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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jumping melons

jumping melons

gyrating mandarins

broccoli crunch

crispy explosions

against tingling palate

tangy aromatics

polyphonic cacophony

grating chromatics

navigating bodies

bobbing, bumping

fading focus

dizzy, fevered

start, stop, start again

pushing rusty wheelbarrow

along bumpy path

uphill, down

left, right, across

worthy labour

just to see

loved ones

happy

it’s all good

food-space

YumCha with family & friends!

Humans like communal sharing of food, an almost ritualistic social exercise.

Family time at Ichiban!

For those who enjoy food, there is a space inside, an intimate and personal nook, set apart from the interactive merriment and camaraderie, tucked inside that little moment when you imbibe the morsels and make elemental visceral contact with the fabric, material and compounds. This is my favourite part of food: that bubble in time that transports the foodie beyond mere sustenance into soulful contemplation, even if subconscious, of life itself, that solitary interstice of rich sensory luxury. Continue reading

bing!

All of us well into middle age now, and many of us have known one another since primary (grade) school days. We had a grand-ish reunion party at Bing Bing Ice Cream Gallery in Tanjung Katong a week ago. Just 20-plus ladies, but not an easy feat to bring the lot together in one place at the same time – and just imagine the decibel levels when all begin to chatter? Yes, sensory overload for me, and I suffered a pounding headache afterwards, but it was just lovely seeing old friends again, so the pain was worth it. And the ice cream? Simply delicious! Thank you, BL, for letting us descend upon the ice cream shop. And apologies to the customers who were treated to full auditory assault by us over enthusiastic ladies. We’ve not met up in such numbers for a long time. Please come back again to Bing Bing when it is less chaotic, and do enjoy the ice cream, because they serve fabulous flavours for every palate!

(My personal favourites? Gula Melaka with Red Bean, Coconut, and MaoShanWang Durian!)

oil in my lamp

Noshment. Sustenance. Oil in my physical lamp. Goodness for my soul. And thankfulness in the spirit. The family – mum, baby sis, brother-in-law, furry boys, and helper Nula – had lunch at our usual favourite yesterday, but at a new location. It seems as if the neighbourhood malls are more crowded than the main shopping street in the city. I bring my mental clement space with me. It is a struggle, most definitely, but equilibrium is what I seek. Continue reading

Merry Theory of My Mind

Theory of Mind is a theory, or is it? Dancing around alien fires. Whose Theory and whose Mind?

While it is not true that autistic people lack empathy due to their inability to decipher other people’s mindscapes, I myself admit to being stumped, over and over again, by other people’s thoughts, motives, and actions.

Take, for example, this somewhat questionable penchant for offering help, mixed with an innate inability to make quick enough assessment of character and/or predict potential disaster. Not a good combination by far. Continue reading

clemency

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Sometimes, Clement Space can exist inside inclemency.

I recently spent 3 days and 2 nights at a holiday chalet with immediate and extended family. A grand spectacle of non-stop sensory overload. Unceasing noise. Human chatter at booming, roaring, shrieking, penetrating volume. Clattering of mahjong tiles into the wee, wee, wee-est hours. Thick, choking smells from the barbecue, food being cooked all day, cigarettes (smokers were very considerate, they only smoked outside, but my olfactory receptors picked this up too), and burning mosquito coils.

Oh, yes, and food. An over abundance of food. So much that it became overwhelming, even for a Foodie Bunny. Continue reading

dog cafe

Saturday Brunch for two again at Not Just Coffee with Rick. Our “dog cafe” in Paddo. It poured with rain earlier this morning, but we prevailed. The elements accorded a little respite, and there we were, just an hour later than our planned appointment. The ground was soaked, but anticipation of dynamic, vigorous and energetic polyphonic conversation overtook sensory aversion. We ordered something different this time. Delicious!

It is much clement to have a good friend. Very much.

more grace notes

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Head down, bottom up… SOS!

Grace notes occurring in the midst of forceful fury.

Overwhelmed inside churning, heaving and seething vortex of existential and corporeal torment – unrelenting in its pursuit of dignity’s destruction, unrepentant in its indecent mockery – the arhythmic pounding of crass insistence overtakes consciousness.

There, the little grace notes appear. Silent fluttering wings of delicate rectitude, without force, without rude encroachment.

Listen to the soft, gentle and sometimes whimsical intonations of clemency, and the sighs of gratitude amidst shimmering spasms of tender affliction. Continue reading