Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Christchurch-Hamilton Bells Visit Hong Kong (2)

Visiting the Hong Kong Branch on the Family Tree: Part Two.

Part Two of our Hong Kong adventure is a look at some of the other things (in no particular order) our Kiwi connection got up to. It is composed of photos with explanations...more pictures and less reading.

The Student Pro-democracy Protests.

Our stay in Hong Kong coincided with the student protest for greater democracy. It was a direct challenge to the communist government in Beijing to allow the people of Hong Kong to vote for their own government. It was triggered when Beijing announced that only three government-approved candidates would be put forward for the election when C.Y. Leung's term as the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong terminates in two years time. The students of Hong Kong saw this as a false democracy and protested on the streets. It was one of those semi-spontaneous movements where a protest was announced and everyone turned up, tens of thousands of them, mostly students but many others who also wanted full democracy. They held mass sit-ins (or occupations as they called them) on the main streets of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon-side. Our apartments were in Mong Kok on Kowloon-side and right next to the protests. In fact, only a few minutes walk away. At first we were worried it was going to be a major disruption to our holiday and we were wondering if it might turn ugly, but, as it turned out, it was a spectacular but pretty peaceful protest. It was quite a sight to see so many thousands of young folk all gathered in one place and determined to fight for a change they believed right for their future and the future of Hong Kong.

Student protestors occupying Argyle St. in Mong Kok.

                                               Candice getting a good look at the protest.

The police presence was heavy but restrained. In fact, it was a credit to them how restrained they were under some provocation at times. It should also be said that the vast majority of the students were very well behaved. These two factors, I believe, greatly contributed to the protest not turning into a bloodbath; the possibility of which was always there. 

Everyone expected the protest to last only a short while, but it was till going strong when we left Hong Kong two weeks later. Of course there are always two sides to every conflict and this protest certainly divided Hong Kong with those firmly in the pro-democracy camp, those in favour of the government position, and those somewhere in the middle. It seemed that the younger generation where in the great majority pro-democracy while the older generation were happy with Hong Kong as it is and did not want to provoke Beijing and ruin the stability and freedoms they already had. To be fair, the communist government have certainly allowed Hong Kong to function pretty much as it did under the British for all those years due to the SAR (Special Autonomous Region) policy. This has allowed plenty of economic freedom but not political freedom. It's this political freedom the students were protesting about. Many others were sympathetic and supportive of the student's cause but felt they were demanding too much too soon and believed that they should take things one-at-a-time and be a bit more patient and know that change takes time. Of course, youth seldom want to wait years for change. The students wanted immediate change because they saw it as their future at stake and demanded a say in that future. The Special Autonomous Region arrangement is due to end in about ten years and the youth fear that with it the end of any hope of universal suffrage.

Perhaps an example of how divisive the protest made people is that even among our own Hong Kong whanau opinions differed greatly. The younger relatives were keen participants in the protest much to the disgust of their elders. While everyone was careful not to be too vocal at family gatherings, privately they were not backward in expressing their opinions.

 Public Transport in Hong Kong

 The public transport in Hong Kong is quite remarkable for its accessibility and efficiency. The buses were modern and comfortable and to the kids delight, double-decked. Naturally, whenever we took a bus somewhere everyone shot up to the top deck for a better views of the city.

The MTR (Mass Transit Rail) was simply amazing and totally critical to life in Hong Kong. At any given time of the day I would say at least half the population on the move would be somewhere deep underground bustling to the trains or on them speeding somewhere. If the subway for some reason ceased to operate it would be chaos on the surface; the crowds would increase a hundred-fold. The trains are all electric so there is no diesel fumes and they are fast. And, it didn't matter if you missed a train because a couple of minutes later another one whooshed into the station. There must have been an incredibly accurate and efficient computer somewhere controlling all those trains. Also, it didn't take long to learn how to travel anywhere in Hong Kong on the underground; the signage was clear and in English as well as Chinese, and the public announcement system constantly gave instructions and directions. One constant announcement we all learned just by hearing it so much was: Cheng mat kaukei che mun, which means, Please don't stand in the doorway. At peak hours the trains got so full it was like being in a sardine tin, and if you were last on and stuck in the door it wouldn't shut and the train couldn't move. A subway attendant would then shove you in the back with all his or her strength and unceremoniously squash you in. The older girls - Kalei, Chemae and Sarina - after a while became so confident of finding their way around on the subway they began going off shopping together.  

