The opportunity to go to Hong Kong in December to celebrate the wedding party of my daughter-in-law’s brother was too good to turn down. It was a special occasion attended by their Hong Kong relatives and friends. The family gathered around to welcome the new bride with food and drinks, karaoke, conversation and a traditional tea ceremony. That was really special for me, making me feel part of an extended family.
I loved spending time with all the aunties and uncles. Interestingly in a dictionary of Hong Kong English I learned that Auntie and Uncle is used to refer to any good friend who is older as well as relatives. So, I could call some of these lovely ladies Auntie even though we weren’t related. And actually some of them could call me Auntie.
We attended several dinners organized by the various uncles and aunties It was fun to see how they all took responsibility to make it all special in restaurants frequented only by Chinese in this big international city. We gathered in spaces, up escalators and stairs and down down hallways, feeling hidden away to me. Like, how did you know these restaurants were there? It was interesting to me to see that the massive dining rooms rooms were filled with large round tables like our banquet rooms. Apparently no one went out to dinner in groups of 2 or 4, at least not to these restaurants. I only saw large groups like ours—never less than 12.
One of my favorite dinners included huge crabs. We ate wearing plastic gloves after sniping apart the shells with scissors. After devouring this delicious feast, we enjoyed hot pot, a kind of fondue where meat and greens like bok choy was cooked in pots on the table. The Uncles made reservations, arranged seating, supervised the wine service while the Aunties made sure everything got cooked in the pots, swirled around the Lazy Susan to make sure we got to taste every thing and sometimes gave a bit of advice on how to handle the chop sticks.
How welcomed and comfortable I felt.
Another fun family activity was shopping. I loved the day that one of the Aunties, Aunt Peggy, took us to her own personal favorites.
She took us jewelry shopping in a neighborhood not frequented by tourists. The shopping in Hong Kong lives up to its reputation as some of the best in the world. Shopping centers, markets and people popping out at us on the sidewalks hawking watches overwhelmed my senses. The shopping centers were particularly intriguing. Often we’d venture through a tiny walkway into the center of downtrodden buildings to discover an airplane terminal sized structure with hundreds of elegant shops.
We saw shops from Japan and Europe and charming personal little Chinese shops dedicated to toys or perfumes or something very specific. The specialization continued in the outdoor markets and colorfully decorated shops in the neighborhoods.
I really loved the Goldfish Market—a block loaded with small stores selling plastic bags of colorful fish tacked to the walls inside and out.
The folks in Hong Kong like goldfish for several reasons. They make good pets because they take very little space which works in a city where apartments are small. They don’t make noise in a city where people live in close proximity. Best of all, they are supposed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
I’m thinking I’m going to get one now that I am home. The year 2016 was filled with some difficult challenges. Maybe adopting a goldfish as a pet will bring better luck in 2017. It’s worth a try.