Category Archives: Babble

History in the streets

Recently, in Hong Kong, there has been much heated debate over “decolonisation” as one of the former Chinese central government officials commented on Hong Kong’s failure to implement a process of decolonisation, which was believed to have caused severe problems in the society and in constructing a healthy national identity. A few weeks later, Hongkong Post announced that they would start covering up the colonial era insignias on the remaining 59 historic post-boxes, which feature the British royal crowns (King George V, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II), to “avoid confusion” (read more from the Guardian and Hong Kong Free Press).

After such controversial announcement made by Hongkong Post, journalists and activists have started listing out what colonial symbols might be the next “victims”. In fact, there still exist countless colonial traces in Hong Kong. For example, the statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park, names of numerous streets and hiking trails (e.g. Nathan Road, Pottinger Street, MacLehose Trail), names of schools (e.g. Queen’s College, King George V School), names of hospitals (e.g. Queen Mary Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital), and coins featuring Queen Elizabeth’s head1, etc.

Could decolonisation really make Hongkongers loyal to the Beijing government or to the mainland China? Is removing these tangible and historical assets really worth it?

This reminded me of Madrid’s latest historical movement – removal of all 167 street names related to the former dictator Francisco Franco regime, for example, Avenida Comandante Franco and Calle del General Yagüe. Mayor Manuela Carmena (left-wing Ahora Madrid Party) pledged to remove all remaining public symbols (e.g. names of schools, public squares, etc.) of the former dictatorship in the capital city in order to compile with the Historical Memory Law (La Ley por la que se reconocen y amplían derechos y se establecen medidas en favor de quienes padecieron persecución o violencia durante la Guerra Civil y la Dictadura) passed by the then-Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2007.

The Historical Memory Law recognises the victims on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, gives rights to the victims and the descendants of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, and formally condemns the Franco Regime. However, the Rodríguez Zapatero government was accused of weakening the political consensus of the transition to democracy and using the Spanish Civil War as an argument for political propaganda.

“We are still evaluating how to apply the Historical Memory Law, which we believe is not being used 100 percent,” Rita Maestre, city council spokeswoman, said, adding that city officials would welcome suggestions from the public for new names to replace those on the streets and squares affected.

“In any case, we will change the names that are not in line with the state law on Historical Memory. We want a coordinated effort between neighbourhoods and social entities,” she added.

(Translated by Martin Delfin, El País)

The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica), an organisation that collects oral and written testimonies about the victims of the regime of Francisco Franco, and excavates and identifies their bodies that were often dumped in mass graves, welcomed such act but requested that the government should not do it secretly, as they once removed a statue of Franco from Nuevos Ministerios area without prior notice in 2005, and that they should provide concrete reasons for changing certain street names.

It seems obvious that the change was initiated to erase the distressing memories related to the Franco regime though there are still monuments honouring it. However, is this yet another propaganda in nature, as commented by the Popular Party (Partido Popular)? Is this of similar nature in Hong Kong as well?

History is an intangible communal possession, however, we can now alter historical events by technology, hide historical truth away from books, or destroy historical assets with violence or laws. We might not be able to find history in the streets anymore because we fear. Perhaps it is time for us to ask ourselves: What are we scared of? Who do we fear for?

Note:

  1. The Monetary Authority has already taken thousands of such coins out of circulation since Queen Elizabeth’s head was replaced with a bauhinia flower in 1993. However, such “colonial” coins are still legal tender.

Cover photo: Green pillar post-box (Source: SCMP)

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Swimming in Barcelona

Barcelona has nine beaches in total. However, have you ever struggled where to go when you really want to do proper lanes while almost all the beaches are full of sunbathers and swimmers? Or, have you ever got a little bit frustrated that you have to rub yourself with an incredible amount of sunscreen before allowing yourself to swim in the baking sun? Here are two amazing sites with convenient access where you can do what you want and perhaps something more…

Saint George Swimming Pool (Piscina Sant Jordi)

Address:         Carrer de París, 114, 08029 Barcelona
M5 (blue):     Hospital Clínic

Located in Eixample district, Piscina Sant Jordi is a complex consists of an Olympic-size swimming pool, a sunbathing area, and various fitness and wellness zones.

The entrance fee was very reasonable when I visited there. It cost me 5€ only while I could easily spend an hour there doing lanes and chilling in the water. Usually, it is not very crowded even though three or four lanes might be occupied by numerous swimming schools or fitness teams sometimes.

Before you go, don’t forget to take a swimming cap with you for the sake of maintaining good hygiene. Besides, I strongly recommend that you should check out their official webpage to get to know the opening and entrance times.

