Another blog entry!

Okay, so this one is about the past 7 days I guess. But really its all about the weekend. Interesting things always seem to happen on weekends...

But I will mention that school is going well. I'm trying to participate in my classes as much as humanly possible, without being a nuisance. Hopefully its working... I think so though, because I got a great compliment from one of my Form teachers/geography teacher. She told me that I am the best exchange student she has ever taught (she's taught 7), and the other teachers in my school agree. Apparently, I am hardworking, I participate, I'm smart, I care about the lessons, and I have a talent for Cantonese. This surprises me, because honestly school is my lowest priority when it comes to time-management. I ALWAYS put social life and sleep above school when deciding what to do. Plus, I tend to chat during lessons. So I'm pleased my teachers here don't hate me!

The only notable thing I will mention about this school week was that after school on Thursday I went with a classmate to the Music Room at my school for the first time, and the music teacher graciously let me play all the traditional Chinese instruments! Just the sort of thing I love! It was amazing to me, to get to mess around on the erhu, pipa, guzheng, Chinese drum, woodblock, and countless other instruments I can't possibly remember. The music teacher and my super classmate were really excited to tell me a bit about each instrument and tell me the basics of how to play them too. They seemed impressed by my 'natural ability' to pick up the instruments and play them. Okay, I can't really play them, but the teacher said I sound better just messing around than some of the actual beginning music students! And my ability to make up random rhythms on the giant Chinese drum was appreciated too; according to her, Chinese people have no ability to improvise at all. They just drill the rhythms by studying sheet music, but I could just walk up to the drum and play random things that sound decent.

Well so far this is ending up being about people complimenting me. Sorry. Don't think it's getting to my head or anything. I still think I'm a musical failure and dunce in school :( . Haha, but actually it is somewhat interesting to me how easily impressed people here are with me. For instance, my ability to use chopsticks 'the traditional way' has been commented on twice by random passers-by when I eat out. Also when I say a few VERY SIMPLE (don't think I'm anywhere near fluent)phrases in Cantonese I get stares which I can only assume mean "Oh my! A white boy can speak a bit of Canto.? Amazing!" Really, I think there is a big double standard here which I benefit from.

Now on to the weekend!

Friday:

Friday was a DAMN boring day at school. Just a stupid geography test and an English Listening Quiz. The geography was actually a well-thought-out quiz paper, but the incompetence of the teacher makes preparing for it difficult. You can't study notes you don't have. You can't answer questions you've never been taught about. The Listening Quiz is just a 'spit back *exactly* what you hear' activity. Now that I know the formula for an A, I think I aced it. But I really don't know... the grading system here is impossible to understand. Free lessons, lunch, and then P.E.! And yes, bowling is a recurring theme in this blog. Bowling this time was, unfortunately, the same as last time. No actual bowling, just strategy and form. Couldn't be more disappointing. But after bowling, I met up with Axel (hey Axel!) from Finland, and we took the bus to Causeway Bay. In Causeway, we met up with many other exchange students, went to Toys R Us for Halloween costume stuff some people needed, ate congee (rice porrige) for dinner, hung out at McDonalds and then Starbucks, chatted, and went home. Sounds simple, but really its evenings like that which are the most fun. Kind of relaxing and makes me remember that I'm in Hong Kong and I'm amazingly happy here. The fact that a simple train ride less than 1 hour can get me to so many incredible places and connect me with so many incredible people is something I will really miss when I have to go home. Actually, I feel like Hong Kong is my home now. I think of the people in America (friends, family) but never the places or things. I know so much more about HK after just 2 months than I know about Iowa after a whole year there or even Kansas after 4 years. I guess I'm just very used to quickly adjusting myself to the places I live, having moved so much my entire life. That, coupled with my fascination with Hong Kong and open attitude, is making my experience here sublime. Hopefully this continues, and my remaining 8 months here will be as fantastic as the first 2, if not better!

Saturday:

On Saturday morning, I ate a quick breakfast with my family of toast, cereal, and coffee, and then set off to meet my friend Jordan (other exchge student from USA) in Kowloon to accompany him on his mission to get his HK I.D. card. His wallet was stolen, so he was delayed a bit in this process (I got my HK ID a month ago). I took the train about 45 minutes to Ngau Tau Kok for the first time, to go to the pick-up place with him. Really, the morning was relaxing and uneventful. He got his ID, and then we went to Causeweay Bay (2nd time this weekend!) to meet up with more AFSers for some good old KARAOKE! Karaoke is something I had never tried before coming to Hong Kong, but now I have done it 4 times, and I really love it. It's great becuase you get a nice room with couches and a giant TV, you choose whatever songs you like (they have English and Chinese, we do English of course), and just do whatever you want. Sing, chat, eat (Lunch included!), drink (non-alcoholic of course), play, joke... I could go on forever. It's just a great way to relax, enjoy yourself with friends, sing a bit, and get away from the constant crowds of HK in your own little cocoon. No expectations, rules, or supervision. Not that we do anything bad, but regulations seem to universal in HK, so its good to get away from them for a few hours.

