My Hong Kongese Dream

From Denmark to Estonia

Month: May 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Rebellion sets you free

German recognises Peking instead of Beijing at the Berlin Schönefeld Airport.

German recognises Peking instead of Beijing at the Berlin Schönefeld Airport.

From Berlin to Munich, it took me an hour of domestic flight, followed by another 12-hour flight from Munich to Hong Kong. 

Unlike the first 12 hours of flight from Hong Kong to Germany, there wasn’t a need for me to worry about whether I would be escorted by the German inspection officers as I possess the autography of Adolf Hitler, a former German leader who is remembered for his evil spirit.

On the plane, I was so blessed that I could sit with an international journalism fellow who is well-mannered, and respectful to the her student identity. So I began my reading and reflection, having a bitter taste to look back my journey. It was all started with my rebellious character. If I obey my parents, I would never have a chance to visit Kazakhstan with a price of skipping 2 written exams, along with Germany–spending HKD4,500 for a week in spite of its reasonable price.

Without reading through the thoughts of Hitler by finishing his autobiography, the banned book was kept in my luggage which I couldn’t take a glimpse into it. It’s ashamed that I couldn’t review the biggest flaw of a German leader, but let it be. I spent few hours on reciting my memories about this busy study trip.

When we got back to Hong Kong, there was a heavy storm and rain welcoming us, delaying our flight for more than an hour. Then my friend vomited but no flight attendant was willing to help her. Another classmate of mine argued with those irresponsible flight attendants who talked so loudly in German during the flight. All was in a disappointment when I realised that Germans were not as disciplined as I once imagined.

And I found myself lost in the concrete jungle again.

Remembering the ceased at the concentration camp

German student Nico commemorates his great-grandparents as they were killed in the concentration camp at Berlin, Germany.

German student Nico commemorates his great-grandparents as they were killed in the concentration camp at Berlin, Germany.

The Germany trip is too sudden to say goodbye. 

With a hour-long morning walk in concentration camp memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, and Checkpoint Charlie, the German road signs nearly got me lost. But the last day shouldn’t be wasted with some struggles in getting lost, then we went to Federal Press Office to compare the difference between Government Information Services in Hong Kong and the one in Germany. The last meal in Germany was settled in a market with a visit to concentration camp along with some conversations with a German and a Romanian respectively.

Failed to have a jog in Berlin according to my travel plan, I managed to take photos of some historical sites for better context and clarity. There were few security guards protecting the tourist spots because some of them didn’t even wake up. As the sun rose, the beauty of Berlin’s morning has disappeared. I rushed back to hotel for breakfast since I needed to puck up my belongings.

For the first place to visit on the last day in Berlin, we watched an introductory video clip about Federal Press Office in Germany. While lots of students spent nearly half an hour to take pictures at the model press conference stage for politicians such as the Prime Minister of Germany, it was such a waste that there was a press conference so that further visit in the press office was unavailable. In addition to such unfortunate arrangement, there was no English version available for the leaflet, implying that they had no intention to recruit English-speaking media which may read their leaflets.

As the press office was not interesting enough to draw the attention of the general public. our team left after taking group photos regarding our concentrations. We moved to Marheineke Marthalle, a market of the intersection point between our hotel and the airport. Inside the market, there was a French selling sausage as she studies German language in this place. She couldn’t speak German but she still managed to get a job in the market as a promotor. Another “local” I encountered was a Polish who moved to Germany when she was 5. She considered herself as half-German and half-Polish as she has roots in Poland but she grew up in Germany. We hugged and split, as if the world turned to the point where we could never meet again.

The final spot was the real concentration camp site. Everything was too saddening as Holocaust is the worst history of human civilisation. Nico, the German student who made contact with me during the world conference in Korea, met me just because it’s my last day in Berlin. He had both great parents being killed in the concentration camp. So his company signified my indirect linkage with the tragedy–my friend’s relatives were killed in the brutal anti-human crime. Yet, all the scenes were not as horrible as imagined. The whole site was a quiet place where not a single bird sings, and it was an empty land where you could only associate it with nothing but peace.

