Happy Birthday in Hong Kong by Andy Duong

Another day in Hong Kong and today was particularly special. Today is my 22nd birthday so it was my first time in my entire life that I got to spend it without my family around. It was truly an interesting experience. At the beginning of the day, our group head over the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to have a special lecture from Professor Hong Fat Wong and Professor Fong. Professor Wong gave a lecture on Traditional Chinese Medicine.

After Professor Wong finished his lecture, Professor Fong came back to take us to the student lunch canteen for lunch. When we arrived, the PolyU canteen was different from our SJSU dining common. When you enter, there will be six tv screen that shows all the menu from each station, which varies from to curry, wonton noodle soup, rice with beef, and more. For me, I got the pork chop noodle soup and cost was inexpensive as the total comes up to around $30 hkd which also included drinks as well. The soup itself was delicious so I was delighted and wonder if my school can have this option as well. After we were done with our lunch, we brought our tray to the tray collection area and head back to the same room where Professor Fong will give us a lecture on Hong Kong health system and mental health.

Professor Fong lecture was quite interesting. She gave us an in-depth lecture on the function of Hong Kong healthcare system. She also later introduces an interesting exercise called “laughter yoga.” The purpose of this exercise is to improve your health and relieve stress by first clapping, followed by deep breathing exercising, and perform any kind of childlike playfulness while laughing. By the end of the exercise, everyone was laughing and enjoyed a new side of Professor Fong. The group will remember this one-of-a-kind exercise and I have seen some of my classmates do the same exercise on random situations.

When we concluded our lecture for today, we had back to the dorm to take a break, but before that, Professor Karen suggested we go out to dinner for my birthday. Among the options I decided an Italian restaurant, named La Taverna, to celebrate my birthday. So after a restful break, we head out to La Taverna, where the layout inside definitely has Italian influences to it. As we were ordering our meal, the main chef came out to greet us and was delighted to hear we came to his restaurant for my birthday. For my dish, I ordered a sea bass dish with spinach underneath and glazed with lobster sauce while everyone else ordered various dishes from pasta to a rib eye steak. Afterward, we ordered dessert where I ordered an almond cake with ice cream on top. To my surprise, the chef wrote happy birthday on it using chocolate syrup and put a candle on top and everyone began to sing happy birthday. I was extremely happy by this turn of event and I was glad that I got to share my birthday with my friends and teacher.

Walking in the Future by Vivi Nguyen

It’s amazing to see how much civilization has changed from our ancestors. We live in a world today that is readily shaped for us. We have endless opportunities to grow and to learn, but what was it like before? I often take everything I have for granted without thinking about how it came about. Luckily, I got to revisit the past of Central, Hong Kong through a tour guide from Gabi. As we walked to the past, we were also preparing to walk into the future of an even more technologicly developed country.

Our day started at 9AM to make sure we got to tour most of Central on Hong Kong Island. We took a ferry there to see the geological features surrounding the island. Without even knowing, I had already visited the island prior to the tour; I just did not know because I took the MTR there. The ferry ride took only five minutes, but I got to see the original ports that used to be the only option to travel to and from Hong Kong Island. Once we got off, we walked through a large building with forty-eight floors to get a good view of what the island had in store. The views were amazing! All the buildings were strategically built and placed. Gabi taught us that HK island is natural. Instead of changing the land to fit the buildings, the British accommodated it. Some buildings are built on a slope, with others are on the flatter parts of the land. After, we walked through Central to dive into depth of the symbolism behind certain buildings.

Hong Kong Island was dominated by the British until the Chinese came to claim the land. It was a tricky process filled with mind games between the two groups. Essentially, they “fought” each other with symbolism through architect. For example, the Bank of China Tower was built to resemble the same structure as growing bamboo, which stands for livelihood and prosperity. The structure has triangular frameworks and grows narrower the higher the building is. It is coated with glass curtain walls all around, having a distinctive characteristic. However, the sharp edges caused controversy among practitioners of feng shui, saying that it caused negative energy.

During the 1990s, the Chinese were trying to fight for government. The great symbolism behind the Bank of China Tower is that the tip cuts diagonally toward the church. The two groups decided that one would belong to the Chinese, while the other side belongs to the British.

