Visit in the Ivory Tower

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.