Letters to Home: Hong Kong Thanksgiving Edition

So, I miss Claremont. Don't get me wrong—I am having a superlative time studying abroad in Hong Kong, but being away from the 91711 for so long has me waxing nostalgic. In light of the recently passed Thanksgiving, I am going to take this opportunity to write about what I am thankful for in Claremont, not to boast about the hundreds of thousands of dollars I have won in Macau or the gaggles of leggy Nordic blondes with whom I routinely party. I am thankful for Collins. You might think… Why be thankful for an establishment that gave birth to the Claremonster? Well, even though I can't fathom this culinary abomination appetizing even the least sober Stagthena, at least its monstrous components are listed in plain English for all to see. When I hit the student canteens abroad, I always end up with soup noodles. Despite my most earnest efforts to order dry noodle dishes, rice dishes, or once even a hot dog, I somehow always end up with goddamn soup noodles.

I am thankful that the college staff speaks fluent English. As I type this, two workmen are trying to diagnose a problem with the fan in my room. Why are they doing this, you might ask? Well, when I was downstairs complaining to my warden (we don’t have RAs in the dorms at CUHK; instead we have "wardens", paid adult supervisors) about my back discomfort resulting from my paper thin mattress, I turned around and pointed to my back to show him what hurt. Little did I remember I was wearing a punny shirt with a fan holding a “#1” foam finger on the back of it. He saw the shirt and promptly ordered workmen to fix my nonexistent fan problem. Warden Wo might not have a good sense of humor (or understanding of the English language, at that), but he he knows what to do about a broken fan.

I am thankful the professors at CMC are decipherable. Although the language barriers abroad have noteworthy comedic potential, and I readily take advantage of plausible deniability after not doing my Cantonese homework ("How was I supposed to know we had homework? You assigned it in Cantonese, Prof," "Maybe you’d understand me if you did your homework once in a while," "Which brings me back to my original point, Doc...”), school is more rewarding when you can understand your teachers. I recently gave a presentation in one of my business courses. The teacher was impressed by my fluent English and pulled me aside after class. “Mark (she calls me Mark), I want you to present a kiss to the entire class next week,” she informed me as the students slowly filed out. “But professor…give a kiss to the whole class? I don’t think I’m THAT talented,” I coyly joke, utterly confused. “Mr. Mark, do not worry. If you feel ill-prepared, come by my office next Tuesday and you can practice with me. I will analyze your delivery." Judging by the rather professional look on Dr. Zho’s face, I realized I had no idea what the hell was going on, but I figured she was probably not planning on smooching me. “Dr. Zho, do you mean you want me to present a ‘case’? Like the one I presented today?” “Yes Mark. A case, just like I said.” So the following week, I popped an Altoid, applied my best lip balm, and delivered the best goddamn case MGNT4010F saw all year.

I am thankful for Camp Sec. One of the many reasons I love Claremont is because, at CMC, I’m not just a number. For better or for worse, the tight nature of the college community means that, if I mess up, the authorities will treat me as a respectable human being. Camp Sec keep us safe from townies and ourselves, but they rarely quarantine students, unlike Hong Kong border patrol. One day last week I decided I should make use of my multiple re-entry China visa and take a solo trip across the border to sample some local cuisine. I stopped at a recommended restaurant and, not recognizing Chinese characters, ordered a random entrée. The waitress returned, laughing sinisterly, with the fieriest dish the kitchen had to offer: boiling hot spicy broth with a healthy dose of chopped chili peppers, spicy beef, more minced peppers, and noodles (I just can't escape soup noodles…). Even my formaldehyde-laden Tsingtao did nothing to reduce my tongue burn to a simmer, so I decided to go home and take it easy. While crossing the Hong Kong border, however, I was stopped and put into quarantine. Apparently the soup had me sweating, tearing up, and running a 102 fever, which caught the attention of the temper-gauging customs official. My customs official spoke broken English, so instead of waiting indefinitely in political purgatory, I showed him my dinner receipt. He laughed, offered me some milk, and let me through.

A few other quick things I am grateful await me in Claremont:

I am thankful to return to the Scripps pool. We have a pool at CUHK, but it’s only for swimming. Like… What’s the point of a pool if you can’t lounge, am I right?

I am thankful to finally be able to play FIFA '13. Correction: I am thankful to finally be able to play a non-pirated version of FIFA '13.

I am thankful to be reunited with my futon. Ambiguous furniture… Need I say more?

I am thankful to return to inner tube water polo. And lose to Mudders.

I am thankful to return to snack. Even the new mozz sticks are more appetizing than soup noodles.

I am thankful to return to a place where people don’t ask me if I know Kobe Bryant because I’m from Los Angeles. Yes, I do. Just like everyone else from LA. And you know what, I’m much taller than him.

I am thankful to return to a country where I am a dominant force in ping-pong. 15-0 pre-departure, 0-99 since.

I am thankful to return to the Eden of long boarding. Look around once in a while—paved roads, mild downhill gradients, no overnight parking…now that’s what I call good city planning!

So yea, in conclusion… study abroad. It will change your life, most undoubtedly for the better. You’ll make new, interesting friends, try new activities and foods, learn a lot about a different part of the world, and learn even more about yourself. And make sure to appreciate the little things at CMC that make you feel right at home. There sure are a lot of them.

Much love,