Category: Living in Hong Kong

We are more similar than you think…

Since I came to Hong Kong, I usually found myself forming friendships or associations more with international people more than the local Chinese people. The reason behind this is mainly due to the language barrier, I do not speak a word of Cantonese and my attempt to learn Mandarin did not go very far.  I did try though and I wrote about it a while ago in this POST.

As a result, I do feel more at home with English-speakers. Usually, when we meet as friends or acquaintances in the places we work or socialise, we always find the common topics of discussion to be centred around our experiences of being here. It is not uncommon to hear complaints about how non-locals feel they are being treated by the locals or how this and that is difficult or how it would be different in other places. I guess that is the story of anyone living in a foreign land. 

I found myself in the least expected company the other day and the experience brought home this thought about how shared experiences can bring people together. There is a saying misery loves company which suggests that somehow people who are going through the same circumstance may find solace in their shared experience. So there I was, a female from Zimbabwe, seated with a guy whose heritage is mixed Indian and Russian (first time to ever meet someone with such an interesting heritage, massive conversation starter and he uses it to his advantage) and the other, more loud and confident, born and raised in Manila, Philippines. As the three of us sat at a table having dinner we suddenly found it funny that here we were, in Hong Kong, all three of us coming from completely different backgrounds, but we were speaking the same language, in the sense of having experienced some of the same things during our stay here. What are the chances that we would find similarities in each other’s stories? This blew my mind and immediately, I knew these two men would become my friends. One thing I totally forgot to do was to take a selfie, but next time I see them, I will remember to take one so I can share with you guys. 

We talked about, among other things, our different experiences of racism and discrimination, each of us having a story to share. I could write a book on this topic alone really. We also talked about our home countries and the concept of “home”. This is important to me because, at that moment, I realised that a lot of young adults are beginning to lose this concept of “home” as circumstances force them to leave the countries of their birth to seek greener pastures. However, each of us was so sure that there will be a day when we will all return back to our “home”. 

At that moment, we were so different yet so much alike. 

We also had a chance to relearn what we thought we knew about the other (black African, mixed Indian-Russian and South East-Asian) and filling in the blanks. This was such a beautiful learning moment and it made me realise that we are all HUMAN, period. Our differences make us who we are, but we can all find a place to meet as humans and find that we are not as different as the world makes us out to be. Stereotypes and prejudices are the things that separate people. 

At the end of the day…

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Three ways to beat the trap of comparison…

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We live in a world where there is stiff competition in every aspect of our lives. There is always someone who is doing the things we want to do and from our limited perspective, they look like they are doing it better than us.  So often, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with our peers. We are always on a clock that is socially constructed and we compare ourselves with each other based on this social timeline. It is a mental trap because it is the thought in our heads whenever we see someone else doing what we wish we could be doing, and it can be toxic if uncontrolled. It can turn into jealousy, low self-esteem, self-hate and even depression.

In the world of academia, this often leads to a phenomenon called imposter syndrome:

impostor syndrome
noun
noun: imposter syndrome
  1. the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
    “people suffering from impostor syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety”

When I was in grad school, I got caught up in the cycle of comparison and it often made me feel like an imposter.  Even now post-PhD, I find myself looking at my peers and it looks like they are doing better than I am doing. I even caught myself comparing myself with students who are just beginning their academic journey and feeling like they were better off because they seem to have more support than I ever did. The truth is this comparison is not helpful or productive, but it is also human nature. So, I don’t beat myself up about it. However, I do want to view myself in a way that is actually beneficial and not detrimental to my mental health, and comparing myself with others is not the way to do it.

Here are three of the ways to beat the comparison trap:

  • To celebrate others.

I want to try this instead of comparing myself with anyone. When you celebrate others, you are saying that “we all have different talents and it’s this person’s turn to shine so I am going to celebrate them without looking at my own circumstance.”  That reframes the narrative. I believe we all want to be surrounded by people who celebrate us and not compete with us. If one of us has a victory, we are all winning.

  •  Limiting social media

Social media is the best place to fall into the comparison trap, particularly Instagram where everyone is portraying their best lives and Twitter, where everyone is self-promoting. Limiting your time on these platforms might be one of the ways to stay grounded in your own reality and not allowing people (often strangers) to dictate how your life should look, where you should be and how you should be living.  If scrolling on social media for hours on end leaves you feeling drained, you are probably falling into the comparison trap. I recently looked at the type of people I follow because I realised this was also important. What is your timeline feeding you? Are you following people who live realistic lives, who post motivating stuff or it is the opposite? Some people feed off the “glamorous” lives posted on social media, but how real is it really?

