Hong Kong Diaries – Entry #1

Personal Blog, Poetry

Hello everyone! So for those of you who don’t know I am spending the first half of my final year of university in Hong Kong. I am documenting my travels on my blog and will update every week or every few days (or whenever something interesting happens, lol). Please follow my blog to keep up with this journey and I look forward to seeing you around!

PS: Hi to anyone who’s been mentioned and is reading this, and thanks very much for everything you’ve done for me so far! ❤️


Day #1
[28/08]

When I arrived in Hong Kong only two things were familiar to me – the Japanese snacks and the India-level humidity. The rest, completely foreign. After months of hard-work to ensure I was accepted into my study abroad programme, Hong Kong seemed more like an apparition than an actual city. It had been an ideal for so long that when it materialised before me, I was very lost.

Myself and two other girls were dropped off by the Hong Kong University shuttle bus in a location that looked completely different from the directions we had been sent for our accommodation. Were we really meant to be staying in what seemed like a tiny noodle shop? We asked the man at said shop for directions, but got no English response – and I began to panic. Was this really the right decision? I know Hong Kong was listed as one of the English-speaking options for study abroad, but how could I navigate a city by myself where I knew nothing of the language? Luckily, this panic was interrupted by me realising road signs also had English on them, and recognising the road that I had seen opposite ours on Google Maps.

As I crossed the road, with an unfamiliar insistent beeping bursting out of the traffic lights around me, I noticed that the road in front of me was vertical. Something else no-one had warned me about, acclimatisation to inclination. Little did I know what my legs were about to endure. Finally we arrived at our accommodation, a metal door (which to quote my friend ‘looks like a prison’) on the side of a little alleyway. The door was opened and we were met with a bright green staircase. Let’s remember, I am a 5ft person with a 23 kg (50 lb) bag (and another smaller one, and my backpack) faced with God knows how many stairs – I’m sure you can do the math. I prayed that this God would subtract as many stairs as possible from this horrible equation, but they did not. I was given keys to my flat on the 6th floor, which meant carrying everything up 7 flights of stairs. G r e a t. Admittedly, the main reason I decided to come to Hong Kong was to gain more independence and confidence in my abilities of looking after myself. But I felt like the universe was playing a cruel prank on me in giving me such heavy responsibilities so early on in my trip.

Somehow, I did it.

Similarly to the city itself, my accommodation had seemed like a far off thought until I actually saw it before me. I am a small person so size is not an issue to begin with, but regardless I am enjoying being in a smaller space. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the picture which had been listed as the ‘living room’ on the website was more than just an ominously placed fridge.

Website picture
Our actual living room

But more than the ominous fridge, I was worried about living with a roommate. Luckily, she was very nice. After taking a much needed cold shower (because we still have no idea how to get hot water), we decided to buy some basic necessities and water bottles. Having another person with me usually makes any experience a lot better. I find being on my own a very anxious experience, probably because I’m more on the extroverted side of the spectrum and I am fortunate enough to have family and friends around me more often than not. Hence, coming here to find independence. I felt as if I had failed the first task of my trip by asking my roommate to come with me and settled into my comfort zone of letting another person take the lead.

Lush displays of egg tarts and cream pastries, numerous 7-Elevens, neon signs in the day-time and Cantonese characters swept past me until we came across what appeared to be a small supermarket. I reached for the familiar – Almond Breeze, Special K cereal, Dove soap, not really taking account of what I was buying or how much. Weirdly enough, I saw a lot of Tesco and Waitrose (well-known British supermarkets) brand items. I truly thought, where the heck am I? I took my items to the counter and fumbled for my wallet once the cashier announced the price in Cantonese. This is where my memory fails me slightly since I’m writing this a couple days after arriving. I think I handed her a 20HKD note, not realising that it was only £2 ($2.50), and so a fraction of the price of what I bought. In response, she began getting annoyed but again, in Cantonese. I frantically handed her a 200HKD note (£20 or $25), grabbed my change and left.

