Friday, June 01, 2007


Reflecting on these past several months in Hong Kong, I am grateful for the unlimited access I was given to the CUHK library system. I am also extraordinarily grateful for Hong Kong's (and CUHK's) proximity to mainland China, which allowed me to visit Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Guilin, Yangshuo, Chengdu, and Lhasa.

Much heart-felt mahalos goes out to the Eu Tong Sen organization and the University of Hawai'i for making all of this possible. Aloha!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last Day

Today is officially the last day of the spring semester.

Departure paperwork was necessary in order to get my deposits back. I picked them up from the IASP office and filled them out on the spot. According to IASP, the deposits should be ready two months from today, so I'd say I'll be receiving them in August.

I was required to cancel my library card by returning all my books and handing in a form to the library staff behind the counter. Within less than 24 hours, I was no longer allowed entry into any of the libraries, which was inconvenient, especially since I still wanted to print documents.

My CUHK email account and access should also no longer work after today either.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Shenzhen to Guangzhou

A new super-fast railway line has opened between Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Total travel time has now been cut to about 1 hour. The railway approaches speeds of up to 196 km per hour and makes only 2 stops between Shenzhen and Guangzhou East Railway Station. The train vibrates and shakes in a way that makes me nervous, but it seems to be secure. A ticket is 75 RMB. Goodbye buses and slow trains!


The largest amount of my funds were put on my Octopus Card, which I used to purchase meals at the canteens, groceries at Park n' Shop, and travel between University Station and other parts of Hong Kong. Octopus Cards can be re-charged anywhere Octopus Cards are accepted, which makes it very convenient to use.

My Student ID was used to pay for laundry and dryer use and printing expenses. Between January and the end of April I spent 200 HKD on laundry, having washed my clothes once every two weeks. I placed about 150 HKD on my Student ID to print out documents related to my research.

The best place I found for printing out documents was Chung Chi College Library, ground floor near the back. The printers there are fast and well-maintained.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Summer has Arrived

Today's weather was 73 F and completely blue skies. What a phenomenal change. The rest of the week onwards promises to be even better in the upper 70s/lower 80s with completely blue skies.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Campus Glimpses

On a rare somewhat "ungray" spring day, this is the University Library, the largest of several on campus and a spectacular resource.

One of my favorite views at CUHK. This is in the Mong Man Wai Building. Mong Man Wai is one of the buildings used in the shortcut up to New Asia College from PGH1.

Sports Centre

CUHK's Sports Centre tennis courts. There are tennis courts at every college as well, I believe. Unfortunately, I do not play tennis, but have heard that many exchange students have passed their leisure time playing tennis and badminton. Court reservations can be made online.

What is a "toastie"?

Western menu items tend to go by their British names. This is a toastie, of which there are all sorts of varieties besides this banana cinnamon one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

US-China Relations

CUHK has no shortage of fascinating speakers visiting the university. Tonight, Chung Chi College invited the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, James Cunningham, to speak to English Table participants. Mr. Cunningham spoke in a sober manner about how the future of the world would be determined by the relationship between China and America. He said it wasn't going to be his generation, but our generation, which would see a China entering the international community.

Mr. Cunningham also talked about common misperceptions the Chinese had about America. The following clip is of the second misperception.

Mr. Cunningham was very clear in saying that the U.S. did NOT want to see a weak China. I do believe the U.S. wants to see a China which can collaborate and cooperate within the increasingly linked international community as a team player. From what I sense right now though, China just wants to be the biggest kid on the playground.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Many Winters

You may have noticed a lack of photos lately. This is because the weather hasn't been at it's best in a while and I don't want to post dismal looking photos. Most days I'll wake up and look out the window (at my million-dollar view as my father refers to it) and just see a misty white haze. We've been having a lot of misty days and "many winters" as my friend commented. One week our weather will be in the 70s the next it will be in the 60s, then back to the 70s, and then back to the 60s. It has been pretty consistent in its inconsistency actually! I can pretty much count on next week being in the 70s since we had pretty chilly weather this past week. For the moment, I certainly don't enjoy the damp 62 degree days followed by 58 degree nights in my room!

A regular selection of clothing brought over from Hawai'i will not be warm enough for Hong Kong's "winter". Fortunately, there is an endless amount of clothing shopping which can easily be done in Causeway Bay, Kowloon Tong's Festival Walk, Shatin's Newtown Plaza Phase III, and TST.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Beware the Mandarin!

After 10 weeks in Hong Kong, I haven't been able to make heads or tails of the English spoken here by most of the locals I communicate with. There's no standardized local-brand of English as in Singapore (where you will hear Singlish being spoken very consistently by all Singaporeans) simply because English is not regarded as part of Hong Kong's core identity. IMHO, Hong Kong is not bilingual in the truest sense. The English here depends heavily on how much ability/accent the the speaker has...and they do come in a wide, WIDE range.

Every now and then, I will switch into Mandarin Chinese in an attempt to communicate more clearly with a local person. Unfortunately, the person I am communicating with will switch into a very heavily accented Mandarin which I can comprehend just about as clearly as their English.

Foiled! Just when I thought being able to speak these two languages would get me by. I read a survey result last night which reported that 53% of Chinese people could speak Mandarin Chinese competently. Around 60% in the urban areas and 40% in the rural areas. I don't think their definition of "competent" was that high, so this is quite an interesting number to think over!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

中文能力 Chinese Ability

For a graduate student to fully take advantage of the Chinese opportunities here at CUHK, being fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese would be the best possible situation of course; however, if you are not fluent, then I strongly believe the bare minimum for comfort would be to be able to read 1000 characters or more of standard Chinese (since simplified is not used in Hong Kong) and being able to speak and understand basic to basic-advanced Cantonese.

CUHK has several newsletters published as well as email announcements sent in standard Chinese. The Center for Chinese Studies also announces event and forums in standard Chinese (absolutely no English). In addition, the John Fulton Staff Canteen menu and many menus on campus are posted in handwritten standard Chinese with no English translation.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Today marks the beginning of Mid-term week for most students as well as the 15th day of the lunar calendar. The moon is full and clear in the sky tonight and I noticed many couples out taking a stroll together as I walked home from the library.

I spent all of this weekend in the libraries drilling through my coursework and research. I noticed that since last week, I have been eating an excessive amount of snacks, which only indicates that I am feeling the pressure and anxiety of this research. Time is ticking and I am wasting away the opportunities for data collection which are just a hop, skip, and a jump across the border in China.

