Meet the Cabinet
A Trip Down Memory Lane Annual Creative Writing Competition
Annual Creative Writing Competition Editorâ€™s Choices
e all long to live and tell our stories. Looking back to when we all individually entered the same intimidating doors of University, everything felt so foreign. We began our journey as the Cabinet of Session 17-18 filled with excitement laced with fear and uncertainty. We dived straight in and, carried by the tides of time, flew past the session. Many of our doubts and worries came and went faster than we thought they would. A year ago, we heard stories from our predecessors about what it means to join a Society in University and working through a year with a group of unfamiliar faces, and how those faces become family. Now, itâ€™s time for us to tell ours. The making of this journal was challenging, yet extremely retrospective. I sincerely owe my thanks to all those who are involved in the creation of this issue. A fond congratulations to all the featured writers from this yearâ€™s Annual Creative Writing Competition, you have my gratitude for sharing your talents in depicting your adventures. Another warm thanks to Dr. Page Richards, for so kindly agreeing to judge for our contest. My fellow cabinet members, thank you for giving me your memories to compile into this journal. Experience is the blood that runs in the vein of life. This journal is the skin that tells the story and emotions we have lived through in during our Session. The production processes recovered memories that were lost among the waves of responsibility, memories that far outweigh the latter. We learn from the past and live through our presents as the Executive Members of English Society. As you read through the compilation of memories in our Session, may you be inspired to enter your own journey, and pass on your stories to the future.
English Society, A.A.H.K.U.S .U. ince 1960, English Society, A.A.H.K.U.S.U. has been an academic society with a mission and doing our best to uphold it: to secure the welfare of potential and current English majors, to promote the English language as a tool of communication within campus, and to act as a bridge between English students and the representative School of English. This is a legacy with an undying fire that has been passed on from session to session, from past to present, putting our members as the priority in promoting English throughout the HKU campus. As Session 17-18, our Cabinet is driven by the motto â€œEmbark to see the beauty in the uncertain.â€? The choice to lead our session with this motto came from the consensus of sincerity shared among all 12 of us. The reality is that greatness only comes from hardships. We embrace the fear and doubts that come along with every new beginning and anticipate the good at the end of every challenge. To venture into places unknown to us can be terrifying, and in our case, taking up the responsibility to hold a student society benefiting as many people as possible is terrifying. However, the motto is one that contains courage, curiosity, determination, and relentless drive that allows us to breakthrough, challenge and conquer in the face of any obstacle. As English Society, A.A.H.K.U.S.U., Session 2017-2018, our Cabinet is truly pointing our compass towards courage. With dedication, we have been able to hold many events that benefited our members throughout the year, including the Masquerade Ball, the English Festival and the Welfare Week. We shall continue this sincerity, and sail towards any more challenges to conquer, continuing a legacy that will be passed on for many years to come.
If I have to summarize Uni life in a sentence, I’d say it’s an exploration of the outer world and your inner self. You get to meet people who are different and special in their own ways and to understand yourself, as in who you truly are. I am not an ambitious person, and I am definitely not a fan of surprises and thrills. So if you were to ask what my ideal adventure is, it would be spending a year in Europe doing whatever fate brings upon me. I don’t have the details for my ideal adventure, because if I do, it wouldn’t be an adventure, would it? But then again, you have
B i b i a n a T sa n g
to have at least something you’d like to do in mind, or else you’d
be wandering aimlessly. If there really is a chance of me going on
Horoscope: Virgo Prospective Major(s): English Studies Fine Arts
watch the autumnal change of woods and the tinted October sky
my ideal adventure, regardless of what life brings me to, I must in a secluded European countryside. That’s all I ask for an ideal adventure.
I was born on 25 November, and I can tell you, I am a very typical Sagittarius. Just in case you’re not very familiar with horoscopes, Sagittariuses are free spirits and we are always down for adventures. Our lives are basically made of uncertainties. In other words, there can be a paramount of possibilities. Why don’t we seize the numbered time we have and make the most out of it? I explore something new every day and every day is a new adventure for me. I could doodle with whatever paint I have on where I shouldn’t be drawing on; get to know strangers randomly on the streets; get a plane ticket for the coming day and take nothing but a backpack with me, and more. The most ideal adventure for me, though, would be to go on road trips to bizarre places, and just act like a
P he be Chun g
local and immerse myself in different cultures. To be mesmerized by breathtaking scenery, it would be even better if I get to sketch right there in front of the view. Yet, being a Sagittarius or not, while you’re still young and still have the chance, why not be wild and bold and enjoy the thrills that come along with your adventures?
Horoscope: Sagittarius Prospective Major(s): Language and Communication Psychology
I am indecisive and unpredictable. I blame it on being an Aquarius. Most of the time I am not the kind of person who can come up with a plan and stick to it. While that may sound really bad to people who live a very organized life, I am fine with it because I am always surprised by the unplanned journeys. With a constantly changing mind, the one goal that I will always have is to be free. My ideal adventure does not have a destination. Traveling around the world, yes, of course, that is ideal. However, instead of putting the emphasis on where to travel, I focus more on being free from things
Cr ys t a l T a m
that confine and limit me, like my comfort zone. The ideal journey to me does not have to be exploring somewhere exotic. Working my way through or checking off my list of 100 dreams will eventually become my ideal journey because
Horoscope: Aquarius Prospective Major(s): Translation English Studies (Minor)
I would not regret the bits and pieces in the process which shape me into who I am today.
I’d like to think that I’m a better writer than talker. I definitely feel easier introducing myself like this than speaking with people physically. I guess this already shows how I tend to shy away from crowds (not that I don’t like people, don’t get me wrong). Strangely, though, I don’t mind playing music with an audience. I’m not a particularly good musician, and I’m very self-aware of my performances, but I’ve found a lot of fun and joy out of performing with what little experience I’ve had. As much as I like staying snug in my comfort zone, I’d really like to try and perform publicly for people I don’t know. I’ve played multiple times at my old school and busked a few times, but it’s all confined to friends and people that at least knew me. Experiencing a fresh start and playing in front of strangers and earning a quick buck from it sounds like a pretty good adventure, maybe even a fun one.
De re k Mak
General Secretary Horoscope: Aries Prospective Major(s): English Studies Journalism (Minor)
I am spontaneous and unexpected at times. I like to stroll along the streets and go nowhere. I like to discover little shops or cafes I’ve never been to before. It’s crucial to give some time to yourself and just be you for a moment in this hectic world. As much as everyday life already is an adventure of its own, I find trying to live slowly a challenge and an adventure I seek to go on. How often would you, as a metropolitan, ever just walk around the neighborhood you live in? When we all wish for a vacation on a beach in Bali, or in Paris, I wish for an adventure in my hometown in Hong Kong. As embarrassing as it sounds, I am only familiar with the Island line of the MTR. A little goal I have is to at least be more familiar with the Kowloon line which I refer to as “the red line”. I want to enjoy the beauty of this city, appreciate our culture and experience the togetherness of Hong Kong people. To love my city as it is before anything changes.
