by Ifeoma Onyefulu
I have never been to the Far East before and I don’t know what to expect. Will the school like my workshop? Are the people of Hong Kong friendly? Do they have black people there? These are the questions on my mind as I pack my suitcase.
Hong Kong, a twelve-hour flight from London, used to be a colony of the British Empire, but after it was transferred to China in 1997 under the policy of One country-Two systems, which means it has its own legal system, currency (Hong Kong dollars) etc.
On the day of our departure, I am as excited as a child in a sweet shop; I love flying and I am determined to get my fix on this long flight. Sue Martin, co-founder of Books Go Walkabout and I travel together.
I sit next to the window, hoping to see the fluffy white clouds, which reminds me of candy floss, and the occasional desert with its rolling sand dunes, but it is not long before we are asked to pull down our shutters in order to block out the bright light.
After some hours in the air I am bored. I stand up and stretch my legs. Then, I try to read and watch a movie at the same time! Eventually, I give up, and wish I am like Sue, who is already asleep. Sue, a seasoned traveler, has no problem settling down. I try copying her, but without any success, I just don’t feel like sleeping!
After what seems like an eternity, the pilot informs us we are thirty minutes or so away from landing. I reach for my shutter, and bright light floods in like a busted dam, but instead of seeing toy like buildings and traffic below, as you would expect, I see yet more clouds. Where is Hong Kong? Have I misunderstood the pilot’s announcement?
A few minutes later, I see the sea, and worryingly, it seems as if our plane is flying a little too close to the water, what is going on? I feel a bit frightened. Apparently, the airport is quite close to the sea.
After we claim our luggage, we take the airport express to Mainland Hong Kong, Central Station. From Central, Sue’s daughter who lives in Hong Kong, kindly takes us to Wan Chai, where my hotel is.
My first impression of Hong Kong is the buildings; every building seems to want to touch the sky, so tall they dwarf our skyscrapers in London. They are like giant Lego pieces! The weather too, is interesting; it feels very close; very warm and humid, a bit like Nigerian weather. It also very cloudy. The cloud seems to block out the sun, and I suspect it is due to pollution, which is a big problem there. In fact, a lot of people walk around with masks over their noses.
Sue checks me into my hotel, and my room, which is very nice is on the 20th floor, so I have a brilliant view of the Catholic cemetery. Very interesting.
Book Week is still two days away, so I decide to visit a friend in Macau.
Macau, an hour’s journey from Hong Kong by ferry, used to be a Portuguese colony, and it is now part of China, under the policy of One country, two systems. Like Hong Kong, Macau has its own monetary system, immigration policy and legal system.
The ferry trip is very pleasant, though someone must have set the air conditioner to, minus 12 degrees or something, because it is so cold toes are numb!
Macau is very beautiful, and different from mainland Hong Kong; some of its buildings are influenced by Portuguese architecture, and it has a large gambling centre.
Everyone who visits Macau comes back with a souvenir, so just before I leave I buy almond biscuit in a souvenir bag.
Finally, I meet the two other authors; we are all staying at the same hotel, which is great for socialising in the evenings.
The next day we start ‘work,’ although I prefer to call it creative and fun time with the school. Every morning Sue and her very kind daughter will pick us up and take us to the school. Sue’s daughter is a pro, she knows her way around Hong Kong and because of her, we get to our destination in no time at all. The traffic in Hong Kong is very challenging to say the least, if you leave at a certain time you may get caught in the traffic jam, so you have to plan your departure very carefully. And at the end of the school day, we also have to leave fairly quickly so that we can a taxi back very easily.
It is a joy to meet and work with the children; they are very intelligent, dedicated pupils and so are their teachers, and that makes author’s visits fun in my opinion.
We also have a down-time and here we are, with Sue in white, about to have dinner at the Hong Kong Cricket Club. The only drawback about sitting outside at night time are insect bites. The insects must have known we are new in town and wanted a taste of our blood!
As a goodbye gift from Hong Kong I take this last photo, (7 pm local time), of the city from the 45th floor of a bar that serves the best gin and tonic on the island.