Saturday, 7 November 2009

Hong Kong Eastenders

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The Eastenders is a well-known and much watched TV drama in the UK about stories of the ethnic minorities living in an area at the east end of London. As a matter of fact, the mention of the East End can unfortunately conjure up pictures of people at the lower-class of the society. Ethnicity is (on paper?) celebrated in the UK. The corresponding policy of caring for the ethic minorities, however, does create problems to the same group of people.

What is the case in Hong Kong?

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The 2006 Hong Kong By-census revealed that there were about 350,000 people of ethnic minorities living in Hong Kong, who were, and still are, mainly South Asians including Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese. As an aside, by the term Asians, the British take them as people living in Asia except for China, Japan and Australia. This sense is not applicable here.

There is a recent development whereby more illegal immigrants coming from as far as Afghanistan seek political asylum in Hong Kong. The move has been commonly reported among the media as a sleight of hand to prolong the stay in Hong Kong for the chance of a job in between the period. Since the establishment of such cases takes time, this group of people lives here for a long period and makes up a part of the ethnic minorities in this city.

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As the society is rightly caring more about equal opportunities for all, the Legislative Council, the local law-making body, has enacted the now effective Race Discrimination Ordinance, which is right.

By reason of this, both the government and non-government bodies are starting to provide services in relation to getting messages across to these people in their own languages.

There are of course some super-rich South Asians thriving on their business in Hong Kong. But what cannot be denied is that most of them are in the lower strata of the society. These people need something to get them up the social ladder.

And the first rung of this ladder is surely the language.

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So, due restraint has to be exercised in providing the language services. Such services can help perpetuate their social stagnation by way of isolating them in their own social comfort zone where their respective national languages are spoken. If the language services are to be expanded, the fallout can also add an unnecessary financial burden to the society.

Paradoxically, speaking different languages is not the best way to foster understanding of the ethnic minorities. This will in contrary serve to alienate them from the locals.

In this connection, it is gratifying to notice another parallel trend as seen in the student intakes by publicly funded schools. More children from these ethnic minority groups are attending mainstream schools, learning the local language and other knowledge as every local kid does. The number of six-year-old primary one students in the year 2007/08 is as high as double the number a decade ago.

This is the right way to kick-start their engine to zoom them up the social ladder. The language services can be given in a transitory fashion, with a view to reducing the scope over a certain number of years.

(Photos shown in this post were randomly taken in the street and do not relate to the written contents in any way.)

Thursday, 5 November 2009


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From the UK, I have brought back with me George Eliot, the famous English female writer of the 19th century. I picked her because she stayed in Kenilworth which is near Coventry, the base city of my UK tour. Her first full-length novel, Adam Bede, portrays the countryside of Kenilworth in her time.

She wrote in her Selected Essays, Poems and Other Writings:

"Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot. All the more sacred is the task of the artist when he undertakes to paint the life of the people. Falsification here is far more pernicious than in the more artificial aspects of life. It is not so very serious that we should have ideas about evanescent fashions -- about the manners and conversation of beaux and duchesses; but it is serious that our sympathy with the perennial joys and struggles, the toil, the tragedy, and the humour in the life of our more heavily-laden fellow-men, should be perverted, and turned towards a false object instead of the true one."

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My inspiration from her monologue is: If street photography is mostly about shooting people, one objective befitting it can be photographing the general public in the street through a compassionate eye.

The single important thing about photography in the higher level is, to me, a theme to thread through the photos which in turn gives a unique taste or style to the works. The above has all along been the underlying theme of my photos, which I have been trying hard to perfect its manifestation in the final images.

Think of a theme. Just do it before you shoot.

Oh, it's great to be back home.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A Stone's Throw

R0018243 (Medium)When you are reading this, I have arrived at Hong Kong safe and sound.  The distance between Hong Kong and the UK suddenly seemed to have become just a stone's throw away.  Obviously, it was the desire to hurry back home.  But the flight now takes the route via Russia instead of the previously equator route via the Middle East, effectively shortening the flight time.

