Christmas Party @ SPYC

A few days ago I went back to the Christmas party in the secondary school where I taught. Very joyful atmosphere swarmed with candid laughter of kids. Students who might be unruly and mischievous on normal school days always become more innocent on such a day. Unlike previous years when I would be staying with my own class, this year I went around the school to different classrooms finding faces I know (and getting different food).

To my surprise, the kids were actually exhilarated when I appeared, and people kept asking me for photos – of course, they did this too on previous Christmas party days when I was still a teacher at the school. I was also surprised by the realisation of how many students I’ve actually taught in the past three years. I was very happy to see them again too (especially without having to undergo the toil of chasing after them for homework and marking their terribly ungrammatical compositions anymore).

Christmas party day is definitely one of the happiest school days, and I will soon miss it. Celebrating Christmas in school is always different from any other Christmas gatherings. But as one cohort of students leave the school after another, I will soon be a stranger when I visit the school again. No more innocent kids surrounding Mr Chan sharing food and taking selfies with me.

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What my 2014-15 Class 3D drew on Christmas party day

Or will I miss it? Will I become so old already that I no longer find joy in such occasions? Even if I stayed and continued to teach, would I enjoy the occasion less as I grew older and older, with a wider and wider generation gap with my students? This is something I probably won’t be able to find out. This is the road not taken.

But I’m glad that I’ve been a teacher. I feel blessed to know there are kids who miss me. (Irony: They never do until you have left!)

***

And I met a boy whom I taught for two years in S2 and S3. Having left our school after S4, he’s now studying in Canada. He reminded me of the episode in the last S2 English lesson, when I half-jokingly asked him to copy a Japanese phrase (なに) for 100 times as extra summer homework because he shouted the word when I was giving out the English summer assignments. He was unlucky enough to fall into my hands again after the holiday so I did chase after him for that. Now he is telling me that in the process of copying he actually felt that the Japanese characters are beautiful and this made him want to learn the langauge.

Really couldn’t have imagined that. You could never imagine how you may influence your students. Things that cannot be encapsulated in the ‘learning outcomes’ we designate in our teaching.

He also thanked me and another English colleague for encouraging him throughout the years (though I think I teased him more often) and helping him with his English. Didn’t exepct this either, as he didn’t appear to care much back then. Boy. Perhaps too good at hiding emotions.

I will probably miss this kind of satisfaction.

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Umbrella Movement 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago. The day that we shall not forget. We demanded a genuine universal suffrage. We didn’t get it. We got violent repression. We experienced injustice. The day when the government threw tear gas bombs to the ‘armed protesters’ – armed with umbrellas. Umbrellas that people used to protect themselves from pepper sprays and tear gas bombs. Umbrellas that certain lawmakers said were offensive weapons, as we could see in Chinese fiction.

I was, and still am, so proud of all the Hongkongers who contructed the Admiralty Village, creating an area for students to study while occupying, decorating it with cartoon characters holding yellow umbrellas. Totally amazing and touching. And the Lennon Wall. I posted on the wall too. I could smile, because it was before the day that we shall not forget.

Apology for not putting any picutures of the night two years ago, as I don’t own any. Please visit here – a wonderful recap for all of us.

I wasn’t there. I was in front of my computer. And I had classes to teach the next day. I let my kids do listening exercise on some BBC reports on what happened.

I wrote two poems. Just so that I won’t forget. Orginially published in Cha the September 2014 issue.

THE FOOD PARADISE

‘Hong Kong is a paradise,’
says the English teacher.
The simple present tense indicates
it simply was,
it presently is,
and it will be…

We had a Governor known for
his love of authentic
Hong Kong-style egg tarts.
In the good year he left
but the handover promise is kept
and Hong Kong is still
a paradise, where an ICAC
Commissioner is addicted to
pricey Chinese wine.

The euphoric masses
after seventeen years still make
out of their pink cloud the cake
of fantastic prosperity
and a tea party
of ignorant frivolity, not remembering
the won ton noodles
devoured by golden bracelets and brandname handbags.
We wish to smile
without our heads, but this is
no Wonderland.

