April 15, 2019

INSIDE THE HONG KONG BEEHIVES

Why is HONEYLAND interesting for Hong Kongers/ Why is Hong Kong interesting for “Honeylanders”?

– Directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov

“It’s an infinite construction playground”- is the first thought coming to our
minds, hypnotized by the fierce Asian Megalopolis in front of us:

(photo by Tamara Kotevska).

The territory of the main island of Hong Kong is 2,755 km2, including over 200 smaller islands,
some of them still populated with fishermen’s villages.Lantau Iceland is one of the last
remaining authentic fishermen villages, where the culture of subdivided living space has is ruts
later implied in modern Hong Kong lifestyle.

(photos by Tamara Kotevska)

“One country, two systems” is the explanation for China, being a communist country, but
having Hong Kong with its autonomous Government on its territory. Formally becoming a
British colony in 1842, Hong Kong’s political system was always leaned towards UK. When it
was finally given back to China in 1997, Hong Kong became A Special Administrative Region of
People’s Republic of China with its separate ruling system than China. The Hong Kong citizens
live in fear that the “communistic chains” of China might swallow their city in the near future.

(photo by Tamara Kotevska)

“This the densest human beehive in the World” – We think, as we walk between the
monstrously big and dense buildings all around us. By surface it is 25 times smaller than
Macedonia, but by citizens, it is almost 4 times more inhabited, with the incredible number of
8 million citizens.

(Photo by Ljubo Stefanov)

The inevitable question how is this possible, provokes some not very comfortable answers for the regular western(ized) citizens like ourselves. The first person to explain us the situation from the inside was the film professor at the Hong Kong University, Timmy Chen: “Around 700 Chinese workers become Hong Kong’s residents every day. There for, space is the
most expensive benefit in Hong Kong. Most of the locals live together with their parents until they are in their 30’s, because they can’t afford living on their own. The average cost of square meter costs more than 23.000 US dollars. Nearly 210.000 citizens live in subdivided flats with a per capita area of 5 square meters. Renting a subdivided flat with the size half a parking space costs more than 3800 US dollars a month.” He used to live together with his students in a single- shared living room. Everyone had their own bump bed and all their stuff are on hangers around them. The level of privacy is zero. With a heartbreak he told us the story of a music student from his university who was practicing her piano at “home “in silence, on a long strip of paper on which a whole row of black and white piano keys has been meticulously traced.

(Photo by Ljubo Stefanov)

But, there are always two sides to every story. Just when we are asking ourselves what could possibly be the positive outcome of this claustrophobic living style, we read the answer from the social issues and family dynamics journalist Mei Chi, in the local newspaper China Today:
“It is the most natural push towards socialization of a naturally antisocial nation. Family bonds are pretty strongly built, because this kind of living requires a high degree of mutual understanding and compassion. Mothers must take their children outside their miniature homes at least 6-8 hours a day for a “battery discharging”. This way, all the neighbors get to know each other and the parks around Hong Kong become a natural meeting point filled with children’s laughter. In the Western World, where everyone gets more and more personal space, families become strangers to one another. Not to even mention the neighbors…

Children on their obligatory daily excursion around Hong Kong.
(Photo by Ljubo Stefanov)

“Behind the scenes of Hong Kong skyscrapers” Hong Kong is really a strange place. Seen from the outside, it is dazzling; but on places where sun doesn’t reach, one can whiteness the real background of all the glitters in the front. No wonder this city and its inner mysteries were a strong inspiration for Blade Runner:

(photo by Tamara Kotevska)
(photo by Tamara Kotevska)

All the nameless Asian workers who “recycle” their own existence by the leftovers of the fancy restaurants in the front…

Here is where the real magic of all those delicious Chinese noodles happens…
The fast moving, skinny fingers of all those Chinese women counting the noodles one by one…
The restless workers who build those endless floors that touch the sky,
with their bare hands and naked bodies;

“If the bees don’t work, they will die. Same goes for Hong Kongers”; Work is and will remain the only activity that a person can do in Hong Kong. There is no other choice if you want to live here. It is something no less different than any other mega-city in the world, except for the fun. You will not find it here very often. People are not very creative about using the benefits of all that glittery for themselves. But they are surely creative on how to find the most unexpected jobs in order to survive…

Dust cleaners of the fence by the city harbour.
(photo by Tamara Kotevska)
Dog nannies.
(Photo by Tamara Kotevska)

The Hong Kong 3 floors Market is The Real Museum of Hong Kong: It is set where it used to be one of the “most evil” urban places on Earth: The Kowloon Walt City, the center of Heroine trade that was put down because of a cocaine epidemic.