Before my next post, the photos below are the results of a lady sitting across the table (less a stone's throw) having taken advantage of my GX200 with the TC-1 plus a filter attached.  She was waiting for the same flight.

Well, the Heathrow terminal was not boring.  But every inch of it was so jam-packed with travellers that you had to line up in long queues before every shopping counter, which gave you the least incentive to make use of the pounds left.  And what better fun than to take photos in that case.

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Now, what the UK is made of

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What to be packed in my luggage must include some afterthoughts about what the Uk is made of as I see it.

This is my second time to the UK, the first to London being a decade ago.  The break from the humdrum routines at home has been refreshing to me.  Travelling is a medicine in itself, apart from being educational.

R0018205 (Medium)^Of Birmingham
The country is too vast and varied to be learned in any single trip.  But I have seen and learned a few peculiar things about the country.  First, it is the ubiquitous "but" in conversations with the slightly exaggerated pronunciation of the middle "/\" sound.  Second, it is the unmistakable stances among the newspaper publishers. 

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Some smart persons having pondered on the situation bore fruit in the shape of the following catchy phrases:

The Times is read by the people who run the country; The Independent is read by people who don't know who runs the country but are sure they're doing it wrong; The Guardian is read by those who think they ought to run the country; The Sun by the people who possibly might actually run the country; The Daily Mirror by the people who will never run the country again; The Daily Mail by the wives of the men who run the country; The Daily Express by those who believe that the country used to be run better in the past.

R0018077 (Medium)^A typical lush and leafy English landscape to me

This scenario sounds disquieting to someone from a society where harmony in getting things done is more treasured.  This is not compatible with the serene scenic English landscape so commonly seen throughout my trip, I think.  Well, at least for a low-context society as in the UK where you are expected to say "well", "oh", really, "fantastic", etc, etc every now and then in conversations, keeping quiet is not a virtue unless you are reading in a library or watching a performance.  Certainly, that excludes political performances.

R0011101 (Medium)^In Shakespeare's time, the Puritans in the London government were sane people making a mess in policy.

Politically, the UK is messy indeed.  It has been and will be for many years to come run in the like fashion.  So, the option for the country is simply to be badly run or even more badly run.  Curiously enough, it is a country with some of the smartest and sanest people in the world doing crazy and insane things in policy.  I should not get too political here.  But the UK is so rich in history of and contributions to the mankind that it is just sad to see the downward direction the country is possibly heading to.

R0011189 (Medium)^The old St. Mary's Guildhall of Coventry where Wesley the famous Methodist preacher preached

I saw the big bubble university campus in the middle of nowhere, which is as good as a nice campus gets.  The fallacy of reserving a remote purpose-built site for a university campus has seemingly been solidified in an unbeatable falsity here.  I have heard that the Bristol Uni, now consisting of buildings for like the fine arts school in the city, is going to build its campus in a big piece of remote land.

R0011164 (Medium)^A night scene in the Warwick Uni campus

Then I met young faces in the street having dropped out from school.   I stayed with some fresh graduates too.  I studied and spoke with them, getting the impression of a generation of lesser visions.  They are not at a loss about the future.  But their upward movements are stalled by the national circumstances of all sorts.  The notion of fresh graduates living on a job-seeking allowance is not flattering for a country which bred capitalism and industrialisation.

R0018176 (Medium)^The intended overexposure does a period quality to the image 

Um, the grown-ups.  I have heard people in this country calling each other partners more than husbands and wives.  This is not about being conservative or religious.  Not all British families are made up of partners plus children of different breeds who take meals at different hours in front of the TV, I know.  But this is certainly a sign of change in social values to some experimental ones.  It is as well a brave a time when many other problems like unemployment are to be tackled.  Talking about bravery,  Gordon is brave enough to prepare to sell off some of the country's properties to raise funds for the national debts.

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If I am to think of a government which still governs and a country which makes big money,  I can easily point to the "communist" China.  This is so paradoxically mind-boggling.