Lasted for a couple of hours, I waived at my German friend as the flight was in the evening. While all visiting students were waiting at Berlin Airport and waited for departure, I cherished every chance to talk to locals, if not foreigners in Germany. There was a German who wishes to find her spiritual life with all possible ways, getting different job experience from being a nurse to a nutritionist, refusing to be a normal office lady who can’t be free in any time. As she left, I talked to another girl from Romania–an officer for recruitment team from human resources department. She was born and raised in the developing country, yet she got a chance to visit various places since she fought for it. I was so impressed and felt spoiled by Hong Kong, a country where you can get almost everything apart from democracy.

As the Romanian girl told me more about her business trips in Europe, I can’t stop wondering if I would have a similar picture few years later.

Magazine, interview and Bavarian restaurant

Deutscher Bundestag, a German parliamentary building which was opened in 1894.

Deutscher Bundestag, a German parliamentary building which was opened in 1894.

Visited Die Zeit magazine, the second day in Berlin started off with a long visit to Brandenburg Gate along with an epic Bavarian dinner with my German friend. 

Helped by our American lecturer Robin, we managed to meet up with a China-based German journalist who had her Chinese assistant detained in China as the assistant was charged with disturbing social order as she supported the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. The conversation started with the political spectrum of German media as its political situation is much more complicated than Hong Kong since German is deemed as the leader of European Union. After a wave of silence by most of my classmates, me and a Beijing journalism student struggled to ask questions and we wrapped up the talk with German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s ordinary past and her trustworthy characters.

With some hints by the local journalist, me and another classmate planned to go to East Side Gallery of Berlin Wall but we didn’t get there since the train drivers were on strike. As I interviewed a German university student who smoked weed, me and other classmates split since I wanted to know more about the cultural identity issue in Berlin. After the weird interview, I went to Brandenburg to witness the gate where Hitler passed by as he marched, witnessing a protest against immigration policy in Germany. The volunteer told me that it was a demonstration of African immigrants who suffered form the ongoing immigration policies in European countries. Later, I was interviewed by 2 Germans about a documentary on why there are a lot of visitors going to Germany for a holiday.

Since I didn’t have lunch around the tourist spot, I went to a supermarket and bought some cheese and water for lunch. It reminded me of Les Miserables. After reflecting upon my second day in Berlin for a while, I met up with my German friend who was a delegate of USA in the Harvard World Model United Nations in Seoul. We met there as we were political enemies during the game. But after all we are friends who can share our political views.

Nico, a German student I met in Korea, brought me to a Bavarian restaurant for a one-Litre beer. It was all great for the costume of waitress as well as the Bavarian curry and sausages. The dish and our deep conversation filled up my stomach and mind. We talked from our Model UN experiences to the rise of China and cross-cultural relationship. Everything was so insightful that I will never forget this eye-opening dinner. It only costed me 8 Euros along with several hours.

I didn’t get drunk after drinking the one-Litre beer but I was too tired to update my blog on a daily basis.

The divided German capital

Rotes Rathaus, which was heavily damaged in World War II, literally means Red Town Hall.

Rotes Rathaus, which was heavily damaged in World War II, literally means Red Town Hall.

The Cold War sparked decades of debate on what’s right and wrong, and the world order has changed since the fall of Berlin Wall–a symbol of divide between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and Germany Democratic Republic (GDR). 

The Berlin journey started off with a group photo at Berlin Wall, followed by few hours of free time have a brief look on other historical spots. What surprised me the most were a Korean who speaks fluent German and a Chinese shop owner who knows my teacher in Hong Kong. They were all found near Checkpoint Charlie, a gate which used to separate East Germans and West Germans as a border between Soviet-occupied and American-occupied areas.

Getting into the official souvenir shop, I met a Korean who moved to East Germany 40 years ago as he studied there. We barely speak the same language as he was terrible in English while I only knew few words of German. Few steps across the street, there was a wall about a quote of the former US president Kennedy with German and Chinese as translation. As I approached the Chinese guy, he responded with such a generous tone that every Chinese can enjoy the privilege of taking photos and videos of him while we were talking. Surprisingly, he knew a former lecturer of mine who called Minghay. The Chinese souvenir shop owner shared his impression towards Minghay, the Hong Kong man who rid his bike from China to Germany. Regarding his views on Hong Kong and democratic development in China, he insisted that mainland Chinese have lost their rational judgment as state media and online opinion have reinforced the sociological imagination of the Chinese society.

Time is always limited to tell all the stories in Berlin. With nothing but a rush, all the visiting students gathered at the subway station and went to Alexandar Plaz, where there are several historical architectures which makes Berlin an nostalgic city. It was a restaurant having folk music performance along with saliva-stimulating dishes. Sitting with a group of mainland students, the dynamics of human interaction was formed as they came out and danced with the German youngsters.

After the fantastic feast sponsored by our university, I left the German restaurant myself before the sunset. Then I wandered around Alexandar Plaz without knowing where to go, struggling for a photo essay with several captions.

Feeling lost and bored, I talked to 3 high school girls to see if they could suggest me some places for my feature writing, yet they seemed not to be familiar with this place as they had been studied for only several months and it was their last day at school. They played some American music as the background and danced and drank, so I followed with their beat and asked several questions regarding youth culture. All of them have simplistic lives without much competitions and worries.

Among 3 South German girls, there was one unique story to tell. She’s Anna, a 17-year-old mixed with French and German. She could hardly tell me whether she’s a German and French as she was often teased by her classmates as a French but she’s deeply rooted in Germany. Without any opinion about East-West Germany reunification, she told me about her hardship as a cheerful girl who couldn’t sympathise the sad feelings of the others as she always feels good about everything. Before we left the park, we drank a shot of Volka together.

And the alcohol couldn’t set us free. Unfortunately.

Rings and hugs in central Leipzig

Beyerhaus Leipzig–bar & billiard pub for socialising.

Beyerhaus Leipzig–bar & billiard pub with Modern Times-like decoration.

When the iron guards hit the bell under the violet sky, it means an hour has passed. My second day in Leipzig not only sparkle bottles of water, but also stimulates some new thoughts towards life. 

Kicking off the day by a guest lecture about strategic communication at Leipzig University, the teaching content was informative enough to list out all the statistics about why communication is important for the success of a corporation without specifying how to effectively manage crises by applying the knowledge. As a journalism student, questioning the doubt is a mandatory act to maintain professionalism. So I gave him a situational question to see how he would respond to crises. While I took his points regarding risk management before taking further actions against the crisis, there are some general ideas which even the unsophisticated can answer.

Followed by a school tour after the lecture, all visiting students enjoyed their free time and I chose to interview some local students about their views on Germany reunification and World War II. At first there were 2 university students who have no opinion towards those historical events as they study elementary English for teaching, yet I later encountered 2 thoughtful university students who study British and German history respectively. They didn’t just share their views on reunification but also some bad callings about West Germans against East Germans, and vice versa. Impressed by their friendliness, the history dual further introduced me their campus–a gigantic church with post-modern architecture.

The conversation lasted for more than an hour, then we split with reluctance. All these moments reminded my time in Kazakhstan, where dozens of locals surrounding me and treated me like a nobel guest. My Kazakh sentiment intensifies as Germans are much more disciplined and mechanic than Kazakhs. Yet, I did enjoy talking to few individuals in Leipzig.

Back to the hotel, reflecting on the conversation about an hour, I went around Leipzig to check out its village-like lifestyle. I treasured every moment in the town, capturing as many majestic architecture as possible. Yet, most of the locals couldn’t tell me what these buildings are and fortunately a non-local latino helped me to get into the city hall. All Hong Kong students were then delighted as the department of journalism at HKBU offered a free German buffet at Moritzbastei, a bar restaurant at Leipzig University.

