© 2020 MARTINA KWAN
AMUZE WEB DESIGN

LIVING OVERSEAS

HONG KONG

The city of my birth. I am a Hong Kong born, Chinese-German, British-American. We lived in Hong Kong for 8 years before we moved to Beirut, Lebanon. 


My sister and I went to the German Swiss International School on the Hong Kong side and some of my fondest memories were spending time with our friends swimming and playing at LRC and HKCC, going boating with our Dad while he went scuba diving, going to Grandpa’s house in Shek O, and seeing the retired race horses at the jockey club in Sha Tin.

Our German mom worked for Jebsen Group and was a model at the time going by the name of Marion Kwan. It took us a while for my sister and I to start speaking as babies, but when we finally spoke, it was in German, English and Cantonese.

Jebsen is one of the largest Porsche dealers in the World and has dealerships in Hong Kong and Mainland China.


It’s been fun looking at pictures of Porsche in Hong Kong.

Next Stop: Beirut

BEIRUT

We moved to Beirut from Hong Kong when I was 8 years old. Beirut was known as The Paris of the Middle East with beach resorts on the Mediterranean Sea and ski resorts an hour inland. Two years later, the city was war-torn with bombed out buildings, and we had to abruptly move to my Mom’s hometown of Hamburg, Germany. 


Beirut was where my step-father grew up and his family still lived there. We went to the Deutsche Schule Beirut and the bus driver would stop to pick up Manoushi bread on the way to school. 


We lived on Bliss Street in Ras Beirut. During the civil war, we were no longer able to get to our German school, and switched to picking up our homework from the German Embassy. My sister and I became pretty good roller skaters and would skate and jump stairs to go pick up our homework, and since we had much more free time, we would often go to AUB to climb the Cypress trees. A monkey lived at a house along the way, and we always stopped to talk to him, until he bit my sister one day. Some of our cousins lived nearby, and others lived in Hazmieh. Our Lebanese Grandma Teta also lived down the street and she made the best Kibbeh. Another favorite activity was picking up empty bullet shells and bomb shrapnel from the parking lot next door. 


It became pretty scary when the war got more intense, and more often than not, at night, the rockets and bombs would start flying. I would crawl into my sister’s bed and we would wait to see if the sirens would go off. If they did, we all filed into our ground floor apartment long inside corridor and everyone from the other apartments would come down and we would sit huddled against each side of the walls until the rockets and bombs stopped. It got so bad that we finally had to leave, never to go back. 


It is a pleasure for me to see all the great photos posted by the huge following of Porsche fans in Beirut and Lebanon, and someday I plan to go back and drive on the Lebanese roads in a 911. 


I still don’t really like the sound of fireworks as it reminds me of the sounds of the rockets before they would go off, but the experience gave me a fearlessness that I have to this day.

HAMBURG

We moved to Hamburg, Germany when I was 10 years old, after going to the airport in Beirut through war zones and gun checkpoints. In my young mind, I thought we would move back to Beirut as soon as the war ended, but it lasted for so many years, that I have never been back since. 


Hamburg is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is the second largest city in Germany, a major port city in northern Germany connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. It is known as the green city with many parks as well as Hansestadt Hamburg, hence the “HH” license plates.

I lived there two times in my life. The first time was from 10 to 13 years old when I attended Heinrich Hertz Schule in Winterhude, and the second time was from 15 to 17 years old when I attended and graduated from the International School of Hamburg in Othmarschen with the International Baccalaureate IB Diploma, before starting college in Switzerland. 


Germany was the place I first started to horseback ride. I loved horses so much that I would walk, take two trains, take the bus and walk again to arrive 2 hours later in Poppenbüttel at the riding stable where I learned to ride – Kupfertenne. I lived and breathed horses like I live and breathe Porsches now.

What I learned about riding applies to life in general, which is that when you fall off a horse, you must get back on immediately and continue on. Only so can and will you become a good rider. Never give up! My family would make me leave my riding stuff outside our apartment because they did not like the smell of horses. 


Living in Germany did not come without its challenges. Adapting to the German Schools in Hamburg after missing so much school during the war was challenging academically. And Germany was also a very homogenous society at the time, and here we were - Eurasian. My older sister and I were half Chinese and half German, so we did not fit in 100% in either Hong Kong or Germany.

I personally did not realize that it was actually kind of cool to be different until we moved to Bahrain. 


Favorite activity: Driving on the no speed limit Autobahn.

