Grounding and arting in HK

This post is the next installment of my time spent in Hong Kong. The first installment, Bird set free, talked about how I did my 21 days of quarantine and the subsequent 30 days of freedom. In this post, I’ll go over the period of April to July 2021.

Warning: there will be many pictures involved, and to get most out of the art at the end I’d say, take some time to stand still and record your thoughts.

Turning 30

There’s no way around it; this year I got my ticket to get on tram 3, the way we colloquially talk about reaching this milestone. I know that so many people did not get to spend their birthdays the way they wanted in the past year or so, let alone their 30th. So I’ve been quite fortunate that neither last year nor this year a lockdown was in effect at the moment of reaching that age. Yet, I still had a number of thoughts surrounding that age (huh, but age is just a number?! yeah right…).

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far in life, given the chances afforded to me. But in Chinese there is this Confucian saying sānshí ér lì 三十而立 “At thirty, I stood firm”, meaning that you’re independent and can take care of yourself and your situation at the age of thirty. And I guess that’s kind of true in my situation, but it just didn’t feel like that.

On the contrary, I felt quite uprooted: in a new place, no strong network of friends. One might even say, I felt like I was “only thirty” (sānshí ér yǐ 三十而已), or maybe just felt like a new kid on the block (sānshí ér yǐ 三十兒立). In any case, due to circumstances, I spent the b-day alone and ended up just sitting on the beach (sānshí ér zuò 三十而坐) wallowed in existential despair. Here are two pictures of that beach that night:

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I truly longed for the warmth of that campfire and those people that night, but could not bring myself to go over and join their party.

But I was more than pleasantly surprised that I actually have more friends than I thought here. Throughout the following two weeks or so, I met up with multiple people, and they really pulled me out of my sullen slump. And I am so grateful for that. In this time of covid, we need live interactions more than ever.

So thanks Darryl and family for the birthday cake.


And thanks Ka, Mona, Kayi and Matthew for the dinner and the never ending supply of mussels.


And thanks Youngah for the lunch. And thanks Marcelo and Arthur for the dinner. And thanks to all the friends I’ve made or reconnected with in the past few months: Ian, Gabor, Szeto, Jinyoung, Pavel, Hengheng, Jonah, Tomo and so on and so on. You’ve really given me the sense of growing some roots here, helping me ground.

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It has taken me a while but I’m in a better space now, and I am also extremely stoked that CJ is nearing the end of his quarantine. So August is going to be awesome!

Walking in the mountains

One of the things I have been enjoying since moving to Hong Kong is leisurely strolling around my place and the place I work at. I don’t think I’m a full-on hiker, honestly, I come from Belgium and every slope is like a mountain to me okay. But I do enjoy some nice brisk walks.

So here I found myself walking up to Victoria Peak. (I don’t like the work hike in English, because in my mental vision that involves full on hiking gear with ropes and pickaxes and what have you. I don’t think we even have the meaning of ‘leisurely walking amidst the mountains’ in the Dutch equivalent bergbeklimmen ‘mountain-climbing’. Idk. Random thoughts.)

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The view from the Peak was quite nice and a good reward for the upwards trek.


Along the way I encountered Pinewood battery, the remnants of an air defense (built by the British). At first I was heaving and huffing from the climb, but then I regained my composture and reflected a bit about the moment. Much later I wrote a poem about it (I was a bit bored on the ferry ha).

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Pinewood Battery

Covered by leaves, I hiked the Peak and reached a verdant clearing, pinetrees all around a central circle — batt’ries that were breached when Eastern foes took flight to higher ground.

The remnants ruins of that air defense once used to shoot down planes from azure sky. They witnessed fragrant bloodshed, times were tense, yet tranquil on a tourist trail they lie.

A ghastly whisper beckoned, contemplate the lives cut off too soon for Empires lost. Who mourns here now the dead, their restless fate, except for hikers; was it worth the cost?

This all in mind I ask two aunties dear, please take a picture and make sure it’s clear.

I’ve been also been walking around Lamma. Here are some pics from my walk to the windmill.

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Oh, and did I tell you about the sunsets. So many beautiful sunsets. It’s truly incredible.

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And it’s not just me who is slightly obsessed with sunsets. Every day I see lots of Hong Kongers take pictures of it, enjoying the daily dying of the light. It’s almost as if if nobody caught it on film, we couldn’t be sure that the next day the sun would make the effert to come back and shine upon us all.

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The moons I’ve witnessed on Lamma are also nice. It’s almost as if Lamma is a manifestation of Mount Penglai or maybe even Avalon. The latter is more probable, as there are many British elements present there (but no apple trees).

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I envision myself writing a poem or two about the place that is Lamma in the future. But here is a poem that I thought of when coming across this renovation site in my village (not written by me but the wonderful Doreen Valiente).


The Redevelopment.

The old house vanished in a dusty cloud, its secrets scattered to the winds of air. Whether its dwellers humble were or proud, they are forgotten, and its walls stand bare.

Soon the last fragment’s gone. The raw earth gapes. The loud-voiced, sun-bronzed builders have moved in. Now by their hands arise new-fangled shapes, new bricks, fresh concrete, motors roaring din.

A new room grows, where once in the same place those others dwelt, who lived and loved and died. Who came there young, grew old, perhaps found grace with new hope now who comes here to reside?

So turns the wheel of time; the cycle runs for houses, years and galaxies of suns.

This poem came to me the instant I saw that ruin. I linked it to my own uprooted state that had slowly been trying to undo that uprootedness. And I feel like I succeeded through a budding network of friends and colleagues, but also by becoming more independent. In a way I was able to undergo some internal redevelopment. What helped me was seeking out the beauty expressed by other people. In other words, I went to artsy places, trying to “art” myself – this is play on words, to ground oneself in Dutch is aarden. Naturally, grounding onself through art is then to art oneself.

Arting myself

I kept bumping into artsy spaces, so I took it as some kind of sign that I should do more of that. For instance, I decided on a whim to go to Tai Kwun, and they had this really cool exhibition about the moon (also a Taschen bookstore, so nice books).

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Then I also happened to get free tickets to Art Central. Here are some really nice paintings.

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Then there were also some triptychs with contemporary elements, painted by Japanese artists, which were very interesting.

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Then some manga/anime art:


And some funny things:

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Some cool things:

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Even the performance art was interesting.


And here I am with some art by Lousy Lousy.


The only thing I did not like at all was this artwork by an artist who took pie charts to a whole new level. Like, him choosing that to be interesting shows that he hasn’t read up on how bad it is to use pie charts to compare groups. Do not do it people.


A while later, for French may, which weirdly comprises May and June, I went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which was hosting an exhibition Mythologies: Surrealism and Beyond. Here are pictures of famous works:

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But there were also some other really nice exhibitions.

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And lastly, in the category Arting myself, I rediscovered some art made in highschool:

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Time to sail away

So there you have it. I’m doing well, and increasingly so. The communities I’m lucky to be(come) a part of are becoming more solidified, both professionally and personally – although this update has decidedly focused more on the personal part.

Now it’s time to take my junk and sail away into the sunset. Cheers.

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