The people of Hong Kong are caught in a bind. The stand offs between the government and the young people protesting to keep their freedoms show no signs of ending anytime soon. Tourism is way down, as much as 70% in some parts of the city.
But even as their businesses suffer, signs abound that the inhabitants support the students and what they fight for. The name Popo and a drawing of a pig represent the police. The frog is a symbol of the protestors. After my nephew pointed out their depictions to me, I began spotting them in shops and windows and walls everywhere.
Their images pop up in unexpected places. We went into an electronics shop and some of the television monitors on sale were decorated with Popo and frogs.
This small cafe had a sign quietly propped against their outside wall. I actually turned around and walked back down the street to take a better look at it.
Frogs adorn metro buildings and elevators.
Just before Christmas, bags and t-shirts with the frog logo suddenly appeared. They vanished a few days later.
Much of the street graffiti is grimmer.
A special anger is reserved for Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong politician who since 2017 serves as the 4th and current Chief Executive of Hong Kong. She is seen as serving China, rather than the people of Hong Kong.
The government has deliberately blocked streets with barricades to hinder protests.
The decision of the police to use tear gas and pepper spray caused more protests.
I flew home with a deep, deep sadness that this incredible, wonderful, vibrant city is in such turmoil. This was my fifth visit to Hong Kong. I don’t want it to be my last.
Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia
Hong Kong at Christmas is exciting. This vibrant city has an added air of glamour to celebrate the holidays. But there are still quiet corners nearby. I enjoyed gorgeous waterfront views where I stayed with my sister and nephew in Sai Kung.
In just 40 minutes we could be in the city. In the days before Christmas we visited the Flower Market where a man bought a bouquet of roses bigger than he was,
and explored a street stocked with every kitchen gadget known to cookdom.
I was amused by the street for home aquariums!
As always, Hong Kong was filled with billboards advertising food and high-end luxury items.
But when I looked again, the graffiti and damage from last year’s protests were everywhere. The government under Carrie Lam allowed the police to commandeer MTR (Mass Transit Railway) train cars or reroute trains so they bypassed stops where protesters planned to gather. Since the young people were being hindered, they decided to prevent the police from moving freely, too. And once this happened, the demonstrations took a turn. Hong Kong’s superb transit system became a casualty of the ongoing unrest.
Ticket machines inside stations were vandalized. Strategic stations have been repeatedly shut down. We passed through the Mong Kok station less than an hour before it was set on fire Christmas Eve. The knots of heavily armed riot police (Popo) we saw ended up in street fights with the Frogs (the protesters).
The Bank of China and the Construction Bank of China continue to be targeted. Their glass facades are smashed, the sidewalks emptied of the bricks used by protesters. In places bricks are now literally glued into the sidewalk.
The protesters have five demands.
For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
Amnesty for arrested protesters
An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
Implementation of complete, universal suffrage
Withdrawal of a bill introduced in April of last year, which triggered the first protests. It would have allowed suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. The bill was finally withdrawn in October 2019. This has not placated the anger of the mostly young students fighting to maintain Hong Kong autonomy. They want all five demands to be met.
Graffiti and protest signs go up more quickly than the government can remove them. In my next post I have photos of Popo and the Frogs, the police and the protesters, and how they are represented. See you then.
Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia
I just missed the renewal of the protests last night in Hong Kong. Actually, I literally just missed being stuck in a metro station as it was set on fire.
I’m here with my sister Pam at my nephew Niko’s home in the New Territories. He runs an awesome bar called Momentai – go to http://www.momentai-la.com/ for more info! – and yesterday we headed into Hong Kong for some last minute shopping. This is such an easy region to get around. We simply hopped on the bus from Sai Kung to the Mong Kok district and got out forty minutes later.
Like each day I’ve been in downtown Hong Kong, I photographed the smashed traffic lights and graffiti from the relentless months of protests against the Chinese government. Niko says it’s been quiet for the last month, but he’s been in the city when the air was filled with tear gas.
Hong Kong is always crowded. And on Christmas Eve at rush hour after 5:00 p.m. the crowds are, um, impressive. We wended our way through the Ladies Market and walked from there over to a big store on Nathan Road I visit each time I’m here to buy tea. We made a brief stop at the Harbor City Mall. It was around 7:00 p.m. and time to head home.
We exited the mall where a small and intense knot of riot police stood. We passed a second group 100 yards down the sidewalk. And then a third. And then a fourth.
The policemen’s faces under their helmets were half covered in black cloth and they wore black padded knee protectors and heavy boots, and carried clear plastic shields with Police written in English and Chinese, and batons, and pepper spray, and tear gas cannisters, and gas masks, and thick vests, and weapons. They looked like storm troopers.
