HK Final Thoughts

ERIN:

The ETL team is back from Hong Kong and still has plenty to do while trying to adjust back to normal school life. For some of us that means readjusting to our normal sleep schedules back in Minnesota and for others that means still figuring out class schedules after the semester is in full swing. It was nice to take a breather from constant e-waste thoughts but that didn’t last long as we still have a ton to do before we are ready for our premiere. It is time for our team to buckle down and put together a trailer, finish the documentary, incorporate the act local component, and put on many other exciting events throughout the semester as well. We are eager to show everyone the footage that we got in Hong Kong and discuss what we have learned about e-waste! 

MARIN:

Overall, I had an amazing experience being a part of the Hong Kong travel team. The variety of people we had the privilege of interviewing and by the guidance of Patrick suggesting areas to visit, we truly took advantage of our time and experienced some of greatest treasures of Hong Kong’s people, scenery and food. Our travel team is made of amazing people with hilarious, fun personalities from all different backgrounds and majors which gave the development of our documentary the perfect influence of different perspectives that it needed. 

The most memorable experience I had was being able to sit on top of Lion’s Peak looking over bustling mainland cities- Kowloon Bay on one side, the city of Sha Tin on the other, and lush green mountains spanning for miles all around them. Taking a step from the chaos of Hong Kong’s city environment (loaded with a over 7.3 million people) and looking at it from a broader perspective made me realize just how much of an impact each seemingly small individual can make on the world and its environment. I am very fortunate to have seen a glimpse of what the human imprint makes on our environment in the context of e-waste. I hope that sharing with my community what I learned can increase awareness of how our actions influence all people as well as the environment. 

JASON:

1. People around the world are far more similar than we may originally think. If we can have open conversation, we can break down barriers that may keep us separated. 
2. Hong Kong is an incredible city with a very peaceful culture. The concrete jungle with over 7.2 million people and for the most part, everyone coexists.  
3. You learn a lot about people when you travel with them. I got to know a lot about 5 pretty incredible people during the 3 weeks we were in Hong Kong. Ask questions, try and get to know people.

KEVIN:

During our time in Hong Kong I was allowed to see amazing things, meet incredible people, and learn many life lessons I hope to hold with me for the rest of my life.Perhaps the most important takeaway I experienced during the journey was the ability to put yourself in other's shoes. I have always said this is something I was good at, but I was never able to put myself in such a range points of view. I began to understand this as we sat down to interview people ranging from illegal workers, to high ranking government officials. Another interesting takeaway of mine was the Chinese philosophical system of feng shui. Feng shui is a harmonization between a person and their external environment. To me this shows an attempt for someone to become in balance with the world around them. I hope to consciously keep this idea of equilibrium in my everyday life. Finally, I was able to further appreciate that no matter where you go in the world, people are more alike than they are different. During our travels, I met many people who live extremely different lives than me, but once I got to talking with them I quickly realized that we had much in common. I am extremely proud of all that we accomplished during this trip and so grateful that I was able to learn these unique life lessons.

MACK: WHAT WILL ONE DAY BRING ME BACK TO HONG KONG:

~ Never underestimate the power of learning just a few words of the local language, and always be sure to try (even without success) to say them correctly. These are the moments I hold on to most as I come back. In Hong Kong, I was able to connect with strangers through Somali, Cantonese, and even English. These moments allowed me to swallow my pride, promote vulnerability, and radiate respect to the other person.
~ By traveling with an objective or goal, I was able to meet, interact, and share special moments with people I never would have if I were only touring Hong Kong. Extending the Link is a title to be taken seriously, and I am forever grateful because of it.
~ Humans are connected in ways that we will never fully understand, but I learned to never let this deter me from exploring human interconnectivity (even if I have to fly seventeen hours to do so). 

 

MALIA:

As I reflect on these past three weeks of interviewing more than 20 individuals to include activists, electronic engineers, formal and informal waste workers, and government officials it is difficult to put into words just how much we learned here in Hong Kong (thank goodness we are making a documentary!!). Electronic recycling has only been a fairly recent occurrence yet the rate of its advances is skyrocketing as fast as the electronic products themselves. Therefore while we only toured the small grid of Hong Kong it feels as though we have traveled the globe after hearing stories from African good traders, German technology manufactures, American anthropologists, Iranian asylum seekers, and even many Bennie and Johnny alumni of our institutions now living in Hong Kong. Each person we have met has a unique reason for their relationship with waste, which they kindly shared that we cannot wait to showcase as our film advances!

