Change and continuity


Well as the UK sleeps I am up for what I have always referred to as my ‘jet lag’ day. Teaching would normally start on a Monday so I would do my best over the weekend to get rid of the major affects of jet lag; usually marked by a degree of nausea; some light-headedness and a difficulty finding a decent pattern of sleep. Of course a major problem of jet lag was the wiseacres you would meet in the e-lounge who would say they did not get jet lag or had some amazing way of keeping it at bay. Yeah right!
Teaching was always 9 to 12 and then seven till 10 in the evening and certainly in the first week i used to find a morning slot very difficult as my body clock told me it preferred to be in bed. In the evening it was much easier as I was beginning to wake up as my body was telling me it was morning in the UK. Of course no teaching this time so I can do what I want to keep jet lag at bay. A few power naps usually help!
I am staying in the only hotel I have used in my entire 14 years visiting – Eaton Smart Hotel in Jordan. I am back in a room they used to give us when we first came which is fine but obviously a rung down from when I stayed courtesy of the university. And no e-lounge either to get away from the madding crowds though I need that less as I am not working. I slept ok, fitfully but that is normal and from 6 am I struggled to get back to sleep. So up and ready for an early buffet breakfast – a wonderful delight. 
I first came to HK around the time of the SARS epidemic. Indeed on my second visit we arrived to newspaper headlines that they had been declared SARS free that day. Lots of people wore white masks, a tradition which you still see today when someone has a cold. No sense of embarrassment attached to it. SARS was potentially devastating news for HK and we found HK empty on that visit. Relying on trade and tourism it was a big blow but it gradually recovered and by the time of our next visit was back to its bustling self. So what has changed in the 14 years since I first arrived.
Firstly the ‘chinafication’ of HK has proceeded apace and, though I do not fully understand the subtleties, the distinct impression is that democracy, such as it has ever been, is under threat in HK as Mainland China seek to exert their one country ethos. Demonstrations last week were indicative of the public unrest but like the Umbrella Protest of 2014 its success is unlikely. Students are much more assertive not deferring to elders as their Chinese culture would insist they do. This makes HK a much more volatile environment though outwardly it remains the same. When i was first here just five years after the handover i thought that Hong Kongers were proud of their chinese background. now it would appear that there is a distinction between being Hong Kongers and being Chinese, even though 92% of the population are ethnically chinese. Over the years discussions with students about universal suffrage just for the election of the head of state seems no nearer now than it was 10 years ago.
The physical shape of the country has changed a lot over the last 20 years with reclamation projects around the harbour reducing the distance between the new islands by quite a distance. if you came here in the 1990s and not since you would hardly recognise it. A lot has been built and building projects continue. Before my first trip this had already started although more has taken place since then. i think the extent of reclamation has now been reached and belatedly HK is becoming more concerned about conservation. One small change post-1997 was the removal of the Hong Kong cricket ground in Central, relegated to the periphery and replaced with Gardens. When i went to Singapore i was struck by how they had kept more of their colonial heritage not just in the Raffles Bar and Hotel but the cricket ground remains in the centre. 
Although my prime purpose here was to teach and i loved the engagement of students here, i was also able to get to know the criminal justice system, kindly helped by local tutors, i visited many prisons, probation, courts, and voluntary sector organisations and gave seminars, workshops and speeches to a number of conferences. Education is still conducted in English so it made communication easier and given the colonial legacy of an english jurisprudence i felt at home in their systems for crime control. It is a steadfastly public service mentality here with no hint of privatisation having entered their thinking despite the entrepreneurial spirit of their economy. HK is a low crime country and one of the delights of being here is the sense of safety you feel walking alone and late at night. I remember discussing risk management with my students relating to how individuals keep themselves safe in city centres. They were puzzled and found it difficult to comprehend. Once i discovered how safe it was i could understand this puzzlement better and alter my teaching. 
The people have certainly brought me back here. Their politeness, generosity, and, from the students, enthusiasm and engagement has been constant from virtually everyone i have met. I have made some good friends here and one family I know have been very supportive and they have been regularly to the UK and stayed with me. When I was negotiating on our teaching it could be a little frustrating. They were not always clear in face to face discussions and you had to work behind the scenes to get to know what they really wanted but i developed a good level of trust with them and was often taken into their confidence. 
So a quiet day today. Warnings from family and friends echo in my head about taking it easy and not overdoing it. The usual tiredness has been around as well so i have rested. Also cricket has been on my iPad so its been a relaxing first day. I am settled in and ready for getting out and meeting my friends, eating often and taking photos. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s