Have you ever met my puppy dog? If you haven’t you really should. Not just because Knight St George is an adorable fluff ball, but also because the bastard is smart. At the beginning of the week, a coldish breeze started blowing and everything turned grey for everyone ...except for Knight St George. My dog is the type of being that everyone envies: he seizes opportunities.
Instead of indulging in the comfort of his new black cashmere scarf, Knight Saint George spots every ray of sunshine he can, curls in a ball, and waits for Nature’s miracles to warm him up. He chooses the most colorful carpets and starts chillin’ like a villain. I’m pretty sure that if he could, he would wear glittery makeup, just because he’s understood pretty quickly that sparkles and bright colors are the only right answers to what’s gloomy and cold.
In a word, Knight St George is a Hong Kong dog.
As much as I would love to go on in this menagerie jargon, I’m not writing to share the sole wisdom of my dog, but to express a question that every Gweilo has formulated at least once during their Hongkongese adventures: Why does Hong Kong shine so bright?
This was precisely the theme of last week’s “lumières” light show, a term pretty common on the Hong Kong scene, to show Hong Kong’s polished sky-scrappers shining in their steal and glass armors.
To many foreigners, Hong Kong is the city of the future: they don’t always understand its political status that makes it this out-of-space-and-time technological island with one of the highest densities in the world. They know about Tycoons, about Tai Tais, about the shining marble floors of the luxury hotels they stay at.
They’ve seen the jittery, sparkling gadgets scattered on the stalls of the vibrant markets that our city holds, and they’ve probably visited one or two golden and vermillion incent induced temples.
To eager foreigners, Hong Kong is a shining city. What is Paris next to the daily light show the Fragrant Harbour puts on, daily show that never fails to remind startled visitors that Hong Kong is made of the golden pavements real wealth allows?
Yet to us, permanent or slower transiting Gweilos and although we are still fascinated by the glittering costume Hong Kong puts on every single day, this city isn’t just lights and polished floors.
We don’t think that the wrinkled woman crouched over the heavy trolley she pushes through the careless crowd, is so picturesque. Although we admire the decrepit buildings of the Kowloon that remind us of past eras, we thankfully look at the lucky star that made us travelling kids and not cage men condemned to live in 2square meter rooms in order to escape an even darker reality.
Their rooms don’t shine, they barely have electricity.
Hong Kong cage men probably don’t feel like putting glitter on their face and spinning through the red and gold neon streets of our city.
One could argue that the obsession for polished and clean facades is a way of hiding Hong Kong’s mass inequalities. But life here has changed the way I consider this obsession for light, for colors and noise.
We live in a city whose community is one of the most eclectic in the world, and, what sometimes even we forget, is that this community defines us.
Our life as Gweilos here is comfortable, bright and vibrant.
The life of a massive part of the city’s population is tiring, filled with anxiety for the future and condensed. But it is uncontrollably colored, uncontrollably covered in gold and red happiness signs, uncontrollably marked with the rainbow colored stamp of diversity.
I, living in my happy little bubble of well-off expat kid, cannot pretend to know any of what it is really to live in conditions that should make most of us faint pretty quickly. All I can say is that I am, again and again, incredibly amazed at how, despite its difficulties, Hong Kong city shines for me.
So, out of respect, out of love for this glittering town that we are lucky to call home, let us, just like Knight St George, put on our shining outfits and embrace the colors of a world that never ceases to sparkle.
It won't change the planet but it'll make us smile, and that my friends, is a very good start.