Waiting for Jackie in Hong Kong

by Kara on July 16, 2010

Remnants of the South Gate, Kowloon Walled City Park, Hong Kong

When we went to Hong Kong in 2006, we spent a fair amount of time wandering around in the New Kowloon area. One of the places that we visited there was the Kowloon Walled City Park, which has interesting history.

While we were there, I spent a little time sitting on a bench enjoying the scenery while Stephen was photographing. While I sat there, a local man came up to me and said, “Jackie is coming!” He was so excited, but it appeared that he exhausted his knowledge of English on that sentence, so I didn’t find out anything more. He pointed to the other side of the park, so I got up, grabbed Stephen and headed that way. Along the way, several more people were thrilled to tell us that, “Jackie is coming!”

Of course, the most famous Jackie in Hong Kong is Jackie Chan. But because the park was still pretty quiet and sparsely populated despite the undercurrent of excitement, I thought a visit from Jackie Chan was highly unlikely. So we waited with the small crowd of people while a P.A. was set up and a small group of musicians began to play, just to see what happened.

Kowloon Walled City Park, Hong Kong

After a while, an English woman came and stood with us and we chatted with her a bit. She seemed to know quite a bit about the history of the park, which at one time had been a walled city filled with opium dens, drug addicts and crime. The city was finally demolished in 1993 and 1994, and the park built in its place.

As the event got going, we suddenly realized that the woman we had been chatting with earlier was the Jackie everyone was waiting for. We didn’t stay much longer, because it was getting late in the afternoon and we didn’t want to get lost on our way back to the train station.

Of course, I had to look up the guest of honor when we returned to the hotel. Her name was Jackie Pullinger. She went to Hong Kong in 1966, hoping to do missionary work. She got a job as a primary teacher in the walled city, and started a youth club to help drug addicts and the homeless. She eventually started the St. Stephen’s Society, which provides homes and intervention for drug addicts. She has led a fascinating life, it seems, and honestly, I thought our encounter with her was probably way more interesting than if they had been waiting for Jackie Chan. Her book is on my long list of things I want to read.

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