A few weeks ago I took a short trip to Hong Kong. My daughter Heather was getting married to a fine young Chinese man, and all of us came, from all around the globe or so it felt – my oldest boy Matt from Canada, many of us from Melbourne Australia, and Heather’s aunt and uncle from Perth.
Most of us from Heather’s side of the family had booked at the same hotel (9 of us) which turned out to be a great idea. We all met for breakfast most mornings and also did some things together during the day. Often we would catch up at the end of the evening for a drink at a nearby pub or in someone’s room. In spite of the fact that trip was all about Heather and Jacky and their wedding, I can honestly say the highlight was really the camaraderie we enjoyed together with the others. Let’s face it, usually when we go overseas it is by ourselves or at best with another friend or couple. Here we had 9 of us, all in Hong Kong, away from our homes and our seclusions and our priorities and timetables.
My son Matt has been living in Canada for 6 years. Apart from the occasional Skype or text, we hadn’t seen him in the flesh since 2012. Before we left for Hong Kong I said to my wife that I hoped to catch up with him, just the two of us, for a drink or something, and I was pleased to find he wanted exactly the same thing. We had that drink alright, though it was with others, but we also managed to grab an afternoon where we wandered around Hong Kong together, just the two of us, chatting away about anything and everything. Great!
Whilst I am a sociable guy it’s fair to say that we don’t often have gatherings of people at our home. So I found myself having more in depth conversations with everyone there than I normally do. Some of my relatives I haven’t really ever had a decent conversation with. You know, we see each other at Christmas, engage in small talk, then drift off to engage in small talk with someone else. Not that we had deep and meaningful conversations there in Hong Kong. For the most part they were pretty light hearted, but because we were relaxed (Christmas’s aren’t very relaxed really are they?) and with time on our hands, we found ourselves chatting about all sorts of things. And a bit of a deeper bond grew as a result.
I can sometimes get uptight in up close and personal environments, feeling that I have to sustain conversation or always be interesting to talk to. And nothing dries up spontaneity more than working hard at it. Over there I was able to get it in my head (thankfully) that I didn’t need to be the glue that made the conversation work. If I had nothing amazing to say, I didn’t have to say anything, or I could simply say things that weren’t anything special (and isn’t that the way it should always be?)
Now it’s all over, it will be interesting to see if that bond is forever stronger, even if only subtly.
Hong Kong is an interesting place, though it’s not really high on my list of preferred places. It’s hot most of the year, and in July it’s their Summer, so each day was hot and sticky. It made going out a bit of a challenge, and every place we went to had to be worth it. Apart from the meals we spent together (Heather and Jacky also spent most evenings with us at dinners and banquets) there isn’t a lot in Hong Kong that is “must see” (though you may disagree), and I’m not much of a shopper really (Hong Kong is apparently heaven for shoppers).
I’ve been learning Cantonese for some time now and had hoped to be able to understand others speaking to me, even though I knew I wouldn’t be ready to talk back. I have to say it is still a challenge to understand them, but I’m definitely closer than I was last time I visited (last year). I could often work out a bit of what they were saying (the odd word or phrase here and there) and kind of thought I knew what they were probably talking about!
And the wedding was lovely of course, though quite protracted and traditional (pretty sure that had more to do with the in-laws and Hong Kong traditions than how Heather would have liked it but that’s okay). And the wedding reception – 14 courses! I did well right up to the 10th course, but couldn’t eat beyond that (though I did fit in some wedding cake).
So I arrived back in Australia tired but happy, and now am slowly and belatedly arranging the happy snaps and see what I’ll keep and what I’ll delete. Here’s a few I kind of liked…