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Finding Love In HK

I am learning to love again, in my newly chosen home.  Today, Valentine’s Day, the men are raking their brains for fresh ideas to show their appreciation.  Yet on this day I want to celebrate other kinds of love.

They say everything happens for a reason; I think this is true.  Cleo has entered my life at exactly the point that I am ready to learn to love again.  She is of course my four-legged friend, who is happy to see me when I come through the door and follows me from room to room.  I have put a blanket on the floor and we go to bed together.  When I wake she rolls onto her back with paws up and wags her tail like mad.

We go out for walks.  When off the lead she runs ahead like an excited kid but always stops to look for me and run back.  I leave her lead in the same spot and she always runs there to remind me to pick it up before leaving.

As she is very smart I have devised games to play such as hide and seek.  She finds me in record time due to her excellent sense of smell.  We have now moved on to playing football and she is probably the world’s best canine defender and she does a superb header.  David Beckham eat your heart out.  Though she doesn’t ‘talk’ as such, we communicate just fine.  She lets me know when she needs her walk and protests at the lack of attention when I’ve been on the laptop too long.  She’s a keeper.

Then there is love from the human variety, friends old and new.  Some parents have been incredibly kind to me, knowing I am on my own in Hong Kong.  One grandmother gave me presents for Christmas and recently for Chinese New Year and even a red packet for ‘starting work’!  And I only teach her grand-daughter one and a half hours a week.  Another has come back from a family holiday during the New Year period and gave me a box of chocolates from Australia.  How very ,very thoughtful and I have only started teaching his son.

Then there are old friends looking out for me, reminding me to get past the hurt and anger and regrets and move on.  One friend that I have known for 30 years told me that he would listen to me for as long as it takes.  Nobody has ever said that to me.  He has recommended a personal development course which he has benefitted from and I have decided to go for it.  Even more touching is he has offered to fork out the fees which is not a small sum.  He just wants me to be able to get on with my life and be happy.

Looking out for me like a big brother.  He cares that I am still hurting and stuck, even after six years and that my financial situation is very dodgy.  I am touched beyond words.  You see, the males in my family haven’t been the best role models and then the ex …  I don’t hate men, in fact I really enjoy their company but I have learnt to be wary and to put my defences up.  I don’t really trust them, if I am totally honest.  Once burnt twice shy.  He is the same guy that has introduced me to a friend for the complete makeover, befitting a finger on the pulse professional in the Pearl of the Orient.

On this Valentine’s Day 2014 I will not be receiving any card, flowers nor be wined and dined.  But that’s ok.  I have a cosy and homely roof over my head, food on the table, work that I enjoy, friends who care and the occasional treat such as seeing ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ last night.

I am blessed.  What more can a gal want?

The local cafe

Low funds have prematurely ended my ‘torture’ at the Chinese Chiropractor’s.  No better excuse to avoid having neck clicks, leg bends and being airborne on God of Health’s plump back.  Most of all, no smelly herbal medicine packs plastered on my sore bits and being unceremoniously dispatched into the world mummified.  An escapee from the British Museum.  

The wise old lady at the cosmetics shop/beauty parlour, yes the one positioned permanently behind the till. advised me to eat out and cut out the middle man.  No putting extra strain on my already decrepit body impersonating an ass.  No sweating over a hot stove and best of all no dirty dishes!  Wise indeed.  I love her.  First for saying I look only 38 and now this.  

To be honest one yummy meal including nutritious soup, a beef and pepper hot pot and a bowl of rice is $60 (£5) in the local.  It is better than eating alone with just the four walls for company.  During Happy Hour from 2-6pm it’s $36 (£3) with less choice.  In comparison a trip to Park and Shop International next door sets me back several hundred dollars which only lasts two to three days top.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the former turned out more economical.  The portions are large and the leftovers serve as lunch for tomorrow.    Must have inherited these money saving genes from Mum, the champion of champions.  She would save a piece of string in case it’d come in handy one day.  Yes, she is an incorrigible hoarder.

