Hong Kong (2005-09-04 to 2005-09-09)
I originally planned to stop in Hong Kong for two days between Cambodia and China. It would be a convenient stopping place, and I had met someone at the conference in Montreal who teaches in Hong Kong and wanted me to give a talk. From Hong Kong I would go to Guangzhou, nearby, to give the first of the talks in China. I also hoped that some of my friends from Boston would be there at the time.
However, every aspect of this fell apart during the summer. My friends’ visit to China started to late for them to be in Guangdong while I would be there. The professor in Hong Kong never answered my mail, leaving me in somewhat of a jam for where I’d stay while in Hong Kong. I had already bought the airline tickets to go there, and to fly home from there, so I couldn’t change the plans. Hong Feng, the organizer of the China visit, found some friends who arranged for me to give a speech in Hong Kong. They also had a friend who had an apartment there which I could stay in.
Meanwhile, the people in Guangzhou who wanted a speech disappeared completely. Which meant there was no sense in my going there at all. Having a place to stay rent-free in Hong Kong, I decided to stay there a few days longer. I would fly from Hong Kong to Wuhan.
Getting to Leo’s apartment was somewhat inconvenient because the key I was supposed to use had been lost. My host had to go to Leo’s office and pick up a spare key from there. While he walked to the office and back, I remained in a restaurant with my baggage, having dinner. Then we took the subway to a place near the apartment. It takes about 5 minutes from the subway to the apartment by minibus, and a minibus leaves every minute or two, but we were unsure about taking my large suitcase onto a minibus, so we took a cab.
The apartment was so small it was incredible. Its main room was as wide as a bed is long. The room’s other dimension was about three times the bed’s width. Aside from this, there was a small bathroom. The temperature inside was about 30 degrees and humid, even worse than outside; but I started the air conditioner and soon began to feel some relief. Despite the tininess of the apartment, it turned out to be perfectly comfortable as a place to stay and work.
On my first full day, I gave a speech at the Chinese University. We went to the campus a few hours early. I found the campus and surroundings quite beautiful, and decided to take some photos. My camera’s batteries were empty, but rather than get new batteries for it, we decided to use my host’s camera, which had better resolution anyway. After an hour of walking around the campus and finding the best places to photograph—including getting onto the roof of a neighboring building—I returned to his office, transferred the photos to my computer, and began looking through them to discard those that came out bad. As I looked at photo after photo, I started to realize that all of them were peculiarly grainy. What was wrong? We discovered that his camera had been set to compress the photos to an extra level. I was rather unhappy with this.
On the second full day, I visited Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and gave another speech. No photos there, because it was very rainy. We had dinner in Sai Kung, a little fishing town that you get to by minibus, where you go to the fish store and choose your fish or shellfish and they bring it to the restaurant for you.
On the third day, I decided to return to the Chinese University to take the photos again with my camera. I did not want that mistake to defeat me! However, that day was grayer and hazier. Many of these replacement photos did not look as good, even though they had better resolution.