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The Other Side of the City

Chloé Hirschhorn

    In the days leading up to my arrival in Hong Kong, I heard about the beautiful city- the skyline, the lights, and the sounds. I imagine that the feelings that I had when I walked into the tiny beach village was similar to how the students in George Gmelch’s article “Lessons From The Field” felt when they realized just what they had signed up for in their ethnographic field assignment in Barbados. By the time I had processed what I had walked into, my taxi had already pulled away. There was a single dirt path winding through the village, littered with stray cats and clotheslines. I could see faded signs and white arrows painted on the ground showing the way to the Hong Kong Trail and others pointing to the local beach.

    I turned to walk towards an older man who had come out in his swim trunks to casually wax his surfboard while keeping one eye on me.  Before I could get off of the path, he retreated into his home, leaving his surfboard outside.

    The moment I stepped back onto the path I saw someone come out of their house to make their way towards the path. They were not coming to greet me, but to watch me. It was difficult to tell whether they were curious or suspicious of me. As more and more of the villagers came out to get a look, I began to wonder who was studying whom.

    There was such a contrast to the city life that I wasn’t sure I was in the same place.  I threw away my city paranoia and gave a big smile to one elderly woman, who had taken a seat on her front porch to look at me.  She gave a slight smile and a nod back, reassuring me that these people were probably out on the path for the same reason I was, to see something new.

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