After a huge feast in the university, some of us went to Beyerhaus Leipzig, a bar and billiard pub that looked like the Modern Times. Everything was so old in a way that I thought I went to time travel and saw the past of East Germany. I fell in love with this little town. While some Hong Kong students were not actively engaged with the conversation at first, when I talked about Cantonese foul language, the folks were so excited to teach the German students how to pronounce some dirty words. The German students taught us some common bad words in return, but we somehow forgot all these complicated syllabus.

Still, some of my school mates were too shy to give them a hug. As usual, I asked those locals if they can take the initiative and give the Hongkongers a hug. The journalism students were exhilarated at such occasion.

Tired and exhausted, I passed out in my bed without finishing my tasks.

A glimpse into the students from Leipzig University:

New Town Hall in Leipzig, Germany.

New Town Hall in Leipzig, Germany.

Arrived at Leipzig for only few hours, all journalism students from Hong Kong Baptist University(HKBU) were required to attend a lecture about German media law at Leipzig University as HKBU started to cooperate with Ohio University in USA and Leipzig University in Germany as triangular cooperation among 3 universities.

The German lecturer was informative in terms of some basic German constitutions from legal perspective, followed the American lecturer’s insights on the future development of media and our attention-seeking Hong Kong lecturer who has a legal profession. However, this is a study trip which aims at getting exposure in Germany rather than just listening to professors without interacting wit knowledge.

As proactive as I am in Hong Kong, I approached the local students who study communication management in master, asking them if they would be free to have a conversation outside the classroom. Our department of journalism agreed and delayed the visit to the independent radio station which is located at Leipzig University.

While most of the students preferred to talk with their own friends at a first, they somehow managed to interact with the local students. And I found that none of the locals has a non-mainstreaming meal against Germany.

After a short visit to an independent student radio station at Leipzig University, it reminds me of the importance to be “unrealistic”–we should always have faith to challenge the existing status quo with a determined heart to make social changes. Social order has always been a means for the rulers in any country. The chief editor of the radio station mentioned an anti-immigrant protest in Leipzig, resulting several journalists injured. It reminds me of the pro-government protesters’ brutal physical violence against the journalists in the Umbrella Movement.

The cultural exchange between German media students and Hong Kong journalism students resumed as they brought us to Beer Garden, a local bar locating near a train station. Although there were several awkward situations where Germans, Hong Kongers and mainlanders sit separately, the dinner was wrapped up with full stomach along with new friendships.

My 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to Germany

Some 40 Hong Kong journalism students transit from Munich to Leipzig for an hour-long domestic flight.

Some 40 Hong Kong journalism students transit from Munich to Leipzig by an hour-long domestic flight.

My first European trip began with a mess during the 12-hour flight of Lufthansa German Airline. 

Bringing an autobiography of Adolf Hitler without understanding the German propaganda law, I nearly caused myself into trouble as the flight attendant sincerely warned me that it is the only book which is prohibited in Germany.

And I quote from my reflection in the plane:

“For the first 3 hours staying on the plane, I couldn’t be productive as expected since I was a bit tired along with a noisy neighbourhood who laughed out so hard at the Cantonese movie. With all of a sudden, a friendly flight attendant told me that the book “Mein Kampf” is strictly prohibited Surprised and stunned, I realised that I made a stupid decision that could possibly sent me to jail. So to save my journey, I need to hide it and find the best way not to let anyone to see it because of its controversial nature.”

Landed with terror and nervousness, my horrible experience in Germany was scary enough to let the rest scream out loud. To feed my hunger of understanding the German constitution, I met a German lawyer and aced if it would be illegal to bring this book. He had an affirmative answer that I would only be sent to the prison if I spread out the concept of Nazism through this book but scientific research can be an exclusion.

