Hong Kong Homies is a series where we get deep real fast with Hongkongers.
AK Wu, 24, Insurance agent
I was born in Ting Kok Village, Tai Po. My village has over 600 years of history in Hong Kong.
I have many sook gung 叔公 sook por 叔婆. It’s usually what you call your father’s brother and sister-in-law, but in my village, everyone is my sook gung sook por, even my neighbors. When I was a kid, whenever I asked my grandmother, “Who is this?” She would say, “sook gung sook por”.
If we’re really related, they would be my goo jeung 姑丈 goo por 姑媽 (your father’s siblings) or biu sook gung 表叔公 biu sook por 表叔婆 (your grandmother’s siblings’ children). Everyone has their own title — it’s so confusing!
Our traditions and superstitions are very important to me. Every Ching Ming Festival and Chung Yung Festival, we always make Chinese herbal tea cakes 雞屎藤 and give them out to people we know. My grandmother calls them “Ching Ming Jai.” Every Lunar New Year, we worship our ancestors and burn joss paper.
One time, a relative was moving into a new house, and relatives showed up at my house so early to help with the rituals. We made our own sweet dumplings and put on an ancestor worshipping ceremony at the new house. They were here before I woke up. We also invited an elderly in the village to host a “door-opening” ritual for good luck.
On Being a Woman
I intuited at a young age that I was not entitled to the Small House Policy right, unlike my male counterparts. I mean, new houses were being built all the time.
When I asked my parents who were building these new houses, they were always men. Never women. I understood that it was only a men’s thing.
My village has a committee that plans things like Guan Yu’s birthday, poon choi dinners and volunteer activities. The committee elections are held every four years, but women are not allowed to vote!
I understood that it was only a men’s thing.
Last year, on the day of the election, I went along with my father and brother to the voting station, thinking I could vote. But then the officials told me to leave the “heavy work” to men and go home. It’s really not fair.
I am an adult. I am part of the village. Why is my opinion not taken into account at the village committee?
I observe a distinction between men and women in my village. I grew up around strong women. My village is not as conservative. My mom and aunties are ambitious and independent workers. My mom hates being at home.
Most female indigenous inhabitants my age are independent thinkers: we make our own choices in terms of what we want to study, what we want out of life.
Funnily enough, for girls, there is this pressure to be smarter and more capable. Because our community is so close-knit, when my parents are proud of something that I did and tell my neighbors, the story can be repeated for up to 10 years.
It’s embarrassing to have others talk about one thing you did for years, so I feel this pressure to achieve greater things for people to talk about. I don’t think there is the same kind of expectation for men.
I was asked once what it is that I want the most in life. I remember other people saying they want to buy things without needing to consider the price, to have unlimited holidays, to win the Mark Six. I said I only wanted to be happy, content, and free. It is still what I want the most.
I said I only wanted to be happy, content, and free
Many people assume that I have no need to work and make money when they find out I’m an indigenous inhabitant. They think my family hands me money. Inaccurate. I am ambitious, I give my all at work. This is why I don’t really care about not being entitled to build a small house, because I will keep working to take care of myself.
We really look after one another. If I run out of soy sauce, it would take me at least 30 minutes to reach the nearest shop. But I can ask anyone in the village and they’d lend me some in no time. When I drive, I’d always go around the bus stop to see if anyone needs a lift.
When the sea is nearby, I feel calm.
My grandmother probably impacted me the most. She made me greet everyone we come across in the village. So I greet people, I make friends easily. I am even friends with the server at the restaurant I go to for lunch at work. My friends find that weird. But that’s very normal in my world!
The minute I get off the minibus, I feel like I’m home. When I was really young, my mom asked me where I would want to live when I grew up. I said I didn’t want to leave. It is still true. I can hop on the bicycle and bike anywhere here. I can go on a hike. When it’s too hot, I can go down to the beach.
I don’t ever want to be too far away from the sea. When the sea is nearby, I feel calm. My heart feels safe.