UNTRACINGS BY ETTA SHON

FICTION + ART BY E SHON

Category: High Grain

Spirits

sai ying pun street flyers hong kongghost face truck hong kong streetsheung wan criminal flyer street hong kongsheung wan street hanging shirt handtrucks

Death Is Free

grandpa back view sheung wan hong kong streetdeath is free graffiti hong kong streethanging t shirt street hong kongcardboard box pile sai ying punmao figurines hollywood road sheung wan hong kongfood delivery truck sheung wan street hong kongghostly old man shop window soho hong kong

He’s been waiting to be plucked from this veritable hell hole for some time now. What once used to torture him has now diminished to a humming nuisance. The stink, the heaviness, and of course the Heat. It smothers his body in its fervent vapors, incinerating his lashes and drying up the last trace of moisture in his throat.

He doesn’t know what the afterworld will look like but he knows he’s headed there soon. Their faces play in reverse chronological order in his mind, occasionally shuffling backwards and forwards as he searches his memory. Long gone friends, distant uncles, lovers, people he hurt, the ones who he left. He’s forgotten some of their names. Most of them disappeared before he could say his apologies.

He straightens the brim of his cap, his grey hairs matted down to his forehead in sweat. This must be a good time to make his peace with God, if it was ever going to happen. He can’t think of what to say or how to put it. His regret may count for something.

He waits with an uncertain expectation, not knowing exactly how it’ll happen. He looks up to the cloudless sky, the heat waves melding the colors of late summer. He’s up next.

In a little while…

sheung wang window view connaught road west

Strobe lights and blown speakers 
Fireworks and hurricanes 
I’m not here 
This isn’t happening

 

It’s bloody hot and my head is boiling.

workers breakcat sheung wan street chinese medicine hong kongsheung wan medicine shop office street hong kongworker break inside truck street sheung wan hong kongsanitation worker street sheung wan hang hong konghat sanitiation worker garbage sheung wan street hong kong

Sundays

BRIDGE HONG KONG TO CENTRAL STATION FILIPINO HOUSEKEEPERS WOMEN LADIES SUNDAYFILIPINO MAIDS MOBILES BRIDGE CENTRAL HONG KONG STATION SUNDAY DAY OFFFILIPINO MAID UMBRELLA HONG KONG CENTRAL STATION BRIDGE MOBILEFILIPINO HOUSEKEEPERS DAY OFF MOBILE STREET CENTRAL HONG KONG

Sundays are the only day off for domestic workers in Hong Kong, the majority of whom are women from the Philippines and Indonesia. The streets around Central district in particular are bustling with the influx of women who use this day to do their shopping and take care of all their personal needs. The few parks and public spaces sporadically dispersed throughout the city are filled with these women who relax and profit from their day of freedom. They come decked out in their Sunday best and socialize in small groups, huddled on blankets on the ground while doing each other’s hair, applying manicures, and chatting.

The top three photos above were taken on the bridge between Central station and Hong Kong station. A long row of women on either side of the bridge lounge around in makeshift cardboard shelters while napping or watching movies on their phones.

I couldn’t help but to feel a current of guilt as I walked through this bridge, camera in hand as I documented the scene. I knew that these women were very much here by choice and that their work was honest. But in the stark physical separation of the space allotted to them, dividing them from the rest of the population, the disparity in class was highlighted to an almost shameful degree. Shameful for whom, I can’t quite say.

 

 

Sheung Wan Heat

OLD LADY STRAW HAT SHEUNG WAN STREET HONG KONGANTLERS VENDOR STRAW HAT SHEUNG WAN HONG KONG STREET DRYINGSHEUNG WAN STREET ART GRAFFITI HONG KONGSCRAP METAL VENDOR JUNK SHEUNG WANG STREET HONG KONGOLD LADIES HATS SHOPPING SHEUNG WAN STREET HONGSHEUNG WAN CHINESE MEDICINE SIGN CANTONESE HONG KONG

Untitled

homeless TRIO STREET PARIS GRANDS BOULEVARDS CLOCHARD RUEHOMELESS FOOT STREET PARIS RUE CLOCHARD PIEDHOOKER PROSTITUTE PUTE PROSTITUEE PARIS RUE STREET

“Malgré la vue de toutes nos misères qui nous touchent, qui nous tiennent à la gorge, nous avons un instinct que nous ne pouvons réprimer qui nous élève.” -Pascal, Pensées

Despite the sight of all our miseries which press upon us and hold us by the throat, we have an irrepressible instinct which bears us up.

