Last year, during my final semester of university, I was struggling with deadlines and essays. I doubt I need to elaborate here, but life = hell. Whilst checking my emails, I noticed one from my dissertation advisor which didn’t scream DOOM, but instead, opportunity.
My advisor had sent an advertisement to work as an English tutor at the University of Macau the coming summer. Accommodation provided, good pay, great on a CV…
Where the hell is Macau?
After a little research, I discovered that Macau is a special administrative district of China (basically, you can log on Facebook there). It’s generally overshadowed by it’s superpower neighbour, Hong Kong, and is known for being a gambling haven with megacasinos. It is, however, also a former Portuguese colony with more cultural heritage than you would at first envisage.
Naturally I applied, and after a 3am Skype interview, I was soon on an 18 hour plane to Hong Kong, to spend a month living and working closely with an extremely diverse group of people that would become my extended family.
I had never met a Chinese person before. Spoken to, of course, but not properly became friends with someone from China. Obviously not by choice, but I’m a small town Scottish gal who studied English at university. Diversity in my hometown is the arrival of a family from Edinburgh. Or London. My high school was a sea of privileged white faces. But I digress, basically, I lacked a little life experience.
I missed the ferry from Hong Kong airport to Macau and waited 5 hours on the next.
It was 1am.
I got a taxi from the ferry port to the uni with directions supposedly in Cantonese, but that was never going to work was it? We got lost. I tried speaking Portuguese (I don’t know Portuguese). Apparently neither did he. He didn’t seem at all stressed. He blasted K-pop and whistled along until we finally found the uni.
I walked 2 miles alone through the University of Macau campus with a 17kg backpack. It was 100% humidity and 34 degrees. I had been travelling for 26 hours. I reached my dorm and was led to my room by a very smiley security guard (Lama would later let us party without telling on us) who spoke no English and I no Cantonese. I passed at least 12 cockroaches the size of soap bars that had surrendered in the hallway. I was questioning my life choices at this point. Truly, I must have called myself an arsehole at least once every 30 seconds. I think I said it in front of Lama. No harm done.
When I arrived at my room, I was greeted by my roommate, a fellow teacher on the programme. She was petite with long black hair that fell to her elbows and porcelain skin. She spoke English with an impeccable American accent and I think her vocabulary was wider than mine. She certainly said ‘fuck’ a lot less.
When we went to sleep and the lights were off, I started to cry. I was exhausted and disoriented, but I wasn’t upset. I hadn’t seen much of Macau yet, but my K-queen taxi driver, the smiliest security guard and my super nice and super normal roommate made me feel at ease. I fell asleep with a feeling that this trip was one of my better ideas.
University of Macau campus.