Friday, March 10, 2006

A Walk in the Park

Walled City park in Hong Kong is a must see place if you ever come here. It used to be a slum that was made out of an old Imperial Chinese fort. When the Chinese Empire became the Republic of China in 1911 the fort was basically abandoned. However, because the fort was specifically excluded in the lease of Kowloon the local Hong Kong Police had no authority go there. For many years it was a lawless place full of opium dens, prostitutes and criminals who would live there to avoid the laws of Hong Kong. The missionary Jackie Pullinger began her work with drug addicts in Hong Kong in this place at great personal risk to her self in the 1970’s. In (I think) 1989, as the handover neared the Hong Kong Government obtained permission to take control of the Walled City. The squatters were relocated to other areas of Hong Kong and the slum demolished. The area was turned into a park complete with a botanical garden and the old fort was made into a museum. The slum that was once a dangerous, lawless eyesore has become a wonderful urban park jewel. Jackie Pullinger is now on Lantau Island and the drug addicts must take a ferry to see her.

Like most of the parks in Hong Kong the Walled City Park is heavily used at all hours of the day and night. I walk through the Walled City Park everyday at about 6:45 AM on my way to work. At that time the park is primarily full of elderly people doing Tai Chi or admiring the flowers, listening to the birds sing or simply sitting on a bench and talking with each other over an early morning smoke; quite a pleasant place to walk through on my way to work.

There is one elderly couple in particular that caught my eye for several years. The husband had, I believe, suffered a severe a stroke. He was partially paralyzed on his right side. He could stand but couldn’t really walk. He had a cord attached to the top of a special shoe. His wife would walk beside him, actually arm in arm with him and lift his right leg using the cord from his shoe. He would then move his right leg forward in a halting step and then take an unassisted step with his left foot. I’m sure it would take hours for them to walk through the park like this.

What a picture of marital devotion! This old couple became something of an inspiration to me. I’ve found myself wondering if I could be so faithful to a disabled spouse? I am ashamed to say I cannot positively say yes. But, sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you have to it. I might surprise myself. I hope I never have to find out. I also hope my wife never has to care for me like this.

It is unusual to see such devoted caring in public places.

I hadn’t seen this couple in quite a while. I didn’t see them everyday so it took awhile for me to realize they were not coming for their walks anymore. I haven’t seen the couple but today I saw the wife. She had the white armband that Chinese sometimes wear when they are in mourning. She was sitting on a bench by herself, in the park, near the botanical garden. I wanted to weep. I wanted to go over and give her a hug and tell I feel her loss. I couldn’t, I don’t really know her. I wish I did.

I don't know who the elderly man was, but may he rest in peace.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger in Mourning

1 comment:

Pamela said...

I found your blog quite by accident. Your story of the couple in the park was very touching. It made me very grateful for a loving spouse and wonder if I too would have the patience and compassion necessary to care for an ailing spouse.

What a wonderful example of what true love and going the extra mile. Thank you for sharing that story.

Pamela Troeppl
Humor Columnist and Author