During the Easter break, we spent a week in the bustling city of Hong Kong. BK (before kids) DH and I spent 2 years absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the Special Administrative Region as it is now known. We walked the hilly, meandering streets and visited the colourful outdoor markets. We rode the Peak tram to escape the unbearable humidity and lay by the South China sea on Shek O beach on balmy April weekends. We ascended to our apartment in mid levels via the outdoor, shaded escalator and rode the Star ferry to Kowloon on China’s mainland. We dined out in so many of the city’s diverse restaurants and caught all football and rugby matches on Delaney’s big screens in Wan Chai.
12 years ago Disneyland was but a plan. The site had been chosen. The building had not yet started. Even if it had been up and running, I am not so sure DH would have paid it a visit. At that time Ocean Park was the only fun park in Honkers and was a place to take visitors……not a place for residents without kids!
When DH and I told the kiddos that we planned to spend a week of the Easter holidays in HK, they were not happy. Still hung up on their last holiday in KL, they had hoped to return there. Sunway Lagoon waterpark had a major impact on them!!! For us the key to a successful holiday is the ability to combine the children’s interests with ours. Not too much culture/history etc. and not too many fun parks.
When we revealed our magic weapon – Disneyland – they switched sides as quickly as DS2 switched to support Liverpool as soon as he realised Arsenal were going nowhere this season!
Having spent a hot day traipsing from one ride to the next, standing in line, waving the kids and DH off on rollercoasters, we schlepped our way back to the Mickey Mouse train to take us from fantasy land. (Honestly, the windows on the train were shaped like Mickey Mouse’s Head!).
Feeling drained and too hot, I plonked myself down on a seat beside three local ladies. DS2, who was completely wiped out, slumped on my knee and nuzzled up as if he were planning a nap. Now blond, fair skinned and blue eyed DS2 is an unusual sight in a city of dark pigeons (the name given to Filipina maids who congregate in the many shaded areas on their day off) and the locals of pale complexion and long, naturally GHD straight, black shoe polished hair. An handsome devil, it is no wonder that people stop to look and stare. Even in Dubai, I often find myself shielding my him from unwanted camera intrusions.
As DS2 found a comfy position, I could feel my train neighbour’s eyes boring a hole in the side of my head. Thinking she was staring at my beautiful bub, I manouevered him into a position which showed her his back. I was not in the mood for a sneaky smart phone camera attack. However, once he was settled, the ‘boring’ sensation did not let up.
With the woman’s nose practically tickling my earlobe, I felt like I was being examined under a microscope. As she stared and garbled on in Cantonese, I became increasingly uncomfortable. Her head moved left. Her head moved right. But all the time she was staring at my profile and practically breathing down my neck. Had she spotted my grey roots and proceeded to ask her friends how anyone could be seen outside of one’s home looking like that? Did she spy orange ear wax oozing out of my ear? Was she wondering about my skin tone? I’m Irish and have freckles. My tan is agreement between those freckles to connect. Perhaps to a nation which spends huge amounts of dosh on skin whitening cosmetics, she thought I had not read the instructions of ‘fair lady’ and hence my dark skin was left with speckled freckles…….
Needless to say, at this point I was consciously (and visibly) uncomfortable but DS2 was just too comfy in his position to get up and move. Just as I packed away that thought, train neighbour rose from her seat to face me front on and stare. The look of disbelief on her face was incredulous. What now? Am I now an Hong Kong attraction?
After relaying my experience to DH he had a few thoughts of his own as to why my appearance piques such interest in Asia Pacific. ‘Remember that time we went to Vietnam and someone asked you if you were Japanese?’ ‘Remember the time Z at work said you have ‘chinky’ eyes?’ You know, you do actually look Chinese. Maybe they think you added freckles for effect, had a perm and are using tinted contact lenses. People do that kind of stuff, you know. You could be bi-racial. This woman was just trying to assess how real you were!’
DH’s points hit home. The Gwailo (foreign devil) as non locals are known, are different in every way. One has to endure strange looks, pointing, even shrill screams…..
I am not sure what surprised me more…..the fact that an adult would stare so blatantly at another adult or that I didn’t give her a firm and very loud lecture about how rude she was being. Not being a person to shy away from such uncouth confrontation, I surprised myself at how placid I remained. Some might think it was because we were on public transport. Some might think I didn’t want to make a scene in front of my children.
After disembarking the train I realised that living in Dubai, where deference to certain nationalities is a must, I employed the ‘bite my tongue’ approach….hence my non-reaction to the local Hong Konger!