My Nokia phone broke down about a month ago, after great lifetime. So, I went to one of the many electronics shops in Hong Kong and opted to replace it with a HUAWEI P20 Pro. It has rather high specs and is marketed by having a co-designed camera with Leica. Quickly I figured that this phone is not a phone. It is more of a pocket computer with a quite good camera, which can also to phone calls. I always thought that taking photos with a phone is more of Lomographie than photography. But have a look yourself below: these photos are all unedited, like they came out.
In November 2016 I left a student feedback pack and a letter on the South of Lamma Island, behind Mount Stenhouse (click here for previous blogpost). Two months later, in January 2017, an expedition of students from the Master in International Management of Tilburg University made an attempt to reach the location. They came very close, but needed to abort (rightly so) due to the risk of getting caught in the jungle in the dark. Now, in December 2017, I am happy to receive news from to me unknown fellow hikers in Hong Kong: the letter was found. Both, the fact that they climbed up there and secondly that they had sharp eyes (finding a hidden letter under a rock), makes me think they are nice people. Thanks for mailing back, and I hope we can join for a hike one day when I am back in Hong Kong. Inspired by this, when the currents around the Maltese Island are heading towards the Libyan coast, and the winds are Northerlies, I will also launch a message in a bottle. How anachronistic in the world of instant social media. But it's just nicer.
I am again leaving Hong Kong at the end of my latest stay. Now it is the 11th year, since the territory was my home and later my destination. The tree I planted five years ago in the jungle of Lamma Island has been succeeding in its struggle for light, and is now ranking above the bushes. The Bauhinia tree in front of my guesthouse window, at the steep edge of the campus of the University of Hong Kong, blossomed late this year. It was an exceptionally warm autumn. I will continue returning to Asia in the years to come. Even though Hong Kong is in a self induced decay, it is still a base in the centre of an exciting world region. And when it further merges in the Pearl River Delta region, it will also have a broader role to play again. Never the less, the size of such, is not why I am here anyway.
Following the advise not to do physical exercise after receiving my influenza vaccination (colloquially also known as flu shot or even "jab" for those who prefer to speak reduced vocabulary), I decided to instead visit the University Museum and Art Gallery of The University of Hong Kong. This is one of the few cultural stepping stones, you may set foot on when walking the territory, and not wanting to dip into shopping malls and crowds. I was attracted this time by the photo exhibition featuring the pictures of the Hungarian the surgeon Dr. Dezső Bozóky, taken during his travels in East Asia 1907-1909, and illustrating his impressions by quotes from his diary. As we all know, it was a very different Hong Kong back then.
I liked the exhibition a lot (which will be on until January 8th), and also I spent quite some time with studying the catalogue which is a documentation of views and thoughts by the visiting photographer from a different time. It is available for 150 HK$ (about 18 Euros) in the museum's tea house, which is also recommended, and one of the places I like to hang out when I am here. The rest of the museum is either redecorating or lost a few of its exhibits from the accessible areas. But it is still a nice place with a long gone Hong Kong spirit.
Today, I ran up to the Victoria Peak, not just for normal exercise, but to observe the landing of the tropical cyclone "Haima". First comes absolute silence, then rain, then torrential floods, and then the furious wind kicks in. It seems most people observed the warning not to go outside, and the loneliness added to the spectacular atmosphere. As I was brought up in a forest, I followed my instinct which path to take and which other to avoid. You get a feeling, which tree will hold and which one might not. But it's of course not more than a feeling. The best is to stay away from them - if you can. Just a falling branch can cause serious damage.
Hong Kong neither feels home anymore, nor in any way exotic. Don't know what it really is for me at this point in time. To be fair, this time I have not seen much, because I was extremely occupied last week and spent my time in Cyberport. Now I am back to campus. Let's see what I will discover in the month to come.
I arrived in Hong Kong. Watched two movies on the flight. One was "Steve Jobs". I think I could follow the plot quite well, because I know most of the Apple products and versions of the company's early days. Also, I read the Steve Job biography before, even I don't fancy very much what I know about his personality. I have my own experiences working with assholes, who blow their technical incompetence into the genius miracle saga orbit by an aggressive ego. But I have no first hand experience with Steve Jobs, so I can't say anything about him. The other movie was the latest James Bond, called Spectre. Car was okay (Aston Martin DB10), bond girl also (Lea Seydoux). Then I fell asleep a few hours.
