Sunset at Victoria Peak, Hong Kong.
The students were asked to pick English names to call themselves for the duration of the course. My personal favourites were ‘Ocean’ and ‘Homely’.
Lesson 1: Be whoever you wanna be girlfriend.
It quickly became clear that my Scottish accent was going to be a minor stumbling block for the kids. For my fellow non-British teachers, it was much worse. There was, at times, total communication breakdown. My Canadian friend would stare hopelessly at my mouth, desperately trying to figure out what I was saying. I received many polite laughs as a response when asking ‘Pardon me?’ too many times became awkward. The irony is that I was teaching English.
Lesson 2: Nobody south of Carlisle knows what the hell a Scottish person is saying.
I was asked to teach ‘culture classes.’ I decided a fun activity would be to teach Scottish ceilidh dancing (we get drunk do this at weddings). My offer got lost in translation and I found myself, twice weekly, teaching Hip Hop dancing to eager Macanese teens. I don’t know how to Hip Hop dance. We had to perform a routine to ‘Hotline Bling’ in front of hundreds of students and parents on the final day. Nailed that shit though.
Lesson 3: Fake it till you make it.
In Macau there’s a club called ‘Club Cubic.’ Within a casino, it attempts to create a Las Vegas feel, with live dancers, fire, a stage, and famous guest DJs. Unfortunately the whole thing was as disingenuous as most of Macau, although truth be told it was fun. Anyway, they frequently held nights where men paid entry and drinks, but women got in for free as well as free drinks all night. That kind of bat shit crazy blatant sexism would never be allowed in the UK. It was, however, good for my wallet.
Lesson 4: We’re all for equality until you save £100.
(jkjk but really it was convenient)
Lesson 5: Chicken feet is not food. No anecdote needed.
Some differences between myself and my Chinese friends, and even some of my American friends, were stark. One of my friends was struggling to accept his sexuality, fearing the reaction of his conservative family. Another friend was openly gay wherever he went, but felt obliged to hide it when returning to his very small hometown. One of them had a gorgeous figure, but wore baggy clothes because of insecurities. One was highly educated, charismatic and opinionated, but still felt the burden of racial prejudice in his home country.
Lesson 6: I didn’t share the same problems, although I have some of my own. But we were united, despite our cultural and geographical differences, by our mutual need for compassion and acceptance.* Something our world seems to be lacking right now.
*Also united by Tsing Tao.