Well, I’m back in HK again. Again. I’ve spent the few days since my arrival sorting out my visa, which unhelpfully arrived the wrong side of the border the wrong side my my arrival, and finding my way around my new digs. I say digs – a great friend has given me her son’s room now he’s overseas at university. I live overlooking paddy fields towards the sea, my commute begins along a path through the jungle and is followed by two bus journeys. From the top deck of the bus I see fish farms, mountains, islands, the sea. The whole thing takes an hour but it’s a world away from any commute I’ve had previously and it’s all for fun.
This week I’ve also attended two orientation classes at my new university, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. As several people have independently remarked when I’ve told them where I’ll be studying: it’s a very beautiful campus. Set in lush vegetation on a steep hill, it’s a bit challenging for a high summer day in the tropics and I found myself more disorientated than orientated by the end of a day trying spent to find my bearings in 3D.
The lecture hall was already full by the time I arrived, the welcome speeches introducing the university campus and learning facilities to postgraduates well underway in English. There were oohs and waahs when one of the lecturers introduced himself first in Cantonese, then English and finally Mandarin. I’ll be pressing three for Mandarin please.
If the predominance of mainland Chinese students at Wednesday’s sessions were not proof enough, yesterday I attended the introduction for the Masters course. Most of the hour was given over for the students to introduce ourselves. After the first girl had given her spiel I thought I’d count the mainlanders. Actually I’d have been less busy if I’d counted the foreigners instead: of the sixty or so on the course, around fifty are from China proper. All of them introduced themselves in English; I mixed it up by introducing myself in Mandarin.
The format had been “my name is [insert two or three syllable Chinese name here] but you can call me [insert English name here]. I studied xxx at yyy university and I come from [insert Chinese city here]“. I must confess I was a bit surprised that I didn’t get much reaction from my expertly delivered “Hello everyone, my name is Ke Ling but you can call me Lucy” (let’s face it, that bit should be expert by now). Sticking to script I continued that I had graduated from Cambridge at which a few heads finally turned and a waaah went up. It only occurred to me much later that maybe until then they had thought I was a strangely accented Chinese chick who couldn’t speak English.
We bonded over a buffet lunch and needless to say the lingua franca was Mandarin. Though my classmates probably all hoped this course would be a way to practise English, sheer weight of numbers means it’s going to be Mandarin between classes. I spoke with several classmates and they’re all so enthusiastic I’m looking forward to spending time studying with and learning from them, even if a few asked me what course I was going to be teaching… Still, I was quite chuffed that they seemed interested in signing up and given that one of our profs turns out to be exactly my vintage from Cambridge I suppose it’s an easy mistake to make.
Two recces down and already I know it was the right choice to study in Hong Kong. Sure, I could have found some Mandarin-speaking pals to hang out with in London but nothing like this whole classful of eager youth. So to those of you who put up with my waffling through my painfully indecisive decision process: thanks for your help.