Sam mi Tun g
Financial Secretary Horoscope: Aries Prospective Major(s): English Studies Global Creative Industries
My friends always grumble at me about two things. One, it takes forever for me to reply. Two, it is so hard to ask me out. I do admit that I have a kind of laid-back lifestyle and a slight obsession with alone time, but that does not mean that I am not adventurous. An adventure includes but is not limited to doing something perilous or going somewhere far away. While sometimes I will dream to travel solo (though I am a homebody who is terrible with directions), adventure to me is more about the
R a ch el L i
“first-time” in everyday life: listening to a new genre of music, reading a book about an unfamiliar topic, trying out a new recipe... These little adventures add wow to my life. They may not be comparable to thrilling experiences
Horoscope: Aquarius Prospective Major(s): English Studies Psychology
like taking a ride on a terrifying roller coaster. They are more like sipping a cup of iced lemon mint tea on a hot summer day, simple yet refreshing.
I always find the question “Can you describe yourself in three words?” difficult to answer. This isn’t because I don’t know myself enough, but it’s because there are many sides of me that a few words are just not enough to conclude. People’s typical first impression of me is that I’m quiet and cold, and I won’t deny this because sometimes I really am such kind of person (it really depends on who I’m with). But you will never know that I’m actually open-minded, very observant, a little superstitious and neurotic unless you get to know me deeper. It’s weird sometimes that I unconsciously pay attention to little details that others never notice and I welcome strange values and ideas people don’t often embrace. Traveling to somewhere I have never been to and
Pris t in a Tan
exploring mysterious and mystical places will always be the ideal
Horoscope: Cancer Prospective Major(s): of freshness are what I look for in a great adventure and enjoy the English Studies most from discovering the unknown. Psychology adventure that I could ever dream of. The excitement and feeling
You know that time of year when it’s late autumn and the weather is crisp and slowly stepping into winter? I’d like to say my personality is quite like that. Strange comparison, indeed. With a rather peculiar taste in spooky things and absurd stories, I grew up as an over-imaginative individual and spent most of my childhood making up stories in my head. Then, I got older and discovered the realm of imagination through art. I became obsessed with movies and music, routes that allowed me to escape reality. In turn, I grew an impression to most that I’m a withdrawn person who seemed uninterested in most things. However, like the anticipation for
Le ann e H o n g
Publication Secretary Horoscope: Capricorn Prospective Major(s): English Studies Japanese Studies Journalism (Minor)
Christmas that comes along with winter, I am passionate about things I love, and also sharing them with people I know. A worthy adventure for me would definitely be somewhere out of this world. Creativity often causes me to long for experiences beyond the norm and into the supernatural. Being surrounded by fantastical creatures, witnessing scenery that only exist in dreams and being away from all things that bind us to reality is a journey to die for.
As I grew up, I realized that having company at all times is not that important. I used to panic about having to do anything alone. I would rather stay in if I didn’t have a friend with me. But it’s different now. Getting accustomed to solitude changes your life. You don’t have to worry about the embarrassment you would feel when you can’t find a good subject to discuss. You don’t have to compromise when making plans with others. You can simply put on your earphones, pick a playlist that you like and have your ‘Me Time’. I hate turbulences, and I hate taking risks. But if I am to choose an adventure, I would choose to travel to Japan alone. For me, unique streets and traditional wooden architectures are on my top list of places I wanna visit. It’s hard to put my feelings into words when
Wallace L e e
I see amazing ‘art pieces’. I can’t wait to walk along the streets of
Horoscope: Taurus Prospective Major(s): dangerous (as my mum advises), it would be an adventure that can Language and Communication truly fulfill my anonymous emptiness inside. Translation Japan on my own. Although going on a trip alone is difficult and
I’m not an independent girl or one who is eager to take up new challenges. I always stay in my comfort zone. Why do I have to take risks when I can be comfortable in my world? Why do I have to face my fears? But as I grow up, I realize I cannot restrict myself or else I’m not truly growing and blossoming. I feel like life should be more than this little area that I live in. Going on a working holiday is on my to-do list, which is a big adventure
Che rr y W o n g Social Secretary
and a challenge to me, as I rely on people a lot. And going on a working holiday probably means that I have to take care of, work and live by myself without families and friends around me. But I’m proud to know that I’m willing to step out of my
Horoscope: Pisces Prospective Major(s): English Studies Global Creative Industries
comfort zone, to take this challenge, and to grow up. When are you going to step out of yours? “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. Embrace wanderlust, be an adventurer in your limited and precious life.
Hi everyone, I am Jonathan, my friends usually call me Jon. As a reserved person, I don’t really like talking to strangers, though I am quite talkative in front of my friends and family. Many people may be afraid of loneliness, but I enjoy moments of solitude. Those are the times when I can reflect on myself, have a quiet time and occasionally allow my imagination to flow. I have diverse interests: basketball, fiction, comics, games, watching movies and drawing, to name but a few. My ideal adventure will be going on a trip into the cinematic universe. I would love to kick off the day by having tea with Maleficent. If I were still alive after the encounter, I would ride a broomstick and roam around Hogwarts, to find out the secret of its long-
Jon at han Tan g
lasting popularity. To end the day, I would join Thanos to see
Horoscope: Aquarius Prospective Major(s): adventure does not need to be thrilling or heartbreaking, it English Studies just needs to be unforgettable. Translation the sunset. Not very exciting, but as I always believe, a good
Get adventurous girl! We all long to visit different places around the world, to meet people who we haven’t met before. But you know what, instead of viewing nature’s secularity, listening to people’s stories just sounds a little bit more fascinating to me. Those stories to be unleashed are more than mere sceneries displayed in words, but vivid experiences conveyed with emotions and feelings. Getting adventurous in others’ stories is surely a portal for me to see the
Joyce W u
Marketing Secretary Horoscope: Capricorn Prospective Major(s): English Studies Fine Arts
world with whole new angles, just like how photographers capture pictures with lenses of different apertures and focus. It sketches a distinct and unique filter for my march to unveil the world with a more aggressive mind.
A T rip down
r u g
io t a
he Inauguration Ceremony of English Society, A.A.H.K.U.S.U., Session 2017-2018, which marked the official commencement of the cabinet, was held on 22 November 2017. We were honoured to have Dr. Elizabeth Ho, representative of the School of English, cabinet members of the previous sessions as well as representatives from other Societies join us on this joyous occasion. The Ceremony, being the first event held by our cabinet, marked a great beginning of our journey. We were grateful to say it was with the help and participation of everyone that the event had been a wonderful success.
“Embark to see
the beauty in th
e uncertain.” 22 Nov, 20 17
he Masquerade Ball: Nocturne of English Society was held on 9 February 2018. Under the theme of masquerade, the concept reminded people to look beyond the superficial and appreciate the beauty within every soul.
Besides the must-have slow dance sessions, we also had a disco session which brought the night to total wildness. Two bands: The Faulty Royals and Asyndeton, brought us thrilling live music performances that spiced up the atmosphere of the night. Our photo booth captured the happy moments of our participants and saved the memories in the instant photos. That night was an amazing nocturne indeed.
ind, ith the m e, but w ey e ind” th bl with painted oks not re ged Cupid in w “Love lo Shakespea is m efore m, Willia b, 2018 a re and ther D s t’ 9 Fe mer Nigh A Midsum —-
N : l al B de a r e u q s Ma
hemed around Fantasy Fiction, English
Festival 2018 included a series of events that promoted Fantasy fiction to all students in HKU. For those who were new to the genre, they had a slight taste of it in our Book Fair. As for those who were already big fans, the Academic Dialogue, the Film Appreciation as well as the Academic Talk fulfilled their desires to another kind of Fantasy â€“ Dark Fantasy. Guest speakers in the Academic Dialogue and the Academic Talk gave insightful and intriguing speeches, which amazed participants with new perspectives to analyze Fantasy fiction.
