Friday, April 29, 2011

A Minibus Driver who says "You are welcome (唔駛唔該)"

I felt something was odd soon after getting on a minibus on route 26 at the Hung Hom KCR Station.  When the minibus pulled out of the station to merge into traffic, I was surprised that I did not feel the expected sudden acceleration.  When the minibus stopped at the junction of Austin Road and Chatham Road, the minibus braked so smoothly that the passengers did not get thrown forward.  This is unusual, I thought. 

As soon as the minibus crossed Chatham Road, one of the passengers requested to get off at the next stop, “唔該前面有落 (Please, I wish to get off at the next stop.)”.  The driver responded with “唔駛唔該 (You are welcome.)”.  I was so shocked that I almost fell off my seat - I have never had such a careful and courteous driver on a minibus. 

When I told this story at the dinner table, my wife confirmed that she had also had a similar experience recently, on the same route.  So this driver was not just a ghost, that I did not just dream this up. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ai Weiwei (艾未未) March (3)

We believe the ultimate authorities in the world rest with truth and God.  If we are on God's side, we can be courageous.

Ai Weiwei (艾未未) March (2)

Ai Weiwei (艾未未) March

The protest march for Ai Weiwei’s freedom was one of the most colourful and entertaining that I have participated in.  The drums were most effective and should be a must in a protest march.  They were really great for creating, carrying, and spreading  the mood of the crowd.  There were also people playing flutes and other musical instruments.  A girl was chanting Ai’s name from a loudspeaker hauntingly throughout the march.   Leading the protest was a 草泥馬。

I am not an artist and know little about his art.  But I admire his courage to speak up against injustice, taking on great risks to his art, business, and person.  In a society where justice is not upheld, people who want to live like a true human being have to have the courage to take a stand, otherwise we are condemned to live like cowards.  If we do not speak up when people like Ai are suppressed, who is going to speak up for us when it is our turn?   


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday

Greed is an apt description of much of what is happening in Hong Kong today.  Both rich and poor are nevertheless trying to squeeze or swindle more from others.  Some peddle drugs, sex, and other wasteful and harmful merchandize.  Further afield, people lie, cheat, exploit, oppress, and kill to gain or preserve power and wealth.  Women and children are trafficked for sex and slavery.  Rich countries flaunt their wealth and power at the expense of those without even water, food and energy.  Science and technology has progressed by leaps and bounds.  But are we morally any better than our ancestors?  Not really. 

Some of us tried.  But none have succeeded in redeeming humanity.  How can we?  No one can make himself or herself completely unselfish, totally magnanimous, and ultimately, overcome death and the fear of mortality.   Even if, theoretically, one can save oneself by strenuous effort, or even to die for another, one can achieve the redemption of but one person out of the vast sea of humanity.

Two thousand years ago, Christ was mocked, whipped, and nailed to die on the cross, in an effort to redeem humanity.  Trying to imagine His suffering at the Good Friday Service at our church this afternoon, I found the thought extremely hard to bear. The savage whipping, the nails puncturing his hands and feet, the pain, the humiliation, and the death.  How could one person withstand so much?

On the other hand, the depth and breadth of human depravity, including my own, is such that redemption is impossible without the unfathomable suffering borne by Christ.  Were He not the Son of God, even that would not have been enough.  Because He is, it just could. 

And to think that He did it for me.  He died not just for a vague sense of humanity.  He suffered and died specifically for me.  We feel uncomfortable when we owe others favours.  How much do I owe Christ now that He had suffered so much for me?  How can I even pay Him back?  But if I don’t try to pay Him back, what does that make me?  What redeemed such depth and breadth of human depravity was unlimited love.  I have to learn to love as God loves, as my share of the redemption. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Luxurious Junk Bay Housing

We could see Junk Bay (將軍澳) to our right when we were hiking up Junk Peak.  Towards the waterfront we could see a line of buildings standing like a humongous fence facing Shau Ki Wan and Chai Wan at the eastern end of the Victoria Harbour. It is a heavily promoted, exorbitantly expensive private housing estate.  It has great views - for now. 

However, it is sitting on an enormous old land fill (垃圾堆填區)
.  This is one of the places where Hong Kong dumps its garbage, and then covers them up.   Looking around, one realizes that the estate has land fills in front, behind, to the right and to the left.  Some have been covered up recently with green grass, and some parts have even been landscaped - making them look like precious parkland. 

Some are obviously still in use.  When we get closer to the “active” landfill later, we could smell it, even though we were on top of the mountain. 

