Category Archives: Hong Kong

Tree on Fire- Hong Kong on Fire

I took this photo of the traditional Christmas Tree in Festival Walk Shopping Mall in Hong Kong in December 2010

Photo from Reuters

Here is that same tree on fire. According to a report on Radio Television Hong Kong black-clad protesters forced their way into the Festival Mall after it had closed, smashed through glass barriers and set the tree on fire. They broke down doors and set off the automatic sprinkler system. Protesters were angry because of a police raid at the mall on Sunday during which arrests were made and several people were injured. 

Sunday morning at Pacific Coffee in the Festival Walk Mall with our children during one of their visits to Hong Kong

It is hard to believe this is happening in Festival Walk. Dave and I were at the Festival Walk Mall every week when we lived in Hong Kong.  We went to their Pacific Coffee shop on Sunday mornings to read the paper.  We often dined at their excellent Italian restaurant Amaroni’s. We shopped at their Page One book store.  We went to the movies at the mall’s theatre.

Dinner at Amaronis in Festival Walk with friends

Dave having fun with our friends’ daughter at Amaroni’s in Festival Walk

Hong Kong was such a peaceful and safe place to call home for six years. It is surreal to watch the news and see places we knew well like Festival Walk now the site of violence and conflict.
A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a group and they asked me what I thought would be the outcome of the democracy protests in Hong Kong.  I gave a fairly lengthy answer but ended with the summation that “right now I can’t see any way for things to end well.”   Sadly I think, my words are proving to be right. 

Other posts……...

What Do You Think About What is Going On in Hong Kong?

A Walk In My Old Neighborhood

Feeling Nostalgic

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Thanks Michael for the Memories of Macau

Last night I went to a photography show created and curated by a talented colleague of mine from the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Michael Veith. Although Michael went to university in Winnipeg and lives and works here now, he grew up in the city of Macau and his parents still make their home there. Most of his photos were taken on a visit to Macau last February. They give you a fascinating taste of this unique city.

Here I am in front of the St. Paul’s church facade in Macau

Since I lived in neighboring Hong Kong for six years I made many visits to Macau. I loved to tour the old parts of the former Portuguese colony, wander through its cemeteries and streets, visit its museums and shops, marvel at the new massive casinos, eat wonderful food, go to shows and people watch.

Stone Skyline by Michael Veith

One of Michael’s photographs captures old and new Macau so well.  It is called Stone Skyline and its focal point is the old stone church of St. Paul’s lit up at night. You can see all the high rises and skyscrapers in the background and way down in the front of the photo is a beautifully lit building in the traditional Portuguese style. 

I loved Michael’s ninety-nine photos of mailboxes in Macau.  He included 99 because 1999 was the year Macau was handed back to China. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a special area region of China. 

Transport by Michael Veith

Another one of my favorites in the exhibit was this unique shot of a bus stop.  

Michael and I had a lovely chat about Macau. We both love an excellent traditional Portuguese restaurant in Macau called Fernando’s. Michael was there just last year and assured me that while many things about Macau have changed Fernando’s has not.  

Michael’s wonderful photographs brought back so many memories of Macau. They have me rummaging through my southeast Asia photo albums, opening old journals, and scanning my computer photo library for images and memories of the city.  You can expect to see them in an upcoming blog post. 

Mainland Calling by Michael Veith

I think Michael’s show is on for at least a couple more nights at The Forth coffeeshop on McDermot in the Exchange.  Why not head on down and learn more about Macau from Michael and his amazing photos. 

Other posts……..

St. Boniface and Macau Have Things in Common

New Laws for the New Year

A Walk in My Old Neighborhood

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Fire Trucks At the Wedding

We attended a wedding in Toronto on Saturday.  The groom Jon was a former student of Dave’s and was also a member of the highschool basketball team Dave coached in Hong Kong. Jon was one of the student participants in a school trip to Israel I chaperoned.  

Having lunch in Toronto with Jon on one of our visits to the city

During previous visits to Toronto, we have caught up with Jon over lunch or at a Jays game.

