Huang Xiaomei@ARENA

This is not an easy month for me-although it’s the beautiful, comfortable, hypnotic April- since I got hit by a “systematic breakdown”. Well, yes, I got sick, which gave me a perfect excuse to ‘see’ theHong Kongdoctor.

The first time, myHong Kongfriend took me to a nearby clinic. Ten minutes of visit and two small packs of pills along with two tiny weeny box of ointment, 250 HK dollars. Impressive, I have to say. How can the poor afford to get treatment? I wondered. My friend told me, well, they will just go to the hospital, 100 HK dollars is the standard fee for a regular consult. But, she emphasized, you could have waited all your life before you get to see a doctor.

Somehow, this reminds me of the people who live-literally-under the bridge that I witnessed the other night. It was cold, and we were waiting for the ferry. The bar over the sea was playing ‘California Dreaming’. The music could be heard quite clear in this quiet night. I hummed along, wandering in the dark and kind of desolate harbor. Then I noticed that by the side of the column stand some cardboard. Right inside, a middle-aged man in rags was sleeping. A pair of worn out shoes was placed tidily by the ‘bedside’.

I stopped. The first reaction was to take out the camera and shoot down what I have seen, but I didn’t. It would be a humiliation for him, and for me. Plus, I don’t need the camera; the scene would be right there inscribed on my memory. It’s not shock that I felt, but grief and bitterness. Imagine yourself all alone in the so-called ‘modern society’, all you have is a bed under the bridge. It’s hard even to just imagine, but it’s the reality, the daily life for this man. I have seen people sleeping on the roadside, living in the slums inIndia, and I know there must be poverty here in the gloriousHong Kong, no mater how developed, how prosperous she is; I just didn’t know it would be right under my nose.

What if I put 100 HKD in his pocket? He would be thrilled the next morning when he found it, but will that change his status?Hong Konggovernment prepares public houses for the poor, but to apply for it requires loads of paperwork. If you have any problem, like family abuse, you can seek help form the district deputy, but will they come down the bridge to help these homeless? I don’t want to end my discussion on this topic right here, but I have to. My experience prevents me to make more comments. I think I will do some more work on this.

Yesterday, I went to see another doctor, since the medicine was finished and I didn’t get cured at all. At first, I wanted to go to the hospital, but my cousin who lived inHong Kongwon’t let me, insisted that she should take me to a clinic that she trusts. So there went another 350 HK dollars. Does vampire exist? Just take a look at the clinical doctors. They sucked up the last blood-the doctor asked me to come again next week.

Back to business. ARENA set up a group to write an ‘Emerging Seven Countries Report’, which is a project cooperated with United Nations’ Development Programme, and I’m part of it. We study the experience of these seven countries-China,India,Brazil,Indonesia,South Africa,Turkey, andRussia. So these days, my work focuses on the accumulation of related data, translation of articles; for example, I have just finished a piece about the production, consumption of biofuels and its status inBrazil. What’s more, I wrote the part about the capitalism’s role in causing ecological crisis. This was new to me, so I borrowed several related books from the library and tried my best. We meet one time per week, except discuss the process of the report, we also share personal opinions about books we read or on some specific subject. Last week Prof. Lau asked me to do some sharing about the ‘common wealth’, oh boy, it’s nothing easy. So I read a lot on this unfamiliar subject, and made a little speech on it. Well, not that disappointing I hope.

Earlier this month, the Professor Wen Tiejun, expert on agriculture issue, came toLingnanUniversityto give lectures aboutChina’s modernity,Chongqingmodel, and ecological civilization. Afterwards, Prof. Lau Kin Chi held a seminar & dinner party in her house, which is also where I rent. We sat down in the yard, the weather was just agreeable. The participants were from all walks of life, and the various kinds of opinions were nutritious. What were also nutritious and delicious were the organic vegetables that we brought from the farm that I helped.

And there is one more episode. I called my mom last week, intended to complain about the invasion of mosquitoes, fleas, ants, bees and one small black fly that bit me like fifty places all over me, and there are also mice that celebrate parties in the middle of the night to wake me up. To my very surprise, my tears went down when I heard she said: ‘well, it’s never easy out there alone…’I kept telling myself ‘you coward, stop crying!’ but it didn’t help at all. I contained my sob; my tears just won’t stop through the call. I never thought I would cry on this, never ever. But I just did. So – I need to get stronger.

These days it’s raining on and on, and the medicine makes me dozy. Thanks to Shen Jing laoshi, whose positive appraise about my last report encourages me to keep going on through these tough days.

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