Tales of a GeekTrotter Binary Logbook

24Jan/090

Back to Hong Kong… if I can!

France is quite a safe country with regards to natural disasters... For example we never have earthquakes or typhoons that kill so many people in Japan for example.

Nevertheless, we sometimes have some storms with strong wind like in December '99 which was one of the biggest disaster in French History.

Anyway, these natural disasters never came to the best city in France: Toulouse! But... But... that day... the day I was supposed to flight to Hong Kong... the strongest storm I ever saw tried to prevent me from going to HK... From the early morning, a really strong storm coming from Spain (and which killed a few people in Spain) arrived in South of France. As a result, all airports were closed in South-West France, especially in Bordeaux and Toulouse... How lucky I am! My flight is at 5pm and, by the afternoon, the airport is still closed and no news telling us when it will re-open. In the early afternoon, the storm has almost gone but the airport is still closed... I have to be in Paris by the night for my transit no matter what! But train lines were closed too. Even the rugby team, supposed to go to Bath (England) for the Heineken Cup (European Rugby Cup), had to wait for the airport to open. Out of sheer desperation, we decided to go to the airport around 4 to see from ourselves how it's going.

-- PHOTO of Apocaliptic Airport --

What we saw there was like the apocalypse... Almost nobody, everything was upside down, no cars in the huge empty car parkings... Finally, we managed to enter the airport itself, and to my great relief, they announced the re-opening of the airport... with my flight! My flight was the first one to be maintained again. How lucky in my bad luck 🙂

So finally, I flighted to Hong Kong without any trouble. By the way, if I couldn't manage to go to Paris on time, as I bought the tickets in different transactions, Air France, even if both tickets were with Air France, wouldn't have refund me the cost of the flight from Paris to HK coz they consider it's my bad I couldn't be in Paris on time... So nice!

When I finally arrived in Hong Kong, nothing had change, it was still so hot compare to France... I arrived to my new flat in Sheung Wan safe.

My flat

My flat

The flat is quite nice. A big bed, a small kitchen, a TV, a desk a wardrobe and a private bathroom with toilet and shower. Widely enough to survive! And the location is really good. At distance walk from the MTR (subway) and only one station to Central, which, as the name suggests, is the middle town of Hong Kong.

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28Aug/080

Welcome to Hong Kong !

After a four hours long flight from the Kansai International Airport in Osaka, I finally arrived in Hong Kong International Airport 🙂

First impression: damn good! As planed, students from Hong Kong University (HKU) were waiting for new students, in the middle of the airport between the two main terminals, with shuttles departing every hour.

I met some local students and some exchange students, waiting for the shuttle bus, just as me. We was around 10 new students, from different countries such as England, Singapore, Canada, USA, India, France… already a nice glimpse of what will be the cultural mix in HKU.

As soon as we arrived outside the airport… the first thing that is really shocking is… the weather… it’s so HOOOT!

It’s so wet we feel like if it was 50°C in France! And polluted… definitely more than in my sweet South of France!

But anyway, after a few meters outside, we ride an air conditionized bus, for around 40 minutes before arriving to the HKU Campus… And after a few minutes inside the campus, we finally arrived to my residence: Patrick Manson Students Residence. I’m lucky, I’m on the ground floor! And actually, only the ground floor is inhabited by boys. The first to third floors are only girls floor… I’m really lucky haha.

Inside my residence I met my “buddy”, a student from HKU assigned to help me discovering the campus and the school, filling the paper I need for my enrollment, and showed me around. I really appreciated her help. It was really easier for me thanks to her. I guess I would have been lost in Hong Kong if she wasn't there... By the way her name is Karen (English name, they all have an English name in HK...) and she learns French language. That's maybe why she was assigned to help me.

Then, I went to my Hall (student residence) and met my roomate, Dave. He is a nice guy from Canada. Actually, he is only one of my roomates, coz as there are too many people in the residence, we have to share the room with another student who will arrive later. The room is quite tiny for three people, but I don't mind. And, as you will see, it won't be a problem at all :).

I also met the other guys in my residence, mainly from Spain or Spanish-speaking countries like Ecuador. They were going to nightclub and invited me to join them, but I was tired and decided to have a rest. Next time!

