Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year Wishes

I went out running this morning, wanting to see what the city is like on the last day of 2016.  In Tsim Sha Tsui near the Cultural Centre, I found that many wishes for the new year are displayed.  

Here is one which is so stereotypical of a “Hong Kong Girl” that I suspect someone is trying to be ironic.  But may be not. 

There are some that are quite sweet, such as one written by a couple to their future selves. 

There are many written by children, refreshingly honest. 

There are, of course, many that reflect the realities of Hong Kong, such as the DSE - the open examination dreaded by many secondary school students. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Aberdeen Hike

On Boxing Day, we didn’t go shopping. Instead, our family hiked from Pokfulam Reservoir (薄扶林水塘) along Hong Kong Trail Section 2 towards Peel’s Rise (貝璐道), ending in Aberdeen.  

We were rewarded abundantly.  There were lots of 大頭茶 along the way, although most of them were on the ground, apparently dropped by the recent rain. It bears a green, olive-shaped fruit before it dries up and opens like a wooden flower.  And we used to throw them at each other on our Saturday afternoon hikes while I was at Aberdeen Technical School.  

There were also some glimpses of 芒草. Very pretty back-lit by the sun. 

And the ubiquitous, nectar-filled 蜜糖花.  It looks a bit like, but is not the same as 大紅花. 

Many humongous container ships pass through the channel between Aberdeen and Lamma Island.  Each can carry tens of thousands of cargo containers.  They look more like oddly shaped moving islands than ships.  

Towards the end, we got stunning, sweeping views of Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau Island, and the typhoon shelter in between.  I could even see a bit of Aberdeen Technical School in the distance.  For me, that was the highlight of the hike.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

What would Jesus say?

A leader of a major denomination of Christians in Hong Kong warned of a “breakdown of social values” revealed by independence advocacy and the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy.  He urged followers to “dispel hostility” with love.  The above I read from the South China Morning Post. 

I note that he said nothing about the cause of the wide-spread discontent with the establishment.  He said nothing about the systematic inequality in society, in voting rights, in political representation, in educational and economic opportunities.  It is obvious that he sides totally with the establishment.   

I do not believe in violence.  I do not believe people should use violent tactics to press for their demands - even when those are legitimate causes.  But to criticise people who express discontent without addressing the cause of the discontent is simply wrong.  It is like criticising people who have been robbed for cursing the robbers.  Cursing is wrong.  But it is the robbing that truly deserve condemnation.   

Perhaps Mr. K has forgotten that Jesus was staunchly opposed to the religious establishment of His time.  He was sympathetic to the poor and the oppressed.  I take note of the extravagant robe that the religious leader was clothed in.  I wonder what Jesus would have said about that.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Aleppo - Hell on Earth

A video taken in a hospital in Aleppo shows a toddler whose face is covered with dirt and blood who has stopped crying after losing his family.  He is being comforted by a woman who is mourning her own children, who have all died in the attack.  They are joined by a teenage boy holding the body of his month-old baby brother; he is refusing to let go of the body even though the baby has already died from suffocation.  

What can one say about such a situation?  Some people are actually rejoicing and declaring victory.  What victory?  This is not just Aleppo.  This is hell on earth. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Groupers (that we eat) in Hong Kong

The Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is one of my favourite places in the world.  There you can find tuna that weight hundreds of kilograms, and a lot other amazing creatures from the sea.  But the fresh seafood eating culture in Hong Kong is no less amazing.  

In most places in the world, fresh seafood means the fish have not been frozen, the eyes clear and bulging, the scales shinny and firmly attached, the skin moist and slippery, the flesh firm and bouncy, the gills red and full of colour.  It is a skill honed through hundreds of inspections.  In Hong Kong, you only have to be able to see wether the fish is swimming in the tank.  To be really fresh, the fish have to be alive.  In Kowloon, every few blocks there is a wet market where you can find them.   There is no self-respecting seafood restaurant which is not equipped with a fish tank where you can go and pick your own fish, to be killed and steamed on the spot for you.  We eat all kinds of fish.  Considering 石斑魚 (grouper) alone, there are at least 20 kinds that are commonly eaten.  I have photographed many of my favourites

There is,of course, the prized 東星斑 (Leopard Coral Grouper, Leopard Coral Trout).  So called because there are many of them from the eastern part of the South China Sea, particularly The Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島).  They have tiny spots.  They are prized because of the white, tender flesh wrapped in generally red skin.  

And the counter part from the western South China Sea 西星斑, with bigger spots.

The biggest one of them all, 龍躉 (Giant Grouper).

The camouflaged 杉斑 (Flowery Grouper). 

The very similar 老虎斑 (“Tiger” Grouper, Brown-marbled Grouper), which has bulging eyes on top of its head.

The oddly shaped but very tasty 老鼠斑 (“Mouse” Grouper, Humpback Grouper).

