It’s been more than a week since I’ve arrived in Hong Kong and so much has happened that I should probably jot my reflections down before I forget everything. The first three parts were of my travels back in 2009 before university started and since I don’t travel to Hong Kong much, I’d rather just continue the series.
This time I’ll be in Hong Kong for just under four weeks (if you checked the front page you would know); it’s my first time travelling by myself and not having my nagging parents with me. I’ll have to admit traveling by myself is totally…fine. Being sheltered by your parents is a bad thing most of the time I reckon and I’m really glad to be able to do what I want in Hong Kong, when I want, where I want, without them interjecting. My parents do call me here and there just to check up on me, and to update me on things I need to do for my relatives on their behalf and if they have things they want me to buy.
My main reason for coming to Hong Kong this time round is for shopping. I think I need to update my wardrobe again and from the money I’ve saved up from this year, this was a perfect opportunity to go. There were other favourable factors, such as the extremely high exchange rates favouring the Australian dollar, the fact that I’ll be graduating next year and probably won’t get another chance to go on a holiday, and the $6,000 that the HK government was offering (although sadly I found out that I was not eligible for it). Still this was not going to stop me from trying to enjoy my summer holidays.
My strategy this time round was to pack as little as possible and of course to buy everything there. That’s kind of a simple strategy; the only hard thing was forcing myself to buy clothes straight away. It was hard to look and decide what to buy straight away, especially when you haven’t really visited other stores and compared prices. So I bought some clothes to temporarily supplement the clothes I wore to Hong Kong. I think the first two days were rather rough for me. Arriving Tuesday night, I had to quickly set up a Hong Kong SIM (strangely you can still use WhatsApp internationally even with a different SIM), an octopus card, and then to arrange plans for the next morning. The very next day I had to lead a small Bible Study with other church people who were there as well, and then proceeded to go shopping and visit relatives.
At the moment I have a decently functioning base of operations at my uncle’s place. My cousin games a lot and so I have ready access to the Internet all the time. My uncle’s place is only a 2 minute walk from the train station which makes travelling very simple. In addition to my laptop, I brought my DSLR, and a compact camera. So unlike last time, I’ll actually be able to blog (when I’m free) and upload photos when I return to my uncle’s place (my poor laptop is struggling to keep up with all the work I need it to do). And then of course there’s Facebook and MSN, but most of you would’ve already seen my activity online anyhow.
Okay, time to start reflecting. Visited relatives from my dad’s side on like the second day I was in Hong Kong (the day right after I got off the plane). My uncle, who is quite aged now, was telling me about how important my family was amidst our extended family on my dad’s side. I’ve heard the story many times from my dad and my uncle told me approximately the same thing. He talked about how back in the days, education was a rare thing to come across, and because it was so rare it meant that finding it was like finding treasure and had to be treated in an appropriate manner. At the time, my dad had managed to secure a position in a university which only catered for several hundred students; it was a very privileged thing to have, my uncle told me. And as such, my dad sort of carried the hope of his family, since his siblings didn’t have as good of an education. Long story short, me and my brother sort of carry that same hope that our relatives have “entrusted” to us because living in Australia provides much more life opportunities than say in Hong Kong. As such, the moral from the adults in the generation above me is that we shouldn’t take education for granted and try our best to study, get good marks, etc. Yes, it’s the same old things that any Asian kid gets told; having my uncle tell his side of the story made me appreciate his values a little more and I suppose I understand more about why our parents value education and study so highly.
