I walk through Nathan street and the side streets of Kowloon and wonder if the steps I’m taking are also the same steps my grandparents took when they lived here. I think to myself about how they’ve walked, shopped, and ate here…I remember Grandma taking me shopping on the streets of Hong Kong as a child. Now I’m the one strolling along Temple street late at night, bargaining for handbags and chopsticks. It brings me comfort and fills me with nostalgia, knowing that they have inhaled this same humid and muggy air and experienced this hot sticky weather just as I am now. I romanticize about our footsteps having taken the same path as I explore this dense city and maneuver my way around the crowded and packed streets filled with taxis, cars, and pedestrians.
Customs and behaviors of others may seem strange if we’ve never been to their place of origin. I’m reminded of the privileges we get in the U.S. like the customary glass of ice water or napkin at any dining location. Now I know why my grandmother even when she moved to Los Angeles and lived there till she died, always carried a little pack of tissues and took them out and offered me one when we dined out. In Hong Kong, most casual dining places give you a cup of tea and a pair of chopsticks. No napkin. No water. And the cup of tea is not necessarily meant for drinking. This was a custom I quickly learned…the hot tea is for you to dip your utensils in for sanitizing…or you may drink it.
It feels a bit funny walking through Hong Kong…where my Dad grew up, where my parents got married, where my grandfather had his business, the home of relatives…there’s a lot of family history here. Yet, other than speaking the language (kinda) and looking like anyone else, I’m a foreigner. If they speak too fast or say a word I don’t understand, I have to ask them to repeat it…and that’s when they know I’m a tourist. But my oversized sunglasses were probably already a dead giveaway. I once had a Chinese person say to me that they found it odd that I was Chinese, but couldn’t speak it. I never thought about that. But then again, I am odd.
Cheers to a Healthy. Happy. Sexy. You.