As you can read from each of our travel members, our team is so gracious for the extremely unique opportunity of traveling to the other side of the world to film. We cannot thank enough our tour guide Patrick Leung for all his local tips of navigating the various hiking paths, double decker buses and local delicacies along with providing Cantonese translations. We are also thankful for Paul Marsnik from the E-scholar program, for arranging a giant CSB/SJU student and alumni meet up in Hong Kong for both a meal and some horse racing. Thank you to the mom’s and dad’s trusting in Erin and I to run their children around the streets of Hong Kong and put them hard at work late into the night when they could have instead been sleeping in during this winter break. And as always thank you to all our donors for making this experience possible.

We have climbed up rooftops, hiked around islands, peaked over iron fences, and flown our drone all across Hong Kong and cannot wait to show you the beautiful resulting shots. Please keep following our journey and do not hesitate to reach out to us at extendingthelink@csbsju.edu!!!

All In for the Local Delicacies.

January 10th-14th

The whole time I've been here, I had craved a chocolate twist ice cream cone. After many failures and disappointment, Tuesday was finally the day I would win the battle with McDonald’s, after visiting 3 places that had vanilla cones (but no chocolate). The best part of the day had to be the reaffirmation of the strong CSB/SJU alumni network. Getting to meet and eat a very filling dinner with the alumni and bond over the unique Chinese/Hong Kong cuisine had to be one of the many highlights of our travels abroad. I particularly enjoyed the debate of whether or not the shark fin (in the shark fin soup) was real shark or not. I think we came to a somewhat conclusive “no,” but you didn't hear that from me. Either that, or the topic of underwear/swimsuit shopping for Americans in Hong Kong (usually requiring a double XL at least) made me appreciate the playful humor of current and former Bennies and Johnnies.

Wednesday was a success in terms of exploring the New Territories and informal recycling operations in Hong Kong. By meeting up with Ping Che local, Brother Choi, we strategized the best way to launch Sticky, new drone member of ETL, above these operations without drawing too much attention. We visited two current facilities and one abandoned site (due to a fire). We spoke with Brother Choi about the eroding of local village culture due to development and waste management projects popping up all over the New Territories. We walked away from this exploration with lots of bug bites, surreal confirmations of the informal facilities, and a slightly injured Sticky. The evening was spent enjoying both a local and foreigner favorite, the Hong Kong Horse Races.

Thursday we split up to scrounge up some new b-roll (the footage that plays over the audio during films). Marin and I visited Kowloon Walled City Park and explored the more historic side of Hong Kong. We experienced some more traditional architecture and music within the park as we were guided by a local historian/citizen. The park brought some much-needed relaxed and peaceful time to our tired and worn bodies.

Friday brought on a full day of 5 interviews with a metals recycler representative, a labor rights activist, staff members of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Patrick. Later that night, Patrick treated us to a local delicacy dessert place where we all indulged in some unique Hong Kong specialties. I myself enjoyed a few bites of coconut ice cream/pudding, a chocolate waffle, and drank my first Lychee Juice (shout-out to Patrick for the experience).

Saturday was my chance to get to sit in on Gordon’s class. The multitude of topics covered (from religion to morality to Trump and even compensation laws for asylum seekers) astounded me with perspectives I never would have even imagined. If anything, it reminded me that, as human beings, we should never completely avoid talking about the very aspects of our lives that make us human. Listening is one of the most powerful and influential tools we have as human beings. I know that not only have I been impacted by this group, but all of the travel team has (in some form) been changed by the stories of these asylum seekers. We will keep these stories with us and let them shape and impact the story that we tell in April, and that will in turn (hopefully) affect all of our viewers. That, I believe, is what Extending the Link is all about.

For me, my first international trip would not be complete unless I was ripped off somehow. I wouldn't say don't go to the fortune tellers of Temple Street, but make sure to avoid the seemingly nice lady who will try to give you a group rate, but try to give each of you the same fortune (mostly because I think that was all the English she actually knew). And that's all I have to say about that.

-Mack Kuhl, Researcher

IT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL.

