Dear Christmas Father, I want to have a new computer.
(Christmas Father would be closer to the Chinese word order; it should be Father Christmas. In Hong Kong, December is exam time, or just before exams, so teachers usually don’t have the time to introduce Christmas-related vocabulary in lessons.)
OneRepublic: Best Band in the Universe
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: The best in the universe!
OneRepublic: The BEST of the BEST in both teh universe and heaven and hell.
But this a fact, just like the sun rises from the east.
What we see may not be the truth. And WHAT is TRUTH? We may not see.
This is the infamous Lovers List that appeared last year. It is a list of romantic relationships among junior secondary students at the school. To protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent), the names have been hidden. What was surprising was the number of Form 1 (Grade 7) students in romantic relationships. There were more couples in Form 1 than in Forms 2 and 3.
Running through the monsoon
Beyond the world
To the end of time
Where the rain won’t hurt.
Fighting the storm
into the blue.
When I lose myself
I’ll think of you
Together we’ll be running somewhere new
These are lyrics from Through the Monsoon by the German rock band Tokio Hotel.
Crayon Shin-chan is the name of a manga and anime series created by Yoshito Usui. The main character, Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara, is pictured above. Most of the humour for the show derives from Shin’s inappropriate (and somewhat lewd) behaviour. Tragically, the artist died during a hiking accident last year.
“I’m black so what? My skin is black since I was born. I don’t like it and stop teasing me.”
I usually don’t know exactly what the things written in our notebooks are about, but in this case I do. During a lesson, a teacher made a joke about a student’s dark complexion, which greatly annoyed the girl.
I think in all cultures, there is a lot of emphasis on beauty, but one criticism I would make about Hong Kong culture is that the concept of beauty here is very narrowly defined. To be considered beautiful, a girl should have a fair complexion (the paler the better), be slim and preferably have long hair, an oval face and a noticeable crease in the upper-eyelid (called a ‘double-eyelid’); and she should not have an epicanthic fold and definitely not have ‘slanted eyes’ (sorry, I know this term can be offensive, but I haven’t been able to think of a better term to use).
And what is an epicanthic fold? This is another eyelid characteristic. It is an additional fold in the upper eyelid that gives eyes a narrower and/or almond shaped appearance. This, combined with single eyelids gives eyes what people in the West would call an exotic or Asian look (a look which is considered unattractive in many Asian countries).
So that’s one problem—it is very difficult to be considered attractive here as there are so many criteria to meet. If the girl who wrote the above complaint goes overseas, instead of being derided because of her ‘black skin’, she would likely get complimented on her great tan or her beautiful coffee-colored complexion.
Another problem is that people are generally very open and direct when commenting on appearance. It is quite common to hear overweight boys being addressed as ‘Fei Tzai’ (Fat Boy) by . . . well everyone—family members, friends, teachers, strangers. So-called unattractive girls are routinely called ‘Pork Chop’ by their male schoolmates. I’ve heard the girl who wrote the diary entry above being called ‘black girl’ several times.
The defense for this kind of name-calling is that the person being criticized doesn’t really mind or that it’s acceptable because it is part of the culture. I would argue that both of these assumptions are mistaken.
The song being referred to is Big Big World by Emilia. It’s about 10 years old, but it is still quite popular among students here (in Hong Kong). The video below shows the lyrics to the song:
Here is a live version:
By the way, I am the ‘Richards’ (i.e., not the sexy one). The cool and handsome one is Chris, who was a Teaching Assistant at our school.
I’m still not sure why students here often address me using only my surname. Maybe they think Mr Richards is too formal and Stephen is too informal, so they go with using the surname by itself (which tends to sound rude). Also, it doesn’t help that my surname sounds like a given name.
Some other expatriate teachers get around this problem by having students address them with a title and given name (e.g., Mr. Bob, Miss Julie). Does it sound kindergartenish?
I guess it could be worse. Hong Kong students sometimes given themselves the worst names possible. For example, I have taught: