Warrant Officer 2 Jessica Biggs, 177 (Air Canada) RCACS
2009 IACE Hong Kong Group
WO2 Biggs, in red shirt second from the left
The summer of 2009 was the last summer that I would be able to attend summer camp as an air cadet. I had already worked hard to get the glider pilot scholarship in 2007 and power pilot scholarship in 2008. Both of which were very much fun and I will continue to fly using the licenses I achieved. I wanted to make my last summer a very memorable one so I applied for International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE). I had heard many great things about the program. I thought that any country would be great to visit since I had never traveled outside of North America.
I was very excited when I found out that I had been selected to go to Hong Kong for IACE. I was especially excited for the trip since I probably would have never had the chance to travel to Hong Kong on my own.
First I flew to Vancouver where I met with the four other Canadian delegates. The flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong was 12.5 hours! It was definitely the longest flight I have ever been on. As we got off of the plane we were welcomed by Herman, a member of the Hong Kong Air Cadets. We were all very tired from traveling overnight, but he made us feel very welcome and helped us get through the customs area and get our baggage quickly. The climate was very hot and humid, much more than we were used to. Hong Kong is also 13 hours ahead of Winnipeg, which took a little bit of getting used to. We didn't stay with any host families because their homes are too small, so instead we all stayed in a local hotel.
The first morning in Hong Kong was a little bit of a surprise when we went to eat breakfast. They don't eat cereal and pancakes like we do, instead they have rice, noodles, dim sum, vegetables and buns. That evening we had a welcome dinner where we were able to try even more of the cuisine. It was all very tasty. We also got a chance to meet the delegates from other countries. There were people from: Canada, USA, United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel, France, The Netherlands, China and Australia. It was very interesting to meet everyone and learn about their culture and language. There were also several Hong Kong cadets that escorted us around. While in Hong Kong we went on many tours.
We took a tour of the Government Flying Service and got to go for a flight across the harbour in one of their super puma helicopters. We went to Ocean Park which is marine themed amusement park. They also had animals similar to a zoo. My favourite were the pandas. One of my favourite tours of the trip was at Victoria Peak which is a point high up on one of the mountains. From there you were able to see lots of Central Hong Kong; it was beautiful. We went shopping at street markets. The two main ones were Ladies Street and Stanley Market. It was neat to barter and a great place to find souvenirs.
Government Flying Service Super Puma
We were also able to have a visit with a couple of the cadet squadrons. We watched a parade and were able to see many similarities between the Air Cadets in Canada and in Hong Kong. The local cadets also taught each of us how to write our name properly in Cantonese using Chinese calligraphy. They were also able to tell us what our names meant. We went for a tour of Dragon Air. They fly to Hong Kong and China. We were able to go into one of the simulators the pilots train on and they took us through a simulated approach into Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong recently built a new airport, but this one is different because they also built the island upon which the airport sits. It was really cool to see. We took a 25 minute cable car ride up one of the mountains to the Great Buddha. The view from the cable car was spectacular, you could see the coast very well, along with the new airport. At the top was the Great Buddha which is the biggest Buddha in the world. It was very neat to see; we were even able to get close enough to touch it. We also got to see a kickboxing demonstration. They showed us various kicks, punches and blocks. We were even able to give it a go ourselves. It was lots of fun. While in Hong Kong we also visited many temples and gardens. Many of them were located in the heart of the city, so it was very neat to be in such a peaceful area when you could look just beyond and see high rise apartments.
The Great Buddha
We tried many different kinds of Chinese cuisine. Some of the highlights were: dim sum, Chinese hot pot and open pit barbeque. Dim sum is many different small pieces, most of which you can eat in just a couple of bites. Chinese hot pot was a big pot of boiling water in which you would cook your meat, noodles and vegetables. The open pit barbeque was similar to cooking over an open fire in Canada except in Hong Kong we even cooked corn and meatballs over the fire. It was also extremely hot!
We were very lucky that we were able to go to mainland China for a 4 day tour. It was a lot of driving, but definitely worth it. I couldn't believe how different Hong Kong and China were. They were different in almost every aspect including: laws, language, food, currency, friendliness and even climate. We toured a wood carving factory, ancient villages, a ceramic museum, a dinosaur museum and temples. It was very eye-opening to see the culture and the way people live there compared to us.
IACE was a great experience. I learned a lot, not only about the host country, Hong Kong, but all of the other countries that the delegates were from. I was able to learn some language, about the different cadet programs and way of life. I was also able to teach people about Canada. I now have really good friends from all over the world. There are many things you will get to do and see on IACE that you would not be able to do or see when you were traveling on your own. I highly recommend any air cadet to apply for International Exchange. It takes some effort at your squadron and preparation for boards, but it is well worth all the hard work in the end. It is one summer you will never forget!
Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong boat bridge
Closeup of the Great Buddha
The Canadian Consulate
Hong Kong street scene
Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
Second view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
View of Hong Kong