Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Drowned Rat & The Large Silver Birds

God has a unique way of solving my problems. In this case, the "problem" was the realization that my 4:30p.m. light would be hitting Osaka roughly 45 minutes before the last effective train connection would be leaving Kansai International Airport for Kyoto. Given that, yes, these *are* international flights, including immigration checks and luggage delays, I was beginning to fret whether I'd have to spend the night in the airport -- until I was informed that I needn't worry: I would *definitely* have to spend the night at the airport! :D You see, Osaka is currently plagued by a typhoon, a large tropical storm that would cause any aircraft headed for Kansai International to hit the airport in the most literal sense. So, here I sit, fortunately not at Hong Kong International but in the center of the city, at one of my airline's "city-center check-in" locations (... brilliant idea, no?)

Hong Kong, too, is feeling the effects of these zephyral upheavals: A long scroll through Kowloon yesterday left me wetter than a drowned rat. The interesting thing, especially for L.A. dwellers, though, is that the rains seem to bring out the best in the native population, make them kinder, more solicitous, draw together (literally and metaphorically) families and friends: Standing at a street corner after one of the heavier downpours, I smiled at a young girl standing huddled under an umbrella. The girl smiled back, tugged on her mother's sleeve, and immediately the woman (who was likely no older than myself) hustled me under their small umbrella. We walked a few blocks together until she was reassured that I indeed knew where I was going (and for once, I did!). When we parted ways, I glanced back over my shoulder -- the girl was looking back, too, smiling; we waved at one another.

Such is the nature of this contradictory city: Cast entirely in steel and concrete, the city is nevertheless overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the islands -- parks abound, only the most crowded blocks are devoid of signs of trees and greenery (.. a German woman who occupied the bed besides mine in the Youth Hostel dorm told me that she and her mother had inspected one of the new housing constructions on the outskirts of Hong Kong with an eye towards buying a place. The 27th floor of the high rise had been allocated as a "park" inside the building -- the anxiety to carve out space for nature, while at times odd and even pathetic, is palpable.) The streets are built for speed and crowded with taxis -- yet Hong Kong is very much a walking kind of city: Over the last 48 hours I've crossed most of the central island and Kowloon on foot, and there's every indication that most of the population is equally auto-mobile.

Before I run out of time, a few logistics: I generally have no more than 5-10 minutes of internet time, so these posts are rushed and far from well-edited (... far from edited, period!) Much more detailed accounts are to be found in my paper journal; perhaps I'll transcribe the more interesting parts of them at some point as well :) I appreciate the comments and e-mails I've been getting a lot -- as well as the prayers and words of encouragement. I miss everyone at home in the moments I get to catch my breath, which happens more regularly than I anticipated. I pray that this finds all of you well!


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