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Gestures

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image Paulo Coutinho

It’s the holiday season and the city is bursting with mainlanders, a “caste” some residents despise so much as “people without manners”, to say the least. And yet, if it wasn’t for them, and the money they inject into Macau’s economy many of us wouldn’t even be here.
I consent: a walk downtown can be sometimes a nightmare. But, hey, there are much worse things in life than bumping into a crowd of gamblers, shoppers and wanderers.
Moreover, as you walk along with “them” on a daily basis, if you care to look you’ll start to see things differently. (You may have to take the time to breathe in and kill your most basic instincts, but it’s worth it.)
Just yesterday, I was queuing somewhere to an exit and I suddenly saw and felt a man rushing past me. I stopped, looked him in the face, smiled and let him pass. He carried on, turning his head to keep staring at me, probably surprised but with a smile on his face. The next thing you know, the rush was no more, and the man was then after kindly holding the door for me to pass through.
I nodded and smiled at him and went on with my journey. I was on my way to cross the tunnel connecting the Lisboa to the Wynn hotel. I have a thing for that tunnel; I think it has its charm because it tells the story of past and present Macau just by crossing it.
When you enter the tunnel you leave behind the old Lisboa, a certain kind of shady character and the obsolete tricycles – something of human servitude in this day and age is - more than obsolete - abhorrent. I hope the Tourism authorities take a break to think how bad this looks. Just because some habit is exotic and an “attraction” it doesn’t mean it is worth maintaining in a civilized society.
Back to the tunnel, as I was saying when you enter it from the Lisboa side you start to see Macau changing like a voyage in time. When you approach the exit you can usually see a young man singing with a guitar, sometimes more than one, and many tourists pausing to stop, listening briefly to the songs and laying money at the street artists’ feet.
Yesterday, as I was approaching the exit, I saw a mainlander throwing a bag of coins into the musician’s guitar case containing his tips from passers-by, then another one laying down a red bill, and yet another, and another tipping the singer.
I slowed my pace to watch the scene. The tunnel was cold and warm at the same time. When I reached the street artist, I dropped a few small bills in his case and suddenly realized that with one simple gesture, with very little money, I had contributed at once to helping (a) the creative industries, (b) young entrepreneurship, (c) to diversifying the economy!
By then I was already hearing “Diamonds are forever” and feeling the heat of the fountain’s dancing flames, surfacing on the other side to this brave new world.

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