19 M ar
, 201 8
- 4 A p r 20 18
he Welfare Week was organized with the aim to express our gratitude to our long-standing members. Had it not been for their active and supportive participation in our various events, say the Masquerade Ball and English Festival, we would not have received much recognition and endorsements from the crowd. In light of that, a total of 300 Welfare Packs were prepared for them. A Lucky Draw was also organized, presenting lucky winners with more unique items as gifts. This year, from Ted Baker to The Standard, we were so blessed and very grateful to have products sponsored by different companies. We hope that members would enjoy this little gift from us.
16 Apr , 2018 - 20 A pr 2018
Dear Wallace, As a semi-nerd, I thought I would spend all my time immersing myself into learning in HKU. I dreamt of studying and reading books in my U-life. However, thanks to your decision then, I have had a superb first year of U-life in HKU. Becoming a cabinet member is not an easy job, as you might know. The mental capacity, stamina, patience etc., as well as the prioritization of your work in the committee over other aspects of your uni life, matter a lot. In this new stage of your life, you have to make your own choices. You might be told at that time that becoming a cabinet member will mean you have to dedicate fully to the Society. But that does not mean that you have to devote all of your time to your duties. It isn’t about how much time you spend on this Society, but about the effort that you have put into it. Responsibilities come with age: I have encountered more and more new obligations in this first year of U-life than ever before, like part-time jobs, friendships (I have to spend more time to keep in touch with your old friends) and many more… I am so glad that I could do it well, at least I feel like I didn’t ignore any aspects of my life. (Maybe I have ignored my sleeping time… who knows…you can tell by my eyebags…) If I had not become a cabinet member, I really wouldn’t have been able to imagine how my time would be planned. To be frank, it is nearly impossible to allocate all my time to studying unless I am really into it. You have to find something to occupy yourself with. Joining the English Society family would mean a lot to you, and now that my duties are almost done, it means even more. Although our efforts and time paid during our session may not be recorded physically, I can at least tell my friends that I have spent my first year of my U-life in a superb way. Thank you.
Wallace at the moment
September 2017, you decided to become a cabinet member of English Society (or Eng Soc, as we call it) because you realized that, as a BA student, you have a lot of free time and this is a way to use your time properly during your first year in Uni. Before that, you were determined to focus merely on academics and nothing else. But girl were you wrong about that. Focusing merely on your academic achievements could make you academically outstanding, but you’d be missing out so much if you hadn’t made the decision to become a member of the cabinet. You see, as a student studying for an Arts degree, you should have known better that life is not only about achieving goals and preparing for the future. You should have known that it has always been the process and the people who truly matter. Besides, you knew better that you are more than capable of managing both your studies and your duty as a cabinet member, so why not spend your time doing something meaningful instead? Becoming a cabinet member of Eng Soc means taking up extra responsibility. It means that you have to spend time fulfilling your duties. It could be tiring at times, and you may even ask, “What’s the point?”. Thing is, this experience, and the people is exactly what’s this experience about. It is an opportunity that only a few others could share and is something that has made your first year at Uni such an enjoyable year. There is so much I want to say, and I could go on talking non-stop for days about my times spent with these people, the hard times and the good times, and the times which we worked together to solve a problem. And all those times, though I have never told my fellow cabinet members, I treasure them a lot. If you ask me if I will make the same decision I did a year ago? Yes, definitely.
With love, Bibiana
Dear the 2017 me,
So, the first year of university has passed by in the blink of an eye. You would not realize it until time was running out for the research essay that you had been procrastinating on. Believe it or not, you are not a pre-Year 2 student now. Mindblowing, I know. Before attending University, people kept telling me how much spare time you have as a university student, which is exactly the reason why the “5 Things in University” became such popular terms. However, I was never fond of the ideas of participating in orientation camps and experiencing hall life because I thought those activities were time-consuming and dreadful. I also value and enjoy seclusions, so I was just glad to know that I could have more time pursuing my interests instead of consuming my four precious years by the unnecessary social events. To my surprise, I ended up in something even bigger - the Cabinet. I can still vividly remember my father’s response when I told him I was not attending the family
dinner because I needed to study during DSE time. He said, “make sure you are really using the time well instead of wasting it.” I still think of this from time to time. And I have come to the conclusion that for the past year, I would be doing nothing else even if I was not part of the cabinet. The time might be spent on watching TV dramas or doing part-time jobs that help little with my personal growth. However, being part of the cabinet has benefited me in so many ways, including meeting a new group of lifelong friends even for an introverted person like me. Most importantly, I see an onerous but certainly eventful year when I look back on it. Give yourself a pat on the shoulder for your hard work and keep moving forward. You own your time and you can choose to live a more fruitful life in university even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.
Love, 2018 me (Crystal)
Proud of you girl!
, know that m e you haveI just entered
You may be passionate about your duties, but you would eventually realize that you’re too dependent. You always assume that there are people at your back, to help and teach you. This may be true, with your supportive fellow committee members and your predecessors, you indeed have all the support you need. Nonetheless, the tendency to rely on others will cause you to have low awareness of danger. What you need to learn is to be able to work on your own, to count on yourself, when needed.
As you organize the Orientation Programme, you will find that there are times you need to work by yourself without anyone’s help. You will be frustrated at first, but after acquiring the tools you need – being organized and not procrastinating – you will realize that working alone is not that scary after all. Sincere advice: get yourself a schedule book before it is too late. Another thing that you will learn is how to cooperate with others. Apart from working alone, there are also times when you have to cooperate with others. You may think giving up your own opinion is an act of weakness for now, but you will soon find out the willingness to compromise is, in itself, an act of wisdom. The things you are going to learn in the Society are beyond any contents in the university courses. So if someone tells you that joining a society means giving up your grades, remember: it’s not true.
university and have also joined English Society as a member of the cabinet. To be honest, I have no idea why you, an introvert, had the courage to make such a choice, especially when there are so many negative rumors about societies. However, I am so glad that you have made that choice, and I can assure you that you will not regret it.
About a summer ago from where I’m at, you would still be bothered about where to go for Uni. To be part of a society in a university would be the last thing you’d be thinking about, especially with the bad impression on these things our brother had given us with his less-than-cheerful experience. Almost a year later, I’m happily working on the Orientation Programme for freshmen, something you would become very soon, alongside a group of good friends. Pretty sure this would be the least you’d expect for yourself to be doing in university: handling activities with a new bunch of people would be something you wouldn’t want to do.
Sooner or later, once you choose HKU, you’ll start worrying about friends: all of your close friends would have gone to other Unis, and you won’t have anyone to stick to anymore. You need friends, and soon you’ll realize that maybe handling activities with a new bunch of people would be something you want to do. You might make new friends there, who knows? And hey, you do. If I didn’t sign up to be part of the society, I’ll be writing this being a very lonely person right now. Our brother might have had a bad time in the other society, but that doesn’t apply to you. If anything, it’s the exact opposite: I’m really enjoying my time here, and being part of EngSoc has let me
run into people who’ve become very important to me, more than you’ll ever imagine. Things might get a bit demanding here sometimes, but in return, I get a bunch of friends who I can hang within and outside of school, go to classes with, and fulfill those demands together with. I think it’s more than just a fair trade; it’s really an advantage. Lemme just tell you, when you get to that point where you’re thinking about whether you should sign up for EngSoc, and thinking about whether you’ll regret it, you won’t. You’ll love it.
