This is a story about good-bye, which should have been published some time ago.
In the 1970s, Lady Constance Macbeth and Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth were one of the many Chinese couples living in some rural village of mainland China suffering the disastrous Cultural Revolution. As one of the very few literate and relatively educated people in the region, Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth naturally caught the authority’s attention. He was sensitive about encountering the Red Guard and afraid of getting involved in those humiliating parades. So, he liked to wander along the brook of the village where only old people fished and he could enjoy some security.
On a cloudy day, Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth heard some folks talking about a hen that laid gold eggs. He was curious about it and joined the conversation, “Hey, people, does such an animal exist? Could you guys get me one so that I could run away from this hopeless place or bribe those brainwashed Red Guard kids to stop nagging or even killing me some day?” One of the folks said, “Macbeth, this is a metaphor. We are talking about Hong Kong. People say that it is the closest gold mine from this place. It seems to be true, you know, Hong Kong is not China, anywhere outside has to be better than this country now where rice and humanity have vanished.” Having learnt about Hong Kong and confirmed the danger of staying, Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth went home and told his wife about Hong Kong. The pregnant young wife, Lady Constance Macbeth, nodded her head strongly, “So, we could at least have some congee to feed our baby.”
The couple, though facing the uncertainties of the future and the unhappiness of leaving the village where they were raised, had to say good-bye to their home and hello to the colony. Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth started planning the escape plan and succeeded finally to bring along his wife with him to the colony.
“Hello, Hong Kong!”
Hello begins with hell, Lady Constance Macbeth and Sir Jean-Paul did have a difficult time at the very beginning of their arrival. Linguistic and cultural difference, administrative paper, housing… aroused doubts of making such a decision. But, very soon, when the initial problems were tackled, they were immediately in love with this colony.
“That was indeed a GOOD-bye. I could have been killed by now if I had stayed there. As long as I am alive, I can make a living!” Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth made such an innocent comment about his new life in his tiny but cozy apartment in the suburb of Hong Kong. “Now we should work hard to integrate into the Hong Kong culture. First, we should make up some English names for ourselves! English name, whatever it sounds, is the business card in Hong Kong.” That was the origin of the funny English names of this Chinese couple. Sir Jean-Paul Macbeth learnt his name and that of his wife from a community centre’s Sunday ABC class.
Many new Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong like the Macbeth couple are traumatized by mainland China because of the Cultural Revolution or the Tienanmen square incident in 1989. Eventually, they did not want their following generation to get involved with any “Chinese” things. And so, as long as the family could afford some noble education (To define this, in Hong Kong, as long as the curriculum is in English in which other white people/ Japanese languages’ courses are introduced. You may call it a noble education even though there is a possibility that these nobly educated children are incapable of doing their own dishes.), they urged their children to wash away their “Chineseness” by acquiring as many western skills as possible. Werther Armand’s parents were unfortunately too poor to provide him the same resources. As a result, he followed his dad’s Sunday ABC class and learnt the hell in hello and the good in good-bye, though he never did fully understand what the hell meant:
Marguerite Karenina only spoke her parents’ dialect when she arrived in Hong Kong at the age of three. Little Werther Armand met her in the Sunday ABC class and immediately found her a potential super model like those he had seen in Maxim. As his father always taught him about courage and manhood, he just ignore his shyness and walked up to her,
“Hello, do you want to go to hell with me after the class?”
Marguerite Karenina, frowned and said in her parents’ Chinese dialect, “What are you talking about? Could you just go away because you look very nasty in your eyes!” She then turned around and said angrily in English, “Good-bye!”
Since little Werther Armand only understood the good in good-bye. He continued smiling and following her.
I like very much the combination of hell in hello and good in good-bye in the English language. It is as if any relationship begins with some difficulty and finishes with something good. Hello has to be followed by good-bye; good-bye has to sow the seeds for another hello.
Bye for now, see you next blog!
P.S. I would like to dedicate this entry to the people I have encountered in France.