Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The end of the line....

I am currently sitting in Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1, Gate 27...awaiting the long journey towards my first home. It has been quite a ride from the start of 2008 till now. I actually finished packing everything I owned (well...almost everything. I donated a lot of clothes, books, and various items to the school) pretty early - 2am. Waiting for the taxi was unnerving. I wasn't sure if the taxi driver actually knew where he was going - but this morning was the true and final test to how much Cantonese I learned this semester. The taxi driver ended up not knowing where he was going and I had to give him directions. Who knew that I had good enough Canto to actually do that? In retrospect, when I first arrived in Hong Kong, I knew very little Cantonese (and what I did know, I barely used because I was uncomfortable speaking it). It took awhile, but in the end, I had to learn to overcome this uncomfortable feeling. I now understand what my father, mother, and any other person whose first language is not English went through to learn the language fluently. I, too, had my fair share of being poked fun at because I said words differently, or with a different accent. But if you want to learn any new language, just let go of your pride and take it - language only gets better with practice.

FORTUNATELY, I found out I worried over my luggage weight for no reason at all. I was actually wayyyy under the amount of 32 kg maximum that I could bring. My first luggage was 21 kg and my second luggage was 26 kg. I guess I should have kept some more stuff ^.^ I would also like to take this time to say "I told you so" to my father - I know what I'm doing!

Last night was my last dinner with my mother's friend Hazel. I will surely miss her and her motherly ways - but sometimes I get the feeling that she thinks I am a little girl and cannot travel on my own. I've lived in Hong Kong for 6 months, yet she still insisted on walking me to the MTR station. I suppose this is how it always will be with adults ^.^ I am thankful for being able to meet my mom's friends - and even more thankful that I could get in touch with a part of mom's past that she never speaks of. Who knew my mother was a wild one ;-) haha...I'm kidding...or not ^.^

This will be the last entry about my experience in Hong Kong. What lies ahead is beyond my knowledge. The people that I have met along the way till this very moment have had more of a profound influence than they would ever imagine. I've made life-long friendships and only hope to grow and mature in the future. I have definitely learned more about my own culture more than anyone, even my parents, could ever teach me. I feel as if I have finally experienced, not just lived, life - and it's the best feeling in the world. I definitely have, what some would say, "the travel bug." I do wish to see the world and what it has to offer. I hope that whoever reads this blog has enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. And I hope that, through this blog, you have at least some sense of Hong Kong culture and what its people are like - and learned to surpass the stereotypes that often plague the Asian race (no, we do not eat dogs!).

I truly believe that traveling is the best way to cross cultural boundaries, encourage tolerance and conquer ignorance. I hope that I have enlightened at least one person through my shared experiences - creating one less ignorant person in the world.

El Fin.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A time to mourn...and help.

This is an email I received from CUHK. Please take the time to read. CUHK students and university students from all eight HK universities are holding relief efforts of themselves for victims of the earthquake last week. Follow the link at the bottom for more information of how Hong Kong is helping the Sichuan province, as well as how you can help in the relief efforts.

Dear Council Members, Colleagues, Alumni and Students,

A time to mourn

Over the past week all of us have been struck dumb with horror and grief by the immense loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan. The catastrophe has to date claimed over 30,000 lives. Over 220,000 have been injured. Millions are awaiting disaster relief. The China Earthquake Administration has revised the magnitude of the earthquake to 8.0 on the Richter scale. The extent of the devastation has surpassed that of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.

We share the sorrow and grief of our mainland compatriots. At the same time we are heartened by the tremendous outpour of sympathy, help and support for the victims from people all over the country. Massive rescue and disaster relief efforts have been conducted efficiently. Tens of thousands have responded to calls for donations to help the survivors. The response to the University’s fund-raising campaign for relief has been most encouraging. Let me remind you once again that the University has set up an earthquake relief fund account at the Hang Seng Bank (account number 293-005005-022). Please give generously.

The State Council announced yesterday that the country would observe three days of mourning from 19 to 21 May. Flags of all PRC government organizations on the mainland and overseas will be flying at half-mast. At 14:28 today, the exact time when the earthquake struck a week ago, a three-minute silence was observed across the nation. Many members of the University halted their activities in remembrance of the earthquake victims. Throughout these three days, all major university ceremonies and activities will also be preceded by a mourning vigil. To be respectful of the dead and as a gesture of support for the survivors, let us be plain in speech and attire during the mourning period.

Rescue efforts are continuing. Reconstruction will be a long journey. I believe that like millions of Chinese all over the world, members of the University will continue to offer their spiritual and material support to the victims of the earthquake. Let us turn our grief into strength, to help all those who are in need of our help.

Lawrence J. Lau
President and Vice-Chancellor

19 May 2008

News article:

How you can help: ... 057&item%5fid=75959

These organizations are legitimate and are taken from this news forum (words cannot even describe the pictures posted):

Saturday, May 10, 2008

And to think it was over...

