Reflections…

•May 5, 2009 • 1 Comment

These are my reflections on my trip to the Philippines, written for the RAC I went with. As I rush off to China, this is all I have to share right now! Hopefully I’ll keep updating everyone everytime I get internet access! Otherwise, I’ll be back after the 22nd of this month!

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Sitting down to write this reflection, I am faced by the same difficulty I encounter when someone asks me about my trip. Its difficult because I’m not sure how I can sum up those five days in words and phrases that will do them justice. I’m at a loss to describe and convey exactly the experience that was the Philippines. Words seem flat, cold, and our experience was warm, alive, pulsing with energy and emotions. From the minute we landed at the airport, we were enveloped first and foremost by the famous Filipina hospitality. Bright smiles, warmth you could feel, words that welcomed you with pleasure: and that was just the beginning! For the entire duration of our trip, we were fussed over and pampered, we were welcomed into the homes and the hearts of the Rotarians and Rotaractors we met, and were invited with great honesty and openness into the lives of these wonderful people. The kindness, generosity and warmth we were treated with from day one to the last hour of our stay in Manila was unbelievable! And it was so easy to build new relationships and make new friendships, to share stories as we laughed and ate and interacted with the fascinating people we met from three different RI districts and across the regions of Manila and San Pedro.

For me, personally, Manila felt familiar—from the crowds, the noise, the heat, the people and the houses, to even the poverty. The connection was instant, and combined with the many new, wonderful friendships I forged, I felt comfortable and at home. I am grateful to the city and its people for embracing me and reminding me how much I actually did miss my roots in India, and for introducing me to their world with such hospitality that it felt like a second home.

And because it felt like home, it was not so daunting or shocking to me to see what we saw, whether it be the abject poverty of the slums or the state of the street children in the centers and orphanages. These, unfortunately, were also familiar. But understanding and knowing about these conditions gave me a different perspective and I was interested in observing how these problems were handled in this nation. From the first day onwards, our visits to the centers and the orphanages were eye opening; direct, honest, and intimate looks into how these institutions function and operate despite the obvious obstacles. These were opportunities to not only serve, share and interact with the children and teenagers we met with, but it was a chance to be inspired, motivated and driven by the staff and the volunteers. By understanding the organization of these centers and the crucial role they play in the community, as well as observing first hand their impact, I was able to understand better the need of these communities. Despite growing up in an environment similar to the one we were exposed to in Manila, I had never really had the chance to understand how a plan to actually help and change the situation actually comprised of, and what it involved. Here, in Manila, we had the unique opportunity to observe and learn from not only very difficult problems but also from tangible and practical solutions that existed and functioned. How does a center for street children achieve positive results despite the problems of relapse? How is a center for abused women run and what are the actual problems they encounter? For the first time, rather than just studying or theorizing or reading about it, we were experiencing it, actually being led through these centers.

Thus, the service aspect of this trip was rewarding and at the same time inspiring. I came away from each center with new thoughts to ponder on, new ideas to consider, and of course, so many memories to take with me. The story two little girls proudly made up and recited in one of the centers and the peals of laughter and the bright, huge smiles that marked so many faces as we played one game after another in the few hours we had with them. Sitting by 82 year old Caroline as she told us about her life, her family and her youth while one of her friends sang Filipino songs with great zest as we visited an old age center in San Pedro. Goodbyes that never ended as hands waved and small fingers held our own bigger fingers, and little bodies sang and danced ‘thank you’ songs to us with a sincerity that broke our hearts. There was so much to take back in our hearts and our minds, and so much that will impact me and guide me to the future projects I would personally like to undertake.

