Maybe it's not the journey but the friends you make along the way
I’m writing this blog post from the comfort of my place back in Belgium, nice and cozy inside while the winter weather is whipping up its winds (no snow) outside. How did we get here? And what am I doing here? Let’s find out in today’s long-overdue update.
An instagram poll showed me that my audience there (n = 37) would be most interested in the journey that 2022 was and the friends we made along the way, hence the title of this update. I’d say it’s best we start this blog best somewhere mid February 2022, as the previous blog dealt with the period before. I guess that puts us nicely in sync with the Chinese new year as the starting point for this blog. So, in order to make this extra Chinesey – not to be confused with Chineasy, a book with a catchy title that claims it is easy to learn Chinese but tricks the reader, I cannot stress this enough, do not buy – let’s try to consolidate updates in this blog based on key moments that happened in time frames dictated by the 24 solar terms.
Spring commences 立春 4 Feb
I guess I’ve always been into cyclical systems like calendars. For instance, learning about how the traditional Chinese calendar worked in my second year of college was super fascinating. Actually, I should be calling them calendars, since it’s both a solar and a lunar calendar that at times needed to be put in sync again. Anyways, here is a picture of me looking at the so-called Wheel of the Year, which contains a cycle of eight seasonal festivals. I like the concept very much, but I didn’t feel like it was particularly applicable to a Hong Kongtext, where it is cold for like 3 weeks in February and December.
Here’s a picture of a beautiful tree on the HKU campus. I guess I’m a tree guy.
Rain water 雨水 19 Feb
While it wasn’t really cold, being covered by a blanket gives a sense of comfort and coziness that is second nature to Belgians. And apparently also to Polish and Siberian people, as evidenced by this picture of me, Rita and Dasha.
This was the period in which omicron finally made its way into Hong Kong, and all the barbershops closed. Luckily, we had an outside barber on Lamma.
Beautiful island with its beautiful sunsets and sunset views. I miss it already. But I am not quite sure if I miss the island or the people and their vibe. Possibly both.
Insects awaken 驚蟄 6 Mar
The insects awaken and with them the blue skies returned.
But, like, not every day. Sometimes it was still foggy. And on such a day I decided to surprise my friends Tomo and Jinyoung by awaiting them on the Peak.
Spring equinox 春分 21 Mar
Night and day are equally long and friends that had been held up (holed up?) abroad started making their way back to Hong Kong. Like Marcelo, who wanted to have a big bite at Big Bite.
I also found this replica of Taiwan’s bent post office boxes.
Bright and clear 清明 (aka my birthday) 5 Apr
While my 30th birthday was an absolute disaster, at least initially, “due to circumstances”, my 31st was exactly what I wanted. My friends that came over (shoutout to Tomo, Jinyoung, Marcelo and Yingheng) really managed to surprise me and the atmosphere of the evening was just right. Forever grateful.
The highlight of the evening was this beautiful smörgåsbord of Cheesecake Factory cakes.
Excitingly, I landed an interview for a faculty position at another university in Hong Kong. Disappointingly, the interviewers were late for the interview, which led me to panic, in an icecold manner, whether or not I was in the correct zoom room for about 4 minutes. Unmannerly, I did not receive any replies on whether I was still in the long/short list after inquiring after a month had passed. I mean, do I really want to work for a department that does not respect potential colleagues? Here is a picture of me with the mixed feelings after the interview. It went well, but they were late… 0/10 would not recommend.
Corn rain 穀雨 20 Apr
Some of the friends made along the way are actually routes, if that makes sense. There is a sense of comfort in walking along pathways you know well and know better with every iteration. For me that would be the many walks I took along Victoria Harbour (HK side), from HKU to the pier. It didn’t hurt that the weather was amazing and the views appetizing.
Summer commences 立夏 6 May
May came around and that means two things: 1) Birthday of CJ, which I couldn’t celebrate with him :( . 2) Eurovision, which I managed to watch all night long with Rita. Great edition, at least for the two of us.
