The other night my roommate and workmate David and I were wandering (this is our favorite activity) around Central, around a maze of bustling open-front bars that could pass for galleries, a Starbucks and Ben and Jerry’s that could pass for boutiques, boutiques that could pass for bars and so on.
Anyway, after pushing past a crowd of people and up some stairs at a hip place called the Fringe Club (next to the very fancy Foreign Correspondents Club, to which we do not belong), we found ourselves on the roof, standing smack in the middle of some temporary Hong Kong bohemia, whose temporariness was underscored by the endless backdrop of shiny skyscrapers in the distance. We grabbed some Heinekens and stood amongst the people in leather jackets and suits and wiry glasses as we poured over glossy programs trying to figure out what exactly we had happened upon. It turned out it was the opening night for a big
His wife soon arrived—an elegant, beautiful woman perhaps ten years younger than him—and they sat together peacefully in silence, taking in the scene around them as only old happy couples do (the younger couples, like the one we encountered in a dumpling place the other night, are inevitably more anxious and don’t take in the scene so much as search it for something). Annnnyway, a young Chinese artist happened to stop by, cards were exchanged—always funny how these conversations start—and before long, the four of us (the artist fluttered away) were chatting. Before recently being asked to leave
It wasn’t completely clear why they had been kicked out of
Christian mentioned the arson of an internet café last year, allegedly arranged by the government in order to justify the closing of cafes across the country, and the recent cooperation of Microsoft and Yahoo in shutting down blogs. I looked this up, and found this quote from a Microsoft spokesperson: “Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in
Microsoft plays along and looks the other way as do many others because money talks, and it should be allowed to even if it drowns out people’s voices. I can’t forget that the safety of our oil supply has been a big cause of our moves in the
The question then is: are we about to learn more about what’s happening? Not if the Chinese government (and Microsoft) can help it. But they can’t. Eventually, those servers and all the rest are going to come crashing down. There are more photographs and articles and op-eds in the papers every day, and people around the world are, if not finding out what’s happening inside China, beginning to learn how to. Mandarin programs are popping up everywhere, even becoming mandatory at some places in
In the office for Time, where I am an intern, only one reporter speaks some Mandarin.
And sometimes not. Sometimes it reminds you of everything, sometimes nothing at all. Altogether,
Anyway, being an Asian neophyte and not having been to the mainland yet, I can’t say much about originality or authenticity here. But I’m looking forward to going somewhere that hasn’t caught the tourist fever (aka the Aviation Flu?), which seems to be spreading faster than ever.
Where is the new? New things, something to shift me in the slightest way, surprise, reorient everything. No confirmations that I’m right, but how wrong I am. Every place is the same in ways--that's been my suspicion--but I'm remembering that every place is also so different and complicated inside.