Tag: 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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Using art as storytelling -Art Women Hong Kong

I attended the Art Women event at the Social Room last Thursday and I was so inspired by the work the ladies are doing that I just had to share.

Art Women is a group of female asylum seekers with a passion for arts & crafts who came together to use their art as a way to deal with the experiences of being refugees and the trauma that came as a result of their experiences back in their home countries. Today, the group consists of women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Egypt and Sri Lanka.

At the event, Clarisse, the founder of Art Women, spoke about her experiences with depression and how she started crocheting as a way of expressing herself. From there, she started making dresses, bags and jewellery. She also started learning English here in Hong Kong since she could only speak French when she arrived.

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 Photo credit: Pitshu

She later joined with a group of other refugee women and together they are Art Women, and now they use their craft to spread awareness about the situation in their home countries while showcasing the beauty of African fabrics and vibrant colours.  They also prepared amazing food from Africa, the menu included plantain, sweet potato fries and a variety of other amazing Central African delicacies.

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Photo credit: Pitshu

 

It is not easy to be a refugee in Hong Kong, because they are not allowed to work. One of the ladies who was a nurse back home in the DRC now has a way to pass the hours in her days instead of sitting at home doing nothing. She stays so busy making several crafts, jackets and dresses that she said she and the ladies were running like a small factory. I hope this means they are getting lots of orders because their stuff is really amazing.

I was so inspired by the work these ladies are doing and by how they have managed to turn their traumatic stories into something beautiful. Their garments are so full of life and tell of the story of Africa that is so inspiring. What I learned from these women on this day is that where there is a will, there is always a way. The resilient spirit of African women to rise above all obstacles and strive to make something of their lives is something that should be celebrated.

You can check out Art Women and their merchandise on their website HERE.

 

 

Today I choose gratitude and happiness!

It is amazing how much of a mindset shift can occur when you change your perspective. A change of perspective simply means looking at an issue in a different way, choosing to believe that there is more than one way to understand something. A different perspective!! I want to take this moment to thank each and every person who reached out to comment on my post yesterday, you can read it HERE if you missed it. I got  so encouraged to think in a different way and I am honestly happy to have shared my experience because sharing it showed that there is strength in community. So here is how my day went today:

Today I chose gratitude as a new perspective. Instead of looking at all the things that are not going so great, I chose to be grateful for being here today. As I write this I thank the  Lord for this stage of my life which I am now beginning to see as a period of learning and growth. I choose in this moment to focus on what is going well and not what is on standstill. In this period of waiting and resting, help me to

“turn this pity party into a cycle of praise” ~Pastor Judah Smith

Today I came across my happiness activity journal and I realised that I hadn’t written in it since February this year.

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I really love how it allows me to reflect on what made me happy this week and what made me unhappy. It doesn’t just end there, it then asks me to think about what I will choose to focus on to be happier next week, and has space to share an inspiring quote for the week as well as lessons for that week.

Today I said to myself, no type of schedule (busy or not) should keep me from keeping track of my happiness, although all the evidence points to the fact that I had in fact allowed the craziness of the past few months and my current circumstances, to steal that away from me. I chose to continue writing in my happiness activity journal and just doing that shifted my mood a great deal.

Today I got out of bed and did something useful with my time. I think movement is good. I just wish I was the exercise type, but sadly that is furthest from my mind. I did take a walk and got caught in the rain with my friend. Hong Kong weather has this weird impromptu rain around this time of the year,  that only lasts a few minutes and then it is back to being hot and humid again. When it started raining, we didn’t have umbrellas because when we left home it was not showing any signs of rain. Me and my friend Abi didn’t even bother running for cover, it felt so good getting soaked for a bit, we even held hands and started singing. The rain felt oddly therapeutic, I just hope we both don’t catch a cold. Those are the rare moments of joy that cannot be captured except in our memories.  Who would even have the time to think of taking out their cellphone to take a rain selfie? You would be surprised with the way we humans love our selfies these days. If people can take selfies at a funeral, then anything can happen.

Today was a good day.  This blog reached the 200 followers milestone today.

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See what happens when you count your blessings, you see more and more of them in the least expected places. I am so glad to be able to share this space with all of the people who read and take the time to interact with me. You all make it worth while.

