Monday, March 20, 2006
Human Bones, Puppies and Cement
Since the weather has been cool these last several months, Troy and I have been able to get out and go hiking again. We've been hiking with a group of friends on Saturdays and then I have also been going with a group of ladies on Mondays. It is on these hikes that we see parts of Hong Kong that are absolutely beautiful, some that are a little gross and some that are a little mind boggling. The unfortunate thing is the pollution has been at it's all time worst these last few months so views that should have been astonishing are hazy, dingy and causing you to ask questions such as "Is that the South China Sea over there or a shopping mall?" Although, there have been times where we have lucked out with decent views.
One of the things we have learned in Hong Kong is regarding the burial of their dead. Because of land space, bodies can only be buried for 7 years. Religion and traditions make it so people choose casket burials over cremation. After the 7 year period, the coffin is dug up, the bones of the deceased are polished by family members and then placed in urns or bone jars. These bone jars are then located (what seems to me) to be completely random places around Hong Kong. It is on our hikes that we have come across a lot of these bone jars. Some of the places these jars reside make sense, say in a designated place in a small village or near the relatives homes. But more often, the jars are placed on hillsides, in dense bushes, in the middle of a cow field... you name it. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to where most of these are placed. They all have lids on them but they are easily removed. No, we have not removed any lids ourselves, although at times, we have been tempted to take a look inside. I have talked to a few friends that have taken the lids off and sure enough, there are human bones inside.
One of the really cool things that we see on our hikes are these tiny villages you would never normally come across. They are a combination of really, really old buildings and new construction as well. They also have at least one Buddhist temple where they pray at. Several of the old buildings have their doors broken or missing so you are able to walk in and look around. On our hike this week, we came across one run down shack that had a coffin inside. None of us were willing to open it to see if there was a body inside or if it was just an old, empty coffin. (In the picture, the weird shaped thing on the right is the coffin.) And then for another interesting sight is the old Chinese man that comes shuffling out of his house at 11:30am with his pajamas still on, scratching his ass. If I had more nerves I would have taken a picture of him.
It also must be puppy season. We must have come across at least 25 puppies with their moms. In one village where we stopped to pet the puppies, the guy who had just sold us our water wanted us to take the puppies with us. He also kept making an eating gesture so I'm not sure if he meant for us to stay and eat lunch at his restaurant or to take the puppies to eat later (which is not even funny to joke about.) We were interested in neither!
During our hike Monday, a helicopter kept flying back and forth carrying some sort of bucket that looked like it might be used to carry water. We couldn't figure out what he was doing but we hoped to find out soon because we were gradually getting closer to where he was flying to. On this hike, there was a lot of cement paths and stairs. As we came around a bend in the hill we could see construction workers ahead building the concrete steps. To detour hikers around their work they had "built" these tiny stairs made out of tiny little planks of wood nailed to what seemed to be air. We were to use these “steps” to get around their construction. As we are passing right next to the workers, the helicopter we had been seeing all of a sudden appears directly above us, hovering really low. His bucket that we couldn’t figure out what it was for was holding cement and he needed to dump it right next to where we were standing. Of course, being a bunch of dumb women our initial reaction is "Where do we go? What do we do? Oh shit!!" The workers are frantically motioning for us to back up. So we quickly make our way up these tiny little wood steps, not sure if we should take our chance with cement bucket instead. We finally get to a safe place while the cement gets dumped. I was talking to Troy about this later and the only place in the US that we could think of that would have cement delivered like that would be the base for power lines on mountain sides or ski lifts. The funny thing about this is how the Chinese government are very unconcerned about the safety of others. If cement needed to be poured like this in the US, the hiking trail would have been blocked off 500 yards back with hikers being diverted some other way
Even though I prefer the hiking in Colorado, I have to admit, I have never come across such unusual and interesting things as I have here in Hong Kong.