We Look the Other Way

Things admitted to weather beauty without glare.
The red rust of old house-roofs
rests sorely animate eyes.
Posts unpainted by the elements
refine texture in the same way as driftwood —
sight is nothing but soothed
by childhood’s grain-patterning in timber.
Lichen is the flower born to no notice:
its muted green coral
maps bare stone oceans of rock.
What is inconspicuous
invites us indefinitely to look the other way  —
less in easy love with glamour,

(introvertly).


Photograph: Evette Kwok (2020)

Learning Cantonese: Ah Long’s Passionfruit-flavoured Beer

I think it’s great when young people find something to get really passionate about and are given the opportunity to develop their skills. In this video put together by HK01 reporters 黃詠榆 Wòhng4 Wihng6 Yùh4 and 曾藹豪 Jāng1 Ói2 Hòuh4, recent school-leaver 阿朗 Aa3 Lóhng5 is given the chance to do a few months’ work experience at the local craft-beer brewery Hong Kong Whistle at the end which he gets to brew his own product, a passionfruit-flavoured India Pale Ale.

Apart from quite a bit of elementary beer-brewing vocabulary, this clip also introduces a few colourful idioms such as 由零開始 yàuh4 lìhng4 hōi1 chí2 = start from scratch, and includes a few instances of 浄係 jihng6 haih6 = only; merely.

Incidentally, on the Hong Kong Whistle website, the following explanation is given for the brewery name:

「吹啤啤」表達一種港式幽默,有好飲到「一飲而盡」,又有需要飲返枝啤酒爽一爽的意思。如果你向外國人翻譯「吹啤啤」,你會發現並不容易。廣東話的精鍊,就好像手工啤。只能體驗,難以言傳。

Roughly, this translates as follows: “What the term cheui pe pe expresses is a kind of Hong Kong-style humour: it can mean that something is so good to drink that you drink it all down in one go, but at the same time it also has the sense of needing to drink a bottle of beer to give yourself a lift. If you translate cheui pe pe for a foreigner, you’ll discover it’s not so easy to do. The refinement of Cantonese is like craft beer. While you can experience it, it is almost to convey in words.”

You can view the video here. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

阿朗:呃你見到我身後邊呢一個呢就係糖,一個糖化爐啦 | 噉糖化係乜呢? | 就係一個,呃,用釀,一個釀酒呃第一步過程啦

● 糖化爐 tòhng4 faa3 lòuh4 = (?) saccharification oven | ● 釀酒 yeuhng6 jáu2 = to make wine; to brew beer

Ah Long: Do you see [the thing] behind me? It is a sugar . . . a saccharification oven. What is saccharification? It is the first step in the process of brewing beer.

記者:阿朗對釀造啤酒有研究 | 係因爲參加一個 | 推廣本土產業嘅實習計劃 | 阿朗考完 DSE 之後就嚟到呢一間 | 港產手工啤酒廠做實習 | 嚟學嘢之餘,亦都有機會釀出 | 屬於自己味道嘅手工啤

● 釀造 yeuhng6 jouh6 = to make (wine, vinegar, etc.); to brew (beer, etc.) | ● 有研究 yáuh5 yìhn4 gau3 = The noun 研究 is usually “research”, but perhaps this expression means something more like “to be knowledgeable about” or “to have done one’s homework” | ● 產業 cháan2 yihp6 = industry

Note: The expression 之餘 is added at the end of noun phrases to give the meaning of “after; beyond”, although often it seems to me that the sense is pretty close to the English “apart from” or “in addition to”.

Reporter: The reason why Ah Long is so knowledgeable about brewing beer is that he took part in a work-experience program for the promotion of local industries [一個推廣本土產業嘅實習計劃]. After completing his Diploma of Secondary Education, he came to this brewery for Hong Kong craft beer to get some hands-on work experience [做實習]. Apart from learning [about brewing beer], he also had the opportunity to brew a craft beer with a flavour all of its own [屬於自己味道嘅].

