In the weeks since my last post, I have been kept busy by school exams, going away parties for my new friends, and holiday celebrations.
My exams went quite smoothly. In comparison with exams at my home university where final exams occur over a regular school week, at HKBU my exams were spread out over two weeks and happened at seemingly random times. This was good in the sense that it gave me ample time to study, but bad in the sense that I was studying while many of my fellow exchange students, who had already finished their exams, began celebrating and leaving Hong Kong.
My roommate; Samson, was one of the many local and mainland students who would spend every waking hour studying for the final exams. Four days before his first final exam, he began an amazing schedule. At 7:30 am, he would start his day at the library, return to the dorm room around 1pm for lunch and then back to the library. He would return each night at about 11pm and be in bed by 12pm. If I had known more about journalism I would have quizzed Samson when he returned home at night, just because I was so curious as to how effective his studying habits were. (Do understand one of the major reasons for the difference in study habits is the language barrier. Many classes taken by the Chinese students are in English. Where I might rationalize the material and relate it to something I’m already familiar with, non-native English speakers must commit everything to memorization, which in my opinion, is a very time consuming process.)
I on the other hand had no idea what to do with all my studying time. In the past I have always had to juggle work and final exams, only having short blocks of time in which to study. Having three whole days, with nothing to do but study, was a wholly unnatural feeling.
I still had a week before my last exam, when my first good friend, Alexandra, my French companion, packed her bags and left. It seemed to get a little colder after that, both literally and figuratively. One after another my friends and acquaintances began leaving. My roommate Samson moved out shortly after the twentieth, when his finals were finally over, leaving me a room all to myself.
Some of my other friends who were staying for the spring school semester had the same lonely sentiments. However I new for myself the feeling may grow during my departure from the dorms and arrival at a Hong Kong apartment, many of which resemble a poorly lit prison sell. Spending Christmas and New Years away from Family and Friends didn’t help the situation either.
I count myself blessed to have had such a great group of remaining exchange students. We had a simple yet very uplifting and cheerful Christmas Eve and New Years together. The remaining German cohort even sang Christmas Songs while we enjoyed cake on Christmas Eve! For New Years Eve we all went down to the harbor (between Kowloon and HK Island) and among a crowd of mind numbing proportions, we watched the countdown to 2009 on the side of the IFC building (tallest building in HK) and the short display of fireworks that followed.
I have been seeing a girl for the past couple of weeks. Her name is Lingli and she is a kind and beautiful girl from central China. Over the past couple of weeks I have really enjoyed her company and found our differences to be extremely entertaining. In terms of dating, I was shocked when walking down the street she grabbed my arm, wrapped hers around mine, and then put her head on my shoulder, as if, from my point of view, she wanted to tell the whole world we were getting married! Conversation came to a stand still – I was speechless. I told her later that day; “you have to slow down”, and “you’re moving way to fast.” I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at how much I probably sounded like a girl in a more western relationship. (Mainland girls, and even some boys, will walk down the streets arm in arm, hand in hand)
In contrast, when visiting ‘Club # 9’ for a friend’s birthday, Lingli and I were on the dance floor when I thought it would be a good idea to let her know I liked her with a simple (lol George is laughing right now) kiss. But she turned away, and then away again. I was stunned. Later that night I returned home to the dorms and by chance sat down with a couple of local HK students. I asked them about mainland girls. They said Mainland girls are just more traditional, that only after you had become something like “boyfriend and girlfriend” could you expect a kiss. (She eventually kissed me that night at the club, but I think only because it would have been awkward if she had kept turning away – Good times)
I left the dorms yesterday and moved into a friend of a friend’s apartment in Sha Tin, New Territories, on the twentieth floor of a large apartment building. My roommate, who thank God doesn’t share the same room as I do any longer, is a Mainlander named Neil. The place is only temporary, as I now plan to return to San Diego for a short period of time for Health reasons.
As you know, my original plan was to move out into my own apartment and begin an internship in late January. However I have had some very difficult decisions to make.
My internship search had not been as fruitful as I had hoped. And though I found an internship, it will not begin until mid March. (My internship search is a story in itself)
Also, my health has not improved. My chest pains have increased and the pain can be unbearable sometimes. Though I could continue to see doctors in HK, I’m afraid that my funds will not be enough to cover more expensive tests, and because my insurance is retro active, I wont be paid back for at least three months.
Unfortunately there are very few apartments rentable one month at a time. I was able to find a place that would give me a four month contract, but even that would be to long if I had a medical emergency and needed to go back to the states for care.
At the very same time, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but think my pain is going to go away as soon as I leave for San Diego and that I’ll have gone home for nothing.
I made my decision based on traditional wisdom; that my Health should come first. But this is a very difficult decision. I’m always looking for my choices to mean something, to add something and so it’s hard for me to seemingly quit. Additionally, thinking back, I put a lot of added pressure on myself by creating a Blog and sending out my letters. I became not only responsible to myself but to many others.
About a year ago when I was traveling through South America, I had the chance to watch a movie called Amores Perros. After a string of terrible events, a main character says to another: “You and your plans. You know what my grandmother used to say? If you want to make God laugh... tell Him your plans.”
The quote makes me laugh sometimes. Though not terribly relevant to my case, it does help me ask myself: am I making the right choice based on the present circumstances, or am I making the choice that feeds my plans/ego? I thought my plans were great, but in light of my new circumstances, I think I would only be honoring my ego/pride if I were to attempt to stay with them.
I now have the opportunity to learn something I believe to be very important. Though I believe it’s essential to be strong and follow our goals and ambitions, I think it is of an equal magnitude to pay attention to the world around us, taking advantage of the opportunities that it provides us and steering away from the new pitfalls it has created. This means updating and revising, even throwing out, plans made in the past in order to thrive in the future.
In my most recent adventure, in comparison to my past adventures, I’ve superficially explained to my friends and family what goals I had planned to achieve, in effect, making me responsible to more than just myself. And though I don’t take this responsibility lightly, I know I can’t make decisions in fear of what my stakeholders might perceive.
On January 9th I will return to San Diego for a little over a month where I can get medical care without the fear of expensive tests depleting my funds. I will return to Hong Kong some time around February 20th and should begin my internship (more details later) in mid March.
In terms of my actually health, let me just reiterate, though it’s not life threatening (It’s not my heart, lungs or stomach), it can be extremely painful at times and make other tasks (working, studying) very difficult. The latest Doctor that I’ve seen concluded it was most likely the cartilage between my ribs that were inflamed and were causing my chest pain.
But anyways, to my friends and family in San Diego, I look forward to seeing you guys! I hope your Christmas and New Years were amazing! And I’m sorry for writing so much!
My new room in Sha Tin. So Big!
The International Finance Center (IFC) Building viewed from the other side of the Harbor in TST
Having dinner with friends. Christmas Eve
Saying goodbye to Alexandra. Pierre, Alexandra, Myles and I
Lingli and I. New Years Eve dinner
Book Notes: My Struggle by Karl Knausgaard
4 days ago