Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hong Kong Chronicles: Rhythm and Music


I’ve been walking and dancing, swinging and singing to a Western rhythm. I’ve been conditioned by the music of the U.S. Midwest…snow falling, rustling autumn leaves, quick summers…a little less than half of my life in Wisconsin. Yes. Sometimes that includes the obligatory polka or two (or twelve) at weddings, ya’ know. I bopped a little south for a few years and landed in an area trapped between Midwestern rhythm and Southern music (Southern Indiana). Eventually I two-stepped my way all the way south to the American Southwest in Texas.

With each sidle east to west or sachet north to south, you fine tune the instrument of you. It’s still the same song, same symphony, same swing dance, same ballet.

Making your music work with the new music sometimes means learning the melody a little different or singing a different part of the harmony. Sometimes it starts off with discordant notes.
Making your rhythm work with the new rhythm sometimes means learning a more complicated step or a different dance. Sometimes you have to change to an 8-count Lindy Hop instead of a 6-count West Coast swing. Sometimes it involves toes being stepped on, an elbow to the ribs, or a smack in the forehead. (Did the 90’s swing craze and inflicted all three on my poor partners.)

Moving to a new country means a different symphony and a new rhythm. At the beginning your music is raucously discordant and your rhythm is hopelessly out of sync.
With time, the sheer brute force of repetition can bring your rhythm into sync and your music into harmony. You can sometimes add a brand new layer to the melody of your new home.
In the US, northern life is quick-quick-quick. You talk fast, walk fast, and generally run to keep warm. In the South, it’s slow---slow---slow....... It’s h-o-t, so you drawl y’all’s words and generally mosey. (For all y’all in Dallas or Houston, I’m not including driving in this analogy.) Eastern rhythm in Hong Kong has a quick-slow element. It’s the city (quick) and it’s hot (slow).

I’ve started walking to the rhythm here. When I first arrived, I felt like I was playing "Constant Chicken" because I was walking to a Western rhythm. Driving is on the left side of road. Riding my bike is generally left-sided (but random). And walking is thoroughly random. Sometimes everyone walks left. Sometimes everyone walks right.

I’ve started riding my bike to the rhythm.

But, I have brought my own theme song.

I have a granny-style bike.

It sometimes includes a doggy in the basket.

If I painted the dog and the bike black, would it rosin up your bow for the theme song?


  1. gosh, I love this post! someone who has had to learn new rhythms a bunch of times in life so far, I TOTALLY get it!

  2. Nancy...LOL!!!...does that mean they come with a Barbie theme song?

    And we REALLY need to get you your pink teapot!

  3. Kerin Rose - thank you so much! I wanted to express the feeling of moving without the complaint. Even though every move is an adjustment, I always love where I live.

  4. an what a rich interesting life tapestry you are weaving!