-Quick note, today was a packed day and it’s going to be divided into 3 posts-
Our first day in Hong Kong begins tremendously well. Something I learned very quickly is that Chinese hotels beat American hotels by a country mile when it comes to breakfasts. I started out with this strategy of eating a huge breakfast so that I’d have energy throughout the day and be able to taste things throughout the day and still be full in case the food was to weird. Also, it ended up saving me a lot of money. My breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, miniature pancakes, crab balls, sausage dumplings, pineapple, cantaloupe, toast, home potatoes, two cups of coffee and a glass of grapefruit juice. It sounds like a ton, and it sort of was.
This was the point in the trip when there was still a paper thin barrier between everyone that wasn’t already friends. Usually it took a conversation to break through, and sometimes it took a lot more. I was happy to see how quickly we all became friends. We still call each other the China fam (Chiner fam to some), and we really were that way.
We finished our breakfasts and relished in the last ounces of wifi the dining room allotted and were on our way. Hong Kong is a very interesting place in terms of the climate and the actual island itself. The local flora is straight out of Jurassic Park, with these crazy plans and trees, and mega-ferns that look straight out of a rainforest. The city was extremely hilly, and it was so humid and hot that it felt like you were walking underwater in a big hot tub. The city is intensely vertical, and when you are at low points, the sky is parenthesied by huge reaching sky scrapers and hotels. It wasn’t a very far walk to the Metro station (MTR from here on), but we had to go up and down so many hills and take such roundabout paths to ascend and descend as needed. Some of the city is gorgeous, futuristic, and clean, but there are a lot of troubles in Hong Kong.
There was a lot of construction going on, and some of the buildings were in such bad condition that they were crumbling away.
We had to pass under the HSBC building and stumbled across the Occupy Hong Kong protest camp. It was very interesting to see how entrenched they were. They had tents, a makeshift library, and several living rooms. This set the tone for a big observation about Hong Kong that would strike me later in the day more fully: Hong Kong is extremely politically active.
We arrive at the MTR station and head underground to buy our Octopasses. Octopasses are swipe cards with a declining balance that you can use to pay for just about every type of public transportation around town, from the MTR trains themselves to the local bus lines. We had some minor issues with people’s cards not working, and it threatened our schedule, but we got the situation handled just in time.
Here’s where things start getting interesting.
We head even farther underground to the level with the trains. There are tracks on either side of the long room. We look around trying to find the correct line, and ready ourselves to board when the trains arrive. What we don’t know, is that when I say train, I really mean pack of sardines that will hemorrhage people like a tidal wave when it arrives, leaving us roughly three seconds to board.
When the time comes, we aren’t prepared. We aren’t all on the same page, and two students get on after we decide to wait for the next one. Liya Wang (one of the professors) looks on in terror as the doors slam shut on the train. First day on the ground in China and two students are about to be jettisoned god knows where, with no language comprehension, and no familiarity with the area or the MTR. Seeing as Liya moonlights as the Hulk, she made every effort to wrench the doors open and fought with all her strength before the train began the slowly chug away. Alas, it was Hulk proof. Nobody ever looked more distraught.
We tried to make light of the situation and have a laugh while we waited, but we were all a little worried.
The next schedule arrived and we sprinted into the outpour of little Hong Kongers. We stood in the train car holding onto the overhead railings and trying to get used to keeping balance in the train. This initially had a steep learning curve for some, but by the end of our time, we were doing handstands, Ashtanga yoga, and breakdancing without ever losing out balance.
The two students were waiting for us with smiles at the next stop, and we all continued on our way. Our stop came up for Hong Kong Baptist University, a sister university that we have a good relationship with and that agreed to welcome us with a lecture on business in China. We gave up our hour of being mole people hundreds of miles underground, and returned to the bright surface world.
We took in the sights as we approached HKBU, especially the beautiful street names.
And we took in the gorgeous scenery that is so beautifully juxtaposed with the city.
Oh, and to finish up this post: as we were walking toward the main building for HKBU, I noticed that Rachel had a huge ink stain on her shirt because a pen in the strap of her backpack had been rubbing against her the whole time. She’s a trooper.
NEXT TIME: Chinese business professors drop knowledge, students tell us where best to enjoy our stay in Hong Kong, and we ready for a crazy night.