First week in HK
It is Friday in Hong Kong which means I made it through my first week here! Time is going by pretty fast.
This week was quite eventful. I explored downtown Hong Kong, ate plenty of Asian cuisine, had my first day of work and went to the International Dragon Boat Festival.
Monday we (all the interns) didn’t have work because Dream Careers thought it was a good idea to have us rest a bit and adjust to the time change. In the morning Rachel (my friend and fellow intern at LegCo) went downtown to practice getting to work for the second time. From there we met up with friends in another area of Hong Kong so we could go shopping at Ikea. I needed a few hangers for my clothes. The Ikea was huge! It was inside this mall called Mega Box. We wandered around Ikea for a few hours imagining decorating our future apartments and homes with the furniture.
After we made our purchases we walked the streets back to the Kawloon Bay MTR station. At the station we decided to get some lunch. It took a while for us to decide where to go and ended up inside the grocery store. My eyes were immediately drawn to all the exotic fruit. My Asian friends explained to me what the fruit was called and how it tasted. One of my Vietnamese friends bought a carton of magosteen fruit which was quite delicious. It looks like a plum and inside there is a white fruit that you eat. It is difficult to explain. If you ever have the chance to eat it you should! Inside the grocery store they had some hot food you could chose from. I got pork, rice, and green beans to go as did a few of my friends.
Once we finished lunch we all made the trek back to our dorms where we met up with one of our internship coordinators Donna. Donna is a native to Hong Kong. She took us to the office building where we could apply for visas to go to mainland china for a weekend. At the office the line was pretty long. It reminded me of going to the DMV back in the states. My friends and I filled out all the paperwork and handed in over to the visa officers. Hopefully, I will be going to see the Great Wall of China one weekend once I get my visa approved!
After applying for visas we decided to walk along the bay. It was a beautiful afternoon and my friends and I enjoyed every minute of it.
That night we went to dinner at a restaurant in Festival Walk (the mall near our dorms and where I go catch the MTR every day to work) called Rice Paper. It was a lovely place. I ordered Vietnamese Pho Soup because a few of my friends recommended it. Essentially it was a beef broth soup with thick noodles and raw beef. What makes it special is that the beef is partially raw and you must push it to the bottom of the soup bowl to have it continue to cook. During dinner my friends and I conversed about many things including international politics.
Tuesday was my first day of work. Rachel and I woke up at 8am and left our dorms at 8:50am. On our way out one of the internship coordinators, Rafeeq from Dream Careers, took our photo. Once Rachel and I got off at our MTR station we noticed the dark clouds looming over our heads. Sure enough as soon as we entered the cafe to eat breakfast it started pouring rain! Both of us forgot our umbrellas so after we ate our food we held our blazers over our heads and ran to our building. Once inside a man approached us asking where we needed to go. He directed us upstairs and we met Hilda the secretary of my boss Mr. Chung Kai Sin. Hilda gave us a quick tour of our office and then took us to get our member’s staff cards so we could enter the building everyday for work.
Rachel and I were shown our desks which are very spacious. We sit side by side which is extremely convenient. We each have our own desktop computers we can use but all the programs are in Cantonese so it is a good thing I have my iPad. Soon after arriving to work Mr. Chung Kai Sin brought us into his office to introduce himself. He is a pleasant man and I know I will enjoy working for him. He is married and has two sons that are around my age. One just graduated college and will be starting an internship this fall in Chicago. Small world! Mr. Chung Kai gave Rachel and I some projects to work on. Since Rachel is an International Relations major she is working on things related to Hong Kong politics. Since my major is Corporate Communications Mr. Chung Kai gave me the task of updating his resume, Facebook, website, etc. So I am pretty much the media/communications person for Mr. Chung Kai. I am excited to have the opportunity to put my knowledge to the test!
