syncopation

 

 

Sensory syncopation. Buzzing dissonance. Muted vowels. Overwhelming consonants. All this and more, gyrating – determined and unceasing – in the thrilling, vexing and amazing sensory ecology of Hong Kong.

I haven’t been back in 6 years, not since my Haptic Autistry and Haptic HugShrug exhibitions. It was lovely to be back, on old familiar soil, yet with so much vibrant newness yet to explore.

Three lectures/talks, two public and one private, and a great many old friends to catch up with, kept my days buzzing with activity.

 

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A new adventure awaited in Sham Shui Po – gritty, old, traditional and crammed – where I would stay for the entire trip, in a windowless bedroom above the sensory theatre of wet markets, dim sum stalls, cooked and raw food shops side by side, vegetables and fruit, and … fish. I landed smack in the middle of unfamiliarity. It was a deliberate decision, I wanted to experience somewhere different from my old memories of my life in Hong Kong – and I got what I asked for. Picturesque, and I am glad for my nifty Fujifilm X100T, but the olfactory ambience was confronting, to say the least. The smell of pork – raw, uncooked pork – literally envelopes your entire being, pervading the air all the way up into my dark little AirBnB bedroom. Then there was fish, rotting vegetable, overflowing sewers, and human bodies seething with perspiration wrapped in unwashed clothes – thematic elements weaving in and out of the tapestry, as the basso continuo of pork pounded on and on.

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Elderly lady selling fish and vegetables

One picture carved into my mind, leaving me engulfed in a heavy, thick and excruciating wave of sadness and haplessness, is that of an old lady, bent double, sitting on a small stool, selling fish and assorted vegetables, just in front of the strong smelling butchery at the corner. Her catch differed every day, sometimes there were larger fish, other days small ones, even turtles and frogs (for consumption) and dribs and drabs of wilted vegetables and fruits – whatever she could get to sell, I suppose? There is rubbish strewn around the filthy wet street, and there she is, sitting there patiently waiting for customers. I wanted to give her some money, but was afraid she would be offended, and what good would my few dollars do for her anyway? She was there every morning, and I, a stranger and ‘alien’ to this ecosphere, felt a choking sadness, an anguished torment each time I walked by. Hapless. I can still taste the air, hear the soundscape echoing in my head, and see the spunky, brave yet forlorn image of this lady in my mind. Poverty is crushing to witness, and my heart breaks even more because she is so terribly old and frail.
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deja vu

Revisiting memory imprints in the flesh. Back in beloved Hong Kong – ‘home’ for 8 years. Greeted at the airport by familiar soundscape, smells, rhythmic-patterned visuals.

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Hungry, looking for breakfast? Have some piping hot Shanghainese dumplings “xiao long bao” and lemon-barley drink. Sensory jet lag perhaps, the taste of exhaustion is heavy.

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HKIA – Hong Kong International Airport

Time to find the bus to my AirBnB. Walking through the passageway to the bus terminus, ears ringing with sonic imprints from the past, it is a gently surreal experience of orchestral recollection.

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Welcome back to Hong Kong!

It’s good to be back. Confronting sensory overload. Attraction. Repulsion. Amazement. Horror. It’s all here in this wonderful sonic-tactile-olfactory-visual-proprioceptive-challenging city!

anxiety at the BIG Anxiety

Big anxiety at The BIG Anxiety Festival!

Some of this narrative was introduced in my previous post, about Food Markers, but this ramble here is a kind of variation on the theme, from a different angle.

This 2017 working trip has been fraught with dramatic ups and downs, and here’s my as-brief-as-possible review of the Grand Experience, months afterwards. Beware, ye grammar-sticklers, I do move rapidly between tenses, because I am unfolding the unfolding as I am experiencing it, in the now, in the then, and in the next. And that, too, is my Autistic Bunny Authentic Experience-ing. Continue reading

food markers

Food can be multi sensorial markers for a journey, tangible physical tabs that help one chronicle the meandering and navigating along the way. Here are my food markers for this trip, a somewhat odd blend of agony and joy, despair and exhilaration all rolled into one jumbled mass.