As an Ambassadorial Scholar, the prospect of visiting yet another part of the Rotary family was exciting. During our trip there, I marveled several times how, across the world, while the clubs, the nature of its members and its traditions may change, the essential nature of Rotarians remains the same. It is a privilege to be considered a part of this family which spans the world and through which we all become connected, related, bonded by our beliefs and value systems. Being hosted by three districts in the Philippines and even attending the DISTAS of D3800, we had the opportunity to meet many admirable Rotarians and be infected by their continued enthusiasm and passion for RI and the causes they believe in and support. In addition, I was most impressed by the Rotaract Clubs who devoted so much of their time and energy to hosting us day and night! These young Rotaractors were filled with energy, enthusiasm, passion, and above all, dedication and belief in what they do. The commitment of each of them to this organization and their specific clubs was praiseworthy to say the least and my admiration only grew when I realized how they incorporated the ideals of Rotary in their personal and professional lives. I appreciated greatly the enthusiasm with which they hosted us and the openness with which they shared their lives and answered our many questions about the community and the country. While I did not go expecting this, our trip to Manila resulted in the forging of friendships with many impressive, intelligent youth that I hope will be lasting!

I could continue to write on and on about our trip and the different parts that have stayed with me, but then this reflection would be epic! I would like to sincerely thank RAC of Victoria and their mother club, RC Victoria, and D3450, for the invitation to join in on this trip, and for their care and organization. It is through them that I have had this unforgettable experience that I know will always stay with me, and I am grateful. Thank you to the RCs and RACs of D3800, 3810 and 3820, for opening up their world to us with such charm and generosity, and for arranging experiences that left such an impact and taught us so much. A few days after my return to Hong Kong, I dreamt that I was sitting with my many new friends around a table laden with my favorite Filipina foods: porridge, sinigang, chopsuey, barbecued pork, and halo-halo for dessert, with some raw green mango thrown in for good measure. It was hot as ever outside, but around the table we sat comfortably, and talked intensely, ate and ate, and laughed freely. I woke up slightly disappointed that the dream had ended; it reminded me how much I had come to love this country, its people, its food, its culture, its traditions, and its Rotary, in just five short days. I look forward to returning to visit my ‘second home.’

Off to Manila!

•April 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ze packing, she is done! Ze last minute shopping, she is done too! And I have to be out of this place by 5:50am tomorrow. eek! I hate early morning flights like the devil.

Itinerary in Manila seems really, really packed, but I’m awfully excited and looking forward to it. Packed my camera and planned lots of games and reviewed some stories for the kids in orphanages. The group seems like a great group too, and we’re staying in places that seem nice. Also excited to meet Rotary in Philippines. In general, just psyched for a different kind of adventure. Probably won’t have much internet/phone access, just as an fyi to anyone who tries to get in touch.

Well, will write all about it when I get back on the 19th! Wish me luck!

Here We Go Again…

•April 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Just got home and I really really need to start packing and sorting amongst other stuff but I thought my blog really needs an update. I won’t get a chance tomorrow and then I’ll be off early Tuesday morning, so I really need to be good and do a quick and simple entry 🙂

Thought #1: I had congee today, finally. I’ve eaten all sorts of food in HK (seriously, ALL sorts), but somehow congee got left out amidst everything else. While trying to find somewhere cheap to eat in Causeway Bay I bumped into (as I seem to do) a small busy little congee place and had the yummiest turnip pancakes (I LOVE THESE) and pork and vegetable congee. It was so, so good. Exactly what my stomach needed. Highly recommended.

On my way to catch the 31 from Jaffe Road it finally struck me how much Hong Kong really had become a part of me. Or rather, how amazingly familiar I had become with Hong Kong. Causeway Bay used to be a place I got lost in all the time…what with all the people and similar looking streets and what not…yet I could navigate it at any time now. If you know me, you know I’m a visual walker. I have no sense of direction and depend entirely on landmarks…which means I know these streets well enough to know a sign, a wall mark, a turn, a shop, a color! Crazy. Recently, friends have been teasing me that I’ve become encyclopedia HK because I seem to know where everything is and where anyone should go for anything. People have been calling me up to ask how to get here or where to get that or this. That is weird to me, seriously. I mean, anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I should not be someone giving directions, but in HK, apparently I am and can (at least, via visual landmarks ;)). Or someone who knows where stuff is in HK, where the restaurants are, where the important spots to see are. Odd.