See you never, Derek
A year has passed, and I am no longer a freshman who gets anxious about everything in university. I still remember when I was planning the timetable for my very first semester, I was afraid that I could not go from one lecture hall to another in 10 minutes. If that is the thing you are worrying about now, please don’t panic — You may find the lecture room half empty even if you are a few minutes late. Secondary school is like filling in the blanks. Others prepare the questions for you and 80 percent of the answers are given. You have clear instructions, or at the same time restrictions, that guide your steps. University, though, is like writing essays. There are still common topics, like “ the 5 things in the university”, but basically you can write anything that you want to. There is so much freedom that I somehow felt lost when I first gained access to it, even though I usually hate to feel constrained and bounded.
Joining the cabinet and becoming a promo sec kind of helped me find the direction. It was quite difficult at first, especially as I have never learned design before and I have no clue how PhotoShop works when I first started. And thanks to the posters and banners and all the other promotion materials I needed to make, I got much less time for TV dramas and leisure books (still pretty enough though, no worries). However, if I have never taken this challenge, I would never have known that I am capable of making my own designs and I would never have had the feeling of satisfaction after completing a drawing (let me quote my sj’s saying, “it’s like giving birth!”). To be honest, I admit that I am a little bit of a lazy person who sometimes feels unmotivated and vacillates a lot. I remember when I first heard the slang “搏盡”, I immediately thought “that’s not my thing”. And now as a member of the cabinet, even though I am still far from being “搏盡”, I find that trying hard and striving for greatness is less toilsome but more fulfilling than I expected. Sometimes, all you need is a little push.
Dear me, 2018 is going to be a very different year for you. A lot is going to happen but don’t panic for what’s ahead of your life. I don’t want to spoil too much of what you are about to go through just to let you enjoy every bit of it and learn as much as you can. Congratulations on your successful transition from a secondary school student to a BA student in HKU. I know you’ve never had much passion for studying and you definitely expect to end all the intense study routines you’ve adopted when you were still in secondary 6. Guess what? Good news, there will be a chance for you to make your university life way more fun and fruitful. You won’t need to surround yourself only with academics and suffer from the boredom of it. Instead, you will use the extra free time you earn from such a flexible schedule better, by becoming a cabinet member of English Society. In English Society, you will meet a group of people who are very devoted to what they are doing, trying to bring out the best of themselves in order to create and innovate. You will be overwhelmed by how everyone cooperates and works together wholeheartedly, striving for the same goals. Considering the responsibilities, whether to become a cabinet member or not will not be an easy decision. It’s normal to be worried. I know you will probably wonder “does becoming a cabinet member equal to giving up GPA and free time?” Well, trust me, the answer is no. Don’t doubt your own potential and have faith in yourself. I’m sure you are capable of managing time and prioritizing. Most importantly, becoming a cabinet member is a precious, memorable and exciting learning journey you will never forget. Just grab the chance and have one less thing to regret in your life! When will you try it if you don’t try it now?
Hope I didn’t spoil you too much and enjoy the rest of this fascinating experience!
i, m m
Future Sammi is here to tell you to chill and take a deep breath. Stop worrying about every single little detail and just try to take in the huge change and milestone you have just reached.
Please know that entering university is just like entering another game of numbers. As much as I know you suck at maths and refuse to take a second look at all the algebras and unknowns you had to calculate for the past six years of secondary school, your GPA is slowly becoming your new question. A question that you would have to keep working on until I graduate 4 years later. So before you panic, don’t, it really is not worth your time.
I know you wanted to start off fresh in university and learn to love learning instead of always referring back to marking schemes and learning skills and tips for the DSEs. That’s great! Please always remember the feeling you first set foot on the campus and hold on to it. Please try to take in the “university experience”. That being one that you explore your fields of interest and to expose yourself to new knowledge and ways to critical thinking and presentation of ideas. Whether you fulfill all the “5 things you must do in university” or not, please look beyond the numbers and just enjoy these few years of self-exploration and time before reality hits you in the face.
To be completely honest, stop stressing over “過三爆四” like everyone around you, and stop registering 靚grade” courses only. I am here to remind you to find your passion and interest! Although University is really just another game of numbers concealed by the supposed “freedom” and “fun” and “hall life” and “上莊” please learn to treasure the friendships you made, the friends that skipped classes with you and the friends that worked along with you at 3 am. GPA really isn’t everything. (well maybe it is but not in year 1 so CHILL.)
, e v o
So, a Society Executive Committee Member. That’s one thing you never thought you would become just a few months ago. You’re probably feeling more confused than ever, given you’ve never been a calm person at any time. Time became a huge struggle, and you had your own ambitions. You wanted to maintain your interests, make new friends, become successful, get your life together. There was a lot. You were always worried about your studies. You’ve never been a studious person, but ambition often drives you to work. Joining the Society was a gamble, you wanted a new start, and even under the comments and advice from your family and friends, you chose to busy up your schedule. Instead of following your friends, you deviated from your original goal to only regard University as an academic environment and joined something that demands devotion of time, energy, and a significant amount of effort in socializing, something you’re not used to nor interested in.
The enormity of this new environment could be overwhelming. However, time will tell, as you begin to learn how to balance studies and work, with the support from your cabinet members, you’ll understand that you never struggle alone. You’ll be able to obtain more knowledge or skills than you could ever get in classes. You see, in University, you learn from experience, not teachings. Managing your time will become your best friend, and when you get the knack of it, you’ll find having a busy schedule with Society duties coupled with academic demands, is in fact quite exciting. Academic and Society events are never mutually exclusive. If anything, see it as a challenge. We all grow through learning, polish your management skills and take it easy. You’ll pull through, just fine.
Go get 'em, Leanne
The fact that time flies, as we always say, is always true. Freshmen year is already away from me, even though it is hard to believe. Looking back to the decision I made a year ago to become a member of the cabinet, I don’t regret it. In here, I met my eleven fellows – people I work together with and are friends with at the same time. We were all strangers one year ago when we became the cabinet members, but I still remembered how amazing it was that I felt like we could all be really good friends even when we were not that familiar with one another. Throughout all the preparations for our events, of course, we did have conflicts and exhausting times, but that was also exactly how we got to know more about every single one of us. During all these disagreements and hard times, we were moving forward to becoming true friends, those we can be incontestably comfortable with. So to be frank, I am grateful that we went through all this. In an environment where people tend to have reputations for being “fake”, I have instead gained companions through taking part in this committee. Without them, I guess I would be attending all the dull lectures on my own, having lunch by myself, living a tedious university life. But now, I found friends. If I had the chance to choose again, I would still make the same decision. It is hard to make real friends in life that you can share your secrets with, and talk to them about your ups and downs, with no reservations. I am blessed that I met eleven here. Thank you for making this choice in the past year.
