Well I was hoping to be writing this sophomore blog post in slightly more peaceful circumstances, however today is the day of a very significant student strike, one that’s seen virtually all the facilities on campus close (With the exception of the learning commons, which is where I’m typing this from). Tables and chairs outside of cafes have been assembled into very flimsy barricades, the elevators to the MTR station have been smashed in, and if you look onto the street below, you can see all sorts of scattered debris from where protesters and police have been battling it out. It’s a truly bizarre experience to feel simultaneously right in the thick of civil disruption, yet still somewhat isolated from it all with your fellow international students.
Studies have still been going well, although the workload has meant that I haven’t had a chance to go out as much as I would have liked. I was one of the few internationals to actually do reading in reading week, instead of using the opportunity to travel around South-East Asia, but even despite that I still feel like I have a lot of work on my plate. I have had the chance though, to examine my surroundings a lot more carefully this time, specifically the facilities on offer at HKU (Well when they’re not completely shut down by a strike they’re on offer). In terms of catering, aside from the expected places which offer Chinese cuisine, one can enjoy a French-style delicatessen, two separate vegetarian eateries, a Western-style fast food venue, and, of course a Starbucks (Provided you’re willing to ignore the boycott due to the company’s connection with the pro-Government catering company Maxim’s). The University’s unusual, multi-level layout does make getting around to these various places somewhat difficult, but the “University Road” (A lengthy sky-walk that connects the Main and Centennial Campuses together), manages to alleviate said difficulties).
The strike has seen all classes for the day been cancelled due to fears about safety, as well as disruption to transport networks. But other than that, classes have been proceeding well. I was initially worried that the absence of seminars would mean that I wouldn’t have a chance to interact with my classmates. Luckily however, most of the lecturers often break up the lengthy two hour sessions with both a five minute break and some group work. And speaking as a history student, the lectures themselves often provide perspectives that you really wouldn’t get in back in Southampton, particularly the ones for my Women in Hong Kong module. My lecturer, Patricia, speaks with a great deal of knowledge and wisdom on the subject, and in a way that helps accommodate the non-local students unfamiliar with the nuances of Cantonese/Chinese culture, and commenting on thorny issues of modern sexism, and the legacy of colonialism. Despite the fact that many lecturers back in Southampton may be able to talk about such a topic with a sense of professionalism, I don’t think a module on the subject back in England would work without a local academic such as Patricia to teach it.
Not much else to say for the moment sadly. The protests have kind of left me on guard at the moment, without much of a chance to enjoy any more of Hong Kong’s delights. Hopefully I’ll have more to say the next time I write on here, but for now I’m going to go back to focusing on keeping my head down, and trying to get these essays done.