And that made me think that it will really be a huge culture shock to adapt back to life in the States. In a year, I’ve become so accustomed to a city of walkable streets and a restaurant on ever corner, a city with people and noise and light everywhere, a city with transport at any time of day or night, a city which is always, always safe, I’ve become so used to a city like HK that going back will be just a huge shock. Now, don’t think that means I’m not looking forward to it. Like I’ve said before, parts of me are about ready to be back home and I miss a lot of what makes US home. What I mean is that I will really have to adjust my mind and body when I get back, because HK is like no other city in the world, and to be used to it also means you have to get out of the habit of it once you move. I don’t know if that makes sense…

Thought #2: I will really miss the changing landscape of HK. Last night a bunch of friends organized a bbq in Deep Water Bay in Stanley and it was am.az.ing. Just a fantastic night of food, drinks, nice views, lovely weather, and some swimming on the beach. Looking at the sun set and then the peaceful water, and all the lights in the condos on the hills I realized that I’ll really miss only having to come out about 15 minutes by bus for a view like this. And 30 minutes on the opposite direction can take me to Times Square like glitter. And 30-40 minutes by train will take me to hikes and astounding views and quiet temples. An hour ferry will take me to a lovely isolated island. Who wouldn’t miss this kind of world?

Laughing and talking and just having fun with my friends also made me realize that I’ve been really lucky to come here because in HK, essentially everyone is a foreigner. And everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has been abroad or is from abroad or lives abroad or lived abroad. Its this fascinating, truly multicultural, diverse group of people and you know I love those kind most. And I’ve been lucky to meet various groups of different, very cool people, doing all sorts of interesting, amazing stuff.

Thought #3: All this reminiscing is a result of my calculation of time. Here’sa break down of what’s going on next (also for those people who can’t get in touch with me and are wondering where in the world I am):

April 14-April 19: Manila for service trip.

April 20-29: Hong Kong

April 30-May 4: Taipei, Taiwan, for a tourist trip

May 5-May 22: Traveling China with two girlfriends. We’re heading from Shenzhen to Chengdu, making our way to Chongqing, taking a boat up the Three Gorges River into Yangxi, taking a train to Xian, and then taking a train to Beijing. And then I’m taking a train back from Beijing into Hong Kong.

May 22: OP arrives into HK

May 22-May 30: Hong Kong

May 31st: Leave for US

I have, essentially, 17 days in Hong Kong. I’m literally in disbelief. Nine months, I tell you, really, really fly by you. I’m very excited about all the traveling, but I’m not so excited about packing up a year and sorting through and saying goodbye.

On that note, duty calls. Ciao, folks. And wish me well for my trip to le Philippines 🙂

Another Week Starts!

•March 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

While planning upcoming travel, I got another sense of just how fast time is flying. Seriously, this has to be a universal phenomenon? Isn’t there a problem somewhere?

My last class at the BOKSS is April 13. I will try to take some presents for everyone and maybe a small note for each student…can’t believe that’s finishing…

In the next two weeks I have: one presentation for my couple therapy class, one paper to turn in for the same, an ethics presentation and one more presentation to prepare for my research class.

April 14 I depart for Manila, for a service trip with the Rotaract Club of Victoria. We’ll have a week visiting orphanages in and around Manila, passing out donations and playing with the kids, and interacting with local Rotary/Rotaract clubs. I return on the 19th.

In those 10 days I’m teaching a class for parents (who speak little English) of kindergarden kids on ways they can help their kids with their English. Not sure how that language problem will work out, but I’m planning to include lots of songs, games, etc…need to plan!

On the 30th I leave for Taipei with LW and her friend DS. We’re staying in a hostel within the main area and trying to do as much as possible in the time we have. A bunch of my dear classmates are coming too, so it should be loads of fun. I return on the 4th.

