Archive for March, 2013

If Hong Kong was in London

If you took the surface area of Hong Kong and slapped it on the top of London and Greater London…………..I’ve live in Peckham and work in Bromley.

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Just to see, I put HK on top of Manchester, turns out I’d live in Oldham and work in Greenfield. That’s creepily accurate…

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St Patrick’s Day in HK

Been a long week in HK this week. The week started OK, Monday morning blues aside. On Tuesday though I left work early and went to the Doctors, feeling faint, dizzy and nauseous. He (his name was Dr Buddy – I thought he’d be like Will Ferrell dressed as an Elf…) said it was Gastro-Flu, some bug that’s been going round, and gave me meds. Spending the equivalent of £55 for the Drs consultation and meds renewed my massive appreciation for the NHS. I was off work on Wednesday and Friday because of this (stupidly braved it on Thursday but that didn’t help).

On Wednesday night however, we had our Spring Ball at our campus.  Basically, everyone in Chatteris is encouraged to do a ‘Development Project’ – something unique that helps out the programme in different ways, so Holly and I repeated last year’s Spring Ball and wanted to improve it massively. Months of preparation, paperwork, reservations, sign ups, posters and $3000 on food/drink had gone into it, so no chance I was missing it. We had students from all other IVEs come to our campus too, and had over 60 kids there (a bid ask since it was 5:30-7:30pm). We did Ceilidh Dancing, Venetian Waltz and a Group Dance Off (massive thanks again to Molly, Jack and Mirella for helping lead these, and the 21 CNETs who came along to help us!).

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Luckily, I was near enough 100% better by mid-Saturday so got to get out the house a bit. We went round to Molly’s place that evening for a St Patrick’s Day/Emily and Gill’s birthday party. Not much to add apart from it was pretty sweet, had a great time, Sunday was a write-off. Most productive thing was putting some pants on and going to 7/11 for some chocolate. Lazy Sundays are the same in every country.

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Birds, Cam3ls & Fleas

This week has been another corker in HK. We had a usual sort of week at work. I’ve started March workshops on Greek Myths and Switzerland, which the kids love. Also had a more boring vocabulary/grammar workshop to prepare the kids for their upcoming exams but nothing too difficult. We’re still having big preparations for our highlight event of the year – Spring Ball. We have spent around $3000 on food and drink for it (almost £300) on Friday, and went for a massive Dim Sum with Joanne (our mentor). Still trying to learn some of the dishes but I’m still at the stage of ‘That white thing with prawn in it’ or ‘That one that’s like sausage roll but with BBQ pork in it’.

 

On Friday night we headed to Sandy and Erin’s place for some drinks before Red Bar to meet a few others and LKF afterwards. Can’t remember everywhere we went to that night but the African Bar had a good vibe to it, even if the drinks were expensive. Getting in at nearly 5am showed it was a sick night though. Met a cool guy Fabian, Angela’s friend from Boracay. Obviously my alcohol-fuelled self thinks he speaks fluent German, but Fabian was a good sport with it.

 

On Saturday we took a very chilled day. Adrian and I ended up on one of our camera walks to wherever we ended up. We headed to the Bird Market in Mong Kok, had a drink from Pacific Coffee Company and found a new market on Fa Yuen Street that we hadn’t been to yet. The weather was gorgeous recently, hitting 27 degrees on Sunday. The shorts and flip flops are back out, jeans back in the suitcase for now. On Saturday night we headed to Jack’s Cam3l Bar at his flat. A great house party despite stopping feeling ridiculously hungover only a few hours previously.

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On Sunday then we had the Chatteris Flea Market in Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tony, Ka-Mun and I were pretty lucky to have the promotion job, walking around, giving out balloons and flyers to families and kids. Highlight definitely was Tony being swarmed by kids outside a playground, them all wanting balloons.

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A proper nice day, Jack W and Adrian playing tunes on the guitar, all my mates were there: pretty damn sweet. To top it off, Adrian and I headed to Cocky Bar on the 18th Floor of The One in TST to meet Maddie and Ellie for a few beers. Bloody fantastic views up there, and we caught it at the right time to see the sunset and the island begin lighting up. Reminded us so much of how lucky we are to be here, how fantastic this place is and how it’s gonna be a long time before we leave indefinitely. Mostly, it hit home how much Hong Kong is definitely our home now.

