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Monday 13 December 2010

Hong Kong

Painting workshop, Hong Kong, Sunday December 5th, 2010

Just a quick word to break the silence

I have been in Hong Kong for over a week. I begin to have the feeling that it is high time that I posted something about my experiences here.

I have no excuses. I have a "dongle", acquired especially so that I would have no excuses. I have Internet access and since the Congress finished I could have found time to put something up even if just a few of the seven-hundred-plus photographs that I have just loaded on to a USB stick!

Sorry readers for the lack of communication about this very important trip. I have been overwhelmed by it all and have not known where to start writing.

Important for me

This trip has been very important in many ways. It was my first ever World Congress, apart from being on the outside looking in as a student in Budapest, when the very first one took place. It has been the place where I launched my first book, and it has been a place where I have met some very old friends and made some new ones.

Important too for perhaps a few more of the over four-hundred delegates from around the world.

I have had a camera in my hand for most of the time that I have been here. I also have net-book notes from the Congress presentations, three note books full with first impressions, and a few scraps of paper, and newspaper articles that I have collected to add to my blogs.

I do not know where to start. I am overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, with the smells and general feeling of this amazing place.

Hong Kong, China

A place of petite people and enormous buildings. Petite people means petite clothing and I, at last, for what is probably the first time in my life, have bought two items of clothing that actually fit me! One of these was actually made personally to fit me!

This is a country with smells so exotic and intense that they make me sneeze, just like dried sage does.

It has a landscape with clouds that drape themselves over the mountains, exactly like those I have drooled over in the Chinese scroll paintings that inspired me as an art student. I had no idea that these same clouds would envelop the top of the buildings too. Yes, some of it is smog, but it also has something to do with the humid weather.

Each and every day I am encased by a townscape that is a feast for my artist's eyes. But is also a test of endurance for my nature loving soul.

This feasting on sounds, sights and smells and a hundred-and-one other experiences is what has prevented me from writing. I have been too busy soaking up the visual impressions to put anything down on paper either, with a pencil or with a paint brush.

I did spend a couple of evenings learning how to paint in the Chinese style. I could afford only two evening sessions with a wonderful teacher, to catch a glimpse of what the masters take many years to master. I have yet to transform what I learnt to do with the paintbrush into a record of what I have seen and smelt and heard.

I have no idea how I am going to represent, here on my blog, anything of what I have experienced, all I have observed, learnt, listened to, tried not to listen too, felt and eventually soaked up. I still need a few more days to gather my thoughts together.
From one world to another

I arrived here having just published my first book in Germany and having created my first poster presentation, both of which were launched here. I was tired and excited and I am still tired and excited. I still have a few meetings to attend and visits to make before I fly home and a lot more things I would like to do as a tourist.

All the time I am thinking about how am I going to blog all of this! Christmas may give me a few days in which to do it all!

Tomorrow I am going to walk through the Botanical Gardens. I will try to learn some of the names of the native trees and flowers that I was painting in my evening classes last week. Plants that I have looked at through new eyes since I learnt that there are different brush strokes for different shapes of leaf and types of bark.

I also hope to spend an evening at a Chinese Opera and a day in the Wetland Park, communing with Chinese nature once again before returning to the townscape that is so wonderfully overbearing and cloudy or perhaps smoggy, to see a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition!

This certainly is a city of diversity

The people are friendly, kind, open-hearted and generous, the landscape and the townscape can only be described as extreme.

And the conductive work?

How would I describe that?
For now all I will say is that it is appearing to be quite how I imagined that it would be – a form of conductive upbringing. A conductive-upbringing-and-Chineseculture mix. It seems to fit together well, just as I thought that it might.

I still have an open mind, I have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps it is the cherry on the cake. As yet I have only seen two work-places and two homes for young people and adults. I have spoken to several people working in these places and listened to presentations by others.
I am hoping to visit a kindergarten later this week.


I thought I would have had all the time in the world for blogging once my book was finished, once I had jumped on the plane and once the poster presentation was over. But how wrong I was.

From the minute that I attended the workshop pictured above, on Sunday 5th December, it has been one big social, cultural and “congressal” whirl, a whirl that does not look like stopping yet.

I am very glad to say that the launch of my book has gone extremely well. And although I still have not had time to launch it on my blog I have already had some orders. Another thank you to Judit for doing the advertising on her blog for me!