What struck me upon arrival, was the message that our good friend Peter Olaf Looms suffered a fatal heart attack in Argentina. He was travelling to visit family with his wife Clementina. Last thing I saw from him was a question on how to reduce evaporation from a water reservoir. Then the communication halted on October 2nd. He died October 3rd. I am very sad about this. In April this year, we all still were greeting summer with a glass of wine, over the Grand Harbour of Valletta. We strolled around Malta and Gozo together and took a shaky boat into the Blue Grotto.
We met Peter the first time at the breakfast room of the University guesthouse. He was a new arrival to the other Professors who were meeting there every morning. I remember, that I asked Feibai who he was, and she said: "I don't know. But he is a very intelligent man". Peter became Feibai's mentor and choached her for her research proposal for the Frankfurt School of Management and Finance, where she is now doing her PhD. No matter where in the world the other one was, these two were on WeChat every day - exchanging papers, and thoughts and questions. Slowly I learned, how much energy Peter had, and how committed he was to guide his mentees. And I also slowly grasped how many of them there were, and over how many years, and where on the planet. Everywhere. Some of them turned into respected intellectuals and scientists. Others into political dissidents. From Bolivia to China, Peter shaped ideas and lives. He was in the end even my mentor, because I admire how he did that. Now he is gone. Not just, he did not come back to our little circle in the breakfast room, where we all have been expecting him. He is away. I am really sad. Everybody is.
I am staying away from the buzz of Hong Kong these days. The touch down in the guesthouse was a good start. Then moved to hotel closer to Cyberport for a week, for practical reasons. Hotels rarely have an atmosphere I really like. It is a nice hotel. But I think, if you travelled a lot, you might know what I mean.
It's Friday. The English leftovers and new arrivals are getting drunk in the hotel bar by this time of the week. The prostitutes from Shenzhen are preparing for a hard working night. And the sun has set over the Lamma Island Strait.
Last Saturday I taught the last class of my course on "Management Consulting" in the MBA Programme of The University of Hong Kong. As often said, you learn things by teaching them. It is because, you have to do the abstraction first, before you can teach. And in this case, I enjoyed it even more, because I had very smart students. My guest speakers, Joanne Ooi, Thomas Lesinski and Feibai made it even more colorful. Great fun. This, and of course the very nice faculty interaction at the Faculty of Business and Economics, made me decide that I will come back later this year. For now, it is time to say thank you and good bye. But also, as it is a term in anglo-american environments: take care and stay in touch. And I mean it.
After a whole day teaching on Saturday, our Sunday was quiet and we started off with a long morning walk up to the little and less visited summits around The Peak. I will resume on the basic concept of not working on weekends, I think. As our next stop is Australia, this will come quite naturally, I guess. In the afternoon, we went to a movie theatre to see a performance of National Theatre Live in London. It is really a great idea for a Performing Arts venue, to reach out to a world audience this war. Very well made.
We watched Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Watch trailer by clicking here. It was amazing. Of course, it is different than being in the theatre in London. But it also has its advantages, as you have the best angles through the camera and are not bound to your seat. The performance itself was spectacular. I was shivering in my seat, not because it is "horror", but because of the way the rather deep story was represented. Back to the campus, I swiftly signed up for their Newsletter (which I do rarely) and started to re-read Mary Shelley's novel.
Since I have arrived in Hong Hong I have been preparing course material, teaching a class of smart students at HKU, and catching up with friends. The week passed by very quickly, and perhaps I should have scheduled more than a month in town. But we can always come back. Yesterday, we visited my friend Magnus Barlett in his habitat on Lamma Island - the publisher of wonderful books and maps and owner of Odyssey Publishing Company. It is always a nice trip over to the island, specially off the beaten tracks. Sure, there is a bit of melancholy swinging for me when setting foot on the island. There were times I thought I should have never left it, perhaps like the pianist in the movie 1900. We had coffee on his sunny terrace and seafood, as you should never miss it, when you come here. Magnus' parents were painters and at his wall, in his study, he has a painting by his father, showing a bedroom in their house in Greece. It immediately resonated with me, like Chambre a Arles. I like it a lot.
Currently I am thinking about categories and the structure of a new photo website, which presumably comes life in mid 2013. It will be running parallel to this blog, but with a specialized dedication to photography. One of the categories I set up already has the title "Last chance to see", and is of course inspired by the book of Douglas Adams having the same name.
I was re-insured that it is good to take pictures of things, scenes and people which might disappear. So much does in Mainland China, but also elsewhere. On January 1st I opened the South China Morning Post and read, that from that day trawler fishing in Hong Kong waters is banned. This is for good reason, as it depletes the fish population, is indiscriminate and damages the seabed. But still I will miss the trawlers, which for me have been such a typical sight in Hong Kong. For years I watched them passing bye my window when I looked up from my desk, and I got used to the deep sound of their diesel engines. They were often a good object for a photo and I was not aware that when I take them, I record an endangered species of boat and profession.
