Scenes of the recent demonstrations in Hong Kong when the protestors took over the airport for two days, reminded me of the many hours I spent there (and its predecessor, Kai Tak). I was either waiting there to welcome new teachers on their way to China with Aitece, seeing them off to their placements on the mainland or going there myself to visit their various universities.
I got to know the advantages of the various coffee shops and the quiet places where one could spend time reading in peace.
Actually this is the time of the year when new teachers should be arriving in Hong Kong on their way to China. As it turns out, fortunately or unfortunately, this September we are not sending any new teachers from Ireland.
The recent downturn in numbers is due to the many new opportunities for young Westerners to go to China to teach on a financial rather than volunteer basis. Also, the Chinese authorities are now making greater demands in issuing work visas.
It is understandable that they want to be sure that the teachers they invite are properly qualified and experienced. However the cost of certifying and double-certifying various documents can involve several hundred Euro. It can also take hours, if not days, to go to offices around Dublin and having to return days later to collect the documents.
Hopefully the disturbance in Hong Kong will die out soon. It is unlikely that the authorities will concede any ground and the protesters will not have the stamina to continue indefinitely. In the meantime life in Hong Kong (and China) will continue much as usual with little inconvenience to visitors or teachers passing through.
By the time next March or September comes around we hope to have some new volunteer teachers for China and their time there will be as enriching for the students and themselves as ever.