Compared with many Asians a generation ahead of me, my generation was the lucky one. We had a minimum of 9 years of compulsory school education in Hong Kong. It was ‘compulsory’ because parents could go behind bars if they failed to send their kids to school.
I was born in the 1960s. The generation ahead of me were survivors of World War II (WWII), in which many people lost their families and were deprived of opportunities that we take for granted nowadays.
My mother lost her father in the war when she was at the age where kids attend kindergarten. Her fragmented recollection was that she and my grandfather were shipped to Hai Nan Island by a Japanese ship. My great grandfather was supposed to build an airport there as he was an engineer. My maternal grandmother passed on at a very young age before the war. She was a small time actress in Hong Kong. My mother often quips that she herself was a Miss Hong Kong – one of the few who was actually born in Hong Kong in her generation. Most people in my mother’s age group in Hong Kong are originally migrants from mainland China after WWII, which is another long story.
My dad did well in school. Dramatically, according to my paternal grandmother, the invaders arrived at the moment the family was told that my dad had come in first in his school examination. That ended his formal education.
As usual, my wife, two girls and I went to Hong Kong to visit family during the 2015 Chinese New Year. This time we had a little extended stay as the New Year holidays just happened to start right before a weekend. We had a total of 6 days 5 nights of time off.
The Chinese New Year tradition is to visit family and friends for chit-chat and updates. This year we visited one of Moon’s schoolmates from Kuala Lumpur. Michelle, Andrew and their lovely daughter, Faith. They have lived in HK for almost four years and their apartment happened to be right across the road from the University of Hong Kong – They are the locals now!
They brought us to see the new University of Hong Kong subway station (HKU MTR station).
Interestingly, among the many tunnels in the system, one of them was decorated with pictures and a brief history of HKU. We had a brief education about the school history and I even spotted some familiar faces in the dental school section.
Some of our dental student rowers represented Hong Kong in the Asian game in 1986 while I was a book worm in the library. Not too far from HKU is my high-school, in which our fellow Aloysians were taught: “Bring honor to Thy name.”
We visited Loke Yew Hall, named after a very successful businessman Mr. Wong Loke-Yew, who eventually was known as Mr. Loke as he dropped his family name for practical purposes. He also had a Jalan Loke Yew and Loke Yew Street named after him in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore respectively.
Mr Loke Yew made a major financial contribution in the early stage of HKU. Loke Yew Hall was where we had our final examinations and our annual Christmas balls. In the days before my time, candidates were supposed to wear a gown to take their examinations – a gesture of respect for their education.
The highlight of the tour was to see the new HKU Centennial Campus and its Centennial Bricks Wall, which was opened at the end of 2013. As my 3 elder sisters and I were alumnus of the university, we made a small contribution to the Centennial campus project and we had a little brick on that wall (well, we were among other 1700+ donors).
Instead of 4 individual names/bricks, we were allocated one bigger brick with our names on it. My two little girls spotted our brick in less than a minute.
We couldn’t have done it without great parents who focused on education and have been always fully supportive, which allows us to be of service to the others and at the same time put food on the table.
I am pleased to see that many similar stories are being written year in year out.
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