02The doorbell rang. Danny So arrived the studio with his older son, JackJack, who flung off his shoes the moment he stepped into the room...
When we told him: “no need, no need to take off your shoes”, he was already bouncing by the window barefoot.
Everything from this unfamiliar space sparked his curiosity: bar stool, scissor, toolkit and plastic doll. Perfectly comfortable around strangers, JackJack soon started zipping through the furniture in a white T-shirt that highlights his sun-kissed caramel skin. One of our helpers joked: “This Spider-Man T-shirt is a perfect match for him.”
02From downtown to Pui O, it all began with a smile
One morning, JackJack woke up and burst into hysterical tears. His parents were terrified – what could possibly make our daredevil cry?
It turned out he was suffering with puncture wounds in the foot from stepping on a sea urchin while playing on the beach the day before.
His mum removed the stings carefully one by one with an eyebrow tweezer. The spines of the sea urchin broke off and his skin raptured. Yet, a moment later, he put himself back together and started toddling around barefoot.
Kids are born fearless, and that’s what defines JackJack’s daily life.
Danny moved to Pui O on Lantau Island with his family five years ago. Their home is in proximity to a pathway that winds its way up to a mountain, where the recreational Pui O beach is within five-minutes’ walk.
Living in this small village means you’ll occasionally receive snail dishes from friendly neighbours or your kids running off to play with cats next door. This simple village life may seem unimaginable to those who live in big cities, but is bountiful for Danny and his family.
In retrospect, the decision to move away from the city and live a completely different life is made on impulse –
“The first time I brought JackJack to Pui O was three months before the move. It was a pleasant day,” Danny recounted.
“When I looked at his smiling face in the photos, I said to my wife, it’s here, let’s move here,” he grinned, as if the move was still unreal to him.
It was partly fate and partly his nature that brought him to certain places.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat
At his home in Pui O, Danny built a small treehouse as a sanctuary for him to wind down. When he is not around, the brothers love to sneak in for secret talks and leave a trail of candy wrappers on the floor.
“They think I have no idea about this, how cute,” he flashed a tender smile.
A treehouse like this is a dream for many. Living close to nature reduces emotional stress that often comes with busy city life. But before all these, Danny and his family had their fair share of challenges.
At a dinner gathering, for instance, all of his friends from college, mostly doctors and lawyers, opposed to Danny’s idea of living in an outpost and sending his kids to what it’s called “Happy School”.
“What about higher education? What if it weakens their competitiveness?” they cautioned.
Outside pressures loomed over the So family. Danny was able to cope but couldn’t bear to see his wife being questioned by mainstream society.
Yet, he stayed true to his belief: “if we stayed in the city and have JackJack and Max sweat through tests and exams, we’d be passing our stress on to our kids.”
A while later, Danny received a text from his lawyer friend telling him his little girl never smile again since enrolment, not even once. He asked Danny if he could bring his daughter to Pui O to play with other kids. Danny agreed.
Everyone who lives in this congested and suffocating city is inexorably besieged by stress spawned by competition and social order, he believes. There are lots of remedies to combat stress; bowing to it is not one of them.
03I want to be an explorer
The Chinese names of his two boys are inspired by the word “wanderer”, carrying Danny’s aspiration for them to “explore the world.”
As an “observer” in the father-son relationship, Danny said his job is to encourage his kids to enjoy the ride and to have new discoveries.
JackJack, almost seven, always comes up with interesting projects such as writing a book or planning an adventure in the dark. Danny paves the way for his son’s little adventures every time, preparing the likes of pen, paper, camera and telescope for him.
From mountain to sea, exploring the nature has become a custom for the father and son, with their voyages of exploration usually marked by minor hiccups and joys.
For example, when they leave the scissor at home, a block of wood is an alternative; Danny has also learnt to conquer his fear of snakes and lizards just because his son is particularly fond of reptiles.
JackJack finds excitement in each and every adventure.
“Did a bear live here before?” he once asked when passing by a cave. Danny played along: “you think so? I wonder if there are honey pots and bees inside.”
One day, JackJack got serious: “When I grow up, I want to be an explorer.”
An explorer? Danny was greatly astounded.
“We used to say ‘teacher’, ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer’ when asked about what we wanted to be when we grow up,” he recalled, “who would have thought of an explorer?”
“If children really do have their own individual languages, this could be it. For them, the line between different types of job is becoming increasingly blurred as now an explorer is regarded as a profession.”
Children always caught us by surprise with their inspirations. Looking back on his last position, Danny wonders if the concept of “boss” is going to fade away as people now look beyond profession to vocation. Will this change the way we work? He ponders.
又有一天，JackJack說他發現了世界上最難的問題，那就是「What is the meaning of life?」
04“They’re here to teach me.”
Which is why Danny believes exploring with his kids allow him to rediscover himself.
“I tend not to talk about parenting,” said Danny. “When I knew I have JackJack and Max, I had this strong feeling that they are here to teach me.”
So who is the father and who is the son? Danny paused for a moment and mused: “I think we are good pals who live together. Imagine if your friend tripped over, would you scold at him? No. You’d be on his side and give him a little pat on the back.”
Being the youngest in the family with three older brothers, Danny has developed flexibility in interpersonal relationships very early on. In Chinese traditional cultural values, older brother is like your father, which means Danny has four dads, and each of them tried to communicate with him in their own ways. Now he is trying to pass the skills on to his older son, guiding him through how to handle conflicts with his little brother. JackJack can now tell what does his brother need - is he truly crying or just faking it; if he needs comforting or to be left alone……
“He is very attentive to details,” said Danny, “and I’ve learnt from him.”
One day, JackJack announced he has stumbled across the hardest question in the world: “What is the meaning of life?”
A little startled, Danny asked: “Do you have the answer?”
JackJack calmly replied: “I don’t know. Let me tell you when I’m older.”
Presented by Storyteller team.
Storyteller : 細so & Jack
Text : 潤宇
Art direction & photography : Pazu Chan
Assistant : Bao
Translator : Jennifer Chan
Special thanks for Levi’s HK for wardrobe sponsorship.