keithleeSTUDIOS » St. Louis, Missouri Area Portrait Photographer (Weddings, Engagements, Boudoir, Seniors)

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Hong Kong

“Your grandfather isn’t doing very well and your brother and I might have to fly out there next week.” my mom said over the phone while I was at work. This is where my story starts.

I think everyone at some point of time, thinks about the inevitable moment when one of their grandparents passes on… it’s something we all don’t want to think about of course. I haven’t seen my grandparents for about 13-14 years ago (which might as well be forever), shortly after my father passed away. Both of my grandparents have had their share of scary moments but they always prevailed. I figured this was one of those moments… so I didn’t really take my mom too seriously. My uncle had been looking after my grandfather for the past week or so and we kept in touch via Skype on my grandfather’s progress. I could see over the webcam that my 94 year old grandfather looked frail and weak. Then on Saturday night, I noticed I missed a call from my mother at 11:00pm. I knew it couldn’t be good news and I called her back shortly after midnight. She was in distress and asked me to call my uncle ASAP. My grandfather’s condition worsen and was admitted to the emergency room. My uncle sounded shaken and worried (which is uncharacteristic of him), told me he didn’t have much time and my mother and brother were starting to make arrangements to come to Hong Kong. My mother told me that I shouldn’t come since our wedding was a month away. My first reaction was that I couldn’t just simply pick up and leave work in a middle of a project and not to mention I would have to cancel my sessions with my clients to travel to the other side of the world… heck, the last time I was in Hong Kong was when I was 3 years old with my parents. But luckily after discuss the idea of traveling to Hong Kong and reading an email my brother sent me, I came to my senses and realized that if I didn’t go to be with my family and see my grandfather, it would be a moment I would regret for the rest of my life. Fortunately, my boss felt the same way and made arrangements for coverage while I was out. I have awesome clients which were understanding when I asked them if I could reschedule. $1500.00 poorer, I was booked on a flight to leave for Hong Kong on Tuesday.

I can’t remember a moment when I spent more than 15 hours in a small area of space (other than at home) AND disconnected from the world. That’s right, I had no access to email, phone or even power to recharge my gadgets while in the air. To say the flight was long is an understatement. I tried to sleep most of the trip and refrained from looking at the time as much as possible.

After losing a day, I finally arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday and I definitely knew that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I wish I picked up more of the Chinese language when I was young (if you didn’t know, I can’t speak but understand bits and pieces… especially when my mom is mad at me :)). Fortunately, I was greeted by my 3rd uncle (George) and my 2nd uncle (David) and we took the 1.5 hour trip (via bus) from the airport to the city of Hong Kong. I could instantly tell that the city was overcrowded… people and cars were EVERYWHERE! And oh yeah… it’s HOT and HUMID! Jeans was a bad choice. When I finally arrived at my grandparents apartment, I was greeted by my grandmother, mother and brother. After a quick shower and we headed over to the hospital to see my grandfather. My mom told me that he had be asking for me and it would lift his spirits to see me… but before we could enter his room, we had to wear a disposable mask, smock and gloves. I can’t imagine my grandfather even recognizing me with all that crap on but it was necessary since he was diagnosed with TB, otherwise known as tuberculosis after having pneumonia for some time. Despite his weaken condition, he stared at me and shook my hand (firmly). His condition had apparently began to stabilize over the last day or two… I’d like to think that my family being there had something to do with his improved condition. :)

Unfortunately, the positive news didn’t last too long… We spent more time with him on Thursday and he seemed stable. But then we got the call at 1:45am on Friday. We all quickly threw some clothes and raced to the hospital but it was too late… my grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep. Seeing my family completely distraught, brought back bad memories for me when my father passed away… but we were all comforted by the fact we were all there for him during his last moments and he was not in pain when we went.

It was a long night and the next day was even longer as my uncles (all 3 of them) and I raced around town to try to expedite the funeral arrangements. Apparently Hong Kong city only has one funeral home while Kowloon (neighboring district) has 4 but trying to get on the schedule takes some ‘convincing’ (= $$$). First, it was off to the hospital to pay the medical bills (like the US, it’s expensive to be sick or die in Hong Kong) so we could get the death certificate. Then it was off to the Health office to obtain permission to have my grandfather’s body cremated. From there, we booked the funeral home. Unfortunately, I wasn’t be able to attend the funeral or the wake since I had to leave to come back home.

Hong Kong was quite the culture shock for me… I’ve never seen so many buildings, boats, cars and people in one small area. Here are some of the images I took while I was there for 7 days. Thanks for reading my story and enjoy the pictures.

No, it’s not a rat. Sometimes I hate my iPhone for having a crappy battery life. Which meant recharging it in Chicago while waiting to board my flight to Hong Kong.
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This was the view I had from my grandparent’s place when I woke up in the morning on the floor. Everyone was jet lagged which meant, our days would start at 4:30am.
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The view across from my grandparent’s place.
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Practically all the buses are double deckers.
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Cool seat covers with little Asian spacemen.
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Dim Sum!
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My mommy
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My (grand) aunt (which is my grandmother’s sister)
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Even the taxis in Hong Kong have cheesy weird stuff.
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McDonald’s! Lots of stray cats in the city just hanging out.
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It’s very common that people hang their laundry outside to dry (like my grandmother does)
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Don’t ask… this was just lying on the street, drying in the sun.
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More Dim Sum! Note, you won’t find napkins in the pictures. Why? Most restaurants don’t supply em with your meal. You need to bring your own. Weird eh?!
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They also have Pizza Hut…
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Random cute Chinese kids in the streets…
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Got the late night munchies? This take care of it…
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And they have Starbucks everywhere (thank god!).
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At the Health Department Office getting the funeral arrangements taken care of
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The day after… trying to find pictures for the funeral.
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Yep, more food!
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More street photography. Need fish?
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My grandmother… staying in good spirits
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BBQ pork (or I like to call meat candy)! I did manage to sneak in a hot dog at Ikea which didn’t taste the same.

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On top of the peak. Too bad it was foggy that day or else we could have seen all the way down to the harbor and get a great view of the city.
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Taking the subway system. Very cool and very clean! Maybe because you aren’t allowed to eat or drink in the carts.
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My big bro…
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My mom with my uncle George. Below – my other grand aunt and my mother.
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Computer land!!! It’s a district full of shops that sell real and knock off computer stuff (now you know where that crap on eBay comes from! :))
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My grandparents during the early days
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And more recent times
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One of the cool things about staying at your grandparent’s place is finding really old pictures of your mother.
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Toy Zone! A shop FULL of cool toys (Transformers, GI Joe, model cars, etc).
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Last picture taken (obvious not by me) before I took off for the airport.
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Everyone should take the time to take pictures of their family and loved ones. Even if it’s with a simple point and shoot camera, I promise that you’ll cherish those images and moments in the future.

  • Steve Yarnell - May 24, 2011 - 11:35 am

    Very nice workReplyCancel

  • crista clayton - May 24, 2011 - 1:20 pm

    As beautiful as your photos are Keith, it was under sad circumstances. I truly am sorry for your loss.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your photos. Always keep the memories alive!ReplyCancel

  • Brandon Monzyk - May 24, 2011 - 6:06 pm

    Great pics Keith… What’s new?! They definitely bring back some small memories of my trip to Hong Kong (especially the peak). That was a clear memory of mine. Anyways great work and sorry it couldn’t have been on a happier note….ReplyCancel

  • Steven Maxwell - May 26, 2011 - 5:44 pm

    You have amazing talent Keith! The pics are incredibleReplyCancel

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