"You're too young to understand the world" - Judy Yin, deputy principal
02.04.2011 - 11.04.2011
[Hi. This entry is a little dated, I had to wait for a long time before I could post it, due to internet connection and the fact that my office computer has blocked all blogs, my apologies. I will return with more updated scribbles soon]
This is a detailed description of my Hong Kong trip which took place between April 2nd and April 11th. A few mundane details have been spared, but it's still pretty much everything I experienced. If you don’t feel like raeding all of it, this is my trip in short:
I came to Hong Kong
I had fun!
My bag got stolen. It had among other things, my passport, bank cards/ID, mobile phone and camera in it.
This wasn't fun at all...
Then I had to deal with situation mentioned above
Many of you might already know this, but I went to Hong Kong Saturday March 2nd . I didn’t decide to go until Thursday March 31st, so I didn’t manage to book myself a room in a hostel like the others had done. But I figured I would find something there, and I was told by someone I could stay in the same hostel as some of the others. I came to Hong Kong with the others, and joined Amanda to find the hostel she had booked for herself and two others (not me, because I wasn’t planning on going back then) The hostel had no spare rooms at the time, so I spent two nights in another floor. (But apparently the same hostel?) Then I could move back down to the main floor with the others the third night. We were leaving Tuesday, because we started teaching again on Wednesday.
We came to Hong Kong Saturday afternoon April 2nd. That evening we went out to celebrate a TTC participant’s birthday. Someone had made a reservation at a Mexican restaurant/bar. It was a really casual place. But the food was a bit more expensive from what we’re used to in Shenzhen.Complaints aside; We enjoyed ourselves and it was nice seeing people I haven’t seen since we were in Beijing. After a while, we decided to leave, so people started to go pay for their meals. I thought it would only take a minute and made the fatal mistake of taking my wallet out of my bag and leaving my bag under my chair. It was quite dark, so I must have thought it was out of sight.I thought people were still sitting at the table, but apparently everyone left the table at the same time. I came back shortly after, and this is where I noticed that my bag had vanished. I looked under the table and all the chairs- everywhere. Some of the others started looking with me, but we couldn’t find it. I was under the impression that we were alone on the top floor of the restaurant. But someone pointed out to me that there had been two guys in at the table in the corner. They were no longer there,“Great” I thought, I guess I know what happened to my bag now.
What makes this even more annoying is that they were probably just looking for cash, some easily earned yuan- the only thing that wasn’t in my bag! Because I had taken the wallet out of the bag to go and pay. Everything else was in there; my passport, the copy of my passport, my camera, my mobile phone, my bank cards, and more. This was beyond frustrating. My stay in Hong Kong was ruined because of something that didn’t take longer than a few seconds. To make matters worse, I was constantly reminded of the incident by the numerous stickers all over the city saying “Theft is a serious crime” or “Keep and eye on your property”. I really wish I didn’t let my guard down in that night in the restaurant. Usually I keep my belongings really close and never let the out of sight, because Shenzhen is apparently the most crime-stricken city in China. Another teacher intern had a student describe Shenzhen and he said “Shenzhen is like Gotham, but not as bad” If you're familiar with Batman at all, this will make sense to you. I always kept in mind that the city wasn't all that safe going somewhere in Shenzhen. It worked, because I never got anything stolen from me here. I must have thought Hong Kong was safer, which doesn’t make sense, loads of tourists go there and it’s a place of enjoyment. A natural habitat for criminals.
I got very upset when I realized all my things were gone. And it somewhat clouded my thoughts, so I didn’t really know what to do next. I left some contact information with the restaurant manager and someone else gave me their phone number and hostel address. I felt that I couldn’t do anything about it. In retrospect I realize I should have reported directly to the police before leaving, instead of waiting until the next day. One mistake after the other...
The next day was Sunday, and in the morning I went straight to the police office in the area where our hostel was (Mong Kok). They made a record and tried to track my passport number (which I could only remember partially) to see if it was registered somewhere in Hong Kong. After 2 hours, it turned out to be meaningless effort. They couldn’t help me. But I got a report notice from them, so I could prove that my things were stolen. The others had gone sightseeing, but I didn’t know where they were. And without a phone it became very difficult to contact them. I tried at the police station, a public phone and a borrowed mobile phone. The first two wouldn’t for some reason, allow me to call the dialed numbers After several tries, I came through on the borrowed mobile phone. But only because I called a Scottish number. So I could barely speak to them at all, because it’s expensive. I tried to find them, but decided to try find the Royal Norwegian Consulate in Hong Kong instead. Since my hostel owner urged me to fix the problem I was faced with. I didn’t really think about the fact it was Sunday and it was most likely closed. Because Tuesday was a major holiday and it would definitely be closed on that day, we were also supposed to go back to Shenzhen on Tuesday. But that possibility faded away quickly when my passport got stolen.
