Sunday, October 5, 2008

China & I Celebrate

I turned 24 years old/young on September 13th. Old because compared to my school mates here I’m about three years older than the average, and young, because let’s face it, I can still be such a child some times :)

It turns out I wasn’t alone. My friend Tony from England shares the same birthday. On top of the joint birthday party, the thirteenth fell on a Saturday, right in the middle of the Mid Autumn Festival, which the Chinese celebrate in great numbers. For our birthdays, Tony and I, and a bunch of our friends, made a stop at the Red Lily for some great Chinese food before visiting Hong Kong Island where a park was decorated with bright lanterns in celebration of the Mid Autumn Festival. The scene made for some great pictures, and looking back, in my mind, east met west under a night sky dominated by sky scrappers and golden lanterns.

But the night was destined to end early. My cough, which I had been nursing for some time, gained strength as the night continued. I left my friends at the MTR (Subway); I went home, and they celebrated for me.

Unfortunately, I have been ill for the past three weeks. I have been experiencing a sharp chest pain limiting my breath and stamina likely caused by some sort of acid reflux or frequent and intense heartburn. I have visited the Doctor on occasion, but the pain has persisted. I get my x-rays back tomorrow. Hopefully that will give some indication of my illness.

Classes are so interesting! Not just the curriculum, which can be boring on occasion. What is interesting are the interactions between the different nationalities.

In every one of my classes there is at least one group project – the school is absolutely in love with group work. It’s obvious the school wants the international students to mingle with the local students and give the school an international reputation. But more interesting, within the groups, I am amazed at how often I have become the de-facto leader! My age, sex and experience withstanding, it is shocking how fast I am assumed leader.

Before leaving for Hong Kong I was having a conversation with Shaun Nath, a friend of mine who had studied in Hong Kong the year prior. Among other things, we talked about this exact phenomenon. He told me that I shouldn’t bother trying to get out of it, the Chinese are simply less assertive than Americans. I can’t disagree.

More interesting still is my experiences in groups with other international students. In one class, I lazily signed up for a group with four other international students, attempting to stay out of any leadership position. After visiting the restroom, I returned to find my name next to the “Group Leader” title – Thanks team! In any other situation, I would have thought my teammates simply didn’t want to do the work. But in general, I am getting the feeling, east or west, the US produces more assertive individuals (not right or wrong, not good or bad). It’s a stereotype we can’t get away from. (As always, there’s a chance my observations are all in my head)

But it wasn’t just me celebrating these past few weeks. No, no, China celebrated with me. National Day in China, on October 1st, is a celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Other than having the day off from classes, I was privileged to watch one of the most amazing fireworks shows. During the twenty-minute show I repeatedly predicted what I thought was the finale, as well as pointed out the amazing reflection along the countless sky scrappers that line the shores of Victoria Harbor. It seems fitting that the land that created gunpowder, and in effect, fireworks, should have such an amazing display.

My internship search is progressing. I will be attending a ‘meet and greet’ put on by the Hong Kong US Chamber of Commerce: AmCham. I hope to develop some business cards and see if I can’t meet some interesting professionals in my field. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. Should be interesting.

I trust everyone is doing well. Feel free to email me letting me know how you’re doing. Always interested.



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