[FYI: This post is long]
Wah! I’m tired of reading for class. I’m tired of studying mandarin. I just went for a walkabout but I’m not ready to start studying again. I will extend my break by a random entry post:
When I went to Europe, my dad suggested that we take notes on the trip to help us remember it later. I still look at that notepad from time to time, and I’ve been keeping one here as well. I’ll share some information from said notepad now. Sorry for the repeats, if any, from the last observations post.
People walk slowly – If I had an HKD for every time someone cut me off, or abruptly stopped right in front of me, or when a group of people took up the entire half of a busy sidewalk, I’d have enough money to buy a day’s worth of food. Seriously, but this is one thing that I’m trying to deal with. I often get frustrated and angry, and I don’t like to have those feelings when I’m on holiday. It’s not even that I have a business mindset, as in “go go go.” I just walk quickly. And they walk slowly. I have long legs, what can I say? This wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the millions of people in a tiny area.
Queues, Queues, Everywhere! – This is a little different from America, but they seem to have queues for a lot more things. Likes buses, subways…I can’t think of any other examples but I think the public transpo is where I notice it the most. That’s not to say that it always happens; several times I’ve witnessed people cutting the queue. Generally, however, there are lines. In my last observation post I noted how things sometimes need to be (or can be) reserved whereas in America they need not be. For example, you can reserve which seat you want when you buy movie tickets online. Pretty cool, right? Unnecessary though. I prefer first-come-first-serve over reservations. “Early bird gets worm” seems to be more fulfilling than “bird with internet access gets worm via reservation.”
Traffic doesn’t seem to stop in busy areas. I’ve learned that jay-walking may not always be possible. As in, there are some streets that if you do not cross at the zebra crossing, you’re likely to be waiting for a crossing moment for a few hours. And people drive pretty quickly and in the same style as most busy-city people all over the world, but I’ve yet to see any accident. Not even a fender bender.
But I’ve heard that traffic in mainland is much more hectic.
There’s an aspect to cycling in a big, professional group (although I’ve never experienced it): They say that if you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards. I seem to notice the same thing sometimes with the crowds in HK. Specifically, the subway crowds. Very rarely will the crowd be going along as a single unit…the fast people move forward while the slow pokes are relegated to the back. And if I don’t have a crowd-weaving mentality, then I notice that the crowd seems to pass me.
Sunday in the financial district (downtown) isn’t a good time to see Chinese people. Then and there one will see many other Asians (mostly from Indonesia, Philippines, and probably Malaysia), but not as many Chinese people. Sometimes the non-Chinese Asians will sit down in public places, like an entire staircase, the middle of a street, a footbridge, you name it. Sometimes there are mainland tourists, and there are always a few Euros in downtown. Sundays, no, if you want to see the masses of local Chinese, you must go to the malls, like the ones near me.
As I type this up, I realize that this blog hasn’t been much more than a superficial, touristy type of blog, no? I think that it reflects my relationships…this is something that I’ve become increasingly aware of over the past….oh, maybe 2 years?; my relationships really don’t go past the surface. In the past (2 years ago), I became a little frustrated that I had no idea who my friends really were. However, I’ve stopped being so frustrated (for whatever reason) and partly started to accept it as “who I am.” How much control over how I act do I really have? I don’t seek out people, and I almost require people to seek me out. When they do, I feel that I open up to them, at least more than I would on my own. But not that many people have sought me out. I used to feel left out because none of my friends came to me with their problems, because no one talked to me about heavy issues, or whatever (there were exceptions). But now I just feel used to it. As I reflect back on my 7 weeks here, I’m not sure what to think at this point. Should I actively pursue relationships, pushing them to a deeper, more meaningful place, since no one really does it to me? Or should I just accept God’s creativity and diversity…He did not make us all extroverted feelers…
NOTE: This isn’t me complaining, this is simply me discussing my thoughts/ruminations/pontifications.
To go deeper than the surface about Hong Kong, then, I will discuss aspects that are not readily visible to the turistas. One is that there is a disparity between the rich and the poor. I think that most countries have this issue, but the thing I’ve heard about Hong Kong is that about 10 families own pretty much everything, 3 of which are much more powerful than the rest. Another thing I’ve heard is that the government doesn’t really do anything because the rich, powerful people tend to be conservative, pro-mainland people. So why should the government care? I’m not sure how entirely accurate this information is, but, regardless, there is a pretty big gap that seems to be growing. Lots of people live in government housing, which is pretty cramped.
Officially, mainland has two functions in Hong Kong: It stations troops here for HK’s defense and deals with foreign affairs on its behalf. However, there are a lot more ways, subtle ways, in which mainland exerts control. If you openly protest mainland, it will probably ban you from entering into it. However, you can stay in HK and continue to protest. You won’t be thrown in jail! And a lot of businesses and high-officials are pro-mainland…yeah. Some businesses won’t run advertisements in papers that China doesn’t approve of. I’m not too familiar with this topic, but a lot of the important people are pro-mainland, though I’m not sure if they’re there because they’re pro-mainland, or they’re pro-mainland because they’re there. At any rate, China seems to be an immeasurably immense, looming shadow that lurks in the background, whispering softly into Hong Kong’s ear.
