By Megan Wong
Through the Agency of Volunteer Service of Hong Kong, I delivered hot meals and necessities to impoverished families around Tsuen Wan, a market town on the outskirts. As I entered each of the homes, I was stunned. On each floor of the buildings where the families lived was a conventional flat; however, the original flat was divided into five more units, each no more than a hundred square feet in area. In front of me, I saw families living an overcrowded yet isolated existence, sparking within me disbelief and outrage. It was difficult to believe I was still in Hong Kong; how could Asia’s “World City” blatantly ignore the vital needs of its citizens.
In a prominent international finance hub, 25% of the city’s population still lives below the poverty line. Hong Kong’s tug of war game between wealth and poverty is insidious and is symbolic of my hometown in its truest form. While walking around the city, constant reminders of poverty bombarded me wherever I wandered, be it a woman digging through the garbage for a meal, or a man kneeling on the sidewalk, begging for money.
Continue reading Volunteering Abroad
By Jacob Birsen
I spent the majority of my senior year in high school saving up money to go spend a portion of my summer with my best friend in Spain. For two years, I had been dreaming of visiting her and taking in another country’s culture. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school and I was finally ready to try out my Spanish in a real world environment.
However, on my first day in Barcelona, I realized that Catalan, not Spanish, was the primary language spoken. The ones who spoke Spanish primarily spoke it at a pace that was too fast for me to understand, so I wasn’t as vocal with the locals as I could have been. Towards the middle of my trip we were scheduled to go visit my friend’s extended family who lived about an hour outside of Barcelona. My lack of Catalan took me from very exciting to this portion of the trip to very nervous. Many of her older family members only spoke Catalan, and the few that did speak Spanish were always speaking in Catalan so it didn’t make a difference. When we arrived at the house of my friend’s grandparents, I was lost. I sat myself down on the couch and was basically waiting for it all to be over. I stayed this way for at least half an hour, completely intimidated by locals speaking a language I couldn’t understand. Some of the adults tried to speak to me, and although I responded in Spanish, they grew bored of my limited vocabulary and went back to speaking with the main group once again.
Continue reading Speaking Spanish in Spain
By Ida Abhari
My summer as an intern in Southeast Asia, broadly, and Malaysia, specifically, taught me a lot of things, ranging from the serious, like the intricacies of refugee resettlement, to the surprising, like the importance of food culture in Malaysia.
Malaysians, whether Chinese, Indian, or Malay, take eating very seriously. Everyone warned me that eating out in Malaysia would be cheaper than buying groceries and cooking. Since I really enjoy cooking, I didn’t want to believe them, but after several grocery trips and hundreds of ringgits (Malaysian currency) later, I was forced to admit that eating out was infinitely more desirable.
Malaysian cuisine is rich in flavors. The most ubiquitous dish is nasi lemak, a dish consisting of rice steamed with coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with fried chicken and a boiled egg. Malaysians don’t pronounce the “k” in nasi lemak, and I was also surprised to learn that nasi lemak is also often eaten for breakfast, albeit in smaller portions. Another ubiquitious and delicious food, roti canai (pronounced with a “ch”), is a flatbread cooked with copious amounts of oil and can be filled with eggs, onions, or other savory or sweet fillings.
Continue reading The Delicious Joy of Malaysian Food Culture