I am most certainly my own worst enemy when it comes to pressure. Thank goodness CUHK is on a beautiful mountain. The atmosphere lessens my anxiety. I will dedicate a future entry to photos of the CUHK campus.

Internet Access at CUHK

The internet access in my room at PGH1 is unreliable at best. I am disconnected anywhere between every 5 minutes to every fifteen minutes to every 2 hours. It's very arbitrary, but I'm pretty sure it has to do with lack of bandwidth in this dorm. Let's just say that over New Year's break when 90% of the dorm was empty, I had no problems with access. Also, it seems after midnight, when everyone is presumably downloading their movies and music, I can pretty much assume that I won't be able to get online AT ALL.

I think I already complained earlier in this blog about how the IT helpdesk responded to my first telephone request for connection assistance for my Apple Powerbook G4. Instead of simply telling me that he didn't know, the staffer said,"There is no access for macs in your dorm.*click*" Those three weeks without an internet connection were devastating for me as a researcher. Fortunately over the years, I've learned to never take no for an answer. Wish I was a little faster about it though.

During the downtime, I visited the 8th floor Computer Room and endured the hassle of using a computer that was not my own. The room also did not have a printer. Actually, it did have a printer...that didn't work...and spit out disgusting ink-stained jibberish. I'm not one who can read papers and articles completely online; I prefer hard-copies which I can highlight and organize. I had originally planned to purchase a cheap black-and-white printer for my room, but after seeing how unreliable my internet connection was, abandoned that idea.

After 2 or 3 trips to the Computer Room, my patience was running thin. Not only did I have sign in and out in the ground floor lobby with every use, I also had to enter a 6 digit password into the door to the room to unlock it. Once I got in and turned on the computer, I had to input my CWEM username and password (which I could never remember off the top of my head) before it would startup. Needless to say, I stopped going to the Computer Room.

As I became more familiar with the campus, I discovered that each library had a computer area with 20 or so terminals. There, you can login simply by inserting your CUHK ID card into the keyboard. The libraries have Add-Value Machines which you can use to add money to your card for printing. I've found this to be the best solution for my online research.

This week I will haul my laptop around see what wireless networks are available on campus.

Friday, March 02, 2007

CLC Spring Party

Tonight the Chinese Language Center hosted their spring party. All the staff and faculty were present along with some of their family members. All together there must have been around 120-150 or so people! It was a potluck and performance. There was an excess of food on which I gorged myself. The performances included a lion dance, songs, and skits, but the showstopper was the beatbox/dance performed by two Japanese students.

Vegetarian Options at CUHK

CUHK's sensitivity for people with special diets is abysmal. You may be surprised, but I rank it under Beijing. Even though Beijingers have no concept of vegetarianism whatsoever, they can custom prepare food however you want it. At CUHK, you pick from what's posted on the bulletin board, no ifs, ands, or buts. (On rare moments, I can get them to go "outside-the-box" and not include meat in a dish, but that's only when the cook is in a good mood and ONLY when he understands my Mandarin or English.)

The best places on campus I've found are ranked in order below:

Chung Chi College - Sandwich Cafe - 3rd floor of the Sino Building, walk thru a hall to an adjacent building. I enjoy the vegetarian sandwich selections here as well as the availability of salads and fruit.

Chung Chi College - Orchid Lounge - across the street and down the stairs from the Sino Building. They can custom make something vegetarian for you for around HKD $35. This is far above student pricing, but at least its veg. I had this pasta dish the other day which was delicious.

United College - Student Canteen. They have about 4-5 vegetarian meal options which are listed under a "Vegetarian" category.
Vegetarian Combo Sandwich - HKD$18. I end up ordering this a lot.
Vegetarian Ham Sandwich - not filling enough
Vegetarian Chicken Hamburger - good, I order two for HKD$30.
Vegetarian cooked rice dish - HKD$15. Always written in Chinese handwriting which I can't decipher and find impossible to order. Must be explicit with the servers that I am vegetarian. It's hit or miss, sometimes the vegetables are severely overcooked.

John Fulton Centre Coffee Corner. I am perpetually ordering the spaghetti with vegetables and the vegetarian sauce choice. HKD$14.

John Fulton Centre Staff Restaurant. They have 3-4 dishes which count as vegetarian. Service is good but prices are high for a student. HKD$38-$42. Here is a dish I ordered.

The Worst Options are below:

Chung Chi College Student Canteen: this one is absolutely the worst. Vegetarian items aren't marked. Sometimes they will tell you a dish is vegetarian when it's not. The vegetarian items that do come out are heavily doused in meat-cooked oils.

New Asia Canteen:
one cooked bok choi plate. That's it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happy Lunar New Year!

CLICK HERE for Your Greeting Card!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

Wishing you blessings and peace during this time of celebration!

Have a great Year of the Pig!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Going Back to HK from Guangzhou

Wandering among the sea of people around the train station heading home for New Years, I found it very interesting that a lot of young military boys as well as police men were assigned to keep order. Overpasses had become enforced as one-way and entrances to the stations had also become one-way. At one point, the policeman sitting at the base of the stairs had to yell something out of his megaphone at me to remind me that the stairs were one-way only. A moment later, he ran after a Chinese lady who tried to go against the crowd.

As I was climbing some stairs, I encountered an old man with a ridiculously heavy bunch of items on a set of wheels which he obviously would not be able to lug up the stairs on his own. A lady, who may or may not have known him, didn't seem to be able to lift the bottom of the load on her own. I decided to do the unusual (at least in my mind, it was unusual in this society, but maybe I am mistaken) and lent a helping hand. I lifted and bar and realized how heavy the load actually was. "Aiya!" I exclaimed. I sucked it up and together with the woman, helped the old farmer man with the load up two flights of stairs. They both said,"Thanks," to me and it was so uplifting to know that Chinese people DID say thank you to strangers.

To describe Guangzhou's transportation structure (I got a feel for it after wandering around in confusion for an hour), there is a Rail Station and an East Rail Station, a local bus station and a long-distance bus station. Since buses apparently leave for Shenzhen from both bus stations, I decided to visit the less crowded of the two, the Lihua local bus station, which is just above the D4 exit of the Metro and across from the McDonalds.

Signs at the station indicated that I should buy tickets at the 2nd floor (rather than right on the bus). Once I had purchased my ticket and descended back to the first floor where the buses were moving in and out, no areas were listed for Shenzhen. The station workers I asked keeping pointing to a place off in the distance. My ticket said "Long Distance Station 2nd Floor". I was very confused and asked a young worker (the third or fourth person I asked by now) for directions. He said in Chinese, "It's written right there on your ticket!" To which I replied, "I can't read it! I'm not Chinese-ah!" Amazing how fluent I sounded when speaking with a bit of emphasis and frustration. Surprisingly he said, "I'll take you there, okay?"

