Saturday, April 28, 2012

Run to Shatin through Shatin Pass (沙田坳)

The route from Kowloon to Shatin through Tai Po Road is currently not practical due to the roadwork at Lung Cheung Road.  So I tried an alternative route this morning, through the Shatin Pass above Wong Tai Sin.  At around 8 AM, I noted that the rain had stopped and the roads began to dry, so I set off.  Within 5 minutes, however, the raindrops started.  I hated to be defeated by a few raindrops; so I persevered.  Then the drops got bigger and more frequent, and soon I was quite wet.  Since I was wet already, it didn’t really matter if I continued, I thought.  And I was getting angry at the rain:  “So you are trying to stop me?  Well, you know what?  I am not going to give in to that.”  It actually rained harder for a while.  And I almost regretted it.  But by the time I got to Wong Tai Sin, the rain had slowed to a trickle.  I think there is a lesson in there somewhere.  But I am not sure what it is. 

Shatin Pass Road is really quite steep, more than 10 degrees at some places.  I had to stop a few times, to catch my breath, and to let my legs regain some strength.  There were people walking up and down along the way, so I felt safe.  Even when I saw those monkeys.  I had seen a lot of them on my run several days ago along Tai Po Road.  I did not know that they would be here as well.  There were only 3 of them this time, but they were much closer, and they were on both sides of the road, so I had to walk through them.  I really don’t like them, and I know they can be aggressive, especially when there is food.  I hid my water bottle in my pocket, lest they mistook it for food.  They did not bother me. 

The view, looking back towards Kowloon and even the Hong Kong Island in the distance, was really very good, even in the rain.  At the top of the Shatin Pass, however, I made the mistake of taking the shorter path down, which turned out to be a hiking trail - not something that I could run on.  Next time, I shall try the longer path going down to Shatin, which, hopefully, is more suitable for running.  Even tough, however, running downhill, particularly in rain, is probably not a very good idea anyway.

But, this time, I was rewarded by some very nice and refreshing streams along the way.  They reminded me of the hikes we took when we were in secondary school.  We hiked every Saturday afternoon, usually for about 3 hours.  I think we probably covered most of southern Hong Kong Island.  We would often “fish” for small fish and shrimp in the streams, using our handkerchiefs as traps, disguised with little peables. 

Soon I could see Shatin from above the trees.  It was not a completely satisfying run, mainly because I had to hike part of the way.  I should have followed my own judgement and not listen to the people who suggested the shorter hiking trail.  But I am proud that I was able to complete it, despite the rain, and the uncertainty about many of the turns. 

And I love these simple pleasures of Hong Kong. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Run to TaiWai (大圍) through the monkey mountain

RunKeeper is an amazing tool.  I went on a run from Hung Hom to Tai Wai this morning.  RunKeeper recorded my route using GPS and then plotted it on a map.  It also provided statistics such as the total distance, total time, time per unit distance, average speed, calories burned, etc. - great motivation to run more, harder, and varied routes. 

The only practical route from Hung Hom in Kowloon to Shatin in the New Territories is TaiPo Road (大埔公路), which runs through the gap between Golden Hill and Beacon Hill.  So that was what I took this morning.  The approximately 14 kilometer took me 2 hours.

The run was not too bad except that stretch crossing Lung Cheung Road (龍翔道).  There were a lot of flyovers, detours, and construction.  Sidewalks were obliterated by the construction, or were non-existent to begin with.  It was practically impassable.  I will not run over there again.

Beyond that, however, I was rewarded by great views over Kowloon before the gap, and then Shatin afterwards. 

There were also, of course, the monkeys, near Shek Lei Pui and Shing Mun Reservoirs (城門水塘).  The monkeys behaved as if their owned the place.  They sat in trees, on slopes, and in the middle of the road, staring straight at you, demanding food.  I heard there are more than a thousand of them over there now.  I do not particularly like monkeys.  But it is somewhat comforting to know that wild animals can still survive in Hong Kong. 

The beautiful Kowloon Reservoir was right beside Tai Po Road.   Hong Kong is an amazing place. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Food fishes of Hong Kong (3)

More of the common ones:  青筋,黃花,白鱔, 生魚, 烏頭, 不知名魚。

Food fishes of Hong Kong (2)

Some of the weird looking ones: 鳳尾魚,撻沙,多寶魚,石頭魚,九肚魚。

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Food fishes of Hong Kong (1)

The wet markets in Hong Kong are fascinating places. 

The fishes found at the fishmongers are just as varied and interesting as those in any aquarium. 

Here are just a few specimens:  獅頭, 帶魚, 馬頭, 星班,黃腳臘,  紅衫魚, 白鯧。

Monday, April 09, 2012

Liberal Studies - HK style

The examination for Liberal Studies in the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) examinations had just taken place.  Not surprisingly, there are some complaints and they are quite revealing.  The questions cover political parties and the government, second hand smoking of cigarettes, population control policies, supporting of parents, the third runway for the airport, impact of globalization on Chinese culture, moral issues related to DNA testing on the fetus, etc.

Some students were concerned that they might suffer because of a lack of interest in, and attention to political issues.  Others were worried that they might suffer at the hands of markers’ own personal bias - although the examination authority keeps assuring everyone that the students are marked on their analysis and presentation of arguments, not their personal standpoint.   Teachers and students have been complaining about the lack of model answers and past questions for reference.   These concerns are all expected, given the examination-driven education culture, and the reliance on examination questions with close-ended solutions. 

But this is precisely part of the objectives of the education reform: to reduce the reliance on close-ended questions and answers, to broaden the scope of the studies from narrowly-defined academic subjects to issues relevant to modern society, to emphasize analysis rather than memorization.  I am hoping these complaints are just part of the growing pains, that the education reform will continue in the right direction. 

This is the dilemma in Hong Kong.   If it is not in the examination, the students will not study it and the teacher will not teach it.  If it is in the examination, then the students are going to ask you what the question will look like, and exactly what the answer should be, how many words are expected to be written down, and in what format.  If the syllabus and the examination question are open-ended, without prescribed answers, then the teachers will not know how to teach it and mark it, and the students will not know how to study it.  

The problem with the new subject of Liberal Studies lie not in the way the examination questions are set and marked.  It lies in the design and content of the subject itself.  Too many unrelated topics are stuffed into one subject: personal development, interpersonal relationships, Hong Kong society, modern China, globalization, public health, energy technology and the environment.  There is no core knowledge or principles that tie the contents together to make a coherent subject.  It is a jumble of things that the students should know - though simply living as a person in modern society.  Not something to be studied in a classroom.