This post is the first installment in a twice-weekly feature column covering the culture, sights, sounds and current events of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
I think the best way that I can introduce myself is to explain how I ended up in Hong Kong.
A year ago I graduated from UCLA’s film school after studying interactive design & media for two years and documentary film for two years. With no firm job offers and an eager desire to travel, I accepted an invitation to chronicle the construction of an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. Our original assignment got sidetracked when we stumbled upon a different orphanage that had essentially been abandoned by its staff and financiers. We sought to find out how this could happen, and what it could tell us about the larger picture of international aid in countries like Tanzania.
My partner on the project is a classmate from UCLA, and a native of Hong Kong. He invited me to return to Hong Kong to edit the material together. After six months of eating beans & rice, a bout of malaria, and once-a-week hot showers, the glittering skyline of Hong Kong sounded pretty appealing. Okay, very appealing.
It’s been nearly four months since I arrived on the Asian continent, and I’ve long forgotten chips mayai for tasty dai pai dong and the unpredictable dalla dallas for the ultra-efficient MTR. I’ve been lost in shopping malls that surpass the luxury and scale of any that I’ve found in America, and been engaged by the blend of modernity and ancient Chinese culture.The title of this series, Dim Sum Dialogues, stems from a famous type of Chinese cuisine. Dim sum literally means “a bit of heart” or “touch heart”, because it was originally only served as a light snack – not a main meal. It’s a practice traditionally served from early morning until noon, intended to be an occasion shared with family members or close friends with long conversations over many cups of tea. I like the idea of Dim Sum as a practice, and I want this series to be simply something that serves as a snack until you are curious enough to find out more about Asia by yourself. I want it to be something that engages you to debate, ask questions and participate with me, as if a friendly conversation over a long serving of steamed buns and rice noodle rolls. And occasionally, I hope the naiveté of a westerner’s first experience in Asia makes you laugh.
I’ll be covering my revelations about Chinese culture, the colorful history that has shaped Hong Kong, and applicable current events from all over Southeast Asia. Occasionally, I’ll be reflecting on my experiences from Africa as we continue to edit the project and make follow up trips to Tanzania. So whether you’re fluent in Cantonese or have never even considered making a trip to see the Great Wall, I hope that you’ll find something in this series that you enjoy – and that you’ll join in the dialogue too.