I followed him 180 meters down the street, up some stairs and through a front entrance and into a waiting hall on the second floor where lo and behold, buses were waiting behind doors with ticket takers. How modern, how Taipei-ish. The bus departed promptly and we were entertained by a Jackie Chan movie and some music videos. The bus arrived in the outer edges of Shenzhen (by Shenzhen University) in just 2 hours. Unfortunately, the next hour was spent trudging along in rush hour traffic. From there it was the routine ride home to University.

Special Sights in Guangzhou

The girl always wanted to hold his hand and the little boy accepted it.

The arrival of New Year's means a lot of these orange plants at doorsteps.

Guangzhou's Southern Yue Museum

Early in the morning, I arrived at the Museum of the Southern Yue Royal Mausoleum which was adjacent to Yuexiu Park. Immediately what struck me was the contemporary design of the museum. With my Beijing student card, I received a student rate of RMB $5 over the regular RMB $12.

The first building of the museum housed a good collection of Han-Tang dynasty pieces. Being early, I was able to enjoy the displays all to myself. I was impressed by a large collection of some 200 ceramic pillows on permanent display. The second part of the museum was the actual mausoleum. The exhibit was such that visitors could walk around inside the tomb itself and explore its various chambers. I was surprised at how small it was...and I did feel a little strange reading descriptions which pointed out where the bodies were found. The third building of the museum showcased the actual pieces found within the mausoleum. It struck me that what I was seeing was none other than the very pieces I had studied in my Chinese Art History class with Professor Lingley at UH. I was able to witness, in person, a particular piece which had fascinated me from the textbook: a bodysuit completely made out of jade, sewn together with strands of red silk. Though the bodies in the tombs had long decayed and virtually turned to dust, the jade suit remained intact. Thinking of it now however, the jade looked in awfully good condition for its age. The King of Wen, inhabitor of the "suit", was buried with many jade bi as well and I was able to see the largest jade bi disc found intact in all of China on display. I was also able to see iron swords which looked more like tree bark now and gold and jade seals used by the King and his 4 wives (two of which were named Lady Right and Lady Left). To my surprise, three Japanese tour groups came through the museum while I was there. I had no idea the Japanese took tours to Guangzhou.

I really enjoyed visiting this museum and found it to be the highlight of this trip to Guangzhou. The unfortunate thing I find at most museums in China though is that, even though photos are prohibited, museum staff don't really care. People were taking lots of flash photography.

I heard from my roommate that another one is the making right at this moment and is being excavated just off of Beijing Lu.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Seeing Guangzhou's Famous Sites

At 9:00 AM, Yuexiu Park was filled with the city's elderly who were performing the usual park activities, taiqi, wushu, ballroom dancing, meditating in front of a tree or lake, kicking a feathered shuttlecock, playing badminton, and cards. I became particularly mezmerized by a couple in their 80s who were playing badminton together as if they could do it with their eyes closed. The rhythm and timing of their strokes were in perfect coordination, almost as if it were a reflection of their relationship with each other.

The park did have some "must see spots" but the 5 goats statue and the Ming-dynasty brick wall were equally underwhelming as was the park's Dai Culture Exhibition featuring a dozen or so plaster displays of the Dai minority people in the midst of daily life.

For lunch, I visited the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees and the Guangxiao Temple, both of which were popular Buddhist temples within close proximity to each other. I noticed nothing of note, however, and went to have lunch at a nearby vegetarian restaurant, of which there are three just around the temples.

The most lively and well-patronized of the three was probably the one along the eastern edge of the Guangxiao temple grounds in the alley just behind the main road. The servers were all genuinely happy and extraordinarily friendly and kind to me though I didn't dine here.

Following lunch, I walked to the Chen Academy or the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall as it is sometimes called and toured the grounds. Only when I arrived there did I realize that it was converted into a Museum for Guangdong Folk Arts sometime during the last century. Perhaps this is why it wasn't demolished during the Cultural Revolution, or perhaps there is an even better reason than that. I found the Academy moderately enjoyable because of its architecture, but was not particularly fond of seeing many of its rooms converted into shops for selling souvenirs according to that particular folk art (i.e. calligraphy, pottery). The main ancestral building did have several glass-encased artifacts which had been part of the original compound, but I would have liked to see how it was actually used when it was built. For example, where did the young Chen boys live when preparing for their examinations there? Since the last Chinese emperor fell less than 15 years after the compound was built, what happened to the "academy" part of this ancestral hall?

That evening, George, Andrew and I enjoyed a chat at the tables in front of the 7-11 and had a modest dinner together at a little shop across the Pearl River. Andrew hated seeing all the beautiful tree limbs along the river covered with as many as 12 lights. He wondered how much electricity was being used to put on the light show along the river. I believe it's common In China for buildings located along rivers to put on neon light shows.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Adoptions in Guangzhou

I went back to my hostel and chatted with my roommates from my top bunk. "I noticed a lot of babies," I said....and then the stories came out. Two of the longer-term residents had plenty to say about what was going on. Shamian was one of the many places foreign parents stayed for the one month period they needed in order to adopt a Chinese baby. Andrew, the outspoken Canadian, had no problems wondering about the fitness of these parents. He felt that many of the ones he had seen were too obese to raise a child or too elderly. He speculated that the price of adopting a child from China was about USD $30,000. George speculated about USD $68,000 from the quote a couple gave him of their first adoptee.

I asked why children in China were adopted over ones in their home countries. The answer I got was red tape. In China, it only takes a sum of money and one month and one can get a child which is still a baby. In their home country, these folks may have to wait years to adopt and on top of that, the codes are extremely stringent.

Andrew also went on to wonder about the adoption industry. He mentioned that it had come out about a year or two ago that a racket was uncovered where about 300 of the adopted "orphans" were in fact kidnapped. Some of these babies weren't kidnapped at all but sold by their parents, for maybe as little as RMB $1,500. But with foreigners like Americans, Canadians, and Germans willing to pay top dollar for a baby - the Chinese mind will find a way to create a lucrative business out of this demand. Of course, this happens in many other countries around the world, but I don't find it surprising that babies are kidnapped and then sold to orphanages (acting as the middle men) who in turn sell for a profit to foreign adopters. And according to my roommates, it's not only Guangzhou where you see this phenomenon. Plenty of other Chinese cities are in the business of exporting babies.

