Bright Spots: Moments of positivity in 2020

Despite a turbulent 2020, the past 12 months have still yielded moments of positivity

Although 2020 was wracked with a global pandemic courtesy of the coronavirus, which caused economic and political turmoil across the globe, the past 12 months still managed to be punctuated with moments of great positivity. Below, we celebrate the silver linings of the year gone by, be it the rise of health worker heroes, the plummeting levels of global pollution or the surge in family bonding time. 

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine new heroes health workers


Frontline doctors, nurses and other health workers, especially those who perished while battling Covid-19, have been hailed as modern-day heroes as they courageously defied fears and risks to their personal health so others would live. Despite the continuing pall of gloom cast by the global pandemic, frontline doctors and other health workers raise hopes and inspiration as they press on in their battle against an unseen lethal enemy.

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine family bonding


During normal times, senior executives and entrepreneurs often spend long hours at work to run their businesses, often at the expense of family time. This phenomenon is by no means unique in Hong Kong, but thankfully, the pandemic has ushered in a new normal, with these elite businesspeople now consigned to working at home. In the process, they’re getting to spend more quality time with family members, which goes a very long way in bolstering family bonding and relationships.

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine music concerts got more creative


Undeterred by bans on huge music concerts due to Covid-19-related social distancing, scores of the world’s famous entertainers and other celebrities, including Elton John, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney, banded together for a huge online charity concert, One World: Together at Home, on April 18 that was globally televised and shown live on ABC, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks, iHeartMedia, Bell Media networks and online platforms in Canada. It was held to celebrate and support healthcare workers, as well as feature real-life experiences of doctors, nurses and families around the world. Shortly thereafter, Lady Gaga released a new album online, which features a selection of upbeat songs, while Demi Lovato reprised her Grammy performance, followed by a flawless delivery of the national anthem at the Super Bowl. In a heart-warming twist, musicians serenaded a quiet, leafy audience of nearly 2,300 house plants as the Liceu opera house in Barcelona, Spain reopened its doors on June 22. Proceeds from the performance were later donated to charity.

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine online business


Numerous companies – large, medium, small and micro – across the world went online to reach out to their customers forced home or restricted from travel by Covid-19-induced lockdowns. Online commerce received an unwitting huge stimulus, while consumers now enjoy more convenience and ease in their purchases.



Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine reading


Left with no choice but to stay home for extended periods of time, many have re-discovered their passion for reading, be it  the old-fashioned way with a hardcopy of a best-seller or digitally through the use of a Kindle or some other handy tablet. 


Staying home with little or no physical activities is bound to hit the waistline as the temptation to overeat becomes irresistible. In this regard, baking curiously emerged as boon and bane since a wide array of muffins, cookies, baked pastas and other baked dishes often enticed everyone in the household to consume extra calories more than their usual intakes. Gardening, spring cleaning and a few other chores, though, helped maintain the balance thanks to their physical exertions. In all, many families used the enforced home lockdowns to turn their hand at tasks long left undone.  

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine big companies bolster their csr corporate social responsibility


Criticised periodically for amassing huge profits but not giving back enough to the communities where they operate and serve, certain large corporations took pro-active measures to help those in great need amid the pandemic. Some cases in point were Apple and 3M, which pooled their resources or tinkered with their operations to produce millions of face masks to help keep people safe from the continuing spread of Covid-19. Other American companies, notably Ford, General Motors, Tesla and other automakers, also ventured into areas where they have not tread before, particularly through production of ventilators and other medical devices to help save lives of those stricken with the lethal pandemic. Alcoholic drinks producers in different countries also pitched in and re-calibrated portions of their businesses to produce hand sanitisers.

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 gafencu magazine tik tok


With more personal time on their hands than ever before, a surge of would-be entertainers took to short video apps like Tik Tok to try pass the days. Before Tik Tok was banned in Hong Kong, Indonesia, India and in several other countries, the short video app became extremely popular and its use exploded across the world as it enabled users to create and share lots of fun and entertaining videos which often featured their creators as principal performers. From adorable pet videos to dancing shows, vocal performances and more, they gifted the world with an entirely new stream of fun. 

