What is home? Home is where the heart is. Some people say home is where your family is. Some people say home is where you are born. Some people say home is wherever you currently are. I agree with all of these, and to paraphrase a friend, you do not get to choose where you are born, but you do get to choose where you live. Eight and a half years ago, I chose Hong Kong. Or rather, Hong Kong chose me. I do still believe that all my paths have been leading me to Kabul, my great big pie in the sky dream; however, Hong Kong is the place where I became who I am today. Hong Kong is forever in my heart- my greatest love, my longest and most stable relationship. I think there will never be a place like Hong Kong for me- my #1.
Four days ago I hopped onto a plane from Kabul to Hong Kong, so that I could participate in the historic demonstrations that are ongoing in my adopted city. Anxious to join the protestors in the struggle towards democracy, my heart was full of anticipation and a bit of trepidation- would there be repeats of the tear gassing and pepper spray? What of the rumors of guns full of rubber bullets? Would the PLA show up, as people all secretly feared? What I actually encountered when I arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday, 1st October (China National Day), was far more shocking, far more moving.
The main thoroughfare from Sheung Wan-Central-Admiralty-Wanchai-Causway Bay has been transformed. Instead of a busy highway full of taxis, buses, cars, and trucks, it has become a pedestrian zone full of black and yellow clad protestors of all ages. Contrary to what you might be fearing, after that tense Sunday night of tear gas and pepper spray, there has been absolutely no further violence or altercation. In fact, this is, by all intents and purposes, the best of anything I have ever seen in my 8.5 years of living in Hong Kong. This is the best of our courtesy, politeness, respect, compassion, and caring for one another as fellow humans, as fellow Hong Kongers. Here is what I have witnessed over the last few days of the protests:
- Tens of thousands of people on Connaught Road. Walking around, standing around, sitting around…. You would never know that this is our main highway, that it is a road at all. It looks like a wonderful park.
- Tens of thousands of people waving their phones and flashlights, and singing together. It’s no wonder the Taliban banned music in Afghanistan before…. The power of collective singing and music is far too powerful to ignore. Every time spontaneous song erupts I have to fight back my tears, as the camaraderie is so emotional
- Students doing their homework on the street
- People walking around collecting garbage
- Garbage and recycling sorting stations
- Kids handing out free water, food, fans, cool packs, stickers, democracy information, yellow ribbons, etc
- People holding signs offering translation services for those of us who mm sic gong guangdonghua
- People climbing ladders set up over the road dividers
- Banner march by ethnic minorities
- People walking through the crowd spraying cold water on overheated protestors
- First aid stations manned by volunteers
- Supply stations full of free water, food, umbrellas, raincoats, goggles and cling film to protect from tear gas
- Signs advertising free legal services in case you get arrested
- Signs advertising free showers and phone charges
- Messages of international solidarity projected onto the walls of the government building
- Protest art, everywhere
- Signs of apologies for blocking roads, rogue graffiti, anything offensive
- Yellow ribbons everywhere
- People cooking and distributing food right on the street
People have accused Hong Kongers of being self-absorbed, apathetic, and driven only by money. What I have witnessed these last few days assures me of exactly the opposite- what I have seen is people caring for each other and for the city, offering help, assistance, advice, and being driven by a spirit of community and humanity that I always knew was here, but never got to see before.
Hong Kong truly is a SPECIAL Administrative Region…. The most special. Pray for peace, pray for progress, pray for Hong Kong!!