I have just spent two full days in a hothouse setting trying to learn a skill that I feel quite hopelessly incapable of mastering because some key elements require a high level of social agility which my autistic embodiment just cannot muster, try as I might. Sitting in my chair and trying to look engaged with the subject matter while weaving in and out of lucidity was about all I could achieve. My brain felt broken while my body was hollering unhappy slogans. It’s the kind of scenario where people who don’t know me well would look at me, incredulous, and say, “But you have a PhD, how can you not understand such simple concepts?” Um… well… You see, it’s not the concepts that I don’t grasp, it’s the ‘knowing-feeling’ that I cannot execute or bring to life these fundamentals that cause my brain to short-circuit, and thus my Being rejects the entirety while in the process of imploding. Continue reading
Dogs are amazing creatures. Their ability to adjust, accommodate and survive never ceases to intrigue me. Too often, despite trauma and abuse, dogs nevertheless seem able to rise to pulchritudinous grace, something which I long to be able to learn and adapt to my own fragile humanity.
Here is something I wrote this day three years ago, describing in words – though most inadequate – what sensory overload is like in the midst of trying to live and survive inside normative-dictated frameworks and prescriptions. There is sadly very little ‘clement space’ for the autistic entity inside this overwhelming overstimulating normative world – well, almost none at all.
Lucy came with me to the Arts & Disability International Conference today. It was a huge blessing to have her with me, well worth the small ‘inconveniences’, like having to take her outside for potty each time we had a break and thus missing out on food and beverage.
When we first arrived, I made the mistake of choosing to sit in a busy area where people were walking or wheeling back and forth, standing around chatting, and even striding over Lucy, who was laying on her mat next to me at my feet. The lights in the rooms were confronting, to say the least. Lucy took it all in with grace and quietude, and she kept a discreet whisker out for me all the time. I began to feel nervous and agitated from the constant noise, movement and frenetic energy buzzing round and round, and Lucy got up to indicate that we should move to a less busy spot. She led me to the far corner on the other side of the room, and we settled down comfortably there, until lunchtime. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Frenetic week. Confronting confrontation. Set aside a tiny aperture of Clement Space – beginning the day with quietude. Breakfast alone… local Hong Kong style, from the noisy lady around the corner with the paper hat – steaming hot dim sum … before launching head on into the chaos of the day.
Ah… Hong Kong… heady, head-smashing, overloading, amazing Hong Kong!
against tingling palate
start, stop, start again
pushing rusty wheelbarrow
along bumpy path
left, right, across
just to see
it’s all good
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 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
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!)