The 3 floors market known for having “birds’ milk”.

“Food- good to eat it while fresh” Never the less, this is also concerning living creatures. In Chinese tradition, the fresher the food, the more respected it is. This means a costumer should see his food being “killed/prepared” in front of his eyes to be sure it is fresh.

The fish market on the first floor has all the most incredible ocean creatures.

All the types of water creatures we have seen in our Animal Kingdom albums when we were kids…

We can eat them here and now in Hong Kong .

Same goes for the chicken sellers who have their private chicken factory on the market. The chosen chicks are spluttered in the back and nicely packed in the front.

You can order your own chicken to be raised just for you at “Chicken emperor” on Facebook.

The second floor holds the fruits and vegetables market where all kinds of plants could be found…

One of the oldest costumers on the market greets Macedonians for the first time.
A young Chinese student pays off his rent on one of the market’s stands.

One of the oldest sellers on the market is the Tea and Herbs seller. There is no such educated pharmacist like him anywhere around Hong Kong.
The third floor of the market is devoted to the textile industry.

A tailor woman in her 1:1 square meter shop, squeezed between around 50 same-looking shops.
The “intimacy stands” are a great comparation of the “no-intimacy” live of the Hong Kongers.

“Hong Kong chokes under haze and high pollution levels, but clear air is expected after the monsoons”. – says the guy from the News… We wish we had monsoons in Skopje too, so they could clean our most air polluted city in Europe from where “Dubai airlines” took off, only to land XXX km far to the East, and to face the same problem.

Air pollution is a world problem, but Hong Kongers are the most aware citizens in the precautions they take for this question:

They simply KNOW that if one breaks the rule everyone will pay the price.
The impressive respect towards nature in this monstrous industrial city is phenomenon worthy for attention and recognition by other nations who MUST learn from Hong Kong how it’s supposed to be done. Keeping the green areas untouched and making the buildings around them, is a system not often seen around the World. No matter where a building is set, how
wide and tall it is, and what’s the usage of it, it is never considered more important than a single tree. The urbanistic plan is so wisely set, that trees and nature always remain untouched and perfectly “blended in modern civilization”. This is the only way how a city with dimensions like Hong Kong can survive and stay healthy. It was the most fascinating thing to us, the “Honeylanders” seeing this strange nation so far from ours, living by the single nature’s rule “if one breaks the rule everyone pays the price”.

In one of those amazing buildings where one doesn’t know where infrastructure ends and jungle begins- at the National University of Hong Kong, we had one of the most inspiring lectures for Honeyland, in front of Hong Kong students, with Ruby Yang, the amazing woman and Oscar winner.

Hong Kongers looking at Atidze’s beehives with the same excitement, thrill and fascination as we were looking at their beehives, was the most valuable thing to experience in our Hong Kong trip. The reactions of the regular audience of all kinds, once again showed us that when a real human story touches humans’ heart, there is no difference between the 4 sides of this enormous, but so tiny World.

And a comment given by the viewer who fascinated us the most and shall be forever remembered by us, mr. Lee King-Hin, who had very carefully handwritten his own delicate contact card especially for us, approached after the film projection. He came to us with a strong hand shake and tears in his eyes, saying: “I know exactly how Atidze feels. I feel the very same way all my life. I have lost both of my parents too and have been living alone all my life in a subdivided flat… Don’t let that big Hong Kong crowd on the streets fool you. Human solitude is everywhere the same.”
In the end, he carefully took a dip of Atidze’s honey with the pick of his tooth stick, he tried it and gave us a very shy smile. We tried to hug him, but it was uncomfortable. He was not used to physical contact. He quietly left and disappeared in the huge Hong Kong crowd. So did we, after the projection. We will probably never see each other again, but we will never forget…

“Don’t let the crowds on the streets fool you. Human solitude is everywhere the same…”