Néih Hóu Hong Kong!
Marie Funke sends the first of her “Letters from Hong Kong” – she is studying abroad in the Asian megacity for eight months.
Oct 04, 2019
All that time preparing and getting excited has paid off. At the end of August I was able to wander through my new home: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The Asian metropolis welcomed me with a full-blown typhoon, which gave way to heavy rains the past few days and now oppressive heat. People find protection under their parasols and prefer spending the day in air-conditioned shopping centers drinking ice-cold milk tea, one of many local specialties.
It quickly became clear to me just how multifaceted the cityscape is. My university’s campus in the northeast corner of the city extends over a wooded mountainside, while in central districts like Mong Kok it’s skyscraper pandemonium. Tropical island beaches butt up directly against dizzyingly high apartment blocks packed with colorful lighted signs and busy street food markets.
I live in one of the university’s nine colleges, where I share a room with two other students from Hong Kong. Getting to know them has been great so far. They already gave me some suggestions about the best cafeterias on campus and sparked my curiosity with descriptions of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which just recently took place.
The festival is celebrated in many Asian countries and takes place during the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It is an occasion for families to come together and share a meal with traditional foods like mooncakes, a special treat for this lunar celebration, and then light paper lanterns in the evening.
I have had so many new impressions in such a short amount of time that I can’t help feeling that I will never get to see all that this city has to offer. Yet I have already planned my first side trip! I am going to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Hong Kong’s position as a gateway to Southeast Asia makes it too tempting to resist the chance to travel to other nearby destinations.
Even with all of these lovely moments and beautiful experiences, I can’t avoid commenting a bit about the difficult situation that Hong Kong is currently facing. The city and its inhabitants are in turmoil, as can be seen in the protests against Hong Kong’s government, China’s influence, and the rise in police violence, which have been going on for months now.
As a foreigner here, it is difficult to understand the recent events in all of their historical and political complexity. Still, it is impossible to be completely detached from the situation, especially since most of the protesters are students about the same age as me. It is easy to feel a sense of solidarity with the young people who are going out into the streets almost every day to fight for their future – without knowing what that future holds.