阿朗:自己本身都係唔知道係完全係咩嘅一回事啦| 咁就想去由零開始係直接走入個去個工廠度 | 去一步一步學點樣釀好一枝啤酒佢 | 釀呢(一) 枝酒嘅時間係 |  我實習期最後嗰個禮拜 | 噉,阿 David,先我去開始釀啦 | 因爲呃,嗰啲平時做嘢好,嗰啲行程好緊凑呀 | 咁未有時間釀啦 | 我嗰隻啤酒唔係係【1:00】,呃, IPA 咁簡單 | 熱帶嘅水果呢,係會同呢隻IPA 會好夾啦 | 咁所以呃我就嘗試去用呢隻水果嚟襯返呢個 IPA 囉 | 我淨係釀咗一次啤酒 | 我就釀咗十四日囉 | 我嚟緊都會繼續改良呢隻啤酒啦 | 咁前上個禮拜先至入樽嘅 | 噉所以我,呃,一路都未有時間返屋企 | 不過我一定會攞返攞俾朋友,攞俾屋企人去試吓嘅

● 由零開始 yàuh4 lìhng4 hōi1 chí2 = start from scratch; begin from the very beginning | ● 枝 jī1 = a bottle cf. 樽 jēun1, used below | ● 行程 hàhng4 chìhng4 = schedule | ● 緊凑 gán2 chau3 = compact; terse; well-knit; busy (as in “a busy/tight work schedule”) | ● 熱帶 yiht6 daai3 = the tropics; tropical | ● 夾 gaap3 = a perfect match; well-matched; compatible | ● 襯返 chan3 fāan1 = (?) to match; to suit | ● 改良 gói2 lèuhng4 = to improve; to ameliorate | ● 入樽 yahp6 jēun1 = to be bottled (lit. “enter bottle”)

Note: Firstly, IPA = India Pale Ale, “a hoppy beer style within the broader category of pale ale”. Secondly, 襯返 uses the aspect marker 返 fāan1 to suggest a matching back onto something and shows the versatility of this marker in Cantonese. Thirdly, observe the two uses of 浄係 jihng6 haih6 to delimit the scope of something: 我嗰隻啤酒唔係浄係,呃, IPA 咁簡單喎 = That bottle of beer of mine is not merely a simple India Pale Ale; 我淨係釀咗一次啤酒啫 = I only had one go at brewing. The second example also adds the final particle 啫 jē1, which also conveys the meaning of “merely, only, that’s all”. Fourthly, I am not sure why Ah Long says 前上個禮拜, starting with 前. 上個禮拜 means “last week”, and as far as I know 兩個禮拜前 is generally used for “the week before last; two weeks ago”.

Ah Long: Me, I didn’t know anything about it, [beer brewing]. I wanted to start from scratch, go directly to the brewery and learn how to make a bottle of beer step by step. I brewed this bottle of beer in my last week in the work-experience period. Ah David [阿 David] let me do it because, ordinarily, the work schedule is very tight and there was no time for me [to do any brewing]. That bottle of beer of mine is not merely a simple India Pale Ale. Tropical fruits are a perfect match with India Pale Ale. And so I tried to use this fruit to match an India Pale Ale. I only had one go at brewing. I brewed [this beer] for 14 days. In the days to come [嚟緊], I will continue to improve this beer. It was only bottled last week. So for this reason I haven’t had time to take a bottle of it home, but I will certainly do so, to let my friends and family try it.

梁家泰(吹啤啤創辦人):其實,我都最後尾呢,都係想俾自己試吓 | 呃,自己釀一釀佢嘅作品嘅 | 因爲我覺得雖然係,呃,一個暑期實習計劃|,兩個月或者三個月, | 噉都希望佢學到嘅嘢呢,係啊,佢做嘅一樣嘢 | 係屬於佢自己嘅,完全係屬於佢自己嘅  | 就唔係話,好似我嚟都係 幫人做嘢啫 | 我打份 part-time 啫 | 啫我唔希望係咁樣諗囉 |  之前呢,都有其他同事都做過一啲產品呢 | 係呃,係我之後最尾都推出市場㖭 | 噉所以我都期待呢,【2:00】啫,阿朗繼續去反復試多幾次之後呢 | 我將佢嘅產品呢,係推出市場 | 而家香港呢,有20幾家嘅酒廠啦 | 當然鼓勵多香港製造嘅產業嘅,其實我都係 | 唔係一定係酒廠嘅 | 噉如果係香港製造嘅食物呀 | 或者係其他蛋糕呀、月餅呀 | 我覺得呢啲都係應該要香港人應該去繼續尋找呢條路嘅

● 期待 kèih4 doih6 = to expect; to wait; to look forward to | ● 酒廠 jáu2 chóng2 = brewery; winery; distillery | ● 尋找 chàhm4 jáau2 = to seek; to look for; here, the meaning seems figurative, like the English “to find a way”

David Leung (the founder of Hong Kong Whistle): As a matter of fact, in the end I wanted to give him [a chance] to brew his own effort [作品], because I thought that even though it was a Summer’s work experience, two months or three months, I still hoped that the things he had learnt and the things he had done would become something of his own [係屬於佢自己嘅], something completely his. It wasn’t [just a matter of]: I’m just here to help other people do their work. I’m only part-time. I hoped [he] wouldn’t think of it like that. Previously, there have been other work-mates who have come up with products [做過一啲產品]. Yes, and then later I’ve promoted them on the market, too. And so what I wish for is that Ah Long will make further attempts and that I will promote his products on the market. There are more than 20 breweries in Hong Kong and of course I encourage more industries in Hong Kong to make [things], yes I do as a matter of fact. It doesn’t have to be brewing beer: if it is food made in Hong Kong, or other [kinds of] cakes, or mooncakes, then my feeling is that Hongkongers should continue to look for a way.

