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There is a word in Cantonese that means, well, something like serendipity….but more personal and somehow less of an accident.  Capricious but more friendly and relationship based.  Kinda.  There is no word in English that adequately says the same thing.  Or so we are told by the students we have visiting. 

We learned that while poring over pouring the various Chinese teas we served in their first afternoon with us.  One of the teas was so named.  Untranslatable.  But it came up in conversation anyway. 

We have four female early twenty-something students who collectively weigh almost what I do and haven’t a clue as to what they are experiencing out here.  The forest was a surprise.  The trees were a surprise.  The boat was a surprise.  They are in a state of gobsmack. 

And, because of that state of awe, they are a lot of fun.

It seems we are almost serendipitously bonding as friends.  And, it seems, there is a word and a symbol for that.

Today they went kayaking for the first time.  In water that was clean (seen for the first time) and saw wildlife in the ocean (for the first time) after sleeping in til 11:00 AM (which I am almost positive was the first time) and after watching the night sky complete with a canopy full of stars (never seen before due to the excess ambient lightscape of Hong Kong) while being accompanied by two dogs (each of which weighed as much as the kids).  Two slept in the boathouse.  Two slept in a tent on the new back deck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADay one: They were enthralled.  And then they slept like the dead.

We have a ham radio tower on which is perched our poorly performing wind turbine.  The tower is 45 feet high and Sally was the one who first climbed it to place the turbine atop. The girls were amazed to hear that Sally had done that.  So Sally said, “Wanna go up?  We’ll send you up.  You can do it!”

The girls eyes almost popped out of their heads but they are game little chicks and they all said ‘yes’.  Theoretically and legally they are consenting adults.  So Sal rigged a block at the top for a safety line and we harnessed them in and let them climb.  You could see their little legs and arms shaking.  “Y’alright?” we called.  “I am fine”, each one said.  And they all climbed to the top, had their pictures taken (natch) and came down to cheers.  It is like an Asian Outward Bound-thing out here.  And they are loving it.

DSC_0394We are giving them an experience.  Probably of no relevance to anyone.  Don’t ask me to explain this.  I can’t.  It’s weird.  But we think it is a good thing.  There may even be a word for it.  I have no idea. 

Maybe in Cantonese?

5 thoughts on “ESL……OTG-style

  1. Not a hardship at all. The kids are sweet and fun. Innocent. Full of wonder. Like 6 year-olds in Disneyland, kinda. And it is infectious……I’m feeling sweet and full of fun, myself.


    • Well, you may be right….speaking politically correct and all. But young people in Hong Kong are not as ‘adult’ as the same young people from N. America when compared age-for-age. In my experience, twenty-somethings in Hong Kong are the same emotional and social age as 16-year olds in Canada. That has something to do with the different cultural emphasis and, for us (where your observation of ‘ism’ is correct) because they are so slight of stature, dress and act so innocently and behave like very good children, we tend to think of them as ‘teens’ rather than fully mature adults. Sexism? I don’t think so because the young males are thought of that way, too. Just to be clear: I am not saying this is true of their intelligence. These are smart, well-behaved people. But an example might be that few, if any of the young people, have ever had a date until they were post twenty. I am not sitting in judgment. I am just noting the differences. I confess to using ‘little chicks’ but doing so in mocking me (not them) kind of way. Still, your criticism is valid. I am bad. To the bone. But comfortable with it. You should see all my other faults.


  2. Dear Dave;

    We live in the world of isms, ists and hypersensitivity to whatever perceived, imagined or real slights the world dishes out. Our fabulous english language is often stifled by this search for contardictions. I’m surprised you haven’t been chastised for using the terms ‘sweetie or pudding’ or some other metaphorical language expression of endearment. Must we ban figurative language? I hope you get this monkey off your back. And remember young men are never cute babes with a nice sixpack because if you say that your are saying that they are bow legged infants caring beer and you know babys must not drink! “The word “cute,” back in the days when it was short for “acute,” meant shrewd or perceptive or calculating (though it has also meant bow-legged!). “Cute” in the sense in which we use it today was considered schoolboy slang in the 19th century.”


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