My family and I moved to Hong Kong in 1992 (work opportunities I think?). We lived in a city full of expats, mostly from the UK, and Hong Kong locals. During the 4 years I’d lived there, I never had to learn Cantonese because all the schools I’d attended were taught by teachers from the UK (mostly from England) and just about everything was in English. Because I was so young, I can’t remember what life was really like except for the fact that there was a major British influence – which became more apparent to me when I returned to HK for a visit in 2003 and discovered how Chinese it had become.
We left at the end of 1996 and the next thing you know, I woke up in a new country in 1997. I attended my last British primary school then finished classes at the end of June. On the eve of June 30 (I know this date now, mind you!), I sat in front of the telly with my family, watching Hong Kong’s ‘handover’ to China. I remember seeing Prince Charles get off the plane (I was sad not to see ‘Princess Diana’ – as I’d called the late Princess of Wales then and will use for this post – but I think I knew they were divorced already), make a speech (seemed solemn to little me) and next thing you know, there was a hoard of Chinese army men marching from who-knows-where. That scene, to me, was one of the saddest things for me to see. Just like that, GB had lost a colony and its influences on a much beloved (for its expat inhabitants) international city.Not that 1997 was an annus horribilis for me, but there were definitely 2 events that occurred that year that marked the ‘end’ of something. The first, I’ve already mentioned, the second was the death of Princess Diana.
You have to understand that the late Princess of Wales was my childhood role model. I’d always wanted to meet her and I’d hoped she would visit my school(s) in HK. Sadly, my dreams of meeting her were dashed to the floor when I heard about the car crash in August 1997. I couldn’t have been more devastated. I was even about to visit London that year or the following year – which didn’t happen until 2000.
However, I do remember meeting one staff member at our school named Ms Nurse (or perhaps she was the school nurse?). She was very sweet and caring and she even looked like Princess Diana! Of course, I was absolutely elated and I even asked her if she knew who Princess Diana was. I was surprised that she did not (hmmm….); nevertheless, to a certain extent, meeting Ms Nurse was like meeting Princess Diana. 🙂
I started a new international school, an American one, in the autumn of 1997, which practically purged much of the British influence I’d grown up with. It was the end of the “British era” on me and the start of the “Americana” (which is another story and that concludes my post for the day!).