Seeing the mountains of Hong Kong’s islands as the plane landed filled my heart with excitement and joy to start this new adventure in a country and city that I had never visited prior to this time. In fact this was my first time in Asia.
The first few days were filled with settling in and getting to know Lingnan University and the surrounding area. Most people on campus spoke some English, which helped me communicate and get around, but I quickly discovered that many people in the neighborhood surrounding the university did not speak any English, making it a little frustrating at times just to order food. So I decided I had to learn some Cantonese. The biggest step was learning how to count in Cantonese because then I could just say the number of the meal off of the menu.
My living quarters are quite nice. I have a 3 bedroom apartment on campus, which is quite large for Hong Kong standards. I discovered that the average size of a public housing apartment is about 500 square feet for a family of 4-6 people. I have at least 1000 square feet all to myself. The kitchen has a nice refrigerator, microwave oven, and stove, but no conventional oven. So I resorted to my skills using a wok to whip up different chicken and vegetable dishes with sauces such as chili garlic sauce and a black bean and garlic sauce.
The classrooms at Lingnan U are also quite nice. Each classroom is media ready, which means I can go into a class and plug in my flash drive to show a power point presentation, or pop in a dvd to show a documentary, or go to the internet and show a short video clip from u tube. However, I am a blackboard person too, and here there are only wipe boards and I quickly discovered how long it takes to erase a wipe board (too long!) and the erasers were not very effective. I had to seek options.
Finally, I do not have a car here, but not a problem! The mass transit system is absolutely wonderful, and it is very easy to use to get to many different places. Like Whittier College, Lingnan U is outside the main part of the city, so I must take the metro to see many of the places that I wanted to see. It takes about an hour to get from my front door into Central Hong Kong, just like from Whittier into parts of LA, except I don’t have to drive. The trains come every few minutes and so they are convenient although they can be packed at times!
In January, I visited several museums (Sun Yat-Sen museum) and the Hong Kong history museum that gave me a good overview of how Hong Kong came to be. It must have been my inferior schooling or lack of attention at some point, but I did not even know how Britain came to own Hong Kong until I went to these museums. It’s called the opium wars and in essence Britain’s greed at the time. I also learned about how Hong Kong suffered during World War II under the Japanese occupation and then it’s transformation into the modern city that it is today. Finally, I went to one of the iconic tourist sites called “The Peak”. I took the tram up to the top which was a spectacular ride seeing buildings looking like they were ready to tip over at the angle we were traveling. While up there, there were spectacular views of the city and harbor, and I got to appreciate the skyline and harbor.
All in all, the first month was an exciting time to begin my exploration of Hong Kong!