Jason

JASON DOORWAY CEBU TRANSCENTRAL HIGHWAY CEBU PHILIPPINESJASON HOUSE ROOM TRANSCENTRAL HWY CEBU PHILIPPINESJASON HOUSE OUTSIDE TRANSCENTRAL HWY PHILIPPINES CEBU
April 2014. Cebu, Philippines

This is Jason. I met him as I was walking along Transcentral Highway on my way back to town from Top’s Lookout in Cebu. At 2500 feet above sea level in the mountains, there’s not much along this isolated route other than vegetation and the occasional rest stop. Through a cluster of dense trees I noticed a bright blue house of sheet metal and wooden boards, set atop a steep hill with stilts. I waved to my partner to come over and have a look, and out popped Jason’s head from between the trees. He called out to me, startling the both of us, and enthusiastically gestured for us to come over. I made my way around the bushes to the narrow path leading to his house where he beckoned to me to come in.

His house was a single room, dark, with a shelf full of ladies shoes and clothes, a crockpot, and a couple religious figurines scattered about. The walls were covered in gauzy fabric, and the floor was made of narrow wooden planks through which I could see a couple pigs rolling around below in the soil. The only source of light in the room was the TV from which the intro screen of a Karaoke DVD was displayed. A rusty mike dangled from a nearby shelf. He offered me an herbal cigarette and a glass of beer.

I asked him his name in my shoddy Spanish, assuming he’d understand as it’s not too far from Tagalog. From what I gathered by his response, he spoke something other than Tagalog which was specific to this region in the Philippines. We struggled through our exchange- he in his dialect and I in Spanish, gleaning what we could from the words we understood. He asked me where I was from, what I was doing here. He explained that he worked in construction, and that it was tiring work. I understood that he lived with 2 or 3 other people in this house, one of whom was hiding out back as he was too shy to come in. A few puppies scampered in the doorway, their loud barking mingling with the grunting of the enormous pigs below us. Jason waved frantically as he spoke, and he seemed happy to have some interaction with such strange foreigners. He said that he had the day off and that he was taking it easy. He liked drinking and doing karaoke in his time off.

On my way out, he offered me the rest of his forty ouncer of beer and another cigarette. I waved goodbye to him, turning around a couple times to take a last look at this kind person who I’d never see again.

Chungking Mansions

CHUNGKING MANSIONS TOP FLOOR VIEW STAIRS TST HONG KONGGUJRAT INTL HAIR CHUNGKING MANSIONS TST HONG KONGMANNEQUIN HEADS SHIRTS TIES CHUNGKING MANSIONS TST HONG KONG

The Chungking Mansions are the capital of all things sketch in Hong Kong, at least electronically. It’s a huge warehouse located in the Tsim Sha Tsui district (lovingly dubbed as dark side by expats) packed with every type of counterfeit gadget hawked by booth after booth of mostly Indian vendors. There are also a few independent business run by local Hong Kongers, the nature of which I couldn’t determine through the dingy glass walls obstructed by piles of paper and cardboard boxes. You’ll also find a few Indian restaurants and even a barber shop frequented strictly by the local Indian population. Theres a sense of secrecy and insularity in this dodgy labyrinth and I got more than a few dirty looks after having taken these photos. Looking at the scenery surrounding me, I hardly believed that I was in Asia. This is the genre of overwhelming strangeness which renders Hong Kong as such a fascinating and surreal place for me.

Sai Kung

FLOATING MARKET DRIED FISH VENDOR SAI KUNG HONG KONGSTARFISH VENDOR FLOATING MARKET SAI KUNG HONG KONGBOATS GRANDMA PIER SAI KUNG FLOATING MARKET HONG KONGFISHERMAN SAI KUNG FLOATING MARKET BOAT HONG KONGLITTLE BOY MOTHER SAI KUNG PIER HONG KONGDRIED FISH VENDOR BOARDWALK SAI KUNG HONG KONGOLD COUPLE SAI KUNG BOARDWALK HONG KONGFISH MARKET LADY SAI KUNG HONG KONG

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