It’ll be embarrassing when we meet again – Postcard from Edinburgh


Every time I meet local friends during my travels, I always get asked whether I’m here for “business or pleasure”. It’s a normal question, but it’s become quite ambivalent for me. After all, I don’t have a typical job for years, yet I continue to write and engage in web3 civic education. Every trip abroad is a mix of personal and professional endeavors. However, this time, coming to the UK under the guise of promoting a new book and spending a month visiting dozens of friends, it feels like I’m taking this “role-playing” thing to a whole new level.

In recent years, I’ve been maintaining a list. Whenever I hear about friends immigrating to the UK, I make sure to jot it down, so I won’t forget who to look up when I’m here. Over the past few years, the list has grown to 30 people. Except for a few I couldn’t get in touch with, this time I’ve managed to meet up with at least one friend for a drink each day. That means for nearly a month, I’ve been catching up with a friend on average every day, trying my best to stick to doing just one thing a day.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve gotten used to the efficiency of Hong Kong (including the 90-minute-limit-gatherings), I thought I could maintain my usual productivity during this trip. I even hoped to catch up on reading articles, finally write the long-overdue foreword for a friend’s book, and binge-watch the eagerly awaited Netflix adaptation of The Three-Body Problem at night while lounging in bed. Turns out, I was quite naive. The older I get, the less capable I am of multitasking. Except for barely keeping up with my weekly reports, I’ve pretty much dropped all my daily work. My inbox is filled with a pile of emails and articles, not to mention the backlog of shows to watch.

But hey, you can skip a meal, you can’t miss Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End. Besides, it was just before the trip, and the season finale of the first season hadn’t aired yet. The bittersweet ending was expected, but what I didn’t anticipate was how the storyline seemed to resonate with my journey. After the Level 1 Mage Exam, as the mages bid farewell, Frieren maintained her usual stoic expression, softly saying, “Goodbye.” Frieren wasn’t heartless; it’s just that recalling the ten-year adventure with the brave adventurers made her sentimental. When asked why they said goodbye so matter-of-factly, Himmel smiled and said, “As long as we keep traveling, we’ll meet again. Shedding tears isn’t our style… because it’ll be embarrassing when we meet again.”

There’s something I’d like to tell you, 
With words more precious than a goodbye. 
Unremarkable yet special.

Anytime Anywhere – milet, ending theme of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End

p.s. The disproportionate focus on Edinburgh in the photos is because only at this final stop did I spend more days than visiting friends. Most of the earlier ones were taken while dining with friends.

Talking about mailboxes, I must confess I have a colonial mentality in me. 

I’ve been to London about six or seven times, mostly catching one or two musicals while there. This trip was primarily about visiting friends, so I didn’t plan ahead. Instead, I bought tickets on the spot whenever I had free time. Apart from the nth time rewatching the still fantastic Les Misérables and the lesser-known gem Operation Mincemeatrecommended by a friend, I also saw Hamilton in Edinburgh, which tells the story of the American Revolution.

The styles of these three productions couldn’t be more different. LesMis is a traditional blockbuster, a classic among classics. Operation Mincemeat, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, created by a small theater group with only 5 actors playing multiple roles, and it’s incredibly witty. Hamilton, a recent hit, blends hip-hop and musical theater in a unique way, featuring a multi-ethnic cast and a very politically correct message, which explains its immense popularity.

I recommend listening to one of the songs from Operation Mincemeat, Dear Bill.

During my stay in London, I crashed at a friend’s place, and the host, Springroll, was very welcoming. At night, she would quietly open my door and jump onto my bed. So if you see my jeans a bit torn next time, it’s on her.

While in London, I mainly stayed with my good friend’s family. Initially, I was preoccupied with some matters. However, on the fourth or fifth day, during dinner with my friend’s family of four, their 15-year-old son asked me why I hadn’t said a word during my stay. The younger daughter even wondered if I had social anxiety. This startled me, and I ended up apologizing profusely. Over the next two nights, I spent hours explaining the history of money and opening a cryptocurrency wallet for him, giving him 10 USDC and some ETH to lend on AAVE. I even helped two classmates set up their wallets. Young people without baggage learn astonishingly fast. After listening to me ramble for two nights, he managed to finish Moneyverse: how money works in the multiverse in just two days and casually remarked, “It’s not difficult.”

Dining out in the UK can be pricey, and sometimes you get subpar food in return. On the flip side, ingredients are often reasonably priced, so many immigrants to the UK have turned into cooking experts. Above is one of the meals I cooked, consisting of five dishes and a soup. I consulted my friend for recipes involving lotus root and eggplant.

Saying that young people have no baggage is not just about not being bound by traditional systems; it’s also about not having the worldly wisdom of adults. I’ve become the type who’s too lazy to read the room, offending many and calling few. But after mingling in society for so long, I’ve learned to consider others’ feelings; for example, I wouldn’t ask someone why they immigrated while we’re sitting at the dinner table. On the other hand, my friend’s child speaks without filter, asking me why I chose to stay in Hong Kong. While the question isn’t sensitive to me, it caught me off guard at dinner, and I didn’t know how to explain in that setting.

If my friend is reading this, apart from passing on my standard response to your son, you can simply convey this: “The UK doesn’t need me; I want to stay in Hong Kong and participate in disaster relief efforts.”

Whittington’s Tea Barge, run by two couples, is a floating restaurant located in Reading. During weekdays, it docks on the River Thames, serving as a traditional English tea room, while on weekends, it transforms into a Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng.

Don’t assume that visiting 30 friends means I have a wide social circle. Those who know me well are aware of my introversion and social anxiety. However, in recent years, with over 200,000 Hong Kong people immigrating to the UK under the BNO visa scheme, there’s a considerable number of acquaintances ranging from childhood friends to colleagues, along with others I’ve met through work and civic society. Among these, the 30 friends I visited in the UK might even be an underestimate. There are probably more friends scattered across the UK with whom I’ve lost touch.

