Greetings from Macau! I want to start this post by reviewing some of the complications I faced while coming to my exchange program. First, I was stuck in Seattle, as one of my connecting flights in China was canceled. Even worse, I couldn’t get the flight company, Juneyao Airlines, to book me a new fight nor give me a refund! This forced my hand to pay 1.5 times as much as I originally paid just to ensure I would arrive in Macau on time from Seattle, taking a rather large chunk out of what little I had saved/borrowed for going abroad.
Another issue I ran into was my cell provider, Verizon. Macau is listed as being Macau, SAR, CHINA. So, when I talked to Verizon, they told me that for China, my best option is the Travel Pass, where I would only pay $10 USD per day if I used my phone, with all the benefits I enjoy in America. After two weeks, I had a really, really large phone bill. It turned out Macau, SAR, China, is NOT considered China by Verizon, and I was paying a lot for what little time I did use my phone. Since my account is also part of my mothers main account, I had to pay yet another large sum to ensure that her service wouldn’t be cut off, making me reconsider what I was going to do for the two week Lunar New Year holiday that just passed.
Originally I intended to tour Asia with some of the other exchange students here, but since I had little money left, I had to instead get to know Macau much better. And get to know Macau I certainly have! The only problem I ran into at this point was my broken camera, and I had to buy a new phone for local service as well as having a functional camera to share my experience with you all.
A new favorite hang out
In retrospect I am glad I missed out on touring Asia, as I learned quickly that Macau actually has a lot more to offer than the Cotai Strip (it’s the Vegas of Asia). I spent the whole two weeks exploring Macau, and found a new favorite hang out in San Malo! San Malo is home of the Senado Square and the Ruins of St. Paul’s, as well as the large Filipino community of Macau. I have made a few local friends here, and have even visited their flats in San Malo, and I enjoy learning Tagalog, which they are more than happy to help me learn; I help some improve their English as well.
There is a really nice bench park near the Ruins of St. Paul that locals like to hangout late into the night, and it was here that I started making new friends and learning a thing or two about the nature of employment in Macau. I learned that the Filipinos make up the largest employee base and come to Macau looking for work – many in order to send money back to their families in the Philippines – and that they mostly occupy the cleaning jobs at the major hotels here, while some do cleaning at the smaller hotels or restaurants. There is a language barrier that prevents most from obtaining better jobs, mainly they don’t speak Chinese or English. Most are underpaid, even those who speak Chinese and English well.
The Filipino situation here in Macau, I realized, is similar to the Latinos who seek work in America. These people were very welcoming of an outsider like me hanging out with them and eventually telling me these things about their version of daily life in Macau.
But I digress. Hanging out with the local Filipinos in San Malo has allowed me to discover hidden gems in Macau. For example, a really awesome Filipino style bar and grill, which is one of maybe three places to get actual Filipino food in all of Macau, a “mom and pop” type grocery store that sells the best fruit smoothies I have ever had and a great pizza place that is local to Macau that makes Pizza Hut taste like dirt (pizza places other Pizza Hut – good pizza places, haha – are hard to find).
I can honestly say that I feel more enriched by this experience over the Lunar New Year than had I gone and toured different parts of Asia for only a day or two at a time. I am glad that I had to stay in Macau and get to know it much better than I otherwise may have had the opportunity to!
I did visit Hong Kong, but I will save that for another post!
Since I finally got a working camera again, I was able to go out and get some pictures to share with you all of San Malo, Senado Square, and the Ruins of St. Paul. Enjoy!
Alex Nestler is a junior majoring in management information systems. He is spending the entire Spring semester studying at the University of Macau, in Macau, SAR, China.