Of course there are those babies that are abandoned; I noticed about 9 Chinese girl babies to 1 Chinese boy baby while I was in Shamian. And there was no there was no particular type of parent; I saw parents who already had 1-3 biological children who had adopted a Chinese baby; I also saw parents who already had 1-3 previously adopted Chinese-American children who came back to adopt another. While for some, it did look as if it were their first child.

Guangzhou's Shamian 沙面 District

I got off the metro at the Huangsha station, which is the closest station to the area I wanted to go, Shamian 沙面. Shamian is an "island" (connected to city by very very short bridges) in the southwestern part of Guangzhou. I promptly got myself lost in a back street before finding my destination, but that back street was lovely. I felt the life of Guangzhou was in this back street.

Shamian was once the foreign concession for Guangzhou and hence, the buildings, the layout and the greenery were all of colonial design. I found it to be a feast for the eyes amidst the drab Chinese architecture I was so accustomed to. The hostel rate here, as I expected, was far more reasonable at RMB $50 per night. Once I had checked in and met several of my roommates (from Australia and Canada), I set off to explore Shamian.

Just on the main street around the corner, the finishing touches were being placed on a Starbucks. Painters were lacquering the outdoor wooden flooring as people inside were setting up the displays. As I continued along the street, I noticed a Blenz coffee, which I later found out was a Canadian coffee company. I decided to go in to explore. The interior was beautifully done in the colonial style. Two computers were set up for internet access and foreign travelers were stopping in to update their blogger or do whatever. A loud crowd of youngsters were talking in the back corner. I sat down to read the various local magazines on the racks, one of which was called "That's PRD (Pearl River Delta)" and provided a lot of useful information about the goings-ons in Guangzhou.

I continued on with my walk and admired the buildings, most of which had plaques which explained their original function (i.e. Japanese bank, Indian consulate, etc.)

As night fell, I stopped in a restaurant called Lucy's. An NBA game was playing on a large flat-screen and customers were being served VERY American fare: steak and french-fries and the like. But that wasn't what made being at Lucy's a completely surreal experience. On my walk around Shamian, I had noticed half a dozen "laowai", "haole", Caucasian parents carrying Chinese babies, or pushing them along the street in strollers. Here in Lucy's, every seat was occupied by caucasian (particularly American-looking) parents, uncles, aunts, kids, together with a Chinese baby in a high chair. They weren't all there together as a group either, it was just a random coming together of 50 people with the same purpose, adopting a baby from China. I felt like I was in the twilight zone.

My next post covers this topic a little further.

Getting to Guangzhou

Getting out from University to Lowu (Luohu) had become routine, and much simpler with the student visa since I no longer needed to needed to fill out departure and entry forms for Hong Kong. The Guangzhou bus station (the building just in front of and to the right of the KCR exit) was easy enough to decipher.

A large map on the wall showed the destinations serviced and the signs indicated that buses to Guangzhou were leaving from terminals 24 and 25. When I arrived there, two buses looked about ready to leave. And they were leaving only 5 minutes apart of each other. I think buses leave for Shenzhen from Guangzhou every 5-10 minutes. Once I was seated, they collected $60 RMB and that was it. The ride lasted a good 2.5 hours since we got stuck behind a car accident and New Years traffic around the Guangzhou train station was very heavy. However, the bus was quite comfortable and even provided a bottle of water, which I dared not use for drink.

From the bus station, I walked a quarter-mile to the first hostel on my list which was pretty much adjacent to the train station. Of course, they told me they had no single beds available, which made sense, because who would want to lose money during a high season like this? They offered me an entire room for RMB $168. I instinctively knew that a more suitable arrangement could be had elsewhere and continued on to the Metro station at Yuexiu Park. It was a bit of a longer walk than just walking to the Metro station underneath the train station, but it allowed me to avoid walking among the masses who were waiting for train tickets or their train, or both. Large 10 foot tall signs with train schedules were set up around the station and many large canopies were created to house the passengers. People everywhere were rolling along their suitcases and plastic bags on wheels. I noticed a fair number of foreign people of African descent walking about.

The Metro station of Guangzhou was very impressive. Obviously brand-new and obviously created by the same people who made the Shenzhen metro and possibly the Hong Kong metro before it. Payment is made by using a value-added card or buying a black, plastic token. The metro allowed passengers to disembark from one side before allowing passengers to board from the other. I have a feeling that Guangzhou will be able to develop quickly and well as a result of its ultra-modern metro.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shenzhen Again (深圳)

昨天我回去深圳。I discovered that this time was much more enjoyable since I wasn't fatigued from illness and having respiratory problems. After adjusting to Hong Kong, I was delighted and almost nostalgic to see those aspects of China which are, to me, uniquely China.

What I really enjoy about China are the sheer number of specialty shops which have resulted from the massive manufacturing industry. I was able to purchase my stainless steel plates and bowls, where else? at the stainless steel kitchen equipment shop. I also returned to the delightful 2元 store for some knick-knacks.

I would say my best discovery from yesterday's trip was 东门接,which in my guidebook, was marked as a shopping area. I took this to mean that it would be little shops on a dilapidated street; I was completely surprised to find a veritable mecca for shopping! There was Starbucks (星巴克), McDonalds , KFC, as well as Baleno, Yishion, and other well-known Chinese franchises. I think one could easily spend a whole day just browsing 东门街。The quickest route to 东门街 is by bus, or take the subway from Luohan and get off at 老街。

深圳 is not a day city; it is a night city. By day, the city appears rather unremarkable. But at night 深圳 comes alive! The streets are suddenly lively and filled with young people who are very much at ease. Yesterday, I was able to sense how affluent a city 深圳 was.

Spring Festival is coming! Get your ornaments now!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Settling In

Today, I will have been in Hong Kong for approximately 4 weeks. 四个星期来我住在香港了。I would say 4 weeks is about the time it took me to settle myself in. 我认为四个星期过了才可以适应了。Although I am by no means close to feeling "at home" or know my way around in the least bit, I do feel that the stresses of adjustment have leveled off. 虽然我还没适应但是我现在没有那么紧张。

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

中文桌子 - Mandarin Table

Every Monday night, the New Asia College hosts a Mandarin table for local students to practice their Mandarin with native Mandarin speakers. It's quite a lot of fun since everyone is speaking Mandarin and the food is buffet-style, plentiful, and delicious. (Lots of vegetarian choices).

