Monday, December 25, 2006

Special Kids

Some of the kids at the special school recognized me from previous visits. One kid that I met the first time several years back as a toddler was now 12. His lips and mouth were still purple because of some chronic health problems. But he was talking excitedly, hugged me many times, and joined in all the games. Another girl was about 5, I believe. She could not talk, walk, hold anything with her hands, nor even sit up. But when I held her, she showed me the most beautiful contented smiles. She was twisting and turning all the time, making it difficult and tiring to hold her. But I just couldn’t bear to put her down.

Some people find it difficult emotionally to interact with these kids. Initially I had some misgivings too. But as soon as you come face to face with such a child, it is hard not to want to something for them, despite everything. And how often can you put an innocent smile on another human being?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas at Taipo Special School

Just before Christmas, we took a team of professors, staff, students and family to help in a Christmas party at a special school at Pinehill, Taipo. There were about 30 kids there with various types and degrees of special needs: autistic, physical handicapped, mentally challenged, chronic health problems, etc. Many of their parents and other volunteers were also there. Together with the school’s staff and the 20+ of us from the university, there were easily a hundred people there. One of my research students was the Santa Claus.

We played games with them: passing balloons, decorating human Christmas trees, musical chairs, etc. Many of the kids were really not dexterous enough to do some of the actions such as grasping and passing the balloon. Others cannot really comprehend what they were doing and were asked to do. Many could not walk. Some could not even sit up straight. But everyone was caught in the spirit and had great fun. That was obvious from the smiles, laughs and squeals.

I could see that some of our university students were a little apprehensive in the beginning. Except for one or two who had some volunteering experiences before, most did not know how to interact with children with special needs, and were initially just standing there and watching the kids, probably not knowing how to engage them. But soon enough they started to help the kids pass the balloons, lead them through the musical chairs, showed them how to decorate themselves as Christmas trees.

After the party, one of my students thanked me for inviting her to help in the party, and said that the party made her Christmas meaningful. I was thankful to God as well, for letting me be a part of it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Destruction of the Star Ferry Terminal

With the demolition of the Star Ferry Terminal in Central, yet another Hong Kong landmark is being removed from the collective memory of the Hong Kong people. The building probably does not have a lot of architectural merit. But it is evidently something that many of us have very found memories about, both personal and social. It is something that makes up part of the identity of Hong Kong.

Apparently the government thinks that is it neither old enough nor valuable enough to preserve. If we keep tearing down things that are not that old, there will never be anything old enough to preserve, will there? If we keep valuing things by how much cash can be generated from it, there will only be taller and taller high rises in Hong Kong. No wonder the numerous beautiful green trees on the hill of the old Marine Headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui have been turned into 3 miserable looking trunks in giant flower pots suspended in mid air.

Green hills and trees don’t generate any cash. Yet someone is willing to pay billions for the land. So let us remove the hill and clear the way for more money making. Some of you want to keep some of the oldest ones? Put a few of them in giant flower pots! Somehow there seems to be a depressing consistency in government thinking.

Great cities are great not just because they are commercially successful. The people of such cities can inevitably point to a collective identity that they can be proud of – a collective identity of history, culture, people, events, and symbols. Hong Kong is no double a successful commercial city. But the destruction of the Star Ferry Terminal is yet another indication that our government seems determined to remove anything in the way of development - defined narrowly to include only monetary gain.

In so doing, whatever collective identity that has been built over the years is being killed bit by bit.