Love, me (Cherry)
It has been quite a tough and exhausting year, right? After leaving our beloved alma mater, you have entered a brandnew place where everything is new and unfamiliar. All those insecurities and fears have veiled me under a “seemingly chill” face mask. After all, we never know if the person next to us is a princess with a rotten soul. You no longer expect people to accept your flaws, sadness, and emotions. This is the reason why I tend and try to display the best phase of myself as I believe those are what people expect to see from me. We are practiced to “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”, then, protect ourselves from criticism and unnecessary attacks. Yet, I would say the 11 people in my cabinet are no doubt blessings to me. We are surely not perfect zodiac sign matches, but still, we have managed to develop genuine friendships while fulfilling our duties as a part of the committee. I am truly comfortable when I am around them. At the time when I was frustrated with my life, they happened to drag myself up and keep me from falling. At the time when we are all struggling inside this maze that we call University, we happened to hold each other’s hands tightly, so as to conquer all the unprecedented challenges ahead of us.
Best regards, Joyce
Dearest Me, All these years, I have pictured myself kissing goodbye my beloved at the airport, dragging my luggage onto the plane, arriving at a new place that I have never been to. I would wander around a campus alone and go on road trips every weekend with new friends. Who would have thought that I actually stayed in Hong Kong in the end? The university life Iâ€™m experiencing is nothing like what I have longed for, but more like stories that I have heard of on the way. Yet, I can tell you that you have made the right choice. I can still remember vividly what happened a year ago: As a freshman, I knew nothing about lectures, not to mention societies and halls. I had been clueless from the day DSE results were released to when I attended my first lecture at University. But eventually, I have decided to, first, become an executive committee member of English Society; and second, to continue the pursuit of my dream of working at an art studio. Along the way, You will learn a lot, be it hard skills like how to write an email in the correct tone and how to frame paintings properly, or soft skills like interpersonal and communication skills. I guess I donâ€™t really have everything figured out even now. Somehow, though, I am starting to believe that you just have to cross the bridge when you come to it and things would be alright. Youâ€™ll learn from every choice you make and you would grow through it.
Love, P hebe
Annual Creative Writing
Champion matsu Sin-Hui Ma k
by the praya i was raining. foggy glasses. rainy eyes. like never-ending. i draped my torso across the metal barricade. looking at the undulating sea. an assortment of lights, swaying on the waters. you looked at me, and the other side of the harbour, unable to do anything. back to the rehearsal room. we sing in unison, pausing and resuming with the waving conductor. i thought i won’t be coming again for the rehearsal this week. i don’t want to see you yet i miss you. addicted somehow. thinking of you at night. we were singing miserere. like fallen angels. standing right next to you, i wish we could gravitate towards each other again. we’re both in our fourth year. organic chemistry. something useless. tenor section. you get the solo every time. you are the best. at least you were. oblivion. have you forgotten about the time capsule we buried under the pine tree by the reservoir? we were so stupid. after both of us knew we were admitted into the same class of the same uni, we buried that flimsy mooncake tin box without letting each other know what is put inside. made an omamori for you, with a letter. you know, we hiked every month then, and you kept spraining or straining or injuring yourself. you didn't like hiking. just like i'm not really interested in chemistry either. i’ve always wanted to study aeronautical engineering. i thought everything is simple enough. one day, my mum told me a story narrated by her friends. her friend’s daughter fell in love with a handsome gentleman at the office. the guy bought a bouquet of flowers for her on 14 february. she gifted him something in return on 14 march. but it turned out they were just friends. a gay guy. my mum asked if i’m gay, but i’m afraid i can’t confirm her suspicions. i’m still glad that you said you liked me towards the end of the orientation camp. all good things must come to an end, though. you tried not to recognise me on the metro. i pat your shoulder. hi. you turned around, devoid of facial expressions. yet previously you’ve been calling a place your home when it isn’t. i’m a bit lost. it could have been our home. it's your station now. train doors opened swiftly. you got off. my eyes followed your silhouette until it vanished into the crowd. a kid rushed towards the empty seats beside me, chanting ‘kuai dian, kuai dian’. no, boy, you wouldn’t want to be quick. everything was too quick. you’ll see. i was your second love. you are my first love. i tried very hard to explain everything as an adventure. i still can’t accept the fact that you have sex with other guys. i don’t even know them. you showed me you have your own desires. i understand. perhaps i was too narrow-minded. or maybe you just want to discover yourself. i think i’ll be alright if you forgot about the tin box. i’ve decided not to meet you again after the concert. the next station is …
1 st Runner-up Catalyst
Gabrielle Choi The black-haired woman perches on a stool at her kitchen counter, holding a warm mug of honeyed green tea between her hands. Sun shines through the room, half illuminating her features. She looks out of the open window, not seeing the clouds racing across the clear sky. She has lived in this town for 10 years, appearing middle-aged to a casual observer since moving here; but in a few more years’ time, other villagers will pick up on her seemingly unageing appearance. This village is by far, one of her favourites in the current century. She takes a sip of her tea; there is no other alternative if she does not want her secret to be called to attention. She has to relocate. Before that, she wants to reward a friend made in this community; it is rare to find a kindred spirit. --It is early Friday night. Most of the red-haired woman’s neighbours in the village would be ready for bed by now, but not her. Her night has only just begun. She confirms she has brought the key and gives the door lock one last check, then sets out towards the flat well-lit trail near her home. The moon is bright and the sky is mostly cloudless, perfect for night hiking. She has trekked this trail for a few times at night by now, and many more times during the day. Half an hour in, she reaches a pavilion overlooking the sea. As per routine, the black-haired woman, who she has grown to know since her 3rd night hike, is already at the pavilion. She is staring at the sea with legs up and crossed on the bench, leaning against one of the pavilion poles, with a tub of cherry tomato and roasted bell pepper pasta salad next to her. The just-arrived woman scuffles her feet to let her friend know she is approaching. ‘Wow, pasta salad? You must be especially hungry.’ she greets, leaning against the pavilion pole opposite to her friend’s end of the bench. The black-haired woman grins, ‘Good evening, Leila. You know I’m always hungry.’ ‘That I know, Dawn. And I also know that you’ve made enough to share.’ Leila teases, pulling out a large bottle of orange juice and pours 2 cups for both of them. It is as if she has known Dawn for her whole life. She imagines their interaction would be similar to how having a sister would be like - talking about their daily lives, getting deep with philosophical musings, and plenty of jokes and fun all around. Though they have never talked about personal details, no. Leila is smart enough to be wary of new friends, no matter how chummy they get in a short period. And Dawn was reluctant to share, the one time she did ask; she has come to learn that Dawn is of the private type. They have finished the meal and nearly complete the trail when Dawn announces she will be moving to the other side of the country in a week. Leila looks up sharply from watching her steps and nearly trips over a pebble, righting her footing just in time.