In the latter half of the dinner, an invited speaker will present a subject. Each table will then have 5-10 minutes to discuss. A balloon will go round each table and the person caught with the balloon when the music stops must speak about the table's conclusions. I have learned quite a few new things from attending this event!

Fitness Passes and Basketball

Today the OAL finally gave out the first round of fitness passes to those who applied early. My pass is apparently good until after the 2008 Olympics. I look forward to utilizing the fitness bunker which is just in front of my dormitory. There is no way I can leave my dorm for class without passing it and doing some crunches.

The nearest basketball courts to PGH1 are located in the Chung Chi College track which is opposite the KCR station. Basketballs and soccerballs can be borrowed from the room which is embedded in the bleachers.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Interesting Behavior

I've noticed an interesting behavior here in Hong Kong which I've come across twice now. I'm not sure where it comes from, but it boggles me.

Example #1
During my first week in the PGH1 dorm, I was anxious to get internet access via the ethernet jack in my room. All the documentation I found on connecting was Windows specific so I called ITS to inquire about how to get my mac powerbook on the VPN from my room. The reply was simply, "Your dorm doesn't support mac connections." After asking some more questions, the voice simply said, "CUHK doesn't support macs." And that was that. Being new to Hong Kong and noticing the domination of Windows, I was ready to accept that there may be some modern cities and universities that simply ignore the Mac OS. However, my hazy knowledge about networks told me that connection issues were OS independent, especially since I was able to leech off of some faint wireless network nearby. After two weeks of tolerating patchy internet, I decided to call ITS back. Again, the initial response was, "You can't connect to the internet from your dorm." This time I badgered the guy because I simply couldn't believe that a university like CUHK could so blatantly neglect mac users. He put me on hold for a minute or so to consult with his co-worker and when he came back, lo-and-behold, macs COULD connect to the VPN from CUHK dorms and he walked me through the steps.

Example #2
I go to the university dining halls (called canteens here) for meals. Usually after a couple minutes of staring at the huge menu on the board, I can decipher what is vegetarian...which is about 1-3 choices out of 50. However, some items are clearly easy to turn into vegetarian dishes. For example: can they make the beef fried noodles without beef? can they just not add the pork chop to the rice and tofu dish? On three occassions, when I asked the cashier if this was possible, they would say no. Finally, I would have to go straight to the cook and they would say it was no problem.

So, my question is, why is it that locals here are so quick to say something is not possible, when they are not sure yet whether it IS possible or not? It is not that they give me attitude or are pessimists, not in the least. They genuinely think it is not possible. This way of thinking differs greatly from what I encountered in Beijing. In Beijing, I found that nothing is impossible. Whatever you want, they can make it happen. Who can say no to a customer with cash in their hand? Especially for such a small request?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Great Dance Performance

Coming out from the New Asia College Building, I discovered several dance groups performing for each other and a couple dozen bystanders. They were really quite good. Watching them reminded me of dance groups during my undergrad years and how they all really highlighted and showed off a young, sexy attitude. I saw nothing remotely like this in Beijing. The young people there still seem to be pretty "well-behaved".

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

English Table

The various colleges which comprise CUHK each have their own events for their own students. Included among these events are what are called "English Tables". They invite native English speakers to join these English Tables in order to help the students of their college practice their English. The main draw of this event for me is simply the free dinner. I also enjoy meeting new students, but mostly it's the free dinner. If I attend the United College English Table and the Chung Chi College English Table, that amounts to 2 "free" dinners a week. Included with the Mandarin Table I attend at New Asia College on Monday nights, that comes out to 3 free dinners a week. Which is quite helpful to someone on a tight budget!

My table at the Chung Chi College English Table. Members of our table won all the contests that evening, the Bingo contest and the Speech Contest.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


As a Eu Tong Sen Fellow, not all costs are covered by the fellowship. Here are some costs which should be prepared separately:

Office of Academic Links Fee for Visa Application, Bedding supplied in your dorm, and Orientation. About HK$1450.
Until checking in at the OAL office, I was unaware I would be assessed these charges. The breakdown is as follows: HK $470 for Student Visa Application. Interestingly enough, some students opted to enter HK with a visitor visa and then, after collecting a sponsor letter from the OAL office, went and submitted the application to the Immigration Department of Hong Kong themselves for only HKD$160. In this case, I am not sure whether or not they were still assessed the HK$470 by OAL, but they sure saved themselves a good chunk of change if they weren't! The bedding, while highly convenient, was a bit of a bad deal. I had actually brought some of my own bedding from Beijing with me, which was much better in quality and half the price of the dismal gray set I was given at a cost of HK$380. With regards to the orientation, I was very impressed with the amount of organization and preparation, but realized that I had paid for it all, down to the xerox copies in my packet. I realized I had better attend the meals and tour since I had already been charged HK$600 for it. The one down side to orientation was that no distinction was made between the graduate students and the undergraduate students. I felt like I was swimming in a sea of youngsters. I would have really appreciated having an organized opportunity to meet graduate level peers and seeing what type of research they were pursuing at CUHK.

Caution Money and Hostel Deposit. About HK$1950.
Another expense which I was unaware would be levied were the deposits. The Caution Money seems to be general monies they keep for any administrative havoc you might cause. (i.e. if you withdraw). The Hostel Deposit is, likewise, taken for any damage you may cause to your dorm room. I was later informed by OAL that, if there is no problem, these deposits will be refunded after the semester ends.

First Month's Rent. Somewhere around HK$2975.
Since Eu Tong Sen funds may not be ready by the due date of the first month's dorm rent, you should have this money prepared just in case. I entertained the thought of living in ShenZhen and commuting into CUHK....for a split second.

So besides your personal costs upon arrival, you should also prepare around HK$6,400 to settle some fees.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Weekend Activities

This past weekend was spent re-connecting with old friends now living in Hong Kong.

A high school classmate of mine, Will, is married with an almost 3-year-old daughter. I met him at Tsim Sha Tsui on Friday night and he took me to a hot pot restaurant for dinner. He updated me on people from high school who were were married or had kids. I, on the other hand, informed him of people from high school were were still single. After dinner, we went across the harbour to a lounge in Hong Kong (how locals refer to Hong Kong island). I learned a a game called Liar Dice, which is pretty popular here along with karaoke. Will and I agreed that it was too much torture to listen to drunken, aspiring singers all night long. This wasn't a true lounge anyway, just another business sacrificing quality for profit.