Next Stop: Bahrain

BAHRAIN

After living in Germany, I moved to Bahrain, also known as the Kingdom of Bahrain, when I was 13 years old. Bahrain is a small 295 square mile island country in the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

 

My sisters and I attended Bahrain School. I loved going to Bahrain School, with so many great activities like the tennis team, swim team, track and field team etc. I skipped 8th Grade and went straight to 9th Grade, something I probably would not recommend as one can miss some key educational fundamentals.

 
When we first arrived and stepped off the plane, the overwhelming heat of 102 degrees and incredible humidity hit us, as did the blazing sun. Another first, was hearing the calls to prayer five times a day coming from the Mosques. It is something that you miss when you leave the island, at least for me. Bahrain was not as developed as it is today, and some of the key skyscrapers that identify the island today, did not exist at the time.

 
It was very much a desert environment. It was the first time I lived in the desert and it is there that the desert has become my favorite topography. It was very different from living in lush, green and cold Germany.

Going to the riding stable to horseback ride was a completely different experience here. In Bahrain, the riding arena and everything else was desert sand. And the majestic Arabian Horse became one of my favorite horse breeds. Riding an Arabian Horse in the Arabian Desert has become an important theme in my life, and in 2016, it became a symbol of who I am and what I enjoy.

Going to the desert racetracks here in California, like my favorite Willow Springs, kind of gives me the same type of contentment and serenity I’ve always felt in the Middle East deserts. 


There are many stereotypes surrounding the Middle East which I wish to dispel. I believe it is a wonderful place. I do believe that as Westerners, or visitors, it is important to assimilate and respect and abide by the cultural mores of the countries we are visiting. Bucket List Racetrack: Bahrain International Circuit 

Next Stop: Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

We moved to Amsterdam when I was 14. I remember my older sister Veronika and I crying most of the flight from Bahrain to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport because we loved Bahrain so much. I think we loved it so much because we attended Bahrain School, which was the first “International” school we attended with people from all over the world. It was the first time that we, as multi-cultural Eurasians, did not feel different. 


We lived in the suburb Amstelveen and attended the International School of Amsterdam and both played Varsity Volleyball and Basketball. On our Varsity trips to Belgium and Germany, we saw some of the people we had already met at International School of Hamburg and it was great to go back to the place we called home before we moved to Bahrain a few years back. 


Amsterdam was super strange to us as we were used to being “chaperoned” and were driven everywhere in a car in Bahrain, as opposed to taking the bus in our new city of Residence in Europe. Amsterdam is a pretty incredible city, as the Capital of the Netherlands, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades. Some of the World’s best museums are located in Amsterdam. Windmills and Bicycles are some of Holland’s landmarks. 


I only lived in Amsterdam for about 8 months in 10th Grade before we moved back to our Mother’s home town of Hamburg, Germany where I finished high school at the International School of Hamburg. Since I’ve already featured the beautiful Porsches in Germany in one of my recent posts, the next stop will be Switzerland where I started University. 

Next Stop: Hamburg, Then Switzerland

SWITZERLAND

So far the places I lived covered have been Hong Kong, Beirut, Hamburg, Bahrain, Amsterdam, then Hamburg again. After graduating from high school in Germany, I took the train the Switzerland to study at the American College of Switzerland, in the French part of the Swiss Alps. 


I consider Switzerland to be one of the most beautiful countries in the World and the majesty of the Alps is unbeatable. The air is the crispest and freshest I’ve breathed in, and it was incredible living in dorms that were ski in/ski out. I became a fair weather skier there. Since we had season passes, we would look out the window in the morning, and if there was even an inkling of clouds, we would decide to sleep in instead of hit the slopes. 


Going to school in Switzerland meant Fondue and Raclette, the best Swiss Chocolate, and getting up early in the morning and getting chocolate croissants in the village. It meant meeting one of the most tight knit groups of International kids from all over the world, many of whom I still stay in touch with.


On the weekends, we would take trips to Milan, Geneva, Gstaad, Montreux, other ski resorts like Verbier, Zermatt, Crans-Montana and Portes Du Soleil – one of my favorites since you could start your day skiing on the Swiss side, and then have lunch in France. We had our yearly prom in Monte Carlo, and all in all, these first two years of independence in my life created some of the greatest memories of my life. The American College of Switzerland later closed and now is Swiss Boarding School Leysin American School. 


Last year, I went back for the first time for an incredible reunion with my old classmates that I was blessed to share with my Mom from Germany and 12 and 14 year old girls. 


I would have preferred to rent a Porsche 911 of course, but the luggage wouldn’t fit, so I settled on a Porsche Panamera Gran Turismo with 462 HP. 

Next stop:  Miami, Florida.  First time in the United States of America. 

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