Curries, Fried Rice, and Cheeseburgers

After being back in Hong Kong now for 8 months I can say, “I love it!” And if you ask why, I’ll say, “Because of Curry, Fried Rice, and Cheeseburgers!”

What I mean by that is Hong Kong has everything! Last week the teachers at our school decided to head out on a Friday night for drinks and dinner. The evening started at Joe’s Pool Hall in Knutsford Terrace. The 8th floor establishment complete with billiard tables, dart boards, and cheeseburgers could be found on any given street corner in the U.S. or U.K.

After the poolhall I was starving as I was purposely holding out eating until we made our way to Chung King Mansions. If you are unfamiliar with Chung King Mansion, wikipedia correctly describes it as, ” guesthouses, curry restaurants, African bistros, clothing shops, sari stores, and foreign exchange offices. It often acts as a large gathering place for some of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, particularly South Asians (Indians, Nepalese, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans), Middle Eastern people, Nigerians, Europeans, Americans, and many other peoples of the world.”

Whenever I enter Chung King Mansion the line from Star Wars where Ben Kenobi says, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, we must be cautious” pops in my head.

We settled on the Taj Mahal restaurant and as Indian waiters began unloading platters of samosas and poppadoms (sp?) I was struck by the diversity even at our table; British, Aussies, Kiwis, Hong Kong Chinese, and Americans raising a glass together to toast the new academic year. Pretty soon debates begin such as who is the more conditioned athlete, an Aussie Rules footballer or a player from Rugby Union? Whats going to happen in the South China Sea between the U.S. and China, and who will win in the upcoming Australian election; Liberal or Labor???

Even last year when we were still in Qingdao I was asked why I came back to Asia. I responded, “here we are at the Olympic Sailing Center where my son is learning to sail from a French teacher and a Chinese teacher. I’m sitting here chatting with a Dane on my right and a South African to my left on a dock where an Olympic competition was just held…thats why I’m back.”

In Hong Kong, the crazy blend of East and West is always display. Even though it is no longer a British colony, the judges here still where white judicial wigs while in court. Police divisions have ceremonial wings complete with bagpipers. Street stalls with very fresh seafood can be just a few blocks down from some of the most expensive designer boutiques in the world. One evening I may be sitting on a rickety stool outside having a bowl of traditional Cantonese claypot rice and the next evening having humus and spicy lamb at a Lebanese restaurant.

And while America frets over the building of a Muslim Cultural center, I see how relaxed people here are in a melting pot of religious freedom. On Nathan Road, one of the main arteries in downtown Kowloon, the Masjid and Islamic Centre sits prominently on one side of the street, and across the way is St. Andrew’s Anglican church. No fights, no protests, everyone getting along for the most part. The rest of Hong Kong is full of Christian churches, mosques, Chinese temples, synagogues and every other place of worship you might think of.

What’s the secret to this social harmony? My two cents…Curries, Fried Rice, and Cheeseburgers.