Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

Almost in Cambodia via Hong Kong

Posted in Cambodia on December 8, 2008

December 7:

We all arrived in Hong Kong a little tired from the flight but excited to explore this new world. With the exception of my sister Bobbi, none of us had ever been to Hong Kong before. As such, for this trip, we have arranged a two night layover here. My sister used to be a flight attendant and knows the city quite well and she has been very helpful.

When we arrived we went straight to the hotel. Ahhh, there is nothing like a hot shower, a decent meal and a vertical nap after a 14 hour flight to refresh the spirit. We will all arrive in Cambodia refreshed and ready to go. Yesterday we took a half day tour of the city. We went to the 'peak' on Hong Kong Island for an impressive view of this incredibly vertical and dense city. Imagine the west end of Vancouver on steroids. As I understand, there are 7 million plus people who live in Hong Kong. It's incredible to think that this many people live in area that is likely no bigger (perhaps smaller) than my city of Kamloops. Kamloops only has 85,000 people! Indeed, land and space are at a premium here and can't be taken for granted. Our tour guide was explaining how the average family lives in 800 square foot apartments in sky scrapper buildings. When he was a child, his family had nine people - do the math.

But despite the lack of space, Hong Kong is most definitely not what I would call “developing” - far from it. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find many other places on earth with such opulence. Hong Kong is definitely a paradox. It is incredibly clean and organized here on the surface, but we know the water isn't clean. The vendors are assertive but not aggressive. People wait at the cross walk even if there are no cars coming and I don't think it is because of fear of getting a fine, although I could be wrong. There isn't much space but people are very respectful of it. There is no democracy here, but it feels free. It's crazy but calm. Money rules here, and competition is the name of the game. Yet, I sense a genuine generosity of spirit here. People are nice. Many people speak English and those who don't will try with a smile.

I have never seen such incredible infrastructure. I have never seen so many Ferraris, Porches and Roles Royces. The people here are incredibly cosmopolitan and well dressed. It's like one big fashion show. I get the sense that shopping is the number one recreational sport here. Where does all the money come from? Hong Kong ain't cheap either. I am feeling a little over stimulated by the spectacle of all this. The commercialism and materialism is so in your face. Note to self: If I ever come to Hong Kong again, bring some nice clothes and a lot of money. After two days in Hong Kong I feel as I imagine I would feel in Vegas – glad to have gone but ready to leave.

Surely there is an unpleasant underbelly to Hong Kong as it can't all be this shinny and pretentious. No doubt, there is a strong sense of culture and pride that transcends the tourism, the banking and the pretense. We aren't here long enough to understand Hong Kong, just to experience it. I like Hong Kong, but I don't love it.

Today we are off to Cambodia and not a day too soon. Cambodia is our real reason, our real destination and where we seek the meaningful adventure. Juxtaposed to Hong Kong, Cambodia should offer us a starkly different experience. With much anticipation, excitement and a little nervousness, this group is poised and ready. We can make a difference. We don't say it out loud but we all know intuitively that the biggest difference to be made is going to be made in ourselves. By virtue of what a country can offer that is meaningful, Cambodia, we already know, is much wealthier than Hong Kong. We brace ourselves...with arms wide open.

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