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Weeks 10+11 - Mid-Autumn Festival

Tenth and eleventh week of my year in HK. Mid-Autumn festival celebration, Disneyland and Mongkok.

sunny 31 °C
View Bham->Dam->HK on David Zhao's travel map.

Posted on 11th October 2020

Huge thanks to Dr and Mrs Holliday for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship, in memory of their son Nick who was a geography teacher at KES. He was an avid traveller, explorer and climber, and died tragically in a climbing accident doing what he loved. The Scholarship helps fund the travels of KES students who aspire to travel, which I am sure Nick would be very proud of.

*Apologies for not posting last week. No free time from Monday to Fridays, and on the weekends we are out most of the time. From now on I'll have to post every two weeks, which I should be able to achieve. There may be the odd occasion where there isn't a post for three weeks, but I will do my best to aim for two. Hope a long entry this week makes up for my unexplained absence last week.*

Now that all years are back at school my job is what is was supposed to be at the start of the year. Hours are from 7am to 9pm. Predominantly coaching sport, with house supervision and office admin work also thrown in there. No more teaching English, maths and Chinese to the Year 1s and 2s without any form of teacher training. On my feet for the whole day except for when I'm eating. Daily schedule is as follows (more for my reference when looking back in a few years. Feel free to skip past this part):

7:00-7:30 - breakfast. I sit and eat with my house. Breakfast is mostly western - sausages, bacon, eggs, baked beans - however there are Chinese options available (e.g.) dumplings.

7:30-8:15 - Early Years Centre (EYC) shift. Due to COVID, parents aren't allowed to take their children directly to class anymore but have to leave them at the EYC entrance, where the kids get temperature checked. These are K1 and K2 children (3-5 years old) so need help getting from the entrance to their classroom, and my job is to shuttle them to their classes. Quite hectic when a large group approaches and they're all in different classes. Most are only just above my knee-height. All very cute.

8:15-10:10 - senior games. This is quite fun. Coaching students in Year 6-13 depending on the day. Rugby on Tuesday and Friday, football on Wednesday and athletics on Thursday. Weather is always fantastic and the temperature is bearable given it is fairly early in the morning. The kids are all very keen to hear what us Gappies have to say. They are interested in our stories and respect us - even the Year 13s who are the same age as us - which is a nice surprise. Didn't realise how good the athletics coaching I received at KES was. Only Gappie able to coach shot put and discus, and I'm able to give coaching tips I didn't even realise I knew. Clean palm, dirty fingers.

10:10-10:30 - breaktime supervision in house. Sometimes they get too loud so I have to thrash them at table tennis or table football, which is fairly brutal to watch but occasionally needed. Kids in my house see me as an older brother rather than a teacher, so rather than only asking important questions like they would to a more senior teacher, they ask me literally anything that comes into their minds. Been asked why other kids smell bad multiple times for instance.

10:30-11:30 - primary school games with Year 1-5 (depending on the day again). Lots of star jumps and dancing, and also teaching the girls netball. There is only so much you can teach children so young, so our main job as Gappies is literally to join in and have fun. The kids see us being positive and energetic and reciprocate it. They all seem scared to do anything they haven't been told to do directly; if they drop their ball, they watch it roll away from them rather than run after it, simply because we haven't told them to do so.

11:30-12:30 - lunch. Completely exhausted after three hours of sport coaching so a well-needed meal. I sit with house and make sure they're as sensible as hyper 10-13 year olds can be when surrounded by all their mates. Food is amazing, again mostly western.

12:30-13:30 - lunch supervision. After eating with the boys I help supervise them in house. Similar to break supervision.

13:30-15:30 - post duty one day, office admin one day and frees the other days. Only time really to get gym/physio in.

15:30-16:30 - lower school co-curriculum activity (CCA). I coach volleyball, badminton and football to younger years. Energy tends to be quite high given all the students selected to do these activities specifically.

16:30-18:00 - upper school CCA. Football coaching with the seniors on a Monday. Other days I get the students in my house - who often haven't signed up for a CCA because they'd rather sit in house and game - to run about on the astro and play little games (e.g.) signs, kick tennis, penalty shootout. It's good fun for me and them, and is better for them than sitting inside on their own. Very chilled out atmosphere, with only the boarders remaining onsite.

