Just as e-mail was becoming mainstream in 1994, people still wrote real letters and I was no exception. I wrote to my grandma in Albany, New York, several times a month when I lived in Hong Kong. She kept all of my letters before she died at the age of 104.5 in 2007. This letter stands out because I sent it a couple months after I moved back to Hong Kong. I’d studied there in 1990-91, but returned in June 1994 for what I thought would be for decades to come. Some of the things I write about in this letter didn’t pan out, but that of course pales in comparison to what’s going on in Hong Kong today.
August 23, 1994
How are you? I hope are surviving the heat! Sometimes when I read the newspaper, I see that New York is very hot, so I assume Albany is also pretty warm. At least autumn will arrive soon in the US.
I am quite well here in Hong Kong and am going to get ready to start school in 2 weeks! This summer has been like a long vacation–very relaxing and enjoyable! I am never bored and am always discovering new things about Hong Kong. At the same time, I really am looking forward to starting school and beginning a new chapter in life. I think I will be quite busy right away, but that will be fine. I will also be moving into a dormitory, which will be convenient and cheap. Most likely I’ll have 3 roommates, which is good, especially since I won’t know any of the students at first.
Next week I will check in, so I’ll send you my address as soon as I know it. Leaving my apartment will be sad since I really like it. But, the commute would have been too much. Besides, only 30% of the grad students can get a room in the dorms, so I was really lucky!
Last week I signed up for my classes and sent in my choices. They all have to be approved, of course, but I really hope I am able to take all of the ones I requested. Most of the classes I will take will be related to public policy, rather than political science, which is more general. I also asked to take Japanese language, as an extra elective. I hope I’m able to take that class since I studied Japanese last year in Washington.
Today I had to call call my Dad because my credit card comes from a bank in Chicago and will expire soon. I asked if he could call the bank and have them send a new one. He said he saw you last week for a day and had a nice visit. He also said that you wanted to buy Hong Kong stamps for me! But, do you know that sending this letter to you is almost the same price as sending a letter from Washington to Albany! It is so cheap! The only thing I want is for you to share this letter with Aunt Vera, Uncle Lenny, etc. since I am too lazy to write separate letters! Thanks!
I just received a letter from my father today, which described his trip to New York! He seemed to have had a wonderful trip and was able to see so many friends. His letter was so descriptive that I could really picture the places he saw. It does seem a shame he doesn’t go more often.
Life in Hong Kong must be just as fast as in New York, especially in the financial and business centers. Today one of my friends and I went to a very fancy and expensive area where top designers have clothes and shoe stores. We only looked, of course, but had a fun time observing fortunate ones who were really there to buy things! Hong Kong is really unique because you can see many fancy cars like Rolls Royces, Jaguars, etc. and people with expensive clothes and mobile phones. In the same area where these people are, you can also see someone with a bamboo pole over his bare shoulders, carrying baskets of fresh produce on each end of the pole. It is really a mix of what we think of as a modern, developed city and of what one would imagine China to be like.
I rarely, if ever, think of myself as living in a foreign city. Perhaps it doesn’t seem that all different to me, even though people speak a language I don’t understand and have traditions that I’m not so familiar with. I do think that I am very fortunate because most of my friends here are Chinese, even the ones from the US, and they are so nice to me and include me in things that some foreigners here don’t often experience. For example, I have gone out to eat with my former roommates and their families and have been invited to their homes, which is really rare.
My current roommate from Hong Kong includes me when she goes out with her friends. It will be sad to leave my apartment in 2 weeks when I move into the dorm. My place now is so nice and peaceful. Everyday I go to the pool and swim, so I know a lot of the lifeguards there and can speak to them in the Chinese dialect I know. Fortunately, the university also has a beautiful pool!
I have stopped working at the English school where I taught this summer. But, two of my students there want to continue with me, so we will meet on weekends, which is good because they will pay me more than the school gave me and will not have to pay as much as the school asked from them, so we will both benefit this way. Once I move, I will put up signs for English tutoring so I can make extra money. I guess living in Hong Kong has really made me a capitalist! And a shopper, unfortunately! It is really a shopping Mecca!
Well, I’ll end here, but will send my address at the university as soon as I know it, which will be in early September! Have a great end of the summer!