Bank of China Tower. The structure represents growing bamboo with triangular frames. It symbolizes prosperity.

Meanwhile, two other structures were built to push the “bad energy” of feng shui away from the Bank of China Tower. These two towers were built on both sides of the bank to create a triangle. One was built with completely flat edges with squared patterns and a mirror. The purpose was to reflect the bad energy up and away without contributing to the bad feng shui. The other building across the mirrored one was built with a curve to trap and follow the energy from the Bank of China Tower.

Building next to the Bank of China Tower. It is built with flat edges and mirrors up top to reflect the tower.

Building across from the mirrored building, forming a triangle between that and the Bank of China Tower. It is curved to trap the bad energy.

These skyscrapers make a great view, but it’s even nicer to be able to learn about its history. These buildings all come with stories that shaped civilization for the better. Without them, Hong Kong would not be what it is today. It’s easy to admire, but it’s hard to understand the true beauty of it all. Once in a while, we should dive into our ancestors’ history to truly appreciate the wonderful views they gave us.

The true lesson of today’s tour is that we must never forget our roots.

Central, Hong Kong in the 90’s.

Rise and Shine! Organic Farm Time by Qiwen Lei

Today, many people chose to eat or buy organic food but very few of them have visited one. Actually, this is also the first time that many of us are visiting one too. Definitely an experience I would never forget. There were only four farm workers in this small three acres’ farm. After touring the entire farm. I understand there is a lot of work each farm worker has to put into it for this farm to grow. Sometimes, the weather or the pests can ruin the entire section of crop and all the work put in it would go to waste.

Early Monday morning, we met up with Gabi at the school dorms around 10 AM. From Ho Man Tin we took the MTR to Kam Sheung Road. There was not one MTR that took us directly there so we transfer at Mong Kok and Mei Foo. Once we exited the station, there was a bus from the farm that took us directly there. The farm is up the hills and I did not see any buses that was going up that road. The minute we got there, Tin, the tour guide gave us an introduction of himself and also about the organic farm. Next, he took us to the different greenhouses and introduced the vegetables and fruits.

Watermelon is one of the fruits they grow in one of the greenhouses on the farm. According to the Tin, it is best to grow watermelon in the summer time. Watermelon also does not like to be watered so in order to water the watermelon, the farm workers put a silver foil cloth between the watermelon and soil. They have pipes under the silver foil cloth to water it. This way, the watermelon itself would not be wet. When water touches the watermelon, it will split in half. The foil cloth is silver so it helps reflects radiation and provides a warm surface for the watermelon to grow. On the left side of the picture above, there is a yellow watermelon. The yellow watermelon is a Taiwanese breed. Even though it is yellow on the outside, the flesh of the watermelon is still red.

At the end of the tour, Tin led us one of the greenhouses and we started plowing all the weeds out. This is one of the tasks the farm workers have to do to maintain the organic farm. Since no pesticides are used to keep pests away from the vegetables and fruits, this also means no pesticides are used to keep the weeds from growing. Even though we had a large area of weed to clean up, we finished it quickly since there are so many of us. Afterward cleaning up, we had the chance to make our own dumplings for lunch.

For some us, we have made dumplings at home before with our parents and for the rest of us, this is also the first time to make dumplings. At the end, all of the dumplings came out delicious. For my table, a lot of us have made dumplings before so it was not a challenge. When we were about to cook the dumplings, the lady wanted us to make broth with the sauces but instead we wanted to boil the dumplings and make our own sauces to dip the boil dumplings in. Either way was delicious. The dumpling making was definitely a great way to end an informative and hands-on tour.

Hong Kong Disneyland by Rafael Bettencourt

In Hong Kong, certain locations contain qualities that are significant to the neighborhood. Choi Hung estate was a location we previously visited, but due to bad weather, we were unable to enjoy the essence of the building. Each apartment is painted a different color and Choi Hung is known for their rainbow-patterned buildings. Once again, due to bad weather, we were unable to take pictures the first time, so we planned to return on June 17. On our return, we managed to take pictures that captured the significance of the building. After a few minutes of pictures, we were excited to attend Hong Kong Disneyland and experience Disney in a different location.