On Sunday afternoon, I met my college friend, Alan, whom I hadn't seen in 6-and-a-half years. We explored a mall called Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong, which also has an indoor skating rink and movie theater. There is a shop in the mall called Mix, which offers Jamba Juice-like products and services. Definitely a place I will be returning to again soon. Later, we went to Causeway Bay for some more shopping. Since shopping is Hong Kong's speciality, it seems that everyone, even men, enjoys shopping here. They really enjoy it!

"This is Hong Kong, all we do here is shop and eat!" ~Alan

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Course Registration and the "Shopping" Period

True to Hong Kong's national pastime, the first two weeks of classes have been called the time when students "go shopping" for classes. During this time, we can sit in on as many classes as we like to determine our class schedules without incurring any strange looks from the professor. I used this time to visit a wide variety of courses: a game design course, a java programming course, a Chinese art history course, a contemporary Sino-American relations course, a new media and economics course, a culture in film course, and many others.

Normally, I would not be taking classes, I would be solely concentrating on my research and study of Chinese. However, as an exchange student rather than a study abroad student, I am required to take at least 12 credits at CUHK. Rather than taking 12 credits of independent research/study, I decided to utilize the credits towards courses which I would find both interesting and enriching. The alternative would have been to go befriend a CUHK professor and have him/her agree to be my advisor for the independent research. Since I wasn't so confident that I could achieve such a feat in 2 weeks, I opted to enroll in courses instead, keeping in mind that they are not my main priority here.

Today was the last day to submit our add/drop forms to the OAL office. For postgraduates (that is what they call anyone who has graduated from their undergraduate programs), there is only one deadline at the end of the two weeks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

CUHK classes

I've discovered that Hong Kongers have an interesting behavior for class. They will talk loudly during the beginning of class, despite the fact that the professor has already begun class and is speaking. Maybe about 10 minutes into the class will they finally shut up. And, as I've discovered in my graduate level classes, they (meaning about 15 people) will just go ahead and talk during class, sometimes in fairly loud voices so that it is almost impossible for me to hear what the lecturer is saying. I just want to stand up and say: "Don't you know how to behave like graduate students?!" or "Don't you have any respect for what the prof is saying?!" or "I didn't pay full-time graduate tuition to hear your conversations!" I can tolerate it if I just tell myself that it is a cultural trait of Hong Kong people to talk very loudly anywhere they go.

Also interesting to note is that CUHK has a VERY large contingent of Mainland Chinese students. It's good to hear Mandarin Chinese being spoken en masse, but really now, why so many? And where did all the local students go?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Shopping in Shenzhen (在深圳买东西)

Coming out of immigration on the right hand side is Luohu Commericial City, probably the biggest tourist trap ever!!! It's like Silk Street in Beijing. Four or five stories of handbags, handbags, handbags. And if not bags, then it's jade or watches or shoes or drapes. Don't buy at first sight, make sure you get at least 2-3 quotes from different stores before beginning the bargaining process!

Since I was looking for a bag, I did buy some knock-offs of some brands. I have no knowledge of what's "in" and what's "last year" so I just bought what I thought looked nice.

I bought this bag for 75 RMB ($9.15 USD) down from 180 RMB, I later realized that 40-50 RMB was probably about right.

I bought this bag from another store for 80 RMB down from 150 RMB. I fought a bit for this price so I think it was about right.

I also needed some slippers, so I went to a store and found some Japanese-style slippers. This was a bargain compared to what I found in Hong Kong. Just look at the difference.

Plain slippers from City Super in Hong Kong - $30 HKD ($3.85 USD).

Very cute kitty holding strawberry slippers - $30 RMB ($3.66 USD).

I later saw the cute Hello Kitty slippers and Doraemon slippers that I really wanted selling for $15 RMB ($1.83 USD). Whoops.

I discovered a great "dollar store" in Shenzhen whose motto is "2 Dollars for Each Item" (2元一件)Here I was able to buy a cup, a mug, pant clothes hangers, masking tape, hair clips, and other odds and ends all for just $2 RMB each. Unfortunately, I only discovered this shop after buying a hairpiece in Luohu Commercial City for $10 RMB (which I bargained down from $15 RMB). Boy did I feel like an idiot.

The rest of the items I needed, I purchased from narrow, dark residential alleyways in Shenzhen. Shower slippers were $3 RMB, a pack of 8 medium sized regular clothes hangers were $5 RMB, a large plastic bowl for cereal and meals was $4 RMB. I seriously considered buying a synthetic blanket or a wool-like thin blanket for $30-40 RMB, but decided against it since I hate synthetics and the patterns were ugly. I saw the mattress pads a fellow exchange student, Jenny, had been looking for being sold for about $20 RMB. I think she bought hers for $30 USD, but at least she got good quality I think.

The fashion among the women in Shenzhen is not Beijing fashion for sure, but not Hangzhou either. It was fashion gone berserk. In Shenzhen, the choices for clothing were limitless...too limitless in my opinion. There must have been at least 2000 stores in the area all selling clothes, handbags, and shoes. And the quality ranged quite a bit. I saw too many low-quality clothing on the racks. I saw a lot of clothes with ribbons and sparkles and glitter. Not exactly haute coutre; not exactly even fashion. But Shenzhen is supposedly (according to the Lonely Planet Guide) the richest city in China. I do recall seeing several uber-riche looking people walking about here and there (among the multitudes). I could tell them apart by the quality and style of their clothing. Or maybe the serene, cool confidence that people of luxury seem to exude.

So that's the summary of prices and such for my first shopping excursion in Shenzhen. Next time I will bring with me a popular book selling in Hong Kong called "The Guide to Shopping in Shenzhen", which I have heard is excellent.

Shenzhen (深圳)

Unlike the other exchange students here at CUHK who arrived from their home countries, I had arrived from the heart of China and hit the ground running. While they were still groping their way around the starting line, I was already sprinting ahead by a distance.

Many exchange students (like myself) didn't apply for HK student visas in time and thus entered HK as visitors. With my visa paperwork completed this past Thursday, Puipui at the OAL office attached a visa label to my passport. Most of the exchange students who haven't activated their Hong Kong student visas yet are signed up for a daytrip to Macau on Jan. 20th. Since I have a China resident permit and don't need to worry about wasting visa entries, all I needed to do was to leave Hong Kong and come back in to activate myself on a Hong Kong Student Visa. Shenzhen, China, for me was the obvious choice.

The KCR ride from University to Luo Wu was approx. 20 minutes and cost 23 HKD.

This is the view just after exiting the KCR at Luowu.

The immigration procedure out of Hong Kong and into China took about 25 minutes. So, in 45 minutes I had exited Hong Kong and arrived in Shenzhen, China.

And what an arrival it was.

