Trip Start Dec 15, 2002
Trip End ??? ??, 2003

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Flag of Hong Kong  ,
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I woke up this morning with an annoying realization. Two actually: I never took off my clothes on the way to bed last night (not that I remember how I got home!), and I had to go to class this morning. I found the second slightly more annoying then the first. Since Monday, my 7 week holiday from school has been officially put to death, and now I'm confronted with the difficult task of using my brain for the forces of good.

For a formally trained Canadian student, the learning environment at HKU is a wacky departure from reality. In my reality, students arrive at class promptly (alright, fairly promptly), sit quietly (alright, semi-quietly), and pay attention (alright, quasi-attention). A teacher controls her class with an iron fist and does not tolerate any shit whatsoever. Not so at HKU. In my three days of school, I have not been in one class with atmosphere even approaching silence. Conversations continues throughout lectures and repeated, albeit somewhat muted, teacher requests to quiet the class are understood, considered, and promptly ignored. Students come and go as they please throughout class, which is somewhat indiscrete in a class of 200 people but blatantly obvious in a class of 20. And then, when conversation becomes too tiresome, they sleep, like pass-out, mouth wide open, head at whip-lashing inducing angles, snoring sleep. They sleep without a care in the world - in my 'Introduction to Modern Business' class, three girls in our row caught up on their z's and promptly left the class midway through; apparently, going to school provides the perfect place to catch up on the sleep missed while playing video games and screaming at the top of your lungs until 3 in the morning - yes, I am a little bitter. The hang out on my floor has turned into (terribly) the room across the hall, where the same six kids play some unintelligble soccer game on PS2. I walk past that room at least ten times a day, and it seems as if they never leave.

Another difference: because the students are timid about using their second language in the all-English classes, they rarely talk. Q and I, as the resident type-A English speakers, have turned into regular Dave Andersons, and the 'interactive' environment often becomes a two way conversation between us and the professor, with dozens of local observers. This works out perfectly for those of us who enjoy constantly being the center of attention, although participation only accounts for 10 or 20% of our grade, much less than the 40% or so average at Ivey. Classes are mainly lecture-based; in our 'Advertising Management class, Q asked "Is this it?" when the teacher handed out the four cases we would study for the year. We're still undecided about whether classes will be hard or not. We do have the whole 'we speak English well' advantage, but the kids are smart, the lecturers are accomplished (we have one former Harvard professor ... ooooooooooooooh), and the classes are all textbook based, which might mean that I have to take notes for once in my life (although there is a lot of dubiety implicit in that statement). Of course, in trying to sidestep difficulty we are taking several suspect classes: eg "Show Me The Money: Doing Business with Americans" and Introduction to Cantonese. (So far, the only Cantonese I've learned is 'mm goi', which means thank you and is not something you say when you've just eaten too much jew recently. Besides that, my Cantonese is limited to numbers from one to ten, swear words, and 'Yao Ming').

Enough about school, which has just been an interupption in my otherwise dipsomanical lifestyle. Example on that point: last night, after a failed attempt to go see the HK movie "Infernal Affairs" (a film proving the eternal good cop - bad cop struggle is apparently universally translatable , notwithstanding the Chinese addition of a terribly unwitty title) we headed out to the club district in an area of HK called Wan Chai. The Tuesday night draw, a club called Carnegie's, is a ridiculously amazing deal - $50HK ($10CAD) for as much vodka as you can drink between 11-12, including mix. Evil. I've spent the past couple days getting to know many of the exchange students, and by getting to know I really mean getting drunk with. Saturday night, we rounded up 26 of the Western world's finest pop singers and went to karaoke. That was also a sloppy affair, and in the future I think I'll confine my singing to the shower.

Verbose product of the day: Aussie Shampoo. "Saturate hair with water. Massage shampoo deeply into scalp and roots. Drench with water to rinse. Repeat." Saturate? Drench? I think I may have found my calling...'Product Directions Author'

Sunday, we took a break from the bottle and 15 or so students went to the south side of the Island to check out a beach at Repulse Bay. This supremely rich area is home to HK's kingpin, Lee Ka Shing (who bid a couple hundred thousand $HK for a license plate: 'HK 1"), and to a property that listed a couple years ago for $900,000,000 HK (even with a generous exchange rate, that's still almost $200 grand Canadian). Eek. Hundreds of beautiful, decadent palaces lined the cliffs over looking the sea, the complete antithesis to the crowded scene on the opposite side of the island. We lazed around the beach, chose against taking a dip in the frigid water, and took a walk down the beach to check out a temple with weird, animated statues of babies riding fish and colourful dragons. I have stayed behind the times and away from a digital camera, but many of my friends here have them and I've liberally 'borrowed' a few to put on my site (mostly pictures of me).

Unfortunately, the to-do list is still miles longer than the done list, but I'm slowly working towards remedying that. I've been here 10 days and I have yet to go to the top of the Peak; I'm hopefully going to go tonight, if I don't get otherwise 'sidetracked'. I officially planned my first travelling trip - to the Philippines the week after Chinese New Year - which gives me something to look forward to over the next couple days. The most fun I've had over the past couple days has been taking the bus through Central HK for one reason or another. I have already claimed the front row, upper deck seat on the bus as mine, and spend a good deal of the bus ride with my nose smooshed against the window, staring up at the unbelievable buildings and light shows. My favourite building is the HSBC Bank; it's not very tall compared to some of the other buildings, but it resembles the evil lair of a Supermanesque villain. It looks like they built the building without building the 'box' around it - you can see all the inside framework, 30 or 40 stories of stairs going up, even the counterweighting for the elevators on the top. Inside is an 11 story atrium, crisscrossed by escalators. At night, the top of the building lights up like a disembodied landing pad for an alien mothership. Right beside it is the famous Bank of China building which collapses upon itself section by section until one corner reaches up to be the highest (manmade) point in HK; that is, until they finish the final stages of the International Finance Center II, which will overtake that title. This city is so amazingly cool.

Ok, off now to hang out with some other exchange students. I'm going to try to convince them to go up to the Peak - talking about the buildings got me very excited.

Email me to say hi - jordanmbower@hotmail.com

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