Written by Dyami Millarson
I am still reflecting on all experiences of 2017 very often and I am still thinking of better ways to tell my stories, because there is so much to tell about what happened. 2017 was a year of inspiration for our project. It was a (trans)formative year. I call it an oriëntatiejaar (year of orientation, i.e. finding new direction) in Dutch.
I had learned (about) Hong Kong culture for many years from daily interaction with Ken Ho through Skype. I felt that I had a good theoretical grasp of Ken Ho’s culture, but after Ken Ho’s visit in 2016, I conceived of the idea of a cultural exchange in 2017, because I wanted to gain a practical understanding of Hong Kong culture.
So I went to Hong Kong for 3 months in 2017 to learn the culture, not the language. I really wanted to live like a Hong Kong person, and I wanted to eat like one too. Being among the people so much, I learned the local culture through experience. I am a person who wants to learn a lot from every experience, and so I like to observe things carefuly, think deeply about it later, and apply the same thing I saw in a similar situation. My method is, therefore, imitation based on 3 steps: a. observation, b. consideration, c. application.
I was very serious about learning the Hong Kong culture, and so after being there for 3 months, I felt like a local living there since time immemorial, and I did not at all realise that I was actually no native at all; the culture of Hong Kong had become completely my own in just 3 months of staying among the local people and completely avoiding all contact with foreigners whenever possible; I wanted to absorb Hong Kong fully. So it was 3 months of full cultural immersion.
The cultural exchange of 2017 was highly effective, because it taught me so much about Hong Kong culture and Asian culture in general, while living in Hong Kong gave me confidence to live also in Taiwan and mainland China for a short while. I can now switch between Western and Asian cultural perspectives intuitively as though I were raised both Western and Asian, and find this skill highly valuable in my life, not to mention its tremendous value for communication.
The point of 2017 for our project was self-development, because I really needed this in order to prepare for 2018. I gained from 2017 the knowledge that I needed in order to make 2018 a success. Without the 2017 project which was a cultural exchange, there would have been no 2018 project where we learned 3 Frisian critically endangered languages spoken in the Netherlands in to save them from extinction. The inspiring cultural exchange of 2017 convinced me that we must really just do things; action is vital.
Since 2017 gave me the right ideas or the right inspiration, I could turn our plans of 2016 (namely, learning Schiermonnikoogs, Hindeloopers and Aasters) into reality in 2018. Back in 2016, I did not yet possess the skills that I desperately needed in order to rely on in 2018. I had really learned a lot in 2017, and so this year was crucial to our project.
2017 helped me to gain an idea of how to organise things in 2018, and now, having almost finished our 2018 project while Ken Ho will return to Hong Kong on 16 November, I see that everything played out exactly as planned in 2017. The year 2018 was meant to be a special year for our project, coinciding with the fact that Leeuwarden was the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2018, and reflecting on this year, I am relieved that everything went according to plan and we achieved our goals. We can now focus on our next goals.