It’s good to be reminded how very much like a herd animal I’ve become after three years in Hong Kong, as I was thus reminded in London.
The first thing that struck me was how disarmingly polite (most of) the men there are. Giving way, holding the door open, letting you have a seat, waiting patiently while you get a clue that all this is being done for you — all this was experienced with slight bewilderment on my part, as I usually encounter people who’d much rather stick to their mission to save the planet than give up three seconds for a stranger. I’ve probably become one of ‘those people’, by the way.
The second thing that stirred quite a bit of shame in me was the realisation that people in London (except in the area round Harrods) are really discreet about their everyday baggage and things — the only thing on me that didn’t have a brand emblazoned across it was my jeans! Embarrassingly crass you are, I thought to myself. But not when I’m in HK — then, I just merge into the landscape. I’d much rather be discreet, I think. Ugh.
The third thing is actually a problem shared by both cities. Rents and property prices are so volatile that the masses seem beholden to property tyrants. For a piece of art that memorably reflects this issue, please see HK artist Kacey Wong’s Paddling Home. I really detest having to renegotiate my rent once a year. I’m truly fortunate in that I haven’t had to move (have heard of someone who had to move five times in two years!), but the whole process of negotiation is so trying on the nerves. I’m happy to report, though, that while I’m in the midst of a negotiation now, I’ve decided to trust that it’ll be all right even if I do have to move — takes the weight off the shadow and gloom.
Boy, am I glad I got some perspective while I was away. You do have to do that to get some, don’t you? Glad to be reminded that:
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. … Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
(Romans 6:18–22 NIV)