This was a snippet of a conversation I had with my 4-year-old today.
Why? Because she was trying to tell me something in Chinese.
I recently took a solo 12-day trip to Cambodia. It was my first time spending time away from my daughter in over three years. During these 12 days, she stayed at her Chinese Grandma’s home.
Before I left for Cambodia, Auburn’s Chinese language skills were relatively basic. Her speaking was minimal, though her listening skills seemed well-developed (she’s been learning for roughly six months). I really want her to learn Cantonese in Hong Kong, but overall it’s been difficult.
However, since I’ve returned to Hong Kong to reunite with my daughter, she’s been speaking and communicating in Chinese in full sentences, constantly.
And I’m not at all surprised.
How I Predicted My Daughter’s Rapid Advancement in the Chinese Language and What That Tells Us About Language Learning
Before I left for Cambodia, her Chinese skills reminded me of myself a few years ago before I traveled solo to Mexico.
I was speaking a little bit of Spanish at the time, I could understand much more than I could speak. I didn’t at all feel fluent or confident in my skills. I could ask for directions to the bathroom, but I couldn’t always understand them.
However, I spent two weeks in Mexico. The majority of my time was in Morelia, but I saw some other, beautiful places as well, such as San Miguel de Allende.
I knew I was immersing myself in the Spanish language–that was my goal. What I didn’t realize while I was there: I was rapidly developing my ability to speak Spanish.
How? I was hearing it in the grocery store. Listening to it on the bus. But most importantly, I was speaking it every day because I had to. I was finally working a muscle that hadn’t been effectively exercised. And it quickly strengthened.
Before my two weeks in Mexico, I understood enough of what people said, so the words were already in my head. Much like my daughter’s comprehension of Chinese before I left for Cambodia.
How to Learn Cantonese in Hong Kong
In her 12 days of staying with her Chinese family, I knew she was going to do what I did with Spanish. She finally made the jump from understanding and knowing, to speaking.
Only she did in
I did it in my late 20’s. My daughter did it before she was 5. Anyone can do it.
Anyone Can Rapidly Speak a New Language
But only if they’re willing to put in the work of learning the words and recognizing the sounds. This I think is the most tedious part of learning a new language. It’s a rough adjustment phase, it takes time, and the process feels slow (and sometimes frustrating).
Once it’s passed, however, speaking skills rapidly improve.
And it’s totally worth it. For Auburn, it was imperative that she learn Cantonese in Hong Kong. it means the chance to communicate with family, and it makes my eyes get a bunch of dust in them. Stupid dust.
Learning a new language is possible for anyone–now it’s your turn to commit. Please subscribe below to my email list if you liked this article and want me to continue writing! Your subscription is my favorite form of encouragement!
A Daughter Abroad: Language-Learning, Dancing, and Dissing on Dim Sum
We’ve been in Hong Kong for roughly six weeks now and Auburn has been going to a local Kindergarten for a month. What do I mean by ‘local’ kindergarten? It means it’s not an international school where everyone speaks and is spoken to in English, as is very common for Western children to attend while in Hong Kong. So what does this mean for my little Auburn?
She’s Learning Cantonese
Being half-Chinese, with grandparents who don’t speak English any better than I speak Cantonese makes it difficult for her to get to know them. Also, it makes it difficult for her grandparents to discipline and take care of her.
So? She’s going to be spending this year learning Cantonese!
After one month, I’ve already seen some improvement in her Cantonese abilities. She’s definitely understanding some things and able to translate a bit of it and she’s able to chorally repeat things she hears even though her understanding and ability to come up with Cantonese phrases on her own isn’t there yet. If she’s asked to repeat something in Cantonese, she can follow the tones well, use the correct words most of the time, and it makes people here giggle!
Learning To Dance
Auburn started dance class yesterday. She’s begun her ballet! So how did the first day go? It was a rough start, but it ended with a giant smile on her chubber- face! Btw, she asks me what I mean when I call her ‘chubbers,’ and I just tell her it means super-cute, but really it means her cheeks are squishy and kissable cuz they’re a bit chubby!
Luckily, she had a classmate/friend in dance class with her, but that didn’t get her too warm because all the other girls had on their ballet costumes when we got there. Auburn was not happy about this, she did not want to dance without her costume so she crossed her arms, left the room, and walked to the door saying that she didn’t want to dance.
Luckily, her grandma had purchased her dress, tights, and they just needed to size her shoes to get her a pair. Once she saw she would be able to get into a sparkly, purple dress, her mood quickly changed, as is common with my little monster girl.
After dance class, she spent the evening showing her grandma and me all her moves and making sure we were practicing them, too. She slept in her tights and insisted she wore them to school this morning. Fair to say she’s obsessed and I might regret this decision in the future! We’ll see how it plays out, though. Auburn already has what Hong Kongers call ‘gong zhu bang’ (pardon my horrible pinyin), or what roughly translates to English as, ‘Hong Kong Princess Disease,’ and I’m certain letting her into ballet will only reinforce her princessy-ness.
