And so we say goodbye.
Despite it being my last day I woke up at four in the morning. It was the first day of the Pang family festival and for one time only I was an honorary Pang. We got dressed, eyes bleary and walked through the chilly darkness. I had no idea what to expect and was completley floored by how beautiful it all was.
It’ll sound silly but it brought to mind how I had always percieved my wedding day, white and muted, tasteful and calm.
Looking at the garish, wild and carnivale colours of that morning it makes me wonder if in fact I should just bite the bullet and go for the extravegance.
There’s something amazing about walking through a dark street and coming across a huge, brightly lit building made of bamboo and sheets of metal.
Coloured lanterns were strung amid the bunting, bright lights reflected off the pond and in the distance dozens of people wandered about wearing special robes. We saw pictures of the men of the village through the years and Wai’s dad pointed out his own photograph, decades before. Beside these were ariel shots of the village and we could track the changes that had occured over the years. The chance to see the development within a community is amazing and it made me long to have been a part of it so that years later I might have been showing my own children. Wai Wai explained to me that when the men reached the age of fifty they had specialrobes to wear and that because the festival takes place every ten years, her dad will wear the robes at the next one. The oldest man of the village has a special robe that only he is allowed to wear. We watched a ceremony accompanied by some crazy music. I say crazy but only because it is completley unlike any instruments you find in the uk. As the music played a man in a red robe read out the names of everybody in the village, it took a long time and I cannot imagine how he continued his steady pace. The instruments accompanying the ceremony were, like I said, bizarre. They sounded reedy and nasaly, as if someone had shoved my flatmate Lewis into a tube and blown down it. A man in a red robe was dancing in front of a row of young men, I dont know how or why they were picked but there only about eight of them representing the village.
After the music ended everyone gathered in close and the scroll that had the names written on it was covered in chicken blood. The method used was quiet upsetting, having had a sheltered childhood, but I did my best not to show it and not to judge. The man holding the bird cut the crest repeatedly and dipped it in water to help it flow better and I think they put blood on each village members name. The reason I say ‘think’ here is that most of this was reported to me by Wai Wai. The occasion was solemn and we were not meant to smile or show any emotion and I knew that if I watched it I would be visibly upset rather than just shaken. Luckily it was over before long, the chicken had been alive the whole time, but you have to put it out of your mind. Wai Wai told me that it was upsetting for her too, but that it was her culture and I knew exactly what she meant. It was hard for me to understand but it was not my culture, I am an onlooker and I was honoured to have been there.
After the ceremony we went to get some breakfast in the old market. I had my first bowl of congee (yum yum yum) noodles, chinese pasta and these fried things that were like dumplings.
Because of being so tired and so shaken I think it was probably the best meal I ate while on the trip. Wai’s dad took us to his old school, there was bunting in the playground and a little group of school girls. Their teacher was obviously late and as he approached them they all looked at their watches and screeched chastisingly at him. Although I cannot speak cantonese the joke was universal and made me chuckle. As we walked back to the flat we saw the festivals procession moving over a bridge.
There were hundreds of people and we got swept up in the crowd, walking along as if we were a part of it all. We passed a tree covered in Christmas ornaments, christmas trees and reindeer, and it was the first thing of the trip to make me realise that when I got home it would be snowy and very nearly Christmas. Despite having such an amazing time I was longing to see the kittens again but still wanted to make the most of my last day.
That afternoon Wai Wai and her brother took me shopping in Sheung Shui to buy the last of the gifts I needed and then Wai Wai and I moved onto Sha Tin so I could buy toys for myself. I bought a few action figures, a couple of One Piece ones and a Sonny Angel, as well as a few gifts for my friends. Once we were done with shopping we returned to Sheung Shui, I packed my bags and then Wai’s aunt invited us to hers for dinner. I met a few more of the family including a very cute baby and an adorable four year old. They were lucky I’m not Angelina Jolie or I’d have had them both! I spoke to Wai Wai’s older cousin about university life in Hong Kong and the differences between there and the UK. We talked about the cost of travel and about how she would love to visit the UK but it was harder for her to make the journey than for me, simply because of the exchange rate. If I end up out in Hong Kong for a semester with Uni it would be nice to meet up with her, a friendly face in a foreign place!
And then the trip was over. I put my bags in Wai’s Uncles car, we drove to the airport, I checked in, said goodbye and got on a plane to Moscow.
To be continued…