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.