Flowers, rats and more Sai Wan memories 滿姐的故事
Sai Wan Stories; memories of HK’s oldest public housing estate
In Kennedy Town you find Hong Kong oldest surviving public estate. 640 units in five blocks built in a rocky hill side, Sai Wan Estate is a living memory of the city’s first big housing crisis. Thousands of people moved here ‘temporarily’ in 1958 fleeing war and unrest, but many never left. Sai Wan Estate is a micro-cosmos of post-war Hong Kong, a place of survivors where the community spirit thrives. We met with some long-time residents. We learned about their hopes, dreams and memories. Hear their stories, learn what they love.
Carol choir and pastors would come from the church to pray and sing and afterwards they’d eat: sweet soups, congee, noodles, cakes and sometimes red bean sweet soup.
Smell of rats
“Rats”, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when Moon Yeh’s recalls the early days of Sai Wan Estate. The memories still bring a frown to her face. “In the 60s, we had to clean the floors and wash the beds very often, because it was filthy, there were so many rats. When I first moved here, I was so scared of them. We always had the doors open so they’d just sneak in from the corridors or through the pipes. The arcade was a real rathole. It was dirty, not a great place to live. The floor was bare concrete, we invested in tiles and wallpaper, but because we live on the lower floors it was always damp and they didn’t last. But what can you say? The rent was only $99, they increased it slowly to the current rate of $1,400. You can’t even rent a storeroom for $1,400 now!”
Today Moon Jeh’s home is cosy, flowers and portraits neatly arrangement on a cabinet with a loving attention to detail. “The kids run around, but I seldom go to my neighbour’s flat, I don’t want to make things dirty. They like mah-jong games, but I don’t play. I usually get some fabric or leather to work on. I used to make plastic flowers, a dozen of them earned 30 cents. There was a shop where you’d collect materials and bring back, dropped off the flowers when ready. They used a stamp card to record your earnings. My kids were good, they helped making the flowers. 30 cents would buy a full meal for the whole family. Beef was 20 cents, add a few cents for sprouts and if we were lucky a sunny side egg on top!”
Every Christmas the Liu’s would set up two tables near South Terrace for a Christmas celebration. They had to apply in advance. Carol choir and pastors would come from the church to pray and sing and afterwards they’d eat: sweet soups, congee, noodles, cakes and sometimes red bean sweet soup. “All the neighbours were invited, sometimes we’d have more than 20 people. There are two grannies who live on the upper levels, they also believe in God, they’d come and help with the preparations and even all my non-Christian neighbours would come, sing and share our food. We’d sing carols until late at night”.
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