Final Overview pt. 1

I just want to start off this final blog post by saying that I truly had an amazing few weeks in Hong Kong. It was an experience that I’ll never forget, with people who I’ll hopefully stay connected with for a long time. Traveling to Asia was something that I always knew I had to do, and while this was just a little taste of the culture the region has to offer, I’m so glad that I got the chance to experience Hong Kong with the group we had. I’ll talk about them and my out of program fun later, but I just want to note that those experiences were a big part of my positive takeaway from this trip

Challenge 1

Jumping right into the challenges I faced in this program, many of the issues that I encountered were rather minor and many challenges I explain err on the side of silliness. In all seriousness however, the coursework was definitely a challenge at times for a number of reasons. The language barrier between the three of us group mates was something that we worked on throughout the two-week program, and while it was difficult to communicate on some issues, we all grew better at expressing our ideas to each other in the end. Even though communication was something that we never perfected, it helped that we all remained patient with one another and that my teammates were a couple of great people to boot. Challenge 2For the actual project work itself, it was quite time consuming. On some days we stayed on or near campus from the morning until deep into the night. For me, I’ve never experienced a studio class, so the long hours spent on campus we fairly unusual to me, but honestly I tried to enjoy it. There’s a definite sense of community when you spend that much time around the people you work with, and even though these may have just been some high caliber individuals, the time spent working on our projects felt a significant bit less strenuous with those classmates around. Another in-class challenge was probably the presentation for me. We really banked on the longer 10 to 15-minute time limit for the explanation and theatrics of our board. When we werChallenge 3e told that we would only had five minutes to present, my mind went into overdrive and focused more on whether or not we could pull off our fun and unique design. We got through the presentation and unveiled our layered board relatively smoothly, unfortunately leaving many topics out, but even if the instructors did this on purpose we probably would have changed the approach to the whole presentation a little earlier if we had known the actual time limit. Alas we got the presentation done and the board was received as well as we could have hoped, so it wasn’t too big of an issue.


During the rest of our travels an obvious problem that anyone who has been to Hong Kong in the summer must face, is of course, the heat. Challenge 4With endless air conditioned buildings, finding a cool spot was never too far off, but the constant swings in temperature from hot and humid to cold and air conditioned was confusing to the body. The hottest times were during our tour tChallenge 5he first week and the time my group spent making our video on the baking streets of Tai Kok Tsui. We stood in the middle of intersections in the filtered, yet searing sun and had little shade relief on the treeless roadways. So we acted like filthy tourists at times and created our own shade with umbrellas that got more use in the sun than the rain. Honestly though, now that I’m back in Oregon I miss the humidity a little.

Food Challenge 1

The food challenges were few and far between as nothing that people typically eat in Hong Kong is really that strange. The one thing that I ate which proved a challenge was the chicken feet in Aberdeen. It really wasn’t that much of a struggle, but I messed up and instead of sucking the flavFreeWei Challengeor off the foot, I took a bite. Bad idea. I was left with a mess of bones and cartilage in my mouth that I was never destined to swallow, and while it had a nice, spicy flavor, I didn’t go back for seconds. On our trip to Macau, as a group we had the challenge of getting a Chinese national into an SAR of the People’s Republic. The image to the left was captured as our friend was finally freed from his detention upon entrance into Macau. #FreeWei2015.


I’d say the biggest challenge for me however, was leaving. . This was both a challenge and a time for me to reflect on how the experience in Hong Kong would impact my future educational and professional plans. ThGoing Home Challengee credits from this course are the very last ones I need to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science, and coming back home means stepping into a time where I’m generally expected to make certain life decisions. Further schooling is something that I always considered could be in my future, only if I had a good reason to do so. I was on the fence as to whether or not a graduate degree was something that I wanted or found valuable, but now that I’ve had a little exposure to the world of landscape architecture here and in Oregon, I know that entering an MLA program would benefit my career goals. In conversations I’ve had with other UO students in the landscape architecture program on this trip and back in Eugene, they have given me confidence that I could succeed in a design setting even coming from a science background. Applied environmental thought gets put into landscape design so frequently that with a degree in environmental science and a minor in planning, I know I have something to offer in future projects while improving my visual presentation skills through various mediums i.e. sketching, layout design, 3D modeling, etc. For now, I’ll do what I can to look good on an application for a master’s program somewhere, but if I found myself back at Oregon in a year, I would be very happy.