Potentially joining a trip to China immediately on my return which will eventually take me to Beijing. Details still need to be worked out on that…

OP gets here on the 22nd (wheee!! :))) can’t wait to see her and hopefully I’ll be able to work it out so I have lots of time with her.

My amazing, awesome friends are throwing me a farewell on the 30th…

And on the 31st, I head back. From the moment I’ve landed, I thought my departure date was the 1st, so it really confused me when I finally checked my ticket today and its the 31st, 11:45a. It was almost like I’d lost a day, and it really struck me that THERE’S BARELY ANY TIME LEFT! Eeek. My friends here don’t allow me to talk about it and I can’t mention ‘when I leave’ in conversations. Aww 😦

I gave my last presentation to RCKN on Friday, to a small but sweet audience. President David had a lot of wonderful, sweet words for me: “You haven’t just been a scholar, but a friend to all of us and to this club. And we hope you’ll always stay in touch and keep us updated, because we just know that one day you’ll be famous and we’ll be able to say hey she was a scholar in our club!” I almost cried. Similar experience in supervision yesterday when we went around the group doing personal evaluations and speaking about each other. I love this group, and I just wanted to thank them for letting me be a part of this group and participate. And the words they said to me were so touching and sweet that I had to stop myself from tearing up. Ema said something really wonderful to me too, which I’ll always treasure.

Hong Kong…the time I have with you is running out, but I promise to make it count as much as possible.

Leaving you with some recent pictures.

Some pics from the flower show which came to an end last Sunday…

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Visited the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery in Sha Tin last Sunday too, with VJ. We trudged up 400 steps on a humid day to this beautiful monastery, and the entire way was bordered by various Buddhas. There are actually various halls, and the main one has the ten thousand miniature Buddhas. It was beautiful and serene, and we stayed for a vegetarian Buddhist meal 🙂

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View of the monastery from a higher point

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Looking down as we walk up

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Buddhas at the top, against the sky. Lovely.

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My favorite picture, from within the main hall

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The thousands of Buddhas..each of those miniature lights marks a Buddha, each with a different hand gesture/position.

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I thought that small little pagoda in the distance was really lovely

March Draws to a Close…

•March 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

…and I’m in disbelief. Seriously?? Someone please to be telling me where time be going? kthx.

The past month has been busy and I’ve barely had a chance to update at all, for which I’m very sorry. A lot has been going on apart from academics. Here’s a quick look at the weeks gone…

*RC TST invited me to their fellowship earlier this month at the HK Football Club. PP PK was kind enough to give SC and myself a tour of the building, and all I can say is: wow what a place to workout. Apart from top of the notch facilities for all kinds of sports, there’s a bar on every corner. May you never be without a drink as you work out those muscles. The race course is right above, and the lounges on the upper floors give you a magnificent view of the same. Membership prices correlate to all the luxury: apart from a monthly fee, membership to the HKFC costs $200,000. The food was just amazing: buffet including Mongolian stir fry, but the highlight of course was getting to know the very interesting members of TST and having interesting conversations 🙂 Thank you RC TST!

*PP MB organized an awesome fellowship for us, hosted by PP DW and his lovely wife at their gorgeous house in Sai Kung. I love Sai Kung, and and I have never seen a house like that in HK…gorgeous, nestled in to the countryside with a lovely backyard. We had an amazing time, which is a given with RC KN, and there was much good food, good company, good fresh air and views, and great laughter to be had. What a night! 🙂

*Joined in RC HKH for their annual participation with the Anti-Cancer Society fundraising walk (Walk for Life). The day felt like summer, which was icky, but the views from the Peak were amazing. More importantly, LW and I helped with the group of special needs teens/adults that HKH sponsors for this walk every year, and that was great fun. Language is always a barrier, but it didn’t feel like that big of a barrier this Sunday, when we were all together just walking along and enjoying the breeze, laughing at each other and taking group pictures every five minutes! 🙂

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*RC WC, which is a very generous club, invited all the scholars to the official HK premiere of Departures, the Japanese movie that took home an Oscar this year. BJ and I went, and it was quite the glitzy night, so mucho thanks to PP Joseph! Rumor is that there were quite a few Japanese stars, but like BJ pointed out, I wouldn’t know them if I saw them. Now if it had been Canto stars or Korean stars…hmm…

Departures is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. I think everyone should see it. It is a strange, unique story which will both make your heart ache and bring a smile to your face. It is uplifting  and gorgeous. The acting is remarkable, and the music…words fail in describing the music, especially against the beautiful cinematography. Overall, it will be like nothing you have seen before, but you will be so glad you saw it.