So what is it like to raise a daughter abroad? It’s complicated 🙂
She Hates Dim Sum
If you’re not sure what dim sum is, it’s a traditional Chinese cuisine that is made of unrecognizable food if you’ve only eaten Western food, served on plates that everyone eats off of at the same time. I know my first time eating it in Hong Kong I thought it was slimy, bizarre, and a struggle to eat and understand the etiquette of. Now that I’ve had it probably 10 times, I know it’s delicious, healthy (mostly), and I have no problem sharing plates with people anymore.
Auburn, however, does not appreciate anything that comes with eating dim sum. Except, that is, for the Chinese donuts that come with a sugary, creamy sauce she can dunk them in.
A Daughter Abroad: I’ll Keep You Informed
Month-by-month I’ll be keeping you updated on Auburn’s experience and, most importantly, how she is coming along with her language-learning. I hope you stay in touch!
Do you think it’s important to teach children a new language? I do! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂
One of greatest parts of visiting any big city is the access to museums and the wealth of knowledge you can gain from them. If you’re traveling to Hong Kong, the museums here are no different, and only a loser would pass them up. Did you know Hong Kong was occupied by Japan for nearly 4 years in the 1940’s, and that the Japanese enslaved not only Hong Kong people, but also the Brits? Ever heard of the Opium Wars? Did you know some people of Hong Kong almost never leave their boats? These are just a few of the things you can learn about in an interesting and fun way by visiting the museums in Hong Kong. If you’re looking to visit the museums of Hong Kong, this guide will provide you with an economical and simple way to do so. Your first step should be getting a coveted museum pass. Don’t make a mistake you’ll have to forgive yourself for later; don’t pass this one up.
Get a Hong Kong Museum Pass: What is it?
This is by far my favorite part of Hong Kong. The museum pass allows you to enter the permanent and special exhibitions for free as many times as you’d like. The value that you get for purchasing a museum pass is bar none. Make sure you bring a form of identification with you to prove you are who you say you are when applying.
*There are ways to visit some museums for free on certain days, but I wouldn’t recommend going on those days; they get packed with people–including students’ field trips–and are much less enjoyable.
Museums in Hong Kong
There’s a lot of museums in Hong Kong. What Museums are included?
The museum pass grants access to the permanent and special exhibitions of the museums operated under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Here they are linked with the address to each in parentheses and their phones numbers in brackets.
The Hong Kong Museum of Science is one of the coolest museums in Hong Kong to take your child. There’s got to be 100 different stations they can interact with. Everything from toying with electricity and magnets, manipulating puzzles of all types (some of them are difficult!), VR systems, video games, and my daughter’s personal favorite: the construction yard for smaller children (technically the child must be between 80-120cms tall, but they seem to be quite lenient on this).
The children are given a construction vest and helmet and can proceed to build a building with foam blocks, move blocks around with carts on and off a track set, operate a crane and way station, and more! They are allowed to play for 15 minute intervals at which point a bell will go off and they will have to get back in line if they want to go again. Get a museum pass to go on any day you want because if you take your child on the ‘free day’ everyone else and their child will be there and the line can get quite long. Get there on a Monday or Tuesday morning and you’ll likely see just a few kids playing at a time. Your little one can get right back in if they want!
Cost of a Museum Pass
Family pass (up to 4 people)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..$100 HKD
Concessionary Pass (applies to full-time students, persons over 60, and disabled persons)………….$25 HKD
How Long is a Hong Kong Museum Pass Valid For?
1 year from date of purchase. They used to sell monthly and weekly passes, but those have been abolished.
It’s possible that the orders for passes may be backlogged and you will have to wait 2 weeks to pick up your official pass, but don’t worry! In the meantime, you can use the receipt for your purchase as you would the museum pass itself. Just don’t lose your receipt, you need it to get your pass once it’s ready!
And luckily, if you do ever lose your pass, you can get a replacement for $5-$10 HKD depending on the type of pass you have.
Where can I buy a Hong Kong Museum Pass?
You can buy your museum pass at the following museums in Hong Kong, address to each will be listed in parentheses, see above for links and contact information.
Hong Kong Museum of History (100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui)
Hong Kong Heritage Museum (1 Man Lam Rd, Sha Tin)
Hong Kong Science Museum (2 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East)
Hong Kong Space Museum (10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui)
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (175 Tung Hei Rd, Shau Kei Wan)
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum (Kom Tong Hall, 7 Castle Rd, Central)
Looking to Visit the Museums in Hong Kong for Free?
It can be done!
Firstly, some permanent exhibits have been opened for good. Secondly, the museums in Hong Kong without permanent displays open for free have free days you can visit. As stated before, this isn’t ideal because the museums get jammed with folks, but if you’re looking for free, be ready to join the hoards who are doing the same.
Which Hong Kong Museums are free?
