Crossing the Border
Wake early to pack ready for the pick up with Mr Lau
Crossing the border is easy, the bridge is long and stretches over fish farms
We play, sing, write songs and dance. Another day at the coal face.
Evening meal of white pepper fish soup, battered squid with vinegar
Mok, Elisa and her daughter share conversations and great tastes
Street closure fills the road with selling, music and a football juggler
People are fascinating - I am so privileged
My hosts from the previous evening have arranged a car (and paid for it) to take me across the border to the area called Tin Shiu Wei in the New Territories of Hong Kong where I will be working for the day with Andrew Liu and members from 2 of his groups. The journey is simple and surprisingly traffic free and it is quite exciting to go through the border in another fashion.
As we drive towards the customs gates I remember the FIRST piece of creative work on the whole LONG WALK project - a song called Crossing the Border written with Lemn Sissay for the Sheffield Socialist Choir :Crossing, crossing the border - Crossing, crossing the border
Breath deeply, breathe deeply
Crossing, crossing the border, I'm leaping the faith
Crossing, crossing the border, I'm leaving this place
Breath deeply, breath deeply, breath deeply, breath deeply
Of course (as is my way) I arrive early at the brand new health service building placed close to the many many apartment building of the area. It is known as the 'city of sadness' and very quickly I understand why.
There is NO public space - no opportunity for the creation of a sense of belonging in a vertical stacked living environment mainly inhabited by mainland Chinese who have made it over the border to work. I meet one of the social workers who comes with me for a noodle breakfast and I quiz her about the place and the NGO she works for.
Andrew has worked for this NGO for years and has been integrating his community music practice into his work in a very small way. He would love to do more! They have 300 staff and work across all the 18 districts with a main focus on offenders, ex-offenders and people with mental health problems. This was a photo of me working with one of his groups in 2008!
The room is a good space and the staff very friendly. The group gathers - women from a group he has been running for over 2 years who write songs and perform and members of his centre group who have mental health issues. I am introduced as his teacher in community music and people are very excited. The day develops in lovely ways starting with their opening songs (which we turn into English), a rewriting of the lyrics of a traditional English round, a world tour and stick work. After we do this drumming I reflect with the staff that it delivers so many relevant things1. Physical benefits from rhythmic stretching and moving2. Personal validation as the 'copy rhythm' games reward people with group responses3. A great sense of belonging to a group and being and equal part
All good stuff. Pizza for lunch then song making and finally a 30 minute reflection back through the day that we do with an extra 8 people from the staff and also some new clients. We end with a circle dance and a lot of joy. At the end of the day Lo Ming comments how I have brought back some of the 'colonial days' with the tunes that remind them of the days when the British were here. That is a funny thought - in many ways the 'race' memory here ail hold a great deal of UK cultural influence. Hmmmmmm.
I have planned a final meal with Mok and Elisa because they go to Taiwan on Wednesday for the rest of the week. They are such good friends and I want a little time to talk and think about the future with them before our more official meeting tomorrow. All good and we end up with a great walk through the streets of Mongkok - so full of life and business and people !