On this day, 12 months ago, I stepped off an aeroplane and emerged into Hong Kong for the first time- confused, disoriented and so bloody hot. Asia was another world, full of signs I couldn’t read and unfamiliar sights. Now, of course, a year on and still here, I’ve grown to love the diversity of the continent, and have had some incredible adventures in 9 different Asian countries and territories. I’ll be going home for good in just over a week- the end of the adventures for a while. But I have no doubt that there will be many more adventures to come, and that this amazing, challenging and dramatic year will shape my future life in ways I couldn’t dream of right now. (Back to work now though- sentimentalism can wait, and pandas can’t. I’ve got to take enough photos to get me through the next year in England!!)
it’s the day where 牛郎 and 織女 finally can see eachother *childish* x)
The story goes that two lovers were parted by the gods, and only permitted to meet on one day every year- on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. On this day, the birds will build a bridge across the sky so that the lovers may be reunited.
My time as a volunteer at the children’s centres has come to an end- and frankly, I am glad. The two weeks dragged past, with 12-hour-long days and falling asleep in lessons becoming dangerously normal.
The first project was a shock because it was so deprived- bare metal walls, abused and dirty children, suffering and poverty. It was awful to watch the brutality of the teachers, although when we were pulled out and changed project, we realised that it was a sad fact of a Chinese childhood, rather than a problem endemic to that one particular place.
The second project was almost as bad, because although they had equipment piled to the ceiling, private funding from America and some basic idea of how to run a successful project, there was still nothing for me, as a volunteer, to do. Every child had a parent with them to play with them, keep them in line, push them on the swing, and - constantly - do the work for them; all of which meant that as an extra person in the room, I was redundant.
The language barrier made things extremely difficult. I couldn’t explain that I wanted to do an activity, or to take part or to help. My offers, accompanied by hand gestures and miming, were shooed away or laughed off. I don’t just want to sit here! I screamed inwardly, as I fell asleep during a half-hour lesson of clapping (I woke up still clapping- impressive), but there was nothing which could be done. I was not needed. I was a burden, not a help.
When we finally sweet-talked our way into going back to the first project, to clean their filthy floors and paint the grim walls, I felt like I was finally doing something worthwhile, after so much of essentially, doing nothing but watch all day. We were finally being proactive and useful in our role as volunteers - donating our time in a way which tangibly improved lives. That was what the trip was supposed to be about. And for all but one day out of two weeks, it failed that crucial goal.
I am glad, for my sake, to be leaving the projects and to be moving on to working with animals- who certainly don’t get smacked if they get the answer wrong- as my help will be appreciated and needed. I will have busy and fulfilled days of helping out and making a difference. Twee as it sounds, that is what I want. At the same time, I am deeply saddened for the children I have met, albeit briefly, who have to live this day in and day out. You can tell so much by how a society treats its most vulnerable citizens.