January 6th-7th, 2017

(Friday - January 6th)

Inside a small cement office piled floor to ceiling with electronic devices I met Eric, a half-retired workshop operator in Kowloon Bay. I’m not sure if it was his bubbly personality or contagious optimism, but his passion for bettering the environment and desire to distribute computers to families in need was inspiring to say the least. Eric works to combat the digital divide that deprives under privileged individuals in Hong Kong from having access to basic technology. He takes used computers and makes the necessary repairs for them to be able to be distributed to the those who need them. Experience is very precious and giving students the tools to utilize the internet to succeed in school and enhance their learning is what drives his work. His philosophy that you can reuse anything, reduce what we consume, and that no person is worth overlooking is something that will last with me for many years to come.  I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to interview Eric and I have high hopes for the change he can make in the future of improving Hong Kong’s involvement in electronic waste.

(Saturday - January 7th)

Chungking Mansions was definitely one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had on this trip. This buidling can be describes as a cultural fusion of Hongkongese meeting the flavorful influences of India, Somali, and Ghana in a marketplace of discounted goods and services of all sorts. At the entrance under its hefty gold and dark marble sign, dozens of Indian sales consultants energetically wave flyers trying to sell passerby everything from hotel rooms, suitcases, and jewelry to traditional Indian cuisine. Our lovely girls on the team attracted much attention when entering Chungking Mansions and were immediately followed by dozens of Indian consultants eager to shuffle us to their shops and restaurants inside, as the boys were left alone trailing behind. To finally dismiss the growing number of Indian consultants still heavily pursuing our business after only 3 minutes of entering the Mansions, we took their advice and quickly dipped into a tucked-away restaurant of 4 tables and the delicious aromas of bold, authentic curries and vibrant spices of South Asia. By the guidance of Malia and Erin from their incredible experiences studying abroad in India, the co-D’s tried their best to teach us how to traditionally eat with our hands and shared delicious dishes that reminded them of their second home away from home.

This trip has been one like no other I have ever experienced. It has taught me many things, but overall it has influenced me to appreciate a whole new meaning of the word perspective. With each experience any preconceived notions were transformed as the people I met reveal their incredible stories.

-Marin, Feisty Videographer

(Saturday - January 7th)

We had the immense privilege to meet and interview anthropologist, mentor and author of Ghetto at the Center of the World, Professor Gordon Mathews. Professor Gordon works closely with asylum seekers who are currently in Hong Kong and has studied and written extensively on Chungking Mansions, which are known to be an international hub for foreign traders who are in Hong Kong. He, who we got connected with because of a magical right swipe on tinder (Malia swiped right on a student from Hong Kong University who gave us Professor Gordon's email address), has probably turned out to be one of the most crucial connections that we have made over here. Our interview with him at Hong Kong University was incredible (and I think to some extent made us all question ourselves in our decision of our major.... Mine being Accounting ----> Anthropology), and he then helped us get connected with multiple asylum seekers allowing us a chance to hear first hand from people who have worked with electronic waste in Hong Kong.

To explain a little more, Professor Gordon facilitates a free class on Saturdays at Chungking mansions for asylum seekers who want to practice their english as well as engage in meaningful conversation on a wide range of topics. Malia, Erin, and I had the incredible privilege of sitting in on one of these classes and I’m confident in saying that it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. To be in a room of close to 15-20 people who have all had to flee their countries for a wide range of reasons, and to both listen and participate in conversation with them was eye opening. After class, Professor Gordon, the ETL team, and about eight asylum seekers sat down and had lunch together in Chungking mansion. In this experience, more than ever, I realized that we all have so much more in common than we think. Sure there are going to be differences in opinion, but that comes from differences in our life experiences, but we are all human beings, and this means we all have so much more in common than we think. We feel many of the same feelings, and in the end we all crave to feel appreciated, accepted, loved. So in the end, I can’t say that I ever thought I would be thanking Tinder for one of the coolest experiences of my life, but without it we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have done what we did.

It has been a crazy couple of weeks jammed pack with interviewing, exploring, and making countless memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. With two weeks down and one to go, I’m excited to see what adventures are still ahead!

-Jason, Finance Guru

THE CREATIVE CHAOS OF BEING A CO-DIRECTOR

Hello! It’s Malia and Erin, this year’s co-directors, and we are excited to inform you on all of the progress our team has already made in Hong Kong. It seems like only yesterday when we decided upon the topic of E-waste and the location of Hong Kong. Now, we are walking the crowded city streets and following the trail of abandoned electronics.

