BY Shaun I am writing this blog at my host family in Laktawan village, Guimaras island, sitting next to the electric fan that I am so dependent on to cool down my body in this tropical area. My roommate and I always talk about how unreal it is to actually live in the countryside for the first time in our lives given that a week ago we were living in an air-coned society surrounded by the iron jungle of skyscrapers. But now, here we are inside the real jungle of the Philippines, just two hours’ of flight away from Hong Kong and suddenly everything is so different.
It is precisely because of these differences in terms of lifestyles, dynamics among people, infrastructures, etc. that really got me thinking about the concepts we take for granted, such as convenience.
For one, I start to take the idea of convenience from a different angle. Hong Kong prides itself on its world-class public transport and high quality public goods provision. Hong Kongers can get whatever they need and go wherever they want easily. In contrast, public transport here is basically non-existent by Hong Kong standard. The hilly and bumpy unpaved road in the village is challenging to drive motorbikes on especially after it rains and gets muddy. In less than a week since we came, there has been at least three blackouts in the village, turning the entire village into complete darkness and shutting down my all-important electric fan. Tap water is not common in local households, so villagers have to go to the public well for water to wash their clothes and bodies. Cellphone network is as fickle as the weather here, which makes it very difficult even for calling, let alone whatsapp and Facebook.
But what is convenience really and are Hong Kongers in a metropolitan city actually living a more convenient life?
Since there is no shower in our homes, my teammates and I shower beside the public well with the locals who help us pump water. Outdoor bucket showering is definitely a unique experience for all of us because it turns showering, which happens definitely in a private setting in Hong Kong, to a bonding opportunity and an invaluable shared memory for us all. The lack of water supply and cellular network here are actually convenient and conducive for human interactions. Villagers do not need technology to communicate with one another because they need to share some of the public facilities. Families in the village know one another so well that words here spread faster than in a whatsapp group.
How convenient it is, also, to have a peaceful beach with a marvellous sunset just 1 minute of walk away from your home!
And in contrast, how inconvenient it is to get out of the city jungle in HK to see a sunset as gorgeous as that. Or, how unaffordable it would be, to live in a house in HK located at the prime location near a beautiful beach like this in.
The frequent blackouts make the amazing star gazing experience even better. Star gazing can be done very conveniently as we walk out of the house and look up. Unlike Hong Kong, there is no need to travel to some remote places just to escape from the light/air pollution.
For the first time in my life, I see the galaxy.
I guess living in Hong Kong makes me forget how blue the sky is; how white the clouds are; how marvellous the sunset can be; how breathtaking the night sky feels like; and how close you and your neighbours can get. How convenient!