In 2006 I met a remarkable 90-year-old woman in Hong Kong. She was a Chinese herbalist who once worked in the Kowloon Walled City — the infamous, anomalous zone of Hong Kong where no government actually ruled, with all the possibility and danger this might imply in such a context, and where life was a series of alleyways and tunnels that burrowed into an almost solid mass of interconnected buildings. I wrote about it here.
I interviewed her for a new media oral history project that approached this area of Hong Kong in terms of people’s memories and feelings of space, place and movement. What are our histories of coming to a place that becomes home? What do we bring with us, and what do we leave behind? What moods does our home have? This old woman had remarkable stories. Of being a field doctor during the Second World War, and seeing rivers of blood in the wake of battles between the Kuomingtang and Japanese armies. Of arriving in Hong Kong, and carving out spaces in the Walled City for her extended family to live. Of having patients who still saw her, decades after she cared for them as kids growing up in the Walled City.
After recently sending her a belated birthday card, this week I found out that she died last year. I’m still working on my project. I think she has finished hers. I guess this is a reminder to keep our links alive, in all the ways that this could mean.