Monday, February 28, 2011

First Field Trip

Throughout the semester, we have a few field trips scheduled. This past weekend, my history class went on an all day field trip on Saturday. The day started with the Hong Kong Museum of History where we walked through years of history. After spending the morning at the museum, we went to an Indonesian Restaurant for lunch. I can't say that I have ever tried Indonesian food before. It was interesting, lots of peanut flavors and unexpected textures.

The afternoon was where we saw what I thought was the more interesting stuff though. We went to a Buddhist Nunnery in Hong Kong. The structure is made out of wood and is filled with small ponds and gardens. Inside the nunnery there were many separate rooms, all containing statues of Buddhist figures. The entire nunnery was calm and relaxing, we were there on a Saturday, but it was not an overly crowded tourist attraction.

After the nunnery, it went from calm to chaos as we went to the busiest Taoist temple in Hong Kong. On Chinese New Year, the temple sees over 250,000 visitors! The temple was filled with people and bright colors, lanterns, and burning in-scents. People come to the temple, light in-scents and bring food as an offering. People will then kneel on the ground praying. It was pretty interesting to watch.

Aside from the field trip, Clint and I booked our tickets to Beijing last night! My parents and sisters are coming to visit (in less than 2 weeks!). I am meeting them in Beijing for a few days and then they're coming to Hong Kong to see where I'm living and studying. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE MY FAMILY !!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This and That

Another week done!

It is now my third week of classes and I am starting to feel the work load piling on. I had my first Cantonese quiz last week. It was an oral quiz, which made it more challenging because as a beginner, it can be difficult to decipher between the tones. I bought a bunch of flash cards today and making it my assignment for the night to learn or at least practice my Cantonese.

Last Friday I had an interview at a marketing company called Creasians. During the last five weeks of my study abroad program, I will either have an internship or do independent research. The marketing company I interviewed with is a fairly small company that works with businesses to brand their products and services. I see the value in an internship abroad, but I am interested in doing research as well. Decisions decisions!!

Enough about academics, onto the fun stuff!

This past weekend, I did more exploring. My friends and I went to a beach called Shek-O beach and from there walked about thirty minutes to another beach called Big Wave. Both beaches were beautiful, the water is bright blue, surrounded by mountains. Clint and Pat actually went swimming. The water felt a little cold, but people were surfing at Big Wave. Near Big Wave there were a bunch of small surf board rental stores, maybe I'll have to take a lesson before I leave. Here are a few pictures of the beach!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekends are for Adventuring

The best part about living in a foreign country is that the exploring never ends. If I explored one new place every weekend, I would still only skim the surface of the amazing places Hong Kong has to offer. I know it will be impossible to see it all, but still, I am going to try. That is why, weekends are for adventuring.

This past Saturday, Clint and I explored a place called Stanley. Located on the south side of Hong Kong island, Stanley has a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains. To get to Stanley is a bit of a hike, a ride on the MTR followed by a half hour bus ride. The buses to Stanley are called mini busses, though they're double deckers. The roads are narrow and at times I had to keep reminding myself, you're safe, this bus driver does this drive everyday... We crossed a bridge so narrow that the cars approaching us had to fold their mirrors in because we were only five or six inches apart.

While visiting Stanley, I explored the market, full of "ookie pookie" as my mom calls it. Ookie Pookie in the Millen household refers to toys, trinkets, and more or less junk. This market had shop after shop filled with chopsticks, Buddha statues, magnets, and toys. Amongst all this however, there were some cool finds. Clinton and I both found a pair of sunglasses, mine with red frames, Clint's a mirror finish and were explained by the seller to be "original copies" of Ray-Ban aviators. Original copy sounds like an oxymoron to me, but we purchased them regardless. Other must have finds included a Chinese style red vest for my dog Bert. All the dogs here wear clothes, so I figured Bert needed a souvenir from Hong Kong and what better than a traditional Chinese vest. I also found souvenirs for my sisters Aubrey and Lindsay, but they'll have to wait until I come home to find out what they are.

Although they don't celebrate Valentine's day the same day we do, for everyone back home in the states, Happy Valentine's Day!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First week of classes!

I can't believe I have already been away from home for over a month! Finally, this week, after four weeks of traveling and exploring, I have started classes.

I am taking five classes this semester:

1) History of Modern China
2) International Marketing
3) Managing in a Global Setting
4) Southeast Asia and the World Political Economy
5) Beginning Cantonese

Currently, I am super enthusiastic about my marketing and managing in a global setting classes. The classes are taught back to back and many of the things I am learning in one class can be applied in the other. They are taught by the same professor who is really good at getting us to think outside the box and dig deeper to find the answers to questions. He emphasized that the classroom is where we should make mistakes and ask questions, making for a very comfortable environment.

I had my first Cantonese class today. I think it will be challenging, but I am excited to learn words and phrases that I will be able to use while I am living here. A few of the things we learned on the first day are, "Ngo hai a dzeng ...." (I am (name)), "Hung Hom Gwoon Yam Miu" (this is the location we should ask taxi's to take us to in order to get dropped off near our apartments), "Tsan lou si" (which is how I should be addressing my professor).

One thing I asked my professor to teach me is how to say "no meat" in Cantonese. My sister Lindsay is a vegetarian and she is coming to visit in March along with my family. Last time we talked she made a request for me to find out how to say that when she visits. Well Lindsay, here it is: "mou yook" pronounced mo yoke. Make sure you practice this Linds!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gung Hei Fat Choi!

Gung Hei Fat Choi! (Happy New Year!)

Today marks the third day of the Chinese New Year Celebration. Every year, the Chinese celebrate the new year on the first day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. 2011 is the year of the rabbit, representing peace, manners and sensitivity. Although this holiday technically lasts two weeks, the first three days are the most important.

Typically, Chinese New Year is a time when the Chinese will travel and visit with their relatives. However for those who stay in the city for the holiday, there are many celebrations going on. The first night of the holiday (February 3rd), a parade with dancing, music and miscellaneous floats transformed the streets of Hong Kong. Last night, fireworks exploded over Victoria Harbor. Standing in the large crowd reminded me how many people actually live in the city of the Hong Kong.

Earlier today, my professor invited the students from my program over to celebrate the third night of the new year. We celebrated by making tea and cooking rice cakes. We tried two different kinds of rice cakes, one made with shrimp and pork and the other made out of sugar cane and flower. The first one was dipped in a hot sauce, while the second one was sweet, tasting almost like a pancake. Both were fun to try. Joffre's husband prepared a feast for dinner consisting of rice, vegetables, chicken in curry sauce, and noodles. It was great to have a home cooked meal and relax.

The experience at my professor's house allowed me to learn more about the Chinese New Year and traditional customs. For example, it is polite for guests to bring a gift of sweets or fruit and present it to the host, offering it with two hands while bowing. The host will bow in return and receive the gift with two hands. The Chinese consider it impolite to open gifts in front of their guests and therefore will wait to open any packages. At the end of the evening, it is tradition for children to receive "red pocket money". The host presents guests with small red envelopes filled with money. My fellow students and I were pretty enthusiastic about this tradition and receiving red pocket money. I truly enjoyed the experience at my professor's house this evening and it was a great way to wrap up the Chinese New Year celebration.