I left for Thailand with the intention of coming back to Hong Kong with a tan and nothing more. Naively, I left for Thailand with no other expectations - I just wanted mere fun in the sun...BUT I came back from Thailand with a much broader sense of reality and, most importantly, a different angle on experiencing life.

I will not attempt to bore you with the minute by minute details of my 7 day trip in southern Thailand. There are not enough words in English to describe my time in Thailand - and even if I do attempt it, those words would not do this wonderful country justice. It is one thing to read about my experience in Thailand, but why read it when you can experience it for yourself and create your own memories? Beyond the superficial stereotypes of lady-boys, prostitutes, seedy go-go bars, and cabaret shows, lies the inner essence of Thailand - its beautiful landscape, gorgeous emerald-green water teeming with colorful coral and fishes, and, above all, the Thai people.


Maya Beach - where the film "The Beach" was filmed (Leonardo Dicaprio)

Of all the islands that I visited in Thailand, Phi Phi Island (pronounced Pee Pee Island) is by far my favorite. It is truly a paradise. This tiny island is beautiful in everything from beaches to its people that inhabit this island. Phi Phi has definitely rebounded from the wake of destruction brought on by the 2004 tsunami. It was hit hard by a 10-meter wave that fateful day, but no one would have known it by just walking through Phi Phi today. Koh Phi Phi is a testament to the work ethic of the Thai people and reflects Thailand's heavy reliance on tourism (90% of Thailand's economy is sustained by tourism). Everyone should make a trip to this island at least once in their lifetime - I guarantee you will fall in love with it and its people the minute you step onto the pier.

The best aspect of Phi Phi Island is the genuine smiles and expert service you receive from the Thai people. Of all the Thais that I have met, two locals will always be remembered. Their conviction and work ethic are immeasurable. We, as Americans, often believe that there is nothing a 3rd world country, stricken by poverty, will be able to offer us. But meeting Yuth and Puntal will surely change this belief. Both are very young, yet they work more than 10 hours a day on this tiny island to earn and save money to one day continue their education. Living in the States where the opportunity for higher-level education is available to everyone, it is often easy to overlook this luxury. Taking the time to listen to Puntal speak about his hopes and dreams to continue his education, to one day travel to India to complete a degree in Theology, and to talk about his passion for philosophy, I came to better understand myself as a person. Puntal taught me that, with even the greatest circumstances against you, conviction and perseverance will help you achieve your dreams. And I have no doubt that when I return to Thailand, Puntal will have achieved all his hopes and dreams, if not more.


One of the local houses on Ko Phi Phi

In a country stricken with poverty, it is extraordinary to see genuine happiness among its population. Although Thailand is not necessarily the poorest of the poorest 3rd world countries, it is still underdeveloped. Meeting Yuth on Phi Phi Island was perhaps a chance meeting; he happened to work at the "hotel" we were staying in and knew another traveler we had just met earlier that day. Through mutual contacts, I met someone who, even after working in the sweltering heat pushing and pulling tourists' baggage from the pier to the hotel for hours, still possesses a fervor for enjoying and experiencing life. Even after working on the island for one year, and meeting tourists who have the money to spend and enjoy a vacation in Thailand, he held no bitterness towards his lifestyle or anyone else's. Yuth's work ethic is incomparable, and his spirit for life is what I hope to possess.

IMG_6990 The Viewpoint - an overview of Kho Phi Phi where the tsunami struck.

The memories I have made in Thailand will never be forgotten - from snorkeling and pushing my limits, kayaking and capsizing, losing the snorkeling mask that costs 1500 Baht (roughly 50 USD) only to have it recovered from the ocean floor by a Thai, drowning my camera, riding an elephant, feeding a baby tiger, hugging a full-grown tiger...the list goes on.

Before this semester, and definitely before Thailand, traveling used to be about seeing a new place of marvelous beauty and architecture, taking a few pictures here and there, and then repeating the process. But after what seemed like an innocent vacation, I've had the best time of my life, did a little soul-searching, and found that traveling is more than just seeing the sights. It is about submerging yourself in a culture so different from what you know. It is about trying new foods, talking with the local people, and not just living, but experiencing life, making the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If you learn nothing from my own traveling experiences, learn this one thing:

There is much more to see in the world than what you know, so open your mind to new cultures, ideas, and beliefs. You'll be surprised by what you learn not only of others, but of yourself.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Farewell Hong Kong....

Because we're HongKonger's now.... :-)

Late night Dim Sum - at 11:30pm!!!

Macau - one of those times.

Subway photo-op!
i will miss them all....

Ventiuno Celebracion!

Fantasia Night at New Asia
Chinese New Years....seems so long ago!

Snoopy's World (teehee)

Carmen (not me) doesn't know how to do anything but smile...but thats why i heart her!