After arriving at my place of abode, already down with some kind of nasty infection, feverish and in a brain fog, I set about trying to find some nourishment for my weary body. I didn’t manage to get far, due to the sorry state I was in, and settled for a hot dog and an orange juice from the pie and hot dog stand across the road, by the wharf. A sunny day, there were the usual seagulls and pigeons stalking all and any humans sitting at the benches eating. One man brought his little French Bulldog for some sunshine. It was difficult chewing down on the hotdog, my jaw slightly swollen and stiff, but I was quite determined to achieve the feat. The orange juice tasted like soap and plastic though, pretty vile, hence that was abandoned after a few swigs. I so hate to waste. Continue reading

coming home

Dear Lucy,

Mumma’s coming home.

I know you’ve missed me. I missed you terribly too.

I am so sorry, my dearest love.

I will work ever harder, I promise, to provide a better life for you and me.

Thank you for your unquestioning patience, quiet endurance, and silent forbearance. I am devastated at having caused you pain.

I am coming home. In just a few hours, I will be with you again.

All my love and gratitude,

Mum Continue reading

clement space in the city

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I spent the last few nights and days in this sofa, positioned right next to the loo. For safety, because I nearly fell down the winding stairs connecting to the loft bed. And for convenience, in case I had to throw up. A good thing I am short, but still, I have not laid down properly in a bed, stretched out, for this entire time. Continue reading

amplified senses

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What happens when an autistic person with hyper senses becomes unwell / sick? Do those hyper sensory antennae suddenly shrink to ‘normal’? Nope. They are amplified still, as ever, if not even more so. The pain is compounded, and searing terror all the more gripping.

Staring into my delicious bowl of hot potato and leek soup this morning at the Arthouse Kitchen, after an entire night spent retching into the loo, I felt a sense of relief – just simply because I was no longer trapped inside the swirling sphere of excruciating agony. Last night, it was as if time had snapped its back and was lying on the ground in a crumpled heap, sneering at me each time I convulsed, perspiring profusely like a tap at full blast. Not a pretty sight. Not one I’m happy to allow any to witness, so another episode came and went, with only the cosmos as voyeur, and my paltry words to record. I don’t want or need anyone to hold my hand during the ordeal, no thank you, it adds to the distress, really. Yet, being all alone in the cold, stark artist’s studio while teetering on the brink of physical and mental breakdown, was admittedly most frightening.

I couldn’t swallow more than 6 spoons of the goop, no matter how tasty. The throat is inflamed from all the coughing and sputtering. Sorry, Massimo. Please don’t take it as an insult to your culinary offering.

It was a comfort to sit in an old favourite and familiar space. Though with a sad twitching tingling feeling, because that was one of ‘our’ places to be – Lucy and me.

Takeaway: Autistic hyper senses = amplified horror and pain when unwell. Spare a thought for us, we’re not being dramatic. In fact, we prefer to hide inside our excruciating terror. But being nearby and knowing that you are somewhere does help a bit, if only to call an ambulance if needed.

big stars

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60th!

The family decided to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday in a big way: surviving 60 years on earth is a milestone to the Chinese. So, away we trundled, pouring into a super-starred resort.

I have observed on many an occasion, that swanky establishments seldom actually take into consideration persons with disabilities, and this was to be an interested and mixed experience for one and all. At over a thousand dollars per night, our two-night booking didn’t exactly come cheap. Continue reading

familiar

Finding comfort in familiarity. One of my two favourite spots in Paddo, the Arthouse Kitchen. This time, though, Lucy is not with me. I miss her terribly. That space she occupies – physical, mental, sensorial – is now a softly whirring void. I gravitate towards our usual table at the far corner. It is a cosy place, just right for one, and a comfortable area on the floor for Lucy on her fluffy rug. Continue reading

pockets of clemency

Sunday brunch with Rick at “dog cafe”. A pocket of clement space. Empathic resonance. Deep laughter. Ranting at cosmic tragi-comedy. Summoning Artaud and Wagner. Light in darkness. Cosy cocoon inside Paddington.

Good to be back. But… I miss Lucy. Especially here, in our beloved Paddo.