It’s such an experience to work on something so journalistic for the first time with the professional editors. It’s actually quite similar to how I approach some talkative strangers for photo. We approached traditional dry goods businesses that run by family. Some of these people have been working in the industry for all their lives, including their long-time staff. It’s so great to hear all their stories, how it all started etc.. I could feel the love with their stories. They represent the Old Hong Kong which I believe we desperately need to preserve. Believe or not, the industry can disappear.
The Old Hong Kong is knowns for its kindness, hospitality, genuinely welcoming vibe (人情味). It’s a Chinese term that is not easy to be translated. I cannot say it’s disappeared, but the city currently is really unhappy about just so many things. Perhaps the information these days flow just too fast on our cellphones, or most problems these days can be solved with money, or there’re just too many people living in the city. Or maybe the term (人情味) is simply skimmed down to how we Hong Kongese call as – nice.
During this year’s Chinese New Year lunch gathering with the family of my dad’s brother, my mom spoke about how difficult life was back then. A visit back to her hometown in China sounded like a trip to the Amazon jungle. First, the boat ride took long and was very rough. Then the only pier available was in Lantau Island which would take another long bumpy land/water ride to get there (the islands were not connected to the city). That was 50 years ago. She told us how she missed the once-a-day boat to China in heavy rain. She was just a girl and some unknown family allowed her to stay for the night. Imagine that today, to have a stranger come to your apartment. What’s even crazier was the family showed her around in Lantau the morning after. It’d imagine Lantau was more like a fishing village back then, as remote as you could imagine.
When people speak about the spirit of Hong Kong people, they would refer it to this classic Cantonese tune 獅子山下/Under the Lion Rock sang by Roman Tam. You get a sense of how difficult life was for that generation. We lived under the same roof, we struggled, we united, we gave, we helped each other. There’s always hope when we fight hard, work hard. Even the SAR Government re-wrote a song based on this one – 同舟之情/HK Our Home. It’s quite a contrast if you view the clips one after another. Our government sends out message to us, wanting us to cheer up and remind us who we really are.