Slowing Down

E thinks I am one of the slowest people on this planet.

He may be right.  It takes my psyche a long time to turn corners, and this move to Hong Kong has been a massive shock (not good or bad, just dramatic).

We were in SF for a whole month, the first week a blur of jetlag, flu, cold, and Christmas.  The next, a week of sorting through things in my apartment and giving them away — a very difficult thing for me since I was finally just settling in.  Then a few weeks of catching up with friends and feeling the push and pull of needing more time to really see people — not because we needed more time for visits, but because it takes time to re-establish rapport.  Just challenging all round.  That’s a taste of it, anyway.

Returning to HK was wonderfully relaxing at first, then hard again…just adjusting, getting back into a rhythm, accepting that the weather here is gray, gray, gray — regardless of whether it’s hot or cold.  I’ve been obsessed with turning our apartment into a home now that my home/apartment in SF no longer exists.  To do that, I’ve been rushing against the clock with Chinese New Year, when everything grinds to a halt in Hong Kong.

So everything ground to a halt, and it’s been wonderful.  Chinese New Year is a wonderful holiday.  It’s long — two days off officially, but a week (or more) unofficially.  Lots and lots of little superstitions to start the new year out right.  My favorite is eating lots of candies so that the year will be sweeter.  We found these amazing little candied mandarines, where the entire fruit has been soaked in sugar and dried.  Also candied winter melon, which has a marvelous bite to it and ungodly sweetness (the cocaine of candied fruits?).

Other traditions: hiding sharp points (e.g., scissors, knives) so they don’t cut your good luck away, not washing your hair (I think that’s one of the ways the good luck gets in), not buying shoes or else you buy yourself a year of drudgery, and on it goes…  We hung a pair of mandarin oranges and lai see (red pockets) over our bed, which is supposed to bring good luck too.  (And of course, I’ve been stressed about giving lai see — how much, to whom, when.)

The Friday before Chinese New Year’s Eve we went to the Victoria Flower Market in Causeway Bay, a football-field sized area filled with flower vendors selling mandarin bushes and prize bouquets to bring to relatives on CNYE.  There were also tons of teenagers wearing tiger hats and selling trinkets like a stuffed egg tart toy with felt eyes, mouth, and nose that you could move around.  We also saw a massive bunch of hello kitty balloons caught in a light pole.  There were all sorts of glutinous rice treats, sesame-nut candies, baked goods, and a dubious squid or octopus offering — flat sheets pulled out of a cardboard box, cooked in a press steamer, and sent through a paper shredder-type device and covered with spicy powder.  You’d think we’d know better, but…E had a stomach ache later.

And then CNYE day we spent walking through Sheung Wan, looking at all of the exotic goods in dried bins — here is E trying to figure out what this pair of crucified lizards is used for.  We bought new socks for me and walked and walked…  Are those goji berries?  Rose buds?  Dried scallops?  Then a rain cloud descended and we hoofed it through the rain to have dinner with a new friend at a Korean restaurant.

And yesterday we literally couldn’t see anything outside our window — it was pure white and raining.  I went for a run and cooked chicken-onion curry with raita and ginger-date chutney (learned from a cooking class at the YWCA here).  We listened to some of “my music” : Donny Hathaway, Erykah Badu…  And then we braved it, made it safely through the lobby where the doormen lay in wait for lai see, which we gave them, and out to the CNY parade in TST.

But all told, just a quiet, relaxed, slow-moving holiday filled with yummy things.  And we could just watch and enjoy having no particular responsibilities of our own.  And I’ve felt relaxed for the first time in a long time, grateful to be forced to slow down.  Nowhere to go, nothing in particular to do unless we really feel like it.  A holiday that’s a pleasure.


One Response to “Slowing Down”

  1. pam Dane Says:

    I really enjoyed reading all of this. It made almost feel like I was there with you. Thanks for writing all of this.

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