“It’s all over.” That is how our Director of Studies, Nick, started his speech at our Graduation Dinner last night, standing in front of all us Secondyears and teachers in the middle of the Lantau Room at the Novotel in Hong Kong, looking into our expecting eyes and not quite sure how to hold his microphone. “It’s all over. Never again will you sit with your friends at breakfast and inhale that raisin bun because you’re afraid of being late to the class – because there are no more classes, at least not in LPC. But of course you never did rush that raisin bun because you didn’t care, unless you were going to Trevor’s class. And you certainly didn’t when you were in my Envi class – and the clock is on time.”
The Graduation Dinner, on the last Friday before the Secondyears’ study leave, is a wonderful event, nearly as much anticipated as elsewhere prom – or maybe, actually just as much. Most of the girls spent ages looking for or even designing their “perfect dress” for the night, while the guys got their hair cut and beards trimmed. It all started at five in the afternoon at the roundabout at Arnett’s house, way back on campus. There were snacks and drinks and everybody came very fancily dressed, the boys in suits, the girls in long and colorful dresses. Everybody took pictures with each other; roommates, friends, teachers, the own cultural group – everyone needed a photo with everyone.
Then at six, we Secondyears were brought to the roundabout down the road by our teachers and Firstyears. It was a long parade of cheering and chatting people, all laughing and anticipating the good dinner at the hotel and the bus ride all the way there. Our roommates and friends hugged us good bye and watched us take our seats in the bus; last handshakes, blow kisses and waves were exchanged through the windows and doors, and then off we drove. The Firstyears ran beside and behind the bus, cheering and waving, and watched till the bus drove around the corner, taking us from their sight.
The bus ride took ages, and the driver got lost on the way – but that didn’t matter, as soon as we arrived. The hotel was quite fancy, and we sat together at huge tables, waiting for the speeches to be made and the buffet to be opened. Our teacher speaker was Nick, and after Arnett had given a first speech about how this wasn’t the end of our LPC time yet, and definitely not of our UWC experience, he came up and told us so many more wise words. I personally really liked Nick’s speech because it reflected very well, how close he had gotten to us in this only one year that he was at LPC so far. “Now, it’s your turn to choose,” he noted with a smile, “You decide if learning is more important to you than bacon – and I think we all know what side of that Halfdan is on. You can choose from now on if you want to join Bara on a morning run to Ma On Shan. You can choose to join Bara on an afternoon run if you want. Equally you may choose to stay in bed, taunting your firstyears as they leave for their 1st morning block. Or you may choose to rely on your revision skills in preparation for your exams. Yeah…”
Like, Arnett, Nick told us a lot about change and the future, giving us advise and not failing to make us laugh roaringly over and over again: “Whenever, wherever and whoever it will be with, you will experience significant change. Change can sometimes be difficult to deal with, imagine that shocks that stand before some of you. In the real world, people wear shoes. All the time. I worry for you if on your first hot date to the theatre with your partner from you and you respond to the standing ovations LPC-style (*shaking your hands). At the restaurant after the theatre it is really not appropriate to order condensed milk on white sliced bread. At that’s where the date analogy ends because people from the outside don’t understand what “inappropriate intimacy” means, either.”
Last but not least, he incorporated his personal UWC experience and reflections on his first year with us at LPC into his speech and shared his initial worries and later joys with us: “I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said I was confident that my family would settle down. But after the day my middle son Joe was helped home by two students after falling off his bike, bleeding but desperate not to cry, and another students wheeling his bike back behind, I knew that they were gonna be okay. And now I know that they are definitely happy because they are willing to eat canteen food just to hang out with the students.” A loud “aww” from all students followed that sweet admission.
The food, I probably don’t have to mention this, was glorious. We had lamb, chicken, sushi, salad, broccoli, salmon (and I mean gigantic pieces from the actual fish on a plate), ice cream, cake, cake and more cake, cheese, marshmallows in chocolate sauce from a chocolate fountain, steak, potato chips and so much more. Some girls even complained that their dresses became too tight. It was absolutely delicious and through the speeches we had enough time to properly digest, before we started dancing. Our student MCs had prepared the traditional and legendary teacher dance-off, started by an individual teacher, our Bio and Chem Teacher Trevor – an incredibly tall and buff guy of who everybody is scared of, especially when late for his class – against Dilene, one of our co-years. Later on we had teacher groups against student groups and after that, cultural student groups dancing against each other. Eventually, the music was just turned even louder and everybody started dancing ; students, teachers and teacher spouses all together and sometimes even hand in hand. We had surely never seen our teachers like this before – and it was an unforgettable sight!
We stayed at the hotel for several hours, chatting, laughing, dancing and taking photos together. It was a wonderful time we spent there and this was surely one of the best nights of my life. At midnight we drove back to the college, where the Firstyears were eagerly waiting for us, all dressed up and bursting our ears with their cheers. We stumbled from one hug and kiss to the next, and Catherine and my roommates had prepared cake, flowers and candles in the room. Like that, we could spend a couple more silent and reflective minutes before running off to the next party in the canteen – dancing way into the early morning hours. What a perfect day. What a perfect night. What a perfect place to be in. And what wonderful, wonderful people to be surrounded by. I remain baffled, amazed and deeply in love with LPC.
[Last two photos by © Michelle Kwok]