*Classes have been going well and are drawing to an end, which is scary to consider. Feels like this semester just started. I’m dreading the beginning of April because that will signal the departure of Ema, the amazing therapist I had a chance to learn from this semester. Her daughter visited some time back and also helped teach: another amazing therapist and woman. How lucky are we? Ema’s teaching and her simple words of wisdom affect me and the way I view every relationship and my entire world so much that it blows me away. Everything I’ve learned about structural therapy and just simple human interaction and dynamics has been clarified, explained, and illuminated by her. I’m going to miss her. Before she goes, though, there will luckily be lots of chances to have many more stimulating conversations: we’re going to a lot of the HKIFF movies together!

*Speaking of which…HKIFF (http://www.hkiff.org) has me excited from my toes to the top of my head. I have never seen so many movies in one brochure, from so many places around the world and spanning so many genres. Its overwhelming is what it is. I’m making the most of this gargantuan film festival and watching as many movies as I can fit in and afford (which is not as many as I would like, but doing my best!). I’ll try to highlight some of the ones I catch. I’m aiming to watch movies that would be difficult for me to rent in the States, i.e., which I wouldn’t watch otherwise.

*Now that my time is drawing to an end I’m both excited to come back home with all these experiences and memories, and quite sad to leave this life and the people in it behind. I’m doing my very best then to spend as much time as possible with the people who have had such a big impact on me in my time here. I want to take as many wonderful memories back as possible with these astounding people, and I want to make sure the connections I’ve built here last for a lifetime! 🙂 So I’ve been devoting quite a bit of time to that purpose.

*Much excitement is coming up: April 14th I’ll be leaving for a trip to Manila (thank you Philippines Embassy for granting me a visa from HK!) with the Rotaract Club of Victoria: we’re going on a service project! It sounds like it will be an experience of a life time and I can’t wait. Will be back in HK April 19th.

April 30th I’m leaving on a trip to Taiwan with scholar LW and a bunch of other friends from the Institute. I. CAN’T. WAIT. Have heard lots about the food and the night markets in Taipei, and since we’re there for a few days we’re going to do our best to see/do as much as possible!

When I get back I’m heading to Beijing! Hopefully with my soul sister LJ!

And then there will be more traveling to follow amidst packing up, shipping off boxes, and other wrapping up of a year in Hong Kong.

I’m going to end this post before that tear building in my eye rolls down! Don’t worry, its a happy/poignant tear!

Click for Brendon!

•March 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Trying to help a friend with his dream!

My friend Brendon is applying for the STA World Traveler Internship Competition, and he needs ratings and views on YT as part of his application. He is an excellent candidate and I really think he would be amazing for this internship! Please take just 3 minutes and watch/rate this video! Its entertaining and very well made too! And…there are some veryyyy interesting parts 😉

Click! Click! And pass it on!!