Once we arrived to Disneyland, I took the time to distinguish the differences between the location in the United States and the location in Hong Kong. The first thing I noticed was the price of the ticket. I was surprised to only pay $70 dollars for a Disneyland ticket. Usually, the price for a Disneyland ticket, in Anaheim, is around $200 dollars. Therefore, the price definitely raised some questions, but my excitement to experience a new Disneyland overshadowed my doubt.

When we entered Disneyland, the first thing I found similar was the Hyperspace Mountain ride. As we began to board, the ride attractions were different in Hong Kong. I noticed that the seats on the ride were way smaller than the usual ones in California. In addition, the rides were slower and each land only contained a few rides. Compared to the location in Anaheim, the Hong Kong Disney was half of that size, less rides and the food was also different.

When I attend Disneyland in Anaheim, I instantly look for the ever-famous turkey legs. Once I discovered that Hong Kong also sold turkey legs, I was on the hunt to find one for lunch. After countless walks around the park, I found what I was looking for, but was instantly surprised by the size of the leg. The turkey leg was really small and it came with gloves. Hygiene is a serious norm in Hong Kong and everything here is sanitized everyday. Therefore, the gloves were provided to prevent messy hands, when eating the turkey. I did not end up buying the turkey leg, but I did transition my efforts towards looking for a root beer float.

Unfortunately, Disneyland in Hong Kong did not have root-beer floats, but they did have coke floats. However, I craved a float with orange soda, which was not a familiar selection in Hong Kong Disney. Nevertheless, the cashier began to prepare my float, but this float was very different from the ones in the United States. The float consisted of mainly soda, with a half of scoop of ice cream. Usually, floats are made with lots of ice cream and less soda, but it was different here.

As our day came to an end, we reminisced the differences of the two Disneyland’s. We did notice that this Disneyland was smaller and can be easily explored in one day. Other than that, we noticed that the food selection in Hong Kong were limited to specific foods, while in Anaheim, there is a mass selection. Finally, the difference in rides was the seating space and the speeds of each ride. The seats in Hong Kong were smaller and each ride went slower than usual. All in all, Hong Kong Disney was an amazing experience that I would not forget.

Traditional Host Family Dinner by Maggie Pan

Entering a 53-floor high-rise that resembled a five-star hotel, I along with two other students had dinner with Churonley, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University graduate, at her home on the 50th floor. When we arrived at the front door, we left our umbrellas and took off our shoes outside before going inside the apartment. We were welcomed by Churonley’s husband along with their two sons, Isaac and Hector. Their daughter, Chloe, was not there yet since she was still at school. The family lives in a small apartment with a kitchen, combined living and dining room, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Since Churonley’s husband had to go pick up Chloe from school and the maid was finishing up cooking the rest of the food, we had to put off dinner for a while. Before dinner was ready, we were first served with tea, dumplings dipped in spicy sauce and red vinegar, as well as Asian snacks that included maltose crackers and seaweed.

While waiting for Churonley’s husband and daughter to come back, Churonley took us on a tour around the clubhouse within the apartment tower where there are many facilities accommodating various activities, including lounges, gym, swimming pool, and playrooms. After returning to the flat, we were then served with soup containing many different types of Chinese herbs that are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. When Churonley’s husband and daughter returned home, we got settled for dinner as the maid scooped white rice into everyone’s bowl along with bringing out the food for dinner. The delicious dishes consisted of beef-wrapped mushroom, garlic shrimp, pork-stuffed green peppers and tofu, curry chicken, steamed fish, soy sauce chicken wings, water spinach, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms.

Throughout dinner, Churonley had been a very kind and thoughtful host who constantly filled our bowls with more food as soon as she saw our bowls were almost left with only rice. We continued to eat until our stomachs felt satisfied from the yummy feast. After dinner was finished, Churonley asked the maid to bring out black sesame ball soup and honeydew for dessert.

As the fun day came to an end, Churonley borrowed her daughter’s school books to teach us more about Chinese culture, such as the holidays and history, before we left to go back to our dorm feeling contented.