how is hong kong?

I’m an American-born Chinese – huaqiao (华侨) is the word describing overseas Chinese – away on a one year exchange program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  I’ve been meaning to start this blog for a while now, to document my experiences and learned lessons in a place both similar to and different from my home in San Jose, California.

So, let’s get started.  What follows is a transcription of my reply to a friend of mine asking about my first week in Hong Kong.  I’ll use it to set the tone for what this blog will be about, though I’d been procrastinating because I’m still not quite sure what it is it will be about exactly.  Experiences is a good start; expect pictures as well.  Language is also another focus of mine.

 Hey, thanks for asking! To be honest, though, I don’t feel perfectly adapted to this place yet, I kind of have to push myself these first few days to take care of setting myself up as a student here. At the same time, I have to remember to feed myself and take care of myself, something that takes a unexpectedly high amount of effort when you don’t have a mom putting food on the table and nagging you every so often. Am I homesick? No, not really. But it’s pretty tough and I do appreciate my parents all the more for what they do.

The weather is almost tropical (‘maritime’ is the word according to my roommate) but not quite as extreme. The humidity really gave me a shock when I first stepped out of the airport and into Hong Kong, especially since I was in jeans and a jacket, dragging a bunch of luggage along (later that day, I would drag the luggage uphill into the dorm at midday). Since then, I haven’t worn any pants. I’ve also learned not to rush if at all possible, unless you want to become completely soaked. There has also been a few days of rain and thunder.

Yeah, the people that I’ve encountered have all been friendly so far. Actually, I couldn’t really tell you much about this yet since school has only been in session for about two days and before these two days, it was pretty much just us international students walking about on campus. International students are by nature outgoing, open, and fun, but they aren’t from around here so I guess I haven’t really gotten to know very many people, really. My roommates are both cool characters, though; both are Hong Kong locals, one is majoring in Chinese and wanted an English speaking roommate to chat with, the other is a Business major who has an electric guitar.

I had to taxi myself to campus since I was not arriving early for orientation; the student orientation began the very day I arrived in Hong Kong. It was simpler than I had expected, the guy even spoke English, though we got along exchanging Cantonese in little bits. I realized very early that my listening skills really weren’t as good as I had imagined them to be. It’s really frustrating because some things are really clear like the things I’ve practiced with my dad or in Chinese class, but those situations come into play only about 20% of the time, and usually they carry interesting twists that lose me instantly.

Class has been interesting so far. I’m the only English speaker in my math class and I gathered glances and giggles from everyone in the room; again, I wish my listening skills were better so I could figure out the punchline or if they were making fun of me. I felt more belonging in my Chinese class, which is intermediate level, but as usual there are people who are less able and more able to speak. In anthropology class, we have a white guy as a tutor, which I’m told is rare, who dazzled everyone with perfect Cantonese. How jealous was I at that moment! I can only hope that’ll be where my language skill is one day.

Anyways, I’d been writing this on and off throughout the day today (Tuesday, my free weekday this term). I just got back from the supermarket and I am soaked. The thing with the weather is that besides the clouds in the sky you can’t tell when it will rain because it always seems to be humid. But it’s a more pleasant sensation than being soaked because of being out in the humid heat. It isn’t cold at all. It’s quite peaceful.

So the adjusting goes on. I don’t really know what to do, I guess it’s still an adjustment period and I’m still getting into the flow of things. I kind of feel I should also get out and do something, but I’m not sure. Whatever happens, I’ll let you know.

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