Of Conferences, Volunteering and Cookies

•March 1, 2009 • 1 Comment

Last weekend was busy, tiring and very fun. As I mentioned, we were all headed to the district conference in Macau. The ten inbound scholars and the two outbound were all staying together at the inn. The conference was a good chance to catch up with Rotarians I hadn’t seen in a while, and it was also kind of a bonding for all of us scholars…I really am part of an amazing group and I enjoy chilling out and spending time with them. There was lots of food involved, which is always awesome, and a guided tour of Macau which was fun despite it being like my 5th time there. I do love Macau, and any excuse to be there is appreciated. The Venetian is quite overwhelming (no, we didn’t stay in those luxury suites) and its kind of weird when you spend your entire day in there. My favorite part was the new generations forum: wow to the Rotaractors and Interactors. They are so active and so connected! I love that this district is so close and communal, and everyone kind of collaborates with everyone. It makes things much better/easier. The individual clubs are small but together they manage to achieve so much. Very impressed indeed. Our presentation went quite well too. LW and I stayed for ZAIA (available to us on a special discount) and we LOVED it. It was my first Cirque du Soleil show…I’ve always wanted to see one…and it was freaking AMAZING. When I was about seven I wanted to be a trapeze artist for about a month, but then I got typhoid and after all that I kind of forgot about it. Trapeze artists are freaking astounding. Cirque du Soleil artists are like ten times better. The colors, the lighting, the beautiful imagery, the ways they were able to move and balance themselves…CRAZY. It was great and for $20 US what a great deal!! 🙂

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RC Kln North Represent!

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View from our room in Macau

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Not a great picture, but gives you a feel of the conference…

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Flags from all the clubs in 3450

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Mime guy in the Venetian…he’s good

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Dessert at Conference Banquet…ginseng soup with glutinous rice dumpling

(why a picture of this, you ask? well…why not?)

Since then I’ve been pretty busy…this week has kind of just flown by. Monday was Maha Shivratri and I was fasting, and went to the temple to join in the prayers in the evening. It was nice to be with the community and pray, and I love this temple, but I really missed my family. I think holidays is when you miss your family the most. Thus I’m dreading Holi. Someone better be sending me some gujia. Anyway, the rest of the week was a whirlwind of meetings and classes and stuff. I’m really excited though because I’ve started volunteering with two organizations, finally.

One is the KELY support group (www.kely.org), which works with both English and Chinese speaking youth for drug/alcohol/sex awareness and education and counseling services. Its a much provided service and there’s not many NGOs that focus on the large English speaking population here. I’m going to be helping them develop further their program on educating teenagers on sexual assault and rape prevention, which is what I did in college. I think it’ll be great and I’ve been brainstorming a bunch of ideas. I love the people there and Andrew Jones, a Rotarian I really admire, is on the board (which is how BJ, who is also volunteering, and I heard about it).

I’ve also signed up to be an interpreter for the Christian Action Refugee Center in TST. They cater to the growing population of refugees from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, and are quite an amazing organization, doing a tremendous amount with few resources. Their offices are in Chungking Mansion, which alone will tell you that its not an easy road for them, but they’re really there for those who need them, and they are doing an impressive job. I’m just trying to help as much as possible, and I thought I’d volunteer as an interpreter for the counseling services, with clients who speak Hindi/Urdu. It should be a powerful, interesting and meaningful experience, and I’m glad I’ve gotten involved. I could do more there, if there were more hours in the day! But I have lots of plans and I’ll see if I can get more in action…

Yesterday I joined a service activity with the Rotaract Club of Tai Po, where outbound scholar and very neat person SC is president. We went down to Tseung Kwan O (in the New Territories, quite far), to the HK Family Welfare Society (one of the Integrated Family Service Centers), and spent the evening with ‘ethnic minority children.’ In Tseung Kwan O, that means children of Pakistani and Indian origin. I was especially interested in it since I can communicate with them in Hindi/Urdu. The kids ranged from 5-13, and were spunky, energetic and quite adorable. I had a blast. They were also quite bright…they spoke Canto and Urdu and English! These kids are essentially from families of South Asian refugees and/or migrant workers, and you can guess that their family state is probably not great. They live in public housing estates in Tseung Kwan O (just one of the areas). In recent years, the HK government is beginning to realize that they have to do more than just provide housing to these families. Why? Because the children born into HK, who speak Canto and go to local schools and essentially know no other world except this one, remain cut off from mainstream life. HK, despite being as multicultural as it is (and with relatively low tension for being such a diverse city), is essentially quite segregated, and that is especially true where these populations are concerned. Families who immigrate to HK, I’ve noted in my time here, regardless of how long they’ve lived here or how many generations back they go (Sindhis have been here for centuries, for instance), maintain their original culture and customs and traditions. That, to me, is a huge plus. However, at the same time, if the newer generations do not know about the local customs/traditions/rules, they can’t assimilate in areas that are important: education, workforce, mainstream life, etc. From the other side, its important that the local HK population be educated of these communities and their cultures and to learn how to accept/understand traditions different from local Chinese traditions. As an immigrant myself, I’ve always felt that this kind of outreach is highly important and usually underestimated…it is important not just for the immigrant but for the new land that is welcoming them, it serves both. Providing education, awareness and reaching out to communities that are on the periphery works to prevent resentment and developing a dialogue between two cultures that is important to help with issues of racism. Issues which are bound to arise, especially in the times we live in, and considering that the majority of the South Asian population is Muslim.