This population of 200,000 doesn’t even include those who have immigrated to Taiwan, Australia, Canada, and other countries, many of whom are professionals. However, according to the Hong Kong government, there hasn’t been a significant emigration trend from Hong Kong. Please don’t ask me why; I don’t understand such sophisticated logic.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not splurging on fine dining. This is The Whitworth Cafe, the student cafeteria at the University of Manchester. It offers affordable prices and a beautiful environment where you can dine while watching squirrels frolic in the park.

Among the elite immigrants, one of them is my childhood friend, J. She’s a good girl who grew up protected, having her first outing with classmates only after her CE exam. It had been many years since we last met, but as we walked along the River Thames in Kingston, she reminded me of the little sister she used to be, even “childhood sister”. Listening to J share how she’s been raising her children, buying a house, and settling down in the UK despite the challenges of growing up and immigrating, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of comfort, as if watching my little sister grow up and live her own life.

J, you don’t need to worry about me. Just showing concern is enough. If you care, just take some time to read my writings. Everything I can share is in my words.

Nottingham’s In Common Breath Bookstore

Since I’m here on a “working trip”, it’s only natural to visit bookstores, drop off a few new books, chat with the owner, and get a sense of the reading culture among Hong Kong people in the UK. Moneyverse: how money works in the multiverse is available at In Common BreathSame Breath Bookstore.

Traveling ten thousand kilometers with new books, hosting events from Taipei to Hong Kong to London, this decentralized publishing approach is truly living up to its name, isn’t it?

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry standing on the mountain top (error)

After visiting London, Reading, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Leamington Spa, Birmingham, Manchester, Warrington, Leeds, and Nottingham, I finally arrived in Edinburgh for the first time. A friend asked if I visited any Harry Potter-related spots. Well, let me tell you, the whole city is practically infused with a magical aroma. You can find Harry Potter attractions on every street corner.

However, the Elephant Cafe on Victoria Street, where JK Rowling once sat and wrote her novels, is no longer in its original location. The storefront now boldly proclaims “Magic Café” (in simplied Chinese), which completely dampened my already faint pilgrimage enthusiasm. Oh well, maybe next time.

Adjacent to the University of Edinburgh lies The Meadows, a spacious park.

On a rare sunny and calm day, locals come out to stroll with their children, play fetch with their beloved dogs, or simply bask in the sunshine. Amidst vast stretches of grass, the cherry blossoms, although not yet in full bloom, are already breathtaking.

Walking along the cherry blossom pathway, I saw spot students studying in the library, pondering life on the benches (aka contemplating existence). Suddenly, I realize you’ve unintentionally wandered into the University of Edinburgh, only to remember, “Ah, universities are meant to be open to all.”

In a small park in Edinburgh’s Old Town, children are feeding pigeons. Perhaps they don’t realize that the DAB proposal seeks to ban feeding wild animals including pigeons across Hong Kong, with fines of up to HK$100,000.

When dining out during my travels, I rarely choose Chinese cuisine. Instead, I often opt for Italian or Spanish dishes, which are less common in Hong Kong. However, the cuisine I eat the most is Indian food, as it is relatively inexpensive and authentic.

Although menus often come with English explanations, they are still not entirely clear. So, every time I order, it feels like opening a mystery box. It’s only after the first bite that I truly know the taste, adding an element of excitement to the meal. One time, at a South Indian restaurant, I ordered a spicy curry veg, thinking it would be moderately spicy. To my surprise, it was extremely spicy, and I had to drink lots of water to finish it. When I asked, the waiter chuckled and said it was the spiciest dish on the menu. Despite sweating profusely from the heat, I thought to myself, “Isn’t this what traveling is all about?”

In the UK, there’s a “Lion Rock,” not as tall as Hong Kong’s, but the scenery along the way is extremely beautiful.

I was lucky to encounter good weather in Edinburgh in spring, so without hesitation, I climbed Arthur’s Seat, the summit of Holyrood Park. At 250 meters above sea level, it offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire city, making it the highlight of my trip to the UK (now you know why this week’s newsletter is two hours late).

No matter how you capture it on your phone, you can’t truly capture the magnificent scenery here. If you’re interested, you can check out this one-minute aerial video.

On the way up Arthur’s Seat, two people and a dog were sunbathing at the cliff edge.

During the hike, a friend asked about the state of Hong Kong’s civil society, leaving me momentarily speechless. My initial thought was, “Is there even a civil society anymore?” But upon further reflection, that didn’t feel quite right, so I shared a recent anecdote to answer indirectly.

The weekend before coming to the UK, I hosted a book sharing event at Bleak House, with over 30 attendees. Not a large crowd, but it filled the small tenement building. The sharing session, scheduled until 10:30 p.m., ran over by an hour, followed by hours of questions and discussions until 2:30 a.m., then continued over late-night snacks in Mong Kok until 3:30 a.m. The event charged a fee of HK$100, with the bookstore splitting the proceeds with me. I immediately used my portion to purchase 20 Lunar New Year posters signed by Tam Tak Chi, using the income to support Collectivehk. As I recounted this, I handed one of the posters to my friend.

I shared this story not because it was grand, but precisely because it was small. Civil society is built on individuals living their values every day, and it’s through these everyday actions that its significance is transmitted. Whether Hong Kong still has a civil society depends on whether we can break free from the stereotype that “civil society equals government-recognized NGOs,” a perception that’s now outdated.

To say that Hong Kong no longer has a civil society would do a disservice to those who continue to persevere every day.


kin @ Edinburgh


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