I'll just jump right in this time:

Christmas in Hong Kong was basically nothing special. Just lots of decorations, music, several countdowns in various location in HK, but really most people seemed to kind of forget about the special-ness of the day. So did I. I just hung out with friends and family and family-friends. I met many new people as my host family hosted several groups of their friends/classmates over for dinner on the nights surrounding Christmas. Good Cantonese practice, good food! The break from school was also great; lots of freetime, exploring, doing HK stuff - singing karaoke, eating hotpot and dim sum, watching movies, meeting friends of friends.

On the 30th of December I did something amazing. I went to mainland China for the first time!! Shenzhen, which lies right across the border with Hong Kong, was the specific location. I went with my host dad and 2 classmates who are actually originally from the mainland, one of whom still lives in Shenzhen part of the time. Basically, they speak Mandarin (across the border Cantonese is secondary to Mandarin) and are great guides. First, we all went to Book City, a giant books and electronics store popular with Hong Kongers for its cheap merchandise. Super interesting. Indescribably different from every other mall I've ever been to. Just... different. Next, after a great meal of 'mainland' cuisine, I went with my classmates to one of the most interesting areas I've ever seen in my life called Dongmun or East Gate in English, where we spent the whole rest of the day.

Basically, it is an area of the city with tiny businesses selling various types of merchandise for extremely low prices. It had a special feeling too. Very 'real'. I have no idea how to go about describing it actually. The Shenzhen people were VERY different from Hong Kong people - to be blunt they were ruder, louder, more aware of reality, pushier, poorer, and even more competitive. I saw things I have never seen before in my day in Shenzhen. A young child doing a headstand in the street begging for change (most likely a 'slave' of the local gangs), blatant counterfeits being bought and sold EVERYWHERE (I got a high quality Faux-mega watch for about 15 USD!), old beggars who kept following me around in hopes of some money (not many white people venture into Dongmun, considered a dangerous place for unaccompanied tourists), streetside pet-shops where people just walk up to the cage, choose a puppy, pay a little money and walk off, filipino ladies in a filthy corner working speedily on sewing machines while a chinese woman 'oversaw' their work, and countless other incredible new things. And this was just in 1 day, in what is considered a rich part of the richest city in China. Speechless.

The word cheap gains new meaning to me now too. Fake products seem more plentiful than real ones, and they all are ridiculously cheap for US and even HK standards. In the mainland, everything is negotiable when it comes to price. For me as a white person, they original price given for any item is at least triple what it should actually sell for. Still cheaper than buying in the USA though. Anyway, with the help of my friends' stupendous bargaining skills I wasn't cheated too badly on anything. I only bought a watch and various snack-food items though... other salespeople might have been less forgiving. And the snacks were amazing - the best milk tea I've ever tried, some Shanghaiese bready thing, noodles so spicy I always died while eating them, squid on a stick, octopus meatballs, and fried potatoes (also delightfully spicy).

The day in the mainland was eye-opening, to say the least. Very difficult to even remember all the news things I saw that day... too much. I can't wait to see more of China in my remaining 5 months here.

New Years. New Years was fun - hanging out with friends and when the clock struck midnight, I was actually sitting in Avatar in a Mong Kok cinema. An appropriate way to welcome the new decade; enjoying the new technology that will gradually shape our lives more and more as time goes on. Great movie by the way! I'm a sucker for 3D I guess, and the story, while maybe sappy, was good enough to hold my interest. Beautiful brilliant movie!!!!!

Now exams have begun at school. So far I have just had Use of English Oral and Listening which are simple for me, but I expect Geography and History to be hard. Hopefully I can pass... More on that in the coming few days.

Hmmm... what else? I attended a local Jazz-Hip-Hop Dance Interschool Competition. Fascinating! I'm not a dance person, but it was amazing to see secondary school students with the courage to get on the stage and perform group dances that were kind of goofy to be honest. About 10% of the dancers in the competition seemed to know what they were doing, the remaining 90% flopping around the stage looking quite unnatural and uncomfortable. But, nevertheless, it was a unique Hong Kong experience to see groups of 13-19 y/o's dancing shamelessly. Mostly American music was used in the background, and the students and teachers clearly didn't understand the meaning of the lyrics. Let's just say profanity (including the 'N' word) went unedited and lyrics like 'strip for me, take it all off' were danced to by some pretty young naive girl and boys. Hilarious to watch! Plus the ones who were good were pretty damn good.

Okay, thats all. I'm busy, I'm happy, I'm loving Hong Kong.


Comments (2)

On January 23, 2010 at 6:38 PM , Docnad said...

Thanks, Ben!

On January 24, 2010 at 3:13 AM , SPxTH said...

Hi,this is Lily.I'm from Hong Kong too. And I am glad to hear that you are loving HK ^^