I have seen people who were forced to make a living on garbage dumps in Cambodia.  What makes people (who can surely afford to live elsewhere) pay so much to live on a land fill?  Perhaps only in Hong Kong can this happen?  Or may be not.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hiking up and down Junk Peak (釣魚翁山)

We hiked up and down Junk Peak near Sai Kung on Saturday.  It looked scary enough when I saw it from a distance.  At first, I thought we were not going to climb up, but simply skirt it around the foot of the mountain. 

At the foot of Junk Peak, however, my friends decided to climb up.  I knew I would have a problem, with my height-induced vertigo.  But I decided to give it a go.  I told myself I would look straight ahead and up.  And if necessary, I would just close my eyes. 

Surely, climbing up was not too bad.  I did look over the sides, but only when I was crouched down safely on the rocks.  And the scenery was really worth it (will post the photos later).

Coming down was the part that I was worried about.  My friends went down first.  S deliberately went slowly just a couple of steps in front of me, and many times he kicked away loose stones to make it safer for me.  With people in front and below, I felt much better.  Even then, at the steepest places, I had to crouch down and use my hands to make sure I did not loose balance.  I was glad I had some real buddies there.  I was so relieved when I finally made it down safely.  I think my friends were relieved too.  Later on, one of them remarked that I walked much faster on level ground.  On the mountain, in contrast, I had to think before every step.  I am not proud of my height-induced vertigo, but I am proud that I made it down.

Looking back at Junk Peak from 布袋澳, It still looked really sharp and steep. We were amazed that we made it up there, and down safely.  

We rewarded ourselves with a sea food lunch. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Heaven and mustard seed - and us

My wife and I came home after our fellowship meeting last evening with a group of college-age youths on a high.  We started with Bible study on the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  Initially we were discussing the expected questions such as why Jesus liked to teach with parables, why he compared the kingdom of heaven with a tiny seed rather than a big elegant tree, why Jesus came as a humble carpenter’s son rather than a majestic prince, etc. 

But what about ourselves?  What does this parable has to do with us?  Is there something that we can use in our lives?  The kingdom of God refers to His dominion, the community of people who recognize and believe in God.  It can also refer to God’s place in our lives.  Then we got into a spirited discussion on what we want to do with our lives, and what the most important thing in life is. 

Someone mentioned that (true life) case of a very very rich and famous man (in Hong Kong) who was willing to trade 99% of his wealth for another 30 years of life.  Because he felt he could make even more money than what he has already made!   Is that it?  Is the purpose of life just to make more and more money?  If money is not the ultimate objective, is it wrong to want to make money?  To be successful?

We noticed how keen and engaged these young people were, in discussing and exploring these questions.  They are at the age when they are thinking about what to study, where to study, what to choose as a career, whether they should switch from one thing to another.  Some are encountering obstacles and they are pondering what they should do.  We try to help them find they way in life while keeping their sight on God.  They are at the beginning of their lives; there are lots of opportunities but also challenges.  It is exciting to be part it. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poor Cotton Trees (木棉樹)

I like trees.  I like particularly cotton trees because of their earthly charm.

The cotton tree is quite popular in Hong Kong.  It grows tall, straight, big and strong.  Its big red flower is actually the flower emblem of Guangzhou.  The flower can be dried and used as medicine - one of the ingredients in 五花茶.   Its seeds can be squeezed for oil, and the left over can be used to feed pigs.  The fibers of the fruit can be used in place of cotton. 

Unfortunately, some people in Hong Kong complained that they were bothered by the flying fibers.  So a representative of a local political party asked the government to clip off the fruits of a whole bunch of cotton trees.  The workers sent by the government clipped off the flowers together with the fruits.  Was it simply overzealousness? Miscommunication? Callousness? Ignorance?

What a tragedy!

Apparently the political party put up a banner announcing the removal of the fruit as a major victory.  Subsequently, when challenged over the removal of the flowers, however, they claimed it had nothing to do with them.  Isn't that typical of us humans? Claim all credits but deny any responsibility!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Went to a fund raising performance of the Haven of Hope Sunnyside School on Sunday with my wife.  It is a special school for children with severe handicaps.  The story of the school was told through music, songs, dances, and plays, much of them by their own special students, in crutches and wheelchairs. 

Their stories were heart-wrenching.  The dedication of the missionaries, staff, parents, and volunteers admirable.  The stories hit close to home for me.  I have a 40+ years old cousin with the mental age of a kindergartner.  Throughout the years we have also served at the Hong Chi Pinehill Special School at Taipo.  Several times throughout the performance I was close to tears.  It seems that the older I get, the more sentimental I become.  Perhaps it is also because I have acquired a deeper appreciation of what it means to be handicapped, and to have to take care of the handicapped, not for a couple of hours, but years and years. 