I managed to find the consulate after 3 hours of walking around in the city. My hostel owner had told me the wrong MTR station so I was in the wrong area in the beginning. Thankfully, most people speak understandable English in Hong Kong, so it was easy to ask for directions. But I was pressed on time too, because I wanted to make it there before 17.00. I got there on time. But only found a locked door, and a a dark room behind it. It didn't say when it would open again. I was drenched because of the sweltering heat outside and my feet were blistering from walking along all the streets in Hong Kong. I was fed up with everyting and just left, everything just seemed to work against my efforts. I was under the impression that the consulate was closed on Monday too (but the information on the site turned out to be dated) so I didn’t bother tracing my steps back to the consulate the next day.
I chose to spend Monday with the others instead and enjoy Hong Kong, which was my intention in the first place. We went to see “the Big Buddha” You could take a cable car up there. But it was a really foggy day and cable car was more expensive than the bus. We took the bus up the hill and down again for 35 HK. Cable car ride was 98 HK. The mountain was covered in thick fog. It created a very mysterious mood. It was nice. We met some i2i people (people who took the training course online and then came to China) by the steps up to the Buddha. They told us they couldn’t see anything, because of the fog. We walked up anyway. And it was true, we couldn’t make out the Buddha in the fog. We could barely see the outline and the hands. We went for a walk in the forest by the statue and once we got back the fog had cleared a bit and we could see the big statue. So at least we got a glimpse before we left.
Monday night I met Therese, she's one of my roommates from back in Beijing and we really got along. I knew she was in Hong Kong, and it was one of the reasons why I suddenly decided to go. But without a phone it was hard to get in touch with her. I didn’t have her Swedish number, the Chinese ones didn’t work in Hong Kong. We were sitting at “the waterfront” by the Art museum, where we had a splendid nighttime view of the city. Suddenly she showed up with some i2i people. It’s a long time since I’ve been as happy as I was when I saw her. Especially ever since losing my passport and everything, I've had a hard time feeling truly happy. I haven’t seen her since Beijing. It was a nice reunion. I’m really thankful that I got to meet someone I actually spent time with in Beijing. But it was their/our last night in Hong Kong. They were all leaving in the morning. I was supposed to do that too. But not since Saturday night happened. I was stayng behind.
Tuesday was when I said goodbye to Amanda, Jonas and Faith (they were the ones in the same hostel) by the station. I realized immediately that I was “alone” in Hong Kong on the way back to the hostel, which was really overwhelming. It wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have to deal with all the paperwork that comes with losing your passport and ID. It was tough to have to handle it by myself, but I got a lot of help and support from home through emails and also the hostel lady was very helpful. She lent me money to pay for my temporary passport and visa. Because it took a few days to transfer money from home. She had talked to the consulate, because they had called her Monday while we where out. (I had emailed them previously giving them my contact information) She wrote down the information for me and told me I had an appointment on Wednesday. It was easy to find the consulate this time, because I had already been there. But this time I was actually able to enter the office. I had to fill some forms and apply for a temporary passport. Which I had to come back the next day to pick up. I got the temporary passport on Thursday. I headed straight to the visa office and expected mile long lines outside the building, because that’s what the man at the consulate had told me. No lines outside, just a bunch of people inside. I got in and filled the form. I checked “rush” which meant I would be able to pick up the visa the next working day, Friday, and go home that same day. I had to wait for a long time before my number came up. Once it was my turn, the lady took one lightning-speed glance at my papers and said I needed a new photo (in colour) and some document saying I was a teacher intern at OEC. I had to make copies of the documents I brought too. This took awhile to fix, so by the time I got back, the room was strangely empty. I had no idea what time it was, I was out of breath and a bit stressed out. I stood by the machine waiting for the guy to show up and give me a waiting ticket. He walked by, and I asked. But he just said “No more waiting tickets, it’s closed” All my plans went down the drain.
