I had an hour and twenty minutes yesterday between the workday and then an evening work dinner. Juiced on perhaps 18 coffee and tea combinations, I decided to MTR myself over to the goldfish, flower, and bird markets.
First, let me state that the MTR system is by far the easiest underground train system I have navigated amongst all others (on which I have been lost) the world over.
Don’t get me started on France’s “press a button and look for the (world’s smallest) light on a map (the size of a Great Lake)” or the UK’s ass-backwards visual representation of a specific line which has always – without fail – seen me lost in the tunnels, elbowing past the giant crowd mumbling mean things about The Tube. Like, if you’re going East to West, the map should be a horizontal line moving from right to left, no? NO! The British instead make it a VERTICAL line going from TOP to BOTTOM. Honestly, how is it possible that these people occupied so much of the world over the course of history?
While we’re on the subject – if you have to spray paint at every pedestrian crossing in which direction said pedestrian should look in order to avoid being flattened by moving vehicles, you should consider changing the system, no? You British. Seriously. (Hi Hannah! Missing you and Chaaaaarl something terrible.)
Back to Hong Kong.
People around yesterday’s markets were stare-y, which I found surprising as there are a bazillion of us non locals (by appearance). I was being stared at by nine out of ten passerbys, and when I would make eye contact, they did not look away. I was making a lot of eye contact, and so almost broke out my awesomely choreographed dance routine to All Night Long. (Janey! Eye contact begets excellent dance routine finishes. I remember!)
The staring was neither hostile nor creepy, but rather of genuine curiosity; as this did not happen tonight in the SoHo district, nor has it happened in the area in which I am staying, it was quite registering on my radar. No rhyme or reason to it, but it was interesting.
I have two large Canadian flags on my backpack for the obvious reason of being identified as thus while international, eh. (Poutine! Snow! Beavers!) While being stared at, I had a very clear image of a friend’s tale from ago: she was here at a fruit market and her head collided with an apple. And by collided, I mean someone threw an apple at her while yelling YANKEE GO HOME.
To my smile, most people were very responsive. To my generally being lost (a lot), most people were also very helpful, the most impressive of whom was one woman who refused to make any eye contact, and instead literally physically – with head down and a lot of Cantonese – pushed me over to a young business-like gentleman in front of us. She ordered him to help me, which he did.
The flower market was gorgeous both on the eyes and on the nose. It looked as though God took all of His unused paint mixtures and dumped them all across this street. And variety! So much of which I have never before seen; so much of which I worried could eat me.
The goldfish market was fascinating yet bizarre, because each fish is in a bag and these thousands of bags are hung next to, above and below one another. It is a maze of fishies.
I found the turtles. This, not figurative. I actually found the turtles and jumped with delight as they are among my favorite animals. (If I lived in a warm climate, I would have a pet turtle and keep it out in the yard.)
I also found the crickets while attempting to catch an avian disease in the bird garden. A disease which would no doubt be worth the songbird experience of visiting this particular garden and birdcage market. Approaching, I assumed they were merely bags of grass for the birds until my eye detected movement in one – then suddenly all – of the bags. I stood ramrod, worried they would see me and attack. Look, there were thousands of them, my worst night terrors come alive if escaped.
After quieting my gag reflex, I crept quietly away and out of the garden to start making my way back to the train station, only to stumble upon (what I can only think to call) Street Meat On A Stick. There was a lot of boiling, steaming and frying going on and it smelled heavenly, and in my suddenly broken English I requested “one. No pig. No pig. No insides. No ecoli. Thank you.” and I left it to the lady to hand me a skewer, any skewer. I was heavily praying it wouldn’t have anything from the fat brown squid which lay steaming with its insides falling out of its ass.
She gave me octopus on a stick. I said a prayer and ate it. It was chewy. I am sure it was hallal. Ha ha.
Note 1: Upon first attempted entry into the turn-stall to the train, I was standing too close and so couldn’t see that I had to insert my card on the vertical side. I kept trying to jam the pass into another slot (maybe a key slot?) until two little girls – with knee-high socks, plaid short skirts, backpacks and pigtails – approached and gently pointed at the correct place for the card.
I call them “little girls”, but they were probably closer to 83. No one here looks a day older than 19. They are all beautiful, with faces of unmarked alabaster (though, interestingly, with tattoos for eyebrows).
(Not spell-checking. Am exhausted. Good night.)