  • Seeing myself the way God sees me,

That means that there is no way I can think of myself as less than capable. The word of God tells me that I am created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God sees me as an amazing and talented individual, so that is who I am. It is all about FAITH and you can believe that too. The next time I am tempted to compare myself with someone else, I just have to remind myself that I am capable of doing all that I set my mind to. This may not be my time, but in due season, I will shine as I am meant to shine.

I only wrote about three ways but I am sure there are many more ways to stop comparing ourselves with others. Let me know some of the ways that work for you down below.

Happy Monday!!

WHAT’S NEXT AFTER A PhD?

Hello world!!

The PhD journey has finally come to an end. I should be relieved, I think I am.  Another chapter closed, another milestone and achievement. I wish it was only that, then it would be easy to relish this feeling of accomplishment. But, finishing also came with the big question of WHAT’S NEXT? I never for one second thought that after going through all the stress of writing a PhD dissertation, I would still need to figure out what’s next. But, with all things in life, when you complete one phase, you enter another.

Change is inevitable. Change is uncomfortable…

Struggle 1

My life is about to change. I had settled into the routine student life for the past three years. I cannot imagine getting used to waking up early mornings and working a 9-5 job. During my student days, I woke up anytime I wanted to if I didn’t have early meetings and I could work until late or choose when to finish work. My schedule was flexible especially when I did not have deadlines from my supervisors. I don’t know how I am going to adjust to a new schedule.

Struggle 2

I cannot for the life of me, tell you what I want to do with this PhD. All I knew was that I wanted to do it and I am passionate about the research that I did with children and families. I have no idea if I want to continue doing that or get a job. One thing I do know is that I need a break to clear my head. I am picturing somewhere with clear, blue waters and white beach sand.

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Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

Another thought I have is to continue writing and publishing from my PhD thesis, and possibly turn it into a book.  I have so many thoughts in my head right now, and to be quite honest, this is not what I thought would come after completing this milestone. I thought it would be easier to figure out my life than when I completed my first degree.

Struggle 3

I chose to do my PhD in Hong Kong, but initially, I never thought of making this place my home. I now have to figure out whether I am going to stay here or move to another place. We all know that moving is another big adjustment, I cannot even wrap my head around it. I get tired even thinking about it.  There will be a lot of things to consider: What will happen to my social life? Will I find a new church home? Are the locals friendly?  Most importantly, do I really want to move to a completely new place again at this stage of my life? Unfortunately, if I do decide to stay in academia, I might get a postdoctoral fellowship, which will necessitate a move to a totally different country. The chances of me getting a postdoc in Hong Kong are next to none. It would have been nice to experience life in Asia a little bit more, but it is a lot to even think about right now.

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Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Silver lining

Wait, it is not all doom and gloom. I am now Dr. GG.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That is definitely a plus and well worth the hard work.  I am completely grateful to my Lord who saw me through the tough times and made my success possible. I also trust that He has my future in His hands, so although nothing is clear at the moment, I am confident in His plan for my future. With that, I do hope I will be back here with good news in a few weeks, telling you all about my next move. Another silver lining… I now have more time on my hands to write. I have so much I want to write about.

If you are reading this and have any tips about making a life transition, drop your girl a message. I always love to hear from you.

Until then,

GG.

The career crossroad…

What do people consider when looking for a job? Is it more important that you have job satisfaction or that you are paid well? Or are you like most people thinking of a job in terms of survival and therefore, it is about the pay cheque and nothing more? Are you in a career that has growth potential or are you working a 9-5 job with no prospects?

Time
I took this picture myself while at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay…a little fun habit I have picked up to create a collection for my blog.

My time is running out and in four months I am facing another life transition, this time from graduate school back into full-time employment. I have started asking myself serious questions. I have been wondering whether I have the luxury to choose a satisfying work environment, doing what I am passionate about (working with children), choose the perfect location where I can thrive or I will be faced with taking the first job that comes my way? Is there such a thing as a perfect career choice for a new graduate? I feel like a new graduate even though I have years of work experience prior to coming back to university. This is because I might transition into a completely different career than the one I was doing. I will let you know what that is once I figure it out. I took my thoughts to Twitter the other day too:

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I know there are people who are experienced in this kind of thing and they make so much money giving people career advice. I am so sure that most of their clients are people who find themselves at crossroads like the one I am currently on. I feel worse because I have no clue what I want to do, so even doing a job search is tedious. I have to first figure out where I want to go, what job fits my skill set and what the next year of my life can possibly look like. That’s right, a year is as far as I can think right now.