The view of Shenzhen after exiting the immigration building.

I was happy to see the familiar China as I knew it. The air had transformed from incredibly clean to smoggy in such a short distance. The streets were no longer open and roomy as in Hong Kong (and the US), but cluttered with people, people everywhere. I had just gotten used to the clean air again in Hong Kong, but now fought the endless chain smoking of men everywhere, indoors and outdoors, in the restaurants and shops. And there it was, a man walking by me hawked a big, noisy loogie onto the pavement next to me. Ah, China, nice to see you again.

I managed to find an HSBC at the intersection of Renmin Nan Lu (人民南路) and Chunfeng Lu (春风路). I was able to use my Hang Seng card in the ATM to withdraw RMB. The drawback is that I withdrew 500 RMB but the ATM deducted 525 HKD. That's a pretty huge fee for withdrawing RMB given that the HKD is valued slightly higher.

The Shangri-La Shenzhen is a towering landmark which will point you in the right direction towards the main street in the area.

The immigration process returning to Hong Kong was also quite easy. I was advised that to activate my Hong Kong student visa, I should have gone into the Hong Kong Resident line rather than the Foreign Visitors line, since they didn't have the right stamps for me in the Visitor line. (I had to wait an extra 5 or so minutes for someone to go get the right stamp). They said it was okay since it was my first time, but next time I came back in, I could go in via the Resident line.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The languages of Hong Kong

From my perspective, in order of prevalence, the languages spoken in Hong Kong are:

1) Cantonese (广东话): about 92% of the time
2) English(英文): about 5% of the time, and with a moderate to heavy accent
3) Mandarin Chinese(普通话): about 3% of the time

These percentages may change as time goes on, but this doesn't bode well for my Mandarin Chinese (putonghua) studies in Hong Kong.

In my experience, I've noticed that Hong Kong is most similar to Singapore. They both have the British colonial backgrounds and so traces of British influence can be found in both places. English spoken by Hong Kongers sounds something like the pre-cursor to "Singlish", but not having been taken so far and without all the cultural flair.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

This is my kinda place!

This is payback for the last 4 months in China breathing the toxic air there...breathing second-hand smoke created by virtually every Chinese man with a mouth and two fingers. The Chinese still have no concept that smoke from cigarettes might actually BOTHER other people, especially in small vans and small one-room restaurants. Here in Hong Kong, I've actually taken many *deep* breaths....and enjoyed every moment of it!!!

Orientation Day 3: Day Tour

At noon, at least 4 coach buses took all of us exchange students to a temple north of CUHK. Once we arrived, we were led into the temple's vegetarian restaurant for a very filling and VERY delicious vegetarian meal. I was, yet again, eating like there was no tomorrow.

After lunch, we were able to tour the temple grounds for half an hour. The temple appeared newly repainted, clean, and had only a handful of local visitors...nothing at all like the temples in China! The grounds didn't appear very lively and there was nothing of the teahouse atmosphere there. This may be owing to the numerous photos of the recently deceased at the temple, hinting of its role as shrine for the deceased.

The exchange students seemed to be enjoying the "new sights and smells" though, they were taping video and snapping photos. There were plenty of yin-yang symbols everywhere, something I didn't really see in the temples in mainland China. Whether this was owing to the Cultural Revolution or some other factor, I'm not sure. I do recall seeing a lot of artifacts in the temples in China being covered over with none-too-subtle layers of concrete.

The buses then ushered us to Victoria Peak's Galleria, which has almost a 360 view outwards from Hong Kong island. The weather was fairly hazy so it was difficult to see Kowloon and other distant points.

The buses then took us down to the Tsim Sha Tsui side of the famous Hong Kong harbour to the Avenue of the Stars. These handprints by far a much better location (harbour front!) than the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I noticed many of the students gathered around the bronze statue of Bruce Lee; I had my moment with Andy Lau's handprints.

By now it was dusk and our group leaders allowed us to go freely on our own way.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Orientation Day 2: CUHK Welcome Dinner

I arrived at the John Fulton Centre Parking lot and continued meeting a lot of new people. It wasn't until we were bused to the nearby technology park for dinner that I met other graduate students at my assigned table. No sooner had I met them then I was ushered over to a new table just for vegetarians. I was really thankful and pleased the OAL was so sensitive to us vegetarians. Although I admit feeling a little strange being herded together with the other vegetarians as if we were lepers. Altogether there were 6 boys and 8 girls, many of whom were from California. I've GOT to move there sooner or later!

the banquet room

It was odd being seated with the undergraduates because many of them had never been abroad. Hong Kong was their first time abroad. It was amusing to hear their thoughts on how "foreign" Hong Kong was. All I could think in my head was, "You think Hong Kong is foreign, wait till you go to mainland China, newbies!" Many of the students at the table couldn't use chopsticks. Many of the students felt the food was too oily. I wasn't sure anymore since I had already gotten used to my food being drowned in oil. I only observed that the amount of oil used in our food was about 25% of the amount used in Beijing...and for that I was grateful. One girl felt that condensed milk in her coffee was too gross. Many of the students were shocked that the dessert was not cake or pie, but a red bean soup. Most of them could not eat the red bean soup. The boy next to me was utterly grossed out by the whole fish and roasted pig on the meat-eaters' tables. I told them the story about the lamb in Inner Mongolia.

As much as I scoffed at their unfamiliarity with Asian culture that night; I have to admire them as well. These students, unlike many who would never go abroad, were touching the surface of Asian culture. Their journey from this point forward will be deeper and deeper into the layers of culture. I relished being able to re-live, through them, my first experiences way back when.

"You don't have to throw away your food here, you just leave it on the table and someone comes to clean it up. That's so different from what we do in the States!" -- overheard at the canteen

Friday, January 05, 2007

Orientation Day 1

10:00 AM was time for our first orientation meeting. The hall was filled with at least 150 students from around the world. According to the Director of OAL, there were a total of over 202 international students who came in this spring semester along with 100 plus who were continuing on from last semester. 60% were from the US and Canada, 25% were from Europe and the remaining 15% were from Asia.

The two hour long orientation consisted of a variety of speakers. The OAL staff briefed us on trips we could expect to take during the semester and our course registration procedure. The Director of Health spoke and the Director of sports also spoke. The sports Director, Mr. Chen, especially entertained us by pointing himself out in every other photo he showed. He wanted to recruit foreign students for CUHK's sports teams. We all liked him. He looked so healthy and his energy was so positive. Listening to him talk reminded me of BSU, the students there, and how much fun it was to be involved in sports.

