Summer social scene
JUNE 24 — Lately, when I walk up to any mummy friend in the evening, the first question out of their mouths is more often than not, “What summer classes have you signed Ishan up for?”
My Japanese friend wheeled her pushchair alongside mine one such evening and quietly asked what my plans for the summer was.
“I haven’t got any,” she said, referring to summer classes. “I’m so glad we’re going away.” She has, however, three weeks of August to account for when she returns from her holiday.
As Hong Kong empties out its expatriate residents over the next month, the city will become noticeably quieter. For the rest of us who will remain here, the burning question centres around what to do with our children.
International schools will soon be closing for close to three months while local schools will do so for about 40 days.
I wouldn’t have thought the holidays could be a stressful time. I had been looking forward to doing nothing. No rushing through airports, no queues at immigration, no dirty public toilet woes.
It was going to be lots of television, swimming at the pool or beach and watching my son scoot around with his friends at our common area.
But no. Here it feels like you HAVE to take on some kind of expensive organised activity. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer, in order of most frequently spotted in ads:
3. Memory training
4. Football camp
5. Swimming lessons
7. Dance/ Drama
9. Lego workshops
10. Surf camp
In case you were wondering, “multi-talent” is offered by schools, where various disciplines are grouped together, or in layman’s terms, a hodge-podge of stuff like Mandarin, Art, Drama, Wushu and Mathematics. I suppose some would call it well-rounded.
I almost hooted when I spied the Memory Training course. Only in Asia right? I was going to write “only in Hong Kong” but then a long-buried memory resurfaced. I’d attended one such course in Kuala Lumpur when I was 11!
I had a really fun time too, but mainly because I had tagged along with my cousin Tracy. What we discovered was that instead of a bunch of nerdy pimply kids, the attendees were just like us (pimples had yet to assault us then) and the “training” involved games and mind mapping. We were probably there because our parents shared the same vision — to improve our rote learning skills.
Just for the record, I have Swiss cheese memory — I will forget the name of a newly introduced person even while still chatting with him — and my tennis game involved picking up stray balls mostly.
But yes, summer courses. They cost a lot of money for just a couple of hours over four or five days. I can understand working parents wanting to ensure their children don’t suffer stiff fingers from too many hours on the iPad or being babysat by the TV while their helper gets on with her chores.
So popular is the demand for these courses that there is often a waiting list. The English Schools Foundation swimming programme, for instance, is usually full.
Not only will you have to apply months in advance, you will have to send out a cheque for full payment with your application and WAIT to be informed whether or not a slot is available for your child. The gall.
Of course my limp attempt to fight the trend to conform failed miserably when I realised a) Ishan may be all by his lonesome when most of his friends go abroad and b) I did in fact have a fabulous time when my parents signed me up for (cough) memory training and tennis all those years ago.
I caved in and applied to a four-day football camp.
So here’s to capitalism, Coppertoned bodies and cute summer school projects to put smiles on parents’ faces (and then wonder how to trash them without the kid noticing).
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.