‘You can visit me! Just text me when you plan to come.’ Dawn pets her arm and smirks, ‘I’ll show you around, provided that we don’t get lost first.’ When they reach the end of the trail, Dawn passes Leila the leftover salad. ‘Here, have the rest of the salad. I know you love my cooking, so I’ve written down the recipe.’ ‘Thanks! What would I do without you to feed me?’ Leila jokes, then turns serious, ‘I’m gonna miss you.’ ‘Me too… I’ve had so much fun night hiking with you these few months. I hope we get to hike together again.’ The two women hug before parting ways. --Leila finishes the rest of Dawn’s pasta salad the next evening. When she loads the container into the dishwasher, her fingers brush across a piece of paper stuck to the bottom. She pulls it off and unfolds to find a handwritten note. Dear Leila, You’d have deduced that I’m an incredibly private person. There’s a reason for it, which I’m not going to explain on paper in case it falls into wrong hands. Anyway, just know that I have the means to prepare a parting gift for you (oh no, it’s not only the salad recipe, which hardly counts as a gift in itself); legally, of course, the last thing I want is to get you into trouble. So don’t worry about it. Maybe I’ll tell you how I manage to finance it, in person, one day. I’m rambling; I should get to explaining the gift. I remember your dream of traveling the world, getting in touch with nature in every country. To help you achieve it, I’ve set up a trust fund which will finance you through your journey. Stop by the town bank and give them your name, they’ll explain the rest. I’ve enjoyed your nature photography on display at the town library. If you decide to share new photos with the world, I think the world will enjoy too. Have a safe and happy adventure! Dawn. Leila puts down the letter on the countertop and leans against the kitchen island. What has she done to gain such kindness? --A month later, Leila quits her job at the local outdoor gear shop and maps out her route. First stop: Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. The light breeze drifting through the park is crispy in the summer warmth. There is not much of an early summer crowd in June, spreading exactly the atmosphere and space for an unhurried exploration. The air smells fresh and unsalted; the grass and leaves display vibrant shades of green.
Although natural landscape Leila has-- or will-- see is refreshingly stunning, it always tugs at her to see scenery similar to home. Mountains, grasslands, and forests are essential sights in the countryside, but their charm is not often appreciated. She sets up camp away from the open road, shaded by two trees on an elevated grass plain. She spends a week at each stopping point on the grassland, where rabbits and flowers in bloom are a daily occurrence. On a patch of grass bordering the forest, squirrels and capercaillies occasionally appear. When they do, she pauses a few meters away and zooms the camera in to take photos. Once, a curious red squirrel comes up to her, sniffing at the camera on the ground. She reaches out a hand and picks up a nut, slowly placing it just out of reach of the squirrel. It freezes for a moment, wagging its tail and quirking up its ears, then turns to study her. When it is satisfied, it lowers its tail and accepts the nut. As it devours the nut, she quickly records a video. She sticks to the lower altitudes. Even though Cairngorms is full of Munros, she is no climbing expert. She would need a mountaineering guide for attempting, so she adds it to her traveling wishlist and hopes to return. Being out in the wild by herself is soothing for the most part, freeing her from most human interactions. She happens to run into locals a few times, who are herding livestock. Whereas she stays up reading at home. Here she wakes up to the chirrup of birds and the gentle rustle of leaves every morning and falls asleep every night under the closeness of stars. She treks through the reserve bit by bit, staying at each site for at least a week until she has soaked up as much of the scenery as she needs and captured enough landscape photos. --Another few weeks are spent on rocky plateaus near the foot of the mountain ridge, overlooking the grass plain she has passed through. The rocks jut unevenly from the ground, poking into the soles of her boots as she crunches through the trail. They are a sharp contrast to the lowland, painting a greyish bleak against the light blue sky. The solitude is conducive to introspection. Most times, she thinks about how lucky she is. Apart from locals, most people do not have the luxury of prolonged enjoyment of this vastness. Occasionally, she feels restless. Why does her dream involve escaping from her hometown? Why does she think she can handle long-term travel, and be an outsider to the areas and cultures she visits? On such nights, she finds herself awake until the first rays spread across the sky. Without fail, as the sun lights the sky orange, her breath is taken away, and she finds herself convinced of the rewards of dealing with such insecurities now and then. She may have doubts about herself, but she is confident that she can power through. --After a whole summer spent at the Scottish highland, Leila is ready for a change in scenery. Waiting for her flight at an airport cafe, she sifts through photos taken at Cairngorms, uploading the best few ones to her nature photography blog and open submission columns of photography magazines. Her phone pings, signalling a new message. Finding an email from a travel magazine, proposing a commission for landscape photos, she smiles and accepts the offer. Next stop: Norway, the home of fjords and Aurora Borealis. It is time to bundle up for the Nordic autumn chill. She can barely wait for seeing the northern lights in person for the first time.
The HE, The he, and The It I meet Me The moon again shone through the slots, disturbing the aging man’s dreams. I yawned and made some stretches. Clumps of snow fell on my feet. Treks of a rivulet, frozen to stillness. Hanging icicles, tough yet delicate. Water drops on persisting leaves frosted, sending a minty sensation. Gentle blows of wintry air piled the snow half up my roots, not very deep, shifting the swing on my arm a bit. A little brat was embracing me, “Tell me this day would never come. Tell me this is a lie.” Did he know the day his small silhouette left the trees, snow fell heavier? 10 years. 10 months. 10 seconds. How could we be so different? “Excuse me, where do you get these tacos? They look gorgeous.” My bungling fingers were creaky like the tinman’s, without oil, pointing at the food of a perfect stranger. He raised an eyebrow, gave me a direction, then walked the opposite. People called this, “The Lachrymatory Labyrinth”. How did the ancestors come up with this name? Here, every creature who manages to live up to a certain point of life is rewarded with the chance to become another lifeform, so we called this Lifeblood. Never think it was an idiotic decision to make. We pretty much easily got sick of our lives. Just like any trade, the more bargaining power you got, the more choice you have, plus there was no refund. The tacos de guisados really were a gift, the first bite of life, in a thousand years. I was to screw the map into a ball. Holding out my arms, I drove the map, like it was the steering wheel. I stared at it so intensely until the world knew, halted, and walked away. No one would understand the paths, with the map or without. Finding him wasn’t that difficult, not when separating from him was put on the scale. I had some magic in me. I was trying to remember every detail about him. The time we spent together. His unadulterated aura. His unfitting outlook to the crowd. Every time that puny boy entered the woods, everyone could feel him. He paid me a visit every day after school, telling me his secrets he said no one else knew, asking me, “Do I look pathetic? Talking to a tree.” He loved taking the taco with him, leaving me the crumbs. He, his name, was Dylan. * I sat under a willow tree. My back pressing against the tree trunk, I felt the cheeky energy. The magic never copes with anybody easily. You had to claim superiority. I returned to the familiar woods, the one I’ve lived a thousand years. Dabs of light emerged, like fireflies at night, floating. Jade. Celadon. Teal. Flickering off and on. As more appeared they accumulated, and they swarmed past you, like a wind wafting up the sandy beach of green, heading towards a direction. The trees became sparse. Before you run out of breath, you’d realize you were on a raft, with a paddle on your hand. The flock of fireflies soon descended on the ground and merged, transforming into carps, snaking their way out. Soon their vibrancies illuminated the waterway, making it yellow like a stream made of chrysanthemum petals. From time to time, fish jumped out, ahead and aside. It stopped when the paddle hit something unbearable, making a screech, like a blade-tip grating feldspar. The energy desisted, then escalated in a circular motion, gathering to form a globe.
