Reflections on My Two Week Sabbatical in Hong Kong
My trip to Hong Kong over the last two weeks has allowed me to reflect on a few different areas of my life.
Being American born Chinese is a weird place to be when it comes to figuring out who you are and how you fit in the world. You are a mishmash of sometimes-clashing cultures, and that can make you wonder where you fit or why you do certain things. I’ve often felt like I have weird habits or do things that don’t quite fit into American culture (like that I eat a lot of foods with bones that require the spitting out of said bones). I realized that in Hong Kong, a lot of those same habits are totally normal. In fact, they’re extremely prevalent and make me feel right at home. It is a good reminder that although I am just as American as any other person born in the United States, that I haven’t lost touch with many of the cultural aspects of the Hong Kong people.
Four years ago, I made a trip to Hong Kong to visit my grandma in the hospital—she was in her early 80s at that point, and I didn’t think she had much time left. Well, fast forward four years, and she seems to be doing okay. I’ve been fascinated by watching how she maneuvers around the house—she’s been legally blind for most of her life and at this stage in her life, I’m sure it has gotten worse. Watching her eat and remember where everything is fascinates me. I was trying to be helpful one day and moved a bowl away from her when she finished her rice, and then 30 seconds later, she went to pour broth into it and I had to move it back to where she left it. We take such small things for granted (like vision) every day.
Another highlight was watching Winston meet and interact with my grandma. My grandma is legally blind and extremely hard of hearing—based on that, she doesn’t get a ton of visitors and has a more difficult time making friends. She also doesn’t speak English. But the moment she met him, and held his hands, her face lit up. She used all the English she knows to say hi and hello repeatedly, while smiling with pure joy. She did the same over FaceTime as well, and could not have been more happy to hear from someone who she could barely communicate with. I’ve spent as much time with her as my parents thought we had time for (it’s a 40 minute commute each way), and leaving her has been extremely hard on both of us since I don’t have the opportunity to stay in touch with her after I leave unless she’s still around when I can visit next.
It has also been a fascinating time to visit due to the protests and demonstrations by the pro-democracy groups. I have family on opposing sides of the political viewpoints, so it’s been interesting to compare opinions. We didn’t encounter any protesters (nor did we want to), but we had the chance to see some of the damage that was done to Tsim Sha Tsui and it was unfathomable (the demonstrators lifted probably thousands of brick pavers from the sidewalks and dropped them off bridges and into the roads, obstructing traffic and damaging vehicles. There was also a situation where demonstrators were protesting in a University building—there was a standoff since the police surrounded the building and the protestors refused to leave because they didn’t want to get arrested. The situation is so complex that I haven’t even been able to form an opinion on the matter.
Overall, it’s been a useful time for reflection spending my sabbatical exploring my cultural background, my relationship with my family overseas, and the political unrest that is facing the people of Hong Kong.