[EXCLUSIVE] “A Bridge Builder” (Wednesday 5 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

A Bridge Builder
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Wednesday 5 August 2020 }}}

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases today in Hong Kong is 83. It rained from morning till night; I didn’t take a walk like I do most days. The bars on Lockhart Road must still be closed because of the pandemic. I wonder if the streets are even more dismal in this constant rain. I never go to the bars in the red light district, but I do go to Hoppy Junction on Johnston Road, which sells local craft beer—drinking there is quite the pleasure! During happy hour, it’s nice to have sweet scented osmanthus IPA. Such a simple delight that I used to be able to partake of easily but which is now out of reach and very distant. The other day, I left the supermarket and saw a regular from the bar stopping by it, heaving a sigh—a sigh that seemed as long as a year. Perhaps for him not being able to have a pint is the biggest pandemic sacrifice there is…

Recently, wet markets have become hotspots for the virus. The Hung Hom Market and Cooked Food Centre was the most severely affected. I heard that the Wanchai Market, where I regularly do my shopping, has also had confirmed cases. Are the auntie who sells vegetables, the butcher who specialises in local pork, and the gregarious fishmonger, all well? I am afraid I’ll think three times before going there again. That means I won’t be steaming mandarin fish or eel in black bean sauce at home anytime soon. What if we have to suffer the expensive groceries from the supermarket forever? During the pandemic, the prices of everything have gone up, including pork and vegetables. It costs nearly HK$100 now to buy the ingredients for steamed spare rids and shiitake! The economy is in a slump, it’s difficult for small businesses, while people’s wallets are getting lighter. These are miserable days for everyone…

Last night we learnt the news about the devastating explosion in Beirut, but only today did I see the heartbreaking images of a city severely damaged—its wounds are everywhere. Some say the destruction of a city starts in the smallest places. The massive sudden explosion in Beirut will make many people there homeless. In comparison, worrying and complaining about food seems trivial. Those who know Lebanon describe it as politically chaotic, and there have been protests there for months. There are religious conflicts, and the economic depression has stricken the country, not to mention the pandemic… Lebanon, then, is very much like Hong Kong! Worrying about Beirut, and experiencing the reality of Hong Kong, we can see more keenly and clearly what situation we are facing. Rebuilding a city should start from the smallest places…

The news reported that an elderly British couple tested positive for the virus while changing flights in Hong Kong. They stayed in the Tuen Mun Hospital, in different rooms, for more than two months. A kind-hearted nurse, who, despite being under enormous stress taking care of the patients, acted as a messenger for the elderly husband and wife, like a homing pigeon. Hong Kong, the city, has always been like that—a bridge builder, making the world a less lonely place…


今天香港85宗新冠肺炎確診病例。雨由朝落到晚,沒辦法出去散步。灣仔駱克道上的酒吧估計還在停業,雨中的街道可會顯得更慘淡呢?我從不光顧紅燈區的酒吧,只會去莊士敦道專賣本地生啤的Hoppy Junction,喝得純粹!Happy hour喝杯帶有桂花香味的IPA,平時唾手可得的事情,在疫情期間變得無比遙遠。前天傍晚從超市出來,看到一位熟客正好路過生啤店門口。他嘆了一口氣,這口氣彷彿長達一年,喝不到生啤彷彿就是他抗疫的全部代價⋯⋯




Hung Hom by Oliver Farry

The Hung Hom Market and Cooked Food Centre

How to cite: Song, Chris. “A Bridge Builder.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 5 Aug. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/08/05/bridge/.


chris copy (1)Chris Song (author) is a poet, translator and editor based in Hong Kong. He has published four collections of poetry and many volumes of poetry in translation. Chris received an “Extraordinary Mention” at Italy’s UNESCO-recognized Nosside World Poetry Prize 2013 and the Young Artist Award at the 2017 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. In 2018 he obtained a PhD in Translation Studies from Lingnan University. More recently he won Haizi Poetry Award in 2019. Chris is currently Editor-in-Chief of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine and Executive Director of the International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong

tammy-lai-ming-hoTammy Lai-Ming Ho (translator) is the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of the academic journals Victorian Network and Hong Kong Studies, and the first English-language Editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. She is an Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she teaches poetics, fiction, and modern drama. She is also the President of PEN Hong Kong, a Junior Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, an advisor to the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, and an Associate Director of One City One Book Hong Kong. Tammy’s first collection of poetry is Hula Hooping (Chameleon 2015), for which she won the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Her first short story collection Her Name Upon The Strand (Delere Press), her second poetry collection Too Too Too Too (Math Paper Press) and chapbook An Extraterrestrial in Hong Kong (Musical Stone) were published in 2018. Her first academic book is Neo-Victorian Cannibalism (Palgrave, 2019). Tammy edited or co-edited a number of literary volumes having a strong focus on Hong Kong, the most recent one being Twin Cities: An Anthology of Twin Cinema from Singapore and Hong Kong (Landmark Books, 2017). She guest-edited a Hong Kong Feature for World Literature Today (Spring 2019), the Hong Kong special issue of Svenska PEN’s PEN/Opp, and an e-chapbook of Hong Kong poetry published by Cordite Publishing. Tammy is also a translator and her literary translations can be found in World Literature TodayChinese Literature TodayPathlight: New Chinese Writing, among other places, and International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong volumes (2015, 2017 and 2019). Her own poems have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latvian, and Vietnamese. She is currently co-editing several academic volumes in addition to 2020: A Bilingual Anthology of Hong Kong Poetry.

(Header photograph © Oliver Farry.)

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