Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ting Kau (汀九) Village


This little village - set against a slope, shaded by tall trees, and looking out over its own beach - looks idyllic.  

In fact, however, it is surrounded by the Castle Peak Read, in the shadow of the massive Ting Kau Bridge.  Typical Hong Kong. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Caste Peak Road (青山公路) Run

I found out this morning it is 15 kilometres from Tsuen Wan (荃灣) West MTR station to Gold Coast in Tuen Mun, along Castle Peak Road. 

It is not a bad route to run.  I basically ran along the sidewalk along Castle Peak Road, with the sun in my back, and the sea to my left.  Across the waters, you can see Tsing Yi (青衣), Ting Kau Bridge (汀九), Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋), Ma Wan (馬灣), Kap Shui Mun Bridge (汲水門大橋) and then Lantau (大嶼山).  There was some traffic between Tsuen Wan and Shum Cheng; even then it was not heavy.  Beyond Shum Cheng there were few cars.  Same with pedestrians and runners. There were even a few dogs, clearly pampered ones.  

What were these Star Ferries doing there.  It seemed they were just moored there.  Were they taking a break?  Or is that how they retire?

You can swim in the shadow of the Ting Kau (汀九) Bridge.  But I understand the current can be swift, and the water may not be very clean, even though it looks nicely green.  

You can have roasted goose at Shum Cheng (深井) if you wish.  

You can watch giant container ships trying to squeeze under the TsingMa Bridge. 

Ma Wan, in the distance, used to be an isolated island.  People used to take the ferry at piers such as this, to get over there at Tsing Lung Tau (青龍頭) to get to Ma Wan.  Or to rent a boat here to go fishing in the waters between Lantau and Tuen Mun.  My father took me fishing and we caught some pretty big ones, perch, yellow croaker, …, using finger-size life shrimp as bait.  It is much harder now.  Much of the fish are gone. 

There is a big prison at Tai Lam (大欖).  Set in the green mountain, under the bright sun and clear skies, It looks almost idyllic.  But the inmates probably do not think so. 

At Gold Coast (黃金海岸), one can catch a glimpse of Harrow International School Hong Kong.  I heard some parents are willing to sacrifice a daughter to send a son there.  Perhaps it is just a rumour.  I have no independent validation.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kindergarten War

Kindergarten E takes over the premises of kindergarten T by paying more rent for the space. T may be forced to close if it cannot find an alternate site before the next school year. E then offers to take over the students of T. 

E’s operator claims that it has done nothing wrong, Hong Kong being a free economy. E can offer more money, hence it feels entitled to force T to move out or close, and to take over the students. This can actually be a case study for illustrating how the “free market” works - and how cruel it can be.

Is this the kind of education we want for our children? That the rich can dictate the terms to those less so, that one can do anything to hurt others as long as one does not violate the law?   

I posit that people like that has no place in education.  Education is more than just a business.  We want our children to grow up to be responsible citizens who care about each other, not just money making machines who only look out for themselves.  We want people who have that vision to educate our children. 

Otherwise we do not deserve to survive as a community.  And we will not. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Freshwater Eel (白鱔)

Do you recognise this?  It is freshwater eel steamed with fermented black soybean (豆豉).  I thought 豆豉 were made with black beans (黑豆) and were naturally black.  But my parents said they were made with soybeans which were yellow.  They only turned black through the fermentation process. 

In any case freshwater eel steamed with fermented black beans (豆豉蒸白鱔) is very tasty.  The flesh is white, fatty, soft and succulent.  There are very few bones, and whatever bones they have are quite soft.  So you can eat essentially the whole thing, with very little wastage.  Really good. 

I heard that these freshwater eels are actually born in sea water.  When they grow bigger they swim up rivers to live.  Then they return to the sea to give birth.  Very strange. 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Basic Education in Myanmar

At the conference on Higher Education in Myanmar earlier in February, a person involved with the education reform made a presentation on the situation of basic education in Myanmar: primary and secondary schools.  The data is quite alarming.  While ~90% of the children enrol in primary school, only about 30% enrol in upper secondary.  Noting that these are government figures, the actual data can be worse. 

She also said that evidence shows the students learn by rote memorization, and the teachers have poor pedagogical skills.    As a result, the students are unprepared to contribute to society, or for higher education.  Many of the people I met during my very short stay seemed to corroborate that observation.  

Much of this is, perhaps, due to decades of isolation.   The challenge is great indeed.  In our own small way, we hope to make a contribution with our service-learning projects.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Connecting Myanmar

The seminar on refugees from Myanmar was organised by “Connecting Myanmar”.  This student-initiated organisation have grown out of the Migrant Outreach Education Initiative (MOEI) organised by the University of Hong Kong.  According to the Connecting Myanmar web site, 20 students joined MOEI and went to Myanmar in summer 2011 to teach English to the refugee children at the Thai-Burma border. I am the proud father of one of their members. 

This summer they are planning to send teams to Myanmar to work on law projects, a journalism training project and a migrant school renovation project, in Yangon and Maesot at the Thai/Myanmar border. These young people are the pride of Hong Kong. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Refugees from Myanmar

Last week I went to a seminar on experiential learning at the university of Hong Kong. It happens that on the same day, some students from the organisation Connecting Myanmar organised a seminar on the Refugees from Myanmar. I had known a bit about the issue, and the seminar deepened my understanding.  According to Prof. Ian Holliday, there are two major issues: the long-standing conflicts involving the ethnic minorities to the north and east, including the Karen and the Kachin.  Many refugees have fled from the conflicts and now languishing in refugee camps at the Thai border.  In recent years there is a peace process going on inside Myanmar, and there is hope that the conflicts can be resolved internally. 

The more worrying is the situation with the Rohingya, in the western Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh.  They are Muslims.  Many Buddhists Burmese consider them foreigners from Bangladesh. These has been a lot of conflicts between the two groups.  Some Rohingyas have tried to move to other countries but nobody seems to want them.  It is a worrying situation.