OCEANS AND GOD
I talked to God in a dream where I gave him my painting of water as an offering. My painting reproduces the impression seen from a super-power microscope, revealing elements of a paisley pattern.
“I like water. Especially sea water.”
“Oh? Why not the mountains? They’re both my creations.”
“The mountains are lifeless barren rocks without water. Water supports life. Everything contains water… my body; the body of my dog, Madras; and his food; my frangipani tree in front of my house; its flowers and the birdies twittering in its branches… even the chair I am sitting on contains water, as it is made of wood!”
“The plastic bottles also contain it!”
“But the oceans reject them. They pollute the water! And you didn’t make them, anyway! May we have more bottle-free days in Hong Kong.”
“The sea of Hong Kong is spectacular! It’s blue, it’s green… I could see the paisley elements in the water, like mother wombs, bear and nurture 6,000 marine life species… they make up a quarter of what you can find from the entirety of China!”
“It’s charted with adventures to the world. The ship came in from South Africa with me onboard. And from then on, Hong Kong’s young children have another gifted teacher!”
“On the bottle-free weekends, I can surf in the waters packed with treasures in Hong Kong. Please join me here to rediscover the oceans!”
“I made the oceans!”
“Of course, may You cleanse our oceans, our lifeline?”
“… I, what? I gave you a pristine globe – look at me, and my exploding brain…”
Oh God, it was only a dream…
LET'S TALK MONEY!
I showed up at Fortune Industrial Building on a sweaty Saturday morning in 1975, and hiked up 17 floors, stopping on each floor. Resting on the railings to give my sore feet a break from Mom’s “raised platform” shoes, I tried to keep my chest up and out to keep it in place under her bullet proof bra. I was hopeful for my job hunting with any of those toy or electrical appliance factories in the building. Having just turned 12, I hoped to hide the four extra years I needed to be hireable, My outfit was inspired by the soaps I watched on TV.
“You’re not 16!” I was annoyed to be repeatedly judged “inadequate weight”—under aged to be employed legally. I thought I had turned out a convincing woman, twisting my buds, balancing on those heel blocks tugged under the loud-speaker-shape jeans, which were in fashion then.
It was my first summer break from school in Hong Kong, following our immigration from Beijing. I found my lifetime mission for “idealism” quickly swayed towards a “materialistic” chase during my first year in Hong Kong.
I was determined to trade my lion-styled piggy bank deposits for a Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking account. Those factories would pay me more than $30 dollars a day, and my bank account would swell up to $2,000 by the time I returned to school in September! Comparatively, my aunt used to make 36 kuai per month as a school teacher in Beijing. I would be rich!
I was determined to earn that kind of money so that I could be free from my parents’ “guidance”.
Every day after school I would stop at the window of The Watch & Clock along King’s Rd. I watched Mickey Mouse joyfully posing with his index finger of each hand, tick-a-tick pointing towards 4:30pm. My parents had watches, bought as wedding presents in Singapore, which still told the time, and had cost hundreds of dollars. But the Mickey Mouse watch I adored, ticking out fantasy and joy, cost much less because they churn out more and more in the factories here!
To buy that magical watch, which cost $50, I had to walk to and from school for 30 minutes, every single day, to save the fares for 500 tram rides!
Another shop I used to stop by along King’s Rd. was Jimmy’s Cake Shop. When school opened again in September, Papa would turn 40. My thoughts were often distracted with daydreams of flashes of candle lights cheering the lifetime moment above the creamy-yummy-colourful icing. The design I liked cost $88.
A job would accomplish both missions.
Every day, I took my time to walk through the entire street, adding many other things to my wish list that could mark as “a great leap forward”, advanced from the assorted candies I had used to be so thrilled to bag, walking out from Beijing Department Store. I was mostly aware of the price tag each bore, but unlike our sometimes stock-out butcher’s table in Beijing, I knew they were available and I now had the means to bring them home.