It was a beautify sunny day on the orientation day at my College in North Sydney, Australia. I was staying at South Dowling Street, in a house with a friend since High School and her big family of three generations. Every night we would have dinner together with almost ten different kinds of dishes prepared by her mum. Auntie Poon was amazing to be able to take care of every meal all by herself. I was sharing a room with my friend’s Grandpa. A subtle Chinese man, very quiet and tidy. I was afraid of disturbing his sleep when I studied late at night with my desk lamp on. My friend had very long wavy hair but it didn’t take her long to get ready every morning. She could be ready in half an hour with immaculate make up and perfectly set hairstyle. She was studying at Macquarie University for her first degree in Economics, after which she did her LLB and PCLL back in Hong Kong. I have always admired her talent and perseverance since childhood. Surry Hills was full of characters with friendly neighbours, well, most of them. Moore Park nearby and China Town is within walking distance. I remember that first thing I did when landed was opening my Savings account at Westpac Bank in China Town, followed by Hainanese Chicken Rice at a Food Court there with my friend before we headed back to Surry Hills. She presumed that I must prefer Chinese food, but in fact, I am very easy on food. I could live on Starbucks’ for days with no complaints.
My college, Williams Business College, was located at North Sydney back then, surrounded by parks and other colleges, annexed with a public library in the same complex. Small campus but self-contained. Students, apart from local Australian, were from different countries, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and more. When I walked into the classroom, everybody was already there though I wasn’t late. Before I could figure out where to sit, a young pretty girl waved at me, inviting me to sit with her. Before I sat down and had the chance to say thank you, “You are from Hong Kong too, right?”, she asked. “How could you tell?”, I relied. It’s my long sleeves Ralph Lauren shirt, she said. In the eighties, don’t know how it all started, almost every High School student would have at least a couple of Ralph Lauren shirts in their wardrobe. Well, I guess I picked that up from my brother as he was a big fan of Polo shirts.
Travel & Tourism at diploma level wasn’t difficult to manage have to say, so it didn’t consume me a lot of time on revisions and homeworks. My classmate, Joyce and I would hang out sometimes to explore Sydney. We loved the North Shore most with quiet and cozy suburbs along the coast. She’s not a beach person but she loved taking photographs at Manly Beach. We spent many afternoons there, sitting on the beach with our Fish & Chips. During term breaks, we would travel out of New South Wales to other States, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. She was a fantastic travel planner so I just sat back and let her arrange everything. We booked ourselves into some cheapest hostels to minimize the cost, something like YHA. Not bad at all actually with clean rooms and comfy beds. We travelled by bus along east coast, but flew by Ansett across the continent to the west. It was a comfortable five, six hours’ journey though we were in Economy. Very young, vibrant and friendly cabin crew but it wasn’t them who inspired me to be one of them. I didn’t think of career yet back then. All I wanted was to get a degree, but since I busted my A-Level, I had to start from some vocational colleges like the TAFE.
Western Australia is massive with a lot to see either along the coast or inland. We booked two local tours through the agent at the hostel, one up north to Monkey Mia at Shark’s Bay to feed the dolphins, and the other a four wheel drive tour to the desert. It was an amazing feeling when I got to touch and caress the dolphins while feeding them. They would swim close to the beach at almost the same time everyday to be fed by the tourists. Some of them were a bit playful and loved to show off. They would swim away and jump out of the water to put on a show for us, then swam back to us for more fishes. I always think dogs and dolphins are mankind’s best friends on the planet. The four wheel drive tour to Pinnacle Desert wasn’t a comfy ride have to say. Long journey and very bumpy. When we got there and settled at a chosen site by the tour leader, we had to set up our own camping tent under his guidance. It was the first time for me and had absolutely no clue on how to go with it. Well, I made it after all. And another first time that I felt bewildered was that I had to share the same tent with Joyce. She didn’t seem uneasy with the arrangement unexpectedly, so we spent three nights in that tent together, just the two of us. During the tour, we had to take turns to prepare meals for everyone in the same group. Not an easy task as I couldn’t cook at all, lol. We had lots of good laugh and made many new friends from different backgrounds. It was one of my most memorable holidays. How I wish that I could do it all over again.
I returned to Hong Kong after my graduation as Dad’s business folded. Staying behind doing part time job was an option but still it wouldn’t be enough to cover all the expenses. I started working soon after returning to Hong Kong, while Joyce stayed behind in Sydney. I heard from her every now and then. She was supposed to pursue on her studies at university, but turned out she didn’t, instead, she became a full time mum with two kids. Three decades have gone by and I don’t hear from her anymore. I did write to her a couple of times but no reply, until one day at Hong Kong Station while I was going to work in my uniform, I heard someone from behind calling my name. I turned and there she was with her two kids – taller than me with Eurasian features.