Author Archives: Sua in Hong Kong

The Hard Goodbye

Hong Kong is a beautiful place.

 

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The view that taught me that I am capable of missing views.

 

I met so many wonderfully astonishing people here whom I will never forget. I did not think saying goodbye would be hard, but I also did not plan on connecting with so many different people.

How can I put into words exactly what I experienced abroad? This is a question I find myself pondering. In a way I feel detached from my home country even more than before I studied abroad. Now that I have experienced living and interacting with people in a different country, I am certain the United States will not be my dwelling for my entire life. My time abroad taught me that there are so many ways to live comfortably in foreign countries.

I tell my friends that I feel like I’m in the Stone Age because that is what being back in the U.S. feels like now. Some of my day-to-day activities feel so obsolete, like public transportation. In Hong Kong, I could travel all across the city with ease and in a decent amount of time. LA is the complete opposite. It may seem small, but I learned to appreciate and use my time more efficiently while in Hong Kong, so spending some much time on transportation is a nuisance. I am going to have to get used to the prehistoric ways of the U.S.

Upon my arrival to the Los Angeles International Airport, I found my heart sinking out of fear at the sight of security guards/police officers and their guns. I have traveled to four different countries during my time abroad and saw close to zero guns. I can’t say I was surprised because during my time abroad I was constantly reminded that people in the U.S. still find themselves becoming victims of violence by governing forces that are meant to protect.

During my second month in Hong Kong I began missing Western food, my friends, and family. As I type this, I have only been reunited with a handful of my friends since I am staying in LA until school starts again, but I am sure my reunion with my Berkeley friends will be pretty powerful. When my amazing friend picked me up, she surprised me with my dog and food from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle. It was magical.

While I have my gripes with the U.S. it was therapeutic my first couple of days being back. Some areas of LA are truly a beautiful diverse melting pot, and it was nice not feeling like a minority in some instances. However I still miss Hong Kong greatly.

 

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The hard goodbye.

 

I miss the amazing people I met who will never be forgotten. I met some truly incredible people that are worth the effort of remaining in contact with. I will miss the Hong Kong nightlife and all the colorful characters that come with being in those spaces. I will miss eating rice daily with my intermediate level chopstick skills (I became addicted to rice there). I will miss the friendly locals who were kind to me, the ease of getting around in Hong Kong. I am going to miss lunch time with my co-workers and not tipping at restaurants (because tipping is not a thing in most Asian countries I have learned).

Hong Kong is very Westernized, so there aren’t too many aesthetic differences or differences in how day to day life is lived, from my personal observation. However the way Hong Kong interacted with me is completely different than the States. I saw plenty of police daily, but not once was I stopped or questioned at all. I felt very safe, as opposed to the U.S. where I feel very uneasy whenever I see police.

I always fantasized about leaving the States to live and work in a foreign country. My study abroad experience to Hong Kong showed me that it is very possible. I learned that an American degree, especially from my university, goes a long way in Hong Kong. Hong Kong gave me new prospective post-graduate plans. Maybe I will work in Southeast Asia again before pursuing grad school or law school.

My study abroad in Southeast Asia was nothing short of an enlightening, humbling, life-changing experience that I will never forget. I have yet to develop the tools to fully express or explain how much my time abroad affected me. I learned so much about myself, traveling, Southeast Asia and its culture. My experiences in Hong Kong have extinguished the animosity I held towards the States. It has taught me how to cope with the issues in the U.S in a healthier, productive, and less stressful way. Hong Kong ignited a series of growth for me that will continue long into my life, and for this, I cannot thank Hong Kong enough.

 

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My future looks brighter because of my experiences in Hong Kong.

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A Metamorphosis Abroad

I have never been able to relate to a lot of the people I met growing up unless they came from a similar background as I do. If they did not, a bridge was immediately formed where we stood on opposite ends, speaking still, yet never truly hearing or understanding one another. This was especially true for Asian people (I know how bad that sounds but let me finish). Growing up, I definitely let the media, stereotypes, and Hollywood brainwash my ideas surrounding Chinese people. I always assumed they were very well-off, and super good at math. The fact that the Asians at my schools fit these stereotypes only pushed my prejudices deeper into my conscious. Before studying abroad, I had only met three Asians who did not fit these stereotypes, but still zero I could relate to. Yet still, I have been fascinated with Asia since I was a child, and made it my mission to eventually travel here. This by far one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.

My first day in Hong Kong was a very humbling experience. It was the first time in my life I saw Chinese people doing regular jobs, like supermarket cashiers, fast food, and plenty of other jobs. I thought wow, these people are just like every other race: diverse. Diverse in every sense of the word, from their fashion, views, and physique. It washed away my idea that Chinese people were people I just couldn’t relate to because we are just so different, but that is so far from the truth. This is the part where I introduce my brilliant co-worker and friend Ariel.

 

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This is Ariel, my brilliant Hong Kong sister whom I will miss dearly.

 

Ariel is like my tiny little sister, even though shes only one year younger me. She is an incredibly hard worker and has taught me so much about Hong Kong culture. We have similar views on most things we discuss, like the governing and policing parties, how life should be more than just working so much, and plenty of other stuff. She is the reason I work overtime practically everyday, her presence is dope. She’s passionate about her people and their freedom, she goes to protests just like us Berkeley folk are known for doing.

Through friendships like Ariel’s and my coursework through the University of Hong Kong, I have learned a lot about myself. I thought I was capable of adapting to any environment, but I discovered my kryptonite: censorship. During my travel to and from Tokyo, I have stopped in Shanghai a couple times. Since Shanghai is a part of mainland China, censorship is very real there. I was blocked from using all my apps, and even e-mail. I firmly believe that no one or governing force should have the power to control the information people can receive. It creates a bubble for that group of people, they become lost in the dark. Knowledge is power, and when access to resources that can provide that knowledge is prohibited, people gain very little power.

