Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Dear parents,


I have to confess my carbon footprint used to be high as I enjoyed driving my car which was a haven for me to destress after long hours of work.  After turning 60, however, I have been taking advantage of the Joy You card, so I now use public transportation for 90 percent of my commute, driving my car only when I know the traffic is light and where parking is easy to find. To my surprise, after a year, I now prefer public transportation to driving irrespective of the concessions for I have discovered a lot of benefits I wasn’t aware of before.


First, as a multitasker, I am delighted to finish some work during the commute. While driving, I can only listen to songs or audiobooks, which is still pleasing when I am stuck in the morning traffic. I have finished listening to most of Kazuo Ishiguro and Haruki Murakami’s books in my car, but sometimes I would lose focus when I get too carried away by the imaginative scenes described, so I have decided to listen to books only when I am doing chores at home.  On the other hand, I can read at ease when I am on the train. Reading on the bus is a bit difficult when the bus driver takes passengers for a Formula One race, zooming and slamming on the brakes unexpectedly, but I still opt for the bus as I usually get a seat and it is generally quieter than the train.


Riding on the train can be far more interesting if I don’t mind the noise and distractions, however. Observing behaviours of different commuters often gives me food for thought and insights for writing. Indeed, I have written most of my letters to you on the train, and I started writing this one when I got on the train one morning, during which I was forced to listen to the conversations among four women who were shouting across their seats in Putonghua about their itinerary for the day; apparently they were excited tourists from China. I could sense that some passengers were annoyed but most seemed oblivious while a young man moved from his seat to stand at the next compartment, muttering under his breath a few words that I couldn’t catch, but obviously he rose from his seat to elude the noise.


My mind immediately flashed back to my previous trips to Tokyo where trains are equally if not much more crowded but pleasantly quiet. There are large and clear signs telling passengers to observe silence, setting their phones to the silent mode and limiting their telecommunications to messaging rather than talking on the phone. The four women I met on the train that morning would certainly raise eyebrows there, but it might be difficult for these thrilled tourists to adapt to a courteous and composed environment if they have grown up in a society where personal space and privacy aren’t of a high order.


What then can we promote publicly responsible behavior - observing traffic lights, not littering on the street, keeping quiet on public transportation, offering seats and help to the elderly and physically challenged and many more? Aside from propaganda and advertisement, our Government has resorted to heavier penalties. Punishment could elicit immediate compliance but may not be able to foster social responsibility fundamental to a caring society.  On many occasions, I have seen young children jump the line and race to seats on trains, smiling in content that they are smarter and faster than the adults.  Once I was travelling on the train at peak hours, and even the first-class compartment was filled with standing passengers.  A feeble elderly man with a walking stick got on, but sadly none of the seated passengers nearby were willing to give up their seats.  I immediately got up and helped him to my seat.  After thanking me, he dragged out a drug box and swallowed some pills. Only then did I realize I might have helped a senior with some chronic illnesses.  Indeed he looked frail and if he did fall, the consequences could be fatal, but unfortunately those seated passengers who refused to give up their seats didn’t seem to bother.  Maybe they felt even more entitled to have seats after paying a much higher fare. 


More often than not, we feel entitled rather than obliged, and patronizing rather than obliging.  As we celebrate Easter, let us ponder on the humble and sacrificial act of Jesus and show more love and compassion to people around us.  A caring society, after all, can only be attained by building civic awareness and engagement, not by continued hype.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan