October 20, 2008

Calm in the Eye of the Storm

Today Paul convinced me to leave the apartment.

It's a subtle thing he does: Makes a suggestion for a way I can go outside. It always sounds so innocuous. Why don't you go take a walk on the beach? How about reading in the park? He does it in Long Beach, too. We both know it's a good idea, but I always need a little push to get out and about. He's been going out to Victoria Park to run a few times a week, and when he got back this morning, he suggested I spend part of my afternoon there. And I did.

It's two stops away on the MTR and as you walk into the park you can feel the calm envelope you. I'm not being melodramatic. The farther into the park you go, the more obviously you leave the city behind until you're so far in, all you can see outside the tall trees are the tops of the glass skyscrapers and mountains right behind them.

Inside, I found a bench in the shade near the jogging path and started to read. The benches with the backs were mostly in the sun, so I took one of the flat benches. There was almost nobody around. There are signs all around the path telling people the track is only for jogging. If you need to rest, you must get off the track. If you feel the need to walk slowly, you must give way and stay to the side.

There are policewomen/track watchers out to make sure people obey. On a crowded day they shoo the kids on skateboards, and the people who meander across, seemingly oblivious to the fact that people are actually trying to run.

Apparently, they are also the park bench watchers.

The park was pretty empty, mostly older residents strolling very slowly on the jogging path. The stray faster-paced jogger. An amah with a stroller. That's about it. And me. Reading quietly on the bench. On my back. With my feet on the bench.

Apparently that's not allowed.

I noticed someone watching me, and I sat up to see what was up. Once my feet hit the ground (I think perhaps this was key ... no feet on the bench?) The park bench policewoman smiled and said thank you. I felt properly chastened. But there were no signs. I think there are some things you're supposed to know. Like in France, you don't sit on the grass. Ever.

A little later I moved to a bench with a back on it, although the view wasn't as nice. People here in Hong Kong mostly leave me alone. I'm acutely aware that I'm different, but if they notice, they don't make it obvious. They just walk on past. I read for about two hours, rejoicing in the quiet leafy-ness and the incredible breeze that made the whole place feel so livable.

When I walked out (I'd had a disagreement with a bee of some sort) I knew what I was leaving behind, and the temperature change was palpable. It rose about 10 degrees as I came out of the greenery and walked onto the pavement.

Back to the storm.

1 comment:

Dumdad said...

Hi Leah,

You finally spotted my comment - and guessed who I was. Well, not too difficult, I imagine: the cat was a giveaway. And you revealed my name to the blogosphere - aaargh my secret identity exposed!!!!

Actually, there are scores of clues to our identities on the blog but when I started I was a bit wary, hence the nicknames (Dumdad was N's idea!); in fact, fingers crossed, the commenters I've had have all been nice. And on one of the videos "Brainbox" made (see right-hand side bar) the credits give his real name and our real names.

Anyway, we're enjoying your blog and your adventures in Hong Kong. It must be tough, though, on the accommodation side. Good luck with finding somewhere a bit more permanent and BIGGER to live.

I look forward to seeing you on The Other Side of Paris again.