Monday, July 30, 2007


Then this little boat appeared from under the clouds as if it was trying to escape. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Our airport

My trip to Hubei yielded some unexpected side benefits, including some of these pictures taken from the plane as it took off from the Hong Kong airport. After flying over the sea to the West, it circled back and I suddenly found myself overlooking the airport. And unusually for Hong Kong, it was a clear sunny day.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Service Learning in China

Out trip to Hubei is not completely altruistic in nature. Being university professors, part of the motivation for taking our university students on this trip is to help them broaden their horizons, to be more caring persons, and to know themselves better – to learn through community service. Judging from what we can observe, and what they have said, I think it was successful. Here are some of the things that they said:
  • Many of them do not ever leave YX. However, they do not ever complain. I think HK’s students need to learn from YX’s students.
  • What I saw was their hardworking, their enthusiasm and their efforts. That is far more important than the movie that they produced.
  • When I saw students standing outside the bus … crying and saying goodbye to us, this was so touching.
  • I was tired. But when I saw my students, I became energetic and used my best effort to guide them.
  • They were not only concerning themselves but also others.
  • My students … praised me sincerely. … I will never forget my feelings in that night.
  • We are all united and harmonic, like a family.
  • What impressed me weren’t the presents themselves, but the letters that came along with them.
  • This trip really makes me learn a lot, from communication skills to thinking method, which cannot be taught in lessons … hope that I can participate in more such kind of meaningful activity in the future.
  • I can see many good personalities from them which is what I would like to learn from them.
  • Looking forward to go there again.
  • … students are active and willing to answer questions in a polite way. This make me think of the difference between HK students and them.
  • I am sorry sometimes I did not behave properly, and I hope to learn not to do that again.
  • Why do I always have to regret only after I made the mistakes?

We have to admit that sometimes we get frustrated when things do not turn out the way we expected, and we may be tempted to give up and say “no more!” But the response from our own students is encouraging us to keep going. Most of those who went last year wanted to go again this year, although not everyone made it in the end. And most of those who went this year are helping with our various projects and want to go again.

There are university students from Hong Kong and from Wuhan (and 2 professors from HK) in this picture. Can you tell who is who?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Emperor of Kowloon (「九龍皇帝」曾灶財)

It was reported in the newspapers that he died a few days ago. Certainly one of the most colorful personalities of Hong Kong, mainly through his “calligraphy” in public places all over Kowloon, and his claim to be the Emperor of Kowloon.

Most of his graffiti, however, have been removed by our government. This one on the pillar is the only one that still remains at the TsimShaTsui Star Ferry Pier (that I am aware of).

The bigger one below is on a wall outside Kai Yip Estate (啟業) in Kowloon Bay, facing Kwun Tong Road (觀塘道). It was still there as of last Saturday; but I cannot guarantee that it is still standing now. There one can read more about his personal history, his family, where he lives, his past jobs, etc. His legs were broken when he worked as a garbage collector 20 years ago; that's why he had to use crutches in recent years.

He had to stop graffiti-ing in 2003 because of poor health. When I took this picture last Saturday, I was aware there would not be new ones. Bit I did not know that he had passed away already.

His may or may not be great works of art. But he is definitely part of the popular history and culture of Hong Kong. Many of us are quite fond of him. It is a great pity if even a small part of it cannot be preserved.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

High School Students of YX

We spent a week at the number 1 high school of YX, a county with a million inhabitants, mostly farmers. A good education is their best way to escape from countryside. Hence the school is very proud of the achievements of her students, posting the names of the universities that accepted her graduates.

Students were doing their self-studies at 8 pm on a Sunday evening. They get up at 5:30 am, start self-study at 6:05 am, and attend the first class at 7:35 am. Classes end at 4:25 pm, but self-study lasts until 10:00 pm. Lights in the dormitory are turned off at 10:30 pm. In between, they do have a 3 hour lunch-siesta break and a 2 hour dinner break. But they do this for 7 days a week; there are no week-ends. Summer vacation is only 2 weeks long.

The students dress very simply, some may even be considered scruffy looking and lacking in manners. Most are very shy. But you start talking to one, and others will crowd around you - they are actually very inquisitive. Most have a reasonably good vocabulary in English but are not accustomed to listening and speaking – due to lack of opportunities to practice, obviously. All are very kind hearted. It is impossible not to like them after spending time with them.

My curiosity was piqued when a boy told me he does not like to read but does like to study. In Hong Kong it is more likely the other way around (or even more likely, they like neither). Later, I learned that it was because studying (academic books) add to knowledge needed for advancement while reading (presumably non-academic books) distracts. In some ways, these kids are pressured to mature too quickly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Giving blood

You walk into the center, and take 5 minutes to fill in a form. They prick your finger to draw a drop of blood to see whether it will coagulate properly. Then they stick a needle (about 1 mm in diameter) into your vein. They will give you an anaesthetic if you wish, but it is rarely necessary (I never used it). Seven minutes later and 450 c.c. smaller, you are done. You rest for 5 minutes, have a coffee, and you can be gone. It is over in 30 minutes if there is no line.