Okay, so after about 4 hours of awesome karaoke, and diagnosing Axel with tone-deafness, I went with Jordan (USA), Jenny (Germany), and Yannick (Switzerland), to Central by train to meet up with my old First Friend (afs assigns you a local to help you out for the first week). We were going to Ocean Park! Ocean Park is the biggest and best theme park/aquarium in HK, and they have many special exhibits for the Halloween season, so we really wanted to enjoy this unique HK experience. About 10 AFSers total joined us. Getting to Ocean Park was quite a challenge though, because there was terrible traffic and we had to take 2 buses and a train to make it there. But eventually we made it. We had a great time. After splitting up into smaller groups of people, we really began to enjoy ourselves - Rollercoasters, a cable car, a log ride (I got totally soaked), and best of all the haunted houses specially for Halloween. The rides were fun, but nothing spectacular compared to US amusement parks. But I think the haunted houses were excellent! Dark, dramatic corridors, frightening furniture, and some SCARY looking actors jumping out at you around ever corner! You could hardly tell who was a mannequin and who was real, until suddenly they pounced in front of you, making some horrible noise. From 6:15 until 11:30 I was thoroughly entertained. I wish it could have lasted longer! But of course I had to come home.

When I left Ocean Park, I thought the excitement for the day was over. Wrong.

You see, Ocean Park had thousands and thousands of people ALL wanting to go home at the exact same time. So, I had to wait a loooong time for the shuttle just to get down the mountain (the park is split into 2 section connected by bus/cablecar) to the main entrance. And after that bus-ride, I had to locate the bus to Mong Kok. Another looong wait. Plus, due to miscommunication with the driver, I ended up getting off too early, at Yau Ma Tei. At that point, it was almost 1am (I was supposed to be home at 1. OOPS!) and I wasn't even half way home. I was VERY lucky. I caught the last train of the night to Mong Kok (trains end at 1am), though again, it took a looong time to leave the station as it was the final train. Already very late, I had no option of taking the train, like I usually do, home. So, in MK, I asked the station-helper how to get to Fanling (home). He told me to find a minibus outside, but he didn't know the number of it. Dammit. So, I left the train station just as it closed for the night in search of a minibus heading north. Luckily, I recognized the Chinese character for Sheung Shui (next to Fanling) and was able to ask a storekeeper if the minibus towards there stopped at the sign. He laughed, said yes, and instructed me to go to the back of the line. Only then did I notice the humongous line of people stretching back around the block. I kept following the line around 2 corners - probably 250 people total. Only then did I spot the back of it. Crazy. Well, I was happy to have found the right bus, so I waited it out - about half-an-hour of standing in line as minibus after minibus came by and the line got gradually shorter. I still don't know why so many people were all waiting to go to Sheung Shui so late/early, but I think the trains should run later. There is definitely a demand! Anyway, I finally got on the minibus, rode to Sheung Shui station, and walked to Fanling (15 mins) home. WHew....

Of course, I had been awake since 8 that morning and now it was 3am so I was exhausted. So I immediately went to sleep and woke up on Sunday about 10am. Still a little tired, but all-in-all I felt good. I ate some breakfast, and then I remembered it was one of my classmates 20th Birthday! So, I took the minibus to Tuen Mun for some more karaoke! Hooray! But this time it was with many classmates, thus I got to hear them sing Chinese songs. Also, my Geography teacher was there too; she is a good friend of the girl who's birthday it was. Oh, and an explanation of why she is 20 and in my class - she is from Mainland China, so when she emigrated to Hong Kong she had to stay back 2 years to learn better Cantonese, English, and various subject matter in other subjects. Thus she is 2 years older than the other students, and nearly 4 years older than me (I am the youngest in Form 6). A note about the Chinese karaoke songs: They are mostly from Taiwan, apparently Taiwan makes most popular asian music these days. Accordingly, the songs are Mandarin, not Cantonese. But the strange thing is that they all sound the same: sad, slow, duets or female vocalists, love songs, and they are all about finding 'Mr. Right'. And the videos are all the same too - scenes of beautiful couples having fun, or some are about breakups and then you see them fighting and crying. But I've never heard so many songs that sound... identical! Anyway, it was really fun to listen to my classmates sing, and I sang a few English songs too. I was surprised how good at singing they all are! Must be because they speak a tonal language, so they are naturally good singers.

We had a wonderful time singing. Then we ate at the food court in the mall next to the karaoke place. Cheap, oily food, but still tasted great!

Monday I had no school of course. But I had a small cold, so I stayed home, ate Dim Sum with my family, took Chinese medicinal herbal tea, felt a bit better, and slept. Nothing exciting, but a great relaxing day at home was just what I needed.

I've written this blog entry over the course of about 24 hours, so now its Tuesday afternoon (I started Monday afternoon). By now, I know that I got good marks on my English Listening Quiz mentioned earlier. Also, I love formal testing week at my school because for me it just means I get out at 1:15 everyday this week. HOORAY!

This is too long now, so I'll stop.

Until next week,

Ben

Comments (1)

On October 27, 2009 at 5:47 PM , Kim said...

Awesome post! I love every detail.