As my doubts were cleared, the flight remained noisy so that not a single seat in the plane could allow silence to exist. Wavies of sounds of Cantonese flooded in the flight, creating a sphere of laughters while flying in the air. I couldn’t concentrate on the autobiography anymore since it’s always been a challenge for me to read while being annoyed. I chose to watch a German movie for the sake of adapting this European language.

Disappointed and annoyed, perhaps Hong Kong government should establish a guideline for basic manners while travelling abroad.

Chinese and Kazakhs didn’t share the same fate as local students fought for democracy

The memorial statue to pay tribute to students who fought for independence of Kazakhstan in 1986 near Independence Square at Almaty, Kazakhstan

The memorial statue to pay tribute to students who fought for independence of Kazakhstan in 1986 near Independence Square at Almaty, Kazakhstan

It was the freest day in Almaty, and it was the most fulfilling day in Kazakhstan.

Living in the “Young Scientist” student hall for a week, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University made me feel home. Along with my experience from being a guest lecturer to a visiting student at the department of journalism, I felt valued and loved, and I was wondering if I could stay here forever. Guided by a Kazakh who attended the MUN conference with me, we visited various places from Independence Square to Arbat Street, from Parliament of Kazakhstan to Kazakh British Technical University.

The department of journalism at the National University wasn’t as less advanced as I expected. Without a doubt, studios and interview rooms are essential along with a backdrop for broadcast. While students were editing videos during my visit, I found that they were hardworking–perhaps Kazakhs are not as lazy as outsiders expected.

After having farewell with the lecturer who showed me around, I met up the Kazakh “tour guide” who studies physics as she wishes to be a physics teacher. We had a rough lunch at the park, sharing our thoughts on education and how Hong Kong students compete for their university seats and degrees.

Our first stop was in the Independence Square, the place sharing similar traumatic memory like Tiananmen Square which had countless young lives being crushed by People’s Liberation Army and tanks. In 1986, exactly 3 years before the Beijing massacre, there were hundreds of university students gathering at the Independence Square in Almaty to fight for freedom and democracy as the country was ruled by the former USSR. The result wasn’t as brutal as in Beijing, yet some 100 students were sent into jail and 2 were shot. The history always reminds us that our world is more connected than what we imagine.

Ironically, the national parliament was built exactly opposite to the Square, so we attempted to get in by showing my student press card as a Hong Kong journalist, but the security guard kindly refused to let us in as today was the following holiday after Defender’s Day, only press listed and invited were able to get in. I wasn’t disappointed but was amazed by the fact that even the security guards were well-mannered, unlike those staging outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.

Later, it started to rain again. We went into the shelter of Kazakh British Technical University and waited until it stopped. Then we went to Arbat Street, a place sharing the same name of a street in Moscow. Without a surprise I saw an insane diversity of Asian food including Chinese food and Korean food, but none of them were really authentic. We grabbed some bread and took a seat at a park, sharing our thoughts towards the culture of Muslims.

Getting back to the student hall, 2 Kazakh volunteers sent me to Almaty International Airport. We joked at our different languages, playfully messing up our way of communication by using Google Translate. It’s time to farewell and the female volunteer hugged me for so long as I felt that she didn’t want me to leave. I got it. She’s an ordinary girl who wishes to fly around the world as a flight attendant, and I sincerely hope that I could help her somedays as I will never forget her hospitality for the first day I arrived.

I waited at the airport for 3 hours, randomly finding 2 Air Astana flight attendants to share my ubiquitous Kazakh journey. They looked familiar as if they were someone I met during the week.

As the Hong Kong flight waived at me, I left Almaty with my heart broken, my soul taken.

When the non-Russian speaking Hong Kongese travels in Almaty

Zenkov Cathedral, the 2nd largest wooden Russian Orthodox Church.

Zenkov Cathedral, the 2nd largest wooden Russian Orthodox Church in the world.

Let’s get lost!