We imagine we were handling
Zhu Yuanzhang’s mooncakes, but there
are only unequally small
egg yolks embraced by greasy
lotus paste. There is no dragon inside
chain-store box-set mooncakes.
Hong Kong has no fortune cookies.

One day, they will take away
our egg tarts and milk tea.
But we will still have pineapple buns
made of gutter oil and
without pineapple.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ a sixty-four-year-old Papa
says, ‘we have survived
and will survive
for another fifty years.’

Hong Kong is a paradise
aloft
for dreamers.

LESSONS ON 29 SEPTEMBER 2014

good morning class
you sluggishly stand up
good morning Mr Chan
in monotone everyone chants

today –
lessons as usual
so hand in your journal
and countless reply slips
monitor please give me some clips

now –
a period of silence
to offer condolence
but how many are thinking
of the quiz in the second lesson?

could we just keep calm and focus
on our lessons lessons lessons?

could we learn from Chemistry anything
about the composition of the spray?
too much too much too much pepper
the Home Economics teacher may say

do map reading skills inform us
where the teary firework was displayed?
the alleged violence of the imaginary mob
was simply vertical exaggeration

could we possibly conclude the casualties
by solving a quadratic equation?
but nothing can stop the people from
flooding the land in geometric sequence

a spontaneous Music lesson
in the streets with no musical instruments
but voices of people in unison
dispersing beyond the skyline

all these will be written
into our History curriculum
narrating the events in past tense
and creating them in the future

so keep calm and focus
on our lessons lessons lessons

Just don’t forget. The beauty and resilience of Hongkongers.

Elderly Graphics

Most of you would be aware that in the world of texting, different generations have different habits. Older generations tend to write complete sentences (with conscious effort on making sure the grammar and punctuation are correct) while younger ones tend to be brief and lax about accuracy. Among the younger generations, we can even make distinctions by the Internet slang and shorthands they use.

In Hong Kong, there is a texting phenomenon called ‘elderly graphics’ (長輩圖). Their appearance is particularly frequent during festivals such as the Mid-autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, that has just passed. Here’s an example:

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MID-AUTUMN. All the best for everything, as complete as the full moon. Wish a happy Mid-autumn Festival, and that you get whatever you wish for!’ – received on Whatsapp
They aren’t necessarily related to festivals, but most contain words of blessings, like this one:

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‘Weather is changing; care isn’t. Climate is changing; blessing isn’t. Long lives friendship. GOOD MORNING.‘ – received on Whatsapp
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like a Chinese phenomenon and I haven’t seen, and can’t find, a western parallel.

While the use of such graphics is customary among the elderly when they text each other, younger generations usually find these pictures meaningless and annoying – when your aunt sends such a picture every morning. These pictures are often sent out of context (and in this sense the festival ones are better-received already) and you aren’t sure what to respond, except with an emoticon.

Typical elderly graphics consist of a flowery background (prototypically lotus flowers) – sometimes it can also be a buddha or any similar icons – and colourful words of WordArt style. Content is either blessing or proverbial teaching, ending with ‘Share if you agree’.

Netizens are quick to produce parody versions that contain nonsense or hilarious messages.

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‘Happy Chung Yeung Festival! May your family be safe. Do you know? When it rains, the ground gets wet. Share if you agree. Sharing is good.’ – 潮文匯報

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‘Dear friends, may I ask when you will pay me back? Paying off your debt makes you spiritually rich.’ – 長輩圖救香港
 

Some even spread political messages using the style of elderly graphics:

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‘Friends, this is the last attempt to peacefully change the Legislative Council. Please vote tomorrow. Share if you agree.’ – 香港長輩圖協會 Hong Kong Elderly Graphics Association

The main difference between the authentic elderly graphics and the parody ones – besides the difference in content – is the media of sharing. The authentic ones are shared via texting apps like Whatsapp for individual friends or friend groups, and that’s why I can’t indicate the source of the first two pictures. As for the parody ones, they are usually shared on social networking sites like Facebook, where the younger generations are active, for public display, for people to have a good laugh.

 

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on this! Commenting is good. Share if you agree.