Hong Kong from the view of a German student

When we first arrived in Hong Kong, we were warmly welcomed by Micheal, our tour guide, who, as I remember, always kept smiling no matter what senseless or hilarious questions we asked.

It took us only one and a half hours from the airport to our hotel, called the South China Hotel, the nearest subway station named ‘Northpoint’, was only five minutes away.
The hotel was great! Not only did we have a TV with three English channels but our view was spectacular! Even though it looked like a ghetto to us, we simply felt comfortable and soon enough we called it home. On our first evening we experienced traditional Chinese food, which was not as bad as we expected it to be and it was really cheap, too.Afterwards we fell into our beds happy not having to sleep in an airplane again.

Our first day began with an awkward call which we all thought to be a practical joke. Only later on did we find out that our headmaster, Mr. Schlesinger, had ordered that call for he knew we would sleep in otherwise! The bus picked us up at 9:30 am, I believe, and took us to the Victoria Peak. Of course, our dear Micheal was always with us. From that peak one had an awesome view over the whole city, shame that it was a bit misty and windy that day.

But our next stop totally made up for that! We took a beautiful boat trip, seeing the biggest floating restaurant where (as Micheal told us) a lot of celebrities dine. Then we went to a beautiful beach, and a temple which was extraordinary, but also covered us in a cloud of smoke, which was annoying because even when we got back to Germany all our clothes smelled of it. At least we shall all live three days longer, well only the people who walked over that red little bridge next to the temple, but I think we all did so!
Afterwards we had lunch…interesting food I must say but I needed to go to KFC afterwards because most of the so called food was far too – how do I say this… Asian touched ?
Last stop for that day was a tour through the heart of Hong Kong. We saw old churches and temples, a beautiful bird-rain forest kind and were stunned by all the tall buildings around us.
From there on we were allowed to explore Hong Kong on our own in groups of at least three people.

My group went straight away to Mong Kok, it was heaven on earth! All those shops for clothing and shoes, and so enormously cheap. I should not even say shops for there were no shops for shoes, there were whole districts! The only problem was that the sizes were too small because all those Chinese people are not that tall as you probably know.
The city was spectacular at night. What had looked like a ghetto by day now seemed to blink and shine out of every corner! At ten we had to be back in the hotel to discuss our next day.

The next day we had to get up really early for we wanted to participate in a Ti Chi lesson, which was amazing! We were guided by experienced Ti Chi Masters and the group which participated was really huge! At least 40 people from all over Hong Kong (not only Chinese people or old people, but also young businessmen and women) took part.

Afterwards we visited a Girls’ School called ‘Kowloon Girls School’. Sadly the girls had exams during the time we spent there but it was still very interesting to see how they lead the school and how it is embedded in history and Christianity. Even though they had given us drinks and snacks we had lunch in the cafeteria which belongs to the University near by, now that food tasted good! And last but not least we visited a traditional Chinese tea house where we learned how to make and serve Chinese tea, which was actually very delicious!

On our third day we took a look at a couple of temples. The first one was enormously huge!
There were at least two hundred people either praying to gods or taking pictures as we did.
In the middle of the temple was a pretty waterfall, and a small river ran through the whole area. Some of us even took a ticket and went to a fortune teller to hear about their future.
Of course it was mostly gibberish like ‘you will be rich’ or ‘you will become famous’ but it was funny.

The other temple was placed in a park which was stunning, and even bigger than the last one.
I for my part liked the second one more than the first for it seemed older and there was some kind of music playing in the background that reminded me of Monks singing.
Afterwards we went to a jade market where we kept on bargaining, and bought almost everything we could get.
Then we were allowed to explore the area again and had lunch where ever we wanted to.
I must say that on that day we had the most spectacular evening! My group dressed really fancy and we took the subway to Tsim Tsa Tsui, from where we had the most beautiful and awesome view I ever saw. At 8:15 pm I think, the light show started, it was unbelievable! The towers and buildings pointed with their lasers in the sky onto the other side of the water that parted the two islands. We could not believe our eyes.

The next days we spent at the best school on earth – ‘St. Stephens College’, which is a boarding school but also a day school for non borders. We arrived at 8 am where the principal and a really nice English teacher welcomed us. Then we all got our “ buddys”, who are fellow students. We were to follow those buddys like a shadow into all classes apart from Chinese classes because we were not able to understand a thing in those lessons. The school itself is huge! They have a soccer field which is twice the size of a normal soccer field and basketball fields and dodgeball fields,a barbecue area and a library, a big tuck shop and three or four dormitories.

My buddys name is Timothy. He is from Canada and only moved to Hong Kong a couple of years ago so his English is really good, thank god. His or our school day started with a reading lesson, where everyone was allowed to read a book of their choice for half an hour. Then he had Chinese lesson during which I went to the library. Before lunch we had PE, which was so funny! We played this weird game called ‘dodgeball’ which can be compared to what we in Germany call ‘Völkerball’ only that one was only allowed to hit beneath the hip and that if you are hit, you can not get in again.