I know from discussions with two people close to me that I am not the only one going through this. Some of my friends are starting to have these same questions early on because they are questioning whether what they are currently doing is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I can imagine the situation is worse for my peers back home where unemployment rates are way too high to even consider options other than survival. You hear people encouraging youths to become entrepreneurs, but can we all become entrepreneurs? I am of the opinion that there are people who do well at starting and running their own businesses, but it is not for everyone.

So I pose this question to you guys, how did you decide what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? Did you know instinctively that was the right direction to go or you got some help? What can help in this process?

Maybe you can help me clear my head.

GG

 

 

The Value of Good Friendships

A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

From recent conversations and generally observing the people around me, the value of a good friend has become more illuminated than it has ever been before. Having a good friend, even just one, is a really great blessing. A blessing which can significantly affect your life trajectory.

We often hear people talk about “the company you keep” and how “you are the sum total of the people you spend most of your time with”. I have seen this unfold in my life and those of the people around me. Most people do not invest much time in acquiring and keeping good friendships because we take it for granted. We think the people around us are good enough, but when last did you take stock of your friendships to check:

  • Are you helping each other to become better versions of yourselves?
  • Are you giving each other constructive advice or you spend time talking about other people or engaging in time-wasting activities?
  • Do you see your current friends in your future or you are just taking it one day at a time?
  • Are you being real with each other, or when you get together it is time to show off to each other, instead of building each other up?
  • If you would lose everything you own today, can you count on your current circle of friends to have your back?

If you can truly answer YES to these questions, then I can say you are in good friendships. Very few of us really take the time to evaluate our social interactions and this is dangerous. In 2018 and years before that, I spent a lot of hours with the wrong people who were not adding any value to my life. Only when you find yourself in the company of really good and meaningful individuals, do you start to notice the difference. I do not regret the people who have passed through my life, they also taught me a valuable lesson on friendships. Now, I am more careful who I bring into my circle.

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Happy to say that I have these women in my life

One of my friends said something that stuck with me this weekend. He was talking about ENERGY! and how each one of us gives off a certain vibe or energy which can be described as either positive or negative; life-changing and exciting or destructive energy. He said if you find people that are giving positive, life-giving, inspiring energy then reciprocate that because that is hard to come by. When it is reciprocated, it grows and you feed off each other’s positive energy and it can only get better from there. These are the kind of conversations I am trying to have in 2019.

Me and my close friends are always discussing pushing one boundary after the other. We are constantly challenging each other to do better and be better.  Me and Uche are always hyping each other up, calling each other boss ladies, LOL. It actually works because we put in the work to become what we confess everyday. We all need meaningful interactions, otherwise what are we expending our energy on? This is why it is also OK to outgrow some people and friendships that have reached a dead end. If the energy is off and the friendship has become more draining than useful, then it needs to go.

Wishing you a fruitful week and do take the time to evaluate and make solid friendships that make sense for your current life stage and for your future.

GG

I hardly write about Hong Kong…

Before I came to Hong Kong I honestly thought this would be the most interesting place to blog about. I thought the immersion into a different culture, living in a different continent and learning all sorts of cool Asian stuff would make for nice blogging content. I remember reading tonnes of blogs about Hong Kong before I came in 2016 and I could see myself being here and writing about all the amazing things here.

                                                   Sham Shui Po

Fast forward to 2018, after counting the number of posts I have written about Hong Kong, I am a little embarrassed. I wrote quite a bit whilst I was here, but I haven’t written much about the place itself. I have only six or so posts about this place, excluding all my posts about the Ph.D. (I sound like a broken record honestly).

So what happened to my plan of falling in love with this place so much that I would write about my escapades with the culture, the food, the people, the places, etc.?

     One Chinese dish…there is rice underneath the sauce believe it or not

After much reflection, I realized that I hardly write about Hong Kong because the truth is I have not managed to integrate into this society enough to form an interesting opinion. That realization made me quite sad. Two whole years? I realized that I have not had the opportunity to have enough cultural exchanges to inspire my voice during the time I have been here. This saddens me because I know if anyone else was in my shoes, they would be milking this opportunity for all that it is worth.

