Did I mention I LOVE HK??!!

Everyone love’s HK. And HK loves you. How could you fail to love it here?!

The way of life here takes some adjusting to, but everyone loves it. Life is at a fast pace, workload is at an all time high, there is toooo much to do, tooo many people to meet, tooo many cheap restaurants to eat in, toooo many trips to go on and not enough time!!!!!!

I have gradually made very close friends. The type of people who choose to come here seem to be of a different breed – I don’t think there is even one person I don’t get on with. Everyone has such a sense of fun and adventure. Work hard play hard seems to be the way of life. We have spent time taking trips to different parts of Hong Kong and different parts of Asia. Most notably, we went to Manila just after Typhoon Ondoy. We had booked the flights before the typhoon and most of the people who had booked to go that weekend cancelled because the typhoon had caused a national disaster. But me and five others decided to go anyway. We thought it would be an experience, as long as we weren’t causing problems by stretching resources or put ourselves in danger, then it would be good to ‘pump money into the local economy’ (a much used justification for holidays in this part of the world) and perhaps we could even help out with the disaster relief operation. So, once we had established that clean water was again available in the city and that the red cross were looking for volunteers, we set on our way! There was supposed to be another typhoon coming that weekend too so we bought wellies, raincoats, torches and a pack of cards.

Once we arrived, though, the weather was lovely, the typhoon never came, and even the people at the red cross seemed relatively chilled out. We had quite an experience on the first day, when we turned up with a sense of urgency, ready to help get aid to the 400,000 displaced to camps outside the city, and found that everything was done in ‘Filippino Time’. The Philippines are across between jamaica and latin america. Everyone is soooo chilled and smiley and happy and kind and curious, and there are significant american and a spanish influences in their culture (the Philippines is THE best country in the world, no exaggeration, GO THERE). So even in the red cross, in the wake of a national disaster, we were told to wait a few hours and help ourselves to a free meal! Everybody kept thanking us so sincerely for coming to help their country, even before we had done a thing. They loved the fact we were foreign and we even got to meet the head of the Red Cross in the Philippines. It all felt a bit weird getting special treatment and so on when we hadn’t even done any work yet to be honest. So when they told us they needed some people to go to the airport to help bring in the US aid, we jumped at the chance to do some actual work. When we got there it just turned out to be a photo opportunity for the US ambassador for the philippines, the head of the red cross and the US Aid people – they wanted international looking people in the pictures! So we still hadn’t done any real work and everyone was thanking us profusely.  On top of that, I had been in the Philippines for less than 24hours and I was on the national news with the US Ambassador and the Head of the Red Cross!

Crazy things happen to foreigners in Asia. That’s one thing I’ve realised about being abroad – all the foreigners seem to congregate at various events or in certain parts of town. So even if you are integrating well with locals, you bump into the most amazing people and inevitably make conversation due to the similarity of your situation. If you’re into networking, this is the place to be. I’m really not interested in that sort of thing, but, regardless, I have met exchange students with parents in very high places and lots of people with very interesting/powerful jobs. It’s eye opening if nothing else.

And going away from HK to Manila made me realise how much I love it here. Despite falling in love with the Philippines too, I came back to HK with a sense that I was coming home. The scaffolding and skips had been taken away from the halls and various improvements had been made inside (wi fi!), the place seemed more comfortable, prettier, more mine.

AND THEN THE WORK KICKED IN. The workload at HKU is heavy. I took classes in the Arts faculty that are all pretty much 100% coursework assessed so I had a particularly hard time of it during term time, though no exams towards the end. I am also learning Cantonese and French so those both require sustained effort. Then there are mid terms, assignments and presentations. I have never done so much work in my life – but it felt so good! I stepped it up a gear, was operating at a higher, more efficient, level and was getting so much out of it. I have never had to do a presentation or small assignment at Glasgow and was dreading it. But I feel like I am learning so many skills and ones that are more relevant  for employment – which I am starting to realize is increasingly important, being a philosophy student!

Speaking of skills for employment etc, I got an email from the university advertising a programme called Young Social Enterprise Ambassador Programme. I read about social enterprise earlier this year and thought it sounded really interesting, so I applied, thinking I would have no chance against the business students here. But the group interview went alright and it turned out I got in. Eight students were chosen and put into two teams. We were then granted access to the Hong Kong International Symposium for Social Enterprise. We were supposed to go to the summit to get information and inspiration and then create a proposal for promoting Social Enterprise in Hong Kong. This proposal would be entered into a competition and the winning team gets HK$3000. The summit was enlightening and I learned so much. I also met some very inspirational people and have made use of my contacts… Last week I went on my first shadowing trip with the founding chairman of the HK Social Enterprise Incubation Centre (Raymond Yim) and hopefully after the Christmas holidays we will have formalized it into an unpaid internship. The Incubation Centre helps social enterprises to get onto their feet in whatever way necessary. That day I was taken to meet a nice old lady from Beijing who makes renowned dumplings, she has tiny shop in a poor area of town and Raymond was hooking her up with a man who runs a social enterprise that helps people find property at reasonable prices. After that we went to view some office space for another social enterprise (I didn’t catch the details of that one – all in cantonese) and the to the Institute of Vocational Education, where they intend to set up a call centre to use in the promotion of social enterprises.  It was all very interesting, I was glad to see some parts of HK that I wouldn’t usually get to see and learn a bit about how these things work.

In general I am just loving it. Getting stuck in now that I have adapted to the pace and noise of things! I don’t have a minute to spare – if I’m not doing uni work then there is always more to see and do and more people to meet. Even if it’s just another restaurant to eat in, I’m there. I heart HK, and you will too.

For photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uq2009/sets/72157622854845842/

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