- October 6th – Tin Hau, MTR Bus Terminal. Rush hour. Man in delivery truck blasts Beyond’s “海阔天空 (Boundless Oceans Vast Skies)” on repeat. Surprisingly I can mouth a close approximation of every word. My father used to play it in the minivan on the excruciating drives between San Diego and Irvine, but this is the first time I try to understand the lyrics.
- October 5th – Causeway Bay. A brisk walk from the MTR to the bus stop reveals that the nearby protest site is largely vacated. Mandarin speakers walk past me, talking about the selfies they took by the protest site. An English-speaking couple squabbles about which Instagram filter they should use on the pic they snapped of the protest banners, noting how the emptied occupation site is conducive to photo ops.
- October 4th – North Point. An old woman silently offers blue ribbons to middle-aged shoppers passing by. She wears a mask over her mouth, her expression undiscernible. A couple of blocks later, I see the flap of a blue ribbon between the fingers of a woman walking in front of me. Something in the nonchalance of her hands clasped behind her back strikes me as funny.
- October 3rd – Central, Intersection of Central pier and IFC flyovers. Several men hawking iPhone 6’s, proudly displaying the shrinkwrap, proof they conquered the Apple store lines for the benefit of the masses. A single student protester holds a box of golden pins in one hand and yellow ribbons in the other, inconveniently standing in the middle of the intersection. “Please, sir. Help us support democracy in Hong Kong! Miss! …” He repeats himself in Cantonese. He doesn’t see me pass him. My practiced silent, but firm, refusal perfected in the rejection of leaflets supporting less personal activist issues, will cause me more pain than he will ever know. When I close my eyes, I hear the earnestness in his voice and imagine his expression strained, fighting off the feeling of hopelessness. However, it isn’t his own; the pessimism I imagine is mine. When I glanced back at him, all I saw was fervent optimism.
- September 30th – Braemar Hill, HKSYU Campus. I sit with the five students who showed up to my English writing class. I preface the class with an explanation that we will be discussing what is happening in HK. I mention that this is a great opportunity to practice turning their thoughts and feelings into English, something they will need for their essays. It starts with me prompting and prodding to get the conversation going: “Why did you come to class today?” “Did you go to the protest?” “Why or why not?” Two of my students become very talkative, starting sentences before they find all the words. I offer a word here and there. They snatch them up immediately to finish their thoughts. One of my students is the son of a policeman. They are all hesitant to pick a side. They weigh the pros and cons of the protests and the different groups. I try to be invisible, only offering affirmation when they seem unsure of themselves, but I begin to play devil’s advocate, pushing them to explain their opinions. I find it hard to restrain myself and end up professing excuses for my neutrality, or rather, my perceived apathy.