I had already paid the hostel to stay until Friday, but now I had to extend my stay further. I had to return to the terrible Visa Office Friday, but this time I was more prepared, I filled a new form quickly and didn't write ”teacher intern” but just “tourism”, because the previous day the Visa Office had informed me I could only get a tourist visa anyway. After handing in my application I went for a walk in Victoria Park and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Then I visited the nearby Hong Kong Central Library. I enjoyed the rest of my weekend too. I went sightseeing. Saturday I went up to the Peak. (Victoria’s Peak) Which is one of the major tourist attractions in Hong Kong. I made sure to go at noon, so there weren’t too many people. (I walked past the place in the afternoon and there were a lot of people waiting in line) Also I wanted to see it in daylight. It was a nice, sunny day. Very hot too. I decided to splurge on the Sky-terrace ticket (65 HK) so I could get the most out of my trip. I took a tram up to the peak. Once I stepped out of it I entered a mall, which was unexpected. But I guess they know how to milk the tourism there. I went all the way up to the terrace, which is what the Sky- ticket was for. Surprisingly, most of the terrace was closed off (the best view parts). I could see a TV crew on the other side and the man in front of the camera was strangely familiar. Many of the tourists around me got angry because they felt cheated. Some left in protest. But I decided to stay until they opened again. It took about an hour just waiting, I must have spent the most time there out of all the tourists. Suddenly out of nowhere a row of guys with striking, model looks strut by and they’re allowed to enter through the fences. I was confused by this. Is this some sort of commercial? They had them running back and forth in front of the Hong Kong view. I was even more confused by the fact that everyone around were Americans, including the model guys. The tourists were separated from the TV crew by the fence and a few were watching the TV crew filming, some in enjoyment others in frustration. Someone in the tourist crowd muttered “Bachelor” and I suddenly remembered where I’ve seen that smug TV host’s face before. On that terrible show. But it must have been “Bachelorette” because they were a group of guys and only one woman, who I didn't see before they left the terrace. It was strange to see how they do the filming. Not that I like the show or anything, I despise it. I thought they had canceled it years ago!
When they finally left, all the hungry eyed tourists stormed towards the edge of the terrace. I had spent far too much time on the terrace and once I got inside again I notice that my arms, neck and face had changed colour. I went from being pale to a burning shade of red. Even though I took the tram up and down, I was left exhausted after the Peak. I came back and met a guest staying in the same hostel as me, we talked. She spoke quite good English. She's originally from Malaysia, but she works in Four Seasons in Singapore. It was her first time in Hong Kong too. I asked her what she’d done so far in Hong Kong. She told me about a temple in Wong Tai Sin and a charming fishing village in San Kung District , I think. While the rest of Hong Kong has been urbanized over the course of the years, the San Kung district is known for being “the last back-garden of Hong Kong”. She had also gone to a beach. She gave me directions and surely enough did I find my way to the temple next morning (Sunday). I have seen quite a few temples since I came to China and after a certain point you start feeling they all look the same. But this wasn’t the case with this one, yes it looked like a temple, but it didn’t make it less grand. With the rich colours and delicate decorations, it was quite the sight. I made my way across the temple grounds through the strong incense smoke. People everywhere were waving incense sticks and gathering in front of the different temple altars, I haven’t seen that many people in a temple before. Only once did I see a solitary person worship at a temple in Beijing. This was different. It didn’t feel touristy, because there were barely any other Western people there. After the temple I went to the beach. It was called Clearwater Bay Beach 2. It took awhile to get there. First a few stops with the MTR and then a little shuttle bus. I arrived around 14.00. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the beach from the bus I regretted not taking my swimming suit and towel with me to Hong Kong. But because I was going alone, I wouldn't risk leaving my things unattended again. Ever. So it didn’t matter much. It was still a beautiful beach and I was very happy to walk around with bare feet and end my stay in Hong Kong in such a relaxed matter. It was a great day. My weekend was great on a whole. But spending so much time on my own, left me missing the others and their company. So I felt ready to go back. On Monday I started on the return. I went to pick up my visa at the visa office. I was on my way there when I turned the corner, and saw a massive line of 40- 50 people outside of the building. This hadn’t happened before. I read the sign by the door, and it said something about the number of people was not within the capacity of the office. It didn’t open until 14.00, I waited for almost 3 hours before I could enter the building. I was just collecting my visa, so it didn’t take long, just had to pay up. The waiting had delayed my return, because I had planned to have the visa by noon, and then go back around 14.00. I didn’t get the visa until 14.45. I spent a couple of hours taking in some last sights around Hong Kong. I went to the Golden Bauhinia and took some pictures of this statue and the square. This was outside the expo centre. Then I took the ferry across, from the Hong Kong Island to Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui). I had to return to the hostel to collect my weekend bag and sent off a few emails to confirm that I was still alive, before I left for the MTR station.
