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Lost language: how Macau gambled away its past (theguardian.com)
71 points by lnguyen 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments



I lived in Macau for over 7 years, and it is a small country you can walk North to South in a casual morning or afternoon. Other ex-pats would say how bored they were and go to the ex-pat pubs. I would walk the city, and read of the history of the place. There are so many nooks and crannies to see a statue above a portal, some old Portuguese tilework at your feet, small temples sandwiched between other buildings and on and on. The casinos and other housing development have pushed out some of the old for the new, and the influx of mainland Chinese to gamble for a day or two has made the city grow for better or worse, but certainly worse for culture. The fake Eiffel Tower, and the Venetian are a sign of things to come. When it is fully absorbed by China in 2049, it will be interesting to see if the Chinese government maintains the 'one country, two systems' manner of government it seems to have now. They did build a big military base, or expand the one that was already there, so the plans are in motion. I have a fond memory of my years in Macau, and the friends I have made there. I hope the best for this little peninsular and its islands.


> fake Eiffel Tower, and the Venetian

I never understood this wholesale copying (Its not just China, look at Las Vegas). Do people actually like being in a fake Eiffel Tower? Wouldn't it be much better for a city with history like Macau to emphasize that instead?


Vegas does it explicitly for the over-the-top absurdity. I can't speak for Macau, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the same is true.


It's almost the same. It's the same players putting up the same things.


So in China, lot of people don't have the luxury of travelling to the actual place, so they just build it within China because of the demand.

This is what I've been told but in reality it seems a bit like GDP fudging, with endless construction projects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3XfpYxHKCo


Over in Shenzhen, there's the "Window of the world", a theme park that features smaller reproductions of sights worldwide such as the pyramids, Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Eiffel tower, Mount Rushmore, etc.

It's quite entertaining, and pretty expensive for Chinese standards (180 CNY, about 28 USD).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Window_of_the_World


Sounds an awful lot like Epcot.


Except Macau, although China, is really different. Hong Kong Chinese are influenced by the British presence there for so many years, and the Macanese by the Portuguese. Believe me it is Las Vegas in SE Asia except it is built upon a lot of history. Not like Las Vegas which sprung up out of the desert based upon a mobster's dreams of a mobster-type city - gambling, booze and the rest.


> Other ex-pats would say how bored they were and go to the ex-pat pubs.

This was what I've heard more than few times from people who went to Macau thinking it'd be like Vegas and walking away very disappointed.

I guess when you don't diversify your economy and go all in on one sector like gambling, it tends to neglect other parts of what makes a country and culture interesting.

Sort of like Vancouver, with a huge chunk of it's economy depending on rising housing prices.


There's a bit of shows and entertainment in Macao, like the House of Dancing Water, but yeah, in that area, it can't compete with Vegas. (I wouldn't call Vegas particularly interesting or cultured, though...)

However, the gambling industry in Macao dwarfs Vegas, with revenue 7 times as high or so (it fluctuates sharply, depending on how many people China lets go there and how much it cracks down on corruption).


The remark you quoted of mine was that a lot of the ex-pats were parochial, and didn't venture to really get to know the place as most people do by habit seeking the comfortable, hence a British-style pub to feel at home in. I like to live within the culture of where I am visiting / working, and get to know its people and history. There's still a lot of "we're better than them" going on in HK and Macau from the Brits and other ex-pats there.


> There are so many nooks and crannies

I recommend seeing the protestant cemetery - small courtyard attached to a chapel, and the tombstones tell poignant little stories, allowing a glimpse into a sliver of life (and death) at the time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Protestant_Cemetery_(Macau...


Yes, one of my old favorite haunts. You can go ice skating or bowling just nearby, which was one of my first memorable experiences living there back in 2007.

I lived all over Macau, but for many years near Hac Sa beach in Coloane. I read a book "I Sailed with Chinese Pirates" by Aleko E. Lilius first published in 1930 with lurid accounts of pirates and murder as the forward reads. I used to stare out my window at the islets off the coast and imagine Lai Choi San the famous woman pirate!


