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I’ve been bouncing around a couple of writing sites, just looking for the odd tip hint or topic that might spark my fancy and give wings to my writing again. I went through a intensive burst a little while back, and it seems that I consumed all that was available to spend for the last few weeks.

I found myself intrigued by a little auto-suggestion generator, that popped up topics that it suggested that you should write about just to use as an exercise. It came up with a lot of suggestions, some that I ideally flicked through just to get a feel of the prompter, others that I rejected because they were either too tangential or too personal.

One of the ones that stuck with me as I flicked on by was the invitation to write about ten things that I learned at school that weren’t on the curriculum, and that made me think of just that. I may not have ten things to list, I’m doing this off the top of my head after all on the faintest of whims, so we’ll see were we end up. If you want sappy stories of days gone by, sung to the tune of “these are the days of our lives”, well be warned; I don’t really do that. The lessons I think I learned at school outside of class are quite negative ones.

  1. Money is nice, but having the personality and ability of a pot plant and all the money in the world is still failure.

The Paris Hilton hypothesis I guess this would be called now, but international schools do have a certain type of people going ot them, and they very rarely turn out to be wonderful exciting people while they’re adolescents. I’m not precluding their ability to become decent human beings at 25. Just that most of the people with a lot of money and the intellectual capacity of a tsetse fly are never going to be on my list of good things.

  1. Hong Kong Chinese are not friendly people

Yeah talk about starting on a soft one, but all my exposure to my same aged peers of local Chinese extraction produced what can be considered as 90% negative outcomes, with people who weren’t bothered to get to know anyone outside their real comfort zone. Now back at HKU, I’ve found myself experiencing the same phenomenon. I’ve talked to Mainland Chinese, Dutchman, Australians and a slew of other nationalities, but not one local hong kong student has been inclined to talk. Its just weird. There is a caveat. Locals who go somewhere and then come back, make up some of the best people I know, and are actually some of the most astute, benifitting from both worlds. This doesn’t apply to them.

  1. Stereotypes hold through, 90% of the time

A white boy is going to behave a certain way in the international school set. A brown boy who acts like a white boy, is going to behave in another entirely predictable way. A yellow boy who acts like a white boy is going to act in another entirely predictable way. Boys aren’t special either, girls are the same too. If you know the template, you can get a lot of the picture accurately without having to worry about what the precise details are. Oh sure there are going to be fine details that the broad brush strokes I’ve painted above will miss, but the fine details are rarely relevant. If 90% of a person changes, you have a very different person.

  1. People matter a great deal, but I still don’t like most of them

This warm thought was developed really in my reaction to graduation from Island School, which in its essence for me felt like a true non-event. Others may speak of the lifelong bond of friendship forged at a young age with apt nostalgia, they were young a long time ago, but I suspect that in the end I’ll take maybe 3 friends with me on my journey outwards, and to be honest I suspect that’s not a bad haul. What’s more interesting is the people I’ve realized in hindsight that I don’t really like, that were sometimes reasonably close in school, and people otherwise of good standing. Even more interesting is the people that I didn’t realize I really liked at the time who I got on quite well with at the end and for a long while afterwards.

  1. One person can change the lives of many if they truly want to.

This was the ethos of Island School, and if we had a school motto, perhaps we would have inscribed this appropriately deified in the Latin script to give august inspiration to our students. But instead the institution breathed its logos at us, and yet left me totally unmoved by it. I’m not sure why, but I probably was the least concerned person in Island School about a tremendous variety of causes that everyone else was involved in. I guess I’m not really fussed about changing the world.

  1. When all is said and done, I’m actually a very conservative person

Island school abounded with arts and crafts, opportunities for skills and talents to be learned and displayed, and my response to it was really to shun it all. Inside my pretty traditional Islamic viewpoint, singing and dancing is much more smoke, mirrors and pseudo-intellectual seduction then a meaningful activity. Besides, I never really liked the arts anyway.

  1. Respect is a fluid concept

This little gem Mr. Adams [initials PDA, another one of the tech orientated physics department], my year 13 physics teacher taught me, and others have taught it to me subsequently, but his incompetence and general nonchalance about said incompetence gave him only fifteen minutes of glory in my eyes, and an eternity of dismissive treatment. Mrs. Ferns might get special mention here, but she just makes me angry, and we don’t want it to be personal. I’ve written a lot about respect before on the blog in the horizontal context, but vertical authority respect was first destroyed by the venerable PDA.

I guess this is the end of the list, because certainly I can’t think of any others. In some perspectives the list is extraordinarily negative, that the aspects I’ve selected are rather harsh and unforgiving of my secondary school experience. But I suspect that may well be the case for me. I went to school to get an education, I didn’t want more and so I really didn’t get more either. I didn’t need it to provide me with a social life or with things to do or people to do it with. I never had an interest in people, so it never gave me those people that might cultivate such an interest. School was a nice place to visit, and the football was excellent. But in some respects, I’m glad I didn’t stay.



    • Alscho
    • Posted September 26, 2006 at 6:04 am
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    Do you expect or mind any replies here by the way?

    This is very entertaining.. however mildly depressing. While it does not completely mirrors my view of the past, it does bare some resemblence..

    You in HKU now?

    • Mohammed Talib
    • Posted September 26, 2006 at 11:25 am
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    I don’t really expect replies, history has indicated they tend to be frugally distributed. I do however enjoy the ocassions where they do come.

    I write because 90% I enjoy it, and 10% I feel that what I’m saying must be similar to what most people think at least in some respects.

    I am indeed at HKU now. I’m doing a LLM (Corporate & Financial Law) at the Faculty of Law there for the next 8 months, and then most likely another year there to do my PCLL, the final step to becoming a lawyer academically.

    • md
    • Posted September 26, 2006 at 1:30 pm
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    i would say this is more than just mildly depressing!

    come on mo, i know you have positive stuff in there .. 🙂

    • Dom
    • Posted October 2, 2006 at 9:39 pm
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    #1: To be fair, IS does have some smart/outstanding students. Let’s just say IS doesn’t produce an abnormal number of brilliant students relative to local schools. Conclusion: wealth does not increase one’s intelligence.

    #2: Try ordering food in [insert name of favourite fastfood chain] and speak in English. The people are actually surprised by the language you speak, even though you clearly have blond hair, or other non-Chinese characteristics.

    #3: Who says you can’t judge a person by their looks? And I get it right 90% of the time…besides, where does the number 90% come from?

    #4: Same here, especially the last part.

    #5: I was actually more affected by this than it did you, and I suspect it might come back and haunt me very soon…(watch my blog)

    #6: Wow, and I thought I was a conservative student…

    #7: Seems like the focus is on you learning something about the teachers rather than what they “taught” you. When we learn about a teacher, more often than not it’s ugly.

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