Vietnamese, Tear Gas, and Dance

About a month ago, I agreed to attend a performance near Central. It would be with two other coworkers. There was concern about being on Hong Kong Island in the evening, but we decided to chance it.

J lives in the compound across the street from me, so we headed into Central together. We were going to meet C at the restaurant. When we arrived at Central Station, we saw about 5 riot police, fully geared, and shops down the causeway were closed.

That wasn’t a good sign.

We met for dinner at BEP Vietnamese Kitchen. One of my coworkers is vegan, and this place has good options for someone with her dietary needs. It was really good food. I had a chicken pho and an iced coffee.

While we were eating dinner, I started coughing. I couldn’t stop. Shortly after, people started running down the street. They had their mouths and noses covered. Some were washing out their eyes.

This didn’t look good.

Tear gas. Somewhere to the southeast of us, the riot police had fired tear gas. We couldn’t see them or any protesters, but the tear gas had seeped into the restaurant. Our eyes, throats, and noses burned. We could smell it very strongly. We could see the smoke in the air outside. Again, no protesters. Just people running and trying to escape the smoke.

About 20 minutes later, a waitress, who had gone to see what was going on, returned. She reassured us all that whatever had been happening was now over. Everything was all clear.

We sat and talked a bit longer before heading to Sheng Wan Civic Centre.

We weren’t sure the direction of the protests. From the different feeds, it seemed we should be heading away from it. Yeah.

Well, we ran smack into some more fully geared riot police. I was tempted to take a photo, but I wasn’t that brave. I took a photo of the barricade in the road instead.

We made it to the Civic Centre pretty early. When we got there, the staff were all huddled in pretty intense conversations. Outside, people were watching the streets below. We were on the 5th floor, and there was a balcony facing towards Central.

C and I watched as a group of riot police ran up the hill and down the street out of sight.

We didn’t see much else going on, so we went inside and waited for the show to start.

What we went to see was the Icelandic Dance Company. The show was called “The Best of Darkness“. I really had no expectations going into it. I had heard some of the music, but I hadn’t seen anything about the dance company. I figured it was an experience. And experience it was.

It was about an hour long. It was not like anything I had ever seen before. I thought it was quite enjoyable and totally worth seeing. It was a little strange at times, but I think that was part of the charm. It was impressive some of the things they were able to do. The message was beautiful and sad. The music was gorgeous. I would encourage anyone to see this.

That is the closest I’ve been to the action on ground level. I can now say I have been exposed to tear gas. I hope that I am never exposed to it again. It was not fun at all. It was very painful even for the distance we were from wherever it was being deployed. It makes me wonder about all the children and elderly exposed to it in their homes. I had been sick with a cold for a few days before. The tear gas really messed with me. I could not imagine what it would do to the very young and very old. And just as I and my friends had nothing to do with the protests, and we were still exposed, those groups should be considered and cared for when it happens around them.

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