One hundred meters out, I see a head bobbing up and down in the dark, smooth water. Is that a porpoise or some sort of local sea lion, perhaps? Then I notice that the head is wearing a purple swim cap.
On cue, a couple of old men on clanky bikes pull up beside me, one of whom has a blaring radio strapped to his handle bars. The men jointly shout “Jo sahn! Jo sahn!” into the water below the small public pier we’re standing on. Following the curve of their voices down, I notice that several additional elderly swimmers, also in colorful caps, have already crossed the impressively wide Tolo Harbour and are relaxing and chatting in the bathtub temperature water.
Having risen early from jet lag, I am out on my first run back in Hong Kong. Every strand of my hair and every scrap of my clothing is saturated with sweat. It is sauna-hot and my eyes are stinging from dribbling perspiration.
The swimmers notice me and we all exchange “Jo sahn! Jo sahn! Morning!” along with a round of smiling nods. Then I start running again, mainly to create the cooling sensation of a breeze.
Thinking about how much I enjoyed seeing those old men swimming and how lovely the variations in elevation look across the water after a year in pancake-flat Netherlands, I hear an odd noise. It is the sound of a harmonica being played at full volume and full emotion by a middle aged woman who is also gazing out at the water, mountains and rising sun.
It’s good to be back.