Useful links:
> (Spanish) http://www.piscinasantjordi.cat/es/principal/inici
> (Spanish) http://www.facebook.com/piscinasantjordi

> (Catalan) http://www.piscinasantjordi.cat/es/archivo/ver/745

  • On this page, look for a PDF file named (e.g.)“Abonados y entradas puntuales 2015”. There, look for the corresponding page entitled “Piscina Olímpica”.
  • There are a few tables. The first one – ABONATS PISCINA – shows the opening hours of the pool;
  • The second one – ENTRADES: Puntuals (14+), Familiars (3-13 accompanied by an adult), and Reduït (65+) – lists out the entrance time to the pool.
Piscina Sant Jordi
Main entrance of Piscina Sant Jordi (Source: Yelp.com)

Fòrum bathing área (Zona de banys del Fòrum)

Address:          Plaça del Fòrum, 1, 08019 Barcelona
M4 (yellow):  El Maresme/Fòrum
Tram:               Maresme i Fòrum

This is a precious natural pool, as in the pool itself is in the Mediterranean. The Barcelona government has invested a lot to create green space and a seawater pool (El Parc del Fòrum) in Sant Martí district, which is as well suitable for the disabled.

It is a very spacious and enclosed area where there is no sand but a paved ground where you can sunbathe. You can therefore experience the Mediterranean in a different and safe way – the swimming areas are all very shallow, which is around the lower-waist of an average man.

The most interesting feature of this place is that there are two sets of electric cable ski towers. They allow amateur skiers to “do lanes” as well, i.e. skiing hither and thither while one of them is responsible for using the remote control panel.

It might be a faff smearing sunscreen all over your body yet this place is open daily, free of charge! :)

Useful link:
http://w110.bcn.cat/portal/site/MediAmbient/menuitem.37ea1e76b6660e13e9c5e9c5a2ef8a0c/?vgnextoid=77bac1eb49f7a210VgnVCM10000074fea8c0RCRD&vgnextchannel=77bac1eb49f7a210VgnVCM10000074fea8c0RCRD&lang=en_GB

Cover photo: Zona de banys del Fòrum

“Boom, boom, boom, poom!”- Boxing in the Philippines

There are various ways to go from Manila to Boracay, the gorgeous Filipino beach island. I visited Boracay in early 2014 and I chose the quite popular route going via Batangas, where I took an overnight ferry to Caticlan, a seashore town five minutes by boat to Boracay.

As I remember quite clearly, it was incredibly busy at the pier in Caticlan- queues of motorbikes and cars, countless signs and boards indicating the names of numerous hotels and resorts, and visitors and local residence who were smiling, sweating, or enjoying the occasional sea breeze.

Not far from the pier, there settled a delicate bamboo box, which stood out from a few properties along the unpaved promenade because of its humble construction materials and its sophisticated structure.

Wild Punch Boxing Gym
Beautifully built by the sea. (Source: Wild Punch Boxing Gym Facebook page)

When I first arrived at the gym (after spending a few magnificent nights partying, enjoying happy hour discounts (I’d rather call it happy day!), and strolling in Boracay :-P), I was warmly welcomed by the Wild Punch team: Cha Cha, a local artist, is the admirably generous boxing tutor who founded the gym in 2003; Miguela, Cha Cha’s wife, is a very friendly lady who runs a stall on White Beach in Boracay; and Ads, the gym cook and security, is a down-to-earth bloke who cooks you mouth-watering and hearty-healthy dishes.

Wild Punch Boxing Gym is actually an initiative that targets at adolescents and kids from poor families, aiming at bringing discipline, strength, and protection to their lives for good cause. Cha Cha has been helping a significant number of boys and girls as well as their families by teaching them boxing, providing shelter, and taking care of them. In my opinion, this project has brought so much light and positivity to those youngsters in need that it has changed their lives in a favourable manner. When you get a chance to talk to Cha Cha, I have no doubt believing that you could feel his passion, his generosity, and his belief in bringing up the good.

Cha Cha posing
Cha Cha posing in front of one of the Wild Punch banners, celebrating the pride of the gym – Bryan Ascaño – for winning the first professional boxing fight of Manila. (Lucky me! I was “trained” for around an hour with Bryan, a very bright young man:-P) (Source: Wild Punch Boxing Gym Facebook page)

There is also one man whom I ought to introduce to you all. Andy from Nîmes, France, is the mastermind of this initiative. He has been putting his utmost effort in non-profit making financial support of the gym. He has already designed a couple of fancy t-shirts which he usually sells at a hostel in Nîmes for the sake of charitable funding purposes. Andy is very passionate about the project that he goes back to Caticlan every year to check out the bits and bobs and to help out with the operation.