The entrance to the Mong Kok MTR

The underground is a busy place

                               While we were there it was Mainland China's National Holiday
                               and Hong Kong's population suddenly increased by about four
                               million people. It was certainly a lot more crowded but the
                               superb transport system coped easily.

                                    A photo of a rare moment in the subway...the emptiness!

Kai, Kai and more Kai...So many things to eat in Hong Kong

The streets of Hong Kong are loaded with restaurants, bakeries, fast-food joints, street stalls; you name it they've got it - on every corner a new treat to sample. It's got to be the food capital of the world. This was both a blessing and a curse because one or two of us ate far too much.

                               We met up with our Hong Kong domiciled cousin, Dan Cardon
                               and fiancĂ©e Jocelyn.

Here we are dining on pizza. I don't know what 
Jared's problem is...a bad slice of pizza?

                                                      Breakfast from the Chinese bakery.

      The Jumbo gateway. Winnie, Lina, Michael, Henry
                                            and I went to the  famous Floating Restaurant for
                                            lunch. Winnie and I stayed on a week after the kids
                                            went home and if we ever do this hikoi again we
                                            will definitely bring them here. Not only is the place
                                            incredible but the boat shuttle in itself is a great
                                            free scenic harbour cruise.

                                         A free water shuttle takes you out to Jumbo - the
                                         unusual name of the Floating Restaurant.

                                          The restaurant is a huge barge with four floors. It
                                          was midday when we went and it was quite
                                          packed. It's a tourist must-do so there were a lot
                                          of foreign diners there. We had a great yum-cha
                                          which, considering the venue, was very reasonably

The Markets

The markets and shopping were everyone's favourite pastimes - and there are plenty of markets and shops with bargains galore. The young boys kitted themselves out with multiple sporting outfits like soccer and basketball clothes with their favourite sporting heroes names on them. The young girls were into clothes and bling, the older three more focused on clothes and shoes, and their parents into food, smoothies, clothes and other things .Joven couldn't resist the delicious mango-coconut-tapioca smoothies and slurped through dozens of them. 

                                            The malls and markets of Hong Kong are
                                            spectacular. The enormous human energy is palpable
                                            wherever you go. Everywhere people are on the
                                            move and millions in shops and street stalls selling
                                            everything imaginable.   

The Heat

October is still very hot and humid in Hong Kong with temperatures soaring to 32 degrees and above at times. Accustomed to a cooler climate, it took us a while to adjust to the heat.

                                                     Taking a break on a park bench.

                               While at Pok Fu Lam Ava went missing. She had found a shady
                               spot under a trellis.

                                    Ahhh! Bless the person who invented the air conditioner.

 Grandma nearly died.

Feet problems

The heat and humidity caused considerable discomfort for the ladies...Winnie in Particular. Also in Hong Kong you do a tremendous amount of walking. Even though the public transport is great and you go everywhere on it, you still have to pound the streets getting to the bus stops, tram stops, and subway trains: not to mention walking around all the malls and markets. It's a fact that we did a hundred times more walking in Hong Kong than we did at home in N.Z. The heat and walking caused the women to suffer swollen feet, but luckily it didn't slow us down too much.

                                                              One of Ah-ma's feet.

                                                                         Miriam's feet.

                                                   I had no feet problems in Hong Kong
                                                   but to my surprise my ankles swelled
                                                   up on the plane home, something that
                                                   had never happened to me before. 

 Chinese Zombies

It was the Halloween season and the Hong Kongers, always up to make a buck, have commercialised it big time. On a day trip up to Victoria Peak the kids met up with a bunch of zombies. They were advertising a big evening family Halloween show in the big hall there by walking around scaring everyone. The zombies were all young folk; probably students earning some extra money. Our kids loved them, especially Kobe.


