Hong Kong = AMAZING.
It’s not often you find a city that has it all, but Hong Kong deserves this distinction. Beach, beautiful bays, mountains, sky scrapers, neon, shopping, first class museums, incredible food, nightlife, street life, ferries, subway, buses, the list goes on and on. In five days we only scraped the surface of all that is Hong Kong, but we love what we found and we’re hooked.
Each day we set out for a new pocket of the city, discovering as we went. The Peak for a magnificent view of the skyline, Victoria Bay for a vibrant light display and the Avenue of Stars, the Hong Kong Museum of History, very impressive and well done, to learn about the metropolis’ past and development, Goldfish Street for some local fun and Tian Tan Buddha to simply stare, ponder and recenter. Of course we filled our bellies along the way, sampling pomelo, stomach soup, the Hong Kong waffle, custard tart topped with bird’s nest and sweet chicken feet.
We had two experiences that were particularly special.
Walking to the ferry one afternoon, we spotted a docked cruise ship branded Explorer across the bow and Semester at Sea at the top. As an undergraduate, Kristin sailed with this program, circumnavigating the world, visiting and learning in ten countries. Playing a pivotal role in solidifying her wanderlust, bumping into the ship twelve years later and watching the eager faces of young travelers disembark and set out to conquer a fresh port, you can imagine the flood of memories and emotions that ensued. More than anything, there was a profound feeling that life has come full circle, in the midst of again circumnavigating and feeding the passion that Semester at Sea inspired.
Our final afternoon was the highlight of our visit. Prior to co-founding kigo footwear, Kristin worked for many years leading the Development staff of Junior Achievement of Georgia. A global non profit dedicated to educating and inspiring young people through activity based programs focused on business, entrepreneurship, workforce readiness and financial literacy, we had the opportunity to spend time with the staff of JA Hong Kong and learn about their local operation.
Since establishment in 2001, this dedicated team in partnership with volunteers, schools and businesses has served more than 140,000 local students. While we were not able to volunteer while in town because of timing, we did get a taste for the creativity and innovation being inspired in these students.
JA’s founding program, JA Company Program, guides a group of young entrepreneurs through conceptualizing, launching, running and eventually liquidating a small business. Working as a team, students elect officers, create a business plan, raise start up capital through the sale of stock, market and sell either a product or service, liquidate, report back to stockholders and ultimately compete against their fellow student companies in a variety of categories. When Vivian, JA Hong Kong’s CEO, learned that we had been married last year, her face lit up and asked us to wait a moment. She quickly returned with two bracelets and proudly explained that these were the product of the winning student company from 2011. She went on to explain that in traditional Chinese marriage ceremonies, close relatives present gold bracelets to the bride and groom the wear during the ceremony. The bride’s cuffs marked with the symbol for a phoenix and the groom’s a dragon. The bracelets she had presented to us were a spin on this tradition, with the students designing, manufacturing and selling a fabric version. We loved learning about the tradition, but were especially excited to have received a product created by these bright JA students. We have worn the bracelets daily since.
After touring their office and meeting the full staff, Vivian and Bonnie, JA Hong Kong’s Program Director, took us to a vibrant dim sum restaurant. We continued our conversations, which ranged from their local programs, challenges and successes to the city of Hong Kong, to our travels and Marco’s contagious enthusiasm for food, which was sparked by our lunch spread. Their energy for JA in Hong Kong and what we are doing was contagious, and we enjoyed exchanging thoughts and ideas. It was fantastic to be around passionate people who have prompted our wheels to again start spinning in a thousand directions.
Hong Kong, we love you. We’ll be back.