Manson Tung (second from left) and his students explore the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood of Hong Kong during family dinner, an annual event where students and their teachers eat dinner together outside the confines of the Summerbridge/Island School campus. TST has the best view of the Hong Kong island skyline. The salute pose is the group's signature pose for their group.
TUNG’S TRAVEL JOURNAL: A day in the life of a Hong Kong Summerbridge teacher. Warning: It’s a LONG one!
A typical day working at Hong Kong Summerbridge is, well, anything but typical. My apartment is blissfully only a couple hundred feet from the MTR station, and my several weeks of commuting have taught me a few things.
Junior Manson Tung will be teaching at Hong Kong Summerbridge from June 21-Aug. 15. He will be writing periodic blogs about his experience living, working, and traveling around Asia.
I’ve learned to use the center pole as a backrest and not slide in either direction; how to text friends in Europe with one hand as the train is speeding up or slowing down; which train car is the best (Car 7, second door from Car 6 as it puts me within spitting distance from the escalator at the Central Station); what time to buy breakfast [Maxim’s Bakery restocks at the Fortress Hill location from 6:55-7:15, which puts it out of contention, and McDonald’s cleans its espresso machine from 7:05-7:20, meaning that unless I’m either very late or very early, I’m at Starbucks across the street or buying canned coffee at 7/11 (which is just called 7 by the locals)]; which exit to take (the City Hall exit is the most direct, but on rainy days it is better to take the Jardine House exit, use the pedestrian flyover and negotiate the crowded Star Ferry parking lot), and most importantly, how to fight for a seat (pure aggression with more contact than a lacrosse or football game).
Thanks to the Hong Kong climate, I’m already in a furious sweat by the time I’ve walked the three blocks to the motor coach pick-up.
When I get to Island School, the teachers run up the two-story incline to get to the school parking lot before a rushed staff meeting in the perpetually chilled School Hall [home to All School Meetings (ASM), which interestingly enough do not involve the whole school].
I then sprint back down the hill to greet the students with a human tunnel chanting “S-S-S-S-U-M-M-M-M-E-B-R-I-D-G-E- Summerbridge!”
The walk up and the 10-15 minutes of clapping, chanting and cheering cause perspiration to drip down the face of every teacher.
During ASM, a steady stream of cheers is chanted at a fervent pace. From the “Sun Dance” to “the Firework,” “the Banana Cheer,” and my favorite, “the Boom Chicka Boom,” the cheers amp up the students and the teachers.
During my first period, I try out the lesson plan that I’ve been working on for a week now. This class is usually more responsive than the other, so I can take it a little easier in terms of jumping into the discussion, which is just fine by me as I’m still pretty groggy from my 6 a.m. wake-up.
Then I get a 45-minute break, just long enough to finish tomorrow’s PowerPoint and send a last couple messages to Europe before it’s bedtime for my friends in Switzerland and Spain.
My second class is a bit more reserved than the first, but given the proper encouragement and support, they can have some amazing moments.
My second 45-minute break, I check up on any world news. Also, it’s right about time to message friends in the Asia-Pacific region, as it’s just around typical-summertime-teenage-wake-up hour.
Lunch with my advisory (called a “family”) follows. The two options, meat and meat-less, are never the same, but the lack of sauce differentiation would make Jefferson Caves and Connor Martin shudder in a gourmet horror.
After lunch comes “The Long Hike” as I prefer to call it. Because Island School is located in the Eastern Mid-Levels (one of the poshest and hardest-to-reach neighborhoods in all of Hong Kong), the school is split into six different blocks, with some reaching as high as eight stories. The craziest part of “The Long Hike”? All the stairwells are outside and open to whatever weather Hong Kong decides to throw at us, and they are all painted the same, which means I get lost almost every day.
After 40 minutes with my family in our blissfully air-conditioned “Family Room,” I make my way down the eight stories again to the Lower Drama Studio to run The Disney Singing and Culture Club.
Following 40 minutes of…well, actually I’m not quite sure what our elective is that this point. We sang acapella for a week until everyone got exhausted by the schedule, and now we are watching full-length “High School Musical” movies.
Another afternoon at ASM, again chock full of cheers ends with a well-intended but awful sounding chant. “Get on the bus!” is repeatedly screamed by every teacher, administrator and office assistant until all the students are on their respective motor coaches.
We cheer more until the busses drive away. (Thanks to late busses, we’ve gotten very innovative with the Banana Cheer in particular. Did you know you can mush, peel, eat, go, drink, blend, smash, grow, pick, throw, plant, slide, and slip, on, with, or in combination with bananas? Yeah, neither did I until Summerbridge.)
Then comes afternoon staff meeting, which always goes late.
Afterwards, I usually stay after work with my event committee, my academic department, my CDC (Cross Department Collaboration, not that anyone actually remembers what the acronym stands for), or my co-family head.
A chartered motor coach comes to pick up teachers at 4:30 but I usually work late and miss it.
After any and all meetings, I return to my classroom to prepare for the following day. By the time that I’m done with it all, it’s 6 p.m. and I’m exhausted.
When I leave the campus after the chartered bus, I have to walk down the hill to the #9 minibus stop to beat the construction workers from the still under-development Cheung Kong Holdings Limited building going up next door. (I made the mistake of waiting at the top of the hill once and had to walk down Victoria Peak to Central.)
In Central, my coworkers and I usually have afternoon snack in a cha chaan tang, a typical Hong Kong café that serves quasi-Western fare.
I then walk home to Fortress Hill, (my effort to combat the Hong Kong pudginess that all those milk teas create) a 4-mile long walk through six different neighborhoods (Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tin Hau and Fortress Hill).
I’m a sweaty mess by the end of it, and it’s 7:30 p.m.
People in Hong Kong work exceedingly long hours, so my aunt, uncle and cousin don’t come home until around 8:30, giving me ample time to take a shower and respond to messages from friends.
Thanks to Jenna, Soda, and Cartiny (domestic live-in maids from Indonesia), dinner is cooked and set on the table before I even walk in the door.
After a traditional Chinese dinner, an extravagant collection of dishes that usually exceeds eight plates for three or four people, (sometimes I feel like I live in the Capitol from “The Hunger Games”) I work on my lesson plans, do PowerPoints, talk to friends or coordinate classes until 1 a.m.
Exhausting? Yes. Exhilarating? Yes. Worth it when you can see the lightbulb go off in a student’s eyes? Absolutely.