When it was time for lunch we could choose if we either wanted to have lunch with the borders in the Cafeteria or with the non borders in the small village nearby.
I chose to eat pizza in the village with an awesome view over the sea!

After lunch I had geography. The teachers always talked through a microphone, which was weird and loud but one got used to it. My geography teacher asked me a lot about Wuppertal. He was really interested in our ‘River’ the Wupper. But after half an hour he ended the lesson and instead taught us Chinese words while we taught them German. We were all amazed by this school and excited about our next days there.

Day two at the School started like the first one, but after lunch the campus of the school was shown to us by a couple of students who led us around and explained its history to us, which was fascinating!
The school is situated right next to a graveyard which is dedicated to the fallen soldiers during Japanese occupation. It has a small chapel and a lovely library. They also have their own museum and a vegetable garden!
In the evening we were invited to have a barbecue with our buddys and a couple of borders. To our surprise they did not have real bread or potatoes, only sweet potatoes to put into the fire as well as corn, and, of course meat, loads of meat. It was delicious!

One day we did not go to school, but took the ferry to the so-called “pirate island.”
The ferry took about thirty minutes and was quite comfortable On the island we walked over to a beach where we went swimming ! Yes we went swimming in China at 25 degrees while our friends in Germany were freezing in school. It was marvelous!
Afterwards we had lunch in a small restaurant on that island and went through the souvenir shops. At the end of that day we all had a sunburn or a headache, also from the sun, so a lot of students stayed at home that afternoon, including my group.
So my advise: never underestimate the sun, no matter if your in China or Africa.

On our last day the students had a so called ‘students day’ which they celebrate only once a year so we were really lucky!
This day is planned by all grades/classes/students. First they play games like dodgeball or soccer, or they paint your face and do all those sorts of things.
After lunch they all come together at an assembly, also organized by the students where classes or students can perform dances or songs. There were four teachers to decide, give points and make out a winner for the day. At the end of the show there was a huge highlight, every year day a celebrity from Hong Kong comes there and performs for the students . It is always a surprise for the lower grades. Only the teachers and prefects know who is going to visit them.
This year it was a famous singer, whose name was so complicated I forgot.
She is very beautiful and her voice filled the whole hall, too sad that she sang in Chinese.
Afterwards she handed over the prizes for the winners. Every boy was so in love with her that they swore to never wash their hands after touching her.

Saying Good bye that day was real hard! None of us wanted to leave, we all felt like home at that school. They welcomed us so warmly and made us involved in something great. It was so wonderful to experience so much love from a foreign country and strangers.
Luckily we are all staying in touch now through electronic media even though the time difference is a small problem.

Our eighth day our school prepared a historical walk for our students and the ones from the other school through the city. We went to the old police Station, the Government House, the eldest church and all sorts of Monuments from the time when Hong Kong was a British colony. Then we went to the Chinese History Museum, which we all thought to be boring but turned out to be amazing!
It started with the stone age, old bones and stones, went further through all ages of Hong Kong until today. We saw how they lived a hundred years ago, how they led wars and how they celebrate their traditions. After that, we went to the highest bar on earth!The Ozone Bar, in the second highest building of Hong Kong. It took us 1 minute to get 121 stories high above the ground. The view was stunning, and the drinks were expensive like hell, but who would we be if we had not enjoyed the highest bar on earth ?!

Our last full day in Hong Kong we spent on a nearby island visiting the Statue of a huge Buddah. We could only reach that island by a “Gondel”, which took about 20 minutes.
That day it was really cold but nevertheless we went on discovering more and more about China and its culture. The Buddah was at least 20m high and huge! All around the Statue were other Statues of warriors and in the area below the Buddah there were souvenir shops.

The very last day began with packing the last things and going out touring through China Town in Hong Kong. The other school had prepared a that tour. They led us to different temples, gardens and parks which were all very pretty, the trees and plants as I remember were very fascinating. They looked as if they were cut out of a fantasy movie.
Afterwards we could say our good byes to the city and take a last look at the shining lights which had flashed us the first day. The only thing making our departure bearable was that our plane was the biggest passenger plane on earth.
All in all we were very sad knowing that we would not see this stunning place for a long time.
On our flight back there was no hysterical chatter through the plane, we either slept dreaming of Hong Kong or were day dreaming, trying to hold on.

It was an enormous experience, which none of us will ever forget. I am seriously glad to have been able to take part in this exchange. I recommend it to every one who wants to get out and discover a new world, a new culture with new traditions. To every one who wants to learn about themselves and others. Every single one of us students took something back from Hong Kong, not only new friendships and stories, but courage, the courage to dare something, to go out there and explore the world on your own, with students which you may have not known well until then, but afterwards get to love for you share precious memories.

Lena Simunovic, Q 1