There are several such centers in Hong Kong but this center in Central is the best place to go. There is rarely a line, and today there were only 2 other people giving blood while I was there. The slowness of business is, of course, not a good sign, even though it is good for me as a donor.

The price you pay is very small. You drink a lot of fluid and will recover in no time. There is very little risk, but it is very rewarding. Just imagine yourself lying in a hospital and needing blood, then someone gives you hers. Wouldn't you be grateful? I have given 40+ times in 3 countries and have never suffered any ill effects. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Birth Control, Chinese Style

I was surprised to learn that many of the kids we met in YX are the youngest in large broods. One girl has 3 elder sisters and 1 younger brother; another has an elder brother. One boy has 4 elder sisters and one younger brother; another has 5 elder brothers and sisters. As far as I know, only one of the boys in our group is an only son. Apparently, enforcement of the one-child policy in the countryside here was looser until about 20 years ago.

By the way, did you noticed that there is no hoop on the basketball board?

One of the girls told us that her father, headmaster of a village school, was denied a promotion to a city school because he had more than one child. Later we found a notice board with detailed relevant regulations on birth control. For example, item 4 in the picture says that violators will be denied promotions and awards for 3 years. Item 2 says newlyweds must apply for a permit to have a child. Item 3 says failure to follow instructions on birth control will be penalized by 500 to 1000 dollars.

Note the report box on birth control violations at the lower left. It is serious business.

Because of the common practice of having another and yet another child until a boy is produced, a typical farmer’s family has 1 to 2 to 3 girls and then a young son. Hence there tends to be more girls than boys overall. So some people are saying that the apparent shortage of females in China is an illusion – they are just hidden in the countryside.

However, in the YX school there are many more boys than girls. That may be the result of another phenomenon: that the boys have the priority when it comes to school attendance.

Such is birth control, Chinese style. e had a

Thursday, July 19, 2007

YX Group 2

In the summer camp at YX, the 150 local high school students are divided into 10 groups. There are 14 kids in our group, mostly in grade 10 at local high schools, and 5 leaders (from Hong Kong, USA and Wuhan). Most of the YX kids are farmers’ children who have never been outside Hubei.

The kids have a good vocabulary but are poor in listening and speaking. Most have very little access to computers and the Internet. At the 5000-student school that hosts our camp, there is one computer room with 30 computers, and a computer each in several of the classrooms for the teachers’ use – connected through a local area network to the Internet. Most kids do not have computers at home, and only a few can afford to go to Internet cafes. Generally their exposure to computers is very limited. A typical student’s lunch costs 2-3 HK dollars, and one years’ school fee is ~600. So when they hear that our digital cameras cost 2000-3000 dollars each, it seems impossible to them.

God is never mentioned in any of the formal activities. But the themes of the songs, English lessons, video making, and performances are all around love, peace, joy, friendship, trust, kindness, perseverance, self-control, etc. And a typical question from the kids is “why do you come to YX?” So it is easy to steer the dialogue into faith and personal testimonies. In my small group of 5 kids, 2 of them were ready to believe in Jesus and prayed the believers’ prayer with me at the end.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Poor Hong Kong? Rich Hong Kong?

It was reported in the newspapers yesterday that Hong Kong is going to have a big budget surplus. Various experts are saying that it will be a sustained surplus, and are proposing to cut profit taxes, income taxes, etc.

I distinctly remember that only 2 or 3 years ago, experts (perhaps even the same ones who are talking now) were saying that the budget deficit then was structural, that the government must introduce new taxes to broaden the tax base, etc.

Who are correct? Or when are they correct? If the experts 2 years ago were correct, then they are being reckless now. If they are correct now, then they were being paranoid before. Do they even know who are right and who are wrong?

By the way, don't you think it looks like a picture of Gothem City?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Love English Camp

Here are some of the students, group leaders, and teachers of the camp. It was a really exciting trip. 3 professors from our department took 21 of our university students, joined with ~50 people from 3 Hong Kong churches and 1 Los Angeles church, and ~20 university students from Wuhan, ran two parallel summer camps in 2 high schools in separate cities in Hubei, for a total of 300 high school students. Imagine the logistics involved - the organizers did an amazing job in pulling it off.

The camps ran for 5 and ½ days, from 9 am to 10 pm each day. With lots of songs, English lessons on phonics, word and other games, arts and crafts, workshops for writing stories, video shooting with digital cameras, and video editing on the computers. Coming back to the hotel around 10:30 pm, we still have to debrief, and to prepare for the following day (with some cup noodles mixed in somewhere along the line), often staying up until 2, 3, 4 am, and getting up again at 7 am.

With the heat (T-shirts drenched, dried, and drenched again several times a day), the long hours, the greasy and spicy food, the dusty and filthy environment, the running around, and particularly the emotional interactions with the kids (it was impossible not to feel for them), it was extremely exhausting. Many of us came down with minor ailments. But seeing their happy faces, everyone agreed it was worth it, and would like to return. When the kids showed interest, we would share with them our own stories and faith. In the end, more than 80 kids put their faith in Jesus. Totally amazing!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Young faith

Two of the young men in the picture (which two?) have just decided to put their faith in Jesus when the picture was taken. This happened in a high school somewhere in China, on the 5th day of a 6-day summer camp. It was hot and exhausting, but it was exciting and rewarding.