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Post-PhD life…when will this phase end?

A couple of months before I completed my PhD, I started sending out job applications. I filled out countless job application forms, each needing a cover letter and often had to change my CV around to suit each position. Before starting this process, I sought out a mentor in my department, a Professor whom I admired and asked her for advice about the job hunt. She told me three things:

  • The academic job market is a jungle
  • It is survival, not of the fittest, but the most persistent.
  • Getting a job in academia depends on the relationships you have built over the years through networking.

She also said that I would need to send out 100 applications in the hopes of getting one. I took her advice and started applying, but I was never prepared for the constant stream of rejection emails that ensued. I never thought an email could spoil my day and the first rejection email, I took it well because I had been told this would happen. However, after the twentieth or so email, you start to feel a little discouraged. But I carried on with the applications because

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I found out that post-PhD depression is an actual thing. Some statistics in this blog state that 80 % of postdocs (someone who has completed a doctoral degree) hope to get a tenured academic position, only 10% get that offer. This leaves the other 70% feeling like they wasted years of their lives getting a degree that cannot land them a job. The writer of the article also said something about our expectations as doctoral graduates not matching the reality of what is out there in the job market. He also suggested taking a step back and rethinking your goals and values.

I came across this quote and I think it is so profound.

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Instead of wallowing in my discouragement, I am going to use this opportunity to encourage others who may be going through the same thing and for current students to know what to expect post-phd. Every case is different of course, we don’t all go through the same trajectories. What I am doing now to deal with post-phd stress is to take it one day at a time. I was comforted the other day to realise that I am not the only one going through it and I have started engaging in conversations with others around this.

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What this has done for me is to remove the mentality that I am the only one going through this and to just keep going. Understanding that this is a transition phase and with all transitions comes this period of discomfort as you try to find your feet again. I do hope the phase will end soon, but what I have also been trying to do is to enjoy the moment. I have nothing going on right now, I should be enjoying this free time before actually settling into a new job. This is the time to find a new hobby, start an online course that might be useful in the future or catch up with old friends. I recently attended a Christian youth camp for a week, and that was a nice new experience for me. I made some new friends and spent time in a new location. I also stepped away from my current circumstance which gave me a new perspective.

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Shouldn’t be difficult to spot me in this pic

By refusing to view this stage of my life as negative, I am slowly changing the narrative.

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

An unexpected adventure

My department asked me to accompany one of our university guests from the Czech Republic on a tour of Hong Kong.  First thing I thought was OMG!! you have the wrong person for the job. I had a string of reasons why I was not the right person to be a tour guide for anyone because a) I was extremely overwhelmed with the burdens of my data analysis and dissertation writing, I honestly did not have the time b) I do not know Hong Kong enough to be anyone’s tour guide c) I hate touristy things d) I hate waking up in the am for anything and this particular task needed me to be up at 8 am.

The list could go on, but in the end, I gave in. I decided to just go and see what happens. I remember craving coffee when I woke up and this frustrated me because I decided to quit drinking coffee a few months ago and I was managing just fine, until the past few weeks (blame the stress and sleepless nights). I had a feeling the day was going to be terrible, but I resigned myself to it and muttered a silent prayer that at the very least, I manage to get through the day.

I am still surprised to say that the day was actually really amazing. I had an amazing time with Dr. Zdenka from Czech Republic who I was accompanying. She was the most pleasurable company, the conversation was great and we didn’t have to fill in any silent moments with empty words.  It was just comfortable, easy going and it became a cultural exchange between a Czech and Zimbabwean woman. You do not get opportunities like that every day. I was intrigued to realise that we have more in common than people may think in terms of the economic struggles in our two countries. But one would need a lengthy history lesson to fully understand before passing judgment.

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Now on to the adventure. We scaled up Hong Kong’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) which is named due to the 100 floors, the observation desk being on the 100th floor.  It is one of the tallest commercial buildings in the world.

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We got to see a 360-degree view of Hong Kong at 393 metres above sea level.

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To go up the Sky 100 costs 128 HKD which is about 15 USD. The views are worth it. Below is the commercial image of the building from the outside. I could not do it justice with my own phone, so I borrowed this just to show you how it looks.

