Festival and farewells

Last week, people across many parts of Asia celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival. Based on the lunar calendar, this is one of the more significant holidays for China/HK.

(From http://www.hong-kong-traveller.com): “On this full moon day, families and communities traditionally gathered to celebrate the bountiful harvesting season, somewhat of the equivalent to the American Thanksgiving Day. Nowadays, families and friends take part in the many lantern carnivals and celebrations around the city.

^ decorations in Victoria Park. The Chinese in the distance is a play on words about photography and the holiday: it translates to, “The full moon is illuminating the earth,” but the character for “illuminating” has been changed to a camera.

^ this year’s theme was outer space (apparently).

^ the Chinese word for “bat” sounds like the word for “fortune.” Hence, the bat is a very auspicious animal, and you often see its image in temples.

^ more hanging bats!

^ futuristic entertainment for the whole family, apparently.

Hong Kong is also unique with its Fire Dragon Dance to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. Although it’s held in various neighborhoods around the SAR (Special Administration Region), the main (oldest?) location is in Tai Hang near Victoria Park, on Hong Kong Island.

^ decorated entrance to Tai Hang neighborhood

^ getting ready!

^ lantern bearers

^ the Fire Dragon! Made of rope, it is held up on sticks by community members. The fire part is from sticks of burning incense covering the body from head to tail. The smoke from the incense fills the air, and the excitement of the crowd is palpable.

^ more Fire Dragon.

During this season, people also eat and distribute mooncakes. They are small, round, and mildly sweet, and traditionally contain a cook egg yolk on the inside (in addition to more filling such as lotus seed paste). These days, however, there are many different varieties. The name comes from their appearance upon slicing them: the egg yolk resembles a full moon (albeit yellow/orange).

^ mooncake!

^ I enjoyed a lava custard mooncake. Upon cutting, it does NOT resemble a moon.

Finally, after nearly 2.5 years, today I say goodbye to calling Hong Kong home. Although I haven’t enjoyed living here per se, it’s far surpassed any expectations I may have had at the beginning, both professionally and personally. This past week has been filled with goodbye lunches and dinners (and some amazing karaoke, one of my favorite pastimes), and I have many mixed emotions about leaving. For the next 7-8 months I’ll be living out of a backpack, traveling and Couchsurfing across a few dozen countries, then passing through Hong Kong to pick up some luggage before headed back to the USA for a couple of weeks. Even though I’ve met people who have done similar or longer long-term travel, I still think this is, well, kind of insane of me. (But I really hope that lugging around 20kg on my back, plus not eating ice cream and watching Netflix every night before bed, will help me lose weight! HK has NOT been kind to my waistline.)

In honor of Mid-Autumn Festival, I can’t help but think of all the wonderful blessings in my life these days, for which I have so much gratitude. The love and warmth I’ve received from my fellows and friends in Hong Kong. The inspirational individuals I’ve met during my travels the past few years. The amazing opportunities I’ve been given here, from an unexpected leadership position at work to the fabulous travel opportunities I’ve taken advantage of. My amazing coworkers at the job I just left, and the way we’ve become like family in our shared expat experience. The ability to partake in this upcoming trip, which will be culminating with a new adventure next June as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. My health. My family, who are supportive despite the distance. So much more, I can’t list them all. Thank you, Spirit of the Universe. Life is beautiful. ❤️

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