Read: For Starters (Part 2)
“I’ve been thinking about joining a writing course,” Rose said, about a month after her return from studying in the States. “Tell me about yours at HKU. What do you have to do?”
“You have to be committed. At the end of it you’re going to have to write a 70-page thesis.” I was doing a course in Creative Writing.
“70 pages? Nah.” She later signed up for a free online rhetorical writing course which she then forgot about. She said she had taken a rhetorical writing course at university, and liked it a lot. “There’s so much I want to do!”
“Aren’t you concerned about being good at everything but not being excellent at anything?” Conversations with Rose always involve walking a tightrope. It’s probably why she considers me someone she can banter with.
Rose laughed. “I want to be excellent at being content.”
“You’re failing miserably.”
“So I’ve been told, in a different context. You have no idea how many people in Hong Kong have told me that it’s better to focus on finding my career path. But as I’ve learnt over the past few years living abroad on my own, even if I do many things at once, life is easy.”
Easy for you to say, Rose. I was learning how in Hong Kong, the battle for success begins from the womb. I remember watching on the news this uproar with expectant mothers swarming across the border to have their babies so their newborns would get permanent residency. Back then, I still saw myself as a potential mom, so I turned to my own mother for a solution. Her answer? “You’ve got better chances at a private hospital, but make sure you can afford it.” Eventually, the situation got so bad, the government had to impose a “zero-birth quota” on expectant mainland mothers so local mothers would have room to give birth. People then got creative. A couple from the mainland was so desperate for their child to be born in Hong Kong, the mother pretended she was Filipino. They even spent more than $250,000 to make a fake Philippine passport. True story.
Thus, while working as a reporter for a TV station, and my boss nudged me for story ideas, I said, “breastfeeding”, just because it was taboo. That did it for her. I went on to interview a government official, who told me Hong Kong, in 2014, still did not have a single baby-friendly hospital, and that there was a glaring lack of nursing facilities in public places. Malls here barely have enough toilets as it is. Massive queues outside female bathrooms are expected any day of the week. One time, I passed out from a severe stomachache while waiting in line for a free cubicle. I had to be wheeled out of the mall on a stretcher, but not before mall staff granted me special access to the bathroom. I was lucky I didn’t shit myself, or hit my head on the ground.