18:00-18:30 - dinner. Chance to wind down a bit. Again I eat with house. Always one or two western options, plus a different type of noodle dish everyday.

18:30-19:30 - homework or 'prep' time. Supervise boys in my house whilst they do their homework. Sometimes they need help (e.g.) in maths, so I act as their 1-2-1 tutor and help them work through challenging problems. Rewarding to see them get the answers on their own.

19:30-21:00 - chill out time and evening supervision. After they've finished homework the kids are free to use the common room until their bed time. I play with them, then ensure they brush their teeth and stay quiet after lights out. After this I'm free to do as I choose. Normally just pass out, but sometimes emails and other tasks keep me up till quite late.

So yeah. Long hours and constantly on my feet. Never the less I'm in love with the job. Extremely rewarding after I sit down and help them with their work, or spend time teaching them a skill in rugby/football, and you can see the difference at the end. I love how the kids don't view us as teachers but more as older brothers. Makes it very fun when we're taking the piss out of each other. Yet there is still that respect for us as staff members. In other words, the job is physically exhausting, though plenty of fun and very rewarding.

Still suffering from mild PTSD after a traumatic experience a few days ago. Haven't dropped my tray in a dining hall since my first week in Year 7 at KES. For the audience, I'd imagine it would be much funnier for students to see a staff member drop theirs than an unfortunate noobie, so I stepped up and provided them the entertainment for the night. Spaghetti and meatballs to make it worse. Went down my shirt and shorts, and also drops of tomato sauce landed on my Boosts. Right in front of the senior girls too, who were in hysterics. Not sure if I'll ever be able to make a full recovery.

Mid-Autumn Festival took place two Thursdays ago, 1st October. It celebrates the end of hard work during the Autumn harvest, and pays thanks to the moon for the good harvest. School finished on a Wednesday to allow people to celebrate, which makes the UK's bank holiday Mondays seem pathetic in comparison.

We spent the day of Mid-Autumn Festival in Disneyland to pay our cultural respects. Castle was about a quarter of the size of the one in Paris, with the theme park itself about half the size. Castle didn't even light up at night which was disappointing, though we all felt that overall it was much more beautiful at night than in the day. Didn't know Disney had bought Marvel till I saw Marvel Land which was cool. Full-sized Iron Man suit and Captain America's shield were on display in the Stark Museum. Iron Man simulator ride was fun: the makers put the Stark Tower as one of the skyscrapers in HK next to the ICC; it was locally themed which was a nice touch. We flew through HK's built-up areas and fought-off robots before destroying a mothership. Best rides were Grizzly Gulch and Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, a rollercoaster where we weaved through TIE fighter fleets with Admiral Ackbar as our commanding officer. Had a Mickey Mouse waffle which was incredible.
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Disneyland, HK. It's a Small World lit-up at night, full-sized Iron Man suit and Captain America shield. Picture of the buildings is TST with the Stark Tower next to the ICC. Fun fact: the ICC is the 12th tallest building in the world. Can't emphasise how nice the waffle was.

Disney was two weekends ago. On the most recent Saturday we went into Mongkok, famous for its fake markets. Completely different atmosphere to the posh malls I've written about before, with bustling crowds and makeshift stalls providing us a much more authentic experience of Asia. Managed to snag a tie and a vest for £1 each. Vendors were insistent on us sanitising our hands before touching their goods as, after a week or so of zero cases, there has been a sharp rise over the past few days with no known source. Hoping it doesn't escalate into a full fourth wave, especially seeing as we've just gotten into a routine. These street vendors rely heavily on pedestrians walking through (no digital stores) so if restrictions are increased again to limit use of public transport and public gatherings, they'll really suffer.
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Street markets in Mongkok, HK.

