Category Archives: Hong Kong

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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Filed under Hong Kong, Toronto

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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Filed under Art, Holidays, Hong Kong

Historic Churches Continents Apart

We have been visiting our friends John and Barb in Florida.

tao fong shan
John was the pastor of Tao Fong Shan the Lutheran church complex where we attended services in Hong Kong for six years.  Tao Fong Shan was founded in 1929 by Norwegian missionaries. Tao Fong Shan translated means Mountain of the Christ Wind.  The name of the church building on the Tao Fong Shan campus was Christ Temple. 

Christ Church Episcopal Fort MeadeNow John is leading services in a small church in Fort Mead Florida. It was founded in 1886 by immigrants from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Canada. The name of the church is Christ Church Episcopal. tao fong shan front of churchThe front of our church in Hong Kong looked like this.  The altar table had been rescued from a Christian Centre in Nanjing during the 1930s Civil War in China. john church in floridaJohn does a ‘pastoral pose’ for the camera at the front of his church in Florida. Note the Christ the King emblems on the altar cloths. tao fong shan mountain of the christ wind church hong kongDo you see the octagonal windows on either side of the front door of Christ Temple in Tao Fong Shan? octogonal window church in floridaThe church in Florida features an octogonal window as well. This was the bell on our church in Hong Kong. You had to hit it with a mallet to make it ring.  Members of the congregation took turns doing this each Sunday. This is the bell tower on the church in Florida. The bell was cast in New York in 1891.  It is the only church bell in the community of Fort Meade. Russell the  hospitable man who opened the church for us showed us the bell rope in the small room off the sanctuary. Dave is checking out the hymn books in the church in Florida. Here is our family singing a hymn in our Hong Kong church on Christmas Eve in 2004. Christ Temple has a second entrance that you reach through a lovely courtyard and a rounded doorway. The Tao Fong Shan complex in Hong Kong was designed by missionary Karl Reichelt and Danish architect Johannes Prip-Moeller who wanted to create a place where the Taoist priests, Tibetan lamas and Buddhist monks who came there to study would feel right at home. Christ Church in Fort Meade Florida has a second entrance as well at the side of the church. It was designed by architect Rev. J.H. Weddel in a Carpenter Gothic style which was familiar in Florida.  The architect also wanted however to maintain the essentials of the Anglican tradition as found in English churches. 

We felt fortunate to attend Christ Temple in Hong Kong served by our friend John who was a caring and compassionate pastor as well as a thought provoking and interesting speaker.  I am sure his parishoners in Florida at Christ Church Episcopal  feel equally blessed. 

Other posts………..

 A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

Ubi Caritas

Do Buildings Have Souls?

 

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Should We Visit Hong Kong?

hong kong landscapeDave and I have this ongoing debate about whether we should visit Hong Kong again, the place where we spent six years teaching.  He’d like to go back. I’m not so sure.  Don’t get me wrong I loved Hong Kong.  I loved living there and working there and I especially loved all the wonderful people we got to know there who enriched our lives so immeasurably. 

chestnuts roasting hong kong In some ways a visit would be great- we could walk along the harbour in Man on Shan, ride the crazy little buses that careen down smaller streets, take the tram to the top of Victoria Peak, go for fresh fruit shakes and won ton mein soup and Thai food at all our favorite little neighborhood street places, enjoy the noise and life and beauty of the wet market, take the ferry across the harbour, have a foot massage, buy some roasted chestnuts from the vendors on the street, visit our beautiful church at the top of a mountain, watch the swimmers in Tolo Harbour, spend a quiet hour or two at the Chi Lin Nunnery or the Sai Wan Cemetery and………………..

But………….

On our recent visit to Ontario I chatted with a woman who had just returned to Canada after decades in Hong Kong and she said we would find the city unbelievably changed from when we left in 2011.  

hong kong farewell

Farewell party for us by friends when we left Hong Kong

And that’s exactly what I’m worried about.  I have great memories of Hong Kong and the people we knew there. But Hong Kong has changed and when I look at photos like this one of a farewell party of friends for us in Hong Kong I know that most of the people in the photo no longer live in Hong Kong and the ones that still do have new friends and new interests and are incredibly busy with work and family life. 

I’d like to leave my memories of Hong Kong intact.  I’d like to remember it the way it was. There are lots of interesting places in the world I have yet to see, have yet to make memories in.  I already have wonderful memories of Hong Kong. 

Other posts………..

Tears for Hong Kong

Chi Lin Nunnery

The Swimmers of Tolo Harbour 

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Filed under Hong Kong, Reflections