I really don’t have any big grievances about the program that was put together for us. Personally I would have wanted another meeting between everyone before we left, but now looking back on how quickly everyone got to know one another and how easy Hong Kong is to navigate, it was never an issue. I only wish the program was longer!


Here’s a video of a guy riding a homemade Segway in Tai Kok Tsui…Have a great day 🙂

Homemade Segway



Week Two Program Wrap-Up



As one of the only white foreigners in this program I was really quite happy that I was chosen for a site that embodied the less flashy, touristy, or western oriented districts of Hong Kong. The instructors could easily have given me a suburban or distinctly “safer” site to make my transition into the new culture less of a blinding contrast from my American roots. However, this was not the case and I’m thankful for the site I was given in Tai Kok Tsui. It’s a place with a surface level appearance of being uncomfortable at best and downright insufferable at worst, especially during the day. With it’s lack of trees, oppressive heat, bustling and endless intersections, Tai Kok Tsui is easy to write off as an urban jail cell which holds captive aging residents destined for exhaustion. In the afternoon sun, grandmas line the park benches to escape the heat of their air condition-less apartments, shop owners nap lazily along their storefronts waiting for customers to come through the empty streets, it is a place that begs for relief. This was the view I took on the area within the first minute of stepping off the MTR, but that feeling did not last long. While the district presents a façade of ecological absence and discomfort at times, it’s livability comes from it’s life unseen during much of the day. It’s a place that serves the needs of its people, people who are at work escaping the midday sun, and come home at night to give the community its charismatic vibrancy.


Streets of Tai Kok Tsui

Streets of Tai Kok Tsui

This unseen image of Tai Kok Tsui is what I hoped to express in both the video that my group made and the board we created. Molded by Chinese tradition, Tai Kok Tsui’s people and energy are what created a cultural image that’s now burned in my mind not soon to be forgotten. So how did that translate into a three-minute video? It was my utmost intention not to make a descriptive video about the site with overlaid writing and narration required to give the viewers an understanding of my feelings about being in Tai Kok Tsui. I know other groups did a great job in creating often times humorous videos that gave a straight forward idea of their site’s identity, but I wanted to carefully compose a video that spoke for itself with it’s pace and emotional tone. Much like our board which had a near-scrapbook-like quality about it, detailing our movement through the district, I wanted to make the video a similar account of how we navigated through Tai Kok Tsui without unnecessary formal explanation. With the still panel board presentation, we were a bit clearer about the actual layout of the district with a map showing certain nodes, edges, and landmarks. Since we could be explicit in talking about the detail of our site on the board with elements that effect the physical condition, the short video was a way to visually represent these scenes in motion. We show the idea of nodes, edges, and landmarks from our site during the video in the way they are used throughout the day the same way we explained them from the presentation of our A0 board, but now the viewer can experience them with feeling rather than just as an idea.

Andrew A0 board

A0 Still Board

TKT Ghost Festival

Ghost Festival in Tai Kok Tsui


In the beginning of the video we start with long, slow, still shots of the empty streets and parks being used mainly for relief. The melancholy music used in the first half of the video describes the pace and struggle of the older generation in the daily heat. We transition into an account of traditional practice as we came across a football court that was being used as grounds for the ghost festival celebration. The orchestral sounds of gongs and other traditional instruments could be heard ringing throughout the blocks as the burning in respect of the dead scented the air. The next scene shows a woman who we interviewed who discussed the area’s difference in time of day, and how people and vendors really become lively at night. Unfortunately, the actual audio didn’t come through on the clip because of the loud street noise and a jackhammer blaring at a neighboring shop. This was our segway into the exuberant night scene we found ourselves in when we revisited Tai Kok Tsui. People overtook alleyways, sidewalks and restaurants with temporary seating for dinner, street vendors sold fresh fruits and produce to businessmen coming back from work, the MTR exit buzzed with people frantically brushing past one another in the tight crowds to return home. We used more dramatic music in this section of the video with quick cuts, freehand shots, and time-lapse footage to create a sense of energy and liveliness. Scenes of people using their space contrasting from similar locations used in the first part of the video were used to show how the way people fill the spaces that surround them is what gives that place an identity. Just because the impression of the day seemed bleak at first, people were still filling the streets with tradition and feelings that if you keep an eye out for, aren’t hard to find. I will not soon forget the culture so alive on those streets, or the scent of incense burning in respect for the dead on every corner, and I can only hope that people get the same sort of understanding of Tai Kok Tsui from the still board presentation and accompanying video my group mates and I created.




