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.