My supervisor Youngah came back to Hong Kong and I had actually missed her while she was gone for about two months, even though we saw each other regularly on zoom.
I was also saying goodbye to some friends in preparation for my summer trip: I would be presenting a paper at the Iconicity in Language and Literature conference in Paris at the end of May. Like this fun group of HKU.
Or my dear friend Dasha. See you in Europe soon!!
Corn forms 小滿 21 May
Wow I’m back home! And I’m super in love with the way home looks at the cusp of summer.
I also went to Paris! Let’s face it, there are too many pictures from that trip, I am only including the ones with friends here (blame the IG poll).
And also some of the obligatory sightseeing. By the way, I started watching Emily in Paris while it was Thomas in Paris and it’s both cringey and fun. Also, I look like this self-portrait by Van Gogh, but I am Van Hoey.
Corn on ear 芒種 6 Jun
Back home and even more in love with the fields that surround my home. And taking long walks with the dog.
Time to meet some friends: ultra fans of this blog and friends since highschool: Ruben and Cedric
Friends from sinology days: Lai Man, Silke, Joke, Yoana, Anneleen and me
Friends from my student organization: Ann-Sofie and Elisabeth
Summer solstice 夏至 21 Jun
In case it wasn’t clear, the weather was very good. 10/10.
In this period, I went to two very important places. The first is Leuven, where I finally went to visit my friends from the East Asian Library again (Arjan and Benedicte).
And I also met up with fellow R aficionada and Cognitive linguist Mariana. This turned out to be a very amusing afternoon, and also a very fruitful one, as it led me to my new job, which I will start very soon.
The second trip was visiting Nijmegen (Netherlands), where I spent the afternoon and them some with my other supervisor Mark. Very enjoyable as well and beautiful campus.
As it turns out, one of my friends from my NTU days is now studying in Nijmegen, so I also met up with Yeh Chih, which was the perfect end to a perfect day.
And I also went to Lier with my dad
And met with my friends Margaux, Ruben and Kristof
And almost went to Bonnie’s wedding (sorry I couldn’t make it but happy we saw each other in Brussels!!!)
Moderate heat 小暑 7 Jul
Even thought his solar term is called moderate heat I didn’t think it was very moderate; it was quite hot. And it only got hotter when my Spanish friend Antonio came to visit me. It had been a few years since we had seen each other but some friendships can definitely overcome this.
And then, one early morning – mind you I was still working during this time and often had meetings starting at 7 AM with a team that was working in HK time – I woke up and my mom told me she had phone problems. Grumbling and not yet quite awake I went to have a look and she showed me a screen of an airplane route, casually saying: “So, we need to pick CJ up this afternoon.” Thinking I was still dreaming, I splashed some water on my face and reconfirmed.
You see, a devious and cunning scheme had been going on behind my back, and nobody had told me that this was happening. So there I was, later that day, picking up my dearest baetje at the train station. It felt really good to see him again after 11 months.
Major heat 大暑 23 Jul
So this summer back home turned out quite great I would say. We went to Brussels for a walk in the Sonian Forest and what I was selling to my friends as “the Stonehedge of Belgium” but is actually a monument to forestry that’s only about a century old (sorry not sorry).
We met up with family at a summer.
We met donkeys under an amazing sky.
And CJ’s brother TJ also popped in for a visit.
And, we crossed something of my bucket list, the Vlooyberg tower after visiting my aunt Jenny!
Autumn commences 立秋 8 Aug
So it turns out CJ absolutely destroyed me at mini golf. At least the food with the sino friends was good and comforting.
I developed a curious interest in labyrinths. Here’s one in Mechelen.
Here’s us celebrating our favourite K-pop band VIXX. #Starlight forever, but also room for new (more active) bands.
Here is one of their best songs.
All good songs must come to an end. On CJ’s last day here we went to Leiden. One place we stopped at was the Tolkien store (nerd alert), where I was attacked by an Uruk-Hai.
