And then it’s nearly over: one more day of meetings, and I’ll be getting on a plane home.
It will be a bit odd to leave. I have grown quite fond of my chic hotel room, which could almost pass for a tiny studio flat (if it had a cooker. And bookshelves) and is bigger than some Paris apartments. Bamboo floors, lots of hard edges, neutral colours and even more glass means it’s actually an awful lot like our Grand Design; I think my boy would love that aspect of modern Hong Kong. The practically floor-to-ceiling window took a bit of getting used to up here on the 24th floor, but the view is stunning (into apartment complexes, through to the harbour, with glimpses of park and leisure areas between).
There have been people making offerings down on the street all week, as it’s the month of the hungry ghosts, when the door to the underworld swings open and the dead pad through to come see what we’re up to. Fruit, cakes, and incense are burnt in little red boxes, people popping over from home in their slippers to leave something out for their departed relatives. It’s also the full moon, which apparently makes it that bit more significant.
There are various superstitions attendant on the festival, which range from not swearing on the street (in case you offend a passing spirit) to avoiding the front row of the theatre (leave it for the dead) and definitely not marrying or moving house. Some locals apparently avoid travelling or going out at night, presumably in case one of the dead decides the empty house looks like home.
Hong Kong Chinese have a funny mix of practicality, hard-nosed modernity and old-fashioned beliefs that I’ve found in one of my Lithuanian friends, who can snort derisively about religion one moment and then come out with something so superstitious that it leaves me blinking. It’s quite endearing, and makes me want to be more aware of what I may be doing that they will find shocking or concerning.
In other random asides, our Chinese-Canadian colleague J joined us for dinner and ordered a banquet. I think she thinks the horde of tall men I bring to Hong Kong must all have enormous appetites: after all, they are all at least twice her size. Being skinny buggers, this isn’t the case at all; this evening we were somewhat embarrassed with the amount of food left facing us when we ran out of steam (including most of crab buried in a bizillion bits of deepfried chilli garlic). But oh! it was good. And we were eating it at the Homely Fragrance Shanghai Restaurant, which just made it better.
“Bad Chinglish? Must mean good food,” was J’s view – and she was right.