where to begin….. i guess at the beginning. we landed in hok kong the night of the 22. exhausted, and excited to be in another country, it was a bit of a letdown that the first thing we saw after walking off the airplane was a starbucks. figures.
but i’ve come to realize now after being here for 3 weeks that this obvious influence from western culture has been integrated, almost seemlessly, into hong kong culture. this city is so international. walking down the street you hear many different languages, and all kinds of people. you see markets overflowing with everything from goldfish to jade right down the street from a massive nike store. its really the best of both worlds, and its up to you which culture you choose to immerse yourself in.
one of the best things about hong kong is the public transportation system, without which i would feel completely lost. this city is HUGE. its like 5 new york cities piled on top of eachother in only a quarter of the space. no matter where you go in the city, you are surrounded by people at all hours of the day and night. no matter how far you ride the subway or bus, the highrises keep popping up, towering overhead, dwarfing you and making your life feel incredibly insignificant. not being a city girl, i cant understand how people could live in a place so overwhelmingly loud and bustling all the time. but to experience it for this summer has been wonderful.
another great part about hong kong is that 2/3 of the territory is actually undeveloped. meaning big beautiful mountains, deserted beaches, and untouched plains. the problem is getting to them. i joined a hiking club last week called the Hong Kong Trampers. we meet up and go on different hikes every week. last weekend we went to Lantau island and climbed to its peak, and then back down to some waterfalls, with big pools in rock basins perfect for swimming. floating in the clear pools looking up at the sky, i couldnt believe i was in the same city that kicked my ass the night before while trying to push my way onto a crowded subway train. again, its these stark constrasts that make hk such an interesting place, and make me want to explore as much of it as possible.
the nightlife here is unlike anything ive ever experienced. my first time out with my friends was shocking. we climbed out of the subway station at central to go to the lan kwai fong district, and i was floored. the streets were packed with people for a 4 square block radius round the main street. bars lined each side, all blaring music and flashing lights. it took some getting used to, but now i feel like i understand the appeal of this atmosphere, even if it can get overwhelming sometimes.
what keeps me grounded in this massive, crazy city is the research im doing. the professor i work for, dr. qiu, is so smart and helpful, and his grad students are as well. im doing a study on the coral reef communities surrounding Sharp Island, a small island off the east coast on hk. after doing research (reading papers and books) for 2 weeks, i finally got to go see the site on monday. it was incredibly beautiful, and im so excited to work there! we took a boat from the Sai Kung harbor to the island. i snorkeled at several spots around the island to take some preliminary observations, and decide which sites i wanted to focus on. there is a large contrast in the coral communities around the island, which is great for my study. i will be looking at local environmental factors that control the density and diversity of the coral communities at 4 sites around the island. this requires several snorkel trips to take photos of quadrats along transects at each site. i will then identify the species of coral based on the photos, and estimate the percentage of coral cover in each quadrat. im excited about this study not only because it means i get to work in beautiful waters, but because it gives me an opportunity to help the hk environment. the waters surrounding Sharp island are not protected as a marine park or reserve, like many other islands in hk, but there is a movement to create a marine park surrounding it. im hoping that the research we do this summer will support the push towards protecting the fragile ecosystem around the island.
phew. ok. sorry about the novel i just wrote. il post more often from now on and keep them shorter….