[EXCLUSIVE] “Every Encounter Is A Fated Event” (Sunday 9 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

Every Encounter Is A Fated Event
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Sunday 9 August 2020 }}}

The number of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong today is 72. The Start of Autumn, the 13th of the 24 Chinese solar terms, has just passed. I went to Peng Chau and Mui Wo with two writers to visit sites related to the tragic story of Tsat Tsz Mui (Seven Sisters). The midday sun was merciless, and Peng Chau is mostly bare and unshaded. The sweat was dripping off us. The Seven Sisters Temple faces the sea; I was drawn to the unusual offerings: brand-name cosmetics, skin care products, and perfumes. This was not the traditional Chinese papier mâché fare, but the real things, paid with real money and bought in fancy shopping malls! Those who make the trip to worship the seven sisters must surely be loyal followers. They say every encounter is a fated event. I took the opportunity to offer the sisters three burning joss sticks. My wish was simple—peace to Hong Kong…

We went food-hunting on Wing On Street and, after some indecision, settled on a restaurant that seemed to be quite well known. The attitude of the staff, though, was unfortunately not so good, and they were particularly impatient with vegetarian customers. Because of the two-person restriction, they only had one available table. I let the two writers have the table so they could take a rest and eat first, while I went to another restaurant. A number of cha chaan tengs on Peng Chau have a membership scheme—I had never known of the existence of such a thing! Perhaps it’s my ignorance? Or perhaps it’s a new measure, a byproduct of the pandemic? I think the membership system, which is based on inclusion and exclusion, runs counter to treating people—including visitors to the island like us—with open arms and friendliness…

There were queues of people outside the cha chaan tengs that don’t have membership schemes. In the end, I found a dim sum restaurant. The mask-wearing waiters were all very welcoming and enthusiastic, obviously proud of the dim sum they served. When the police came patrolling, they also reminded the diners to wear masks when not eating. People were eating happily there, and at ease…

In Mui Wo, the Seven Sisters Hall is located half way up a lush mountain. Hundreds of famished mosquitoes chased after the three of us. We tried our very best, using all the combat skills known to us, to ward off the insects. But the mosquitoes’ collective attack was so powerful that after just a few minutes we had to retreat. On the ferry back to Central, my arms and legs were aflame with itching. I repeated my simple wish in my heart, ‘peace to Hong Kong’…

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今天香港72宗新冠肺炎確診病例。立秋剛過,跟隨兩位作家去離島坪洲和梅窩看和「七姊妹」傳說有關的廟宇。正午時烈日當空,坪洲的街道上似乎甚少遮蔭的地方,一路上汗流浹背。仙姊廟面向大海,我留意到供品頗為特別,名牌化妝品、護膚品和香水都有。這些供品不是紙紮的,而是用真金白銀從大商場買來的。我想,來這座廟拜祭的信眾一定非常虔誠。相遇都是緣分,我也點了三炷香,許的願很簡單——「香港平安」⋯⋯

走到永安街覓食,好不容易找到一家,看似比較出名,態度卻不太好,對素食者更不耐煩。現在有二人限聚令,他們只有一張空桌,於是我讓兩位作家先坐下來休息和吃飯,我自己再找別的地方。我發現坪洲很多茶餐廳都實行會員制,我還是第一次看到茶餐廳也實行會員制呢,不知是我少見多怪,還是疫情時期的產物。我總覺得會員制和人情味背道而馳⋯⋯

沒有實行會員制的茶餐廳都排起來人龍,後來我找到吃即蒸點心的海鮮酒家。他們每位工作人員都熱情好客,還為酒家的點心自豪。他們當然也戴著口罩,警察巡邏時,還互相提醒必須戴口罩,讓人吃得開心,也吃得放心⋯⋯

梅窩的七姊妹殿座落於草木茂盛的山腰上。餓瘋了的上百隻蚊子追著咬,我們三個耍出十八般武藝也只能待上三分鐘,很快便撤退了。坐船回中環時,手腳上的痕癢讓我想起今天看過的廟宇,心中默念「香港平安」⋯⋯

Seven Sisters Temple

Seven Sisters Temple in Peng Chau

How to cite: Song, Chris. “Every Encounter Is A Fated Event.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 9 Aug. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/08/09/encounter/.

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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 © Chris Song.)

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