In October last year a contingent of three teachers and five students from our school visited the vibrant megalopolis of Hong Kong, ostensibly to establish a teacher/pupil exchange with St Paul’s Co-Educational College (SPCC).

But for those in our party whose DNA is dominated by the ‘shopping gene’ this mission was a distant second to their real motive behind the trip, to visit the excellent markets and incredible malls the city boasts. Even for those of us not driven by shopping, the eclectic variety of goods and the vibrant ambience of the night markets proved to be great fun, not only for shopping but also for people watching.

That we achieved our primary object is borne out by the fact that two of our boys, Gareth Kieck and Alexi Kalamoudacos jetted out of Durban on Friday, 4 November to SPCC where they spent five weeks living the life of a Hong Kong Chinese pupil. Gareth and Alexi were hosted by the families of SPCC students, Manton Woo and Timothy Chan. During the school day Gareth and Alexi attended classes with Manton and Timothy.

For them Hong Kong was an unforgettable experience, the best of both Chinese and western culture. Everything appears to come alive at night and they were able to roam the streets of the city safely with friends from their new school. Getting home at around 10pm on a school night was quite a novelty! The highly efficient and easy to use rapid public transport system meant that they could move around quickly and cheaply, and even when they found themselves lost they discovered that it was quite easy to navigate themselves home.

The intensity of the work load, the pace at which it is delivered and the work ethic of the SPCC students have left an indelible impression on both boys. This is something that they have brought back with them and hope to reap the rewards of this new approach to their studies in the near future. There were also exchange students from Australia and Armenia at SPCC at the same time Gareth and Alexi were there, which made the exchange even more of a global experience.

Our first exchange with SPCC was completed when Manton and Timothy arrived in Durban on Friday, 20 January to spend four weeks with us at Westville. They were hosted by the Kieck and Kalamoudacos families. Coming from a city of concrete, skyscrapers and high density living (approximately 6350 people per km2) both boys were ‘amazed’ by our ‘large green campus’ and intrigued by the range of sports offered and by our integrated sports policy.

In the classroom they found the relationship our boys have with their subject teachers quite different from their experience at SPCC. They were slightly taken aback by the readiness of Westville boys to question and refute theories and material taught and the openness of the staff to these challenges. One of the highlights of their trip was successfully completing the Midmar Mile in very respectable times.

Chinese exchange pic1