Friday, October 30, 2015

Farm food

Last Sunday we went shopping for organic produce at a farm in Fanling 粉嶺 - more accurately, in Hok Tau 鶴藪.  

There weren’t too much available.  We did find some 洛神花, but the farmers had planned to make jam out of them.  

We found some taro - mothers and babies.  We bought some babies. 

We found white turnips.  These were the first fruits of the season, so called 早水蘿蔔. They were really small but really good. 

Our greatest reward, however, was that we were invited to stay for lunch.  It was literally salted fish and vegetables 鹹魚青菜, which we enjoyed very much.  Equally enjoyable and also educational was the conversation.  

We learned (not for the first time) that it is very difficult to make it profitable growing organic vegetables.  They do not actually bring their produce to the market.  They grow vegetables for themselves and their friends, and to sell to the occasional passers-by like us.  Their main business is providing flowers and plants for housing estates.  Their flower business feeds their vegetable business.  At least it seems to be working.  We are happy for them.  

Further, they do not own the land.  It is rather ironic that the people who own the land in Hong Kong do not want to farm.  On the other hand, the people who want to farm have no land.   Land in Hong Kong is indeed scarce, but not to the extend that we cannot grow at least part of our food.  A responsible government would see to it that we are in control of the food that we eat.  But that does not seem to be the kind of government that we are having.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Palm art

There are a lot of palm trees in Cambodia.  They do not look very imposing from a distance.   

But they can really be quite big.  One day this summer I picked up a dead leaf and wondered what can be done with it.  

I cut a piece from the stem and smoothed it, to make a little boat.   My colleague G suggested to fit LEDs into it to make a lamp.  I cut 2 pieces and fitted them together, so that it can stand by itself.  I then asked another colleague K to fit 3 LEDs into it, powered by a rechargeable battery.  We had already installed solar powered electrical charging systems in Cambodia.  We can now teach our students, and the Cambodian youths to make these solar-powered lights.  It is a pity that they do not seem to have palm trees in Rwanda.  

While I was at it, a small piece became a cat, or a panther.  

I had wanted to make a bowl out of a larger piece.  But it turned out to be something that can balance itself on my desk, delicately.  I simply called it “balance”.  Many people seem to like it. 

It seems that these dead palm leaves can be quite useful.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Running from Kennedy Town to Shau Ki Wan

It turned out to be easier than I thought.  It was quite enjoyable because much of the route was on the water front, and it was not too hot.  It seems the government has been making an effort to make the water front accessible.   

I ran into a dead end near the entrance to the Western Cross Harbour Tunnel in Sheung Wan, and had to backtrack.  But once I figured out I need to bypass it I was OK.  

Wan Chai is a nightmare.  Basically the whole waterfront is inaccessible to human beings.  It is not simply because of the entrance to the Hung Hom Cross Harbour Tunnel.  There are no sidewalks at all and no signs to direct pedestrians.  They might as well put up a sign at all streets leading to the water front: pedestrians not allowed.  North Point is not much better. 

I suspect there is a rule to the city planners in Hong Kong: make the path straight only if you cannot make it crooked.  

However, once I got to Quarry Bay, it was smooth running from there to the typhoon shelter in Shau Ki Wan.  

I dream of one day being able to run all the way from Kennedy Town to Chai Wan, along the water front.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Brother Lee

Brother Lee was one of our favourite teachers at Aberdeen Technical School.  I learned geometry, technical drawing, woodworking, silk screen painting, and a lot more from him.  Above all, perhaps, is the use of our hands to make objects of beauty.  

Every year at Christmas, he would set up a huge nativity scene on the stage of the school hall.  One year he used sandpaper to make a cave big enough to fit several people in.  In front of the cave was a rectangular fountain running along the complete front edge of the stage, with real water jets gushing 3 feet high, and flashing coloured lighting. I remember helping with the set up but I cannot remember what I actually did. 

I do remember making patterns for silk screens that he taught us to make.  And then screening the patterns on the white t-shirts of our classmates.  I wish I had saved some of the t-shirts.  

