I slept well last night.
After 24 hours on buses, planes and taxis, and spending countless hours waiting around in airports, I got home and, despite the 7-hour timezone difference, managed to stay awake long enough to go to bed at the reasonably legal hour of 21:45
The next thing I knew it was morning, my trip to the Pearl River Delta already fading into the hazy distance.
It was a good trip. Fortunately my dry sarcastic wit was understood and appreciated by the people of Hong Kong. This was especially important to me as I hadn’t got anything else prepared.
In fact I don’t know how to operate in a world devoid of sarcasm, I simply don’t have the tools to survive in such a hostile environment.
I wonder if sarcasm is as human as laughter and other sorts of humour. Is it hard-wired into human DNA?
I’m not 100% sure what the evolutionary advantage is of having sarcastic people around, but I guess we must bring something positive or the responsible genes would not have survived – and given how much it gets in the way of reproduction opportunities (I speak from experience), it’s a curious puzzle.
An alternative hypothesis would be that sarcasm is not genetic.
It could be cultural, and that because we increasingly share an international culture, and tend to watch a lot of the same TV shows, humour is becoming as homogenized by globalization as everything else.
This seems feasible. There’s a Ph.D thesis in here somewhere, and I think I’m just the man to take it on. I would love to be a Doctor of Sarcasm!
Whichever scientific explanation is correct, my trip to Hong Kong – weather aside – was a success.
This is partly because I’ve got better at managing the jet lag.
The last time I delivered training in East Asia was about 15 years ago in Tokyo.
I spent the entire flight watching movies, drinking wine and eating food, and then got to my hotel and promptly fell asleep for eight hours, waking when the hotel room phone rang at 4pm.
This meant I spent the week wide awake all night watching baseball on TV, and spent all day sleepily trying to deliver training courses in a state of semi-conscious fuzzy delirium.
I’ve learnt from this error.
Key learning point:
You can overcome jet lag more successfully if you don’t treat a long-haul overnight flight as an opportunity to eat food, drink wine and watch movies.
When I posted this epiphany on Facebook the other day, my Uncle responded:
Getting hammered, stuffing face and watching movies is the only way to travel. And of course if you aren’t the pilot, that applies even more
I don’t agree with him, but I thought it was funny.
I’ve never been to Hong Kong before.
I was excited!
So many people told me how much they loved it, how exciting the city was, how it was their favourite ever place and how I was the luckiest human alive. I was itching to see it, and sat glued to the window (not literally) as the plane descended over Kowloon, and again later (again not literally) when the airport bus made its way into the city, dropping passengers off at their hotels.
I was underwhelmed.
It felt like a busy disorganised chaos. It didn’t feel grand and imposing like London or New York, it felt like a shambles full of shops, traffic and humidity.
On most measures, Hong Kong is the world’s fifth city, and if the metrics include the number of impressive air-conditioned shopping centres full of identical designer stores, then it’s easy to see why HK scored so highly.
But techno-bling and designer clothes are not my thing, and I wondered if the city had much else to offer a chap like me.
I walked to work the first day.
I took a few short cuts through narrow little side streets, navigating by the maps on bus stops. I ended up wandering through smelly narrow street-markets and along busy main roads with odd-looking old trams (that’s good-odd, not bad-odd).
This was starting to get interesting.
I walked back a different way, and was invited in to one bar to see “a live show” and enjoy “a massage”. I declined, but it was flattering to be asked.
The weather was not working in my favour and I took to using the train on the other days. I love using public transport in unfamiliar cities, it makes me feel like I’m being intrepid, like Alan Whicker, and really exploring the real city and experiencing it like a real proper authentic local.
I was starting to like it more and more as I got more and more familiar with the place.
My only nod to tourism was catching the Star Ferry to Kowloon and walking around on the Avenue of Stars, looking back at the misty grey Hong Kong skyline, watching people taking selfies …
I’d never do that!
I went to a bar for a well-deserved beer and learnt something new about myself. It turns out that my sparkling blue eyes have more power that I realised.
First example – the scene is a bar on the front in Kowloon, near the Avenue of Stars, a weary Yorkshireman with blue eyes approaches the bar terrace and addresses a waitress …
Me: Hi, can I sit here and order a beer?
Waitress: … …. er, … sorry, … I was a bit nervous there, your eyes are so blue
That was a bit weird, but I took it as a compliment and supped my beer feeling as if the blueness of my eyes were a personal victory, like I’d achieved something worthy rather than having simply won first prize in the lottery of life – well, at least for eyes – well, at least eye colour.
Second example – the scene is the same bar, same weary traveller seated at the same table, next to a now-empty beer glass.
A different waitress approaches:
Waitress 2: Would you like another beer
Me: No thanks
Waitress 2: (shaking)
Me: Are you OK? Are you cold?
Waitress 2: No, I’m not cold (backing away slowly)
Me: Are you OK?
Waitress 2: … (backing away fast)
It was only later that I read about 邪恶之眼
… areas where light-colored eyes are relatively rare, people with green eyes, and especially blue eyes, are thought to bestow the [evil eye] curse, intentionally or unintentionally
If you follow the source link, you’ll see I’ve quoted that a bit out of context in order to make my point, but whatever the explanation, it’s clear that with great power comes great responsibility and I need to be careful where I lay my gaze.
That night there was the red rain storm.
Not saying I caused it, but something did.