I felt the same panic wash over me as I returned to my room. I decided to message my aunt who I knew lived here if she wanted to have dinner and began unpacking my things, pushing away my doubts and worries. But I was alone in the flat, alone in my room, in a new city where my first encounter was being yelled at. I was not Chinese, a curvy British-Indian girl, far from the usual population of the city. My friend who I had arrived with was far away in the other side of town. Everything felt too far. Then, my mum called, and I began to cry. The fear of being alone, the lack of sleep, the heat, it all poured out of me in that moment.

Lesson #1 from Hong Kong – give yourself time to acclimatise.

I explained the situation to my aunt who was kind enough to come to me with dinner, bed-sheets (the reason I couldn’t sleep) and much needed hugs and advice. After she left, I spoke to my Chinese-American flatmates who returned from their day, about mine. They reassured me that they too were overwhelmed when they first arrive.

And that they have also been yelled at by her.

Lesson #2 – appearance and acclimatising well to new environments are not related, you can look the same, speak the same language and still be overwhelmed.

Day #2
[29/08]

The next day, I headed to the Hong Kong University campus for registration. Once again in the morning I found myself alone in the flat on account of everyone else waking up just before me.

But, I went out only to realise:

Lesson #3 – The Internet Is Crucial To Modern Day Survival

I had no internet. And I am not the best at directions to begin with, so I had to attempt to follow an offline map which lagged, a l o t . The hills were cruel and unforgiving, the stairs death-inducing, the rain treacherous and torrential (and of course on the day I decided to not take my umbrella), but somehow I made it to our University’s Main Building.

With a level of pride in myself I thought was hardly possible yesterday, I saw on the map that the building for registration was only 2 minutes away from me. Perfect!

Unfortunately, those 2 minutes turned into 20.

My map was sending me round in circles. I didn’t have a sim card so I couldn’t ring anyone and no internet to look up an alternative route. And again, the panic – was I really capable of being here if I couldn’t even find one building? Was I stupid to even consider doing this? Me, who gets lost in London, my home city, how could I possibly navigate another one?

Fortunately, my friend came to the rescue after she spotted me wandering around from the building above me. While enjoying a peach-jelly green-tea (THE BEST FLAVOUR by the way) in the Starbucks on campus, I noticed around me that there were a lot of Indians. Their Hindi lingo, their mannerisms, their gait – it was finally something I recognised. They didn’t know it, but they were truly doing me a favour by being in that Starbucks. I no longer felt that alone.

The rest of my day was spent being envious of my friend’s accommodation because it had a lift, finding an upgraded version of my favourite food, tofu, which was bean curd skin and realising I could actually read the Cantonese numbers because they were the same in Japanese.

Lesson #4 – I am smarter and more capable than I know.

Day #3
[30/08]
I spent some time on campus for orientation in the morning, most of which was sitting through a lot of talks about Hong Kong University’s module selection process, but also enjoying a performance by their Chinese Orchestra:

In the evening, I had a lovely dinner (more tofu!! 😍 ) with my aunt in her amazing flat!

The view!

Day #4
[31/08]

Today, my flatmates and I took a trip to Causeway Bay. This, like many parts of Hong Kong, is the region best known for its high-fashion shops and great food – but we went to IKEA. The shop was a maze of home appliances with many escalators which lead you to everywhere except the exit. Needless to say, I accidentally took the wrong escalator up when my friends weren’t behind me and had to find my own way out.

However, our trip was shadowed by the oncoming protests. We knew that they were going to take place at 2pm, and so we were constantly checking our watches and keeping an eye out. Just as we were entering the train station to get back home, we heard some yelling and a large crowd began to form. People behind us began yelling in unison with the crowd what I assume were the pro-democracy slogans and we realised we needed to get back home fast. We are all safe and sound now, but many places along our road were shut today since it looked like this:

But this is just a precautionary measure. The protests have remained in the Causeway Bay area at the moment, and we’re still safe and sound in our flat.


But that’s all for now! Remember to follow me or give this post a like if you enjoyed it and I’ll see you next week!

Remember

Poetry

This was originally meant to be posted yesterday, but my internet crashed 😦

I thought it was appropriate on Remembrance Day, to write a poem around that theme.


