A prosaic dream for ordinary people! To imagine for a moment that you leave the present and enter another dimension, maybe it’s yesterday or tomorrow, you never know when you are so far away from the real world. Personally, I was a bit afraid to go far away, twelve hours by plane and seven hours jet lag, it was a long way from the county and the habits of everyday life, and it’s not Samwise Gamegie or Frodon Sacquet who will tell you otherwise. So I left for ten days to join a community led by powerful little men, once benevolent and enlightened, this country is that of chiaroscuro between rich and poor. I never imagined that there could be so much contrast in a society, the rich are very very rich and the poor are miserable, never have I seen such a concentration of luxury cars. New buildings with architectural beauty rub shoulders with other aging and crumbling skyscrapers, the incredible but true expression takes on its true meaning. Extraordinary people, disciplined, organized, respectful of collective rules and cleanliness everywhere. The plethora of public places with people moving in all directions, I felt safer than in my small town, never having been asked to check the contents of my backpack. Strangely there is a disconcerting and surprising calm, not a single noise, not a single idiot who wants to be noticed, each individual is left to his own occupations and work. Although physically they all look like family but they are all different intellectually, they speak several languages within the same country, some of their behaviors are forged by history and the imprint of a legacy left by the British colonizer for 99 years. If I wanted to define them, I would say hard-working, courageous, smiling, kind, persevering, if I were to express my impression or feeling about them, I would say resignation. On my first day walking down the street, I saw from afar an old lady pushing a small cart that I had taken for a stroll, legs bent, a movement executed painfully and slowly, I almost rushed to help her, when suddenly she grabbed a shovel and a broom to pick up a small piece of paper that had fallen on the sidewalk. I could be wrong but not by much she must have had at least ninety of them, this old lady was doing her job like many people her age, like her, they are left to clear the sidewalks of the delivery boxes and carry them on small carts to the recycling place. A feeling of curiosity made me want to observe them to understand why they are not yet retired, I used to see them working in the morning when I left the hotel until the evening when I came back exhausted after a day’s walk, they were still there, are they machines or people resigned to work until death that would come to relieve an ordeal that resembles the rock of Sisyphus. Before leaving on a trip, I thought I was going to find boatmen to entertain the tourists, guys dressed in kimonos to perform martial arts, when I arrived I fell below the surface, if I take into account their quality of service, their organization, their discipline, the infrastructures, the human and material means, I would say that they are more than fifty years ahead of the most advanced and modern of European countries. When I look at the social side, it’s work or die, and there I would say that they are still in the Middle Ages, or maybe that’s what will happen in a few years’ time with globalisation, the real question is who is going to get into a Procrustean bed? I spoke with a merchant from whom we bought tea, he ran a shop mentioned in the backpacker’s guide, he told me that he works from 9 am until 8 pm, he eats secretly behind his counter and as far as holidays are concerned, he has 3 days a year for Chinese New Year. He has no choice otherwise he won’t have retirement at sixty-five and will be condemned to work until his death to supplement this income. a prosaic dream for ordinary people a prosaic dream for ordinary people a prosaic dream for ordinary people.
When I’m out and about I’m always confronted with a little problem! Well, that’s when I have to pee every three or four hours and it costs me an awful lot of money because I have to stop in a café or a bar to drink something. Besides it’s not always easy to find a bar that has a toilet and agrees to let me go. In France, we are the champions in this matter, they give you a big key with a string on which they hang a little bell, because they are afraid that you will leave with their keys, in case you would be tempted to come back the next day and go directly to the toilets without going through the bar box to pay for a drink if not why. As a bonus, they give you the roll of pink toilet paper that you have to bring back when you are finished, it’s normal the amenities are reserved for bar customers only. Discreetly, you go around the room to look for the toilets while avoiding being stared at by the customers, who watch you strutting around with your key that goes ding dong and your roll of pink toilet paper while trying not to look stupid. I don’t know why, but everyone in the bar turns around to look at you looking for the toilet in the four corners of the bar, and you find yourself back where you started. Fuck it, you didn’t find the damn toilets so you try as hard as you can to catch the barman who says, “ah yes you go out by the fire exit and it’s down the corridor on the left, but be careful, I think the lights are out, mdr…”. You can’t go around the table again without arousing the curiosity of a little comedian who wants to make the gallery laugh and is playing with your head, careful, I think the gentleman is suffering from a gastro, he says, and now you ask the good Lord what you did to deserve this. However, you can’t complain because you’re a privileged customer, I even found a toilet with France Soir newspaper cut into small pieces hung with a linen thread, I would like to say that in France, we know how to do things well, with a stone, we make several moves, first you read the newspaper so that you are informed of what’s going on it’s very important, then you use it for you know what, and moreover you’re ecological. Over there, there are public toilets everywhere, you don’t even have to pay and moreover, they are a thousand times cleaner than ours, so they score points, on the other hand they are not as well informed as we are, because they don’t read newspapers in the toilets, it’s normal they have real toilet paper, you can’t have everything, right! Sarcasm aside, the history of toilets was more than forty years ago, well things have improved since then, but still, there are really things to do to develop tourism in France. You are going to tell