And then, a goodbye kiss at the windmill. Luckily, this time, it didn’t take a year before we met up again.
On one of my last days back home I got to meet up with Ann from Taiwann.
Then, a rainbow as I was leaving.
And an originally 7 days of quarantine that was shortened to 3 days right before I got back. Here’s the HK skyline. By the way, New York does not deserve the epithet concrete jungle as much as Hong Kong.
End of heat 處暑 23 Aug
The end of heat is only apt for Belgium I suppose, in any case not for Hong Kong. Luckily, Jinyoung was staying at my place during the first few days so I didn’t feel too alone.
We also got new members in the Language Development Lab.
And I got to embrace Changhe (I forced him into my pun).
And I got to – finally – participate in a psycholinguistic experiment. The cap is not comfortable.
One of the things that brought me great joy in the last few months was the participation in pub quizzes with Marcelo and friends. Even though we never won, I had great fun.
White dew 白露 8 Sep
Spontaneous encounters are the best. Here’s one with the Polish girls Anna and Rita. Thanks for being so fabulous, even on the 8 AM ferry.
It was at this point that work became really busy as well. And that lasted all the way until the end. # No rest for the wicked (this was the alternative title I had in mind for this update).
Autumn equinox 秋分 23 Sep
Luckily, the more work found itself to me, the more I was able to balance it with outings with friends. And, oooff, I really needed that counter balance. A collection of moments.
Drinking cuba libre with Rita because of Cuba’s progressiveness.
Mo also stopped by.
Aaron’s first shake shack.
Saizeriya with Xiaoyu and Bingzi.
Frites with Jinyoung and Tomo.
Somehow ending up at the Hermès show with Xiaoyu.
My hair stylist Anson Law (like the mirror guy) I’m really gonna miss <3
Oh, and I beheld a beautiful broken branch. So I’m sharing it with you here.
The sun must be greeted too.
Cold dew 寒露 8 Oct
This solar term’s title is not applicable to Hong Kong, error 404. This can be evidenced by the warm October nights we spent at the power station beach.
Also one inside picture with Mona, Ka, Kayi and Mattew
Frost 霜降 23 Oct
In writing this blog, I have come to realize that the solar terms’ titles reflect my mood rather the Hong Kongnese environment. It started to dawn on me that time spent in the Fragrant Harbour was stretching thin. One thing I got to cross of the bucket list was Cantonese opera (I think it might have been Teochew opera but I’m not sure). Marcelo and Ksenia took me to Farewell my concubine.
The next natsukashii thing is of course Halloween (samhain), one of the highlights of Lamma life. It started with an eerily purple hued sky, and lasted a good amount of time, which I spent watching people with friends.
This beautiful Green Fairy is my Canadian friend Zoë.
I got to wear this sick helmet.
Jon the axe killer (pen killer)? There was also a girl with pompoms and a shirt that said “Go ceiling” – she was a ceiling fan.
Mi amigo Carlos Cuarto.
Beginning of winter 立冬 7 Nov
I MET AN INFLUENCER – rope skipping legend Pakhung Jai.
And I was visited by more and more people from HKU: Aaron, Samuel and Wayne. Fond memories were created.
Oh, and maybe you don’t know this about me (hi nice to meet you) but quite often girls will fall asleep on my shoulders. Proof.
This has been a lot
To end with a sort of cliffhanger, I think I will end here, and talk about the transitory period of my leaving Hong Kong, going to Taiwan, arriving in Belgium and beginning my new job for the next update (early February?). That way, we can do the last five solar terms and be done with it.
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for enriching my life this year, whether we met IRL or just interacted online. 2022 was a pretty great year, despite having to deal with some major unpleasant moments that can only be epitomized by #Free Britney Spears’s hit single Toxic. Luckily, I got to lean on a select bunch of you to get through it and I’m very grateful for that.
Let me know if you are interested in reading particular things on this blog.
’ello ’ello hola bonjour and ciao!