Since booking my trip to Hong Kong, I’ve been thinking about the places I hope to see in those four short days this April. But I’ve also been recalling my first year in Hong Kong when I moved there as a 19 year-old in the summer of 1990.
This photo was taken days after my arrival. Here I am standing at Lok Ma Chau with China looming in the background. I’d visited China in 1988, but it still felt like a world away even in Hong Kong.
A month into that first year, I learned about the Mid-Autumn Festival. It quickly became one of my favorite holidays. I kept this lantern on my desk until the cellophane melted from the sunlight that poured in through my dorm room window.
I moved to Hong Kong to study, so here I am in the Office of International Studies Programme. This was well before e-mail, texting, and cell phones, so all my communication with the outside world came through snail mail. I had a mail box in one of those slots to my left. My dad wrote to me weekly.
My first residence in Hong Kong was the Adam Schall Hall, named after a 16th-17th century German Jesuit who spent 47 years in China.
To earn some spending money, I taught English under the table. Every Saturday I trekked down to Taikoo Shing to teach a Japanese housewife and her two young children. Here I am at their flat playing a pinata-like game, but with a watermelon.
I also volunteered at a Vietnamese refugee camp in Kowloon, where I taught English to adults. I had to pester International Social Services before they’d let me volunteer, but it was worth every phone call and written letter. The classes were housed in old British barracks that once held POWs during the Japanese occupation. That land is now littered with luxury high-rises.
This is the Hong Kong I knew and loved from back then. Three years later, I moved back for what I thought would be for good. As fate would have it, I only stayed for four more years. And soon I’ll be returning for the first time since I left in 1998.
I can’t wait to see Hong Kong as it is today.