☂️ Macau Umbrellas

Going East, and meeting my brother.

Macau started with a plan, and with no plan at all. I'll explain.

My brother had been living in Macau for a few months already. I'd never visited the territory. He had a gallery interested in showing his stuff, and he told them they should have a two-in-one, a show with both brothers. That was the plan.

I had no idea what I'd show. That was the unplanned part.

It was decades since I had travelled with my brother, and I welcomed the opportunity. That was a big part of it, spending time with my brother. He was staying in the Taipa area, in an apartment in one of those very Chinese-looking high-rise buildings, and I was also pretty stoked about staying in one of those. A real spot, not a hotel.

Macau is a place that we hear about since primary school, as it is a former colony. I still remembered the "Macau, Taipa e Coloane" singalong, very unaware that, by now, there was also a Cotai, made out of reclaimed land. Taipa and Coloane were no longer two separate islands, but instead a huge blob of land, with Cotai acting as glue.

And I had a couple of friends living in the territory as well. A very old friend, from my high school years, and a more recent one. I planned to meet both of them. And I would get to know a third one, one that would be with us almost every day. His name was Felix, a Macanese.

I'd been browsing a couple of Macau-related hashtags on Instagram, trying to figure out the city, and what might be worth a visit, and his photos had a special look, not the usual stuff. He was a cool young photographer, and we started talking. He offered to meet once I got there.

Anyway, I got on a plane, Hong Kong bound, and made my way to Macau in a ferry once I landed in HK. My brother would be waiting for me at the terminal.

He took me to a restaurant as soon as I got there, and I had my first meal in the land. It was getting late, time to have dinner and call it a night. What a surprise that was! A very distant relative of the Chinese we had back home. People had mentioned before that Chinese cuisine is not at all what we find elsewhere, but I got that now. It was. Very chinesy!

We met Felix at a Portuguese café in the downtown area the following morning, and proceeded to walk around. That's what we would do for a couple of weeks. Walk around, shoot a lot, and figure out what I could use for the show. It would be about Macau, of course, as I was an Artist-in-residence. Fancy, right?

It was hot as hell, but Felix and my brother knew a lot of places where we could rest for a while, before heading out again.

Side note: Felix would later move to Lisbon as part of his academic career, attending the Lisbon School of Fine Arts. While he did so he lived with my brother. And we (movieStar and myself) would meet him years later as well, in Hong Kong, as part of our honeymoon. He showed us around one day, took us to a few places we'd have trouble finding on our own. He still lives in Lisbon, and we bump into him from time to time.

Macau had been on my radar forever but, if I was to make it over there, it would probably be as a part of something like this. I had missed the era of work assignments to the territory, and I don't think I would ever pick Macau as a destination, unless it was a layover, en route to another country in the area. It's too small, very much gambling oriented, and holds a little historical interest only, mostly to see what's left of the Portuguese influence, out of curiosity. Other than that, plenty of other places, including neighboring Hong Kong, are more attractive as a destination.

But here I was, here we were, and I still needed an idea. We kept on walking.

We walked all over the territory. From Macau proper, with the Portuguese names, the old buildings, the older casinos, to the newer Taipa and bright Cotai, down to Coloane, with the dark sand beaches, and forest. We took the bus most of the time. It took a while to get used to the Chinese queuing protocol, but I managed in the end (mostly by using the tested method of looking like a menacing thug when I have to).

We visited old abandoned places, temples, the new, glitzy, casinos, museums, the whole thing.

I met my old friend by chance, of course, while walking alone one day. It is a small place, so it was bound to happen. I heard my name, looked over, and there she was, smiling. She had no idea I was visiting, I wanted to surprise her. This was it was even better.

Macau was a cool place, I found. I loved the tiny alleyways, the old town, derelict looking at times, and the newer, as modern as it gets, Cotai. The land has a lot of money, and it shows. And, in other spots, it looks just like _regular_ China.

I had also booked a tattoo with a local artist. The day finally arrived. I left my brother and Felix behind, and proceeded to the agreed meeting point. It was, very strangely, raining.

The temperature so far had been super hot, scorching even. Water was added to the mix.

I got to the rendezvous spot, and a guy was there to meet me. He spoke very little English, and no Portuguese at all, of course. Too young for that. He motioned me to follow him, and I did. He had an umbrella, and I shot a few photos from behind while we walked.

After the tattoo was done, I met the guys, back at the café, and had a Super Bock. I went through the photos, and it hit me: this was the first time I'd seen an umbrella being used for the rain, like we did back home. I had a thousand umbrella photos already, all of them with people protecting themselves from the inclement sun. I had found my theme!

Something quite familiar and, at the same time, very foreign. Just like Macau.

In the end, it wouldn't even matter, the show never happened. I did get a few nice photos, and a memorable first time in Macau. With my brother!