Still getting used to the nature and climate in HK. At the time of writing this paragraph [Tuesday morning] a T8 warning - severe typhoon warning - has gone out, meaning non-boarding students/staff are required to stay at home and attend/work via zoom. This isn't very rare in HK apparently, and the students are used to getting typhoon warnings out of the blue. Tropical climate means that for intense storms, there is often only a few hours' warning given. HK weather app (MyObservatory) is actually essential. It notifies you of any official weather warning, and is very helpful during typhoons as all public transport closes; it gives you a heads-up to head home early. Before a thunderstorm one evening, there were literally hundreds of big dragonflies hovering about ten metres above the astro. Apparently this was due to high humidity and a forthcoming storm; dragonflies gathering in a swarm often signifies a storm. Never seen an eagle before coming here, but in the past week I've seen four circling the school astro, sometimes swooping very low. Very graceful birds.
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Weather warning notifications I receive on a daily basis, and one of four eagles I've seen circling school

Feng Shui is a traditional Chinese practice of maximising the flow of positive energy (chi) through and around buildings. People in HK believe that wind energy comes down from the mountains and wants to be able to flow out to sea unobstructed. If it can flow freely then people will live at harmony with their surroundings and prosper. If there is an obstruction, people will receive bad fortune. Translates literally to 'wind, water' in Chinese. I'd heard of the term before but didn't realise how big an effect is has on people living in Hong Kong; influences how buildings are laid out and built to a large extent.

When new buildings are in the planning process, HK companies hire a Feng Shui specialist as well as an architect. The specialist applies Feng Shui to maximise the chi flow within the building. Buildings with good Feng Shui are worth more than those with bad Feng Shui, and when people sell their house they often get a Feng Shui evaluation by a specialist to see how they can improve their Feng Shui and subsequently up their price. Things like maximising natural light and having a wide entrance improve chi flow, and buildings with an opening leading directly to the sea - such as a wide balcony - sell for the most.

Next to the ICC there is an apartment block shaped like an 'N'; there is literally a big rectangular gap in the middle of the building. The only reason it is like this is to improve its Feng Shui; locals believe that there is a spiritual wind dragon that comes down from the mountains and flies out to sea. Without the gap, the dragon would be obstructed and the building and its surroundings would receive bad fortune. There are numerous buildings with that kind of gap, including the K11 mall, and the only reason they're built like that is to improve their Feng Shui.
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Large gap in apartment building near ICC and K11 Mall, only there to improve chi flow

When the HSBC building was built, the owners of surrounding buildings were annoyed as the pattern on the external structure - metal beams forming large triangles - reflected bad energy from the HSBC building and onto theirs. It messed up the Feng Shui of the street too, which had been designed to maximise chi flow. Business owners thought this would impact them negatively. The bottom floor of the HSBC building is more or less hollow, with only a reception desk and an escalator. No offices, large pieces of furniture or clutter. Entrances are extremely wide; maybe six or seven double-doors made of glass going across, allowing chi to pass through through the front out the back of the building. I think it's insane how much people practice Feng Shui here. Influences the street layout - similar to long corridors - and the design of the specific buildings too. Disneyland's walkway from the train station to the entrance is bent so as to prevent positive energy from escaping to the South China Sea, instead keeping it circulating around the park to give it maximum prosperity. If you don't believe me, search 'Feng Shui Disneyland HK' and find the NY Times article.
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HSBC building with strange beams on the outer structure that reflect bad energy away, and the curved entrance of Disneyland HK to prevent the chi from escaping

As mentioned, for over a week cases have been at zero. However in the past few days there has been a spike, and the source is unidentified. Don't think I'd be able to go through helping Year 1s and 2s with Zoom everyday before meal planning and cooking for myself again. Hope this doesn't escalate too much; we need some sort of stable normality, regardless of how different it is to before. Massive lifestyle changes every few weeks isn't healthy for anybody. As long as school stays open I have no problem with wearing a mask for the entirety of the day and shouting at kids non-stop to social distance.

Half term next week. Planning to go to LKF this weekend, known for being the nightlife hub of HK. Also going camping on Han Tin Beach hopefully. Should be amazing if I don't get mozzie-bitten to death, which given how badly I react to bites genuinely could happen.

Dave

Posted by David Zhao 04:27 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged fengshui

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