Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Look up, Look Down, Look All Around

All above the 1st floor, Must look up
    During my first couple months of living in Hong Kong, I spent a considerable amount of time keeping my eyes focused on my immediate surroundings. Making sure I was walking down the right road, not hitting anyone or not being hit crossing the street were all tops on my radar during that first three months. Once the surroundings were no longer scary to me, I was able to focus on my 360 degree vision and in Hong Kong, that is very interesting.
     Just about every building is a skyscraper, and since I have spent time living in NYC and visiting other large US cities, I would have thought nothing new would present itself but there is a whole new world above/below the 1st floor. As you walk down the street, there is no city code or at least no discernable code, as to how to place a street sign, where to place it or how many can be placed in a limited area. Once you start looking you realize that they are not just for the 1st floor but could be any floor. The first realization of this was of course associated with food. Mary Barbara and I were searching for a breakfast restaurant called The Flying Pan, a version of Hong Kong Dennys. We walked the block several times looking for it, until we looked up. It was located on the 3rd floor. After I ate, that opened my eyes to all the businesses, great stores and restaurants that are hidden in the many skyscrapers advertised by the many signs right in front of you. However, you must be willing to look up to discover this whole new world.

    When you start looking up, you notice all the air conditioners, all the windows and all the architecture. I try not to think about stuff flying off the buildings and hitting me in the head as I walk down the street. One of the most fascinating images to me is a building that is under construction. In the US we see steel scaffolding surrounding buildings that are under construction. Here in Hong Kong they use bamboo and mesh to surround the buildings. I have never seen anyone climbing on the bamboo other than Jackie Chan in the movies, so I am assuming that it is to protect people below from getting hit by something flying off the construction. However, it is bamboo marvel as to how they piece together the bamboo and mesh all the way up the building.

     Now while most of the buildings are anywhere from 20 to 70 stories, we have discovered the fact that you can never truly know just how many floors are in a building. Mary Barbara and I live on the 15 floor but that is misleading as there is no 4th, 14th or 24th floor. Four(4s) are bad luck in this culture so they just leave them out of a lot of buildings, prices and life in general. We did not discover the fact about 4s until after Mary Barbara picked her telephone number which has a number of 4s in it. So some people are not excited about calling her on the phone, at least that is the reason we think people are not calling her.  
    Of course just like NYC, there is also the whole world of the underground metro system, where there is another city below the city with shops, walks and tons of people.  The Hong Kong metro system is much newer, modern and cleaner than the NYC subways. It is very enjoyable to walk down below the street on a scorching hot day. The MTR as it is called here is  easily accessible and very functional system of transportation. Of course when riding the train, I am a Godzilla in the train car, compared to most of the other passengers. I can normally see three or four cars down over the heads of all others. This certainly helps take any potential claustrophobia out of play as I can breathe the air and see my surroundings. The metro is a whole future blog in itself for a later date.
My black cap on right, I can see over everyone
    And finally living on the 15th floor has led us to looking out our own window examining the world. We have been disappointed that we cannot spot our Christmas tree as a beacon of light from outside our window. It is just too far up and vantage points do not allow us to see it. However, we can view many a things from our windows. We see families having dinners, some great wall mounted TV screens in rooms, the occasional exhibition show of one kind or another and of course the most prominent feature of looking up and out is the laundry that hangs out the windows everywhere. No place is too fancy or high that it does not have laundry hanging out the window drying at all times of the day. We hang our laundry in the spare bedroom and so far resisted the out the window method.
McD on 2nd floor besides clothes outside to dry

Living room turned into clothes line

    So the world of Hong Kong is not just a life of right or left, it is a world of up, down and all around. You must develop the ability to see 360 degrees. I am working to develop this vision, so that I find that next great restaurant, the store on the 12th floor that may have the elusive popcorn popper that works on this electric current or the article in the newspaper telling about the 75 year old man who was arrested for pimping out 85 women on floors 13 thru 18 of a building. As I walk down the street, I concentrate on my surroundings and try not to worry about the air conditioner hitting me in the head from above knowing that bamboo will protect me. Instead I know that I will be probably be hit by someone’s underwear and not because I am a rock star, just because they did not secure them to the window.  I will only pretend that I am a rock star.
View from Living Room

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