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 zoom parties


Milestone events, including birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, conferences, trade exhibitions and many others went online during the enforced Covid-19 social distancing, thanks to Zoom and other video conference apps. With gatherings banned, the need for a communal space prompted organisers to come up with new ways of bringing people together. Video conferencing tools emerged as a convenient solution, with Zoom one of the major beneficiaries. Today, it’s not uncommon to find families – particularly those who are spread across borders – to utilise this innovative method to connect with their loved ones.  

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 viral romance


Romance is often impatient, and some separated lovers simply can’t wait for a Covid-19 vaccine to get approved for mass use. Great affection almost always inspires and fuels innovations and creativity, and this explains the use of drones in various places to deliver fresh flowers and other goodies to a loved one. No more candle-lit, intimate dinners? Hardly a problem. Online romantic dinners are not uncommon – with promises of a return to lovely evenings together in person when normalcy returns. 

Bright Spots Moments of positivity in 2020 carbon dioxide emissions fall


An unprecedented reduction in carbon dioxide emissions was recorded across the world during the first half of 2020, much larger than the level during the 2008 financial crisis, 1979 oil crisis and even World War II, as fossilised fuel use plunged amid Covid-19 lockdowns and curtailed travel across the globe. During the period, emissions were slashed by 1,551 million tonnes or 8.8 percent compared to the first half in 2019, according to a study by an international research team, led by Zhu Liu from the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The plummeting levels of global pollution has even reversed the effects of climate change in some countries, promoting several species of wildlife to return to once-abandoned habitats, such as pink dolphins in Hong Kong harbour and pink flamingos in Mumbai. While Covid-19 has left its indelible mark, it’s clear 2020 still found reason for good cheer.   

5 binge-worthy foreign language shows to watch on Netflix now

Netflix currently enjoys the distinction of being one of the world’s most popular streaming platforms for film enthusiasts, as well as casual binge-watchers. Providing global access to its platform, language barriers on Netflix have come down more and more, with the continuing expansion of its offerings of foreign films and TV shows. Here are five binge-worthy foreign- language worth watching on Netflix over the weekend. 

5 binge-worthy foreign language shows to watch on Netflix Dark German

Dark (German)

A science fiction thriller that will rattle its audience with mind-bending twists that cleverly uses time travel elements in building a story that tracks four families and their connection to one another. Netflix’s first German original series will keep their audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the entire show.

5 binge worthy netflix shows that will make you smarter_money heist

Money Heist (Spain)

The international Netflix phenomenon has won over fans around the world and even inspired a documentary film that carries the same name. After four well-received seasons, a fifth and final season has been confirmed. So, those who have yet to jump onto the Money Heist bandwagon  still have time to catch up with the lovable band of misfits before their heist ends.

5 binge-worthy foreign language shows to watch on Netflix Kingdom Korean

Kingdom (South Korea)

Following the success of Train to Busan and #Alive, this horror TV series delivers another epic and gruesome zombie creation that will again provide great entertainment to international viewers. Set in Korea’s Joseon period after Japan’s invasion of the country, Crown Prince Lee Chang comes across a political conspiracy and investigates a plague that reanimates the dead.

5 binge-worthy foreign language shows to watch on Netflix atelier japanese

Atelier (Japan)

Comparable to the 2006 American film The Devil Wears Prada, Atelier follows Mayuko Tokita and her coming-of-age journey as she struggles with her relationship with her employer, Mayumi Nanjo, creator and owner of the fictional high-end lingerie design house in Tokyo, Emotion.

5 binge-worthy foreign language shows to watch on Netflix call my agent french

Call My Agent! (France)

This show’s plot revolves around a team of agents who manage some of the top celebrities in Paris. Struggling to keep their business running smoothly amid a crisis in the entertainment industry, the characters take on a wide array of challenges, including ageism and sexism within the industry, and tackle them with humorous twists and intrigues comparable to American TV series, Entourage.


Charles Pang on failure, ‘tiger parents’ and educating China

For Charles Pang, Executive Director of the Canadian International School of Beijing, success is more than just academic… 

You grew up in Canada. What do you recall of those years?

I moved to Toronto when I was about five or six and went to boarding school there, which proved to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Some of the people I met during that time became lifelong friends.

What brought you back to Hong Kong?

You could say that I never really came back to Hong Kong. After university, I headed off to join the family education business in Beijing. It was only after I got married that I started to spend more time in Hong Kong, largely because my wife – and then, later, my kids – lived here.