Later on my skills in making technical drawings got me a job preparing graphs for publication for professors at university - which helped me to pay my way through university.  In graduate schools, my geometry skills helped me research in computer-aided design and manufacturing.  

Even now, my woodworking skills helped me make these, out of palm leaves. 

His life touched so many people. 400 came out to celebrate his 80th birthday last evening, including Bishop Chan.  

My work in service-learning is due largely to my education from Brother Lee and the others from the Don Bosco gang, the Salesians.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What if the Nationalists (國民黨) had won?

In 1949, the Chinese Communists defeated the Nationalists and took over Mainland China.  What if, instead, the Nationalists had won?  Chan Kwun Chung’s (陳冠中) new book 建豐二年 新中國烏有史,  wonders about that.  

There would have not been a Cultural Revolution. The rapid development of China which, in reality, started in the late 1970s would have started in the late 1940s instead.  By 1979, China would have the second largest economy in the world, second only to the USA.  China would have achieved what it has achieved now, 30 years earlier.  

A lot of what happened in Hong Kong would have happened in southern China, most notably in Guangzhou (廣州).  There would have been a Shek Kip Mei (石硤尾) in Ghangzhou.  There would be squatter houses, a great fire, and afterwards, cheap public housing built for the masses.  There would be a great stock market euphoria, and subsequent collapse. 

The Nationalists (國民黨) would be in power, but there will not be real democracy.  Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) would be president until his death in 1975.  And then his son would take over. Dissent would be suppressed.   Other parties would not be allowed to compete with the Nationalists.  Tibet would not be allowed true autonomy.  

Much of what the book says sound plausible. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015


My wife introduced me to Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, which she is discussing in the book club that we run at our church.  In the book Frankl describes his experience in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.  He describes but does not dwell on the cold, hunger, brutality, humiliation and extermination. Instead, he focuses on the feeling, the meaning and the freedom that he discovered under extreme suffering.

I have not yet finished the book.  Yet I cannot help but be reminded of scenes I saw at Auschwitz.

Even more so, I was struck by the analogy to what we are experiencing in Hong Kong.   Of course, the inequity that currently exist in Hong Kong is incomparably light when placed side by side with what happened in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.  Still, there is a striking parallel.

Frankl describes the Capos, “prisoners who acted as trustees, having special privileges”.  They carried out the orders of the jailers. They beat the other prisoners.  They felt they have higher status than other prisoners.  They identified with the jailers rather than with the prisoners.  Yet they could lose their status as Capos at any time, and be sent to the “oven” - death chambers just like the other prisoners.  

We have the equivalence of the Capos in Hong Kong.  Some of the pro-establishment types who feel they have a higher status than the rest of us, who are so eager to carry out the wishes of their masters in persecuting the rest of us.  They probably do not believe it, yet they can also lose the favour of their masters and be discarded very quickly.  

On the other hand, even the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps can retain their consciousness, their sanity, and choose to live with meaning and dignity, even in the face of extreme brutality.  If they can, so can we.  

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Courage, moral outrage and empathy

Last week, several groups of Christians jointly organised a worship service on campus to celebrate the beginning of a new school year.  There were probably ~100 staff and students there.  

Rev. Leung Ka-Lun (梁家麟) gave the sermon.  He made it short because it was quite hot that day.   He addressed the students.  The message I got is this: young people nowadays often feel there are a lot of problems with this world, but the adults - his generation - are not doing a good job.  His generation had in fact tried very hard in keeping the faith.  He then challenged the students to live with courage, to share the Good News on campus, to take a stand with their faith.  

His words echoes with something I read today.  In Bangladesh someone set up an Asian University for Women.  It aims to find potential women leaders and educate them them to change the world.  Their students come from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Syrian and Vietnam.  They look for 3 qualities in their potential students.  The first is courage.  The second is a strong sense of moral outrage.  The third is a sense of empathy. 

I cannot agree more, with both of them.