My parents spotted I wasn’t going to be the sharpest tool in the box, so they sent me to a boarding school to build CHARACTER. A chance for me to thrive, a place where not only academic matters.
My life took a very different turn, I had some great experiences that I would have never gotten and made some life long friends, oh and I can no longer count.
I was sent to boarding school when I was very young, not because my parents didn’t love me, not because we were rich. It was mainly because I am not very bright.
My folks, they spotted this early on and they were like off you go, go to England, where homework isn’t really a thing until you are 11. You don’t have to play football on concrete floor that’s painted in green so it looks like a green field, go run on real grass!
Go. Go enjoy yourself, you will never be clever enough in this system, so you need to go and build character, go network with some white people, go get them on your side while they are young.
Character. That’s what they always say. Going to a boarding school builds character. Signing up for the Army Summer Boot Camp teaches you discipline and it builds character.
Character is very very important. It reflects who you are as a person. And it gives you that winning personality if you got a good character. Go land a good job with that character, come back and make us proud.
Of course, this is not what they said to me when I was 9 years old. That’s just what I tell myself at night to help with the sleep.
They pretty much just asked if I liked England and next thing I knew I was hopping on a plane, flying thousands of miles across and the world to sleep in a hall with a bunch of strangers’ kids.
My parents sent me to a boarding school in the middle of the school year. They couldn’t even wait for the year to finish. I never graduated Year 4 because of this.
They were just kinda like, well your yearly average grade won’t get you into the top school in the district anyway, so what’s the point of you finishing it. Time is money. Let’s go, kid. The earlier you get there, the earlier you’d settle in, the earlier you can network and build character.
It doesn’t sound like it, but man, I am very grateful for my parents in making that type of decision for me. Going to school in England really let me lean into being dumb. And they were right. I would not have hacked it in Hong Kong.
You know I had tests to see if I am dyslexic and I got extra time in exams, which if that happened in Hong Kong that would just be called being stupid. My own girlfriend doesn’t believe I am dyslexic, she thinks I am making it up. The true story she thinks ADHD is a made-up condition.
In the west, the idea you can be anything you want to be, as long you do it with confidence was life-changing. You are who you are, and you just bloody own that shit.
I mean English people are generally quite confident aren’t they.
They are confident that everyone single person on the planet would know some sort of English.
They are very confident that IF THEY SPEAK SLOOOWLY, THE PERSON WHO DOESN’T SPEAK ENGLISH AT ALL, WILL UNDERSTAND THEM SOMEHOW, YES, DARLING?
But I get it. I get why they chose England. We had every Wednesday afternoon off just to play matches. We had PE lessons twice a week and it was on ACTUAL grass on an ACTUAL field. You know I can run where there’s actual space.
Do you know what PE lessons are in HK? First of all, your school building is like a giant square, and in the middle, at the bottom, it’s the ‘playground’. And on that playground there’s about 50 different markings on the court, so you can play the maximum number of sports in one space. No wonder why everyone needs glasses in Hong Kong.
PE lessons in HK - we learn how to stretch. There were about 5 basketball balls to share between 30 kids, so we had to play different sports in one lesson. We threw bean bags into hula hoops on the floor. Granted I was young before I left, but at the same age, kids was playing cricket and hockey in England.
Do you know how hard cricket and hockey balls are? I had to switch up from bean bags in hula hoops to hitting rocks with sticks.
And you know what if kids play this kind of sport in Hong Kong, especially in a proper Hong Kong local school, parents would go absolutely ballistic, they would call the police on them. It’s just too dangerous.
My mum did not allow me to play football with kids in the park, because she seems to think that the street gangs are doing their recruitment with 6-year-olds at 3 pm in a residential area.
Meanwhile, kids in England are sticking their heads through fences on purpose. Only only only white kids would do that. Kids in Africa are probably taught to run the opposite way as fast as you can if you see any sort of bars in front of you.
I did enjoy school. I did. I did. And learnt a lot, about people mostly. Who cares about grades, we mark everything with a smiley sticker here. 2 out of 10 but that’s okay because there is a sticker that says BRILLIANT WORK with a trophy in the background or GLAD TO HAVE YOU in the class sticker.
I learnt about different cultures and living with other people. I learnt the importance of making friends, the importance of being yourself and having character.
Throughout the years, my reports kind of developed a theme. I would always get a B to A for Participation and Attitude, but always a D or E for attainment.
And usually, the report will go a little something like this:
“Always a cheerful member of the group and encourage others for discussion work. Though we have made a few reminders on how this can be a problem when the work is supposed to be done independently. The natural laid back attitude is not always conducive and can be influential in a negative way. We appreciate the enthusiasm and creativity, but some students in the class could do with less distraction.”
I mean it’s not too harsh. My teacher obviously just found me extremely fucking annoying. I just did things like cleaning windows and ran a Sixth Form Cafe.
You see in 2013, my year was the first lucky year to use this new study room for our A levels in the sixth form centre. Only our year, the year 13s can use that room. There was no talking in the room, and it was a property study room, and we still have like a separate common room for all the high school drama.
Everyone who went into the study room was always the A* Annies, the future of the world, the Oxbridge students or the other Chinese girls who just never spoke to anyone, because they are too busy doing extra studies because what we teach in England, they have learnt that shit 3 years ago.
And this is what we used to do - so in the study room, there is this window that looks out to the common area.
We used to take out these cleaning products from the kitchen sink and sprayed them on to that one window in the study room, one by one. We would wipe down the windows with extreme care. I will fog up the window with my breath like this, to get rid of this smallest spot that didn’t even exist. And we even used a mop to clean the windows at one point where it just distracted everyone in the study room.
I know it was boarder line annoying but it was just silly and you know a bit of a laugh. Though eventually, the A* Annie would eventually flipped out because she would see this constant moving shadow on her mock papers, and that we are ‘disrupting her flow’.
We would also go in there and take food and drink orders. Tea, Coffee, Toasts from everyone in that room. We would come back with the orders on a whiteboard flipped horizontally and we used them as trays to carry the food in. Some people loved it, some people obviously wanted to kill us.
To finish, Mum, Dad, 12 years later, I returned home to make you proud. I hope you are proud of the character I am today. I hope you are proud of my creativity and desire to help other people during stressful times.
I hope you are happy that I was never pushed to learn the basic maths but instead I flourished in running around like a headless chicken.
Your low expectation in me has led me to become who I am today. A solid 6 out of 10 with a good heart.