However, officially, HK is still pretty autonomous and differs from mainland in a lot of respects. For instance, a few of the best primary/secondary schools are christian, and in any school, religion is not banned like it is in mainland. One teacher can talk about Jesus, the other can talk about Muhammad, a third can talk about Buddha(s). The government doesn’t crack down on stuff like that. What the schools really care about is rankings. But I feel that this open-mindedness in school subjects is fairly reflective of the denizens of Hong Kong; they seem pretty open-minded about other peoples and other peoples’ cultures.
To end on a more general, brighter note, I guess I can open up and talk about myself?:
It’s somewhat difficult to get me excited, but food and certain sports can elicit a response. Some people get excited when they go shopping or when they hear a new song from a loved musician, but I get excited when I find a new grocery store. I usually take time to peruse through them, scoping out the pricey items, finding deals, seeing what type of imports they have, the deli/seafood counter…mostly, they’re just the same, but sometimes I find some sweet deals (like a bag of muesli, 1000 grams for 35 HKD!). I would say that a majority carry the exact same products (since they’re probably all owned by the same family), but each store seems to have those 2-3 items that I’ve only seen in that particular store. And those 2-3 items make the trip worth it. “It’s like the whole store is like the ‘Asian’ isle at my grocery store!”
I love the sound of evening/night insects. Cicadas, crickets, anything else that sings as the day draws to an end, so good! But I think it’s more so because I associate good things with summer, and evening insects with high summer, ergo I associate evening insects with good things. (By the way, is there a Latin phrase or word that describes a transitive effect, i.e., a=b, b=c, “insert latin,” a=c?) I really like how Japanese cinema uses the cicadas to audibly express to the audience that the setting is during summer. I’m not sure if Hong Kong has any cicadas, but I’m assuming they do. I really hope that there are some around here, and I really hope that I get to experience them before I leave. They’re very relaxing, and, at least to me, embody the essence of “slow down, relax, reflect on your day, time for dinner, winding down.” They bring me such a peace.
P.S. Reading back through this, I’ve decided that I hate my writing style in this post. Even this post script, I hate it! But I’m too lazy to edit and re-write. Enjoi.
P.P.S. Being self-reflective is needed for personal growth, but at what point, if any, does it become too much?
This post is already quite lengthy, but I’ll continue it anyway! Yesterday, I went to a local school in Stanley (village in the SE corner of Hong Kong Island) to help out with the children’s english (by the way, I applied for, and got accepted to, a program to help with kids’ english activities at a local school). It was somewhat difficult to come up with a lesson plan since I didn’t know how much responsibility I would have, if there were going to be other exchange students there, what reading/comprehension level the students are at, what age they are, if I was going to be leading or just co-facilitating, etc. etc. I came up with some games, but I realized that most were a little bit more advanced than they should have been. Anyway, it started off with just me as the teacher. Not even the co-teacher, I was the teacher. I wish I would have prepared more! But I played a few games with them. I made it half-way through the lesson plan and realized I was out of ideas. At that precise moment, another exchange student showed up. Score! She brought in a lot of energy and new ideas, and so she took over, which I was all too happy to let her do. Allora, if it is just her and me, I think we’ll be fine, but hopefully there is one other exchange student? This won’t be a weekly event, but more like once every two or three weeks. It was a little too brief to get any sort of moving transformation, but whatever. There will be more opportunities. Hmm what else to say…The other exchange student is also from my HK university and is also american, so that’s good. I think that we’ll lesson plan for next time, which will allow us to actually make some progress. I am excited, though. Some students seemed better or more willing to participate, which is understandable. I don’t think that I will have a huge impact on the children’s english (because we will only have five or six 80-minute sessions, and the children stop speaking english once they leave the room), but hopefully I can at least have an impact on their lives. I still remember my one camp councilor from Colombia, and hopefully these children will remember me (maybe if I slam ice cream in their face and run away after saying, “you remember me forever!” [fyi: i just referenced dane cook (link is not safe for work as it contains a few f-bombs), who is not funny, but funny to reference.]). It will be difficult to say the least, and will most likely require large amounts of patience and diligence, and I may not see any improvement, but it was fun and I want to go back next week (even tho the next session is 3 weeks away). I think the teachers were more excited to have an english helper than the students were…
Moving on, I think that the fashion for men here is pretty stylin’, but it wouldn’t translate to america (or even europe, probably). Young men wear skinny jeans tucked into stylish boots, old men wear regular pants tucked into rubber work boots, young men have bags (pseudo-man-purses, but not really)…but only once have I seen a person and thought, “man or woman? Can’t tell…” But in america, a lot of these fashion themes would most likely be ridiculed and would bring into question the man’s sexual orientation. I would like to live in a place where a man could wear what he wants and not be considered gay. Not that I have a man-purse or anything, I’m just sayin’. A little freedom from gender norming is appreciated.
Mm, 好了。Well, if you’ve made it this far, thanks (谢谢你) for reading. I think I’ll give it a break for now! Tomorrow I will do laundry, study, enjoy the sun, relax, run…then, I don’t know. I have a midterm next week, and then 3 midterms and a paper the week after, so my forthcoming fortnight will mostly include studying and not a single thing else. Ack.