This Monday I was lucky enough to join Sara’s team and go scuba diving around sharp island to look at coral populations there. It was a shallow dive but the visibility was fair and the fish were plentiful. Most of the fish down there were small but quite brilliantly colored. Yellow Butterfly fish would swirl around a coral formation while clownfish would angrily storm out of their anemone’s and snap their jaws at me. In fact the first clownfish I saw popped up within inches of my mask making it’s angry little clicks. Whenever I got too close to their home they would attack, biting my fingers and mask and hair. They are too little to do much damage though, and it was actually pretty funny to see a 2 inch long fish attack me.
After the dives we were taken on a tour around the islands in South-East Hong Kong. The islands are granite formed during volcanic eruptions due to the subduction zone nearby. They have beautiful columnar joints that create cathedral like cave entrances and cliff faces that could be an ancient organ carved from the rock. Having only heard of columnar basalts it was very neat to see the lighter granite make these formations. The coasts are so beautiful here. Rocky beaches quickly turn into steep green hills that look like a scene from Jurassic Park.
So the beautiful scenery and the great diving combined for an absolutely fantastic day!
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….
So finally we are in China! We left from Tampa on May 22, 2009 and arrived in Hong Kong on Friday night. Some of you may know this is my first time EVER leaving the country…go big or go home right? From the moment we got into our taxi I knew this would be the best decision I had ever made in my life. The memory I will keep in my mind for the rest of my life will be my first view of the mountains. Never seeing mountains before (I’m a Floridian) and being able to see them 7,800 miles away from home is something to remember.
It was late when we arrived so we were taken directly to Honk Kong Baptist University’s (HKBU) International Housing and given our room keys. The next morning we began touring the city. The campus is amazing in itself but the city is something I can’t even begin to express. In a way you feel like you may have seen something like it in the U.S. but here, it’s bigger, busier and just different. I mean, the city goes up through the mountains…how do you even get up there? Oh, and even the mall we went to is enormous…I found out people come from all over the world just to shop here. That’s big! Oh and I said we are about 7,800 miles from home. Just in case you were wondering, iv’e seen Starbucks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Dairy Queen, Walmart and Burger King maybe just as often as you find them at home.
Anyway, so while we were in Hong Kong it rained..everyday…all-day, which was fine because we had our 7-eleven umbrellas that would bend the opposite way with the slighest gust of wind. Mine can be found at the Buddhist Temple in Ngong Ping in the trash. Speaking of Ngong Ping Village, it’s on top of another mountain. You can take a 30 minute gondola ride up to the top if you don’t mind hanging hundreds of feet in the air with strong winds, fog and rain….maybe they will stop with you high above giant boulders and leave you swaying back and forth due to inclement weather..but that’s only when it’s REALLY bad, and only when your on your way back down. Ha! but really, that was quite possibly the most exciting trip I have ever had in my life. The gondola ride was still gorgeous because you could see the entire city, waterfalls, beautiful pebble pathways…unbelievable scenery. There is also a tea place at the top of the mountain where you can have traditional tea time (Oolong Tea from the Fujian Province) …and Tian Tan Buddha Statue is well worth it!
Since I have three weeks worth of writing still to catch up on for you, I will also let Joel, Cathy, Sara and Steven add some of their stories about HK and I will let you all keep up with me through pictures too. Here is my address to picasaweb where I am continually posting new pics. So keep an eye out. You can click on Christy, and it will take you to the rest.
This will be the new blog for the IRES students in China! Many thanks to the people who put this together.