Lastly, the principal of a nearby school system spoke about the Teaching in Hong Kong and Teaching in China programs. The programs are volunteer English teaching experiences in rural elementary/middle schools in HK and in China.

During the lunch break, I killed time by exploring the John Fulton Centre more carefully. The bookstore is on the ground floor, though it is quite surprisingly small for a university bookstore. I wondered if the students weren't getting their textbooks through some sort of blackmarket instead. The grocery store I had also heard about (Park n' Shop) was in fact more like a grocery-like convenience store. I decided I would go to Shatin for my shopping needs instead.

At 2:00, we were advised on how to register, add, and drop courses during the first weeks of school. Being postgraduate status, I didn't have to worry as much about all the deadlines.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Nature, it's nice to see you again

As I walked down the pathway to the KCR station on my first night, I savored being able to smell the earth in the damp air. I could smell the earth! I could hear crickets chirping in the night. I could hear birds singing themselves to sleep. Today, I could smell the trees...I could smell the trees! Even with severe sinus congestion from my cold, I had been deprived of Nature's scent for so long that I could smell it all!

CUHK is located on a mountain and so it co-exists with the mountain's flora and fauna. Climbing the mountain up and down to go from building to building is turning out to be quite an exercise, but I don't feel as though I am walking around a campus, I feel as though I am mountain hiking. Since I adore hiking, the walk never feels like a bother!

My Dorm Room

It's a cute, little room with it's own sink, a wardrobe, bookshelf, large desk, bed, and vanity shelf. I'm not a fan of the gray bedsheets and gray-colored floor, but I'm sure in time, I can spruce things up a little!

patched together four photos to create this photo, so it might look a little strange

My Dorm, PGH1, at CUHK

I was placed in a "corner" room. Yes!

The dormitory I was assigned to, PGH1, is by far the best on the entire CUHK campus! Not only is my dormitory right next to the athletic field and fitness center (my BSU classmates would be so proud!) but it is also closest to the subway station. If you know how much I love freedom, you know this is important to me! I can walk to the KCR station in about 7 minutes and be on my way!

I also have the pleasure of a room all to myself (for those long nights working on my thesis) and a splendid view (for when my eyes are tired from staring at the computer too long).

the extraordinary view from my window!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

China re-visited

I was in Hong Kong, in reality as I had known it before ever setting foot in Beijing. Hong Kong was as I had known it to be...a fast-paced, modern, metropolis quite familiar with international standards and quite similar to what I was accustomed to in the US. Yet, that very same day had I just been in Beijing. Never before in my travels had I ever felt that I not only moved across space, but also time. Somehow, my flight to Beijing was a time machine, taking me to the past by about twenty years. My flight out of Beijing brought me ahead twenty years...back to the present.

I stood in the New Town Mall in Shatin. The brand name stores were all there: Godiva, Shu Uemura, A/X, BCBG, and so on and so forth. Beijing also had its rare share of brandname shopping areas, except, the difference here was, this shopping mall was filled with people and the atmosphere was warm and vibrant. In Beijing, the brandname shopping malls are usually cold, sterile, and empty places.

People in this mall were walking about with a carefree attitude that I hadn't seen anywhere in China. I realized it was the attitude of people who had everything they needed. People who lived in relative comfort.


My Air China flight left Beijing half an hour late (as expected) just before 10 am. I had moved out of a center seat (given to me after asking the Air China check-in clerk for a window seat) to the back of the plane where I secured 3 empty seats in a row. Score! A whole row to myself!!!

About an hour into the flight, I sat up in my window seat to take my meal, that was when an Asian man asked if my aisle seat was taken, even though my blanket and things were on the chair! After about 20 minutes, it became obvious that he intended to sit there the rest of the flight. I was so disturbed by his "intrusion" that I couldn't manage to sleep in my remaining two seats as much as I tried. The other 5 people who also had rows to themselves, were still sprawled over their seats, so he apparently had only my row left to invade. Couldn't he see I was already quite sick and tired? Since I was in a not-so-loving mood, I made it a point to cough as much as possible in his direction.

I made it out of the airplane still cursing him. Still quite tired from all the activities from the night before. I picked up my 2 pieces of fairly heavy luggage and proceeded to the bus terminal. The A41 took me as far as Shatin for only $20 HKD. The ride was about an hour. The cab ride from the Shatin Bus Terminal to CUHK was $55 HKD. That ride was less than 10 minutes. Not knowing rules of etiquette in Hong Kong, I decided to err on the safe side and tipped the driver $15 HKD. Overall, my total transportation cost was $90 HKD, much cheaper than the suggested $300 taxi ride on the IASP website.

My accomodations were, to my surprise, a single room at the very end of the C block. They had already sent me my room assignment via email a week earlier, so I knew I was assigned to PGH1. A girl named Ruby who was standing at the front desk when I checked-in helped me bring my bags to my room; she happened to live a couple doors down from me. She told me she was from Guangzhou.

After some initial unpacking, I went straight to sleep. When I awoke, it was already 6:30 PM. I was pretty hungry so I roamed outside the dormitory and inquired to the first person I met about food; the person turned out to be a Chinese girl who also happened to live in my dormitory. She had studied in Beijing before pursuing her PhD at CUHK. She led me to a small restaurant called "Maxims" in the subway station. According to her, it was the only restaurant available at that time of night. I feasted on a bowl of white rice and two small dishes of the same green vegetable, which cost me $18 HKD. Here is where I began to miss Chinese prices. I calculated in my head while eating that the same meal probably would have cost me only $2 RMB at the most at school.

After my modest meal, I managed to remember my way back to my dorm, but after a few minutes in my room, I was antsy again. I still felt there were some more things which needed to be done as soon as possible. I needed to find the campus convenience store and get some necessities! I asked a tall, white guy walking into the dorm where I could find a convenience store. He said the campus store was probably already closed (it was 8:30 PM) and so I should take the train to Shatin and check the mall there.

I paid the $4HKD fare and off I went to Shatin, which was only 2 stops away. The train, unlike in Beijing, wasn't packed-like-sardines full. There may have even been some seats available. Once I reached the shiny and gorgeous mall, I managed to find shampoo and conditioner, but none of the daily necessities which were so easy to find in Beijing. Every market in China would have had them! I knew of three places in BSU (Beijing Sport University) alone that would have carried everything I was looking for that night! But in this large mall, they didn't seem to sell such basic goods as shower slippers, clothes hangers, and other such knick-knacks. I began to wish I had packed more with me, despite how full my luggage had already been.