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The Price of Identity

A student came to me a few weeks ago with a problem (as many 18-21 years old have) of money. They were basically in a predicament of having to buy their own passport as a young adult. For Hong Kongers who were born in British Hong Kong pre-1997, they were legally classed as ‘British Nationals (Overseas)’ or BNOs. This was an option available by application and was non-transferable to a different category – the deadline for applications being 31 December 1997.

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The student who had this problem is very interested and enthusiastic about Britain. They ask me a lot of questions about the UK and would like to visit one day, if not study or live for a longer time period. They ended up paying a lot of money to secure their identity as a BNO so they could fulfil their dream.

This got me thinking about the problems people here may face in getting the official identity status that they feel they are.

1) The Practicalities

Dennis Chong  wrote in the South China Morning Post on 15 August 2012 about the threat of cost increases  for HK-ers to apply for BNO Passports. The threat of increases is due to the Coalition Government’s cost-saving measure to close Hong Kong’s British consulate’s passport centre by April 2014. On a pragmatic basis, this means that HK-ers wanting to apply for a BNO passport (renewal or otherwise), will have to apply directly to Britain – sending their important documents 600 miles away to London – and be without them for much longer than if they applied to the office in Hong Kong. This is just one of the forces acting against people here, who want to remain BNOs as oppose to just solely Chinese Nationals.

http://www.scmp.com/article/1003693/cost-fears-uk-passport-office-closure

2) The Cost

This was the main issue for my student. Basically, the cost difference between wanting to remaining  a BNO is astonishing and can be a huge financial barrier to people who want to remain a BNO. 

For a British passport, the current application fees are HK$1,600 for a 32-page passport and HK$1,932 for one with 48 pages.

With recorded delivery postage and other costs after the closure of the British Consulate’s passport centre, this would be relatively higher.

From June 2006, the cost for a HK SAR Passport was HK$370 for a 32-page passport and HK$185 for a child’s passport.

Furthermore, the cost of a straight-out People’s Republic of China Passport is HK$430.

In Pounds Sterling, for an adult over 16 years old, we’re basically looking at:      British Passport: £137     HK Passport:  £32     Chinese Passport: £37

3) The Numbers

Even if you’re the sort of person who gets a passport to keep in a drawer and visiting other places isn’t your thing, the cheaper options are clearly the most attractive and practical to get. We can see this through the statistics. Chong’s article provides some useful information:

  • About 250,000 Britons live in Hong Kong
  • 3.2 million British Nationals (Overseas) passports had been issued (to people who applied pre-31 Dec 1997).
  • The number of Hong Kong SAR passports in circulation by year is as follows:
  • 2010: 4,261,263
  • 2009: 4,088,337
  • 2008: 3,934,288
  • 2007: 3,920,780
  • 2006: 3,670,115
  • 2005: 3,326,200
  • 2004: 2,959,900

 

To summarise, the laws of the status of British overseas citizens are highly confusing: there are so many, their names change and the acts mean different things in different places. The stats show though, how limited the 7 million people who live here, are when choosing an identity. There are people here, like my students, and a colleague of mine (Who once had a conversation with me in his Marks & Spencer’s suit, “I miss Chris Patten!”), who don’t have a huge issue with the cost, as their identity means so much for them. These people are clearly in a minority when it comes to the practicalities of applying for a passport though.

I don’t really know what I think about the topic, as I’m lucky to be a full British citizen with the right to abode in the UK: the biggest issue for me was when my passport photo made me look like a scally. The Coalition Government really isn’t making it easy for people here to be officially a BNO with such costs and impracticalities, which I find the hardest thing to accept. If someone feels they belong to a certain identity, surely governments and the relevant departments should support their choices and make it easy for them to be recognised as it. But then again, the whole area of national identity, passports, visas, immigration is such a complicated area, you can see why it’s so complex. In the end though, if people feel their belonging strong enough, nothing can really stand in their way of it.

Harlem Shake fever hits Sham Shui Po..

Harlem Shake fever hits Sham Shui Po…