When we met these boys and girls, we cannot but feel for them. Most of them are children of farmers. They have very little, except the hope that if they work very very hard, and get into a good university, then they can perhaps find a good city job and escape from the countryside.

Most of them are the youngest of a large family. I was not prepared to hear that many of them have 3, 4, and even 5 elder brothers and sisters (mostly just sisters). That’s a story by itself, and speaks much about China in the last few decades.

They have met very few outside people, hence very shy. They would lower their heads and avoid looking into your eyes when you speak to them. Many spoke to me so softly that I have to lean in to hear them, but they would shout like any other kids when they played with each other. Yet they are very observant and kind at heart. One boy alerted me when I was about to put a hot chili pepper into my mouth by mistake.

They have not learned good manners. After eating soybeans, a boy sitting next to me spitted out the shells onto the table. But when I pointed out to him that it was not good for the environment, he stopped immediately. Subsequently, I watched in disbelief one of their female teachers spitting onto the floor in the teachers’ room! Then I knew why.

I have much more to tell you about the trip into China last week. But I need a bit of time to collect my thoughts.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

July 1 Fireworks

Tour of Yaumati (wet market, Temple Street, fruit market, …) at dawn, church worship in the morning, protest march in the afternoon, and fireworks in the evening (picture taken from our window by my daughter) – what a day! And only in Hong Kong can you do all in one day.

I am afraid I may not be able to access the Internet for the coming week. Until then – please pray that we will stay our of trouble.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Great Wall of West Kowloon

Some residents in West Kowloon applied to the Court of First Instance for a judicial review of the decision of the Town Planning Board and the Planning Department to zone a parcel of waterfront land in Tai Kok Tsui as residential with no height restrictions.

In dismissing the application, the judge said he could not find which regulations were breached. The applicant’s argument was that the Urban Design Guidelines issued by the Planning Department “articulate that the building erected along the seaside shall be lower than the building inland and make special preservation for breezeways and view corridors,” but he was unable to produce the document. The judge also noted that it was incumbent upon people seeking judicial reviews to provide the court with sufficient materials so that the court could identify what decision it was supposed to be reviewing, “giving chapter and verse …”

Two things struck me. Firstly, that a supposedly modern city such as Hong Kong should be without such planning and restrictions. Government officials must know that such seaside walls raised the inland temperatures by several degrees, among other harmful effects; so the only logical conclusion is that they don’t care. Most likely they live up on the mid-levels or on the peak so they are not affected. Secondly, how can people who do not have the information and resources ever win, in this supposedly fair judicial system? When everything is said and done, money still rules.

No wonder people who have the money and the power tend to be conservatives – the topic of discussion between my daughter and I over a recent dinner.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Waterloo 8

The white building to the right is the old Yaumati Theater (油麻地戲院). The high rise to the left is the famous Number 8, Waterloo Road. At least it was famous a couple of years ago as one of the hottest addresses for luxurious apartments.

The red and white low rise in the middle is – a public toilet.

To the immediate right of the picture is the Wholesale Fruit Market (果欄). Perhaps the owners of the “luxurious apartments” were waiting for the toilet and the fruit market to be torn down. But the toilet is still popular and the fruit market vibrant, at least as of a couple of days ago. More on that later.

Monday, July 02, 2007

July 1 March

I could not stay away. Democracy will not solve all our problems. But it is still better than having someone make all the decisions for us, without even some ways to tell them that we don’t like it.
So we were there, my wife, my two younger daughters and I, taking pictures on the foot bridge over Yee Wo Street (怡和街). This one was taken by my wife, the only one among us who spotted Bishop Zen, who has my great respect. Later we were driven off the bridge by the police. Then we joined the marching crowd.

As for my eldest daughter, she was too tired to join us after singing in the choir in the flag-raising and installation ceremony early in the morning and then attending church. Their choir had to get up at 5 AM twice and practiced for long hours. Afterwards, none of the Hong Kong government officials at the ceremony offered any word of appreciation. I suppose they all realized where their power was coming from, and it was certainly not from the people on the street, nor these youngsters. That, in a small way, is part of the reason so many of us are on the street.

Take a look at the faces in the crowd. We are real people with genuine concerns. We would not have been there if we do not love Hong Kong.

Receptionists on Woosung Street (吳松街)

What were these ladies doing at 6 AM on dirty Woosung Street, one block away from Temple Street? Each was sitting strategically at the base of a staircase leading up. If a man should appear to be looking for something as he walked by the older lady with a fan, she would inform the man that there were ladies offering certain services upstairs. I am not so sure about the younger lady. For some reason they all used to be old ladies with fans.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ladies of the Early Morning

I was passing through Temple Street at about 6 AM, when these two ladies propositioned me. I did not take up their offer, of course. This picture is grainy because it was snapped in a hurry from almost a block away. I actually took another picture right before this one, in which a man was talking to the ladies. I have no idea whether he was a potential john, or a pimp. But I did not stay to find out.