Written by Irene Chan / Translation by Margaret So / Photo by LEI Jih-sheng
In 1999, Ah Wah, a Hong Kong citizen, was active in Macau – as a professional gambler. Gamblers are always associated with fortune and luck. When he once visited the Mazu Temple, an experienced fortune teller there gave him some predictions – some good….some bad: “Firstly, you will live until you are 64 years old. Secondly, you will be blessed with good luck and be a wealthy man before you die.”
It’s an undeniable fact that most of his family members hadn’t lived that long. His father died in his sixties. One brother also died. On the other hand, he’d always felt that he’d had good luck. Not long before this visit to the Temple, he had won HKD 180,000 with relative ease!
Ah Wah grew up in a happy middle-class family. After Ah Wah had finished at secondary school, he took up an apprenticeship before being employed as a waiter in a restaurant. It was at this time that he started to bet on horse racing.
He’d seen so many regular customers enjoying their leisure time as he waited on them in the restaurant. “Why can’t I be the customer now?” He thought.
Once you get an idea into your head, it’s hard to let it go. In Ah Wah’s mind, what he could gain on the betting tables in Macau was far more enticing than waiting on other people’s tables. In 1992, he decided to quit his job and moved to Macau for good.
In the beginning of the 90’s, many people from Hong Kong went to Macau gambling in the casinos. Some lucky winners established a formula to bet on Baccarat and employed a couple of gamblers to play it for them. Ah Wah quickly became one of their targets. He was proud of being blessed with good luck when it came to gambling.
The reality was, he lost far more than he had ever won. However, addicted gamblers don't ever see themselves as losers. A year after the fortune teller’s predictions, Ah Wah had lost everything to gambling. In 2000, he was broke and decided to return to Hong Kong. His elderly mother was so happy to see him home. However, his return to Hong Kong saw his gambling return with a vengeance leading to huge debt. In 2005, he had no other option but to run away back to Macau, this time… for 13 years.
During the days when he was down-and-out, he slept on the street - starving. Eventually, one day, he woke up to a realisation, “I have spent all my life chasing after the dream of having everything, but now nothing matters to me.”
In May 2018 upon his return to Hong Kong, he found out that his mother passed away. He knew his mother was terrified by the loan sharks who came to their home regularly to collect debts. He cried with both sadness and guilt. He last saw his mother in 2011 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and didn't recognise him.
Not long after he had returned to Hong Kong, he fainted in the street one day. He was sent to hospital and was diagnosed with Leukemia. From then on, he decided not to return to Macau. He accepted a job referral from a social worker, and worked as a cleaner on the outlying islands. The pay was not high but accommodation was provided and it was at least a good start.
The past is like an illusion to him. He has just turned 58 this year. He sometimes still thinks about the fortune teller’s comments. “Perhaps I will only live until I’m 64.” Good luck? Maybe! I have returned to Hong Kong and I have a job….. this is all the luck I need!”