Friday, 27 January 2012

Chinese New Year - Take Three

During my time in Hong Kong, I worked for the American Women's Association, a non-profit charitable organisation. I had started out as a Volunteer, after being introduced to them by a recently acquired American friend who arrived in Hong Kong at the same time as my family. We became, and even though now reside back in our own countries, are still the greatest of friends.

I'm the one in the mac!

It was an exciting time. I had never mixed with a large group of American women before and their enthusiasm and the way they embraced every adventure held me in thrall. As one of the Secretaries to the AWA President, I met such a diverse group of people from all walks of life. There was an enormous bond that made up the expatriate community at that time and I was so thankful to be a part of it. I also worked at a Child Development Centre and although that was a British run organisation, there was quite a cross-over in my two jobs. 

Through the AWA, I became involved in the many activities they organised for their members. I chaired House and Garden Tours, Las Vegas Nights, numerous Balls, Fashion shows, went on Asian tours, and assisted with the classes that they ran. Looking back, it was a really happy time in my life and I will never forget the people I met and their involvement in that happiness and the memories I carry with me. Although there was a fun element to AWA, there was also a very serious side. All the fund raising events were to support their many out-reach community programmes, such as the Refugee camps, the orphanages, education and scholarships for Chinese students, the pre-school children who lived in Kowloon Walled City, to name but a few. 

In 1988, I had the opportunity to visit China with a group from the AWA. Back then it was not as easy as it is now to travel around China. The roads were very poor, sometimes non-existent! There were no high rise buildings in Shanghai, whereas now it can top Hong Kong's sky scrapers. This was not my only trip to China, but it was the only time I was there at Chinese New Year. I had been wanting to see the Yangtze River and walk the streets of Shanghai since a girl, as this was where my Great Uncle Tom, mentioned here, lived and worked for part of his life. How glad I am that I was able to see the Bund and the French Quarter before all the recent changes. I even managed to visit the Peace Hotel on the Bund, where I am sure Tom would have passed many a happy hour.

On this trip, we were introduced to so many interesting people by our tour guide but there were very few opportunities to just mingle with the local population. I did however, on one occasion while we were being shown around a pottery factory, escape out into the village square where a large group of young females gathered around me and kept touching my hair, which is rather curly. They were all shouting very excitedly and I gathered that they thought my hair had been permed. They had only seen permed hair in a magazine and did not know that people could have naturally curly hair.

A serious piece of equipment!

One of the abiding memories of this tour was on the Eve of Chinese New Year.  After a banquet, several of us wandered out to sit at the lakeside where we were staying. On the stroke of midnight, we heard all the Chinese crackers ripping through the air and when the smoke cleared, there was silence and all we could see in the darkness were the outlines of small boats on the lake lit only by candlelight. It was a simply divine moment.

Have a great weekend wherever you are.

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