Lamma Island

first person

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 April, 2004, 12:00am

Chan Kam-tin, 82, has been a resident on Lamma all his life. His family has lived on the island for six generations

I am spreading out last night's leftover rice to dry in the sun. I'll leave it out for three days, then, once it's dried, I'll mix it with wheat and roll it into small balls to feed to the chickens - they don't like to eat the rice on its own. Our friends from Sok Kwu Wan give us their leftover rice too, so there's quite a lot here.

Normally, I buy chicks from Yuen Long for $7 each and feed and look after them for about three months until they weigh over three catties. Then I sell them to others on the island for about $30 each.

But I have no chickens at the moment because of the government's ban on imports from China. So I'm just going to put the dried rice in plastic bags, and use it when I can buy chicks from Yuen Long again.

It's not a problem not to have the extra income I normally get from selling chickens because, luckily, my children are filial and they give me money.

I have two sons and a daughter. They've all moved to live and work in the city now but they come back to visit me every weekend, which makes me very happy. I have three grandchildren - two girls aged seven and eight, and one boy who is 12 years old.

I have lived on Lamma ever since I was born and so did my father, grandfather, great-grandfather ... going back six generations, for a couple of hundred years. We used to farm and grow vegetables, beans and melons, and keep pigs as well as chickens. But we stopped having pigs about 15 years ago because their feed became too expensive to buy and we started to lose money.

So now I only have chickens - I usually keep about 30 to 40 of them.

I've studied very little. All my life I've helped to look after the animals at home. I get up before seven every morning and let the chickens out of their hutches. The meat from my chickens is tasty because I let them run around. Then at about 6pm, I lock them up again before it gets dark.

I also look after a store selling soft drinks just opposite. Business is not good anymore because there are lots of shops in both Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan now and hikers buy their drinks there.

My wife doesn't do much. Sometimes she takes a stroll round the fields and waters the plants. She tends a couple of vegetable patches where we grow a few things which we eat ourselves.

In the evenings, we just sit around, watch a bit of television. We're old now - we're happy to not do much.

Not much has changed on Lamma from what I can see - my friends are still here, the primary school I went to in Lo So Shing is still there. Most of the youngsters have left, but that's fine because they do come back when they can.

And there are some more tourists now, especially during public holidays and at the weekends. That's good because it means the place gets lively and I get more business at my store.

I'm 82 but I hardly ever get ill. I am very healthy still, no aches or pains, except I stopped seeing from one eye last year because of glaucoma and had to have an operation. Now, I can see clearly again. The operation was at a government hospital but it still cost several thousand dollars.

I am content with the way things are. My wife and I don't need to work anymore and don't need to earn our own money to live, but the chickens, the store and the fields give us something to do, to pass the days with. If I could make a wish, I would wish for my children to earn and give me a little bit more. What would I do with the extra money? Nothing. At my age, you don't need much - I have everything I need so I don't need to buy anything new. I would just save the money.