I attempted to learn Mandarin in 2017 and failed miserably. That is one tough language to learn. It is very difficult to integrate into Chinese society if you do not speak the language.  Hong Kong is mostly Cantonese speaking, but I wanted to learn Mandarin because it is used in more places outside of Hong Kong.  Although in my academic life English is the main language of instruction (otherwise I would not be studying here at all), my social life has not benefited from my lack of Chinese language ability. I have a few Chinese acquaintances whom I know only because we are in the same department, the delivery guy from my favorite online store and one of the friendly security guys in my apartment. I also have a few people I can call friends from the Christian fellowship and from the church, but we mostly converse in English.

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                Chinese restaurant names are often written in Chinese 

There are many expatriate communities in Hong Kong, but my few encounters with this bunch (read snobbish, out-of-touch with reality types), had me running back to the comfort of my small-circle life. I have spent most of my time on campus studying, which is probably why most of my Hong Kong posts are about my academic life. Plus, I usually hang around with my fellow Africans. This is a popular characteristic of people when they find themselves as the minority in a place, there is a tendency to go towards the familiar. There are a few exceptions of course, I know a lot of African people who do not want to hang around with other Africans in a different country. Anyway, I digress…

Since it is now December month, a lot of people are taking stock of the year and their lives. For me, I am thinking December means I am now left with roughly 8 months to completing my studies and possibly leaving Hong Kong (I still have no clue where I want to be after this). Thinking about this has made me want to do something about the memories I am creating in this place. This is what I plan to do:

  • Create opportunities to explore more of Hong Kong in the coming months. I have a deadline for my thesis this December, but until then I can keep my eyes open for interesting things I can write about Hong Kong.
  • Challenge myself to do a typical Chinese activity at least once a month. That should be a fun way of immersing myself into the culture. It is never too late. At least I learned how to use chopsticks :). so I will find more activities…for the culture.
  • Take solo trips and find simple hidden treasures. I am a firm believer that one can find the most beautiful things hidden in plain sight. I just need to get out more, even if it is a walk by the beach at sunset.
At Shek O beach

Disclaimer: All images in this post were taken using my Samsung Galaxy S7

Wish me luck,

GG

The deadline: curse or blessing?

If you didn’t have a deadline would you be putting in as much work as you are doing right now? Or like me, are you the kind of person who works better with deadlines? I am currently facing a one month deadline to submit the first draft of my PhD thesis. I have known pressure before but this time it is intensified .

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Are deadlines a curse or a blessing? I have a few thoughts on that:

If it pushes me to work more diligently than I would on a normal day, then bring on the deadline. 

Some of us really struggle to work without a little nudge. Deadlines help me to organise myself and my work in a meaningful way.  PhD programs usually have a lot of deadlines and because the student is pretty much doing independent research, the deadlines help to give them a timeline. I was told that my first thesis draft would be due in December 2018 back when I started in 2016. But like most people, I felt that was a long way off and I did not feel the pressure of it, until now. Just a little over a month to the deadline. Send help!!

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Image from my Bitmoji

It’s a different story when I am the one setting the deadline and when I have to meet someone’ else’s deadline.

Deadlines that I set for myself are usually meant to motivate and not put me under pressure. Someone else’s deadline comes with apprehension because failure to meet that deadline might have consequences. If it is a job, your boss may expect that you meet project deadlines because failure to do so affects your performance ratings. My own deadlines might be based on meeting some personal targets e.g. that desired weight so I can fit into that dress by New Years’ or something. There is pressure, but the chances of me being penalised for not meeting said deadline are slim.

Chasing deadlines can ruin relationships or at least stall them for a period.

When the work piles up and deadlines are looming, the tendency is often to shut out the world and focus on meeting that deadline. In my little corner of the world I have already let my friends know that I am in hibernation until I submit my thesis. I have asked not to be invited to any social events because I grew tired of making excuses for my absence. The danger with that is people may start to think that you are selfish and you think the world revolves around you. Chances are that by the time you meet that deadline, there will be another one, just as urgent, waiting for you. So when does it end? If you cannot make time for your social relationships, they will either die or people get tired of waiting on you to finish your priorities and they may find people who make time for them in their ‘busy schedule’. So, yes chasing deadlines is not always a good thing if it makes us shut out the people we care about. There will always be another deadline, relationships matter!!

As for me, I don’t know how I am going to fix this one because I feel overwhelmed to the point that even if I choose to be with my friends, I will probably spoil the mood worrying about my deadlines. I would like to hang out without feeling guilty about not working. I believe my true friends will stick it out.

Let me know your thoughts on deadlines. Are they a blessing or a curse? Are you chasing a deadline right now? What has it affected in your life? Drop me a message.