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Rock 'n' Roll Santa It's weird coming back to Hong Kong after being away nearly one month.

Things are familiar, yet it feels like I'm here for the first time. Everyone seems so... short. I should be used to that, but I feel as though I grew taller on vacation.

Coming back during the holiday season is strange, in that the place is whacked out with decorations never seen where I come from. Nosirree, no few strands of tinsel, holly wreaths and the odd tree here or there.

"Everyone seems so... short."

In Sha Tin Plaza, we were greeted by a giant, white two-storey cake, festooned with huge strawberries, candy canes, cookies, gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and giant purple ornaments the size of bowling balls, surrounded by massive purple and gold cones hanging three stories down from the ceiling. They get into Christmas decorating, but without all the advertising hype.

Seated on the chair in front of the cake was the first Asian Santa Claus I've ever seen. The suit was the same, as was the beard and hat, but there was something about those eyes...

While in the mall we were treated to our first dose of Chinese rap. Now that's interesting; talk about rapid-fire lyrics. I couldn't understand it, but then I have a hard time understanding North American rap, so it works out about even.

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We missed the cold snap; the temperature dropped to [gasp] 6°C! I joke, but in Hong Kong that's cold. Monsoon winds blow in from Northern China, and combined with the humidity and the lack of indoor heating, the cold chills one to the bone.

We took two days of that and bought a heater.

Then it warmed up, yet people still dressed in sweaters and down-filled jackets. They even dressed their dogs in hats and sweaters.

In Canada, 21C is a nice summer day. Here, people act as though snow were about to fall, though it doesn't snow and most have never seen it.

New Year's Eve was spent with several friends in the New Territories. We played mah jong until 11.45pm, then broke to watch the final moments of 1,000 years of history dwindle away. We toasted each other at midnight, and enjoyed a few minutes of boisterous appreciation of the beginning of a fresh year. Then we played for three more hours. It was a new millennium, a new decade, and a new year, but I was winning.

It's good to be back home.

January 2, 2000

Next Tale: Moving to the Big City