Andy in t-shirt
Andy (middle) and his mates in their Wild Punch t-shirts (latest design)! (Source: Andy’s Facebook)

While we are all ready to spend a good five-day holiday on the charming Boracay island, why don’t we drop by this modest gym to say a wee hi and a big thank you to Cha Cha and the team? I’m sure you will enjoy the inspiring atmosphere at the gym, and let’s see how you get on with the wild punch… Boom, boom, boom, poom!

P.S. To show your support, please “like” the Wild Punch Boxing Gym Facebook page here.

Cover photo: From the gym, watching the ferries come and go.

Spain? Catalonia?

Sorry, peeps! I have been too busy engaging myself in my course work and in a bit of Spanish writing and translation as well so here comes the very belated blog post. During this “down time”, a lot of my mates asked me what exactly Catalonia and Catalan are. Hmm… Interesting!

Let’s start with textbook knowledge. First of all, we need to know there are 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities in Spain. For example, Andalusia and Balearic Islands. Secondly, each autonomous communities is subdivided into provinces. There are 50 provinces in Spain. Barcelona is one of the provinces of Catalonia, similarly, Granada is one of the Andalusian provinces. It might worth mentioning that there are 7 autonomous communities formed by a single province, for instance, Madrid.

Secondly, some regional identities were strengthened after being granted a autonomous government. These members are Catalonia, Basque Country, and Galicia. Interestingly, historical nationalities are designated to these three autonomous communities by the Statute of Autonomy under the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Moreover, you might have noticed that these three regions have their own language – Catalan, Basque, and Galician – which are three of the four official languages in Spain.

Here, we start focusing on Catalonia. Catalonia is an autonomous community consisting of 4 provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona and the people from this region are regarded as Catalans. Almost every Catalan would prefer being called as Catalan instead of Spanish, because of their strong Catalan nationalist mindset where they emphasise that Catalonia is a nation and they are keen on claiming independence. Similar situation can be observed in Hong Kong where most of the people there would regard themselves as Hongkongers or Hong Kong Chinese rather than Chinese.

Let’s move on to some of the most common flags you may see in the street:

Flag of Spain
Flag of Spain
Senyera, flag of Catalonia
Senyera, flag of Catalonia
Blue estelada, Catalan Independentist
Blue estelada, Catalan Independentist
Red estelada, Catalan Socialist Independentist
Red estelada, Catalan Socialist Independentist
Flag of Barcelona
Flag of Barcelona

For the flag of Barcelona, we can tell it is a combination of two senyeras in vertical and two St George’s crosses, which are exactly the same as the flag of England. The appearance of St George’s cross on the flag is due to the fact that Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan) is the patron saint of the city. (El día de Sant Jordi is one of the major festivals in Catalonia, read more in Spanish)

Cover photo: Barcelona City Hall

Today, we’re going to talk about love…

Spain is one of the countries with the richest homosexual history and demonstrates radical liberation of mind. In 1970, the country’s pioneering secret group, Movimiento Español de Liberación Homosexual (MELH; Spanish Homosexual Liberation Movement), was founded in Barcelona. It was a response to the draft bill for La Ley de Peligrosidad y Rehabilitación Social (the Law of Social Danger and Rehabilitation), through which the Franco dictatorship wanted to criminalise homosexuals.

From 1971 onwards, MELH held numerous secret meetings at different locations in Barcelona to avoid prosecution. When Francisco Franco died in 1975, MELH members and others homosexual activists established Front d’Alliberament Gay de Catalunya (FAGC; Catalonia Gay Liberation Front). This group worked extensively for the rights of homosexual individuals and had considerable impact to the LGBT community.

In 1976, when there was a hint of democracy, Armand de Fluvià (Catalan genealogist and heraldry) and a group of activists founded El Casal Lambda (the Lambda Institute), which acts as a hub for services targeting LGBT individuals. On 28 June 1977, the first LGBT demonstration was held in Barcelona and was subsequently held annually as what we call today – Barcelona Pride. There were lot more specialised groups created to, for example, fight against AIDS, open new horizons to general public through cultural activities, and organise LGBT film festivals, etc.

