Sunday, April 26, 2015

All around Kowloon

The perimeter of Kowloon is approximately 20 kilometers. I know because I measured it, with my feet, by running around it.  In 1860, England and France defeated China in the Second Opium War.  Their troops entered Beijing, burned Yuan Ming Yuan, and forced China to sign the Treaty of Beijing.  Kowloon, up to Boundary Street, was ceded to England permanently.  

Hence Kowloon should only include Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, Tai Kok Tsui, Hung Hom To Gwa Wan, and part of Kowloon Tong.  Anything north of Boundary Street is really part of the New Territories.  Today, I started at Hung Hom, ran along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, rounded West Kowloon, ran through Tai Kok Tsui, turned into the western end of Boundary Street, ran along Boundary Street to the eastern end, then ran as close as possible to the waterfront until I was back in Hung Hom.  I can now confirm that the perimeter of Kowloon is approximately 20 kilometres. 

I think I have turned into a 量地官.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ferns of Tuen Mun

I went hiking with my classmates from ATS on the hills above Tuen Mun this morning. 

Along the way we encounter some fantastic-looking ferns.  

Here is one that strikes a striking pose. 

Here is a father and child.  

This one seems to decide to grow in a different direction. 

A bird with very long wings?

A triplet flying in formation? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Violence in South Africa

There is trouble in South Africa.  Some South Africans seems to be attacking foreigners recently.   There have been violence on the streets.  A number of people have been killed.  Many foreigners are fleeing the country.  Some are saying it started with some labor trouble involving foreigners in March.  

Today I read about a man, Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole, being savagely attacked in Alexandra township near Johannesbourg. He died later in a hospital.  His attack was photographed and splashed on newspapers.  That caught my attention particularly.  

I was in Johannesburg last December.  I went to a conference near Cape Town and later went to Johannesburg to meet with some friends and to explore possible service-learning projects.  I actually stayed in Sandton for 2 days, just a couple of kilometres away from Alexandra, although I never set foot in Alexandra.  I remember jogging on West Street and Rivonia Road.  I remember eating on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.  Sandton is said to be the new financial and business centre of Johannesburg. Many corporate offices and hotels have moved from downtown Johannesburg over here.  I felt totally safe walking around, watching people shopping, students coming out of their schools, taking the buses, people going into and coming out of the train station, going shopping.  There were both blacks and whites.  Nobody bothered anybody else.

I went downtown Joburg (Johannesburg).  It was a bit chaotic.  But people seemed to be just doing their daily business.  I did not feel particularly unsafe, although I did stay away from places with a lot of people.

I even went to Soweto, notorious for protests and violence during the Apartheid days.   I went there partly to pay homage to Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, who both lived there.  In December it was tranquil.  The streets were clean.  New businesses and restaurants were opening, although there were still a lot of poorly constructed houses and sheds.  There were some tourists and everybody seemed calm and peaceful.  I had a beer on the street next to Mandela’s house.  

Now this. Why?  What for?  It is so senseless.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Now there is only one

There used to be two banyan trees side by side at this spot in Hung Hom, for many years.  Now there is only one.  

Presumably one of them has been chopped down. Presumably because it had some problems.  

It is not surprising that these trees have problems.  Knowledgeable people have said that the root system of a banyan tree is about the same size of its crown, the part extending upwards from its trunk.  Just look at the pitiful size of the hole around the trunk.  The roots of a tree needs water, air and nutrients to survive.  Pretty much all the roots of the tree is buried under heavy concrete.  Where is it going to get its water and air and nutrient from? It is a miracle that one of them is still standing.  For how much longer?

We are murdering these trees.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tuen Mun to Kam Sheung Run

Our pastor D told me there is a nice path between Tuen Mun and Yuen Long suitable for running.  This morning I decided to give it a try.  I started from Tuen Mun 屯門 West Rail Station and basically followed Castle Peak Road, towards Yuen Long 元朗.  

For much of the way, there is a bicycle path more or less along the Light Rail tracks.  There are many places where I had to cross the Light Rail tracks or streets that allow cars to cross the tracks themselves.  But the traffic was light and it wasn’t too annoying.  The run gave me a much better sense of what this part of the New Territories is like.  

There are some shops that used to be quite common but are increasingly rare these days.  Such as this furniture that specialise in precious red woods. These are very hard wood. Some have intricate patterns that are treasured.  Myanmar is one of the major sources of these red woods, and they are severely depleted these days.  There probably won’t be much of them left in a few decades, with the tremendous growth in demand from China among the newly rich. 

There are graveyards and village communal offices around Lingnam University, right in the shadow of academic buildings.  I think they give Lingnam character and local colour. 

This roast meat shop stuff their suckling pigs with rice before roasting them.  It sounds delicious.  The rice may turn out tasting even better than the pig.  I would love to give it a try. 

In Yuen Long, I found this man walking his birds.  Another sight that is increasingly rare in the city.  People used to take their birds when they go to the tea houses for dim sum in the morning.  They have to cover the cages so that their birds do not get spooked.  

Outside Kam Sheung West Rail station 錦上路站, there is a flea market 錦上路跳蚤市場.  There are 100+ shops selling old style sweets, snacks, handicrafts, organic produce, …  It is worth a couple of hours of leisure and easy to get to.  It is open Saturdays and Sundays until 8 PM.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Egg fruit 蛋黄果

Our weekend farmer daughter A brought us something from a farm in Fanling, something that I have never seen before, let alone eaten.  

When they are ripe, we cut them open.  The flesh is of the color of cooked egg yoke.  The texture is soft, dry, powderly and flaky, just like egg yoke.  The taste is slightly sweet, not exactly like egg yoke, but not too different either.  If I close my eyes, it is hard to tell them apart. 