Around 2:30pm Rachel and I were given a tour of the Legislative Council. We learned about its founding and how the new Legislative Council Complex (that I work in) came to be. The new complex started construction in 2006 and it was finished in 2011. It is a beautiful building. The old building looks similar to the White House since it was built by the British under their rule. It is now used for the high courts. After our tour Rachel and I waited for Mr. Chung Kai to meet us so he could take us into the Legislative Chamber where all the important meetings take place. We took photos together with Mr. Chung Kai and he explained to us that every Wednesday there are meetings in the chamber and we can sit in on any that we like. All the chamber meetings are translated into English through a individual headphones you get from the front desk. I will definitely be sitting in on a few of those meetings!
Wednesday was an exciting day in Hong Kong as it was the International Dragon Boat Festival! It is such a big event that it is a federal holiday over here. So most everyone from Dream Careers headed out at 10:30 to go watch these races that were taking place about two hours from Kowloon in Stanly. It was quite the bus ride for many reasons. One was because we saw some spectacular views of the south side of Hong Kong. It is not as developed as other parts of the city and I really got to see a picturesque image of Hong Kong. To see these spectacular views though, we had to traverse some narrow two lane streets in the mountains of Hong Kong on a double decker bus. At one point the turn was so sharp, we almost hit the cliff. Luckily we got there in one piece and just in time for the festival!
I noticed very quickly it was going to be a big day when I stepped off the bus and could not see the road because there was never a break in the foot traffic. It was amazing how many different people there were here to watch these races. I later found out that over 250 teams were competing today. The whole town was pretty much crawling with pedestrians and anyone who was trying to drive was better off walking. We walked through the town and a group of us ate at a Vietnamese restaurant. I had some calamari, some curry chicken and rice, some pho soup, and rice crackers. It was very delicious. I think I am finally starting to adjust to the food here and see how good food actually is when it is not loaded with preservatives and other additives back in the states. After our amazing meal, we went and visited a local temple in the heart of the town. It was surrounded by a huge shopping center but that did not break the peacefulness on the inside. When entering the temple you want to avoid stepping on the entrance platform as it is a sign of bad luck. Once inside, I immediately smelled smoke. As we walked further in, I saw people were getting matches and lighting them as they were praying to gods around the temple. After lighting the match, they would bow three times and then pray for however long they wanted. It was so interesting to see so many gods that they prayed too and that this tradition continues on despite the massive amounts of modernization happening in Hong Kong. I am glad I got to see this temple and am anxious to visit more while in Asia.
After the temple we headed over to the beach to see the races and I was not disappointed. The atmosphere was electric. It was the same type of atmosphere of a big time football game has back in the states. There were people everywhere playing in the water, screaming, chanting, and yelling. There were over 250 teams competing and each team was decorated in costumes and we saw the full spectrum from where’s Waldo to Captain America to Star Wars. In case you were wondering, the Captain America team won the competition for best costume even though I definitely think Star Wars had better costumes.
The competition is pretty simple: there are 8 lanes and each lane has a boat with about twenty people inside that line up at the beginning of the harbor and raced about a quarter of a mile back to the beach. It was great just walking on the beach and taking in all the sights and sounds. At one point one team was carrying around a blow up panda around. All the teams came from different countries and places. I saw it as the Olympics in a way for boat racing. Teams came from businesses like Deloitte and Accenture as well as Disneyland. It was a great way to advertise their business while having a little fun in the process. At one point, we even saw that the University of Michigan had brought a team over! I stopped them and asked to take a photo because I thought it was so cool running into Michiganders half way around the world! It was great to see everyone was smiling and that was quite a powerful symbol for me as it is one sign that we all can understand and relate to; a smile can make most anyone feel content and develop a sense of unity among people despite the different ethnic and language backgrounds. I did not want to be anywhere else on Wednesday except with all of those people smiling and laughing over a great tradition in Hong Kong.
Thursday I worked again. I had a meeting with my boss about his resume and I have a few more projects to add to my list of things to do.
Today is just work again. But tonight my friends and I are planning a night out to celebrate our first week in Hong Kong! On our list of things to do is go to the top of the IFC building to overlook Hong Kong at night. I cannot wait!