Kickoff Day – Part 2

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While we looked a lot at how vegetation worked with buildings to define public space, we also learned about how trees develop or get stunted in the urban environments. The tree roots above were originally limited to a very tight box, and even when they were given more space, many of the roots were stuck in the original enclosure.

As we moved back to the university district, we saw how some magnificent trees had been able to grow on walls. It is estimated that over 1200 trees, mostly Chinese Banyan, spouted up in the joints of the pre-war stone retaining walls. The tree roots can stabilize the soils and relieve the water pressure of the soil through transpiration while providing shade and air-cleansing. Unfortunately, on Bonham Road near the University, one tree fell down and that caused the authorities to cut down a row of other trees.
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Kickoff Day – Part 1

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The term started with a bang as the students were asked to weave together commonalities between different topics, with landscape at the center. After excellent lectures about the constructed aspect of “natural” landscapes (Matthew Pryor) and Public space in Hong Kong (Gavin Coates), we headed out to explore a transect of Wanchai.

monmouth_path1sWe snaked through the hills behind Hong Kong Park and the Asia Society to find Monmouth Path, that provides vertiginous views through dense vegetation. A perfect contrast to the din of the city just below.

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As we moved down the hill crossing the major east-west boulevards, we experienced the crush of humanity on the sidewalks and over street walkways.  Looking from O’Brian Bridge, we were able to contrast the different eras of development from the original Queens Road East shoreline to the current reclamation. Gavin pointed out that the streets below were sometimes under-utilized.  His morning lecture had shown how the city was transformed when cars were displaced by pedestrians during the Occupy Central movement.

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The Walk provided an opportunity to see buildings of different eras.  After the intensity of Wanchai, we enjoyed walking to the latest Central Reclamation Park that sits above the major underground highway.

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Alumni Dinner

UO Alumni in Hong Kong, Aug 18, 2015

Standing left to right: Gary Wong, Vikki Lew, Ken Li, Tony Wong, Stephen Ip, Esther Chu, Winnie Lau, Kevin So, Isabella Wu. Seated left to right: Eugene Chung, Bart Chui, Jiaqi Li, Austin Christianson, Wei Wang, Andrew Mohr.

Our group had a delightful dinner with UO alumni at the Assiaggio Trattoria Italiana in the Hong Kong Arts Centre on Tuesday night. We enjoyed hearing about the recent professional activities of the architectural graduates and learning about the paths that they have taken to get there. They are involved with building housing, tall towers, hospitals, and glamorous retail. And it was fun to spend time with the gregarious alumni like Dennis Ziengs, Tony Wong and Julia Lau who have contributed so much of their time and energy to our university. It is inspiring to hear about how they target their energies to shape the world.  As a teacher, it is very rewarding for me to be around people who appreciate their education and see that my former students have been able to grow so much.

Oregon Alumni dinner, Aug 18, 2015

UO Alumni meet UO students. Left to right: Ken Li, Winnie Lau, Gary Wong, Stephen Ip, Esther Chu, Nancy Cheng, Kevin So, Isabella Wu, Austin Christianson, and Tony Wong.

Earlier in the day, we had a warm welcome from former HKU Architecture Dean David Lung, our alumnus who was pivotal in setting up the UO-HKU connection.  He motivated our students to think about the key role that architecture and the built environment plays in conveying and preserving a community’s culture.  He ended his visit to the class with two exquisitely produced videos from his MOOC (online course) about conserving the Architectural Heritage of Hong Kong.  All of us are eager to sign up, if only to see more of the lovely footage of hidden gems and hear his insightful comments.  It was especially touching that in a sequence about the role of the courtyard, he mentioned Oregon Professor Emeritus John Reynolds.  John’s book eloquently describes how courtyards in different countries support social interaction while modifying sun, wind and sometimes humidity for thermal comfort.  Wonderful to see that after retirement, David Lung is able to embrace new technology and grow his teaching in a new direction.

Southern bus trip

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To have a contrast from the crush of humanity in Tsim Sha Tsui, we took a bus to the South Side of the island. I hadn’t realized how much Aberdeen had densified, it was probably half the size when I previously saw the city ~20 years previously. The extension of the MTR to this rather distant side of the island really amazed me:  I am so impressed with Hong Kong’s non-stop investment into public transportation. The new HKU MTR station has made our lives incredibly convenient.  The Sunday car traffic made our journey more arduous until we cleared Ocean Park.

The beauty of the island’s coast is undeniable even while careening at a breakneck pace past branches brushing the buses window.  And awaiting us was a completely sanitized, mall-ified Stanley. Even though the development was quite tastefully done with some generous gathering spaces, I was rather disappointed to see that one entered the village through the escalators of an air-conditioned mall. MurrayH_BlakeP-s

In Hong Kong, picturesque pieces of colonialism have been artfully arranged.  Here you see the 1844 Murray House barracks from Central that was dismantled in 1982 and rebuilt in Stanley in 2002.  It is seen through the portal of Blake Pier, also originally from Central, whose canopy for many years served as a pavilion in Kowloon.  They both provide a very dignified experience of the waterfront, although a rather mixed-up version of history.

– Nancy

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.

 

Arriving in Hong Kong

I don’t know how many days its been since I left home and I’m not sure if I slept last night.  The journey to get here was long and anything but pleasurable.  Arriving in Beijing my texts home read “I just puked  in the airport trash-can in front of 20 people.” And then in Hong Kong read “On the third leg of the flight, I grew cankles.”

So upon touchdown in that demented state of mind, I decided to brave the public transportation to my new home for the next two weeks at Hong Kong University. Navigating through the subway was as extraordinary as my friend Jane had raved: Chinese and English signage, easy to understand diagrams of lines, and friendly locals recognizing and accommodating a tourist getting her luggage locked in the turnstile.