 Happy-faces Gallery

Following is a gallery of random photos showing various happy faces which suggests everyone was enjoying themselves.

                                                          Notice the odd-one-out?

                               Seems like Sarina has only one smiley-face to her repertoire
                               of smiles.

                                     No prizes for guessing who's the more intelligent sister.

                                                         Emi with a special purchase.

                                                 Ella, the beach-babe of Repulse Bay.

                                                            Ahh, that's a nice shot.


The Selfie Stick

When we first arrived in Hong Kong we noticed the mainland Chinese tourists all had long sticks with their cell phones attached to the ends. We thought they looked daft but soon realised that they were selfie sticks. Miriam was the first to cotton on to the convenience of a selfie stick and bought one that very day, much to everyone's amusement. The others followed soon after.

And so it Ends

As the old saying goes: All good things must come to and end; and so it did for us. The holiday ended all too soon and everyone trudged off to the airport to catch their flights home. The whole adventure was to have a family hikoi to show the grandchildren where their grandmother spent her childhood and also to visit the few remaining relatives we have left in Hong Kong, especially Winnie's sister and Brother-in-law and an elderly and seriously ill uncle who was fighting for his life at the time. Happily, he made great progress while we were there and even got well enough to leave hospital and go home. It was a happy and heart-warming occasion when he stepped from the car and walked under his own steam to the comfort of his own home after several months in hospital. His smile told it all. This was Saam-suk (Third Uncle), the same who had left China in 1951 with Winnie's mother Go Lea Hua.

I believe we accomplished that objective.

It was also to show the children where I spent over two years of my life from June 1968 to August 1970 on missionary service to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a fantastic two years that influenced my life from then on and still does to this day. Service given freely and wholeheartedly in the service of God and people is always its own reward; the giver getting back far more than he ever gives. I think there's one person in the whanau who would know from experience how it feels to do good when good is needed, and that's Andy Lear who did a wonderful act of service in the Philippines after hurricane Yolanda ripped through where he was working as an engineer for a copper mine. His feat was the subject of an earlier blog and has become a profound part of our family history. If you haven't yet read it, search the Pirongia Bells blog and share Andy's experience. I'm sure we have lots of great things like this in our whanau that need to be recorded for all to see. 

I served as a missionary in Hong Kong over forty six years ago and was amazed at the changes in our church since then. In those days we met in small buildings but now all the chapels are multi-storied where several congregations meet simultaneously. We attended a morning service and I had the opportunity to stand up and give a short introductory talk in Cantonese which both astonished and amused the kids. It was a simple talk but did the job. All seventeen of us walked in like a big gang of  bumpkins so the surprised congregation appreciated getting to know who we actually were. Winnie gave a short talk also and filled in everything I left out.

It was a happy-sad moment at the airport when it was time to leave, but the kids all boarded their planes and roared off into the sky for home. It will be a time they will always remember with great fondness. I will remember it as a time where we strengthened our family bonds ten-fold or more. It cost us a lot but it was worth every penny. Strangely, we don't feel the slightest bit poorer; in fact, we feel immensely richer. I think wealth is not just measured in money. Life can be so wonderful when we do things as family. I believe that in life we get what we desire; not always immediately, and not always precisely in ways we expect. But with patience, work, stability, unity, and love for each other, good will always follow and our good desires accomplished. Of course it can also go the other way if we let it but we don't want to go there.

In closing this blog my advice to the whanau is to do all you can to unite and build family. At my stage in life I see clearly the end of my own mortality and realise that in the end nothing else of this world is of any importance but family. True, when younger, we need to work hard to build a career and a secure future, but we should not lose sight of why we are doing that, which, to my thinking, is solely for the next generation, our children. In the end they are all we ever really exist for. The only legacy I wish to leave behind is a successful whanau. The only thing I want to be remembered for is that I tried hard to be a good person, a good husband, a good father, and a good grandfather and that I did all I could to make my offspring happy, safe, and secure in this tough old world. I hope they will have learned from their experiences to do the same for their kids and so on.

If that happens I'll be as happy as a sand boy!


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