This was maybe not the time to take photographs. I left my camera in my bag.
The streets were packed with last minute shoppers and everyone who was now off work and trying to get home. All around us young people wore festive Christmas stockings or reindeer antlers on their heads. We inched slowly along underground with the thick throngs through the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR (Mass Transit Railway), squeezed into the train for Mong Kok, and then caught a bus there back to Sai Kung.
An hour later some of those young people in stockings and antlers were fighting in the streets with the police. The Harbor City Mall was the beginning flash point. Last night the authorities were forced to shut down Nathan Road. Protesters set the Mong Kok metro station on fire. The two MTR stations we’d used stopped running, and the area turned into one gigantic traffic jam.
The most bizarre moment is that shortly before midnight and the beginning of Christmas Day, the protesters stopped what they were doing and wished everyone, including the police force, a Merry Christmas.
I got to boast when 2 of my One Page Plays were accepted for performance! My play Baby You Were Great tied for runner-up as Best Comedy! The One Page Play Festival
So, it’s a wrap…. as 2019 ends, I invite all of you who have read my books to please write reviews for them on Amazon. These are vital to authors. And – if you haven’t read them – please consider buying my books as gifts for yourselves or your loved ones. As always, thank you for following me and being such a great tribe.
This week’s post is about one of the more remarkable roads I’ve ever strolled. The street is in Xi’an, home of one of the world’s best preserved, still-intact, walled cities. We’re big fans of places listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Xi’an is on Chinese and international lists as a cultural treasure.
It’s an old capital city located at the end of the Silk Road. The rampart walls were built in the 14th century by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as part of his military defenses and enclose 8.7 square miles, or roughly 14 square kilometers. 
The walls were made first with tamped earth (and, according to Travel China Guide, ‘with the base layer including also lime and glutinous rice extract’).  A century later they were reinforced with blue bricks. The original walls used to include a moat and drawbridges. These walls are so thick that in WWII, Xi’an’s residents built a thousand bunkers inside the base to protect them from the bombs of Japanese air raids!
They are a breathtaking 12 meters or 39 feet high. It takes four hours to walk them. Actually, it takes longer than that if you’re Uwe and Jadi, because you never know what’s down the road. On our visit (foolishly booked during China’s Golden Week when all 1.3 billion Chinese citizens were also on vacation) we discovered a festival performance taking place inside one of the courtyards.
We heard it before we saw it. Drums, lots of drums…
And men in costume. Enter, Stage Left.
Or was that Enter, Stage Right?
What tickles me most about the walls is that once you’re on them, you could be on a wide boulevard anywhere in the world. Except that this is China, and this isn’t a boulevard…. It’s a wide street located on top of Xi’an’s city walls. Travel doesn’t get any better than this.
November 11th, or 11/11, is an odd German holiday known as St. Martin’s Day (Martinstag). St. Martin of Tours (316 – 297 CE) is a saint associated with modesty and altruism (aren’t they all?). Legend has it that St. Martin slashed his cloak in half to save a homeless person from freezing. His holiday used to be followed by a fast that lasted a long, hungry period of weeks, stretching out to Christmas. 
But St. Martin’s Day is celebrated here in southern Germany by eating a special dish of duck or goose (Martinsgans), accompanied by red cabbage cooked with apple, and homemade dumplings known as knödel.
When it gets dark, nighttime glows with candles from lantern processions (Martinsumzüge or Laternenumzüge). The streets fill with adults, accompanying children who carry hand-made lanterns. In our village the procession is led by an actor dressed up as the saint. In some areas the parade follows behind an actor dressed up as a Roman soldier on horseback. 
The tradition to eat a goose (today usually replaced by a duck) on St. Martin’s Day is believed to go back the medieval tax system. November 11th was one of the days when medieval vassals had to pay taxes, and peasants often paid with a goose.  Another popular story is that a gaggle of honking geese betrayed Martin’s hiding place: he hid in a goose pen from the people of Tours when they wanted to make him a bishop. 
All the local restaurants and beer gardens have duck and goose dishes on their menus. Reserve your table now! they cajole.
In all the years I lived in San Francisco, I never ordered or willingly ate duck. Bizarrely shiny, glistening, reddish shellacked duck carcasses hang on meat hooks in the front windows of Chinese restaurants throughout the city. And hang. And hang. And hang. Just the idea of the oldness and congealed fat covered with flies of this ‘special dish’ turned my stomach. Strongly flavored meat that’s been aging for probably as long as the restaurant’s been in business? Yuck! I’ll take a pass…
But I recall with glee the Peking duck Uwe and I ate in Beijing. The restaurant specialized in only Peking duck, along with all the pomp and circumstance such a dish demands.
