NY?
I spend my last day in Argentina hoy and guess where I am writting from..................Well Braian is just next to me at the momenty. Jony is in the shower and we all send you a very big hug!!!