Reporters: 黃詠榆 Wòhng4 Wihng6 Yùh4 | 榆 = elm tree,曾藹豪 Jāng1 Ói2 Hòuh4 | 藹 = 1. friendly; affable; amiable 2. exuberant; lush; luxuriant
Camerawork: 洪業銘 Hùhng4 Yihp6 Míhng5 (or Mìhng4)
Editing: 曾雁翔 Jāng1 Ngaahn6 Chèuhng4

● You can watch another 3-minute video about David Leung and Hong Kong Whistle here with subtitles in Standard Written Chinese.



Get Real, Sister

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. (Hosea, Chapter 2)

I call it THE DESERT where everything, everything flowers
but me. Sand
in that landscape largely absents itself,
not a dune to be seen: I am the sand
crawling expressly against the grain
like a strong, many-crippled river
of dust. Rain
showers down complacently from the sky
to ensure all humanly
physical thirsts are more than admirably quenched,
while existence crackles
its tightly-scrolled parchment in me.
Almost always,
the hot sun forgets to beat down;
little of the treachery of shape-shifting mirages
buckles the bare-faced horizon;
and no bird
cawless between finger-fringed wingtips
watches through the hours for the next candidate corpse to drop dead
on its beat. Yet
still my impossible personal desert
continues to encroach, infinitely
arid and stern,
and I am ordered out of the world’s flat portrait
to hear for myself
spoken out of nowhere how the patterns I learned ―
and I lived ― by heart
are now invalid features
right here in such fundamental country.

The Whole Joy (Tender Living)

Photo by Elianne Dipp on Pexels.com

● More than ten years ago now, a young woman went swimming at an Australian beach and was attacked and killed by sharks. This would be regarded as a tragedy anywhere in the world, but to the Australian psyche, obsessed with the sun and the sea as symbols of ultimate freedom, it was an unpardonable outrage committed by nature against the human order.

Like many others, beyond pointless outrage, I needed to make sense of this. How on earth do we come to terms with something so completely awful? To me, poetry means trying to find the words to deal with the unspeakable. At least, this is where it truly come in to its own, giving us a way through something that looms as a monolithic block, a lockdown of all our usual patterns of thought and feeling. Poems must take us where we cannot go purely on the basis of our common sense or experience . . .

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Whole Joy

Every swimmer
knows that terror
she died of

yet still this Summer
we bait the water
with her fears.

Sun, sand, sea:
how these three
symbol the mind’s joy.

What shadows them —
decease, devastation —
revolts it.

Like earth, like air,
no ocean bears
the slightest enduring stain.

We mind her pain,
scarified, so that we may learn
the whole joy.

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Three words in the last stanza are vital. The verb “to mind” has at least three relevant meanings here. First of all, it suggests offence: we are disgusted by what happened, and we don’t want it to happen again. Secondly, the event stays with us, becomes something that stays on our minds, making us incapable of getting it out of our heads. But finally, we are asked, perhaps, to look after this pain, to mind it on behalf of the victim, and to keep it intact in our lives so that it can play a meaningful role in how we move on past grief and horror.

The rather heavy-handed “scarify” obviously blends the two meanings of “scare” and “scar”. “Scar” echoes the previous “minding”, in the sense of allowing something to endure and of keeping it close to us, skin-close. I also had in mind something of what Jiddu Krishnamurti is quoted as saying about meditation in a recent powerful post on Vanessa Able’s The Dewdrop site: “it’s a danger to those who wish to lead a superficial life and a life of fancy and myth”. In the same way, the terrible fate of the young swimmer is a meditative reminder to us to live more authentically, to jolt us out of our fantasy wonderland version of reality.

The final phrase “the whole joy” indicates both complete joy and the joy of knowing wholeness, a wholeness capable of accepting everything that happens to us on this Earth as human beings ⸺ and not just the pleasant flounces and trimmings we so often wish to reduce existence to.

Memory is crucial here. Perhaps one should even hazard a new word and say membory, with a silent b. Unbearably, excruciatingly, in this context, however, what a desolate verb “to remember” turns out to be.