Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hong Kong

I was so blessed to be able to spend the last week of October in Hong Kong with my good friend and fellow Maegan Collier. You can check out her blog by clicking on her link on the right hand side of this page, but wait! Please read mine first. I had six days to see all of Hong Kong, and I was determined to cram as much in as possible. On my first day there, I was instantly overwhelmed with the fast paced and fast speaking people of Hong Kong. I guess living in the mountains for a few months makes one forget the technology of this world. I must have experienced a bit of culture shock on that first day because I wanted so bad to be out in nature that I asked Maegan if we could go to the ocean the following day. We rode the ferry to one out the outlying islands, and then took a bus to reach our destination. We spent Saturday at the beach, relaxing, reading, and rock climbing. Okay, the rocks were not that big, but they sure were beautiful.On Sunday morning Maegan took me to Mass at the Cathedral of St. John’s. It was absolutely breathtaking. Old wooden single seat pews and decorative linens filled the sanctuary. The ambiance was wonderful and I felt quite comfortable with the overwhelmingly Anglican service. I love to experience all of the “bells and whistles, incense included” of the church from time to time. Sadly, in the past few months, Hong Kong has been overwhelmed by the threat of H1N1 (Swine Flu). As a result, the church service at St. Johns had a few awkward moments for me. First, no one would shake your hand at the Peace. Of course, Maegan and I gave each other a huge hug, but no one else would touch us. Then, during communion, you had to dip your bread in the wine. They do not allow you to drink from the chalice for fear of spreading germs. Luckily, I am an avid dipper, but I know some people that would be extremely perturbed by this. After church, Maegan ran off to work at the Mission for Migrant Worker’s Office while I socialized in the parish hall with some of the parishioners. Something I noticed right away was how closely the parents were watching their children. Similar to big cities in the U.S., people do not often let their little kids just run around unattended. I would have never noticed this before living in Besao. In Besao, the little kids (4 years old) walk themselves to school and neighboring villages. They scrub the floors, play with “dangerous” objects like fire and glass, and even walk inches from the edge of the mountain. The women in Besao say, “that is how they learn how to be Igorots. If we are too protective of them, then they will never learn how to take care of themselves.” After an hour or so I met up with Maegan for lunch. We ate at “the square” a local hang out of the Filipinos who are living in Hong Kong. It is actually just the outdoor ground floor of the HSBC building, but there are hundreds of women there. When we arrived, they were holding a campaign rally to raise money for the victims of the recent typhoons in the Philippines. When they realized that I had witnessed this devastation first hand, they immediately asked if I would go to the front and speak on the microphone about what had happened. It was an emotional moment for me as I described to all of the people what was happening in the place in which I now live. The floods and landslides had killed so many, and the largest impact was on the poorest of people. I had to be the one to tell them how it all happened and why those people really need their help now more than ever before. Monday was a public holiday so Maegan and I ventured off to the Man Mo Temple, which was filled with coiled incense hanging from the ceiling, and then we headed to the outdoor market. That evening, “The All Most Reverend” Peter Ng, who is the Asia-Pacific Partnership Officer at The National Church Office of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., took us to dinner at his favorite Chinese restaurant in Jordan. It was delicious! By far the best Chinese food I have ever had. Big surprise; I was after all essentially in China.On Tuesday morning, Maegan went to work at the Bethune House, and I met up with her there in the afternoon. She showed me around and told me a little more about her work there. Bethune House in Jordan on Hong Kong’s Kowloon side provides temporary accommodation for domestic helpers who have been wronged by their employers and are seeking justice through the Labour Tribunal, the courts or both. It is very common for residents of Hong Kong to have a non-family member living in their house who will do the cooking, cleaning, and child care. There are hundreds of thousands of domestic workers in Hong Kong and the majority of them are Filipinos. I spent the afternoon talking with these women and listening to their stories. It was heartbreaking. Some of those women have gone through the unimaginable and it makes you wonder how any human could treat another human that way. Those are the type of people who we really need to pray for. On Wednesday, Maegan went back to work at the Bethune House while I explored Hong Kong on my own. It was a day filled with walking. I went to another temple, the public ports, Stanley market, and the Peak for a great view of the city.After all of that, I decided it would be a great idea to try to walk back to the mid-levels, which was actually much further than I thought. After a couple hours of walking, I jumped in a cab, only to realize that I was only a 5 minute cab ride away from reaching my destination. Maegan and I were both exhausted from the day so we invited some of her friends over to watch a movie, and order in food. Thursday, we got an early start as we checked my bag at the airport express and headed off to the far side of the island to ride the cable carto the Po Lin Monasteryto get a glimpse of the largest Buddha in the world!We had a great day and the weather was perfect. As the evening was nearing, we took a bus to the airport and said our goodbyes. It was tough to leave. Hong Kong was a great adventure shared with a great friend, and I can’t wait for her to visit Besao!
Melanie West Goes… Hong Kong

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