By Megan

It started out just like any other day, I met a white girl on the football field and I did not want to befriend her, I looked the other way. Why? Because I just did not like foreigners. The place I grew up in was half-full of foreigners, mostly white and southeast Asians. They were nothing but arrogant and ignorant. If that was not enough, another reason could be that they just did not look the way we did, and that we were different. Most of the time it seemed to me that this feeling must be mutual, otherwise how come we all live in the same area but act like fish living in two different bowls? If we are all living in the same tank, is there a wall to separate us?

Before accusing me of having stereotypes or not trying hard enough, trust me, I did my best and none of the “friendships” worked out. The first time my mom invited a cute little American boy to our home, he tried to poke and feed my hamster to death with the eraser tip on a pencil. Well, I guess it did traumatize a kid, considering I was still in my kindergarten age. Clearly the very first effort at diplomacy failed and maybe, maybe this irrational stage of mine was the turning point where I started to get a little hostile to foreigners. I wish my other experiences with foreigners had different story lines. But sometimes, we are all fortune’s fools. When I grew older, I met the meanest Canadian on earth, years later, the rudest Dutch and the list goes on and on. Since then, I began to limit myself to not swim to the other side of the tank, with the belief that it would not do any good to either “us” or “them.”

But what eventually constituted the wall was the education I received. Just like most of the teens in Hong Kong, I went to a local school nearby where I lived. In English lessons, although we were “encouraged” to speak in English, by the time we opened our mouth, fears creeped in. The English language was not what frightened us, but rather the stares we got every time when we uttered the words. You were seen as pretentious if you tried to speak in English and kids just did not like you. You would also be mocked if your pronunciation was not perfect–kids were picky. You also probably did not have the flawless grammar, which stressed you a lot. When all the worries and anxieties piled up, we chose to seal our lips. Dear non-Cantonese speakers, please do not have hard feelings when we are reluctant to speak to you in English, it is never personal. The glue that sealed my lips ultimately filled up all the gaps in the intangible wall, making it even more impenetrable.

What changed my mind and made me question the necessity of that wall was the June of 2019—a series of protests against the extradition bill to China. Even though I tended not to keep foreigners as friends, I realized there were some overseas acquaintances of mine who were completely clueless about what was going on at the time. Claiming itself to be global metropolis, Hong Kong had failed to provide first-hand information to all of its citizens. If you were here during that period, you know what a mess it was. If you are new to Hong Kong, trust me and every other non-Cantonese speaker, you would not want to experience the confusion. When I was busy explaining what happened during those days, I could not help noticing how weak the connection was between Cantonese and non-Cantonese speakers, which could be the root of ignorance.

I suppose it did make things easier when we could separate our lives. But it does not take an Elon Musk to know how precious it is to have instant and accurate news in this era, especially when all our destinies are intermingled. The longer you stay in the tank, the urge to swim to the other side will only grow stronger. And the fun thing is, by the time you swim to the border, the wall shatters. Your world gets bigger and you realize not every foreigner is insane, just that you spent more time with your side that you forgot how crazy your people also could be.
Everyone has their own drive to swim near the barrier. Do you still remember the football girl? One day on the field, I took the courage to talk to the girl, and she became a very good friend of mine. For me, a flame was lit during the protests and was fuelled by friendship. Later, it brought me to the student press to contribute to an English publication primarily to provide crucial and survival news of Hong Kong with the further aim to foster inclusion. For you, the drive might be to at least know someone on campus or even just as simple as practicing your English. If you are new to Hong Kong and do not know where to start, welcome to the right place. Even if you have spent some time here, we will not fail to surprise you with first-hand local and CUHK news. And if you are a local, we need you to help by bridging the gap. We are more than a cog in the machine: our baby steps actually shape our culture.


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