If you don't mind my asking, what sort of work were you doing in Macau? The economy seems pretty one dimensional built around the casino and hotel industries.


I was working the show The House of Dancing Water there as mentioned by someone above. I was operating and maintaining the show action equipment for the show - underwater hydraulic lifts, pool filtration, LN2 system, overhead rigging and other venues on the premises like the club and the 'Bubble' theater, an egg-shaped building that was the largest projection dome at one point I believe. My work included the standard desk-based O&M for a unique facility such as this, and diving and repairing and inspecting the underwater hydraulics, electric and safety systems. The pool is almost 10 meters deep at center, and runs under the audience seating - 17 million liters of water in all!


> Êle tudo-óra tâ buscâ sarna pa cuçâ.

Lovely, taken from the linked blog. https://belamaquista.wordpress.com/


As I commented recently on a thread about Patuá [on reddit](https://redd.it/7oly3x), the similarities between different patois are striking, even across different source languages.

In this case, you could present that phrase to any Cape Verdean person without the context, and they'd tell you it's definitely Cape Verdean creole (which is also Portuguese-based), if slightly oddly transcribed.

To give you a better idea of the similarities, a native Cape Verdean creole speaker (of the Barlavento dialect) would probably write something like: "Tud óra êl tâ bscá sarna pa coçá." The exact same simplifications of grammar and pronunciation, even though the Portuguese was mixed with completely different languages in each case. How cool is that?


Not too hard to understand for someone familiar with Brazilian Portuguese where this would be "Ele toda hora busca sarna pra se coçar". Literally meaning "He constantly seeks mange to scratch himself" - a popular saying for someone always seeking for trouble.


I read that as easily as "proper" Portuguese. Native Brazilian Portuguese speaker here.


Wow, and I thought Azorean Portuguese was tough to understand (as a non-native Brazilian Portuguese speaker). This is a whole other level. :-)


Azorean Portuguese is TOUGH to understand even for Portuguese speakers from mainland Portugal, although the accent varies from island to island.

This written expression is easy to parse, though. It's just spelling variation of an idiomatic expression that really means: "[Someone who's] always looking for trouble..."


omg! Only after reading your comment that I could make it sound like the Portuguese I know: "Ele tá toda hora buscando sarna para se coçar", wow... thats some crazy phonetical spelling going on there.


Yep, that's a defining feature of Patois that are transmitted only orally and informally.


Similar is happening to many chinese cities. 20 years ago cantonese were wildly spoken in shenzhen. Now, with so many mandarin speakers rushing into the rapidly developing city, cantonese seems a minority. I doubt if shanghai, or maybe sichuan is the same.


Shenzhen losing Cantonese somewhat makes sense due to the sheer number of migrants moving in from different regions of China. They likely outnumber the population several-fold now. It was only declared a special economic zone back in the 80's - Before that, it was a relatively small town. Now it has a population of about 20 million.

Compare that with Guangzhou, which also has a ton of migrant inflow from other provinces but with a large local populace - if you walk down any given street you'll still hear Cantonese spoken pretty often, though Mandarin is more frequently used (since it's the common tongue.)


I still have bias in my heart for Cantonese having heard it growing up in Brooklyn, and visiting NYC Chinatown. That and all of the kung fu movies I used to go see at the Coliseum theater back in Sunset Park Brooklyn and Times Square when I was a kid in the 70s. I learned some Cantonese living over in Macau for over 7 years. Not as much as I would have liked compared to my other languages when living for less time in other places. I wound up learning Indonesian more than Cantonese.

I love the HK 80s movies - cop dramas, ro-coms, etc... I like to make the completely silly comparisoin that Cantonese is like Brooklyn english compared to Mandarin which is like British english. It's got so much flavor. I love HK and Macau for that, and I wish I has spent more time in Guangzhou where some of my buddies were from and Cantonese is spoken.


The same is happening in Shanghai and has been happening for a while. The old dialect of Shanghainese is quickly disappearing and only recently did the government think to preserve it.


We face something similar in Goa,India which was a Portuguese colony. My grandfather used to speak a version of Konkani blended with Portuguese.




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