The sphere grew red from the inside, expanded, and blasted to the two sides, a pair of beady blue eyes locked on me. My eyes shut, not praying for a godsend, but in my mind fabricating the medieval knights jousting. A lance on my right. A shield on my left. In a plate armor, I was prepared. My shield barely withstood his impact. On the count of three, I made a jump and threw the lance to the Achilles’ heel. His heart. Just as the apex tipped the skin, a magic circle formed. “Successfully Registered. Enter Password Here” The password was one word describing the journey. I typed “Imagination”. Simple, everything I did was based on imagination. “Access Denied.” Perhaps I should try something similar? “Creativity” “Access Denied. Check for appropriate registration.” A high pitch, like radio distortion, dominated. The contour of the willow tree glowed and dimmed, disclosing some familiar scenes back then. No flow of air, only my breathing pace, and myself. Why, why was I here? I took a deep breath. Memory moved in my head – the little boy curving his last finger around my thinnest branch, my eyes strong and bright, I typed “Promise”. “Login Successful. Welcome. How may I be at your service?” “Tell me everything you know about Dylan.” “Error: Privacy needs consent.” “Stupid Machine. Tell me whereabouts he was living.” “Humiliating Statement.” “Please offer me your wisdom.” “Sounds better. I will show you.” Flashes appeared. The little stick had grown up. Dylan was surrounded, a fragile porcupine without needles. What made him so different to be treated unfairly? My sight blurred. He needed me. “Danger identified. You have to wake up, now!” I scrambled up the trunk I was leaning against. I rubbed my eyes, “You alright? You were crying.” An old lady with a basket of apples asked me. My breathing returned to normal, “Min boy, don’t fall too deep into thy thoughts. Things aren’t what thou see. Have an apple.” She paused, “Don’t worry. It isn’t poisonous, because you are no Snow White.” “I appreciate the sacra…” She disappeared. I gawked at the apple, then put it down. I decided. One day the apple would become a tree. I puffed and panted, like fish out of water. Asking men to trees, and trees to men, I reached his doorstep. I gave a smile and told myself “I’m here, Dylan.” He swung open the door, his head tilted, “Who are you?” His familiar face. Who am I? “I’m new.” His eyes opened more. Knew he would be surprised. I was about to pat his shoulder. He turned, “Who needs a friend, chicken?” “Nice to meet you, I’m Dylan,” he added. Was this the Dylan I knew, the boy I had been looking for?
“Dylan doesn’t recognize me. But I do. I come here to help.” I had a thousand years of experience. I was the one knowing him the best. We ate all the combinations and types of tacos. We chased the crows and stray cats. Time was beautiful. * At his school, the bullies’ drive for power was tedious and thick-headed. “I belong to no one. I am I.” Who would take the bait when you had magic? This body felt empty, weary, depleted. If it was for him, if it was, for Dylan. Fall, fell the red maples. Dylan, who held his head no higher than the neck, made a face. Something went wrong. I checked. Red-handed, red spray, spraying Dylan’s locker red. I was about to scare them off. I bound them and hid. Minutes later, “So much fun spraying my stuff, boys?” The steady clatter of leather shoes slashed through the silent passage. He grabbed the spray and pulled one by his collar, “Too merciful to have your shirts colored, right?” he looked back at my direction, “I’m asking!” His trousers got grayer as he murmured “yis… is…” without moving his lips. He raised the can to their eyes. I canceled the binding. They fell on the floor and scattered away, half skidding half crawling. Dylan dropped the can, standing still. “Who, are you pretending? Superheroes? Teaching them a lesson and then let them go? Do you know, what I have gone through? Do you!” I stayed squatted, silent. “Come out already, I know you are here.” He left me no choice, “I do. Dylan, I do. But that should not be you. Calm…” He dropped coldly, “You are not me”, swung open my embrace and dashed out. A red maple hit the ground. I was right. He changed. I forgot how long, how long I had remained in this posture. Leaning against the grass, watching the sky turning from tangerine to navy, then lavender to maize, thinking about the ten minutes. Our friendship became awkward. I was at my limit. Days after, scratching his head, “Hey, I want to apologize, causing a fuss that day. In return, I… I want to show you a place.” I was delighted. I was careless. Grabbing my hand, in we went into the woods, where grains of sunlight was forbidden to penetrate. He held out his hand, “Give me to me…” “Give it to me…” I was dejected. “Now, hand it over.” My face darkened, “Make me.” He yawned and pressed a button, above me rumbled a rolling boulder, ricocheting, closing by. My instinct glided me away from Dylan. Down it fell on the ground, a twig. “What?” Clearing my thought, he pressed another. A heavy log of nowhere fell, above his head. I turned away, ‘Just leave him. He is no Dylan I know. But he was.” His monotonous face, tilted, judging me, “You are not gonna save me?” My eyes cried, “Promise, promise me, you will make it for good use.” I chanted. A glow agglomerated, turning the log into thin powder. Mountain Brew, the tree essence I exchanged, gradually formed. The direr the situ, the heavier it cost, the weaker I became. He grasped the brew and grinned, “You did it.” “You are hopeless.” I lay on the ground, every aching bone yelping in pain. “Not really. You make yourself an easy opponent.” The few words running into my ears whitened my mind. He looked calm. The falling log. His betrayal. My doubt. Everything, in ten seconds, just ten seconds.
I regained my consciousness as a green apple fell off the tree. I gawked at the apple, took a bite, and smiled, “Power, does it matter that much? I regret not. This is for the best, for now. He will come back. I know.” I wished I had never met him. I wished I had met him earlier. Life was a labyrinth. Time mattered little. Years of effort could be drained in months, even seconds. Time was short, but wisdom mattered not. We discover the better and the worse, the best and the worst. Purity is something we lost, yet something we must find. That is adventure. Fate cannot be changed easily, not only externally. It was not an easy decision, to be a seedling again. I cast my final spell, at the bottom of that essence. On one condition, find himself back, would he be able to access the power. I spread my arms and yawned. Looking up a pure child watering me, the warmth in my heart – it felt familiar.
Editor's Choices Free Advice Guy Monty Law
In the cold hours of a winter night on the cusp of spring, I walk out of the hostel to explore Barcelona. I pass by a man holding a sign - “Free Advice”. He sits on the street corner opposite the Som Nit Triomf, a modernist hotel built in neoclassical white. His gaze is steady but not fixated, a normal person looking for a casual chat. “Hey, I don’t bite”, he says to me in an American accent. He is plump, his beard is white and scruffy, he wears a beret and glasses, and the cheerful air of a grandpa giving a discourse on the latest philosophy book he’s read. He sits on a chair surrounded by garbage, though it doesn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. This isn’t the first time I spotted him sitting on the street corner. “What kind of advice do you give?” I ask, hesitant to begin a conversation but reassured by the man’s friendly opener. “Oh, everything really. I try to answer any problems people might have.” “Who are you then?” I ask. “I’m a philosopher”. The homeless man introduces himself as Free Advice Guy, a one-time celebrity in New York who gave advice on the street to anyone who wanted it. “People would queue up to ask me about their problems in life,” said Free Advice Guy, “You can look it up! I was profiled in the New Yorker.” He then asks me where I’m from. “Hong Kong,” I tell him, and he repeats the name of my beloved city in confirmation. “Hong Kong!” “Yeah, it’s a long way from Barcelona,” I smile, trying to light up the situation, that I was talking to a homeless man by myself on a dark street corner in a foreign land. “I’ve been to Hong Kong y’know. I actually used to work as a dim sum chef.” “Really?”, I found it incredulous that this man would actually know about it, so to test him, I ask “What kind of dim sum did you make?” “Oh, I really like haa gaau, siu maai and…and…..” “Chaar siu bau?” I venture, excited. “Yes, that. Good times, Hong Kong,” he smiles. He tells me his story. He was living in London with his beloved wife when one day the landlord wants to raise the rent but cannot do so for legal reasons. Thus, the landlord tries to poison both him and his wife to get rid of them. Escaping, he then traveled by bus from London to Paris, Paris to Nice, then finally Nice to Barcelona. He chose Barcelona because its streets were warmer than London, that it was a nicer city to be homeless in. It wasn’t easy living on the streets for Free Advice Guy. He suffered from leg injuries, so it was difficult for him to get around. “I was staying at this cheap Christian-operated hostel in Amsterdam, where I got bitten by bedbugs. Now both my legs are infected, and it hurts to walk.” Living on the streets meant being surrounded by gang members and other homeless people. “Most people who live on the street are either mentally ill or substance abusers,” he tells me, “I’m the only sane one here.” During our conversation, a swaggering Irishman, obviously high on some sort of substance, comes over to harass us multiple times for money. Free Advice Guy is always polite towards him. “It’s about deflecting aggression,” he teaches me, as if I signed up for a private class on street smarts, “Don’t make too much eye contact with him, but talk to him respectfully, and he’ll go away eventually.”