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23Jul/080

Search Nightclub #3

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21Jun/070

Beginning of a long journey

Thursday, June 21st, the "Music day" in France, was the beginning of a long journey that was going to change my life: my first trip to Japan.

By the time I write these lines (Aug. 26th, 2010), more than 3 years have passed, and I still consider that journey as my richest experience among all my trips, in terms of human relations and human life.

We start in South of France at the end of the afternoon of the first day of summer, celebration day in France, with a big mountain bagpack.

Départ
Departure

But before starting this long travel, let see how I ended up travelling to Japan.

What is Japan for most of the kids like me, born in the 80s in France? Dragon Ball, City Hunter, Saint Seiya, Hokuto no Ken... in one two words : Club Dorothe...

The Japanese animations. We all grew up with these masterpieces, and it's our first link to the country of the Rising Sun that Dorothee managed to share with us with brio.

Well, of course that's when we are young, but it really is the first door to the Japanese culture: manga/anime.

With the Internet boom and the agressive ADSL prices in France, watching Japanese animations became easier and easier and was even very common at the end of the 90s / beginning of the 21st century.

As a good junior geek, I was also part of this phenomenum and kept watching japanese animations on Internet even though some horrible persons dare rewmoving Club Dorothee from the French TV.

The Japanese animations --m'ont alors donn envie-- to know more about that country, its culture, and I started to search on Internet information about it and I started to apprecate more and more that culture so different from ours.

Time passed, and when I entereda French Engineering School, I finally had the opportunity to learn a bit about the Japanese languge and culture.

I followed a class during one year, but as it's in an engineering school, it was only one hour per week and definitely not the class everybody was granting time on.

Anyway, it was a good way to learn the culture from a Japanese professor and the basics of the Japanese language (Japanese culture and language being in a close relation).

Then, in my school, during the first summer, we have choice between staying in France and work as an intern for a company, or go abroad and have any kind of experience.You bet I chose the late one and went to Japan! I decided to do volunteer work in Japan for about 3 months.

I ended up doing volunteer work after talking with my professor, Menini-sensei, about the fact I wanted to go to Japan.

She actually introduced me the "WWOOF", a kind of international volunteer program.

The principle is easy: you work for a family, and that family provides you food and accomodation.

I spent all April to plan my trip.

The only thing you need to do is to subscribe to the website, for $40 (WWOOF Japan), and you get access to the list of families in Japan that participate in the program.

The list provides quite a lot of information, including (but not restricted to) the contact of the family (email/phone), their activity (and what you will have to do), their location, the number of volunteers they accept at the same time, and if they speak English or other languages.

Then I started to select the families I wanted to visit, over all Japan from Hokkaido to Shikoku.

The only --crucial-- point was that they have minimum knowledge of English, because I couldn't speak a single Japanese word by then, except telling my name and counting...

I looked for families that could at least reply to me e-mails in English.

Fortunately, many of them in the list could speak English, or at list were marked as.

I then contacted by e-mail many of them, and, --at my big surprise--, almost all of them replied positively within a week!

I was really surprised because first I thought I will not have answers for a... long time (or forever...), and secondly because they were very flexible for the dates.

The summer holidays being about 2 months and a half, and as I got many positive replies, I had enough to visit a different family every month!

So I searched on Internet (Hyperdia) how to commute between each family and confirmed with each and every family the departure and arrival times.

Most families come directly to the train stations to pick you up so I bought 2 JR Pass (21 days each) to cover most of my travel expenses.

JR Pass is really a good deal if you plan to travel a lot, or wide distances. It's also very convenient because you don't have to worry about buying tickets at all. You just show the pass at the station gates and that's it!

So I had all the trains detailed timetables for all my trip.

I decided to change family each week for three reasons: 1. all the families I contacted accepted me, so I didn't want to cancel, 2. moving every week allows me to see new landscapes and help to entertain (not to get bored), and 3. in case there are families that just try to --exploit-- some young travelers or that are not friendly at all, in the worst case, it will last one week.

End of April, all my trip was planed and I could finish peacefuly my last lectures, with only one thing in my head: my departure!

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