At the border I had to wait a little longer than other people, because the strange passport situation raised a few eyebrows. But I explained everything and showed the report. They ran away with my temporary passport and I got a bit nervous, but they came back with it and said it was OK. So it wasn’t as troublesome as I had imagined it would be. I had to find a bus to take me to Tao Yuan Ju. That's the shopping area 40 min. away from our school. This was difficult, because the bus number wasn’t posted on any of the boards. I went to two different bus stations along the highway. I came back to the first one again and someone pointed at something, a few buses were in line. And I could eventually see that one was 395. My bus. It was a very uncomfortable bus ride, it seemed like the bus driver tried to break a morbid record squeezing as many people as possible in the bus. The passengers were cattle. My bag got stuck in the door, because there wasn't room to stand in the bus. The bus ride was a little over an hour. At Tao Yuan Ju, I had to wait for at least half an hour before I caught the 776 bus, the one that goes all the way to our campus. I was back on school grounds 22.00. This was according to my schedule. I was beyond tired. I hadn’t spoken to anyone during all this time, so I didn’t know if I was going to teach the next day. I just assumed I was going to, because that seemed most likely. I didn't blame the school, they didn't have any way of telling me in advance while I was traveling, because I don't have a phone anymore.
Because of my extended stay in Hong Kong, I didn’t have time to plan my lessons for Tuesday. I pretty much improvised, which didn’t go too well. But it got me through the day. I managed to plan a bit for Wednesday and Thursday. I am going to finish plans for next week before this weekend. But it’s not very easy to work here. I still don’t have internet on my office computer. And now I can’t even open the office computer and access my files on it, it was like this when I first got here. But then they fixed it so I could access the computer, but never the internet. I've asked them numerous times to fix internet, but it's never been done. So the office is useless. I still have to stay there for several hours every day, or else the teachers will goon whispering behind my back and I’ll probably get major cuts in my salary without notice.
Ever since I had to move out of my nice room where I had internet (I moved at the beginning of April), I haven’t been able to access internet since before then. My temporary room lacks everything, so naturally, it doesn't have modern appliances like internet or even a washing machine. The shower they installed, broke immediately so it's just a short tube, but at least there's water in the tank. I’ve borrowed Amanda’s internet a few times. To write emails and find a little bit of inspiration for my lessons. But it's not very convenient because she needs it too. My meal card that I use to get food in the canteen got stolen in Hong Kong with all my other things. So I have to get a new one. This takes time, I spoke to the vice principal about it. I was supposed to get it today, but the people who are responsible for it, only work every other day. I probably have to wait until tomorrow, and have to continue to borrow Amanda’s. Which also isn't very practical, because she has another schedule than me and I can't call her.
I went to the bank on Tuesday with a Chinese teacher. It was the maintenance lady, Caroline. When we got there I was told to call a number before I could get a new card. It was a hassle. First they only spoke Mandarin, then we eventually got an English voice. But they said since it wasn’t a credit card I had to call 095566, which was the exact number I already had dialed. It was a bit confusing. They told us the card was stopped, this happened automatically since I had called and because I was applying for a new card. I got to keep my old account number, but I still didn't remember this because the card was new when it was stolen. My temporary passport and the copy of my old one, caused some puzzled looks. They wanted me to contact the embassy in Beijing to get them to verify I was the same person. That’s ridiculous. I kept pointing to the same information on both documents. I had to punch in my pin for the former card. No problem. They asked when I had received the stolen card. I didn’t remember the exact date. So I said “March?” After a while someone came back with my old application form that I had written some weeks ago. They saw that it was the same signatures on the documents, this was apparently enough proof. I expected to get the card right away, but I have to wait a week before I can get it.
It’s strange because we got the card immediately the first time we applied for bank cards. I got a document with some numbers, when I got back I compared Amandas account number with a number on the paper. The two codes where similar and had equal amount of digits, so I’m certain that it was my account number. So at least I have the number, even if I don’t have the card right now. But I don't have the rest that is needed to get money transferred onto the card. I tried to find the address of the bank, but that proved to be very difficult. I know it's called Bank of China (Shenzhen branch) and it's in an area called Tao Yuan Ju. That's it. I have no SWIFT code or IBAN number either. I don't know what to do. Without these bits of information I can't get money transferred, I was hoping to get it done by Tuesday, so I could book my flight and leave Thursday. But maybe that's not possible. I hope I get the IBAN number, SWIFT code and address of the bank when I collect my bank card on Tuesday. If not, I'll have to wait even longer before I can go. I feel like I'm in China on borrowed time, just under 30 days now. Time is running out.
I'm sure it will be fine in the end. I just hope that's soon.