I witness his talents at languages first hand. “I traveled a lot when I was young,” he says, “My parents were professors, so they traveled the world for their career, and I followed.” A heated exchange between a gangster and his mistress occurs one block away from us, and he tells me the couple is Hungarian. He sees a tour group leaving the Som Nit Triomf and beckons them to give him some money in French. He chats briefly in Spanish with a staff from the hostel I was staying at, who asks him if everything was okay as if being homeless wasn’t bad enough. With all his street smarts, proficiency in six languages, stories about being unimpressed by Andy Warhol, close friendships with Robert De Niro and other New York legends, I couldn’t help but notice the end result: being homeless on the streets of Barcelona. “I’m not like those other homeless people, pissing and shitting on the streets like animals. I use adult diapers and cover myself up with a blanket because I still have some dignity.” A mounting fear steadily rose within me. This man, smart and talented as he is, embodied the end of a life of wandering without a plan. Didn’t he have any savings? Friends or family he could count on in dire times? “You know, I have a lot of ideas for improving society, especially the homeless.” he argues, “Why can’t Barcelona hire these homeless people to work at, say, restaurants?” He points to a restaurant not far off, and says to me, “If I opened a dim sum restaurant here, I’d be back on my feet within a year.” “What books do you read?” I ask him. “I don’t read much of other people’s books nowadays,” he answers, “I write my own.” The Greek idea of Hubris springs to mind. “Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first call promising,” writes Cyril Connolly. I can’t help but see the parallels. Throughout our conversations, he gets calls from his wife, which he reluctantly answers. It usually drags out into an extensive argument in Hungarian. “I love my wife more than I love myself,” he tells me with a sigh, after hanging up. I ask him what I can do to help or if he wanted some money, but he refuses. He asks me to buy frozen turkey slices and a bottle of water from the convenience store, and I oblige. He hands me a greasy two Euro coin from his pocket, and I run the errand. When I return with his food, I am careful to slip in a few extra cents as change. “Your company is worth so much more than any money you could give me,” he tells me. “It’s lonely here on the streets. People go insane without company, so thank you for being here.” I smile in response. There is honour even in homelessness. “What would you have done differently?” I ask. “Three things. Health, relationships, and money. Don’t lose sight of any one of them.” It’s getting late, and I tell him I have an early flight the next day. “It’s alright, you should head back. Last night another guy came over to keep a watch, not sure if he’s coming tonight though.” I ask him what’s his current plan. “Oh, I’ll try to save up enough money for a night at a hostel, to take a shower and recuperate a bit.” The next day before my flight, I try to catch one more glimpse of him before I hop on the airport bus, but he’s nowhere to be seen by the street corner. I send him an email at the airport, though in the end I never received any reply. I manage to find the New Yorker article about him online, to prove to myself he was not a mirage, but indeed a real person. I close my laptop and begin to write it all down in the journal I keep during my travels, eager to keep him alive, at least in my own mind. He then tells me about his previous fruitless attempt at crowdfunding, set up for him by a wellmeaning stranger. I suggest Quora, an online Q&A platform that would suit him quite well. Before I leave, he tells me his email from memory, and that he’ll reply once he gets to a hostel. “Using your laptop on the street isn’t safe at all, plus there’s nowhere to charge my Fujitsu”, he says cheerfully. I bid him good luck before leaving, and with slight sorrow in his eyes, he bids me adieu.
I am not sure where my journey began. Was it at the headlands where yellowed grass sways, disturbed by the wind? At night, they lie calm, unmoving, as if dead, but only because the wind has ceased. Or was it at the heart of the city, the blood bank, where myriads of winding streets shoot off like sprouting leaves and scatter into unchecked crannies and shifty alleys? The people here unsettle me; I cannot see them, but they can see me, and someone in particular in these zigzagging streets has been walking in serpentines for weeks.
They told me to stay away from the belly of the city, but I take orders only from myself. South of the headlands is a pentagram, bottom-side-up. The people have built two observatory towers here, but both are faulty. I needed binoculars. Next, I lowered myself down one of the two manholes, and found that they led to the exact same place. The earth held its breath and tossed me back out the other side. Back in the city, the people complained of an earthquake. I stumbled over red rocks, rusted after years of sharing feverish kisses with the tides, and took a nosedive into the last cave. I landed in a sea I could not swim in. I sank past effervescent champagne bubbles and watched the cityâ€™s hopes and dreams rise above me. The water stung my skin, scorching chocolate-coloured freckles across my body, and they felt as fiery as the stars in the night sky. I became a constellation. I touched rock bottom and as my breath gave away, the water bled, whooshing past me as if someone had lifted up a drain plug. Underneath my body was viridian foliage, untouched by the water that was not water. Vibrant leaves cradled my head and arms, whispering to me and telling me I should not go. So I stayed, dead in the water, in the land where nothing is as it seems.
They saved me, they had said. I woke up on black soil. The land here has always been barren and the colour of peaches. Saltwater poured out of my mouth but I remembered the water tasting sweet. They left me to my own devices again, warning me not to pick any giant brown mushrooms. I travelled southeast and climbed across an uplift, scaly and cracked like a lizardâ€™s skin. It was so hideous. I wanted to pick away at it, pebble by pebble, but after I had pocketed one single stone, I grew tired. I went northwards again. In between rolling hills or leaping salmon, I found the true heart of the city sealed shut by someone I once knew. Ignoring the bleeding cuts and scrapes on myself, I tore at its heartstrings, my fingers becoming fishing hooks going through fishing lines. At its opening I reached out to the darkness and touched light and the edge of the universe, and when I stared into the void and it looked at me impassively before glancing away. I thought, I must befriend it, so I stood with my toes brushing the fringe between myself and I, and plummeted into the navel of nothingness.
â€“ Kai 42
Acknowledgements Publisher: English Society, A.A.H.K.U.S.U., Session 2017-2018 Editor: Leanne Hong [firstname.lastname@example.org] Cover Art: Pristina Tan [email@example.com] Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HKU.English/ || Instagram: hkuengsoc Address: 2A01 (1), Fong Shu Chuen Amenities Centre, The University of Hong Kong Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Annual Journal 2018