Experiencing this censorship was a miserable experience, until I decided to make the most of it. I exchanged my HKDs (Hong Kong’s currency) for RMB (China’s currency) and wandered around Shanghai. I discovered street vendors who were cooking some food that smelled amazing. I was about 3 dollars short, so I gave them the rest of my Hong Kong coins, and they accepted them with intrigue. When I was leaving, one of them asked for a picture with me, and of course I said yes because she had been so kind.

 

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My delicious meal in Shanghai.

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The kind street vendor who asked for a picture with me.

 

One of my reasons for interning in Hong Kong was because I imagined the work culture here being extremely intense (it is). So I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to force myself to improve as a professional. I can say mission accomplished. Through my internship with the social enterprise Mircoforests, I have written website content, drafted a grant proposal, designed workshop newsletters, and produced press releases. I have gotten used to working 8 hours a day plus the usual hour or hour and a half overtime (keep in mind my internship is unpaid). I can focus on tasks better, I have learned how to write grants, press releases, and effective newsletters. I know the inner-workings of social enterprises which are similar to non-profits,  and I plan on starting my own non-profit or social enterprise once I have the means to do so.

I came here under the impression I was open-minded, then discovered I could be very narrow-minded at times. It feels like someone has pried my mind wide open with a crow bar, showing me a beautiful aspect of diversity and human connection. This experience has prompted a conscious metamorphosis.

 

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Understanding

Prior to studying abroad, I considered myself extremely open minded and understanding. I contribute these characteristics to my creative nature and unique background and interactions with various kinds of individuals from loving, kind and intelligent souls to racist, ignorant, and arrogant ones. However, what I am learning about myself in my time in Hong Kong is that I am not as understanding as I have perceived myself to be. Understanding Hong Kong culture, especially its work culture, has been a ball of confusion, sometimes met with frustration. I cannot understand the idea of dedicating so much of yourself and your time to an occupation, especially if the occupation is not a fulfilling one. I do not understand how when rules are set here, there seems to be no wiggle room whatsoever. Laws and rules are followed as they should be, but when these rules prevent productivity and lack compassion, it seems that logic and rationality become useless within the machine of society.

I understand that I must learn to live by the rules because at the end of the day, I am still a guest in this country and have no right to try changing ideas that have been cemented into their society ages ago. Becoming aware of my lack of understanding is just another example of how I am growing so much here, in the beautiful, yet sometimes confusing place that is Hong Kong.

 

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This is my amazing boss Rainbow Chow, who is one of the people who has challenged my understanding and helped me grow. She is a true inspiration and has taught me so much. Never have I been inspired by an individual so much.

 

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Hong Kong’s Work Culture

As I sit crammed on Hong Kong’s famous subway system, the MTR, I am surrounded by tired souls. Gaunt figures that fade in and out of consciousness, as their limp heads sway with the train, returning home from their workplace.

 

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Crowded MTR as the working class flock to their destinations.

 

Hong Kong’s work culture is like nothing I have ever experienced. It is a culture where unpaid overtime hours are expected almost daily and are the norm, where off days feel like a holy grail, where people are unable to de-stress by going to the beach, bars, or just sleeping all day. My local friend’s commentary on their work life is practically identical: It is a beast that consumes and spits you out with scars in the form of sunken eyes, irritable moods, stress, and fatigue. Perhaps this is why the people of Hong Kong are so strong willed and resilient. The work culture strengthens them, something that I’ve noticed is happening to me too. One of my reasons for studying abroad here was to develop myself as a professional, and Hong Kong’s work ethic is forcing this development in ways I did not imagine. This one of the many reasons why I love Hong Kong.

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Already Feels Like Home

Prior to my departure to Hong Kong, I made it my mission to spend a lot of quality time with those I hold dearly. This made my departure a breeze, and I felt I left on wonderful terms with all of my close friends and family.

My anxious feelings towards my Hong Kong endeavor were quickly outweighed by my excitement to leave my country and explore a continent I have been fascinated by since my youth. My plane ride was a mix of excitement and mild anxiety. Not anxiety from fear of the unknown, but my eagerness to be in Hong Kong already. My 15 hour flight to Taiwan, then 8 hour layover was excruciating, but still a wonderful experience.

On my flight to Hong Kong, I was fortunate to sit next to a HK local named Royal. We quickly became friends, and he later became responsible for making my first night in Hong Kong completely unforgettable. He took my friend and I to LKF (Lan Kwai Fong) a popular nightlife area of Hong Kong where we danced and met many welcoming locals that we conversed with for hours. Arriving in Hong Kong, I was blown away by my new environment.

 

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Dreaming big with big Buddha.

 

Hong Kong is a beautiful, vibrant place and it has really humbled me. I rarely thought of how people lived outside of the United States. The people of Hong Kong are extremely hard-working and have a great sense of pride in their country. This is different from my home country. Americans that are socially aware of the political and social injustices in our country usually tend to have anything but a sense of pride in being from the United States. A sense of pride in one’s home is something I have never experienced. But now that I am in my temporary home of Hong Kong, I am proud to be here. My culture shock has been nothing but positive. As an African American, I am a rare individual here. I get stares and double glances, but this is something I knew would happen because I researched the black experience in Hong Kong long before I arrived here.

A goal I would like to complete while I am here is to travel to Japan. Additionally, I have become so much more studious here. Recently I completed a paper assignment five days before the deadline because I am able to focus on my exciting coursework. I am definitely going to bring my new studious habits back to the States.

I have been here only four days and I have already seen magnificent sights. I have walked for a total of 15 hours covering 43 beautiful miles. Never in my life have I had such fun just walking and adventuring.

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