Dave with Jon and another former student Ivan at a Blue Jays game

Jon is off to Berkley University in California this fall to get a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology.

Cool photos of the bride and groom decorated the wedding reception venue

We had met Jon’s bride Marijke the last time we saw Jon in Toronto.

Timothy Eaton Church in Toronto where the wedding was held. 

We were delighted to be invited to Jon and Marijke’s  wedding in the historic Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. The church was built over a hundred years ago. The wedding was lovely and after the service, we were invited to enjoy some ice cream from one of the ice cream trucks parked outside. Then we took a cab over to a unique gallery-style event site for the reception.

The bride poses with some friends who helped usher us outside when the fire alarm went off

During the cocktail hour, while we were enjoying some amazing appetizers, the fire alarm went off. Dave and I were chatting with an interesting couple our age who were former Hong Kong residents and now worked as bankers in Toronto. Like the other guests, at first we just ignored the alarm, but then members of the wedding party urged us to head outside. As we sat on the curbs and hung around in the parking lot three fire trucks pulled up sirens blaring.  The firefighters headed into the building and after a few minutes came back out telling us it was safe to return to the reception.  Apparently, someone had been smoking on the premises and that had set off the alarms.  Dave was pleased Jon the groom came over for a chat. He thanked us for coming to the wedding.

This lovely watercolor of the bride and groom was on the front of the thank you postcards each guest received at their table. They informed us that the couple had donated money in our name to an association in Toronto that promotes health and happiness for members of the LGBTQ2S community and to another association in Hong Kong that teaches children about Cantonese opera

We didn’t know anyone at the wedding except for the bride and groom but had interesting conversations with our tablemates at the reception.  Dave sat beside a professor who is writing a book about the American novelist Flannery O’Connor and I sat beside a British Columbia lawyer whose son just happens to be married to the daughter of a British Columbia lawyer who was a college classmate of ours.

The bride and groom having their first dance together as a married couple

We had never been at a wedding with fire trucks before although the experience did remind us of our niece Hannah’s September long weekend wedding many years ago when emergency responders showed up after a tornado hit the tent where the reception was being held. Those kinds of surprises may not be what married couples plan for at their weddings but they certainly do make them memorable. bride and groom

Other posts………..

A Wedding That Was A Little Too Exciting

Wedding with Hong Kong Friends in Colorado

Wedding with Hong Kong Friends in Minneapolis

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Look What He’s Doing Now!

I am always fascinated to learn what my former students are doing. Last week I was delighted to get a glimpse into the current life of  Justin Bong Kwan who was in my grade five class in Hong Kong in 2003.

My grade five class in Hong Kong in 2003. Justin is in the back row third from the left. 

Justin and I maintain a social media connection and he read a blog post I had written about my feelings regarding the current political situation in Hong Kong.  He thought I might be interested in some articles he has published recently on related topics and he sent me the links to them.

Giving Justin a hug the day of his high school graduation

After high school, Justin received degrees from the London School of Economics and Politics, Durham University and City University in Hong Kong. He is now a practicing barrister in Hong Kong. Besides his law career, Justin does freelance writing and I read these four articles of his with great interest.

Justin’s opinion piece in the South China Morning Post was about the triad’s connections to the current demonstrations and the role they have played in politics in the past. It took me on a little walk through Chinese history, a subject I learned so much about as I prepared to teach it to Justin’s fifth-grade social studies class.

In an article in the Hong Kong Free Press Justin looks at what might be an alternative to the contentious extradition bill that sparked the current demonstrations initially.

 Another piece published in the Brussels Times highlights the irony of the EU’s position on Hong Kong’s extradition bill. 

A fourth piece in the South China Morning Post looks at how British capitalism and the Chinese work ethic have combined to make Hong Kong the unique place it is. 

Justin is an excellent writer, obviously a great critical thinker, and has established a career for himself in two fields. It makes me pretty proud, especially when he told me in a recent message that he credits me with giving him the ‘writing bug’  in grade five. 