Read: Singer Charlene Chou Xuan on spreading traditional Chinese music to new audiences

Initially, your family was heavily involved in the textile sector, but then switched into education. What triggered such a dramatic change?

Around 1994, my father was part of Team Canada, a business delegation invited to meet Li Peng, then the Chinese Prime Minister. One of the issues discussed was the possibility of exporting the Canadian education system to China. With Li’s blessing, we then launched the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB), with my father as one of the founders. Today, CISB has more than 30 branches across China, catering mainly to the expat community.

Do you see your schools as having had an impact on China’s education system overall?

Education in China is very much focused on the gao kao, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, an approach that I find quite one dimensional. Typically, the teacher speaks and the student just listens. In our schools, the teacher is more of a guide, rather than forcing education on students.

We also took a lead in terms of technology. Some 10 years ago, we were the first to bring Smart Boards into the classroom. Now, nearly all of the schools in China have followed our lead.

Over recent years, the education sector has been transformed. What do you see as the most dramatic change?

When we started CISB 16 years ago, education was not at all technology-based and everything was still taught in a traditional fashion. Now, the internet has become an integral part of the educational process.

This is to the extent that we rarely use blackboards or whiteboards anymore, with many schools set to become entirely paperless. Similarly, homework and assessments can now be submitted online, with teachers able to instantly award grades and provide feedback. It also allows parents to go online and check grades in real time.

Moving on, you’ve now ventured into the luggage sector…

Ah, Ventris; it’s an aspirational lifestyle brand. The concept came about two years ago and then a few of us got together and informally launched the brand. Initially, we were just making luggage for family and friends but, after a few people commented on its commercial potential, we decided to get more serious about it. The brand has been under development ever since, with an online launch planned very soon.

The luggage sector is famously competitive – what do you see as Ventris’ USP?

It’s made from carbon-fibre, the same material racing cars are built from. As a result, it’s super-sturdy, yet very light. While we hope it will appeal to those who enjoy a fast-paced, jet-set lifestyle, it’s not going to be mass-produced. It’s a bespoke line for a distinctly niche clientele. We definitely won’t be going up against TUMI, Rimowa or any of the other big brands.

Does that complete your business portfolio or do you have other plans?

Well, I have just opened a restaurant in Causeway Bay – the Phó Metro. We also have a number of new schools opening this year – two in the US and two in Canada. Just as we brought Western education to China, we’re now looking to export Chinese language and culture to North America, with the Chinese Ministry of Education being one of our key backers. It’s also partly about giving the children of Chinese ex-pats the opportunity to learn about their own language and culture.

Read: A guide to gentlemen’s grooming and skincare in Hong Kong 

In terms of teaching your own children, what are the most important values you have sought to instill in them?

For me, it’s important that they grow up well-mannered and considerate. I am actually okay if they don’t turn out to be too academically-inclined. I am a great believer in the importance of kids being kids.

Right now, I see a lot of ‘tiger’ parents in Hong Kong, mums and dads who are constantly pushing their kids to over-achieve at school. Many of them are packing their kids’ after-school hours with endless extra-curricular activities and supplementary tutoring, with their children having little say in it.

I feel most Hong Kong kids don’t really get the freedom to enjoy their childhood. While I was growing up in Canada, we really had the chance to be ourselves and kids need that. They shouldn’t be burdened with their parents own unfulfilled ambitions.

Read: The 300 Most Powerful People in Hong Kong

Overall, then, do you see yourself as a laid-back parent?

No, not laid-back, but I do want my children to realise their full potential in as natural a way as possible. Of course, that doesn’t mean there are no ground rules. While I ensure that homework is done, I don’t force them to do things they don’t like. Inevitably, if you force your children into learning something they have no interest in, they will never excel at it.

Finally, as a successful entrepreneur with several businesses under your belt, what advice would you give to those looking to follow in your footsteps?

As an entrepreneur, you should never be afraid to fail. Not all businesses will succeed, and failure is part of the learning process. On top of that, you need a good business plan, solid finances and a willingness to work very hard indeed. Above all, though, learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge to your next venture.


The full version of this interview appears on Gafencu Magazine’s March 2018 print issue as “Class Act” by Suchetana Mukhopadhyay. You can download the free app for digital editions of the magazine.