瓜子斑 and 藍瓜子斑.

The once very popular but now displaced by 沙巴龍躉 - 青斑 (“Green” Grouper).

金錢斑 (“Gold Coin” Grouper).

芝麻斑 (“Sesame” Grouper). 

豹星斑.  Some call them 皇帝星.


花面星 ("scarface")

The recently popular 沙巴龍躉 (Sabah Giant Grouper), a hybrid of 老虎斑 and 龍躉 raised in a farm developed in Malaysia.

And, of course, the beautiful but eaten-almost-to-extinction 蘇眉 (Napolean Wrasse).

There are several others which I have not yet photographed.  I dare you to find another city where you can find such a variety of groupers swimming in the wet markets so readily.  In this aspect at least, Hong Kong is second to none.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Fish (that we eat) in Hong Kong

These two books are highly recommended.  They are about the fish that we eat in Hong Kong and the fishermen who catch them.  They are written by researchers from the University of Hong Kong and some of the fishermen themselves.  And they are illustrated by the colourful sketches of a self-taught fish expert - who learned about the fish from the wet market.  They are my kindred spirit.  

They tell us where the fishermen fish, how they fish, what they fish, and how they keep the fish alive.  They also tell us how the fishing industry in Hong Kong grew, became the best in the region, and then lost to the industrial scale fishing from China.  They tell us how the fish around Hong Kong are fished to extinction.  

And they tell us much more.  Such as the meaning of:  汆水, 開新, 威也, 翕你過嚟, 樁下樁下, 賴住佢, …  I actually knew most of these expressions when I was small and hanged out in Ap Lei Chau often.   

They tell you about:  牙帶, 馬友, 木棉(大眼雞), 石九公, 白飯魚, 泥鯭, 紅衫, 青衣, 蘇眉, …  They tell you what they look like, where they are from and what they taste like. 

If that is still not enough to get you to go out to buy the books - these are some of the best books I have read about local culture written by local people.  For this reason alone we should buy the books to support the local culture.  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Election - Hong Kong Style

I went to vote in the election this morning.  Not for representatives for the legislature.  Not for the chief executive. Merely for the electors who will elect the chief executive.  And there will only be 1,200 of them, that is 0.017% of the approximately 7,000,000 people in Hong Kong, who can vote for the chief executive.  Even if we consider the ~230,000 people who can vote for the electors as having the right to vote for the chief executive indirectly, that is only 3.3% of the population. And we all know how unevenly are the so called functional constituencies distributed.  On top of that, the candidates who can stand for election for chief executive are tightly screened by the central government in Beijing.  

Such is the election, Hong Kong style.  Beijing has put in multiple layers of barriers to ensure that they retain the ultimate control in Hong Kong.   By ensuring that only people whom they approve of can be in power in Hong Kong.  Despite how incompetent and corrupt those people are.  This is really depressing.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Amazing Macau

I was in Macau for a workshop.  In the evening, after dinner, I went out to jog around the block.  

It was a humongous block.  

Even more amazing was that the whole area was reclaimed from the sea. 10 years ago I would have been running in the sea.

The hotels were brightly-lit in the night.  

Many buildings are knock-offs of grand buildings in Europe.  

All these fantastic buildings, hotels, restaurants entertainment, etc., even the land itself, are all built on the foundation of gambling.  

In 2013, it was said they brought in US $45 billion, 3 times the GDP of Cambodia in 2013.  Which is better: Being poor, or filthily rich?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Benefits of Service-Learning

One of my former students, and current staff at the Office of Service-Learning, got married a week ago.  Practically our whole office went to his wedding.  The bride was in fact also a former student who participated in some of our service-learning projects.  

At the wedding banquet, he told the hundreds of guests that they “met” at the service-learning project.  In fact, there were several other such couples that “resulted” from service-learning.  It seems finding your better half can also be one of the benefits of service-learning.   

Saturday, December 03, 2016


On Thursday, 1 December, we opened our Second International Conference on Service-Learning. 230 people were registered, and 160 showed up for the opening.  Over the 2 days, 200+ people participated, coming from 20 countries/regions.  This was much beyond what we had expected.  

Together with the conference, we organised an exhibition of photographs of our students in action. 

We also published 2 books.  One on the experience from 2010, when we decided to require our undergraduates to take at least one credit-bearing subject in service-learning, to 2016, when we graduated our first cohort of students who have fulfilled this requirement.  

The other reports on a selection of overseas projects, written by 3 student journalists from Brown University.  

All these are part of the celebration of the 80th anniversary of our university. It is a 5-in-1 bargain.  Here are some notes I have written from the conference.  

A lot of people seemed to be quite happy with the conference. 6 years ago, I did not anticipate that we would have done as much.  It was certainly God’s blessing that made it happen.