My day trip started with 3 hours of disappointment as my friend was late due to exam, yet it ended with joy and astonishment after 3 muslims have brought me back to Kazakh National University.

I wandered around both Panfilov Park and Zenkov Cathedral, visited the Grand Palace and KIMEP University, followed by a glimpse of Islamic University.

Everything was initiated my anger as I have never waited for a person in the afternoon. With the information I’ve obtained from my friend from Facebook, I caught a bus which is listed on the message box. Yet, the bus driver said that it cannot arrive to the park directly. 2 local Kazakhs helped me to find a correct bus route later.

After getting on the bus, 2 high school Russians offered some help and went with me to the park directly. They taught me Russian, using the most tolerant attitude to detect my problems in pronouncing their native language. We searched around the park to see if there is any chance to meet my friend outside the church.

Without any familiar face found, I thanked the Russians and asked them to go back home as I felt embarrassed to waste a lot of their time. Then I texted another local friend to see if he would come and see me. Then I met another local with her shy Russian friend to accompany with me and gave me Internet access. I learnt a couple of words in the process.

So the visit continued even though I had been into the Russian Orthodox Church already. There were flames signifying the spirit of World War II fighters and flowers to commemorate those who died in the Great War. The shy girl laughed at me because of my poor Russian and her own English. I finally met my local friend with the help of 3 different people.

We were connected in certain ways as he has a friend studying in the same university and probably the same building with me. To extend my curiosity we went to the dormitory of KIMEP University, the place where my Turk friend lives. She wasn’t in the room but I was surprised by the fact that the security level was so loose in a sense that you can ask the security guard for the name list of the students living in the dormitory. We eventually got her number and learnt that she has a friend staying in the hospital.

My journey ended a quick visit to the Islamic University as three muslim students showed me around and guide me back to my dormitory.

Bad weather of Defender’s Day in Almaty, Kazakhstan

First President's Park

Located in Southern part of Almaty, the First President’s Park opened in 2011 to pay tribute to Nazarbayev, the first president after Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991.

It was raining, mesmerising and frustrating.

The first place to visit was a famous ice-skating stadium, followed by Central State Museum of Kazakhstan and Kok-Tobe, the peak of Almaty.

As the journey started, the sky filled with dark clouds and strong wind, indicating the bad weather would come to the continent. On the way to Medeu, a 6-feet Kazakh student shared his experience to study in foreign countries along with his frustration about how most Kazakhs look like–partly Asian, partly European. The conversation stopped after getting off the mini shuttle bus. Then the bus arrived Medeu, the ice-skating stadium where over 100 world records were made. There was a steep uphill road to go. Breakfast was served by the organising committees while delegates remained hungry. I speeded up with my possible pacing, chasing the very front of the team so that I could get a view of all delegates in the tour.

Disappointing it may sound, before we ever reached the mountain top, there was heavy rain soaking us into boredom and sadness as most of us were trapped in the middle of the hike. And yet, while waiting for the rain to stop, I talked with several delegates from Kyrgyzstan and learnt that they were worry-free all the time. The journey ended with 4 people squeezing at the back seat. It happened when I was in Korea for a conference. We headed back to the student hall, arranging a later time slot for other visits.

The visit to First President’s Park was epic, and it was much larger than the entire Tamar Park in Admiralty, Hong Kong. The park was divided into several areas with the front part as open space for visitors to walk and relax freely, then with a statue of Nazarbayev, the first and current president of Kazakhstan since its independence in 1991. As my camera was out of battery, I could hardly take a high resolution picture or some high definition videos. As the visit went on, we went to Koktobe Hill, a place where we can see the panorama view of Almaty. During the trip, I was surrounded by a group of Kazakh volunteers and they taught me a lot of new phrases that I couldn’t even remember. But it was an interesting conversation.

The end of day trip implied the end of Silk Way Model United Nations conference trip, I was so reluctant to let go so that I invited 2 local Kazakhs for a dinner.

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