Mooncakes, New Toys, and Some Linguistics

You know how in Canada, the day right after Halloween, all the Christmas decorations come pouring out? Well, I just learned that there is a even more exaggerated equivalent in Hong Kong: Mid-Autumn Festival.

I actually wrote about this before, but last time my post was written in late July. This time, it’s literally still mid-June! Last week, there were still tons of advertisements for zong zi (stuffed glutinous rice)… then, right after Dragon Boat Festival, they’ve almost all been replaced by mooncake advertisements. (Ironically, the advertisements are all still the same brands – Maxims, Wing Wah, etc…)

(Forgive the blurry pictures, I had all of 2 seconds to snap these as I was on my way up the escalator…)

I have nothing against it, just like how I have nothing against an early Christmas. (I had my playlist on shuffle at the gym the other day, and I was pretty happy to hear a couple of Christmas songs come on). It’s just an interesting observation. At most, you see Christmas 2 months early. Here, Mid-Autumn Festival is at least 3 months early. I’m also excited for Mid-Autumn to come along – I love mooncakes, and Mid-Autumn Festival also means that the weather will get a bit more comfortable – but these advertisements are definitely giving me some false excitement.

Anyway, let’s get to what’s new (which is usually nothing much, but as a writer, your job is to think of things to write about when there’s nothing much to write about). I have two laptops – one 15″ that I use at home, and one 11″ netbook that I take out when I need it. The bigger laptop died a few weeks ago, and I was left with the smaller one, which still works fine for everything I need to do; it’s just a bit slow. Unfortunately, the smaller one died on me last week too, so I was laptop-less for a while. To make matters worse, the phone that I was using before has a really horrible camera, and it gave me no motivation to take pictures like I usually do. It’s not entirely why I haven’t been writing, but it’s certainly part of the reason. So finally, with both laptops dead and being fed up with my phone for so long, I replaced them both. Hopefully it does encourage me to write a bit more.

Work has been busy, but fun. I’ll write a more detailed post on it later, but just so you know, I’m already out of Line Maintenance and I’ve been at a division called Maintenance Control and Support for almost 2 months now. Because of the huge cultural difference, and also the need to use English a lot more often in this team, I have a lot of observations that lead me back to that linguistics class I took during my last year of university. It all started when there was this one day where we needed to borrow a piece of equipment from another company. The phone rang, my coworker that usually handles it wasn’t around, so I took the call, and the engineer told me to call them to borrow – well, something. He said the word a couple of times, and every time, I heard a combination of ‘circle’ and ‘shuttle’…. something like ‘shir-kal’ (with the Chinese accent that raises the last syllable too). And me, being the newcomer that knows nothing, I did my best to relay the message to my coworker. I told him that they needed a shuttle (my best guess), and he said we already made arrangements for it. I wasn’t even sure if I told him the right thing, but he seemed to be pretty sure of it, so I just left it.

Finally, when the situation was over, I asked – what on earth was this ‘shuttle’ they were trying to borrow? And when he typed in into Google, that’s when I realized – oh. They were talking about a shackle all along. (When I asked him what it is, he also said to me “you know, there’s such thing as Google in this world”, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my poor English was keeping me from understand their superior language skills).

There are so many of these examples I could bring up. ‘Procurement’ is officially ‘pro-quip-ment’ (like ‘equipment’, but with ‘pro-‘ instead) in Hong Kong, no matter what company you are in. I already learned that when I was at Gammon, and confirmed it here in Hong Kong Airlines. One of the companies that we work with is Thales, and while I’ve heard pronunciations of both ‘thA-less’ (with the ‘A’ as in Alice) and ‘tale-ee-s’, I’m definitely sure its not ‘tell-us-see’ (again, with that Chinese accented syllable at the end).

When I think about these kinds of things, it’s not like I feel like I’ve gained any deep insight of the world. It simply satisfies me to have learned this in such a theoretical way while I was taking linguistics, and to be able to observe it in real life – it makes me feel that my education was truly worthwhile. But more importantly, it reminds me once again how diverse this world is, and how amazing it is to somehow co-exist with each other.

It feels weird for me to say this, but these days, I’ve been feeling happy again. Not that I was unhappy before, but there was definitely something about life that made it hard for me a while ago. These feelings are reflected in the way I live my life, and I feel like I gave in to this Hong Kong culture for a while. I was walking at the pace everyone else walked at. I would get angry when the person in front of me made me slow down for even just a second. I was on a hurry to get home every day, even if I had nothing better to do at home. But these days, even though I’m just as busy (if not busier!), I’ve been able to find my own pace once again. I don’t mind making random stops to look at things. I don’t have to have my bags packed in advance so I can leave right at 5:45 PM every day (of course, not that I stay much longer). Even though this control over my own life is something I’ve always owned, I don’t always exercise it well. And today, I can confidently say: even though the days are getting hotter in Hong Kong; even though work only ever gets busier; even though people still push me to walk faster on the streets… I’m enjoying my life.

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