But that isn’t what I really want to talk about.  I can spend hours watching the staff at work in the local situated next to Tai Wo MTR (tube).  Team work and morale are excellent here.  The bell rings and food is collected from the side hatch and delivered to the table.  Dirty dishes full in the large orange buckets, no problem,  a pair of hands is seen pulling  the rope attached to the kitchen. Plastic bags full of polystyrene boxes complete with disposable chopsticks and spoon miraculously delivered to the waiting hungry mouths. Everybody pulls their weight from the dishwasher to the boss.

Moreover they can up several gears to cope with the rush hour.  If multi-tasking was included in the Olympics they would take home the Gold for HK!  One lad was literally running to get the bowls of noodles and take away waiting on the back counter.  Immediately without pausing for breath he was dodging tables to the  hutch for dishes fresh from the kitchen.  I was exhausted watching him suffeing flashbacks to my life as a stresed teacher trying to contain the tsunami of energy from the hyperactive kids under my care.

Whilst commitment to work is applaudable  I worry about his mental health.  I caught the manager in full flow who informed me that this is what is known as ‘motivation’!   Is he challenging himself to beat the Guiness Book of Records for the shortest time of delivering a dish from kitchen to table?  I’ll suggest next time.  Roller skates or a skateboard may improve his peformance.  Yet, he  has a long way to go to catch up with the manager.  He is a Master.

I became friendly with one of the waitresses after noticing her rubbing her arms every few minutes.  She had strained them cleaning the ceiling to floor glass panes which require strength.  Why not let the men do the heavy work.  She responded with a wry smile.  Ah, she is at the bottom of the food chain.  I advise deep heat cream.

I put on my journalist hat and attempt to uncover her background.  She is married with two sons.  One in Form 4, a teenager living with them in Tai Shui Wai ( a ghetto for the poor) and the other aged 6 is being looked after by grandparents across the border.  Why?  So she could work full time.  Her husband is a coolie.  I am guessing there isn’t much left for pampering on her day off.

Does the teenager need English tuition?  Yes but …  What if I only charged you $50 an hour?  A look of interest but still hesitation.  At $12 to the sterling I am literally giving it away.  No, she’d have to talk to her son first.  When I found out where she lived I thought better of teaching him at home.  It is a dodgy area with a concentration of desperate people and not somewhere I should venture alone without a black belt in karate or crash course in self-defence.  I am not painting all the poor as potential criminals but a hungry stomach does funny things to you.  

Could the son come to me as I don’t know my way round.  Yes, that is possible.  From a pragmatic point of view, I would have to take two buses and if I am not careful will end up with a deficit.  Travelling from one end of the New Territories to the other would entail a round trip of 3 hours if the traffic allowed.

$50 wouldn’t even pay for my hot pot.  Hell, I’ do it for free if she can’t afford even that.  My motivation is to help narrow the gap between the rich and poor.  This is a drop in the ocean but we have to start somewhere.  The trouble is the wealthy can pour money and resources on their offspring to give them a headstart. The poor, on the other hand, will remain destitute, trapped in minimum wage dead end jobs.   Certainly there are the likes of Alan Sugar back home and Li Ka Shing here, the rare success stories.  This poor lady with her aching arms and exhausted feet represent the masses.  Most local women look younger than their age; she is the exception to the rule.  I put her at between late 30’s and 40.  Bless her, she looks more like in her mid to late 40’s. It is the haggard look and the walk with the world on her shoulders which let her down.  She’s constantly encouraging her lad to work hard at school as that is his only escape from the drudgery.  Like all good parents she wants a better life for him.  

You know, I look at her with her hard life and no realistic hope of better days and I think, that could have been me.  If Dad hadn’t emigrated to London in ’68 we would never have ended up with Masters Degrees.  I in education and my sister in Economics. No luxury of a whole floor to myself whilst a family of three squashes into a bedsit 10 metres away.  I won’t ever whinge that I have it bad.

Do you know the story of the man who complained he had no shoes until he met one with no feet?








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