Umbrella Movement Days 11-13: Fan comes to visit!

2014-10-08 13.00.12It’s quite fun to see the battle of the signs on public streets, and as I came home from class on Wednesday morning (October 8) I took a photo of this one, sponsored by the Democratic Party. There’s another similar one about milk powder that I keep forgetting to take, but anyway:

黑心食品 邊個敢食住先?! 假普選 點可以「袋住先」!

Contaminated food – Who would dare to just eat it for now? False universal suffrage – How can we just accept it for now?

My friend Fan from USC arrived in Hong Kong in the afternoon. She’s been working in Beijing and dropped by for the weekend to get her visa things sorted out. Fan was just starting a new photo/translation project on Instagram when the Umbrella Movement really kicked off on September 28, and ever since then Instagram’s been blocked in mainland China. So of course, the best way to get around the Great Firewall (and to escape a spate of especially bad pollution in Beijing!) is to just visit the protests in person.

We bussed down to Central and walked towards Admiralty from there. I took photos as we walked all the way from Central Station to Admiralty on Connaught Road. There was a mid-sized wooden stand on the middle of the street, just about where Statue Square began, with some messages written on it, one of which read, “Welcome BACK!!! Thanks For Your Support! 歡迎再次黎到支持雨傘”. Over time, it’s been these sorts of messages that really get at me emotionally. It’s something about the gratefulness and love of community, and being there for one another.

There are quite a lot of repeat posters being put up, and I think I’m starting to take multiple photos of the same thing. I’m getting a bit tired of using the photo settings on WordPress – I don’t think it’s really made for it, so I’m switching over to Tumblr for each photo and a translation. Anyway – here are some of the best photos on the way leading up to Admiralty.

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We walked around and I told Fan what had happened on the 28th, pointing out where the tear gas was launched, where I was watching, where the police and protesters met. I finally saw things that I’d been seeing on Twitter – the Umbrella Man, the new banner proclaiming the name of the Lennon Wall, the innumerable toiletries in the women’s bathroom… I swear, there were so many bottles and tubes of things in the bathroom that I didn’t know if I washed my hands with soap or with conditioner.

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I also noticed a sign for Umbrella Movement music to be recorded. I snapped a photo of the flyer, but didn’t really follow up on it then.

Someone told me that there was going to be a “blood moon” total lunar eclipse that night, so we decided to drop by Mong Kok and see what it was like there, and if we could see the moon. Someone told me that people were planning to bring people out on the streets in some action relating to the eclipse, but when we arrived in Mong Kok, nothing seemed especially out of the ordinary. It was rather tense as we made one circle around the intersection, taking photos, and then left. With the violence having happened so recently, I found the banner proclaiming “We are not enemies” to be especially important, and yet sadly ignored…

ice creamWe went off to City U to hang out with Henry on a rooftop garden, and managed to get just a few quick glimpses of the orange-reddish moon in between the clouds. After dinner at a City U cafe, we went down to Mong Kok and had dessert – hand-rolled sheets of ice cream! Back home, I saw a story that SCMP did that’s quite interesting – it’s a profile of a few different Hong Kong residents, asking what their lives have been like since the movement began.

The next day, Fan and I woke up just in time to get to one of the Hong Kong Studies classes that I’ve been auditing. Usually it’s one of the more interesting courses that I’ve visited, but that day happened to be repeating quite a bit of cultural information that we’d already studied when we visited HK and Macau last summer with our Comparative Literature professors…

2014-10-09 17.51.38In the afternoon we went to Causeway Bay to check out the cat cafe, 阿貓 (Ah Mao). We were really excited, being cat crazy, but after a while I wasn’t sure how much I really liked it. The food and decor were super cute, all sorts of cat-themed things, but the cats themselves seemed so indifferent. I know that’s a cat thing anyway – you have to try to be friends with them, otherwise they don’t care about your existence – but still. One of the cats was wearing a poofy flower pillow around his neck, to keep himself from scratching at a sore on his back, and his eyes were super listless and dull. Another cat was in a cage because he apparently fights with the others, and the entire time we were there, he kept yowling. The cafe is said to treat its cats very well, and I think that’s definitely the case, since there were lots of rules on how to behave with the cats, and plenty of room for them to roam about. But I think maybe the cats just didn’t have a respite from human presence.

2014-10-09 18.47.04Near the entrance there was a large cage with two little kittens inside. They were napping at first, and then they woke up and started crawling all over each other and play fighting. One kept trying to paw at the clear plastic that enclosed them, and he seemed to be trying to reach a mostly-open latch that would let him out. I was so tempted to let him out and play with him! But finally we managed to tear ourselves away from the kittens to go to the Cantonese-English language exchange I’ve been attending semi-regularly. We got there about an hour late – for some reason, since getting to Hong Kong, I can’t make it to anything on time – but I think the organizer’s pretty used to me showing up halfway through by now.

One of my language partners was a woman who then invited Fan and I to go to a music show nearby. The cafe where we do the language exchange is right near Lan Kwai Fong (蘭桂坊, but who am I kidding, everyone just calls it LKF), so the venue was just a few minutes away. At first Fan and I thought about going to a salsa club with a Nepalese bouncer, but there was no one inside. At the top of the hill in the LKF square, we ran into a group of people standing in a circle outside of a bar that was blasting dance music. They were really amazing dancers – I’m not too great on my dance vocab or culture, but I think you might say some were voguing, others breaking/b-boying/-girling(????).

