Sunday, November 9, 2014

Selling Poppies (Part 1)

Activity: Selling Poppies at Bramer Hill
Date: November 8, 2014
Time: 9 am to 11 am
Type: Group (with school)
Organization: The Royal British Legion (LINK)

Hours: 3 hours - Service
Yesterday,  I sold poppies in the area around our school Bramer Hill (North Point) with my class.

We quickly realized that we picked a poor day to sell them, as it was drizzling throughout the morning, and very few people were walking around. The area was also not as crowded as usual, as we were selling them in the early morning on a weekend, when Bramer Hill is mostly schools or residential areas.

Still, we persevered and still managed to raise quite a bit of money for a good cause. There were a few interesting incidents that occurred during the day that I will talk about below.

Learning outcomes:

4) Worked collaboratively with others
We started off the day by agreeing amongst ourselves the boundaries of where we were allowed to sell and then establishing a 50 meter rule (no two teams within 50 meters) in order to spread out everyone as far as possible, before splinting up to begin the activity.

Early on, my partner and I hiked up the hill to a near by park, before realizing that since it was the weekend,  there were very few people there. We then chose to stand near a bus stop that many people who went to the near by university got off at.

After selling a few poppies,  another group decided to stand at the bus stop directly across the street (in violation of the 50 meter rule), meaning that by the time the university students had crossed the road, they had already bought poppies or had already declined to buy from the other group.

At first we were quite annoyed, since for over 30 minutes we had no sales whatsoever (there was a group up and down the hill 50 meters away, so everyone who wanted to buy a poppy already did) and we asked them to move (they didn't). However, we then reminded ourselves that it wasn't a competition to see who could sell the most, rather we were all helping the same organization. In the end, the other group moved due to the rain and we were able to peacefully come to a conclusion.
Year group after a day of selling poppies

6) Engaged in issues of global importance
Selling poppies for the Royal British Legion presented some interesting challenges that dealt with global issues. For one, although Hong Kong used to be a British Colony, many of the people in the Bramer Hill area were not familiar with the importance of Remembrance Day or Poppy Day.

 In fact my mom asked me (in Mandarin)  "Aren't poppies where they get opium from? Why are you selling them?" to my surprise and amusement (it isn't every day you have to explain that your school isn't trying to make you a drug dealer). Apparently, I had gotten so used to British culture from history class (or more likely the crazy amount of British tv shows I watch from Doctor Who to The Apprentice) that I had though that everyone knew what poppy day was about.

At school, the many of my classmates, who never took British history also didn't know about the story behind of poppy. To them, this was just another "Flag Day" (賣旗日), albiet with fancier paper poppies instead of the traditional "flag stickers" (this lead to some impromptu history lessons, but I digress).

This extended to when we were selling poppies out on the street. Many times during the day, people would ask (in Cantonese) "賣旗?" since they were confused as to why we were giving out poppies instead of "flag stickers" when in every other respect (such as the coin bags and the time we were selling at) was the same as "Flag Day".

(Though one uni student waiting for the bus was pretty knowledgeable about it and even help explain to his five friends what it was about in Cantonese, since me and my partner weren't very good with it. We had a pretty interesting conversation as the uni student was just as surprised as I was with my mom when he realized they had not known about this before.) 

This lead to me thinking a lot about how the history we know and the society we grow up in can effect how we view certain things, since to me the poppy was a symbol from the First World War to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, whereas with my mom, the poppy was synonymous with opium, and to many of the locals, the poppy was just another "flag" in "Flag Day"
Me holding the coin bag and the bag of poppies

Continued in Part 2 (this post is getting a bit long) ...

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