Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm in China?

Greetings from Hong Kong, the land of busses, skyscrapers, and of course shopping!

This week has been a complete blur so I'll try my best to fill everyone in with what I've been doing. Hopefully I'll bring my camera out today and get some pictures of more places so I can give everyone a better idea of what China is really like, as it is so different it is hard to describe in words.

Getting into the airport, it finally hit me that I had in fact arrived on the other side of the world, looking around I received my first taste of asian words, mostly just exit, which is relatively simple to recognize, and written in english and chinese everywhere. I did my best to memorize that just in case I'll need any fast escapes in the future. Immigration and currency exchange was done very quickly, and soon I was outside waiting with other international students ready to get our first taste of driving in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong there are only three types of cars, BMW's, busses and taxis. Having a car is incredibly expensive in Hong Kong, because of how packed the city is, it's something like 3 million people living on the main island alone so parking and gas prices are ridiculous to keep the traffic down. They also follow the British system of driving on the left side, and I'm pretty sure they make up their own driving rules as they go. Needless to say our first ride was quite exciting. I met a couple other international students, including a german named Markus. He lives in the dorm adjacent to mine, so after putting our stuff into our rooms, we met up to get dinner. He also had a fellow german on his hall, named Steffan, who had been here for a few days, so he came with us to take a bus to get dinner at the International Finance Centre. This proved to be a bust as it was too late for any stores to be open at the IFC mall, but we met a morrocan who swore he had lived in Hong Kong 15 years ago, and was "very very good with directions." He took us on the underground metro to a local bar/red light district of Wan Chai, and so began our first night in Hong Kong.

Wan Chai is a mix of nice bars, sleazy "discos" and strip clubs. We were very unaware of this at first, but it soon became evident. We went to a disco club, where they treated us like rockstars, we had our own VIP booth, and all the Filipino girls who came to Hong Kong for vacation came and tried to flirt with us. I found it pretty funny, but we soon realized they were getting serious and we left pretty quick. After that we roamed the bar districts mingling with locals, and taking the nightlife of China in. We took a taxi home, which like all public transportation is ridiculously cheap in Hong Kong, about 3 american dollars for a ride almost anywhere, and I got my first taste of lack not having prepaid air conditioning at night. At the dorms in HKU, there is a pay as you go system, where you pay for a certain amount of credits, and you need to swipe your card in order to receive air conditioning.

The next morning, I woke up very early by the yells of the new hall members orientation camp, or o-camp as they call it. Here at HKU, the halls act as a sort of fraternity for the new students, and accordingly, they are hazed during their first week of orientation. This I found pretty funny, as they blasted My Humps at 7 AM to wake up the new kids, and made them do crazy activities all day, including carrying each other around campus and between campus and the dorms. This might not seem too bad, but in the 100 degree, humid weather that is a mainstay of Hong Kong, it gets pretty bad. I went to campus in order to get registered and begin the process to get internet, which lasted me about 3 days, and get a feel for campus. HKU was built into the side of a mountain, so it is a continuous process of climbing stairs, finding elevators, and figuring out which ground floor equates with the 5th floor of the next building. I also began to appreciate the cold shower, as it is so hot in the dorm if your air conditioner is not in use, that taking a cold shower is a welcom relief. Hong Kong is so bad about giving relief to the heat, that even my cold shower turned warm! I will put up pictures of the university soon, when I find some time to as well!

After my time on campus, I met up with my friend Tessa who I knew at Richmond, and had graduated, together we arranged to meet up at the IFC and go find food. She took me to a great local restaurant and we had a great time together. She said she was going to Wan Chai that night as it was ladies night, and told me to call her later if I ended up there.

Later that night, I had met a few more people, and including markus and steffan, we all went to Mong Kok, the cheap back street shopping district. We meandered the streets haggling to buy cell phones, and socks. Eventually we got phones for less than 40 dollars! After this, we soon realized a definite set back in Hong Kong, there are no public places to sit anywhere throughout the streets. With our legs killing us, we decided to get back on the subway, and ended up in no other place than Wan Chai! While wandering down the streets I ran into Tessa again, and she showed us a great underground austrailian bar, and we had a great time. As it was late and I forgot which bus to take back to HKU, Tessa took me to her apartment and I stayed in her brothers bed. Her apartment is in the mid-levels, and includes 4 bedrooms, a great view, a filipino housekeeper(which is very common here) and a little dog named cookie! The next morning Tessa took me to a local department store to get my bedding and pillows, and took me on trams throughout the city. We had a great time, and eventually I went back home and got all my things together and got ready for a night in Lan Kwai Fong.

Lan Kwai Fong, if that's spelled right, is a great place for bars, with mostly people my age, and filled with bars that range from irish pubs, to ritzy nightclubs with dress codes. As we were underdressed, we did not really go to the nightclubs, but we went to a bar called 1997, which remarkably only played 1997 underground hip-hop, which unfortunately was not the best year for hip-hop. We also discovered the pharmacy, where you can buy PBR and Budweiser for less than a dollar. In the pharmacy, the best sign we saw was "Melatonin, to help you sleep when girlfriend say 'no'" We wandered the bars until we found a nightclub that was cheap and had a raggae band from jamaica playing American hits, where we met up with other international students and had a great time. I also had my first experience with McDonalds, as I was really hungary and couldnt understand the street vendors. I found the mcdonalds which has a 7 HKU dollar menu, to our equivelent 1 dollar menu. Me and Markus quickly called it a night around 2, because of orientation the next day.

Friday, I woke up very early to the o-camp hazing cheers, and went to campus and got my internet working finally! This was a huggeeee deal for me, and orientation started around 10. I met another American from philly, named Dan who was the typical east coaster, and we hung out most of the day, orientation went by quickly, and at around 6 30, I went out to meet my HKU Buddy Vincent. He called and told me to meet him in Mong Kok, which I figured would be easy, but 3 bus trips later, I figured out I might want to get better directions before I go out on my own again. We eventually met up and had dinner, but I had to cut the night short, as I was incredibly tired from the day before. I came home, swiped on the air conditioner, and quickly got some sleep.

Today I'm going to try to find a mattress pad, because apparently getting drunk and passing out isn't an option for every night, and the mattresses here are much harder than in america. I'm also going to go to the gym, and see if anyones playing any sports. In Hong Kong, there is plenty of walking, but not a lot of green grass areas to play some sports. Tonight I'm going to try to meet up with Tessa and some other international students and maybe find a good bar to hang out at, or like Dan at least try to find a place to watch some american football. War Eagle.

This is the view from my dorm window!