After conducting over 15 interviews with those involved in electronic recycling in the US and now 10 in Hong Kong, we have begun to put faces to this year’s undertold social justice topic: the domestic and international repercussions of electronic waste and the progress made by people, companies, and communities to protecting the environment from this hazard. While improper electronic waste is typically a story appealing to investigative teams (whom we have interviewed here and in the US), ETL is meeting with all the players involved to let our viewers know where there is hope for change and how they can be engaged.

Our experience in Hong Kong as a documentary team is quite different than the typical tourist’s journey to this bustling city. Instead of hitting the beach (as we are in 80 degree weather, sorry MN!!), we like to hang out in giant shipping container yards, geek out at the largest government waste processing facility, Eco Park, and discreetly film at the thousands of electronic shops and informal repair markets. We have also taken some extreme measures to get in touch with our interview contacts, even taking to the app that has swept the world, Tinder...We promise it was ONLY for the best of the team and it has been highly successful! Some would call reaching the same individual through LinkedIn, facebook, e-mail, Instagram, their business’ HR, and through other contacts/friends stalking, but we pride ourselves on our persistence. :) Erin and I (Malia) will be telling more about the art of documentary travel on in the CSB/SJU REDTalks, a Ted talk style presentation, on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis.

We are also happy to announce that our team of 16 has brought in a little one, making it a beautiful team of 17. This small bundle of joy, named Sticky, was adopted on January 4th. Little Sticky is a drone that will help our team reach new heights with our video footage and documentaries. The rest of our family has quickly fallen in love with their new drone sibling as we learn how to help him fly through life’s skyscrapers.

We climbed up to a peak called Lion’s Rock that overlooks Hong Kong. As I (Erin) stumbled and struggled my way up this climb, it made me realize how much I am not in shape while Malia (who is training for a marathon and in ROTC) almost ran up the entire mountain. Once we got to the top the view was amazing! We filmed the sunset and got to experience the city’s nightlife come alive. Kevin doesn’t like people getting too close to the edges so we took some photos to scare him and terrify our parents (mom and dad don’t worry, we only had one small tumble down the side of the mountain). As we filmed the sun going down, the team got some time to relax and eat a picnic while enjoying a fantastic view.

We miss the rest of our ETL children back at home in Minnesota (Maggie in India and Grace in Spain). We are also excited for our three interns who will be added this upcoming semester, so apply on our squarespace if interested in joining this dysfunctional but pretty successful family! Thank you so much for following our journeys so far and if you have any Hong Kong contacts you might know of or any willing donors send them our way (couldn’t avoid the opportunity of a low key $$ plug…). We are only half way through this wonderful journey and can’t wait to see where this next week and a half takes us.

Co-D’s OUT :)

Erin Beacom and Malia Carson

NEW KID, NEW COUNTRY, NEW YEAR

I have been fortunate enough in my life to explore many countries and my first step when entering a new area is always to participate in the most touristy thing I can find. On New Years Eve, we spent our morning getting to know the island of Hong Kong a little better with a guided walking tour. Luckily, we had two excellent tour guides who were patient enough with us to answer all of our extensive amount of questions and wait for us as we fell behind to shoot more footage of this beautiful city. During the tour, our guide brought up an important part of Hong Kong culture, Feng Shui. Being the all knowing 21 year old that I am, I knew exactly what this term meant. It was obviously the flow and feeling of a home or living space. I quickly found out that I was completely wrong.  Feng Shui is the harmonization of a person and their surrounding environment. This surprised me as I originally only thought of Hong Kong as the giant busy metropolitan area.  I never understood the focus that people of Hong Kong put on balancing their lives with the natural world.

I immediately got first hand experience of the balance of the natural flow of energy, during our next stop, a tour of the beautiful and completely unique wetlands in the northwest corner of the New Territories of Hong Kong. This area of globally protected wildlife holds an amazing insight into the people of Hong Kong’s appreciation of the natural of their home. As I became immersed in this gorgeous natural sanctuary, I looked up at the horizon and was shocked to see skyscrapers in every direction. I had completely forgot that I was in a highly populated urban territory.

