新年快乐! Happy New Year!
I have just returned from what was quite possibly one of the best New Year’s celebrations I have ever had. If the saying, ‘start as you mean to go on’ has any truth to it, this year is going to be a great one.
It all began with working on the Saturday before in order to get the Monday off (doesn’t sound great but I couldn’t help it, it comes with the territory). As the bell rang for the end of my last lesson the excitement of both my students and myself was palpable. One kid gave me a knowing smile as this was the most energetic he had seen me in their class for months. Another kid actually gave me a high-five as I raced out the door.
I spent the rest of the weekend exploring the art district of Shenzhen. A friend opened my eyes to what is possibly the only part of this city that has a soul and it was great to visit an art exhibition and then wander the narrow streets as he perused the art shops before deciding on a Gustav Klimt classic.
On Monday evening Sarah, my Shenzhen buddies and I celebrated the New Year in Time’s Square, Hong Kong. We were joined by some others from my programme who are stationed in Guangzhou. However, the 5 meters between us and them, sectioned off by metal railings and a barricade of unyielding policemen meant that hugs were exchanged a little after midnight. The celebrations before the countdown itself were great. We sang, danced and laughed with the locals as we pretended to be head over heals in love with the Hong Kong pop-stars that were providing the night’s entertainment. There was a camera crew who kept close by, regularly going in for close-ups on the group of crazy foreigners – I have since found out that this footage actually made the big screen and a friend of mine spotted my face the next day on TV whilst casually riding the Hong Kong Metro. Now I’ve had my 30 seconds of fame, I may milk this ‘token foreigner thing’ for all it’s worth! Forgetting the time difference, I called home and screamed a ‘happy new year’ greeting down the phone to my father who was in the middle of another ordinary day at the office and seemed a little bemused at first as to why I was so prematurely excited.
The next day, Sarah and I had a very relaxed day. When I say relaxed I mean we had breakfast at 4 pm. However, this city is made for those who rise at all hours as we had Eggs Benedict, coke floats, and bottomless tea in a 24 hour diner called the Flying Pan – just brilliant. We then wandered the streets of Soho and casually made our way up to the top of one of Hong Kong’s numerous malls to take in the sights by night before heading to the airport to welcome Charlie back to his home.
The final day was spent in an equally casual manner. We stumbled upon a little cafe in Causeway Bay where I got the fix of a baguette, jam and coffee that I have long been craving on the other side of the border. We wandered around Central and stumbled upon a guy performing Spanish Guitar in a church on-top of a hill. The church was beautiful with magnificent mosaics on the floor and white-washed walls. The windows were flung open and there was a calm breeze that lazily carried the music with it as it floated through the church. It was beautifully serene and slightly Mediterranean.
Afterwards we caught a turbulent ferry over to Lamma Island for a waterfront seafood lunch.The island itself has lots of narrow streets lined with independent Boho shops where savvy hipsters sell their handmade, eco-friendly wares. A wise man once describe Lamma as the hippy retreat of former ‘suits’ who have lost faith in the rat-race of capitalist Hong Kong Island. If the insane amount of facial hair and vegan cafe’s I saw in the space of about 1,000 metres is anything to go by, I would say he is not half wrong. The pace of life on the island was so calm that even the dogs sauntered casually down the streets and occasionally the cats would raise one eye-lid to watch them drift by. The houses were a higgledy-piggledy mix of old buildings interspersed with sleek ‘Grand Designs’ -esque homes. It was just as eclectic as Hong Kong itself. We ate an incredible lunch of clams, sweet and sour prawns and squid that was beautifully fresh.
That evening we took a taxi up to The Peak on Hong Kong island for an incredible night-time view of the whole island. This was followed by an evening at the cinema watching Les Misérables. It was great to be reunited with my university friends again. I am learning that no matter how long and no matter the distance, the best things in life never change.
I am now facing an 8-day working week (another shining example of the Chinese interpretation of the word holiday) but I am basking in the glow of a fantastic start to the year.