Few symbols of colonialism are more universally recognized than the live-in maid. From the British trading post in Bombay to the cotton plantation in Mississippi, images abound of the olive-skinned domestic worker buzzing around the house, cooking, cleaning, ironing and bringing ice cold lemonade to her masters who keep grumbling about the summer heat. It is ironic that, for a city that cowered under colonial rule for a century and a half, Hong Kong should have the highest number of maids per capita in Asia. In our city of contradictions, neither a modest income nor a shoebox apartment is an obstacle for local families to hire a domestic helper and to free themselves from chores and errands.
On any given Sunday or public holiday, migrant domestic workers carpet every inch of open space in Central and Causeway Bay. They turn parks and footbridges into camping sites with cardboard boxes as their walls and opened umbrellas as their roofs. They play cards, cut hair, sell handicraft and practice complicated dance routines for upcoming talent contests. It is one of those Hong Kong phenomena that charms tourists and fascinates newcomers. Local citizens, on the other hand, have grown so used to the weekly nuisance that they no longer see it or hear it...
Read the rest of this essay in No City for Slow Men, available at major bookstores in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.
|No City for Slow Men|