I'm writing my goodbye letter to the wonderful city of HK since I don't know when the last time I will be writing this blog! I am leaving for the country of pingpong shows, ladyboys, and beaches (ie: Thailand) on May 4th. I have yet to start packing...I've only thrown away about 3 bags of trash that have accumulated over the course of the semester. It is quite unbelievable that 5 months have flown by so quickly. My junior year is over and I could not have asked of a better way to end it!

I'm looking around my hostel room and I find that I have quite alot of crap. Clothes, wine, books, shoes, more clothes. It is quite endless and I don't think I will be heading to Laos (:-(!!!) because I have to tie some loose ends before I leave HK. that, and I should pack....I think I will have to ship off some winter clothes back home to leave room for other things in my checked luggage!

There's not much else to say about HK except that I've had a life-changing experience, met the coolest people from all over the world, made some, what I hope to be, life-long friendships, and saw a different side of the world that most have yet to even imagine. Thanks HK for the damage you've done to my lungs (2nd hand smoke...), the damage you've done to my liver, and most of all, the hefty damage you've done to my wallet! Adios Hong Kong!

Monday, April 21, 2008

yet again....

Good thing I was there BEFORE this....

The Olympic Torch comes through Hong Kong May 2nd. I'm debating if I want to go out and see it :-)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Hundreds of flag-waving Chinese students gathered at the starting and ending points of the Olympic torch relay in Kuala Lumpur Monday, far outnumbering the handful of people who carried pro-Tibet signs.


Malaysia Olympic Council President Imran Jaafar kicks off the Malaysian leg of the torch relay.

Heavy security was in place to protect the 80 runners carrying the Olympic torch along a 10-mile (16 km) route through the Malaysian capital, ending at the Petronas Twin Towers.

About 500 Chinese students attended the relay, carrying pro-China signs and heckling the few people taking a pro-Tibet stand.

The Chinese students wore identical shirts with the slogan "One Dream, One Nation," and many of them had Chinese flags painted on their faces, according to witnesses.

An Olympics organizer said the Chinese Embassy arranged for the students to be there. Several of the students told CNN that the Chinese government provided their transportation to the event and gave them the flags and shirts.

Witnesses said the Chinese students overwhelmed a woman wearing a "Free Tibet" shirt and holding a pro-Tibet sign, hitting her with small Chinese flags before she was carried away unhurt by a photographer.

"As soon as spectators saw what she was doing, they immediately mobbed her, hitting her with flags," said Brad Kesler, an American tourist who was there to watch the start of the relay.

Kesler said the woman was holding the sign and not yelling.

At least two other people carrying pro-Tibet signs were carried away by police. It was not clear if they were detained because of a disruption or if they were removed for their own safety.

About 1,500 people attended the relay's start in Independence Square, according to witness estimates. Few of them appeared to be local residents -- a member of the Malaysian Olympics council explained it was a work day. Video Watch the torch arrive in Malaysia »

Malaysian actress Marina Mahathir, one of the 80 torchbearers, said she was "very excited and very proud to be carrying the torch." She said she did not expect any of the violence that disrupted the relay in several other cities.

Earlier torch relay stops in London, England; Paris, France; and San Francisco, California attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators. Some protesters in those cities tried to disrupt the relay, and police made dozens of arrests.

The flame will arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia late Monday for a torch relay there on Tuesday.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Formulate your own opinions....

Sent to me by a mainland student:

Nationalistic? Immature?

or perhaps....


What do you think?

Politicizing the Olympics?

All randomness and frivolity aside...

Today I found myself in the midst of a heated conversation between local students about the recent international protests against China concerning Tibet. I often read CNN and New York Times to try to keep up with foreign media news outlets. I even try to read South China Morning Post to see what's happening in China and locally in Hong Kong. Having lived in the United States, I often read about international affairs from the States' point of view; but now that I am living in Hong Kong, it's an interesting perspective to view from China's point of view.

I asked my HK friend if he thought foreign media was politicizing the Olympics and what he thought the media's effect on the Tibet and China issue was among foreigners, to which he replied:

  • "No the media did not say anything intending to politicize the games. But the effect makes foreigners to politicize it"
  • The media's effect --> "bias: they just kept reporting how angry Tibetans were. But on the opposite side of the street, there were actually a large group of Chinese supporting China and performing the Dragon Dance"
  • Chinese government has actually not been all that bad for Tibet; for example, the government helps build and rebuild its infrastructure
Perhaps it is nationalism that drives this point of view. But what I find most interesting is that most students here (at least those who are not apathetic to politics) hold moderate views, not from one extreme or the other. Here is a friend of mine, Jesse Davis, who sums it up quite nicely:

Chinese voices of moderation on Tibet

Conversation bounced around the table, a mix of Mandrin, Cantonese and English at Jashan, an Indian restaurant on Hong Kong Island in SoHo.

Over rounds of mango lassi, a yogurt drink with mango juice, the Chinese mainland students all around me were speaking excitedly in Chinese.

I watched their faces trying to figure out what they were talking about. Then one of the students turned to me and asked,

"Have you heard about the 'heart' China name changes on MSN?"

***