As I began to feel that I might understand this place and the people who live here, I experienced another incredible event, New Years Eve in Hong Kong. The rest of the team and I hopped on the metro and joined the 330,00 other people who had come to Victoria Harbor to enjoy this world-renowned show. Luckily we are friendly enough people and this city is full of people willing to help confused tourists looking for the perfect view. We met our impromptu tour guide, Amy, who showed us her favorite spot for the fireworks. We enjoyed the amazing show and a night full of new friends. We happened to stumble across a few other Americans and got to talking, as it turned out, our new friends were Minnesotans who have been spending time in China teaching. As the night came to a close, I had the realization that I was lucky enough to start the New Year with a group of people who not only believed in change, but also had the passion and ability to make a difference.

We woke up Sunday morning and rushed to meet our friend and guide, Patrick. He showed us an area of the New Territories that we will likely be spending a lot of time in. He joined us in a 10-kilometer hike around the west coast of the New Territories, where we had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with this area and to get a look at a national dumping ground. I was amazed when the hike turned us right on the water in-between Hong Kong and China. It was quite sight to hike up a hill and take a look at the breathtaking bay to see Shenzhen and in the same view a large landfill. Patrick told of us another hike that will allow us to overlook this landfill and allow us to get a better view, I cant wait to go back and take in more of these unique sights.

We were again treated to a taste of Hong Kong with the guidance of Patrick who helped us pick one of the best meals his home has to offer. We have enjoyed many fine delicacies and have also witnessed a few exotic dishes. At dinner, we witnessed a family near us order chicken. I expected a chicken meal to be served to them, but instead the waitress brought out an entire chicken with a head and feet served up on a spike. We got another surprise when Marin found a cooked chicken foot complete with talons in her soup. Due to a rather talented bet by yours truly, the travel team was able to enjoy the wonderful show of watching Mack take a big juicy bite of this treat.

Looking back, I can say that the beginning of my time here has been amazing, and it excites me more than I can say to know that I have just begun my adventures in Hong Kong. Thank you for following our travels and please continue reading about our journey!

-New Kid (Kevin)

Confessions from a First-Time International Traveler:

December 27-30, 2016

 My first international flight: I admit it, I had an advantage in this long journey- I was excited about everything, and I mean absolutely everything. I was astounded by the flight instructions being played in French, the mystery rotisserie chicken sauce that I convinced myself was a Canadian specialty in the Toronto Airport, and even the dreaded airplane food. After a lucky seat change to a front row aisle spot, I was ready to tackle the 13-hour flight with all of my coveted leg room. My biggest test came while being awakened by a man passed out at my feet after hour 4. After some quick action, the man recovered and I eventually returned to my wandering travel daydreams.  4 Airports, 3 countries, 2 days of traveling, and 1 continent later, we made it to the setting of our future story: the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

The First Day of Filming-

My first thought about Hong Kong: Chaotic and Enticing Adventure.  Waking up in a bed on the other side of the world can be quite disorienting. That was put to ease with a morning yoga session and a hearty breakfast of Hong Kong Cheerios (utilizing my chopstick skills) and a banana. After a good tussle with the ATM machine in the swanky Festival Walk Mall, I felt pure joy as I proudly held the crisp Hong Kong dollars in my hand.

Meeting SJU Alum and long time Hong Konger, Patrick Leung, was a game changer. He efficiently guided us to Hong Kong Baptist University where we sat down with Dr. Shan Shan Chung, Environmental and Public Health Professor at HKBU. Dr. Chung expressed her concern for this issue through explaining the effects of toxic waste pollution on the development of the adolescent brain. She revealed the nature of her studies, the most hazardous types of electronic waste, and information about the current e-waste situation in Hong Kong. She brought an invigorated perspective for global citizens having to accept responsibility for this problem.

We made our way around the streets of Hong Kong, stopping by the harbor to take in our first views of the breathtaking skyline. After a delicious dinner of wonton soup at a “local delicacy” that Patrick recommended, we took to the streets to scope out the electronics markets. It was on this journey that I mistakenly tried to take a facial mask from a vendor, thinking it was free. It was by no means free.

The night ended with a trip to an expo where we explored the consumer culture of electronics in Hong Kong.  All in all, I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to work with this team in finding a story here. Hong Kong has already displayed its enticing will to be explored and ventured, and I await whatever the second day of filming throws our way.

- Kuhl Kid Mac