On the fast ferry from Hong Kong to Macao on December 29th, I still saw many passing the outer island Cheung Chau. At that moment, I was not aware, that this was another "last chance to see".
Just finished my second of 10 weeks summer teaching. After that I will be involved in more traveling and from December work again "in corporate", as my 5 years sabbatical is then over. This time feels a bit like decades ago when I went to work after graduation with thousands of ideas. Back then I was lucky to find environments that were very conducive in turning ideas into projects, products and profits. And I feel the same excitement when I will return to Volkwagen in December. Just a few differences are that I do not graduate from University, but I am a Professor. And then there is this strange difference, that I feel short breath when I run up a mountain and somehow 4 times 50 push ups as morning gymnastics don't come so easy any more. But other things come much easier.
Of course I am asked a lot, whether such a sabbatical "makes sense". Depends a bit on what "makes sense" means. Efficiency and "having new ideas" (I deliberately don't use the term "innovation") seem to be bi-polar forces. If you are only efficient by staying on the strait path then you have no new ideas. And if you only have new ideas, then you get nothing done. So, playing with both of them seems the key to "getting new things done". Perhaps this is the true sense of "creativity" in terms of creating something. And after 5 years being inefficient, I am exactly looking forward to do that: getting new ideas on the road - and I mean this not as a metaphor, but quite literally.
As I have just now the teaching load (that's how they call it strangely) of two tenured Professors (104 man weeks) in only 10 weeks, I am actually ten times more busy if you see it in teaching density. Having said that, I already see myself getting lynched on the lift to the Senior Common Room next week: "Did you just say we are lazy? ..." ... Nono, you are just so much more creative! Better have a drink. But only one for me, because I (!) have to get up early, haha!
I have the privilege of staying in an Ivory Tower for 8 weeks, which is the Blacks College Guest House of The University of Hong Kong. At the breakfast table, I am surrounded by very nice people from all over the world, visiting the University. Some of them are “old fellows”, which mostly have spent their lives in academia, others are young academics who start this path. Because my own lectures are mostly in the evening, there is still time to run up to the Victoria Peak, do one or two rounds on the trail around it, and return. Summer has arrived and it is really a quite demanding exercise. On the way, mostly older Hong Kongers are doing similar routes - everybody at his/her own speed. The former Pinewood Battery plateau is a gymnastic an Tai Chi place in the early morning. People know each other, are relaxed and in a good mood and very friendly. Most of them are actually amazingly fit. Also some younger ones are up and running. But most of them have to get ready for their office cubical (and don’t like physical things anyway). But this seems to be “the other Hong Kong”, because these attributes are bipolar to what the city is in other parts. The scene reminded me of the movie “Morgens um Sieben ist die Welt noch in Ordnung” (At seven in the morning the world is still in order). I guess there must be an old Hong Kong Movie which describes better what I mean. Some of the fellows from the breakfast table, also run and walk around the steep forest slopes behind Pokfulam. Well, education is a way of life. And a nice one.
The University Museum and Art Gallery, which is hosting an exhibition called “Dance Melodies in Colors” featuring paintings of Lalan (Xie Jinglan, 1921-1995). The picture above shows, Enraged Tree, from 1969. It reminded me why I am here, and that the few weeks might be one of the last chances to explore the city a bit more. Let’s see, because the time will be also overpacked with lectures. I already witnessed the final round of the HSBC / McKinsey business case competition which was hosted by HKU and saw how the team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) outperformed all local competition easily. They were really great. The only team which came close was from Tsinghua University. They were also very good, but got caught in the final round by a topic, they were not familiar with (coffee farming in Laos). Anyway, both of the finalists: well done and congratulations to NUS.
Tonight I start my lectures off with “Decision and Risk Analysis”. This is always a fun course, because we have to bring so many dimensions together, ranging from the very technical to the very human. Students usually squeak a bit when it comes to maths. But in the end I hope some are convinced that the “scientific method” makes sense also for some unstructured problems.
Going to a winery in Hong Kong should be impossible. But nothing like that is impossible in Hong Kong. In one of the old high rise factory buildings, which are so typical for the manufacturing past of this city, there a real winery. The grapes are harvested and frozen in Washington state and then shipped as a solid ice block. All wines are produced and bottled in Hong Kong. I specially liked the Gewuerztraminer.
In Unit 302, in the 3rd floor Harbor Industrial Center, 10 Hing Street, Ap Lei Chau, you would have never expected to find something like this: the www.the8estatewinery.com.