Remember

If I am to remember,
what does that truly mean?

Does it mean to remember the guns fired,
to watch the scarlet blood gleam,
or to touch the spirits who are still alive today,
and hold them in high esteem?

If I am to remember,
what am I to forget?
For it is difficult to say I am sorry,
when we have never met.

If the poppy grows in barren lands,
where do memories grow?

The brain does not work like a field,
but poppies don’t either, I bet.
Where does Time go when it comes home,
made old by rust and regret?

 


This was written as part of National Novel Writing Month 2017 [Day 11, Poem #5]

Quiet voice

Poetry

The new poems will be based on the Savannah Brown prompts which she gave in the description her write with me video. If you’d like to check them out they’re here.

The first prompt is:

Listen to the quiet voice


Quiet voice

When Time fades, and the clocks melt away,
I want to be right where I am now,
not beside another name, place or day.

together but alone, is how it’s best,
together is where we shall be,
isolated from the rest.

this feeling is our home,
that we have built from the ground up,
the foundations run smoothly,
even if they took long to put up.

within this house is where we shall remain,
listening to the quiet of our voices,
sheltered from all the rain.

 


This poem was written as part of National Novel Writing Month 2017 [Day 9, Poem #3]

Faces | Writing Prompt Passage

Poetry

WRITING PROMPT #74


“Why are we not permitted to show our faces in the picture , Mama?,” Charlotte asked, staring down at the photograph in her hands. The whole prospect of one picture alone to represent three young ladies in the newspaper seemed so obscure to the girl, that she had initially refused to be part of it at all; but her Mama had insisted, and so she did.

“Men shall often find one’s body more agreeable than one’s face,” Mama answered sharply, “can you not see that is why I have dressed you in the finest silk dresses you own?”.

With her nose held high in the air, so as to maintain decorum, Mama sauntered over to her grand mirror, her favourite part of her bedroom. It had been bought for her as a gift by her husband, as had the house her and her daughters now lived in. Many hours had passed in front of its golden frame, preparing herself for her husband or local balls. Time had withered her patience and she prepared as such for no one but herself anymore, and her three daughters. Now, in her corset and petticoat, she placed the photo on the bed beside her and began adorning her face with powder.

Her youngest daughter, grabbed it and exclaimed, “No rouge, no curls! No man shall ever send us prospects of marriage.”

She turned to her mother.
“Mama! What were you thinking?”

“Hush now, Anne! Your father payed a large amount of money to get that photograph taken, and we shall be rewarded for our efforts, I guarantee.”

A book snapped shut to Mama’s left.

“Then perhaps a woman shall send us a marriage proposal,” Emily began, “and I shall be so very pleased if that were to happen instead.”

 


This poem was written during National Novel Writing Month 2017 [Day 3]

Drury Lane

Poetry

WRITING EXERCISE #83

Today, one of my toddler daughters had the end of a stick in her mouth. I said, “Stop eating that stick! We don’t eat sticks, silly!” and my 4-year old daughter said, “Yeah, Lulu. If you eat sticks, you will get old.”

So let’s riff off that. Write a poem built out of four (or however many) cinquains that tell the story of someone getting old. Make sure one of the things that made them old was something they ate. Something they saw. Something they heard. Something they felt. A fragrance. Have the first line be the person’s name. If you want each cinquain to be about a different person, cool. Oh, and if you forgot what a cinquain was, here’s the format:

line 1 – 2 syllables
line 2 – 4 syllables
line 3 – 6 syllables
line 4 – 8 syllables
line 5 – 2 syllables


Drury Lane

Name here,
Sign here, sigh there,
Wear and tear of the town,
causes tearing of hair, baby
cries —

–closed eyes.
Lullabies sung,
Tumbling now
that standing up has come,
Standing on your own two cold feet,
good bye —

–I smell,
the Muffin Man,
hungry as I run to
Drury Lane, a girl or
a boy or something else holds me,

my body,
isn’t what it
was, I can’t run,
but I can sleep now forever,
with
closed eyes.

 


This was written as part of National Novel Writing Month 2017, [Day 2, Writing Prompt #83]