Being on exchange, you find yourself having a completely different mindset compared to when you were back home. Back in New Zealand I can be a bit of a lazy slob sometimes, where home is the only getaway resort I need and my own room the presidential suite (I really should get out more). But damn if I don’t just turn into a “yes” man and proceed to jump on anything that seems exciting/exotic/free coming my way, no hesitation, when I’m exchange!
“Just do it.” – Shia LaBeouf/Nike
As should be implied, this blog entry is about the extra-curricular activities I’ve done while in Hong Kong, and I did a lot of them, sometimes too much. Here’s just a small snapshot of the crazy things I’ve done in HK, some which I hope to continue back home, some not so much.
The green side of Hong Kong
Hiking and camping
At first glance, Hong Kong may not seem like a place that could accommodate the nature lovers with its overbearing, modern concrete jungle image. However, there’s actually quite a bit of nature to discover in this city, if one took the subway or a taxi out of the urban centre. There, hiking trails and campsites await the adventurous.
A trail camping trip was being hosted by a university student association, which I came to know because an exchange student shared it in the Facebook group chat. Unsurprisingly, the event ended up consisting of mostly exchange students. The trail was Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail which was this breathtaking mountain trail that winds itself to the seaside. I even got myself a brand new pair of trainers just for this!
After two hours of sweaty strolling on the trail, we arrived at this campsite beach for which we were to spend a night over. A fiesta promptly pursued, with frisbees, barbeques, sea diving (too cold for wussy me), and even bonfires! There’s no better teambuilding atmosphere than a dark, cool beach under the starry night sky.
The only part of the trip that I wasn’t too keen on experiencing again is spending the night in a tiny tent with my roommate. No, my roommate was lovely, if you were wondering. It was the blasted noise of the tent flapping like angry seagulls from the beach gusts and the arctic night temperatures that were the culprits. The back pains from the bumpy sand didn’t help, either. On the bright side, my shabby old mattress back in my room never felt more comfortable after this trip.
I joined the Rambler’s Club at HKU shortly after semester started, hoping my $30 membership fee would force me to go out a bit. I had the privilege of going on two events hosted by this club while I was here, a spring walk event and a stream trekking event, and got my hands (and pants) real dirty both times. Had to wake up early too on my lazy weekends, the nerve of these people! Thankfully, the crew’s hospitality is only matched by the beauty of the surroundings, which more than made up for my drowsy Sunday blues.
I went on the MacLehose trail again for the spring walk, this time it being a different, more hilly section of the trail this time, with plenty of large rocks. This was also going to be a proper whole day hike, nine to five. But I am a beginner still, so it’s not surprising that when we needed to climb over some of the rocks or slide down some hills I needed some support, both physically and morally. A tiresome day, but a fulfilling one at that!
Now, the stream trekking. I’m tempted to describe it as something akin to “pseudo-rock-climbing without ropes” in a jungle obstacle course. Initially, I thought we would be doing something similar to the spring walk but just with some water involved. I soon resorted to staring as the group leader promptly turned away from it and started climbing this unmarked small cliff to our right, into this dense and dark shrubbery. Fortunately, my fear of the unknown soon turned into the excitement for discovery, as our humble group twisted and turned inside the wilderness, skipping over gurgling waters and conquering stony walls. I definitely got a taste of a day in the life of Bear Grylls that day!
Lately I find my attention span being slowly whittled down to that of a goldfish. This means that I find it hard to properly commit and finish a book or even a proper video game before I get distracted and forget where I was, leading to me dropping the thing entirely (I’m getting better though). As a result, movies are quickly becoming my favourite form of entertainment, because it’s a bite-sized treat in which I can consume wholly in one sitting.
It started with me joining the Film Club, for which they handed out free tickets to movie periodically but only several hours before the session began. This led me to impulsively taking up an offer to see a Korean buddy-cop comedy movie, without thinking, at 9 in the evening. Needless to say, I came back to my room half-dying from fatigue at one in the morning, with classes in the morning. Not my best decision ever, but can’t say I didn’t enjoy the thrill of it!
Then came along the Hong Kong International Film Festival. I’ve never been to a film festival before, so naturally I wanted to use this opportunity. Coupled with the fact that special student tickets were going for around $6 NZD (!!), I went pretty nuts on the number of tickets that I bought…
Can’t take photos in the cinema, settle for this cool collage instead!
Ranging from documentaries to indie debuts, restored classics to anniversary commemorations, I lost count of the number of times I sat in an enclosed theatre space. I found it strangely fitting that I would be watching movies from all over the world in English, Cantonese, Japanese and even Hungarian, in a city that can be considered an intersection of the global cultures.
Initially, I was under the impression that a film festival would be similar to a music festival, where they show a bunch of films in some fixed venue for a couple of days and then wrap it up. However, the films were actually shown at various cinemas scattered across the city, over the course of a month. Therefore, while my school mates went bar hopping on a weekend’s day, I went cinema hopping because I packed two movie showings in the same day. The worst instance of this was when I sat myself through three hours of Kurosawa’s restored Seven Samurai in the afternoon, only to be forced to chase myself to the other side of Hong Kong to catch a 9 p.m. session of a cyber security documentary. I suppose, for that month, I was more exhausted from watching movies than from actual course work.
Other assorted shenanigans
For my regular dose of fitness, I always had sessions of badminton to keep me occupied. In Hong Kong, I managed to find this lovely piece of website called MeetUp, where people get together on the fly to do something they all like, which includes badminton. Since I have a colossal six-hour gap between my morning and evening classes on Tuesday, what better way to spend it than hitting some shuttles for a couple of hours with some friendly locals, right?
I also had the privilege of seeing the HKU Philharmonic Orchestra for their Spring Concert. This was truly a rag-tag team of amateur music lovers coming together to make sparks fly. According to the music director, whose full-time position was the dean of Medicine, none of the members have a music major and some of them only joined the second half the concert because they had tests during the first! Yet, the music they produced could match any of the NZSO concerts. I should know, as I’ve went to most of them all!
And we are nearly there…
The above should be sufficient to give you an idea of life outside the classroom here in Hong Kong, as well as the almost maniacal drive behind them, all because I wanted to milk this exchange experience to my best of abilities. After all, I am only doing this once.
As this entry comes to a close, we are also regrettably stepping towards the end of the blog series as a whole as the semester finishes. Catch the epic finale soon where I will be giving a wholistic reflection of the six months as a whole. Until then, dear readers, and good luck for the finals!