February 24th, 2010
Since I last wrote, I proceeded to experience the coldest week I believe Hong Kong had seen in quite a few years; about 39 degrees Fahrenheit at the lowest. Brr!!! WTH – I came to HK for the tropical, mild winter months not the “colder-than-Minneapolis-winters!”
It was just so bitterly cold and miserable that my roommate actually broke down and bought a heater (we named him “Bruce” – he just looked like one…) for our room because NO ONE in Hong Kong actually had central heating or anything remotely like it! It’s completely crazy, I know! Our dorm rooms (and the entire school actually) didn’t have any kind of heat systems. Everyone was bundled in multiple layers all the time, and still not really warm. Thankfully, that Sunday the cold snap finally broke somewhat and it became a balmy 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Now down to the business of what mischief I managed to get in to despite the frigid temperatures.
On Wednesday, I went on a wild goose chase to pick up my first package in Hong Kong. At the university we only had mail slots big enough for cards and small sized packages, but as my parents were kind enough to pay the exorbitant shipping fees of the US Post Office, I received only a notification telling me which post office I needed to take the mini bus and MTR (HK’s subway system) to retrieve the package – or so I thought. So I set off for the Tseung Kwan O Post Office, and after arriving at the Tseung Kwan O MTR line I proceeded to wander around for half an hour, asking directions to the post office, and when I finally found it, I was told that, no, my package wasn’t there. It was actually back at the Hang Hau Post Office – the very same MTR stop I had left to get to Tseung Kwan O from!! In very tiny print underneath the large Tseung Kwan O Post Office stamp it said in barely readable English Han (no “G” to be seen) Hau Shopping Mall for the Hang Hau Post Office’s location!! Oh frustration doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling at that point. But after a nearly two-hour roundabout trip, I did manage to get my package (so very much appreciated – it contained a good amount of long sleeved shirts, a jacket and more jeans) and get back to campus. Thank goodness my Wednesday classes weren’t until the afternoon.
On Thursday night, after everyone was done with classes for the afternoon, a group of exchange students decided to go to the movies for fun and to stay out of the cold weather outside. We went to see “Valentine’s Day,” and the great thing is that all the English movies are still played in English in Hong Kong, but they just add Cantonese subtitles in lieu of dubbing. Can you imagine trying to match mouth flaps while dubbing in Cantonese or Mandarin? It would look at least as cheesy as the badly dubbed kung fu movies over here in the US!
So all of the English speakers in the audience ignored the subtitles and enjoyed the movie just as we would have at home. One big difference in seeing a movie in Hong Kong, though is that you bought your ticket ahead of time online and you actually chose your movie seat then as well (how very Asian and orderly of them). There were actually people in the theater who would spot check to make sure you were sitting in your assigned seat just like at a live theater production or sporting event in the States too. My friends and I all sat in our assigned seats (we filled up a whole row actually), but some people ahead of us, took seats that weren’t theirs and the ticket Nazi made them move because the actual seat holders with those seats showed up. No one was executed or tarred and feathered, but still – how embarrassing getting caught red-handed. Haha The movie was fun though, and probably one of the most “American” things I’d done since coming to Hong Kong. But truthfully, I was totally happy doing as many unusual experiences as I could while I was there – everything was a fun, exciting, new adventure for me. Why do something I could do at home?
Almost all of Friday was dedicated to studying. I was really fortunate to not have any classes on Fridays, and so I spent a good deal of the day in the library doing homework, readings, and trying to get a little ahead in case of the many unforeseen homework distractions which cropped up on a regular basis during the week (these included impromptu club outings, dinners, long coffee breaks, and venturing into the city on whims for bubble tea or other frivolous pursuits – so much more fun than studying). Plus, it was still so cold outside; being anywhere other than my tiny, freezing room was a welcome option. And that was also the night my roommate went out and bought th mini plug-in heater for our room (bless her!). After that, I invited a bunch of friends to come over after dinner to watch a movie in the room without freezing to death. We watched “2012,” which was beyond corny, but with good friends to joke with it about and good cookies from the local mini-mart it was still a great way to spend a Friday night.
Nothing much got done on Saturday, a little more homework, a small birthday celebration that night, but nothing special. The lack of sunlight and warmth made everyone (myself included) more lethargic and less inclined to do anything – we were like hibernating animals minus the fur coats.
Sunday, however, was another story. As the weather warmed up, a group of us went to Sha Tin (about a half hour ride by MTR) to see the Ten Thousand Buddha Temple. It was a hilly climb up the side of a mountain and was truly lined with 10,000 Buddhas! They were mostly painted gold, but there are also ones in full color, one with arms where its eyes should have been (don’t ask me why, no one could figure that out), and two different actual temples where the Buddhas were miniaturized and stacked one on top of another all the way up to the ceiling. And they lined every wall! I’ve never seen so many Buddha statues of varying size and shape anywhere!
It was definitely worth the trip, and as we were coming back down from the top of the hill, we encountered a group of about four wild monkeys! Two were adults and two were babies and they were jumping from Buddha to Buddha, running along the path in front of us, tearing open juice boxes that had been offered up as gifts earlier in the day, etc. My friend told me that monkeys there are like squirrels to us at home; just commonplace. For us foreigners though it was amazing, and we could get quite close to them before they would run up a tree or out of reach! That alone, was worth making the steep hike up the Buddha trails.
After that fun excursion Sunday, things settled down a bit. Clasese became slightly more demanding, so I met people to work on group homework for some of my classes, I had my first couple of quizzes that week and a guest lecturer for my strategic marketing class on Thursday night (she was the VP of the Asian region for Intel), and life was generally more school-like – more of what I was honestly expecting before I got to Hong Kong and learned the fun of exploring my new home. My good friend from Italy, Pietro finally found out that week that he’d been accepted into London’s Cass Business School for his graduate program in business management the next year, and he (and we too) couldn’t have been more thrilled by it. It was his first choice, and he’d been waiting on pins and needles for ages to get an answer from them. This success called for a beer from the local campus bar that evening. (Why yes – did I forget to mention HKUST actually has a BAR on campus? Wild!)
Just wait for the update for next week; my friends and I had our first trip to mainland China (Shenzhen and Guangzhou) planned, and it made Hong Kong look positively idyllic by comparison!