Hey! You’re not in China anymore!

Fact is, we were in Hong Kong.

The news of our whereabouts was brought to our attention with some force by our friend at the tail end of a severe, accute respiratory um, episode (shall we say) which resulted in a blob (shall we say) of phlegm that sat, like a raw quail egg on a piece of expensive sushi, curled on our tongue. The fact is, we didn’t like the taste (somewhat metalic, and not in the least like the proverbial chicken), and chose not to swallow. Instead, with all the discretion we could muster, we let slip the blob onto the base of a small bush on the terrace of the housing “estate”

where we had come as an invited guest.

“Hey! You’re not in China anymore, buddy!” we were told. “There’s a $5000 fine for spitting you know.”

It’s true, we have to say, that China had proven itself a nation of spitters.

And we were down with that, if you want to know. We did not begrudge the old soldier’s yellow phlegm that splat against the concrete floor of the train station in Beijing, milimeters from our wheeled suitcase as we stood to purchase tickets at the “Foreigner” window. We get the connection between the yellow coal smoke and the yellow blobs of China; indeed we have our own tradition and expertise in spitting related to the yellow air over Toronto.

Grudge? Hardly. We admired the old man’s precision.

After all, it is our studied practice to let fly from the saddle into the passing stream [you’ve lost us –ed.] of traffic as we piddle [hey! –ed.]our bicycle about the smoggy streets of our hometown. In our own way we have perfected an act just as precise as the old Chinese soldier’s. We rationalize our expectoration, when in traffic, as a “lesser of two evils–” after all, we are not spewing that noxious mixture of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and the rest of it that sprays from the arse of the gridlocked automobiles we pass.

But now we were in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, no one spits. This is not a joke. No one eats on the subway, or smokes in restaurants and bars. Is Hong Kong part of China? Arguably. The border with China, which we last experienced some 25 years ago as a militarized zone, a long tunnel of armed soldiers (perhapst the old man in Shanghai remembered us from that day?) and barbed-wire-topped walls, is now a “boundary,” not a “border.” The barbed wire is more discrete now. As Canadians we needed visas for China, but not for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a “Special Administrative Region,” or SAR, within China.

“SAR?” Just a coincidence, we are sure.

We’re no longer in China–or Hong Kong, for that matter. We’re home, back on the grimy streets of Toronto. We have a few things to think about in relation to our trip. The simplicity and ease of carfree connections throughout the city and region. The cleanliness of the streets and strange paucity of bicycles. The close quarters and tight living conditions. The drabness of the housing estates, coupled with the quirkiness of some of the pencil-thin towers. The fresh and delicious food.

We will have something to say about our old [you sure that’s the right word? –ed.] teacher, Essy Baniassad, Essy Baniassad, from the Linear City website who now heads the architecture school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and directs a project on “linear cities” related to train and rapid transit lines in China and Hong Kong.

We will have something to say about the generous hospitality of all we met.

And we will have something to say about the car and the car advertisers we encountered throughout China (including Hong Kong).

Spitting carries a fine of $HK 5,000, or about $700 CDN. No one spits in Hong Kong.

What fine should car exhaust carry?

They say recovery of jet-lag takes a day for each hour you’re behind. By this count, our two week trip has set us back thirteen days. Was it worth it?

Oh yeah.

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