me, you should have stayed there since everything seems so perfect to you, why did you come back, I answer you, although I decided to go back at least once a year, however there are things that displeased me, I have to tell you. During the outward journey, as you know in jumbo jets there are 3 rows of chairs, my wife and I were sitting in the row on the left, my wife towards the window, and I in the middle with a passenger on my right, so there was a corridor separating us from the middle row. And in the middle row there was a Chinese family, the husband sitting on the edge and then his wife and the other members of his family. I would remember that night, it was horrible because I have a problem, I can’t sleep sitting down. The seats in economy class are too small, plus I couldn’t let go of my arms, because the armrests were already occupied, so the outward journey was torture. In the morning, what happiness arrives, it’s soon deliverance, the stewardess arrives with her cart to serve breakfast and boom, she slaps the leg of my Chinese neighbor who is with his family in the middle row, I don’t often fly, I’ve already seen this kind of incident several times. Usually people apologize to each other and things stop. But no, that’s not what happened in front of me, I looked at the guy and he started crying, I’m not telling you nonsense, it’s like he got hit by a train and lost his leg. The poor hostess, in a panic, runs to get him some ice to relieve him of this horrible pain, I watched the scene in amazement, I didn’t understand the hostess’s reaction, if it was me I would have told her next time you keep your leg in front of you and I would end up being an “asshole”. But wait, it’s not over yet, his wife starts to get involved because she’s not happy at all and asks to see the head of the Lufthansa company. The person in charge came to calm things down, since our friends were claiming that they were entitled to claim their travel tickets as compensation. I, who was watching the scene live, was speechless, I was transcribing the events to my wife with sarcasm, and she told me to shut up, you’re looking for shit. It was really hilarious, the manager of the company sent him a no goodbye, she told him the same thing as me without the ending word that I would have used, and that the next time he had to leave his legs in front of him, and that he wouldn’t get any compensation, and then he stopped crying and it didn’t hurt anymore. A prosaic dream for ordinary people.
The reason I told you this story is to tell you what happened to me there too, because I was the victim of the same kind of joke. So my wife and I went up to Victoria Peak, a place where the view is magnificent, it’s a place that overlooks the city, of course provided that we have good weather conditions and especially without the pollution that comes down from the north of China. To return to the city we chose to take the funicular, which can embark more than fifty passengers in two large carriages. Not many people that day, to get off, I go into the queue in the shape of an upside down U-shaped maze, my wife was following me a few steps behind because she was putting some things in her bag. When my wife joins me she tells me that there is a woman who fell on the floor after you passed through the line and she was pointing at you, I think she accuses you of pushing her and making her fall as she passed by, and then I say to my wife but you are serious. Indeed in the first direction of the line, there was a lady clinging to the arms of a guy on the other side, but as there was nobody in front of this lady, I moved forward and passed him because I thought they were lovers, one of them in line to get off and the other one saying goodbye to him outside the line, otherwise why weren’t they together in the same direction. So she kept complaining in Chinese of course, so I couldn’t understand anything she was saying, until a hostess intervened to understand and she ended up calling her boss. We were asked to wait for the police and according to the funicular employees it was better for our safety to get them to intervene. While waiting for the cops to arrive, my wife asks the manager if they can’t just look at the surveillance cameras, because the police immediately realize the bad faith of this good woman and her guy. Luckily my wife was behind me to witness the deception, the good woman did fake a fall, but once I had passed her. In reality, these people wanted compensation for a cell phone supposedly broken during the fall, and money to compensate them for an injury on the lady’s knee. The story ends, we went back down to the city, but for several hours after this incident I was a bit stunned, fortunately I did not get caught up in prejudices, encouraged by the professionalism of the station’s staff and their kindness. Travelling is not just for young people, however, I remained fearful and distrustful for the rest of my trip. I have often watched Shaolin movies, so they manage to fight without a blow, with speed and strength because they use the wind to create a movement and a force field that can propel an opponent about ten meters away. In the end, I’m a bit like the Shaolin, I just have to walk in a line, I release so much energy that it’s enough to make the Chinese stumble in my wake. I have to stop with my sarcasm, apart from this little anecdote, I had a great time, really unforgettable moments, and despite the little story, I want and I want to go back, tomorrow if I could. Before leaving you if you venture to the “Ladies Market” Mong Kok metro station, you have to haggle with the shopkeepers, you will get your purchases at a third of the announced prices. The food is good, but nothing extra, you have to inquire about the place, if you are not afraid of promiscuity there are small restaurants listed in the Michelin guide where you can get a bite for almost nothing, the best is to order for two people half a lacquered duck plus rice and vegetables it’s better than menus. On the other hand, walk around with a small camping knife and fork, otherwise you will have to eat your lacquered duck with chopsticks and for that you need a few years of exercise. The pastries are nice to see in the window, but without taste. Public transport is very convenient and cheap, they have these little credit cards that you buy for 50 HK dollars (5 euros) that you can top up and use as a credit card to pay in shops and transport, really it’s very convenient. The tram takes you around the city from East to West, you pay 25 dollars when you get off, it’s very good value for money.
I’ll leave you with a big hug from the ordinary people.