It is a while since I have had a general blog about life in Hong Kong. Indeed since J and R was here life has been somewhat full and hectic including a visit from my son, J. The weather has improved and we can enjoy temperatures in the low 20s during the day. So its time to stand back and have a few thoughts about the past three weeks.
Firstly to report I have now completed one article which has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in March in the Taiwan Crime and Criminal Justice International journal. This is a development from the talk I gave in December to NGOs here in HK and it was well received then. So to my official target of 4 articles I have one in the bag and a second on its way to peer review I hope by Thursday of this week. But just as my writing is beginning to take off I have had an increased amount of traffic from the UK. Lots of little things to respond to and some disturbing issues on the horizon. There is no good place to be in the UK at the moment (though being in HK offers some protection) but if you are in Higher Education it feels like you are waiting for a time bomb to explode. A report yesterday talks of 7 universities in immediate risk of closure and another 13 in financial difficulty and all this before the tuition fee impact is felt in 2012. How does a university respond – risk aversion or risk taking? In my own case within our faculty risk aversion has been the broad policy approach for some years and therefore this continues. We are seeing the first threat to jobs unfold and it is acutely depressing. All the hard work done to build a good unit potentially begins to be unravelled by managers wanting to be seen to take pre-emptive action on cuts before being forced to do so. However, such an approach risks the very survival that these cuts are meant to avoid. After 29 years in HE I am beginning to feel more and more alienated by the atmosphere and approach. So I am having to keep a very careful eye on the horizon to ensure I don’t find my trip back to the UK in May is just one to collect my P45!!
Here in HK more interesting things are happening. I now have a trip booked to New Zealand for a week which gives me a chance to catch up with a colleague JB who has recently left the UK (good decision!!) and moved to teach in Wellington. I will also get to visit a new prison and do a talk on community engagement to an invited audience. So this is a bonus trip in April. Meanwhile it is just two weeks away from a half day conference here in HK which will help launch our professional doctorate programme.
Short holiday trips to Singapore and Taiwan are also now planned before I leave in May so taking the opportunity to take at least some time out which of course I do when I get visitors. It was great to see my son J for a week. We had a good time and I managed to have yet another new experience visiting a small village, Kam Tsin near Sheung Shui in the New Territories whilst it celebrated its annual festival. This village is a typical old chinese rural village which is dominated by one family name, Hau. Each year as well as everyone getting together who still live in the village, relatives from around the world return to join in the celebrations. We were fortunate to receive an invite via another contact from someone, who though he lives in Brighton, had returned to see his mother and for the Festival. The centrepiece for us was a huge open air meal which was known as a ‘basin’ meal. You sit on tables of about 10 people and tuck into a single basin of food sat in the middle of the table. (see pics). This turned out to be quite enjoyable and it was a privilege to have been invited in to share this feast. We had to leave early evening when they were about to enjoy 3 hours plus of Chinese Opera which would have been an experience but maybe a little too long for our taste.
I took J to Lamma and this time we walked the other way from the small pier at Sok Kwu Wan to the larger village at Yung Shue Wan. This proved an altogether better walking experience. Maybe I am marginally fitter, maybe my MBTs are really beginning to work or maybe the relatively less steep incline going this way helped, but I did not tire at all and we had a good walk, rested at the beach and then a good meal in my favourite water hole in Lamma, the Waterfront Restaurant and Bar. (I returned there this week with a colleague from Leeds University for another enjoyable Lamma evening. It is fast becoming my favourite retreat from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
A visit to Cheung Chau was less successful partly because we went on a Saturday and it was so so crowded and I think it was more my kind of retreat than J’s. I shall return for a more leisurely visit before I leave. But overall it was a good week and I think J enjoyed himself.
Another good day was breakfast with V and D to celebrate V’s leaving the university to go traveling. It was nice to get a chance to cook some British food for guests and the occasions was enjoyed. V is popular with her colleagues and she will be sorely missed by the department. I gave her a small gift of a quirky cup. The breakfast was mouth-watering!!
A nice additional and unexpected pleasure was to meet a visiting professor from Cardiff University. A was delightful company and we enjoyed a couple of evenings on HK Island just chatting, eating and drinking. It was intriguing to observe the differences in culture between the old and new university sector with the assumptions about academic life that A can make, so far removed from my own pattern of work at SHU. It is clear that two very different sectors exist, which I have always known but somehow thought the differences were reducing. The notion of a sabbatical once every three years seems far removed from my admittedly privileged period here now though I’ve had to wait 29 years and still had opposition to it!!
Two meetings at the British Council were an interesting and in one case a productive diversion. I attended a meeting looking at the fate of TNE (transnational education) in Hong Kong which was very informative indeed. There are lots of threats and opportunities in working in Hong Kong and it will be interesting if my own university can grasp the nettle. I still think my time here could have been better utilised to develop contacts and move the possibilities forward. But sometimes the hobbyism of my colleagues keeps work to themselves even though the intermittent visits are hardly conducive to continuity of development.
It has been a fulfilling and demanding few weeks. I continue to enjoy my stay here and feel very settled. I have reached the stage where my productivity needs to continue and yet the demands from the UK can take me away from that focus very quickly. My concern to be available to colleagues in the UK who I know are working hard and suffering from my absence has to be weighed against getting my primary tasks done here. Sometimes this creates a tension and when I am busy doing other stuff this tension stops the primary focus. But the weather is good and I shall no doubt sweat my way through this conundrum.
One big task now complete was the putting together of a Special Asian Edition of the journal, the BJCJ, which I co-edit. Working with two colleagues here in the department was very productive and we have compiled a full issue with six articles from Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Korea. This is one good output from my time here and I hope it leads to more productive interchange between eastern and western academics.
My reading continues apace and I am looking forward to meeting the Man Asian Literary Prize authors next week. I shall undertake to do a full report on that evening elsewhere on this blog.