In my first few days in Hong Kong I joined some friends who work in an International School for their Annual School Summer Fair.
This had two major differences to those that I had come across back in the UK; firstly, was the sheer amount of money being raised (made possible as the school served a wealthy ex-pat community living in Hong Kong), and secondly, that the school’s playing field was on the roof of the building…
It should be stressed that this is very unique. Being a newly constructed school site, this is probably the only institution in Hong Kong with their playing field on the roof. However, it does reinforce the point made to me that with space in Hong at such a premium then all buildings (including schools) tend to be high in comparison to their equivalents elsewhere. As a result, schools seek to maximise the limited space available to them; at one school for example I saw a small basketball court on the third floor, adjacent to a number of classrooms.
Many schools in Hong Kong will have no outside space and so from the outside appear more like office buildings. Their students are then simply bused out for sports activities; to larger, shared facilities elsewhere.
The following day I visited the main Central Library in Hong Kong. It, too, towered into the sky, containing floors of books, computers and other resources. Like in Singapore, it was just so clearly evident how highly the Hong Kong community regarded education. In one morning I saw scores of school groups being shown around and later that day the work areas were flooded with school students doing their homework late into the afternoon. Still early in my stay it was hard not to compare it to the libraries I had seen out in the villages of Cambodia.
Like any new place though, the unfamiliar soon feels like the norm. Midway through my first week I went along to a local institution, the Hong Kong Jockey Club which each Wednesday houses horse racing around its track with thousand of locals betting wildly on the results. Looming over the track are the hundreds of skyscrapers in Hong Kong where people live and within the middle of the horse track were the football pitches and sports areas where earlier in the day school children without playing grounds of their own were able to complete their lessons. It was a surreal visualisation of the excesses and excitement, which go with living in such a thrilling city and also of the realities with so many people trying to live together in such a small place.