Hong Kong Week 1

The first few days of our stay in Hong Kong now blend together like a distant memory as the work involved in our program begins to take shape. It was a wild start to experiencing Hong Kong as I was overcoming jet lag, and toured the city with little regard to the time of day or even day of the week. When we finally started in the classroom and began interacting with our international peers, I adopted a whole new perspective on the city. The whirlwind tear through Hong Kong reminded me of trip I took with my dad when I was young, making sure to hit every local attraction in hopes to see it all, but as we settle into our schoolwork my time here feels less and less focused on being a tourist and instead focused on experiencing life in Hong Kong.

Tai Kok Tsui

Restaurant, Garage Facility, and Liquor Store, one next to the other in Tai Kok Tsui.

Each of the Oregon students were put into groups with the other HKU students and were required to visit a site, many of them in far reaches of the Hong Kong area. My site, Tai Kok Tsui, was very centrally located on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, shrouded in urbanity and flourishing with historical significance. On the surface the steamy concrete landscape seemed void of natural life and relief from the heat, but as we worked our way through the site the space became clear to us. We wandered along the empty sidewalks quickly making our way towards the nearest shaded spot we could find in a small local park. It was there that we met an older woman who we spoke to briefly about what she was doing there. She explained to us that she didn’t have an A/C unit in her apartment, so every day she would come down to the park to get some air in the midday heat and meet with other friends of hers from the area. While our group and this elderly woman came from very different backgrounds and places, our purpose here was the same when thrown into the harsh urban landscape of Tai Kok Tsui. The dense buildings and lack of any real outdoor eating and resting places forced people to take use of the public space into their own hands, making use of sidewalks, storefront, parking spaces, and alley ways. The way the residents use their space, especially at night, is part of what gives the Tai Kok Tsui area the culture and flair of a organic local neighborhood which serves the purpose of providing for the people who live there.


All services being provided to the residents as signaled by the neon sign above the apartment door.

As a white foreigner, I didn’t feel in danger at any time or feel that I was truly unwanted by most of the locals, but I specifically felt that I wasn’t being catered to as a tourists unlike much of the rest of Hong Kong. The feeling was similar to when I was 14 traveling to New York City for the first time with my Dad and stepping off the subway into Flushing, Queens. It wasn’t Manhattan, it wasn’t Time Square, it was a neighborhood built for the people of the city. Restaurants were next to heavy industries, next to wedding shops that were connected to liquor stores. Everything that the locals of Tai Kok Tsui needed was in this district. These ideas for me at least, were channeled in the project that me and my group members created for first week’s assignment.

TKT Presentation

My group next to the final “scrapbook-esque” layout to assignment 1

Working with group members from a different cultural and lingual backgrounds was difficult at times, but rewarding as well. The hardest part for me was that I tend to speak my thoughts when I attempt to hash out an idea, however when english is not the primary language for the people who I’m speaking to, this audible thought process comes across more like rambling to them. Another english speaker might understand what I’m getting at, but my sentence structure alone may be enough to throw others off. I’ll probably end up explaining more about my group work in later blog posts, but it shouldn’t be understated how great it is to actually get the experience of improving my communication skills for people of varying degrees of english ability.


Hong Kong Arrival

On my Flight to Hong Kong, the same thoughts kept running through my mind about how it would feel to step foot in Asia. As we flew over the northern tip of Japan I couldn’t help but realize that I was 40,000 feet above a culture that I’ve truly only learned about through the media around me and the people I know that have experienced it for themselves. A few hours passed and we were flying over the southern extent of the Korean peninsula. A whole new culture, a whole new world, and something that I could only begin to understand by being there in person. Even though neither of those countries were my destination, preparing myself to step off the plane into a completely new atmosphere of social, structural, and environmental normalities overwhelmed me with excitement. This feeling quickly turned into that of a weary traveller unaccustomed to sleeping upright on a 14 hour, direct flight overseas. I waited in the airport to meet up with another student from the Hong Kong program, sitting tiredly and endlessly engaging in one of my favorite public pastimes, people watching. It dawned on me instantly that in a world this interconnected, the only major cultural divide I noticed was the language barrier. Other than that, the people, the tired faces, the screaming children, the frenzy of navigating through the airport, it was all the same as what I’m used to for traveling in the United States. These similarities carried into the city as we explored areas in Kowloon and Central on the first day.