Our Chinese friend Weiyu orders for us, but every single table wants the same meal. Waiters are formally dressed, complete with chefs’ toques, mouth masks and protective gloves. By the end of the evening they carve hundreds of plates of duck.
May November 11th bring you flights of fancy and a visit from the Bluebird of Happiness. By now the ducks and geese, indeed, all migrating birds have already left for warmer climates. Despite the record-breaking warm days here in Germany, winter is coming (yes, we hear you John Snow).
While I’m posting about China and Xi’an, I want to mention the yummy traditional foods. I’ll keep this post brief, and allow Uwe’s photos from our visit to do the talking. Besides, my mouth keeps watering just looking at them.
In Xi’an’s historic Muslim quarter, vendors were baking, frying, steaming and cooking all sorts of delicious treats. These ranged from food that was deep fried in woks to marinated meats on skewers.
I couldn’t resist the piles of beautifully plaited and stamped breads,
as well as the stacks of sesame and bean paste desserts…
I injured my back through overwork, recklessness, and sheer, stupid, stubbornness. I was incapacitated for over two months. If only I hadn’t climbed the Great Wall of China after I first hurt myself. If only I’d slowed down, even just for a day or two, while we were traveling. If only….
But no. What are you suggesting, that I should have slowed down and maybe let myself miss something???
So now we were home, and I was down for the count. Have you ever experienced a herniated disk? Those of you who have know what kind of pain I’m talking about. Either give me the good drugs, or just shoot me now. At the doctor’s office I actually begged for pain killers.
The Frau Doktor’s brow furrowed. “You mean you want me to give you a prescription for something you can take as soon as you get home?” she asked slowly.
“No. I mean I want you to give me a shot of something, before I leave your office. Like, right now,” I whined. “And yes, I want you to give me a prescription for something I can take as soon as I get home, too!”
She obliged me. I was able to hobble the few blocks back to our apartment.
When I got there, I bargained with every god in every place in the world we’d ever visited. “Just let me not be crippled,” I prayed. “If I heal and can walk again, I promise I’ll do yoga – and tai chi – and stretching exercises – and aerobic workouts – and never ever ever overschedule myself, from now until the day I die.” Because if the pain didn’t stop, that day was going to be a whole lot sooner than I’d anticipated. This HURT.
It took two months before I got back to healthy. Thanks to the German mix of physical therapy, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory meds, x-rays, and yes, those really good drugs, I didn’t need to be killed and put out of my misery.
P.S.: I kept that bargain with the gods. Almost a decade later, I religously start every morning with a routine of yoga – tai chi – stretching – and aerobic exercise. Superwoman is retired, and she’s not returning. I cut back on the amount I’m willing (and able) to work doing massage therapy.
As the memory of the pain receded, I got my health back. And, dude, — I climbed the Great Wall of China!
I blame everything to do with my health on the Great Wall of China.
It’s a long story. In other words, it’s perfect for a blog post. It begins with a trip that started in Beijing and ended in Tokyo…
Uwe and I were going to be gone for more than a month, and that means all the people who come for massage therapy wanted to get in for a last appointment before I left. No problem, I worked longer hours with more sessions, I was Superwoman in those days, I never got sick and was pretty vain about how healthy and strong I was.
Was. The weekend before our trip I got a wild hair up my a** and voluntarily defrosted the freezer. Why, I have no idea.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. So I chipped away, contorted over the ice with a sharp tool and a bucket of steaming water all afternoon. I woke the next morning with a low back that was screaming, and no time to take off to rest it. Not with Asia waiting for us! We climbed on a series of planes and 20 hours later arrived in Beijing, my back sending out those periodic, pinging, you-are-going-to-be-sorry signals. Uwe and I like to see, um, absolutely everything when we visit a new place, so I figured I would rest my back in between sight-seeing at some point.
And then the next day we went to climb the Great Wall of China. Gentle readers, I tell you, I stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked UP.
I calculated the Wall’s height and the angle of the steps and knew I was going to regret this. In typical Campbell fashion my next thought was roughly, “You may never get another chance to climb the Great Wall. Suck up, shriner. Start climbing.” And I did.
We didn’t allow for much down time. Our entire trip was terrific, but somewhere in Japan I began to hear an alarming clicking sound when I moved: bony eminences rubbing against one another. Or something. I’d figure that problem out once we got home again.
Of course, once we got home, every single one of those massage patients who’d been counting down the days before I returned all wanted new appointments, and instead of resting I dived back into work with a vengeance. I was Superwoman, right?