Here are a few posts about some of my other former students.  I’d love to know what more of them are doing and where life’s path has taken them. 

She’s Done It Again

Ivan Is Here

Multi-Tasking- Wisdom From a Former Student

My Students in New York

Meeting Our Students in Toronto

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So What Do You Think About What’s Going On In Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a beautiful and vibrant city.

So what do you think about what’s going on in Hong Kong? I get asked that question at least once a day now. Since we lived in Hong Kong for many years people want our perspective on the recent protests by millions of citizens advocating for greater autonomy and democracy. As of this morning, the Hong Kong airport is still shut down. I admit it is a bit surreal to see photos of an airport I visited at least a hundred times packed with thousands of passionate protesters. I have traveled to many places and in my mind, there is no airport as efficient, pleasant and easy to navigate as Hong Kong’s. Not so this week, when most flights have been canceled.

The Star Ferry in Hong Kong harbor

When we first moved to Hong Kong in 2003 it was just six years after the return of Hong Kong to China from British rule. People who had left the country in 1997 fearful of what the Chinese take over might mean were returning. They were fairly confident that the promises the Chinese government had made to allow Hong Kong to carry on as a special area region for fifty years were being kept. Despite their fears, it seemed like it was business as usual in Hong Kong.

Men playing Mahjong in the Leung Shuen Wan area of Sai Kung Hong Kong

That confidence that things would stay the same was beginning to change by the time we left in 2011. The free democratic elections China had promised Hong Kong in 1997 had still not become a reality and there were other signs that China was exerting more and more influence in Hong Kong. That came to a head with the recent extradition ruling that caused the initial protests this year.

On the roof of our school with my advisory students in Hong Kong. The students in this photo had been born in places around the world. 

One thing we certainly learned while living in Hong Kong was what an international city it is. We were part of the international school community and it included some 50 institutions that catered to children whose families came to Hong Kong from all over the world to work, do business, study and carry out diplomatic missions. I can see how the protests might make some of these families nervous about staying in Hong Kong. I think any attempt by Beijing to deal with the protests in a military fashion will scare away people in the international community and their business.

Two of my aunts were some of the nearly one hundred guests we hosted in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is also a tourist hub. Nearly a hundred people from Canada visited us during our years in Hong Kong. Obviously, the current protests will do little to promote tourism or encourage folks to come and explore Hong Kong.

Farewell party for us by friends when we left Hong Kong

We had friends from Hong Kong visit us here in Winnipeg this summer and they said while many people quietly support the protesters and hope they will be successful in bringing about democratic reform they are also worried how the political unrest will impact business and the economy.

Hong Kong’s iconic Big Buddha

What do I think about what is going on in Hong Kong? I guess I worry because a city I came to know as a beautiful, vibrant, interesting and welcoming place is in the process of difficult change. Will those changes be positive or negative and will they come about violently or constructively?  I don’t know.  I just hope that a city I grew to love with all my heart isn’t damaged too much in the process.

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Other posts about Hong Kong……..

A Walk In My Old Neighbourhood

Memories of Sai Kung

Hong Kong Inspiration

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A Walk In My Old Neighbourhood

There are 9000 high-rise buildings in Hong Kong.  I photographed these in the spring of 2009.  Dave had just bought me a brand new camera for a trip I was going to make to Israel with my students.  I was setting off on my Sunday morning walk and I decided to bring my new camera along and experiment with it by taking photos in my Hong Kong neighbourhood. The area of Hong Kong where we were living at the time was called Tai Wai.  In my neighborhood bikes were very popular and there were designated cycling paths. See the scaffolding over the biker’s head? Bamboo scaffolding is the main method used to build skyscrapers in Hong Kong.  It only takes about a day to put up a 1000 foot tall scaffold.  Bamboo is so much cheaper, easier to transport, safer, and faster to build with than iron rods.  You only need bamboo rods, scissors and plastic straps to build a scaffold. Hong Kong uses about 5 million bamboo rods a year. You will see folks exercising together in almost every public space in Hong Kong. In order to beat the heat the early morning is very popular with senior Hong Kong citizens who faithfully congregate sometimes by the hundreds to do exercise routines and socialize with one another. 

