Saturday morning I spent at my neighbor’s house visiting. Her husband was in the Viet Nam war and, a few years later, I was in South China. We talked about Hong Kong — he talked about it as it was when he was a young sailor in the late 60s. I talked about it as it was when I was a young teacher, fifteen years later. For both of us it was a sanctuary, and for both of us an aspect of the sanctuary was Hong Kong’s natural beauty.
Stories poured out of each of us, some stories I have told before, some I hadn’t. It’s a different thing to tell a story to someone who has been there, who has seen the same thing you’ve seen, the back of Victoria Peak, for example, the islands beyond. He had taken photos of those islands and I had hiked them.
At one point in the conversation I mentioned visiting an island across the Gulf of Tonkin from Viet Nam.
“Hainan,” he said. “I have a picture of it.”
“That’s it. I’d love to see the picture.”
“It’s just the blood red sky of sunrise. It’s not really a picture of the island. You wouldn’t know what it is.”
We both agreed we loved Asia and neither of us want to go back. The places we loved no longer exist as they were. They are someone else’s adventure, now.