Macau is a city of contradictions. It’s both a glittery casino hub across the bay from Hong Kong and an old colonial peninsula crammed with Portuguese churches. French Michelin-star restaurants sit side by side with cafes selling $1 milk teas brewed in pantyhose. Busses announce stops in four languages. It’s a vibrant city of immigrants who built skyscrapers and towers out of a quiet fishing village.
Amidst all the challenges of 2019-2020, the people of Macau welcomed me in with open arms. Students laughed in good fun at my shaky Cantonese but took the time to introduce me to the best parts of the city. They showed me where you could find fresh lychees and which casino restaurants were overpriced (hint: nearly all of time). I met people from Brazil, England, Beijing, Portugal, and elsewhere, all bound together by a shared wonder for this place that we found ourselves in. We came out in times of celebration to watch Grand Prixs and Dragon Boat races… in times of fear, we lined up to collect face masks and reached out to friends and colleagues to offer our support.
Cities are not just defined by place, by the curve of some harbor or the line of arbitrary borders. Cities are just as much defined by their people, and I’m so grateful for the Fulbright giving me the opportunity to learn about Macau’s pride, challenges, and beauty from its residents.
Mark Liang – Fulbright to Macau 2019