The permanent exhibits of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, and the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum are all open for free. The free entry does not include entrance to any special exhibits. That’s what the museum pass is for!
If you’re a full-time student, the Hong Kong Museum of Science and the Hong Kong Space Museum are also open for free to you.
Free Days for Hong Kong Museums
The Hong Kong Museum of Science is free to the public on Wednesdays. Beware, lots of field trips on this day, so come early if you want to beat the army of children that will be running and screaming throughout.
Other Perks of the Museum Pass
10% discount on souvenirs and publications purchased at the museums
Special offers at the catering outlets within the museums
10% discount on museum extension activities
Special offers on the Annual Pass to Ocean Park and the Magic Access of Disneyland
Visiting the museums in Hong Kong can be entertaining, enlightening, and an all around lovely morning or afternoon. I would highly recommend the museum pass if you plan on visiting multiple museums to see special exhibits, or if you plan on returning to the same museum more than once. I love to take my daughter to the Hong Kong Museum of Science at least a couple of times per week and the value of the museum pass paid for itself in the first few days.
Determining when our first time abroad was, isn’t easy. That’s because my daughter and I were born in different countries. The birth of my daughter was in Hong Kong, so for her, traveling to the USA was her first time abroad. So, let me clarify that I will be speaking about our experience from my perspective.
The Birth of My Daughter
Our first time abroad, then, was the first moment I saw her. Hair sprouting first, a mangled net of gooey fuzz. Happy tears were pouring from my eyes as the rest of her started to emerge. Her squashed face, wrinkly body, and trailing umbilical cord, all covered in purplish amniotic fluid. I’d never seen anyone more beautiful.
The doctors and nurses kept asking her Mom if I was okay because apparently, they don’t see many grown men weep harder than the newborns. I don’t care, seeing the birth of my daughter was borderline overwhelming, like someone was pouring love onto me like an overbearing syrup. I could feel it running down my neck, sticking inside my ears, and gluing me to that moment in time. I’ll never forget it.
The Cord Chop
I waited a couple of minutes before cutting the umbilical cord, letting the last juices being transferred to her make it to where they need to be. So, she laid on the table, squirming, not really crying, an amniotic fluid bubble formed around her lips, expanded, then popped. I couldn’t help but laugh, despite its unique weirdness.
Finally, I chopped through the cord with a pair of surgical scissors, she was wiped clean by a nurse, wrapped up, and passed to me. She looked nothing like me. Dark brown hair, the beautiful curved eyes of her Chinese mother, puffy cheeks (also her mother’s), and a button nose (also her mother’s). Her chocolate brown eyes locked mine, she stared at me, maybe not yet knowing who I was, but I know she could feel my love as I rocked her in my arms. My crying stopped and I had the adrenaline pump you get when you beat death. Like surviving a bungee jump, or escaping a Chinese cobra in the jungle (I’ll give you that story another time).
The Riddle of Time
After the birth of my daughter, I spoke to her with a shaky voice, though I can’t remember what I said, and she listened better than anyone ever has. I don’t know if I held her for two minutes or an hour. There’s just no way to decipher a time frame in such an emotional moment. How long did your car skid out of control for? How long did your first fist-fight last? How long was your grandmother’s funeral? How long was the first time you made love? Okay, that one’s easier to answer, right around 2 minutes.
Unfortunately, the doctors had some health concerns for her due to some prenatal problems, so she had to be taken to the ICU for monitoring. I remember thinking, “she’s beautiful, she’s healthy, she doesn’t need this.” But I was impressionable and took the doctor’s word for it, so off she went, scheduled for an extra for 3 days of care and monitoring.
The next two days I was allowed to spend time with her in very distinct and short periods. Something like 10-11 and 3-4:30. Each moment I spent with her, I would have her lay on my chest and her tiny fingers would grip my chest hair like a baby monkey afraid to fall. But she had nothing to worry about. Her little head fit perfectly in my right hand, her squishy butt made for a perfect grip with my left. After day one, I was super annoyed she was being kept in that glass box, not being allowed to have her bonding time with her parents.
On day two, a nurse tried to tell me I shouldn’t pick her up because she was sleeping, so I pretended I didn’t speak English and did it anyway. Back onto my chest, clutching my chest hair. After day two, I was pissed I couldn’t have more time with her. I knew she was healthy, her mother agreed, so we signed a form saying we take responsibility for removing her from the ICU early, wrapped her up, and walked her home. She slept the entire walk home through Hong Kong, cars honking, sirens blaring in the distance, people talking over each other in Chinese. She didn’t care.
Our First Night Together
Some people never co-sleep with their children for fear of smashing them, or fear of judgment. I co-slept with her in fear of not being able to snuggle her. Luckily, we were already abroad, and Chinese people don’t judge you for co-sleeping. And when she woke me up several times in the middle of the night to breastfeed with her Mom, I had never been so happy to have beautiful dreams interrupted.