I also have a better appreciation of what it means to be able to give relief to one of them. As fellow children of God, we who have the means also have the responsibility to make good use of what God has given us.  That’s what it means to be human. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Hiking up 大刀岃

A couple of months ago, we hiked up 大刀岃.  It is a series of mountains somewhat between Taipo and Fanling.  We started near Kadoorie Farms, and were climbing up almost right away.  Soon we could see Shek Kong right below us, and Yuen Long in the distance.  The climb got steeper and steeper very quickly.  It was cool and bright, but a little hazy.  We felt fresh.  For a moment, we could pretend we were released from the daily grind. 

I enjoy hiking tremendously - the strenuous exertion, the scenery, the opportunity to see nature close up, and the sense of achievement.  But as I get older, my fear of heights gets worse.  As long as I am climbing up, I have no problems and I can climb faster than most.  But if I look down, my knees would feel weak, and I would begin to fear that I might fall.   

At one point, we were literally walking along the knife’s edge.  The mountain was falling away quite steeply on both sides.   I looked straight ahead and dared not look sideways.  But none of my friends seemed to have the same problem - I was so embarrassed.  I am now trying to strengthen my knees and to improve my balance.  But I also learned that I probably have a kind of height vertigo which has a physical basis and is not easy to get rid of. 

When we got to a safer location (for me) and were able to stop to look around, and down, the views were breath-taking.  On one side, we could see Taipo and beyond.  On the other side, Fanling and Sheungshui.   I could pick out Long Valley, where there were still some cultivated fields and freshwater wetlands.  It was delightful to know that we were high in the mountains where they were nothing but trees and rocks, seemingly far from the maddening crowds.  And yet familiar locales were close enough that we could almost touch them. 

On the way back to civilization, we saw a beautiful cherry blossom (someone must have planted it). 

And then there was this well-fed and friendly tabby cat. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Intrinsic Drive

Service-Learning has mainly been an extra-curricular activity in our university.  Students participated because they want to help.  Perhaps there was also a sense of adventure for the more exotic projects.  How about the staff then?  Mostly because they believed in it.  Because they derive personal satisfaction from participating in the service themselves. And also from the perceived benefits for our students.  We really didn’t get a lot of credits from the university for doing it.  Sometimes we did it in spite of discouragement from management.   Why?  The motivation was more intrinsic than extrinsic, as discussed in Daniel Pink’s “Drive”.

Soon it will be a compulsory credit-bearing subject for all students.  Teaching such a subject, and taking the students on service projects, will then be recognized as legitimate teaching activities.  Some of the previous obstacles will be removed.  Even then, teaching Service Learning requires quite a bit more effort, and different types of effort, compared to teaching a regular subject in our own discipline.  Hence, motivating academic staff to develop and offer Service Learning remains a big challenge. 

Hopefully, there are enough intrinsically motivated academic colleagues around.  Also, the university will be smart enough to realize that Service Learning is not just routine teaching.  That it requires a lot of creativity to develop and to execute.  That we are motivated not so much by monetary or other material rewards.  That we crave much more a sense of autonomy, mastery over the challenge, and above all, an opportunity to pursue a higher purpose. 

That is my prayer. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Lost Ferries

 The Hunghom - Wanchai and Hunghom - Central ferry services stopped at the end of March.  When I walked past the Wanchai pier in the evening of Thursday, a couple of hours after the services had stopped, I couldn’t help feeling a profound sense of sadness.     

Not too long ago, I took the ferry from Central to Hunghom, on my way home.  I could have taken a cross-harbour tunnel bus, the MTR and then our shuttle bus, or the Central - Tsimshatsui ferry and then a bus.  But the Central - Hunghom ferry had a special charm.  I got to see the Tsimshatsui East waterfront from an angle unavailable from the land.  The unusually ugly Cultural Center from a distance.  The colourful tourists on the Promenade. The long lineup of hotels.  Our university.  The Hunghom Coliseum.  The pier where all kinds of to-be-recycled materials are loaded onto barges.  Our own apartment block - even the window of my own apartment.  ...  All of that for a few dollars, which also got me leisurely home.

I do understand, as my father said, that with so few passengers, the ferry is not a good business.  But, is it really necessarily so?  We (Hong Kong) could have been smart enough to make our harbour front more attractive.  We could have saved some of the precious harbour front space for parks, scenic views, street performances, dog walking, bus stops, cafes, restaurants, ..., where people would have a reason to gather or pass through.  Perhaps then the ferries would be more attractive.  The ferry would then be much more valuable.  All that would in fact work together to make our harbour, and our city a more interesting city. 

Instead, everything is predicated on making more and more money, and faster too.  Hence more and more high rises, packing even the waterfront; and more and more travelling in enclosed underground tunnels.  The more is our time spent on making money, the less time we have to enjoy our lives.  By the time we wake up from it, it will be too late.