So, the HK government is making the smart move of encouraging organizations like the local IFSCs to incorporate funded programs targeted specifically to these families. Centers provide membership for a small fee of $35 or $25 a year, and essentially serve as a community center for these kids and their families. Large scale activities are incorporated every few months, and classes are conducted regularly in Canto, English, and subjects like HK living and local customs/rules (littering is not allowed; its not okay to be rude to women; its important to do such and such, etc). Because Tseung Kwan O has an especially high population of minorities (being in the public housing area), they have special grants for these purposes. This specific center was amazing…they had state of the art IT rooms, dance rooms, a band room, classrooms, kitchen…all brightly colored and very accessible and generally neat (yet again, I am left impressed by HK NGO centers). For these kids, its not just an opportunity to learn…its a social atmosphere where they get to hang out with their friends from their own culture , and just be kids with other kids like them. Being a foreigner myself, I can see how that must feel…regardless of the fact that they were born here or speak Canto, they’ll always be foreigners, be it because of their names or the scarves they wear or the different attitudes they have. So, gathering here with their community is important for them. I also imagine that they don’t come from the best of family lives (migrant workers–in foreign country–not very educated parents–get stressed out–cultural norms of violence/corporal punishment, etc), and the center provides support and care to them in a setting where they can be free and normal (and energetic clowns if they want to be!).

So yesterday night we played games with a bunch of about ten, and made cookies. All of them spoke to me in Hindi/Urdu and in Canto with the rest of the group, and they had a blast. They were not easy to handle, especially in numbers, but I had a really good time and it had been a while since I’ve seen so many kids of my nationality together, and I enjoyed being a didi (elder sister) and teasing them and disciplining and trying to build a friendship. I’d forgotten how draining kids are in general! They really enjoyed my camera and taking lots of pictures with them, and one girl in particular (who was 10 but more of a mother to her adored six year old rambunctious bother) was especially sweet/friendly. Each of them left with gifts and a bag of cookies which they didn’t open…I’m sure they were planning to share them with siblings and parents at home. I was given a big bag of cookies by the group and as the kids left to go home I ran out to share my cookies with them, and I smiled as they all said ‘no, its okay!’ several times as they’ve been taught (cultural norm) while their eyes said otherwise, and then as I insisted they finally took one each. 🙂

I can’t say how it was for the rest of the group (who were all Rotaract members from HK, and great, energetic people), but I think they enjoyed it and it was a completely new experience for them. I’m sure they don’t understand the cultures and the families these kids are coming from, but I admire that they make an effort to connect to them. Its important, for both sides. For me, it felt good to kind of be back with my own people, something I don’t get to do much, and to interact with and play around with kids whose background I can understand. Times like these make me miss my motherland and my culture and the daily life I once had, but at the same time, I feel grateful and blessed for the life I know have.

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🙂

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Waiting for their turn to roll the dough…

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Some of their work…I miss baking!

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All the girls were gorgeous!

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This beautiful child was identified to be the naughtiest in the group…she reminds me of someone…

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What a smile, yes?!