No wonder it is called 蛋黄果, 雞蛋果, egg fruit, pouteria lucuma.

Do we need a third runway?

At the airport on Sunday, there were some people protesting against the construction of the third runway.  One of their main arguments seems to be that the government is avoiding scrutiny of the proposed project by the legislative council.  Other people are questioning whether there is real need for the third runway, while the airport has not actually reached full capacity.  There are also some uncertainty regarding conflicts with other interests, such as an area for military shooting practice near Tuen Mun, and military traffic control in mainland China.  On the other hand, some people are arguing that if we do not start building now, it will be too late.  It is not easy to sort out all the issues. 

The one thing that struck me at the airport on Sunday is that nobody seems to care, whether they are for, or against the proposed project. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The airport - and my brain

I was at the airport sending my parents off, back to Toronto.  On my way to the bus, I looked down at the arrival level from the departure level, about 10 meters above.  It looked clean and tidy, calm and quiet, peaceful and pleasant, movements slow and orderly.  I stood and watched for quite a while, thinking to myself that it could be a place for some contemplation. 

As I descend the escalators to the arrival level, however, I was suddenly hit by a totally different sensation.  People started to loom large in my face.  Noise came at me from all angles.  Movements became fast and chaotic.  I smelled food of all kinds.  I thought to myself: I have to get out of here.

It is the same airport, same scenes, same people.  Only seconds apart.  Why does it give me such radically different sensations?  Suddenly, what I was reading in Walter Mischel’s “The Marshmallow Test” came to mind.  A “hot” arousing system that focuses on the immediate, close-up, emotional features and impulsive reactions.  And a “cool” cognitive system that focuses on the abstract, at-a-distance, informational aspects and thinking reactions. 

When I was standing 10 meters above, the distance allowed me to exercise my cool cognitive system. When I came down the escalators, the shortened distance triggered my hot, reactive system.  I would like to thank Mischel’s well-researched book for helping me understand myself, and how people (specifically our brains) work.  

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tsuen Wan (荃灣) to Tuen Mun (屯門) Run

I attempted this run before, starting from Tsuen Wan West Rail Station towards Tuen Mun, along Castle Peak Road (青山公路). Last time I reached only as far as Gold Coast (香港黃金海岸), about 16 kilometers.  

It was a hot day today, and I sweated profusely.  I had to stop many times to catch my breath, and to cool down a bit.  But I pushed on beyond Gold Coast, and did reach the West Rail Station at Tuen Mun, about 19 kilometers. 

At Sham Tseng (深井), there is that big goose standing in the middle of the road.  This is, presumably, to represent the roasted goose that made Sham Tseng famous.  I heard that the District Council spent a lot of money to make that goose.  So who really got fattened?  Not the goose, apparently. 

Along the way, I got to see two of Hong Kong’s famous bridges, the Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋) and the Kap Shui Mun Bridge (汲水門大橋).  And the humungous container ships that squeeze under the Tsing Ma Bridge.  This one is not even the biggest. 

I ran past the Tai Lam Prison.  I don’t know much about this one,   beyond the fact that it is not a maximum security one.  

Then Harrow International School.  The school pays the Hong Kong government HK$1 per month for the use of the land.  That means tax payers, you and I, are subsidizing those rich parents who send their children there.  Why should we subsidize people who make more money than we do?  That boggles the mind.  

Crossroads.  They collect second hand goods and distribute them to those in need, in Hong Kong and internationally.  They offer simulations of “refugee runs” so we can experience what it might feel like to be a refugee, and other similar activities.  Our students, and myself, have benefited from their programs.  Now that is an organization that I do not mind helping.

Towards the end, I ran past Castle Peak Bay (青山灣) and Sam Shing Hui (三聖墟), famous for seafood.  The sea food there is much more expensive than those in wet markets in the city.  Presumably some seafood available here, such as giant mantis shrimps, are not available in the regular wet markets.  Hence the attraction.  I suspect, however, that it is also because it is considered the ‘in’ thing to do.  

Ching Ming 2015

The crowds at the Aberdeen cemetery seemed to be slightly thinner than last year’s.  Perhaps a lot of people were away because of the long weekend?  However, it could still be quite thick at times. 

People offered all kinds of things.  

Some are relatively modest, with flowers, fruit, and buns.    

Some seemed to have brought some home-cooked food.  

Many brought feasts consisting of tea, rice, wine, dim sum, bananas, apples, buns, roasted pork, whole suckling pigs, roasted ducks, soft drinks, …

There is of course a lot of money, presumably fake, but quite realistic looking, and in a variety of currencies.  Papier mache iPhones, shoes, clothing, …

All eventually going up in smokes, of course.  

But the descendants went away feeling they have done something for their deceased relatives, putting their mind at ease. It also bonds the living, even if it is only in a small way. 

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Dagon Number 2 Secondary School

In June, we will send 9 of our students here, Dagon number Two Government Secondary School, about an hour north of Yangon.  They will be joined by an equal number of students from Dagon University.  Together they will teach digital story telling to a class of 40 secondary schools in the morning, and another 40 in the afternoon.  But before that, our students have to teach the Dagon students, so they can then teach together.  

Another 11 of our students will stay at Dagon University to teach smart phone applications to 40 Dagon University students.  On Thursday, I took 3 of my colleagues here to discuss with the staff from Dagon U and Dagon No. 2 Secondary School to set up the project in June.  The discussions have gone smoothly.  Now everyone is looking forward to the project in June.  

It is very hot here, and the traveling is tiring.  I treated myself to a glass of tasty durian juice. Yummy.