 

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Image from arup.com

 

Then we booked a private tour on an old fishing boat around Hong Kong harbor. The weather was not very friendly on the day, but it didn’t stop us from having a great time. We had a lovely guide on the boat who regaled us with tales about Hong Kong fishermen from ages ago as we drank some wine and listened to some really cool music (a bit of reggae and soul mix).

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The current owner of the fishing boat is a British gentleman and he has tried to maintain the old look and feel of the Dukling boat. It is the only original Chinese junk remaining in Hong Kong. The cost for a 45-minute tour is 230 HKD which is about 29 USD. This price includes a complimentary drink.

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Afterward, we settled to a nice leisurely lunch and called it a day. I truly had an unexpected adventure. If you are ever in Hong Kong, this would be a good way to pass the time especially when the weather is not good for outdoor activities.

Life lesson: Do not write off things before you try them. Life has a way of surprising us with its twists and turns. Who would have known that I would get to experience culture, beautiful views and history all in one day? We limit ourselves with our comfort zones and thoughts of remaining just as we are with no disturbance. I am glad I went against my initial instinct that they find someone else to be the tour guide because I felt I was inadequate for the task. I have been in Hong Kong for 3 years now and I learned that there are things I have not yet experienced and places I had yet had the pleasure to visit. The experience opened up a new door for me to see life in another way.  I am just sad it took an unexpected adventure to remind me that I might be leaving Hong Kong soon and I have not enjoyed it fully.

There is no place like home…

I am sitting in the airport lounge, fighting back tears. I hate goodbyes…

Still can’t believe six months went by so fast.  I am now convinced that it is better to stay away from home than to go home and have to leave again. And this is coming from a self-confessed unsentimental (antonym of sentimental) person.

For a bit of background for the new readers (Welcome btw👋): I traveled from Hong Kong to my motherland, Zimbabwe in July 2017 and stayed there for the past six months. The purpose of my trip home was to carry out fieldwork for the Ph.D. project I have been working on since 2016. So, after spending months at home with my mother, making new friends and spending time with old ones; I had to leave all of that behind and come back to Hong Kong.

Highlights of my time at home:

a) This might be surprising but I love my home country Zimbabwe so much. It was such an exciting time to be home when Robert Mugabe finally resigned from being President after 37 years in office. I am the least political person you will ever meet, but the month of November 2017 was a great time in Zimbabwean politics.

b) My sister came to visit me from Cape Town. My sister is my best friend, so you can just imagine how that week when she visited made me feel. I had last seen her in 2014 when I left Cape Town so this was a lovely reunion.

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c) I spent Christmas at home with my mother and it was an unforgettable time. Anyone who knows me knows that this woman is my rock, my everything. Since the passing of my dad last year, I cherish every moment I spend with her even more. She is more than a parent, she is a friend, a confidant… I run out of words to express how I feel.

d) I also celebrated the start of the new year 2018 at home. New Year’s day is special because it also happens to be the day I was born, so spending it at home was something I will always cherish. I am a year older, hopefully, wiser.

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As I reflect back to my time in Zimbabwe, I feel that there will be no place like home. I can travel to many countries but home will always have a special place in my heart.

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Mvurwi is naturally beautiful

 

It has a different feel to it, full of childhood and teenage memories; full of hope and laughter. It makes me sad to know that I will not be going back until this Ph.D. is over…and that, my friends, is a long time from now.  I hold on to the beautiful memories of the time spent at home. P.S: I have too many pictures from my time at home, they would need ten other blog posts. So, please don’t feel bad if I took a picture with you and it is not in this post.

I was greeted by warm weather when I arrived in Hong Kong, but it’s cold again because it’s winter here in Hong Kong.  Winter in Hong Kong is between December-February with average temperatures of between 16 ° and 20 ° Celsius. This is mild compared to other winters I have experienced. I am currently having trouble sleeping because my body still needs to adjust to the time difference.

On a positive note, I have lots to catch up on with my Hong Kong family of friends, lots of things to look forward to and lots of opportunities for new beginnings.

Let’s see how this year goes. I will surely update you guys 😉

Currently Homesick,

GG