The radical and positive change and liberation of mind in recent years have granted opportunities to institutions to discuss openly LGBT issues during lectures. Related topics are included in the teaching materials so that students could speak freely and lecturers could make responds and moderate the discussions. For instance, in the Spanish class for exchange students at my university, one of the weekly themes was about love. In the handouts, there did not lack the homosexual elements, like same-sex partners, relationships, adoption, marriage, etc. Unlike in Hong Kong, we rarely talked about that in an academic context. During that week of lectures, we shared information about the general view to homosexuals and discrimination and protection to this particular community in different countries. There I realised how distant we are now to equality and a harmonious society.

I believe there are a considerable number of homosexuals, bisexuals, or transgender individuals in Hong Kong and in Spain. Obviously, not every household could be open-minded enough to accept their sons and daughters having different orientations. There is a video describing the difficulties faced by homosexuals in mainland China, which echoed a lot of painful and upsetting life stories there in some traditional Chinese contexts. In Spain, coming out to one’s family is also a challenging task to accomplish. However, the government has been updating various ordinances and providing extensive support to parents, youngsters, and all the members in the LGBT community over the years, of which they are arguably insufficient in Hong Kong.

It is believed that this is a long-lasting battle all over the world. Understanding the LGBT communities could aid liberation of our mind. There have been too many rumours deflecting a rational mind over decades or even centuries, yet, I firmly trust that there will be a day when acceptance is a trend and labelling is to be vanished.

Photo: Avenida Reina María Cristina, Barcelona (from Barcelona Pride)

What do you like?

Hiya (:

I suddenly want to know what you guys like :p because I love a lot of things and activities! For example, I love cooking, swimming, hiking, eating… But, what am I going to do next? I have no idea… There are too many things that I want to do! Ah! I have an idea – to listen to music (: Let’s see what things and activities Manu Chao likes~

Photo: Ma On Shan, Hong Kong

New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year my friends!!!

How’re you all doing? I’m sure you’ve had a fantastic first day of 2014 and perhaps you’re still enjoying the last day of your holiday. What a shock that my brother had to go to school today and he’ll sit for his exams tomorrow! (Luckily, my second semester will only commence until next week… :p)

I’m curious to know the different ways to celebrate New Year around the world (: In Hong Kong, almost every New Year’s Eve, we’ll gather along Victoria Harbour or go up to Victoria Peak to see the fireworks after having dinner with our families (at home or in a restaurant). After that, we’ll go to bars and have fun or go right back home.

In Spain, Spanish also have dinner with their families before going out. However, there’re two traditions that are very interesting about New Year’s Eve. They’ll wear new, red underwear because it will bring them good luck. This is the same when it comes to Lunar New Year, Chinese also put up such underwear for luck.

Besides, there’s a Spanish tradition called The Twelve Grapes. People will eat them one by one with each ring of the bell at midnight. This tradition started in The Gate of the Sun in Madrid (right image) where we can see the government clock tower of the Casa de Correos. Usually, these people will go for parties afterwards till the next morning. That’s why it’s a norm that they’ll have breakfast of hot chocolate and fried pastry (left image) together.

Photo: Victoria Harbour (1 Jan 2014)

P1130625   P1110053

2014’s Resolution

Hey, my beloved friends (:

Today is the last day of 2013, I’m sure you’re all busy recalling the happenings throughout this year… Me too ;) I’m very happy because a lot of wonderful things have happened. For instance, I spent around a month in Andalusia, Barcelona and Madrid in the last summer, and I had my very first experience with people who don’t speak English (of course, neither Cantonese nor Mandarin lol) but Spanish merely. On top of that, since I’ve seen lot more things and have met many different people, I’ve changed a lot after the trip. I even surprised myself that I finally knew how much I’d love to live in Spain… I wish I could live there!!! HAHAHA :D

Anyway, I also believe that today is a perfect moment for us to prepare a new year resolution. It’s important to start the first day of new year with much energy, smile and hope. (:

I wish you all a very merry New Year 2014 with best wishes!!! (((((: We’ll see each other soon and thanks a lot for your support – stay tuned for the updates from ¡BUENO, HK! :D See you soon! ;)

Photo: Victoria Harbour (1 January 2013)

Super typhoon

The super typhoon Usagi is approaching… It’s very powerful and it damaged Taiwan and the Philippines some days ago. Now, there are very big waves in Western Pacific and the wind is pretty strong in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Observatory will enforce the number eight typhoon signal in the evening or at night today. I wish it wouldn’t damage us too severely and, please, folks, do take care…

By the way, every time a typhoon is coming closer, we can always see a very beautiful view, for example, in this photo, there weren’t many clouds in the pink and purple sky yesterday… It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? (:

Photo: Sai Kung, Hong Kong