Sunday, January 28, 2018

[In Retrospect] Papercutting x Hong Kong
"If your eyes could speak, what would they say?" I'm borrowing this line from one of my favorite novels, The Book Thief, as majority of this post would be inundated with words trying to picture that beautiful Saturday of Jan 20, 2018.

Before
Hong Kong is not totally new to me. Who would miss the enormous skyscraper flaunted in the movies, or the kiddie theme park most Asian children dreamt about? Without even having to go that far, my nearest and dearest would zealously share their travel stories over the usual beef jerky pasalubong. And a moment later, we'd find ourselves looking for the best Hong Kong milk tea imported in town. But I guess there's more to experience than just seeing what you've told right before your eyes. So alone, I booked a flight. Boldly, I took a leap of faith of sharing my craft to the locals. 
Right before my eyes. ;)

Espresso Alchemy in Kwai Fong happily accepted my proposal and our agreement was sealed quickly. Beginner's luck maybe? But was I on my right mind? Why would an outsider teach the locals about the craft they shared to the world? (China stemmed the art of papercutting where Hong Kong is part of. Colonized by United Kingdom until 1997 when HK sovereignty was turned over to China -- One Country, Two Systems. The rest is history.) Hence as soon as my mail buzzed me for the first registration, I dialed back and immediately closed the link. My heart felt at ease doing one-on-one session. 

Two days before my flight, another email came in from a sender who bore a Chinese family name, enquiring about the workshop. For this person to bother writing instead of closing a broken link must be something. And I was in no position to decline, given the circumstances.

The Day
Anxiety kept me from sleeping. While I have done workshops with total strangers before, this was the first I had to do overseas, with international audience, alone. The cold wind blowing harshly on my face as I navigate to an unfamiliar place far from the city center did not help either. But thanks to Google Maps and Hong Kong’s efficient train system, I made it there.

I met with two attendees, a man named Joe who speaks Chinese words the ones you read in classic literature (so I was told). The other, a lady, is an expat who grew up in the west side of the globe. The former drew with such precision that even basic shapes do come to life, while the latter is free-flowing, an impressionist attack on the subject. You could see things through her eyes!

Despite the differences in culture and languages, we were able to connect far beyond and deeper than I normally do with people back in Manila. So priceless to hear stories from different perspectives, and to see how they apply my papercut techniques very differently. I was even luckier to be given a hand-sewn pouch embroidered with my initials on it; and a pack of artisan tea from the café for free!
Photo taken by Lai

We may not have taken a photo altogether, but the memory remains in my heart.

After
The day after the workshop, Lai generously offered to spend her Sunday with me. We met at Diamond Hill MTR to visit Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens next door, ordered milk tea for the long ride going to Sai Kung, a not-so-touristy place at the south of Hong Kong. I was welcomed by salty air and local buskers, fat and furry dogs, and of course, the floating seafood market where I purchased dried fish for pasalubong. We were supposed to take a quick boat ride and visit Yim Tin Tsai, a quiet island with salt pan fields. But we arrived too late, and the only activity left was to dine at an al fresco Chinese restaurant, sharing food and stories about our lives back home.
Peace and quiet nunnery and garden against high-rises.
Sai Kung

What I wanted to just get done for the sake of doing so turned out to be one of the best memories I've had throughout my existence. Now I will remember Hong Kong more than just its skyscrapers and dimsum and milk tea and what everyone else's stories told me. For me, Hong Kong is now like a second home. Thank you for giving me the best start! It was definitely cold during my visit but I felt warm.
  See you again!

PS. Up to date, I'm still in touch with Joe and Lai. <3

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MJ Roxas
+63935 9496942
Manila, Philippines
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