Monday, 3 January 2011

Notes from Hong Kong 3 - the IKEA chapter

Sadie started school today and I started work and the whole jet lag thing is not going at all well. It was 9:00 last night when I  gave Sadie a valium to help her get to sleep. How many bonus points does that get me in the bad mother’s club? Thank god one of the new school mums emailed to tell me that the kids will all be wearing their PE kit to school.  Can you imagine showing up for your first day at a new school wearing the WRONG THING? 

Yesterday was another fascinating day.  We all slept until almost noon, but the new espresso machine soon had me raring to go again.  I knew it was risky to attempt a trip to IKEA so early in our stay here; I am well aware that 74% of all relationships break up following a trip to IKEA. I just felt like a gamble. I also felt like buying wine glasses.  We took a taxi to an area called Causeway Bay.  There is a shuttle bus from our apartment complex into town, but it’s HK$17 per trip and a taxi to the same place is about HK$40. No contest for more than one person.  Anyway, the shuttle bus doesn’t stop anywhere near IKEA. Perhaps the residents’ committee asked the stop to be removed from the route to help decrease the local divorce rate. Anyway, it was kind of nice not to fight the traffic on the north circular and threaten GBH to someone trying to nick my parking space – my typical IKEA experience to date. 

The taxi was getting close to our destination, when I saw a most peculiar sight.  There were literally thousands, maybe tens of thousands, very small women swarming all over Victoria Park and all the surrounding pavements and verges.  Many of them were sitting on blankets or sheets of plastic, sharing a picnic. I am not kidding when I say that there was not an inch of space visible underneath these women.   It reminded me of an old Star Trek episode I saw once about a planet where population control had really not worked and everyone had about 2 square feet of space to exist in. That’s what it was like. Really. And I swear to you, each and every one of these women was shorter than Sadie.  Shorter than Sadie three years ago. I then remembered reading that Sunday is the day off for all the “helpers” in Hong Kong.  These are the poor (primarily) Philipino women who leave their own children to come to live in a cupboard in Hong Kong and look after other people's children. I will write more about them later.  Anyway, the amah army had taken over Causeway Bay, and I found out today that they pretty much take over the north part of the island every Sunday.  Good god, think of the power these women could have if they organised themselves.  I guess they are too busy wiping the bottoms of other women's babies.

At first glance, IKEA in Hong Kong looked pretty much like IKEA anywhere else - swarms of couples with glazed donut eyes, stroking sofabeds and fondling entertainment centres. Like other IKEAs, it was filled with hundreds of unneccesary plastic items and tea lights.  What is it that has compelled every single person I know to buy a pack of 2000 tea lights? Sometimes more than once. Anyway, I quicly sensed that something was amiss. "What is it", I quizzed David.  "It's IKEA, but not as we know it".  David was as puzzled as I. We couldn't quite put a finger on it.  Here were the Billy bookshelves. There was the Malm cutlery. In fact, I was looking at the Malm cutlery when a man in a yellow shirt with blue lettering came up and said "do you need help with anything?".  Bingo! The lights went on!  That's what was different.  The staff in Hong Kong IKEA were not only visible, but they also spoke Engish. I never found anyone in IKEA London who was available, much less able to communicate. I had a little panic as I feared he must have thought we were about to shoplift the forks and knives; I couldn't imagine why an IKEA employee would speak to me for any other reason. But no! He was just being helpful! David and I both stood slack jawed with wonder like any other gormless westerner would have done in the same circumstance.   We managed to buy pillows, wine glasses, dishes, towels, and several unnecessary plastic items, but we escaped without tea lights.  A man in yellow and blue helped us load up our trolley, and he even escorted us outside to a taxi rank. No, Toto, we are not in London any more.

1 comment:

  1. Haha!!! Wow though, I'm suprised that it wasn't more different than that... I guess I thought Ikea would localise a little more...