My cousins tell me how they think it’s amazing that I’m studying a double degree, but in all honesty (and aside from the high school that I attended), studying a double degree is not that rare, nor that great a feat either. I suppose those of you who are only doing a single degree have simply chosen not to do a double degree, it is not beyond your ability. So it’s hard for me, and I suppose many other people, to “value highly” our education in Australia. I value it even less as a Christian because I’m convinced pursuing Christ is much more important than education or getting a job. So I guess I feel a bit bad that I cannot meet not only my parents’ expectations, but also the expectations of my extended family. They’ve sadly placed their hope in a kid who won’t really use the education opportunities he’s been given to their fullest. But I think that should be understandable. For us, we’ve grown up where everyone goes to school, and everyone goes to university; that’s our standard which is much higher than in other countries. But we’ve known no other lifestyle and so we can’t take to heart just how important it is to someone else in another country. Using a “bad” analogy, it’s like “some” students from Kings. I’ve seen some pretty obnoxious kids from that school (I know others who are nice people too) and a lot of us bag them out for their attitude. But technically, they’ve known no other lifestyle so there is some rationale for the way that they act. I guess bringing things back to us Asians, all we can try to do is show some level of intellectual understanding and appreciation for our parents’ values.
Mention this word to any Hong Kong resident and they’ll show you their racial prejudice against them. In Hong Kong the racial tension is quite strong because a lot of mainlanders flood into Hong Kong to (in a sense) take over all their commodities (mostly goods and accommodation). I don’t quite understand the situation that well since I haven’t really experienced any serious incidents where there was racial tension but it is quite apparent in Hong Kong. I guess other countries feel it too, where it seems that Chinese mainlanders are “invading” the country. Although that in itself is bad, the thing that gets me is their arrogance in foreign countries. In Hong Kong, mainlanders are good at disregarding other people for the simplest things such a honestly lining up in a queue (they love pushing in), or talking in public. I guess I could name several incidents which demonstrate this but that’s not the point of this paragraph.
Last Sunday I was asked by another uncle (who’s the head of the ING in Hong Kong) to attend a weeklong finance seminar for Chinese university students. I was told that very few students get selected to come and that it might benefit me since I’m studying something similar. Of course I was reluctant because I didn’t come here to study more, and to make things worse, the whole seminar would be conducted in Mandarin. I had every reason not to go, but since my uncle graciously offered me the chance to come, I suppose I had to show him respect and actually go.
I decided to go on Sunday for now just to see what it was about. And in short (my English is steadily getting worse that I’m starting ramble now) the seminar was completely not what I had expected. For UNSW students, the seminar was pretty much on basic FINS1612 stuff (like week 1 lecture material). My uncle presented the seminar (in Mandarin) on how businesses operate (eg: proprietorship, partnership, and corporation). But much to my surprise in thinking that it was all simple stuff, to the other 48 Chinese students (all at different stages in their university degree, including postgraduates) this was first time they’d heard about this. I then I learned that all these students were here because they had an interest in studying finance, but have no prior knowledge about it. The situation for me changed drastically in the afternoon when they started talking about insurance, and my uncle mentioned that I was an Actuarist, and then asked me to tell everyone else about the different types of insurance and how they work. Instantly getting upgraded to be a lecturer for ING had never felt more scary.
The one thing I noted by the end of the day was that everyone there was not like the obnoxious and arrogant Chinese students that we might’ve come across in Australia (I know of a few, not by name of course). Rather, these students showed so much humility in the way they valued their opportunity to be able to come to Hong Kong to learn 1612 stuff. It really challenged me to think about our differences. To me, this week long seminar was nothing more than first year uni for me. But to them, it was a chance for them to get into a higher end job, in comparison to what they did before (and to be fair what they had already was okay too – some of them were doing Engineering, others some form of Arts, and still others something related to business, but not so much commerce).
They were very keen on practising their English on me (of course), we took photos, and exchanged contact details. I’m still awaiting their e-mails and photos that they took with me haha. But all in all it was a good experience for me to see what some other Chinese students are like. And in addition to the section above about my relatives, I suppose we all should somehow count ourselves lucky to have been raised in a country like Australia with such strong education possibilities (in comparison). Even if we do complain about our high schools and universities, they are all doing better than most other educational institutes in other parts of the world.
[Insert photo here if it ever becomes available.]