It happened to be Ladies’ Night and a lot of bars were giving out free drinks. Fan and I went into a neighboring bar and had a vodka cranberry each. I wanted to keep watching the dancers – the club music inside wasn’t that great anyway – so I suggested we go back out, and we watched and tapped our feet and danced a bit as the crowd around the other dancers ebbed and changed. They turned out to be performers from the Philippines, visiting Ocean Park. Random passersby on the street would join in, often not dancing very well at all, though a few were really good and one Asian guy even got into a kind of dance-off with another of the Filipino dancers. There was one couple that got a little enthusiastic demonstrating their rather frenetic ballroom dance skills, and they cleared everyone out of the area for a bit to avoid being whacked by hair or limbs. But eventually people would move on with their night, and the Filipin@ dancers would regroup their circle.

Eventually I checked in to see if the music show was still on, and it was, so Fan and I popped down the street to another bar. My friend took us to the very back, where a spiral staircase led to a small, intimate space where about seven people were listening to an American man playing the guitar, making bad jokes, and singing with a beautiful voice. Such different environments throughout the night! I don’t think I would’ve gone to LKF this month at all if Fan hadn’t come, but it was really interesting to see another side of LKF that I hadn’t experienced before.

I slept through my three alarms and woke up late for Friday’s event – Fulbright lunch out at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. We arrived maybe an hour after we should’ve, but luckily we didn’t miss any of the food, only the speeches. It turned out to be a pretty fun lunch, with white and red wine on the table. I had half a glass but one of the American Consulate folks had quite a bit more, and as the meal went on, he said more and more often, “This is often the record, but…” Hehe!

The students and the government were supposed to have talks that afternoon, but the day before, the government called them off. It seemed to me to be the strangest decision – as I understood it, the students were determined not to call off the street occupation until they had equitable talks with the government, but the government would not allow equitable talks until the streets were clear. It was a deadlock, and people were upset. Some people at the lunch asked what the American position on Hong Kong’s fight for democracy was – I can’t recall the answer specifically, perhaps because it was a very waffly one.

We left the lunch while most of the other Fulbrighters went off to catch a bus to their overnight retreat in Yuen Long. We thought about going to the beach, as it was a beautiful, hot day – but the bus situation with Occupy Central has been a bit chaotic and complicated, and if we wanted to get there in time to watch the sunset, we likely wouldn’t have made it. Instead we went off to see the Symphony of Lights, which we hadn’t quite heard when we tried to go last summer.

It turned out to be a disappointment – very short and rather confusing, though I did get a nice photo of the skyline. The best part was sitting around and eating all the snacks we’d picked up: strawberry cream-filled panda biscuits, chocolate-covered strawberry gummies, lychee gummies, fruit drinks, hot cheetos (all the hot cheetos). Afterwards we realized we were so full from the snacks that though we wanted to find Mexican food for dinner, we were just too stuffed.

2014-10-10 19.59.32

2014-10-10 22.28.04To walk off a bit of our candy fat, we went down to Admiralty to see how the crowd was responding to the government’s decision to break off the talks. The highlight of that visit, I think, was spotting a new banner someone had strung across the raised walkway leading to Tamar Park. This one depicted Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old leader of Scholarism, as Batman. Within a day or two, it was gone. I think Wong probably asked whoever made it to take it down. He’s been a very modest student leader.

(Henry told me this absolutely hilarious story about a friend of his who teaches here. She was talking with her students about the protests, and they got on the subject of Joshua Wong, and one of her kids said something to the effect of I support him, “but why is he so ugly?!” This gets me every time.)

We met up with Henry at Tamar Park, and then we went off to find a Mexican restaurant. Fan had been craving Western food, so though we weren’t too optimistic about our chances of finding good Mexican food, we figured it was better than nothing. We ended up going back to LKF (where else) to a small, empty restaurant – a very surprising thing, considering most restaurants in Hong Kong are packed whether they’re good or bad, just because there are tons of people eating out all the time. I ended up having a semi-decent burrito, while Fan had a rice bowl that tasted almost like a Chinese-style rice mix. They did have pretty excellent horchata, though, which I’m definitely noting for future reference.

2014-10-11 00.29.21

我都會堅持到底 就算我捱到字額 I’ll persevere until the end, even if I suffer

We went back to Admiralty for a last look at things – I spotted this Dragon Ball Z inspired poster – and then went home.

The next day Fan left to go back to Beijing. We waited at the bus stop across the street from my apartment together. When the bus came, we tried to hug goodbye, but the bus driver yelled at us to stop blocking the road. So we quickly split and waved at each other. Fan will be off in Brazil starting next spring to begin a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship – maybe if I can convince the boyfriend to go with me, we can visit her!

I noticed this bite in the SCMP‘s live feed:

12.40pm: Ethnic minorities taking part in the Occupy protests have become victims not only of verbal assault from those against the movement, but racial discrimination.

Bani, also known by his Chinese name “Ribena”, says he has been frequently taunted by anti-Occupy passersby for his South Asian ethnicity.

As he was guarding a barricade in Mong Kok on Monday morning, a Postreporter witnessed a barrage of racist insults thrown at him by middle-aged men against the Occupy movement, ranging from derogatory remarks about his skin colour to statements such as “Go home and cook curry.”

“They keep saying I should go home, it’s not my business, because I am not a Hongkonger and this is a dispute only between Chinese people,” he says, in fluent Cantonese. “This is not right. I have been here 30 years and am as much a Hongkonger as they all are.”

Bani says he supports the students’ fight for democracy and a better society. He feels racial discrimination is getting more serious in the city in general. [link]


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