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Where in the World is Dr. Beal? The Final Blog

Hello from Lyon College!

Our family returned to the States from our Fulbright adventure in Hong Kong just before Christmas. And many times since then, a colleague or student or friend has asked me, “So how was Hong Kong?” “Hong Kong,?” I’ll repeat absently. I tousle my beard and adopt the faraway look of a settler who’s returned from having lit out for the territories. “Now that was a borrowed place and a borrowed time.”

“Borrowed place, borrowed time,” is how the English referred to the 99-year lease of Hong Kong from China. I suspect there’s a yearning in that phrase for a permanent imperial stamp, but it also captures the transitory experience that we had in our short assignment there.

Our Hong Kong adventure was too ephemeral and multifaceted to allow for an easy, small talk description of it. We’re still trying to piece it all together. Teaching at H.K.U., watching my kids grow through cultural difference, the dim sum places and the izakayas, walking the city’s dynamic neighborhoods, by turns gritty and glimmering—it’s too much to relay in a compact anecdote or a tidy theme.

So instead sometimes I’ll talk about the initial experiences of being back in the U.S. as a way of indicating something about our time abroad. The loud volume in which people conduct business over the phone in an American airport. The vastness of the car lots along the highway in North Little Rock. The relief of hugging friends. The decadent refilling of drinks at restaurants. The lavish space of our home, where our kids can play—luxury of luxuries!—across the house from us.

I’m drafting this as Courtney reads a book about the mid-autumn moon festival to our daughter—a gem from the Independence County library recalling some of our first experiences after the family arrived to meet me. We are happy to be home. But we left a little bit of our hearts in Hong Kong.

Anyway. Here’s a picture of our family under a Chinese banyan tree. I’ve mentioned before that these trees often reach down terrace walls for nutrients, providing dramatic backdrops for city sidewalks. They seemed to me to be a little more common in the “Western” district of Hong Kong Island where we spent a great deal of our time—an image we’ll closely associate with our Fulbright adventure. This tree sits along the 58 minibus route, a fixture of our daily routines. Why my son is wearing that winter coat, I don’t know.

Wesley Beal is an associate professor of English at Lyon College. Last fall he served as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, where he taught two courses in American literature and continued a study of the campus novel genre.