For the past few days I have been in Brisbane living a life that can’t be better denoted than with the Cantonese word now prevalent as a verb in the speech of Hong Kong youngsters: “hea”.   Chinese readers of this post must be curious about what character corresponds to this syllable “hea”.  Unfortunately, there is, for the time being, no corresponding Chinese character for this syllable, which emerged in the Hong Kong community no more than ten years ago, as far as I know. 

So what does “hea” mean?  Well, the syllable, when uttered by a “Hongkonger” in his/her Cantonese speech, mainly denotes the way of spending time in an aimless way, in which rewards of whatever kind for any thing done during the relevant period of time are of no or minimal concern to the time-spender.  Of course this is only as far as the writer of this post understands and it could be a wrong interpretation because, however reluctant he wants to admit, there is a wide gap between his age and those of the youngsters in Hong Kong that are the more rightful users of this syllable.  If this interpretation of the word “hea” is correct, then it aptly applies to the way I’ve been living my life for the past few days since I arrived in Brisbane on Thursday 27 Novemeber.

I came to Brisbane mainly for the purpose of attending my son Raymond’s graduation ceremony.  The one-month baby boy who I could hold single-armedly this time twenty-one years ago has long grown into a young man physically taller and stronger than I.  Now if the father and the son wrestle with each other the one soon to beg for mercy would definitely be the father.  At the age of a bit more than fourteen he was sent by his stonehearted father and his tearful mum to Brisbane to study Year 10 at Brisbane Grammar School as a boarding student.  For almost seven years the boy has lived practically away from his mum’s caring as well as his father’s monitoring.  Yet he got into the University of Queensland with an OP2 in the Queensland QCST.  This was a great achievement in his high school studies that was, honestly speaking, quite a delightful surprise to his parents.  Now his graduation ceremony will be held on Monday 14 Dec, and he’ll be graduating with a First-class Honours.  This time it isn’t as unexpected as when he got his OP2, because for the past four years of his uni studies I have been kept informed of his good uni results.

Oops!  It looks like I have strayed from the theme of this post, which should be about “hea-ing” my life (when typing the word “life” I innocently had a “slip of fingers” by typing the word “wife” instead) away in Brisbane.  Okay, this is what happened for the past few days in Brisbane:  Each morning my wife and I would get up at a time we didn’t really care what it was (although usually it’s around eight).  Then, while Raymond and his housemates are still sleeping as a result of either playing computer games or watching DVD movies or skyping on the Internet late into the small hours, we would go into the kitchen to prepare for ourselves the breakfast, which would be toast and jam and water or coffee.  Then after Raymond has woken up at whatever o’clock, we would discuss what to do and where to go for the rest of the day.  We would then end up driving to the UQ St Lucia campus, where Raymond would go to see his supervisors for their references for his PhD applications, and my wife and I would wander around the campus either in our rented car or on foot, and in most cases we would meet Raymond at the uni bookshop, where the three of us would stay for a while, me and Raymond browsing books and Raymond’s mum looking for prospective souvenirs to bring back to HK.  Then we would either go back to where we stay, or, to a place that we used to frequent when we lived in Brisbane in the 1990s.  In most cases the place would be a shopping mall in one of the suburbs I still remember how to drive to.  We would wander around the shopping mall and buy groceries for the dinner if we were not eating out.  We would not miss visiting the pet shop in the shopping mall whenever there is one, because we all enjoy watching cockatiels, which we used to keep as pets.  Then we would return home.  Because Raymond lives with a few uni friends, my wife and I would spend most of our time in the bedroom that we inherit from one of Raymond’s housemates who has already left, so as to give Raymond and his friends as much space and freedom as what we believe enlightened and liberal parents are supposed to do.  We do pay our share of the rent though.  After dinner, we would retreat to our room once again.  Then my wife would continue with her Japanese suspense novel, and I would surf the Internet for as long as I can remain awake.  Occasionally I would go to the living room to play computer games with Raymond, but not for long, because the suspense novel scares my wife so much that I would soon be summoned back to our room.  Our self-confinement would not take long, as we would soon go to bed, usually around nine or ten of Brisbane time.  That means going to bed around seven or eight Hong Kong time.  Despite being so early, I would soon fall asleep, which would be evident to my unfortunate wife with my thunderous snoring.  For people of my age our sleep at night normally lasts around five hours only.  So I would wake up around two or three in the very late night, or very early morning depending on one’s perception of time.  If this happened three decades ago, when I was still a novice teacher, I would definitely have got up from bed and sat at my desk to prepare for the next day’s teaching.  But that was history.  Now I would just allow my body to continue lying flat in bed and let my mind wander around the universe.  The mental activities during this time must have been on really trivial matters, as now I just can’t recall what thoughts have arisen in them.  In other words, I have allowed both my body and my mind to “hea” as freely as things can be.  Such “hea-ing” must be rather therapeutic and hipnotizing, as I would fall asleep again somewhere around five, when the Brisbane Sun would already be up on the far horizon.  The next time I regain my consciousness would be around eight.   Often my wife would also be awake at that time.  So we would go into the kitchen to prepare the breakfast for ourselves.  Thus continues the cycle of my daily activities in Brisbane as recalled above.

That’s how I’ve been “hea-ing”  in Brisbane since 27 November, as also evident in my writing of this post.