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The UK is a fascinating country full of surprises which I may never understand.  I gasped when people told me that all geese in the country are the Queen's property.  I was speechless with disbelief when the bus driver pulled over the bus to explain the coins and ticketing machine to the passengers, disregarding the bus timetable.  The xenophobia of the Brits against the minority in a country which claims to cherish multi-nationality is a incongruent chord to the melody.
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I may not fancy to live in the country, but it is definitely an intriguing and spectacular country I like a lot.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Oldness Makes You Ponder

R0010940 (Medium) ^ The statue replicas featuring Roman emperors atop the Roman Bath

In a city with so many things from the days of yore, one tends to be nostalgic and philosophical about life which will reflect in the photos taken.

R0010941 (Medium)The lure of old things lies in their connection to the past, the days when people led a primitive life. The ways they acted and thought are reflected in the relics having stood the test of time. Where I touched and walked and watched could be the places some ancient poets and generals did the same.

« The Roman Bath

The captivating thought is those people died a long time ago and the present-day me will not be missed by the visitors coming here some hundreds of years later. By then, I will be a part of the history, long gone, a past tense.

R0017731 (Medium)^The intriguing roof patterns of the Bath Abbey

This thought perplexed me further when I wandered inside the Bath Abbey, looking at the tombs of different descriptions.

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I walked past a tomb which a husband made for his dead wife. The epitaph wrote briefly the bereavement haunting him. But the sad feelings of her death and his were blown away by the breeze in the corridor of history. R0017744 (Medium)^Issac Pitman was the man who invented Pitman shorthand.

The man who died with the most toys is still dead, so goes the common saying.

R0017743 (Medium)^The tomb of a high priest leading the Bath Abbey some hundreds of years ago.

What am I to leave in this world? So went the question across my mind.

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R0017751 (Medium)Tomorrow, will anyone notice that Nevin had been in Bath? Does anyone notice that I am here in Bath? Will my next generation miss me? What am I going to leave to them? These questions kept popping up for which I had not the slightest clue. The best answer I could think of was my good deeds. I can help. Helping others does not really require any money. Helping others is one of the few things before which all people are equal. Another similar thing is death.

I can comfort the people around me when they are in need. I can give them a hand when they want one. I can, if you believe in prayers, pray for them when all I can do is praying. I can do by example and these stories of good deeds can be passed on.

R0017842 (Medium)^River Avon and the meadows stretching from the bank to the hill sitting afar

If history is a river, a life is a drop of water in it. The river keeps flowing and our chance of staying at any one spot any longer is zero. But the beauty of a river is in its flowing.

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So, our life will continue to unfold in a way as always. And when our last day come to pass, we are to be dead man no matter how many photos we have taken, places we have been to, money we have made, etc, etc.

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^A stone bridge across the River Avon

It's time to figure out what we are going to do in the even decreasing days we have on earth. Incidentally, it's also time to reflect on this UK trip of mine which is nearing a close.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sally, Pretty and Grumpy

R0010965 (Medium)^The Sally Lunn bun with cinnamon on top.  Yum.

Enjoy your Sunday.  If you're in Bath, enjoy the day with tea in the Sally Lunn's!  Look this is the famous bun by Sally Lunn's which is housed in the oldest building in Bath completed in the 17 century.

R0017819 (Medium)R0017822 (Medium)  ^The Sally Lunn Building and me before going in to wait for a table

The Sally Lunn's seems to require lining up at all hours for a table.  But, well, this is a main attraction of the place.

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^A young lady enjoys her tea and chitchat in the restaurant

And when enjoying the tea and bun in the restaurant afforded me the chance to photograph the pretty, it was definitely worth the waiting.

R0017856 (Medium)The next experience was not so flattering.   I was rebuked by this busker for the little amount of money he thought I had given him.  He made a spectacular reaction by picking up the coins and threw it after me who had already walked several shops away from him.  The idiotic photographer still caught the chance to photography him picking up the coins though.

But the grumpy busker didn't harm my passion to walk around and take some people shots.  The first scene caught my attention because of her pretty face and it was she not his boyfriend shooting with the big camera.  The second scene was simply liked for the lighting.  His facial expression tells that he is being amazed by something, doesn't it?

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