返香港

finding my place in an unfamiliar home

Page 2 of 2

Getting adjusted

Today is my fourth day in Hong Kong and the first day of classes at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST).

I landed on Tuesday, August 29th at around 4PM and was lucky enough to have my exchange buddy waiting for me at the airport. The 15 hour flight was tough for a host of reasons. During the whole trip my heart was racing. My thoughts ranged from simple questions about sleeping on the plane to wondering if I would be able to make friends once I got to my destination and whether I made the right choice leaving the comforts of my home for a place I’ve never really been to. I occupied my time and my mind with free airplane movies and light reading.

Once I arrived at the airport, I met with my exchange buddy Winnie and we took the public bus to my dorm in Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳). She was so pleasant and courteous. We spoke English at first, but quickly switched to Cantonese after she realized I could speak the language. She was quite shocked at my speaking skills!

After I checked in at the dorm, we took a look at my room. It is very large. I live in Jockey Club Hall (JCH) which is an apartment style dorm. It is an off-campus dorm that is quite new. The residents of the hall are assigned to a suite and have a double room in the suite. The suite reminded me of Carl Becker House at home. We have a living room and kitchenette. There are four bedrooms in the apartment and there are two showers and toilets.  The school also provides a free shuttle bus to and from HKUST for JCH residents.

The past couple of days have been interesting. I spent a lot of my time either on campus going through orientation events or taking the MTR (the local HK metro) to the Hang Hau (坑口) shopping mall. Over the course of 3 days I have acquired a set of bed sheets, a pillow, some stationery, an IKEA bag for laundry, and clothes hangers.

Overall, it’s been a hectic three days in HK. I’m still trying to get adjusted to life here and am still pretty jetlagged. I miss home, my friends, my family, and the familiarity of Cornell. But at the same time, I am excited for what is to come in the next few months. I am excited to make new friends from all over the world and to step out of my comfort zone. I only wish this awkward transition period would go by a bit faster…

 

One more day

“你返香港呀?”  or  “你幾時返香港呀?”

Translation: “You’re going back to Hong Kong?” or “When are you going back to Hong Kong?”

Both are questions I have been getting from my family ever since I announced my acceptance to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). They’re questions that make me feel both excited and nervous for the trip.

I’ve always thought it funny that they say “going back” to HK instead of just “going” to HK because I’ve never actually been to HK, outside of stopping at the airport to wait for a connecting flight to Malaysia. This ironic situation is actually an accurate representation of my complicated relationship and feelings for my dad’s hometown.

I have a special connection to HK because my dad immigrated from there to New York as a teenager. Because my dad speaks limited English and mainly speaks Cantonese (the most popular dialect among HK locals), I also speak Cantonese. Fun fact: Cantonese was actually my first language and I had to go to ESL (English as a Second Language program) through my first few years of elementary school. I speak with confidence in Cantonese. I also grew up watching TVB, the cantonese version of Doraemon (or Ding Dong), and McDull. Whether they are accurate portrayals of real HK life or not, those TVB dramas and animated shows are where I learned about HK culture. It’s where I learned about the rough, hilarious way that Hong Kongese speak (their dialogues are littered with puns). It’s where I was first exposed to Canto-pop. It’s where I turned to in order to understand my heritage a little better.

But at the same time, I feel very disconnected from HK because I was born in America. There’s a special name my family calls me, my siblings, my cousins, and other American Born Chinese (ABCs): 竹升 (jook sing). It’s used to indicate that we are not fully part of Chinese culture or American culture. We have one foot planted on each side and do not truly belong anywhere. To top it off, I did not grow up with my dad’s side of the family, but with my mom’s side of the family, who are from Malaysia. My HK roots have been diluted so much with both American and Malaysian influence that I don’t have as strong an identity in HK culture. It makes me nervous about how I will fit in at a place I should supposedly belong to, but don’t completely understand.

However, I think that nervousness makes me feel even more excited to explore my dad’s home. It makes me all the more excited to put together the puzzle of my heritage, stand back for a moment, and truly understand my family’s background. I’m eager to practice my Cantonese with locals and push the boundaries of my language skills, as well as expand my vocabulary. I’m eager to find out whether true local HK life is similar to that of the characters in TVB dramas.

When I get back home in a few months, maybe I’ll have some new things about HK to talk to my dad about. Maybe I’ll be able to form clever puns in Cantonese and succeed in making my dad laugh at them. Maybe I’ll feel more comfortable writing “Fluent” next to Cantonese on my resume. Maybe HK will finally feel like another home to me, just as America and Malaysia already seem to be.

For now, I’ll continue to attempt to pack my life away into a suitcase and bask in my beautiful, mixed feelings for the place I already have an unconditional love for.

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