But as soon as I walked out of the HKU stop of the subway station around 10:30pm, it was a different story.  Double decker buses zipping by, taxi-cabs honking, pedestrians scrambling…it was a M.C. Escher madhouse of a city layout.  Still, I courageously decided to ride herd on my roller luggage and duffle bags up the curbs, down flights of stairs, over bridges, and zig zag through streets until finally surrendering to the dark narrow streets of Hong Kong and hailing a little red 1980s Toyota taxi-cab.  Before I could even shut the door and tell the driver where I was going he was hauling up hills and then flying down them with twice the speed. Fifteen minutes of hugging the curbs up to the foggy tropical peak where the university lies, I was grateful to have relinquished my jungle crusade and find a familiar University of Oregon face.

Day 1- Exploring HK

We all made it together for our first official day in Hong Kong! Feeling slightly jet lagged from arriving late the night before, we met for breakfast to greet each other and prep for our first day of exploration.  But first let me take you through the journey of my day.

It was a rainy morning, with deep rumblings of thunder off in the distance. After taking a refreshing shower and getting dressed, I walked outside to the outside balcony off of the “Executive Suite”. I instantly started sweating. The air was thick, hot and muggy which reminds me of Alabama’s weather, where I often visit my mom’s side of the family.

After my morning stretch and trying to fully awaken, my roomie Wei and I headed downstairs for breakfast to meet up with the rest of the crew. Happy to see everyone, we dove into breakfast and made plans for the first full day.

That’s all the time we have for now. Stay tuned and find out if Kellie ever finds a camera charger, if Andrew gets lost, and if we ever get to have smoothies.

To be continued…

Update 9/3/2015

I’m going through to add to this post, post trip to talk a little bit more about my experiences on all of the tours that we’ve had. Thinking back to this post a couple weeks ago, and thinking about all that was going on is still a little bit difficult for me to fully process. Honestly I don’t think it will be until I get back into the swing of life and school back here, will I really start to unpack my experience. Arriving just the night before on little sleep from the exhaustive plan ride, the firm mattress in our rooms were very welcoming. I arrived that night with my classmate Andrew, riding the airport express and taxi to Robert Black. It took a while to figure our way around, but figured it all out easy enough. By the time of the second week we would all become pros at navigating the city with the help of the MTR, buses, and taxis. I met my roomy for the trip, Wei, that night and we talked a little bit before I completely knocked out asleep.

The next morning not really sure if I was awake or tired, we met all together for breakfast excited for the weeks to come. Sparing no time for rest we embarked on our experience of Hong Kong. I didn’t really know what to expect from the trip, nor was I worried or apprehensive. I’ve learned over the years, the best way to take on a new experience is to take what is given to you and make the best out of that moment. We were there to learn, experience, and grow as individuals, and also to bond as a team with our group and the HKU group. I don’t think I ever really got over my jetlag, and sleep is very important, but experiencing the city with the UO team and HKU students was priceless. Its the experiences we have with others that we can continue to share with each-other throughout the years after. I wouldn’t have changed anything about this trip, maybe a little more time and sleep, but isn’t that what every student wishes for.

Also to answer the questions above, Kellie did buy a charger, Andrew didn’t get lost, he actually became quite the expert. Wei did get stuck on the MTR by himself once, and almost didn’t make it through customs in Macau, but we all stuck together and made it out. I did have one smoothie, but beyond that, there was this ice cream I had that was beyond amazing.

Here’s to an amazing trip, and many more to come.

Gānbēi (Cheers),

Austin

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Day 1 in HK

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Finally we arrived this magic city that everyone has been talking and dreaming about. The most impressive spot to me was Victoria Harbour, all the skyscrapers looks like growing up from the ground and  trying to beat others with higher height. Just like the city, suddenly blooms up and everything grows so fast.

Thanks to Bella, today we had great Cantonese cuisine that I will never feel tired of. And our adventures of finding more delicious food, along with exploring this one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in China, will never end.

Ducks in HK 15/08/15

This day started off with a rainy morning filled with thunder and heavy rain, making my trip from my guardian’s house to Robert Black College very nerve-wracking. We (the students and professor Cheng) all met up and we were shown around campus by two second-year graduate students, Jasmine and Laura. During our tour around campus, we happened to pass by an enormous HKU sign and I thought that it was a great welcoming sight for the new study abroad group, even though it was raining!

HKU Sign

After we went to grab lunch at a seafood restaurant, we went to the history museum in Tsim Sha Tsui. There we learned about the history of Hong Kong from the Paleolithic Age to the Present Day. Inside this exhibition was a life sized street from the early times and it was amazing to see how it really was for people living at that time. There was also an interesting European building that was included with the Opium Wars section that I loved the design of! However, the most interesting part of this exhibition to me was learning about the Hakka people and their way of life. Since my father’s side is Hakka, it was most interesting to learn about my ancestors and what they did during that time. I got to see the type of house they lived in and, for a moment, I felt like I was part of that time period.

After the museum, we went to cross Kowloon Park and saw the beauty of exotic plants and trees that keep the air of Hong Kong as clean as possible. Afterwards, we saw the skyline view of HK and spent a good time over there to cool off and catch a breeze before heading down to take the infamous Star Ferry back to Central. From there we decided to head back to RBC since everyone seemed to be tired from jet lag. Not long after we settled down in our rooms again, we went to grab dinner back in Central. We tried searching for a place but couldn’t find it so we all decided to eat at a small place tucked into the street called Crab Noodles, which their main theme on the menu is… crab!

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Afterwards we walked around a bit before deciding to head back and let the others have a good night’s rest since they just arrived two days ago. Until next time!

Cheers,

Bella