As you can see they take their exercise very seriously. Ever since the SARS epidemic in 2003 Hong Kong has worked hard to become a cleaner looking city. Heavy pedestrian areas are manually swept and hosed several times a day. Street sweepers must be able to pick up 50 kg. of garbage and carry it ten meters before they are hired.You can read more about Hong Kong’s street sweepers in an article I wrote about them for a travel website called Things Asian. Most apartments in Hong Kong don’t have clothes dryers and so people hang their bedding out to dry wherever they can.  This bridge across a waterway just outside my apartment building was a popular place to air sheets and carpets and quilts.  No one seemed to worry about their laundry being stolen. One in seven people in Hong Kong may be a millionaire but the city is also home to nearly one and a half million people who live below the poverty line.  You actually are supposed to register to sleep on the street or in public places in Hong Kong and some 2000 people do so every year. Hong Kong has more than 600 temples for Buddhist worshippers. Although Hong Kong is considered one of the safest places in the world to live, many apartment buildings have fences topped with barbed wire around them and all of them are patrolled by security guards who monitor everyone entering a building. Especially on a Sunday morning it was not at all unusual to see men taking their pet birds out for a walk. Often they are headed to a neighborhood meeting place where they will take the covers off their birds’ cages, hang them up on poles or trees and then settle in nearby to play mahjong with their buddies. This is a mini bus and they are a mainstay of Hong Kong’s excellent transportation system.  Trains and double decker buses take you between major points in the city but it is the 4350 mini buses that can transport you virtually right to your door.  The drivers aren’t known for their caution so when we lived there a mini bus ride could be something of an adventure.  I have read however that just after we left speed alarms that activate at 80 kilometers an hour were installed in these buses and there are now speedometers on the interior ceiling, adjacent to the driver’s seat, facing passengers, so they can monitor the driver’s speed.Hong Kong is home to more than 50 museums and the The Hong Kong Heritage Museum was not far from our house.  It was an excellent place to visit and I can recall any number of memorable exhibits I toured there during my years in Hong Kong.  You can read another article I wrote for the Things Asian travel site about a Cantonese opera workshop I attended at the Heritage Museum.

I am currently combing through my photo libraries and deleting pictures and it is proving to be a very rewarding task especially on days like this when my weeding process takes me back for a nostalgic walk in my old Hong Kong neighborhood. 

Other posts…………

Hong Kong Inspiration

Memories of Sai Kung

Should We Visit Hong Kong?

New York Reminded Me of Hong Kong

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A Cumulative Christmas Story By My Hong Kong Grade Five Students

In 2004 my fifth grade students in Hong Kong created this illustrated story for the school Christmas concert. We had been writing poetry based on The House That Jack Built poem pattern. A student Charissa Chan wrote the poem and all the students helped illustrate it.

This is the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages for God

This is the young faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted dutiful angel Gabriel who delivers messages for God.
This is Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel who delivers messages for God.
These are the tired, hungry people who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages for God.
This is the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper who turned down the tired, hungry people who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted angel Gabriel, who delivers messages from God.
This is the simple, but cozy stable of the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper who turned down the tired, hungry people, who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages from God.
This is the tiny, but warm manger that was in the simple, but cozy stable of the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper who turned down the tired, hungry people, who traveled to Bethlehem, with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful, virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted angel Gabriel who delivers messages for God.
This is the beautiful, loving baby Jesus, who slept in the tiny, but warm manger that was in the simple, but cozy stable of the impolite, money-hungry inn keeper, who turned down the tired, hungry people, who traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph, the hard-working, humble carpenter, who married the young, faithful virgin Mary, who got a message from the kind-hearted, dutiful angel Gabriel, who delivers messages for God.
And that baby grew up and became a Light to the World!

Other posts……….

Five Star Hotels For The Holy Family

Christmas in Hong Kong

Puzzling- A Christmas Family Tradition

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