Kids Say the Darndest Things

I believe I’d mentioned before that my rock climbing club, Project X Team, which is actually way more than a rock climbing club, has adopted a local children’s organization, Changing Young Lives Foundation, to look after.  We’ve volunteered our members to throw a Chinese New Year’s party for the kids, put together a charity event, raising over $60,000 HKD, and most recently, organized a climbing event for a group of 15 kids on a public holiday.

I’m pretty curious about how children live here in HK, as I have actually started wondering about having children here myself one day (crazy, huh??).  I notice public programs, have looked at the library (no seating at my local one — weird, but perhaps the juvenile library is different?), and I most frequently ask adults and children alike about schooling here.

Anyhow, more on those topics some other day… what I found most interesting was the cultural misnotions the children had.

On our bus ride to the climbing wall, one of the girls noticed that many of the X volunteers, many of which are 華僑 – or foreign-born Chinese, were speaking in English to each other rather Chinese.  She thought it odd — why aren’t these Chinese people speaking Chinese? Of course, we explained that many of us are not from here, and that actually, English is our preferred language.  I can understand how that’s confusing.

As the day progressed, one particular little girl had really taken a liking to me, and we talked a lot.  She was extremely sweet, suiting her English name, Candy (a very popular name here, in spite of its bimbo/stripper connotations in the Western world).  We talked in Cantonese because she was extremely uncomfortable in English, and in fact, I noticed her English, although it is required education in HK public schools, was very limited.

Of course my Cantonese isn’t quite fluent, and I make lots of mistakes all the time.  I was happy to have Candy or her friends correct me, too, and she was fascinated at how I had to reach back into my mind to figure out how to say things, and then I explained why my Chinese was so strange:

“My Chinese is not so good because I was not born here”

“Where were you born?”

“In America.”

“If you were born in America, how come your hair isn’t blonde?”

I laughed and looked around in wonder.  “But my mommy and daddy are Chinese, so I will be Chinese too, even though I was born in America.”

The little girl absorbed this information and then asked if the other blonde girls in our group were Americans.  I explained that not all Americans are blonde nor or all blondes American.  So I encouraged her to go up to each of the blonde or light haired volunteers to ask where they were from.  She was very shy with her English, but I helped her out.

Then I started pointing out all the foreign-born Chinese and all the different countries they came from — England, Wales, America, Australia, Canada.  She was in complete awe.

It’s a real pity that even though these children live in one of the most international cities in the world, they have no idea what that means.    As I’ve said before, HK is extremely segregated, and even though there is a vibrant and large expat community lurking all about Hong Kong Island, and still more out on Lantau in Discovery Bay (or Disco Bay for short), and others growing out in the New Territories, local kids rarely get to know them, particularly the poorer ones, as you’d have to be enrolled in international school or have a parent working at a multinational company to have any clue.

I hope to spend more time with the children.  I have soooo many amazing tales of observation still to share, if you would indulge with my kid-craziness, and I definitely feel myself growing with these particular experiences.


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