Before I take myself off to bed I will explain what was happening when the photograph above was taken.

In June this year I enrolled myself for the pre-congress workshop that was to be carried out in Cantonese. I was immediately asked by the Congress Secretary whether this was a mistake on my part. I assured them that it was not.

I had purposely chosen to do an art workshop, despite not being able to understand the spoken language. I thought thas, after a fifteen hour journey, lengthened as it happened by snow related delays, that I would not be really capable of doing justice to any academic workshops about research on the first day, so I opted for art. Art is always a place where I can relax

I put my Octopus Card to use for the first time and took myself off on the amazing public transport system. There is an underground system with trains that have no separations between the carriages, with just bending caterpillar-type walls. There are hundreds of double-decker buses covered in advertising slogans in every shape, colour and size. There are the most amazingly narrow trams that look in danger of tipping over as they pass each other with what looks like only inches between them, and there are red and white taxis swarming around just like the black cabs in London and the white beetles in Mexico City.
An extraordinary coincidence
I hopped on to the underground, tourist map in hand, and made my way to Kowloon, to the Marion Fang Centre to find the Kindergarten. I travelled over, or rather under, the water of Victoria Harbour.

On the way, a very small, neat and tidy lady approached me. I had just successfully changed lines for the second time and was settling down for the few stops before I had to negotiate my way out of the exit and through the streets.

It turned out that I had no more need for my map, as now I had an escort to my arty workshop. The lovely lady with the very broad Irish accent was Sister Joan O’Conner. Sister Joan was one of the people on my list ofwho I wanted to meet while in Hong Kong. She had spotted me as a conductive-congress-goer and introduced herself to me. She has been working as a missionary in Hong Kong for over thirty years, much of that time with SAHK, involved in the introduction of the conductive way of living into all aspects of their work.

I made it under her guidance to the centre where I took part in something that was very reminiscent of my own conductive arty sessions. We saw slides and film of some interesting art sessions with groups of severely disabled children, before getting down to some practical work ourselves.

It was relaxing and a good introduction to life and work in Hong Kong. It was strange not to understand anything at all of the spoken language, just like on my first day at the Petö Institute, but I understood all of the artistic expression.

Added this was the inability to understand what I was hearing, I was asked to put on a mask for one of our activities so not only could I not hear I was also unable to pick up on any visual cues because I could not see.

This was an eye-opener for me!
I felt very vulnerable, but at the same time I discovered that I could use my fingertips and my sense of smell to compensate for the missing sensations. I could actually feel the colour of the bottle that I was given to draw and of its paper label. It was a Chinese bottle so I had no preconceived idea of what it could be like.
I left this wonderful introduction to the Congress, after we had painted bottles, created fish and then made a quick change into glad rags on a small bus with a group of delightful ladies We were all dressed up to the nines, ready to attend the Congress's opening ceremony and dinner.

More about all of that later.


Gill said...

You have certainly made up for no blogs for a week, Susie! This is a wonderful one and captures the feelings we must all have had whilst there. Thank you for putting it so well. I will lok forward to reading the others when you write them.

Judit Szathmáry said...

Lovely posting! More, more please Susie. Sister Joan is great. I wish I could see and meet her again after all these years. You are a lucky girl in many ways. Don't forget to count your blessings. Keep posting about your experience in Hong Kong please!

Susie Mallett said...

Thank you, both of you!

I loved writing this, it took me three hours but it was worth it.

I wrote yet another posting in my note book at a late breakfast while getting so engrossed in the newspaper and my notes and my thoughts on China that by the time I looked up breakfast had been cleared away and I had no chance of getting more coffee!

I will now have to venture out between the towering buildings and the thriving activity in the streets below them to drink my second cup in a lovely place that I discovered yesterday beside the closed Post Office.

There are just not enough hours in a day to soak up Hong Kong and to write about it, and still get up in time to eat breakfast!

Thank you once more for your eager anticipation. I will do my very best.

I am loving being here Judit just as you knew I would do. I thank my Dad, amongst others, for his help in making it possible. I will not forget to count my blessings, I will make sure that I enjoy them and try to write about them so I can share them with you all.

Now I am off to post my Christmas presents home to UK. They contain a selection of impressions of Hong Kong and are all tied up with Chinese ribbons that have traditional Chinese messages of good health and good fortune written on them.

More later