Wednesday, July 30th (‘Til We Meet Again, Hong Kong)
Written by Sylvia Trinh
After a short few hours of sleep, the CTAHR group woke up around 5:00am to pack their remaining things before heading to the airport. Our taxi van was waiting for us as we hiked up the mountain to the street. We had our hugs and said our goodbyes to the Hong Kong folks before we got into the taxi van for the one-hour ride to the airport. At some point between the van ride, waiting for our planes, or on our flights, we all thought back on our past ten days in Hong Kong.
Selfie on the van ride to the airport
The trip lacked many things: sleep, physical amenities, and a structured schedule. We’ll readily admit how much we looked forward to coming home to what we were familiar with, our families and friends, own beds, clean houses, home-cooked food, and other comforts that we took for granted when we left them behind for ten days. But this experience was also abundant in various other ways: humidity and mosquitoes, of course, but more meaningfully so in friendship and how we all cared for one another, laughter (some from delirium because of the lack of sleep and not knowing what was going on, yes, but countless other instances of genuine happiness over big and little things), and cultural exchange. The Chinese have a concept of yin and yang to explain how complementary seemingly opposing forces can be. On this volunteer/study tour, we were exposed to the good and bad, had our ups and downs, and got to see the urban and rural sides of Hong Kong. Having undergone what we had during those ten days challenged each and everyone of us out of our comfort zones immensely, but also helped us come to many important realizations that may not have happened without experience Hong Kong as wholly as we did.
As one student reflected, “I learned not only a great deal about Hong Kong’s culture, environment, and economy, but I also learned a whole lot more about myself. Being so far from home, I found out what I truly stood for in terms of what I liked or disliked. I understood myself, my decisions and most important; I became more confident in myself.” For another, “I believe this exchange has enhanced my understanding of Hong Kong culture and broadened my view of the world by introducing new perspectives on issues that originally seemed so black and white…This trip taught me a lot about myself, and has sparked my desire to travel the world and take on more risks in life, because there is still so much to see.”
We couldn’t ask for a better team of Hong Kong volunteers to help our group learn about agricultural and food issues in their home city. Not only were open to learning about us as individuals as well as how our life was back home, they so willingly shared whatever knowledge they could for us to gain a better understanding of their true culture. They didn’t try to filter Hong Kong for us; instead, we were exposed to the city for what it is. All of us who went to Hong Kong certainly valued having undergone this volunteer/study tour, being very well aware that such an opportunity to learn and immerse in a culture abroad in the manner that I and the four students who embarked on this journey were privileged to experience doesn’t come by so easily.